Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) strengthened his lead in the Tour de France after defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) cracked on the final climb of today’s stage to La Toussuire.
On an eventful Alpine stage won by French prodigy Pierre Rolland (Europcar), the yellow jersey finished over a minute ahead of Evans after the Australian fell back off the pace with about 5km to go.
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Evans’ slip followed a failed attack two climbs earlier on the Col de la Croix de Fer (Col du Glandon). Having started the day in second place, 1-53 down, he now sits in fourth at 3-19.
Wiggins’ team mate Chris Froome moves into second place overall at 2-05 after taking third place on the stage and doing much of the pace making for Wiggins on the final climb.
Clearly the strongest on the stage, Froome even put in a dig that blew what remained of the contenders group apart and Wiggins out the back. Apparently the result of some miscommunication, he was quickly told to steady the pace over the race radio.
While Wiggins rode a defensive stage, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) twice went on the attack lower down the climb.
At one point he gained around 30 seconds to join earlier attackers Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), Janez Brajkovic (Astana) and young sensation Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat). But Froome pulled them back.
Pinot was the only rider able to go with Froome’s aborted dig and stayed ahead until the final kilometere.
Although re-caught by Froome in sight of the line, he was still able to outsprint him for second place. Van den Broek lead in the rest of the contenders group with Wiggins and Nibali behind sharing a friendly gesture after a small public spat yesterday.
Ahead of this lot, Rolland was the only survivor of a 28 man group that escaped before the first of the three monster climbs on this brutal but short stage – the Col de la Madeleine.
Whittled down over the subsequent climb of the Croix de Fer, he was left with just Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) and Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar) by the top of the penultimate ascent of the Col du Mollard.
A mere second category interlude between the Crox de Fer and the ascent to La Toussuire, it nonetheless features a long technical downhill which Rolland -a terrible descender- didn’t fail to crash on.
But he picked himself up, rejoined the group -as did Chris Anker Sorensen- then decisively got rid of them on the final climb.
Despite a visible graze to his left hip, he was able to stay clear to the finish and claim a second summit top Tour stage win to add to last year’s at Alpe d’Huez.
Tour de France 2012, stage eleven: Albertville to La Toussuire 140km
1. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar in 4h 43′ 54″
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 55 sec
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling at 55 sec
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol Team at 57 sec
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling all at same time
7. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at 1-08
8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team at 1-58
9. Vasili Kiryienka (Bel) Movistar Team at 2-13
10. Frank Schleck (Lux) Radioshack-Nissan at 2-23
Overall classification after stage eleven
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 48h 43′ 53″
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling at 2-05
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 02-23
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 3-19
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team at 4-48
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Radioshack-Nissan at 6-15
7. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team at 6-57
8. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team at 7-30
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar at 8-31
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat at 8-51
Edvald Boasson Hagen on the front
Richie Porte leads Sky
Christophe Kern leads escape group
Daniel Martin in escape group
Tejay Van Garderen paces Cadel Evans
Pierre Rolland wins the stage
Bradley Wiggins maintains his race lead
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