What a stage! What a race!
The real battle of the
Tour de France came down the the climb of Mont Ventoux and good choice
by the Tour Organisers, the final hour of the ascent of the Giant of
Provence lived up to it hype of being the place where the general
classifications would be decided.
The seven heads of
state Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins,
Andreas Kloden, Frank Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali were the ones who kept
together when the big group hit the slopes above Bedoin. They started
to close down the leaders up the slopes Juan Manuel Garate and Tony
Martin, but that wasn't the reason for their speed.
Schleck attacked a number of times, but each time he was marked by
Lance Armstrong determined not to cede his third step on the podium.
When little brother Andy attacked it was the Maillot Jaune on the back
of Contador that came with, but when Frank didn't follow he sat up.
Obviously more determined to help his brother get a leap on Armstrong
rather than try and get the 4'11" he needed over the man who was
covering his every move.
Kloden was the first of the
big 7 to suffer and slip off the back. But Nibali and Wiggins also at
times seemed to struggle to get back. But over and over again 6 of the
heads of state kept together. Kloden any time he thought there was a
hope of getting back on the back wheel suffered as another acceleration
pulled them away again.
Then in the final two
kilometres Andy went again this time with brother Frank on his wheel.
Armstong and Contador went with, but Wiggins seemed unable to respond.
Was this the time that more British hopes were to fade, almost at the
point when the memorial marks the death of Tom Simpson on the same
slopes. But no Wiggins kept digging in finding reserves from somewhere.
the line Garate crossed first, then Martin. Then the three leaders of
the race A. Schleck, with Contador and a three second gap to Armstrong.
But with Kloden down the road the only real gap that mattered was going
to be between Frank Schleck and Bradley Wiggins. At 43" after Garate the
elder Schleck crossed the line Brad had to get there before the race
showed +1'06". Then on the left hand side of the road almost out of view
of the camera Bradley Wiggin's reminiscent of Steven Roche he appeared
crossing the line at +1'03" twenty seconds lost but 4th place retained
for the procession towards the Champs-Éylsées tomorrow.
course the Brits have had a good tour David Miller has been doing
sterling work, and just missed out on the run into Barcelona of
individual glory. Wiggins of course has ridden high up the GC and has
given hope of making a podium in Paris in the years to come (why did
that Texan have to come out of retirement this year?). But a little man
from the Isle of Man is going for 6 tomorrow. If only he hadn't been
disqualified on the run into Besançon we may still have seen him and
Thor Husovd competing the two intermediates as well as the final bunch
sprint on the Champs-Éylsées tomorrow.
But as it is
Britain's top stage winner Mark Cavendish and equal top finisher Bradley
Wiggins can look forward to Paris tomorrow one to relax the other has
one more goal, to be the first of the men to cover the 3252km of the
96th Tour de France, even if only by a few yards and hundredths of a