Tour de France 2011, stage 12 photo gallery by Graham Watson>>

Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel-Euskadi) won the first high mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France when he beat Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to the line at Luz Ardiden.

The pair had gone clear together on the lower slopes of the Pyrenean ascent but Sanchez was able to accelerate away from his companion with 300m to go.

While Sanchez took the spoils of the stage, the Schleck brothers got the upper hand in what is expected to be the competition for the yellow jersey.

Getting away from the main group of contenders with 2.5km to go, Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek) finished in third place, 20 seconds ahead of a group comprising Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Cadel Evans (BMC) and brother Andy (Leopard-Trek).

Damiano Cunego trailed in just behind this trio, while Alberto Contador lost ground in the final kilometre. Finishing eighth, he conceded 30 seconds to Frank Schleck and 10 seconds on Andy Schleck, Basso and Evans.

Thomas Voeckler put up a dogged defence of his yellow jersey, coming across the line with team mate Pierre Rolland at 50 seconds to retain the lead.

Thomas on the Tourmalet
The stage saw a fantastic ride by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). The Welshman joined the early break of six then attacked alone when the race hit fever pitch on the Col du Tourmalet. It was an impressive comeback after he’d crashed on the descent of the previous climb – La Hourquette d’Ancizan.

Jeremy Roy (FDJ) joined the Welshman just before the top of the Tourmalet and took the 5000 euro Souvenir Jacques Goddet on the summit. The pair then led onto the final ascent with a lead of over three minutes but were caught and passed by Sanchez and Vanendert.

The latter pair had escaped from the main group on the descent of the Tourmalet in a small move that also included green jersey contender Philippe Gilbert.

Having lost time early in the race, Sanchez’s winning ride put him up to eighth place overall and landed him in the King of the Mountain’s jersey. Frank Schleck is now second overall, 1-49 behind Voeckler.

Schlecks play the numbers game
While Sanchez and Vanendert ploughed ahead on the final climb, the Schleck brothers made what is perhaps their best ever attempt at exploiting their numerical superiority.

Although that may not be saying much, their tactic eventually paid off.

With their Leopard-Trek team already having done a fair bit of damage on the Tourmalet, Andy went first with a half-hearted dig at 4km to go. Frank then gained a little more distance on the counter before Contador led the group up to them.

Ivan Basso was looking strong and took up the pace before Frank made a second dig, a little bit harder. This was again brought back by Contador, but all he could do was watch when Frank went once more with 2.5km to go.

As well as putting Contador onto the back foot, Leopard-Trek’s efforts ruled a lot of potential contenders out.

Amongst those to lose significant time today were: Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack), Andreas Kloden (Radioshack), Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana). But Robert Gesink was the contender who had the biggest stinker of a day. The white jersey wearer got dropped early on the Tourmalet and finished over 17 minutes back in 77th place.

FDJ’s Arnold Jeannesson is now the best young rider.

Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage of stage 12 as it happened>>

Tour de France 2011, stage eight: Cugnaux-Luz Ardiden, 211km
1. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5-41.44 hours

2. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 7 sec
3. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 10 sec
4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 30 sec
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
6. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek all at st
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 35 sec
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank at 40 sec
9. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 50 sec
10. Pierre Roland (Fra) Europcar at same time

Overall Classification
1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar

2. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 1-49 min
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 2-06 min
4. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 2-14 min
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 3-16 min
6. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 3-22 min
7. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank at 4-00 min
8. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi at 4-11 min
9. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Cervelo at 4-35 min
10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R-La Mondiale at 4-57 min

Geraint Thomas in escape, Tour de France 2011, stage 12

Geraint Thomas head the day-long escape group

Mark Cavendish, Tour de France 2011, stage 12

Mark Cavendish in green

Fabian Cancellara, Tour de France 2011, stage 12

Fabian Cancellara takes charge for Leopard-Trek

Samuel Sanchez wins, Tour de France 2011, stage 12

Samuel Sanchez wins

Thomas Voeckler on podium, Tour de France 2011, stage 12

Another hard-earned day in yellow for Thomas Voeckler

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Tour de France 2011: Latest news

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Greipel’s first Tour stage win ‘extra special’

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Tour de France 2011: Teams, riders, start list
Tour de France 2011: Official start list
Tour de France 2011: Who’s riding?
Tour de France 2011: Team guide

Tour de France 2011: Stage reports

Stage 11: Cavendish moves into green after winning in Lavaur

Stage 10: Greipel beats Cavendish in Tour stage 10 sprint

Stage nine: Sanchez conquers day of crashes and climbs

Stage eight: Costa wins first mountain stage of 2011 Tour

Stage seven: Cavendish wins but Wiggins crashes out of Tour

Stage six: Boasson Hagen takes Sky’s first Tour de France win

Stage five: Cavendish wins in Cap Frehel

Stage four: Evans edges out Contador on the Mur-de-Bretagne

Stage three: Farrar sprints to first Tour victory in Redon

Stage two: Garmin win team time trial to put Hushovd in yellow

Stage one: Gilbert blasts to victory as Tour gets off to spectacular start

Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos

Stage 11 video highlights

Video: Feeding the riders at the Tour

Stage 10 video highlights

Stage nine video highlights

Stage eight video highlights

Stage seven video highlights

Stage six video highlights

Video: Erik Zabel’s role as Cavendish’s sprint advisor

Stage five video highlights

Video: The ride of Philippe Gilbert at the Tour de France

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries

Stage 11 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage 10 photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage nine photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011 wallpaper gallery

Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage two photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011 team time trial training photo gallery by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team press conferences by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW’s text coverage schedule
Stage seven live text coverage

Tour de France 2011: Archive videos
Video: 2003 Centenary Tour
Video: Lance Armstrong retrospective
Video: Behind the scenes at the Tour
Video: Guerini’s 1999 stage win
Video: Thrills and spills at the Tour
Video: Armstrong in 1999
Video: The Indurain years
Video: Ladies of the Tour
Video: Best of bizarre

Tour de France 2011: Archive articles

1999 Tour de France stage two: Passage du Gois causes chaos

Tour de France 2011: TV schedule
British Eurosport Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
ITV4 Tour de France 2011 TV schedule

Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France: The jerseys, what they are and what they mean
Potted history of the Tour de France
The closest Tours in history
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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  • Alan Hay

    As the Tour de France is celebrating it’s centeinerry in 2013 I was wondering if any of your readers felt it would be fitting to bring The Grand Tour to Scotland and also celebrate the Auld Alliance. The northern winds will certainly be chalenging.

    Voeckler and G The Welshman in my opinion were outstanding but I can’t help feeling that the brothers Schleck and the Leopard-Trek team are starting to peak at the ideal time in mid tour. Still not sure about Cadel Evans, has been great to follow up to now but I fear he felt the pace today. Overall by far the man of the tour has to be The Manx -Man. 18 stage wins in four years (and certainly not finished yet) leaves me in ore. If he wins in Paris Cav will confirm that he is the best sprinter of all time. I thought I would miss Armstrong,but this has been the best tour since1987 when Roache won and unfortunately his son is just managing to hang on in there but I fear like Axil Merckx the son is not as good as the father.