Michael Rasmussen ignored Rabobank team orders to win at La Toussuire but the dramatic news of the stage was Floyd Landis (Phonak) exploding on the final climb and losing eight minutes to his main rivals.
Rasmussen went on the attack on the Col du Galibier with Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) and Tadej Valjavec (Lampre) and then dropped them on the Col de la Croix-de-Fer to win alone.
Landis dramatically ran out of energy ten kilometres from the finish. He suffered when Menchov accelerated and then blew in spectacular fashion when Sastre attacked. He could hardly pedal and lost almost a minute a kilometre on the climb. He finished 23rd on the stage at 10-04 and is now 11th overall at 8-08.
Carlos Sastre (CSC) attack shredded the leading group and he finished second at 1-41. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) was third at 1-54 and so took back the yellow jersey. Cadel Evans (Davitamon) was fourth at 1-56 and Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) was fifth in the same time.
Sastre is now second overall behind Pereiro at 1-50 and Kloden is third at 2-29. Cyril Dessel (Ag2r) is fourth at 2-43, Evans is fifth at 2-56 and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is sixth at 3-58.
?Today was a very important step on the way to winning the Tour or finishing on the final podium. If I can get through tomorrow I can start dreaming,? Pereiro said with a smile after pulling on the yellow jersey.
?Yesterday Floyd had a strong day but today he was not so good. I realised he had a problem at the foot of La Toussuire. I felt good and knew I could do well today. Of course being back in yellow is a surprise.?
Rasmussen confirmed he rode for himself today and was in tears after taking his second Tour de France stage win and taking control of the climber's polka-dot jersey.
?I?ve been riding for team this year because we still have a contender for the yellow jersey (Denis Menchov) but last night I talked to the team and said I?d do it my way and see what happened,? Rasmussen explained.
?When things go right like they did today, it?s difficult not to be overcome by emotions. 90% of my season is about yesterday, today and tomorrow and it?s really important to perform in these three days. I?d told my wife I?d win on L?Alpe d?Huez for her and our new baby but it didn?t happen and I was very disappointed. Today I had a lot to prove to myself and to her.?
David Millar (Saunier Duval) again rode well in the mountians, finishing 44th at 25-50. Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) was further back in the main peloton at 44-01 but is now almost certain to finisdh his first Tour de France. Millar is 59th overall at 1-23-44, while Wiggins is 110th at 127th at 2-34-14.
On Thursday the 147 riders left in the Tour face the final Alpine stage from Saint-Jean-de Maurienne to Morzine. The 200km stage includes three major climbs and then the Hors category Col de Joux-Plane (1691m, 11.7km at 8.5%) before the descent to Morzine.
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 182km in 5.36.04
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 1.41
3 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 1.54
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.56
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile
6 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 2.37
7 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crédit Agricole
8 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 3.24
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 3.42
11 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
12 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile
13 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) T-Mobile
14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 4.21
Overall standings after stage 16
1 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 74.38.05
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 1.50
3 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile 2.29
4 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 2.43
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2.56
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 3.58
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 6.47
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 7.03
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 7.46
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 8.06
11 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 8.08
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