Stage 12: Cugnaux - Luz-Ardiden 209km
And wasn't that fun? Even for those of us who got up at 3:30 a.m. to watch live on the west coast. After an intermediate sprint with more points for Mark Cavendish, it was time to climb. And the climbers did not disappoint. First, a word about teammates. I've written before about the importance of a lead out man for the sprinters. Today, we saw the importance of teammates in the mountains, with impressive performances by Jens! Voigt and Pierre Rolland in giving their all today. Voigt worked, as we have come to enjoy, for harder and longer than one could imagine, to shed the lesser climbers from the peloton today and set things up for the bothers Schleck. Rolland, the surprise of the day, shepherded Voeckler all the way to the line today.
The battle between the contenders began when Sylvester Szmyd and previously invisible Ivan Basso, calm smile in place, took the lead in a group that rapidly grew smaller. When Contador dropped back at one moment, Andy Schleck moved quickly to the front. Contador followed, but right away Fränk Schleck shot up the other side. Indeed, the game was on and other surges and chases followed.
Frank Schleck’s third try was his best, and he got away in a solo effort.
Basso and Cadel Evans led the chase and the group gradually fell apart. First Voeckler and then Contador fell off the pace and lost time. Voeckler held yellow ( A Frenchman! On Bastille Day!) but this finish had to have Contador's rivals wondering if he would be vulnerable in the mountains after all. Perhaps he really does have a knee problem? Or is he waiting as this year's tour has many mountains to come? Answers to come.
Stage: Samuel Sanchez
Yellow: Thomas Voeckler (really, really impressive ride today)
Current top ten:
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 51:54:44
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49 (time back)
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:06
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:17
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:16
6 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:22
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:00
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:11
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:04:35
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:57
Wine: Champagne Brut Reserve, Henri Billiot
Yes, I know. But it is Bastille Day and I really needed champagne.
From the importer (Italics very intentional):
When this is “on” I am sure you won’t find a better N.V. Brut in all of Champagne. The solidity, length and complexity are incomparable, and the wine soars above its category. This cuvée is the same as last year’s (though with new corks!), 50% ’07 and 50% ’06- ’05, only cuvée, disgorged 1/10, and with, let us say, sufficient dosage. It was hard to read when I visited, so soon after disgorgement, but there was a swell of mid-palate length.
Henri Billiot at a glance: 100% Grand Cru, particularly satisfying Pinot Noir here. Fresh, bracing red-grape Champagnes with long, swollen mid-palate flavors. Just 5 hectares in size, so availabilities are scarce!
how the wines taste: Billiot does not filter his wines, and they never undergo malolactic fermentation. That makes them very frisky and reductive when they’re first disgorged, and occasionally a Billiot bottle will show a slightly metallic aroma for the first few minutes. That’s rare and nil if you hold the wines six months after
disgorgement. Billiot seems to want liveliness most of all, as he can presume upon lavish and deep fruit flavors. . . . Billiot lifts you up on a billowing fountain of fruit. His wines have marvelous stamina and brightness. They’re hedonistic but not sloppy. Too firm and impeccable to be sloppy!