Joaquin Rodriguez outsprinted Alberto Contador in Mende today to take stage 12 of the Tour de France. At 3.1km the climb to Mende aerodrome is one of the shortest classified climbs in the race, but metre for metre it provided more drama than any other.
As the remnants of the early break were scattered back down the climb that averages 10.1% but hits over 14% in places, they were swept up one-by-one by the bunch, even though the general contenders were playing a waiting game.
Saxo Bank set a steady place, but with the metres ticking by, no one looked ready to make a move. Ahead Alexandre Vinokourov, who’d left his break away rivals on the steep slopes, was stretching his lead out.
The pace of the bunch was enough to see a constant stream of riders fall out the back, but still no one would make a move.
Finally the waiting game was over. Rodriguez went, immediately followed by Jurgen Van Den Broeck, the surprise package of this year’s race.
They were just a few metres clear of the thinning bunch when Alberto Contador jumped up the left hand gutter. The reigning Tour champion was immediatley clear as Andy Schleck failed to react.
His hesitation cost him dear.
When he finally made his move Contador was 20 metres ahead and looking good. As the helicopter shot looked down on them it was clear that the Spaniard was moving faster.
Rodriguez stayed with him and the pair were quickly passed Vinokourov. Behind Schleck kept the pace high but Samuel Sanchez and Denis Menchov were able to claw their way up to him.
As the road narrowed with the weight of the crowd it looked like either group could be blocked by the motorbikes at any moment. Suddenly, as the riders crested the top of the climb the road opened up and Contador was time trialling his way to the finish line.
His gap looked good, perhaps not enough to take over the race lead, but enough to come within just a few seconds of Schleck. But on the short descent to the line Schleck was able to limit his losses to just ten.
Rodriguez’s win was a mere formality. The former Spanish champion is a fast finisher and did little to help Contador on the run in so it was no surprise when he took the stage win. Something that Contador would likely have given him had he pulled on the front.
Behind Schleck wasn’t getting much help either, as the two riders who are now dominating this race are being made to work for their win.
Tour de France 2010, stage 12: Bourg-de-peage – Mende 210.5km
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha 4-58-26
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Astana at same time
3. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 4 secs
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 10 secs
5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
6. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) Euskaltel Euskadi
7. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack
8. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank all at same time
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 15 secs
10. Roman Krueziger (Cze) Liquigas at same time
14. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 31sec
General classification after stage 12
1. Andy Shleck (Lux) Saxo Bank 58-42-01
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Astana at 31 secs
3. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) Euskaltel Euskadi at 2-45
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-58
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 3-31
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RadioShack at 4-06
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 4-47
8. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha 4-58
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp) Caisse d’Epargne 5-02
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 5-16
14. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 6-44
16. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 7-39
Points classification: Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
Mountains classificaton: Anthony Charteau (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Best young rider: Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
Ryder Hesjedal leads the escape group
Joaquin Rodriguez in the winning move, with Alberto Contador right behind him
Rodriguez wins, and Contador gains some time on Schleck
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