Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky, second to Thor Hushovd in Gap yesterday, this afternoon won his second stage of the 2011 Tour de France, slipping into an early break and attacking on the day's final climb ahead of a tricky descent to the finish in Pinerolo in Italy. Fellow escapee Bauke Mollema of Rabobank came second, 40 seconds down on the Norwegian, with FDJ's Sandy Casar third. Europcar's Thomas Voeckler survived a couple of scares on that fast final descent into the Italian town and retains the race leader's maillot jaune, although he lost nearly half a minute on his rivals, his advantage on Cadel Evans slashed to 1 minute 18 seconds.
Team Sky had undertaken a recce of today’s parcours last month, partly with the expectation that Bradley Wiggins would be fighting it out at the top of the GC.
Instead, it was Boasson Hagen, winner of Stage 6 in Lisieux the day before his team leader crashed out of the race, who profited from that rehearsal, although a sign of the team’s intentions for this stage had been given in our own Tour de France preview, in which Geraint Thomas tipped him to win today.
The 24-year-old made his decisive move on the day’s final climb, the Cote de Pramartino, which featured 8 kilometres of climbing at an average of 6 per cent ahead of a fast drop on a poor road surface down to the finish in Pinerolo.
Ruben Perez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, who had attacked off the front of the break earlier, hit the foot of that climb with an advantage of 45 seconds, but was caught halfway up, with French champion Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step immediately jumping ahead on his own.
Boasson Hagen responded straight away, and after catching Chavanel he put in a big attack to quickly put distance between himself and the remaining escapees, the Norwegian hitting the top of the climb 15 seconds ahead of his pursuers.
Back in the main group, some 5 minutes or so behind the escapees, defending champion Alberto Contador attacked on the climb, exactly as he had done yesterday, his fellow GC contenders immediately responding and regrouping around the Saxo Bank-SunGard rider, as they did when he went again a couple of minutes later.
Dappled sunlight flooding through the trees and twisting roads made the descent very tricky, and the first rider to come to grief was a member of the breakaway group, Saur-Sojasun’s Jonathan Hivert, although he remountedquickly. Shortly afterwards, he was off the road again, this time ending up in the forecourt of a house by the road.
Behind, some of the big names were also encountering problems on the descent, with Voeckler almost going off at both the points where Hivert had hit trouble, and Samuel Sanchez, one of the best descenders in the peloton, locking up his front wheel when he almost overcooked a corner as he headed the main bunch alongside Contador.
The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider and Contador appeared to have pulled out a big gap on their rivals on the descent into Pinerolo, but were caught by the Schleck brothers and Evans just before the line, Voeckler crossing 26 seconds later to retain the maillot jaune.
The first hour of today’s stage had been raced at a cracking pace of 51.3 kilometres an hour as the peloton chased down an early ten-man break, but with 60 kilometres raced, 14 men managed to break off the front of the peloton, including Boasson Hagen, Mollema, Casar and Chavanel and lanterne rouge Andrey Amador of Movistar.
Perhaps surprisingly given the destination of today’s stage, no Italian riders featured, although Poland’s Maciej Paterski did at least ensure that Liquigas-Cannondale were represented.
In contrast to the poor weather that has plagued this year’s race, today’s stage took place under clear blue skies, though snow capped the higher peaks surrounding the route as the riders headed from France into Italy.
After crossing the border, they passed through the ski resort of Sestriere, created by the Agnelli family in the 1930s, where Lance Armstrong won a stage as he rode to the first of his seven Tour de France victories, three years after Bjarne Riis had triumphed there in 1996 on the way to what he would later admit was an EPO assisted overall win.
Perez attacked to lead the escape group over the top Category 1 climb there with an advantage of nearly 8 minutes over the peloton, which was headed by maillot jaune Voeckler, and in between the two groups, three riders were chasing hard to try and join the breakaway.
That trio comprised Nicolas Roche of AG2R who has had a disappointing Tour to date, Jonny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil-DCM, still nursing the wounds from his crash into a barbed wire fence ten days ago, and Kevin De Weert of Quick Step.
The latter had started the day 12th overall, making him the highest placed rider of the 17 ahead of the main bunch, and while he didn’t present a particular threat to those with podium ambitions, but at just 1 minute 5 seconds down on Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran, he had a top ten placing in his sights.
Perez remained out in front on his own on the 46 kilometre descent down to the foot of the Cote de Pramartino, while 6 minutes behind, BMC, Leopard Trek and Liquigas Cannondale were fighting for position to make sure they hit the narrow roads on that last ascent towards the front of the bunch, with good reason as a crash held several riders up as they turned onto it, although none of the big names appeared to have been impeded.
The race now heads back into France for tomorrow's Stage 18 which, barring bad weather, will see the highest ever summit finish on the Galibier.
Tour de France Stage 17 result 1 HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PROCYCLING 4h 18' 00" 2 MOLLEMA Bauke RABOBANK + 00' 40" 3 CASAR Sandy FDJ + 00' 50" 4 EL FARES Julien COFIDIS + 00' 50" 5 CHAVANEL Sylvain QUICK STEP + 00' 50" 6 FOFONOV Dmitriy ASTANA + 01' 10" 7 PATERSKI Maciej LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 01' 10" 8 MURAVYEV Dmitriy RADIOSHACK + 01' 10" 9 HIVERT Jonathan SAUR-SOJASUN + 01' 15" 10 BOZIC Borut VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 02' 20" 11 AMADOR Andrey MOVISTAR + 02' 20" 12 PEREZ MORENO Ruben EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 02' 37" 13 LEUKEMANS Bjorn VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 03' 35" 14 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 04' 00" 15 TJALLINGII Maarten RABOBANK + 04' 00" 16 DE WEERT Kevin QUICK STEP + 04' 00" 17 SCHLECK Frank LEOPARD-TREK + 04' 26" 18 CUNEGO Damiano LAMPRE - ISD + 04' 26" 19 SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 04' 26" 20 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING + 04' 26" Tour de France Overall Standings after Stage 17 1 VOECKLER Thomas EUROPCAR 73h 23' 49" 2 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING + 01' 18" 3 SCHLECK Frank LEOPARD-TREK + 01' 22" 4 SCHLECK Andy LEOPARD-TREK + 02' 36" 5 SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 02' 59" 6 CONTADOR Alberto SAXO BANK SUNGARD + 03' 15" 7 CUNEGO Damiano LAMPRE - ISD + 03' 34" 8 BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 03' 49" 9 DANIELSON Tom GARMIN - CERVELO + 06' 04" 10 URAN Rigoberto SKY PROCYCLING + 07' 36"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.