Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) held his nerve to outsprint his eight fellow breakaway companions in Pau after a big day of climbing in the Pyrenees.
The former French champion had the zip and timing to take the Tour de France’s sixteenth stage, ahead of the likes of more experienced and decorated fellow escapees such as Lance Armstrong, Damiano Cunego and Christophe Moreau.
The 199.5km route encompassed four legendary Pyrenean climbs, the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque, before a 60-kilometre descent into the finish at Pau.
Team Sky man Bradley Wiggins joined the likes of Lance Armstrong and polka-dot jersey Anthony Charteau in the day’s original sizeable escape group over the Peyresourde.
However, with the likes of top-ten riders Alexandre Vinokourov and Ryder Hesjedal also among them, the break was brought to heel.
Only over the third climb, the Col du Tourmalet, did a big-name ten man group solidify and slip away. It consisted of Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner (Team RadioShack), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux), Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo Test Team), Jurgen van de Walle, Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and Caisse d’Epargne pair Ruben Plaza and Christophe Moreau.
Under pressure from Armstrong and Barredo, the group split halfway up the Aubsique before reforming nearer the top. Only Konovalovas was permanently distanced.
Back in the bunch, Astana were content to tap out a steady pace over the day’s last two climb, allowing the advantage to slip up to nine minutes.
After yesterday’s drama, the favourites chose to hold fire, as the long run-in to the finish after the four Pyrenean ascents dissuaded any meaningful attack.
Barredo’s brave bid
Carlos Barredo attacked the breakaway on the descent of the Aubisque, and his brave solo bid looked like it had the legs; at one point, he held a lead of 50 seconds.
However, the Spaniard was visibily slowing inside the last five kilometres, and his eight former companions timed the chase right, reprising him under the flamme rouge.
In the tense final sprint, Fedrigo judged it just right. Coming from five back, he capitalised on the leadout work from the Caisse d’Epargne pair, flying down the inside to beat compatriot and recent stage winner Sandy Casar and Ruben Plaza.
In search of a valedictory win, Lance Armstrong could only manage sixth place, finishing alongside teammate Chris Horner.
It is France’s sixth win of the race. The Pyrenees are also proving a very happy hunting ground for former French champion Fedrigo, who won in St-Gaudens last year after riding over the Aspin and Tourmalet at the head of the race.
Meanwhile, the peloton, led in by Thor Hushovd (Cervelo), finished just under seven minutes down.
The heavy-set Norwegian’s reward for sticking with the bunch over the Pyrenean climbs is a return to the green jersey. He now leads Alessandro Petacchi by four points.
A pause in Pau
Tomorrow sees a rest day in Pau before a hotly-anticipated final day in the mountains.
Starting in Pau, stage seventeen takes in the Marie-Blanque and Soulor before finishing on the Col du Tourmalet.
Tour de France, stage 16: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Pau
1. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 5-31-43
2. Sandy Casar (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
3. Ruben Plaza (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
4. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese
5. Chris Horner (Usa) Team RadioShack
6. Lance Armstrong (Usa) Team RadioShack
7. Jurgen Van de Walle (Bel) Quick Step
8. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne all at same time
9. Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step at 28secs
10. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo at 6-45
13. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale
21. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
22. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
43. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky
56. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky all same time
114. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 34-48
115. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia
125. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky
170. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions
172. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo all same time
General classification after stage 16
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana 78-29-10
2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 8secs
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-00
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-13
5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 3-39
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 5-01
7. Levi Leipheimer (Usa) Team RadioShack at 5-25
8. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 5-45
9. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 7-12
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions at 7-51
18. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 12-34
21. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 17-44
25. Lance Armstrong (USA) Team RadioShack at 33-46
60. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 1-33-12
152. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 3-15-21
154. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 3-17-46
159. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 3-25-22
163. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 3-27-48
165. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 3-30-01
Points classification: Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
Mountains classification: Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Young rider: Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
Col du Tourmalet
Lance Armstrong heads escape group
Carlos Barredo goes solo
Pierrick Fedrigo takes the sprint win from the escape group
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