Today’s 159km Stage 16 of the 2009 Tour de France started in Martigny, Switzerland and offered something a bit unusual by finishing with a 30 minute descent into Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France.
Pellizotti (Liquigas) was once again off the front, leading the race over the climbs to garner as many KOM points as possible.
On the final climb, a Category One ramp, Andy Schleck accelerated, followed only by Frank Schleck, Wiggins, Nibali, Contador and Kloden…dropping Armstrong, Sastre and Evans.
Pellizotti summited first, but by the top Astaloza (EUS), Van Den Broeck (SIL) and Moinard (COF) had grabbed his wheel. Armstrong, meanwhile, dug deep and rocketed up the hill to catch back on to Contador’s group.
As the riders crested the final climb, two breakaways led the way down, with most of the main contenders two minutes behind. Hitting speeds upwards of 50mph, the two packs pushed themselves to keep the distance into the finish. Seeing that they weren’t going to catch the breaks, the GC group slowed enough for a few stragglers to catch on, then Dave Zabriskie led the Yellow Jersey pack of Contador, Armstrong, Wiggins, Kloden, the Schleck bros, Nibali, Vande Velde, Evans and a few support riders. Zabriskie went all out to decrease the gap to just under a minute by the time they crossed the line.
Part of the descent down the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard
The pace was so furious that Cadel Evans managed to get dropped off the back on the descent, finishing more than three minutes down from Astarloza and a couple minutes down from Contador, practically squashing his hopes of winning the Tour this year.
Evans wasn’t the only one to suffer on the downhill. Jens Voigt seemingly hit a dip in the road, losing control and crashing at full speed down the twisty road of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. He was at the tail end of the GC leaders’ pack when he lost it, hitting the ground and sliding on his face and chest for a ways. Saxo Bank director Bjarne Riis said Voigt briefly lost consciousness following the impact.
At 2km to go, Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Astarloza jumped off the front of the lead pack to surprise the others while they looked back to check the progress of the 2nd Break, and hammered himself all the way through twisty finish Chicane for his first ever stage win in a major road race. (He won the 2003 Tour Down Under, but never took a stage)
As the main leaders came in about a minute down, Contador showed he’s in-it-to-win-it by contesting the group sprint, coming across just behind Moreau. He remains in Yellow for tomorrow’s Stage 17, which starts in France, where the Tour remains for the duration of the race.
2009 TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 16 TOP 10:
|5||J. Ban Den Broeck||SIL||+6″|
2009 TOUR de FRANCE TOP 10 OVERALL AFTER STAGE 16:
|7||C. Le Mevel||FDJ||+3’09”|
|10||C. Vande Velde||GRM||+3’59”|