Australian's 2015 Tinkoff-Saxo team bike
Winner of the 2015 Tour Down Under
New and old kicks and lids seen at WorldTour race
Wiggle Honda team bike of two-time World Champion
Testa expected attack from Contador
Evans pulled Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre – ISD) up the punishing ascent of the Galibier, enroute to claiming third place on the stage, but unwilling to find any assistance in cutting down the gap created by Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek). The Australian heads into Friday's 19th stage to Alpe-d'Huez 1:12 behind general classification leader, Voeckler.
"Overall he's [Evans] in a good position right now," Testa told Cyclingnews. "He's strong, he's been working on his time trial but we still have a big stage tomorrow. Tomorrow is one of those short stages that can really hurt, especially after a stage like today."
"I think that Cadel is strong enough to win the race, and he showed that, but in cycling there are a lot of variables. We were hoping that he could have more help, but most likely this is the level so the other one's they cannot help more so it's basically at this point of the game the Schleck's and Voeckler because Voeckler is definitely a threat."
Testa suggested that the overall favourites had somewhat underestimated the strength of the wily Voeckler.
"Everybody was happy to give the jersey to someone that was not a contender and now he is a contender, he deserves the role," he said.
Spaniard will fight to take polka dot jersey from Vanendert
If stage 18 was the Tour's first true race of attrition, then Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) became the first of the favourites to fall as the riders took on the might of the Agnel, Izoard, and finally, the Galibier.
The 2008 Olympic champion sat 1:37 away from the podium at the beginning of the stage, only to see the possibility slip away – Sanchez finished 4:42 back on winner Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) on the stage and is now 5:20 off the yellow jersey of Thomas Voeckler. The pursuit of the Luxembourger began to prove too much for Sánchez around 20 kilometres from the summit of the Galibier.
"I was struggling a little on the Galibier," the Spaniard said. "But when you give everything you have and you can not ask for anything more. It's what cycling is – it's not an exact science... it is unpredictable. "
Still, Sánchez is pleased with the team's Tour so far, with a stage win to his name at Luz-Ardiden and the ever-present sight of the Basque team's orange kit in most of the breakaways.
"I think we should be very satisfied with the race we are completing, this remains a formidable Tour for us and that cannot be understated. We won a stage and we still have objectives in this Tour, like trying to win another stage or fighting for the King of the Mountains jersey," he explained. Sánchez is two points behind Omega Pharma-Lotto's Jelle Vanendert in the fight for the polka dot jersey and the pair are set for a showdown en route to Alpe-d'Huez.
Team manager Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano praised the work of his leader: "He [Sánchez]...
Sky sprinter looking foward to the Alpe-d'Huez
Sky's Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas spoke to Cyclingnews prior to their departure on stage 18, knowing that two tough days on the bike were ahead.
"Hopefully there's a big grupetto," said Swift. He was right – the sprinter finishing with 89 other riders 35:40 after stage 18 winner Andy Schleck crossed the finish line on the Galibier. As it was outside the time limit, race officials docked each rider 20 points instead of eliminating them.
Thomas' focus was on keeping Rigoberto Uran out of trouble.
"Once the job's done we can probably take it easy because you've still got to ride up these things," the Welshman said of the day of torturous climbs ahead.
For Swift, making it to the finish on Alpe-d'Huez will be momentous, knowing that it's largely all downhill to Paris from there – "Nearly," he smiled.
Luxembourger needed no help against headwind
Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) was among the last riders to put up resistance to Andy Schleck’s winning ride on stage 18 of the Tour de France, but the Irishman admitted that he was powerless to do anything other than attempt to hold Schleck’s wheel on the lower slopes of the Col du Galibier.
Roche was part of the early 14-man break that formed ahead of the Col Agnel, and he forged clear with Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) and Maxime Monfort (Leopard Trek) over the Izoard. On the descent, they were joined by Schleck, who had bridged across alone.
“We saw Andy coming back up,” Roche told L’Équipe. “He was impressive. He didn’t ask us to ride. He knew very well what he had to do.”
In spite of the stiff headwind that buffeted the riders in the valley between the Izoard and the Galibier, Schleck did not require any help from Roche or Iglinsky even after his teammate Monfort had swung over. With 10km to go on the climb, Roche had to give best to Schleck’s relentless pressing, and Iglinsky lasted only a little longer.
“Even if he had asked me to help, I would have been incapable even of taking a symbolic turn,” Roche admitted. “I was already very happy just to be able to stay on his wheel given that he was going so fast.”
After being out in front for almost 150km, Roche understandably struggled on the steep upper section of the Galibier after losing sight of Schleck.
“I totally exploded in the last two kilometres,” he explained. “I think that they made a mistake with the signs, because that must have been at least 2.5km. I really...
A time lapse recording of the Tour de France climb
Cyclingnews has made a time lapse film of the climb to L'Alpe d'Huez.
The video takes you up the climb in just 140 seconds, capturing the atmosphere on the legendary Alpine climb.
Hundreds of thousands of people were already waiting for the race, with others climbing on their bikes and on foot.
We were slowed at the famous Dutch Corner by the hundreds of fans dressed in orange t-shirts and fuelled by a river of beer, with techno music providing the soundtrack.
There were also hundreds of Norwegian, British, Australian and American fans, with the thousands of French fans, all ready to cheer the riders to the legendary stage finish.
Out of yellow and a few Dutch enemies for the Frenchman
The love affair between Thomas Voeckler and the Tour de France's yellow jersey has come to an end after ten days. The Frenchman dropped down to fourth place at l’Alpe d’Huez but showed great courage once again on a day of glory for his teammate Pierre Rolland.
“I only got to know once I crossed the finishing line that Pierre had won today’s stage,” Voeckler said.
“I’m super happy for him. He deserves one hundred times to get this win. He has helped me so much. It’s a legitimate reward.
“I was having a hard time”, he admitted. “But my teammates brought me back in the downhill. I also have to thank my compatriots Jérôme Pineau and Arnold Jeannesson for the help they gave me. Not everyone did!”
Voeckler was still bitter to have been dropped by Alberto Contador in the Col du Télégraphe, the first climb of the day.
“The motorbikes of France Television dragged him on the climb”, the Frenchman said.
“I don’t know if I had the necessary level to follow him all the way to the top of the Galibier, but he’s strong enough in the climbs, he doesn’t need this kind of help.”
Voeckler was also angry when he climbed l’Alpe d’Huez, especially at the curve after the village of Huez-en-Oisans, which is nicknamed “the Dutchmen’s curve”.
Spectators gave him a hard time and he openly reacted verbally in front of the cameras. “The public booed me”, he said.
“I know why: it’s because I didn’t wait for Johnny Hoogerland when he got kicked offside by a car the day I took the yellow jersey. I’m not sure if anyone would have waited in such circumstances. Fans are normally fair play in cycling but...
Italian fades in the Alps
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) slipped to 8th overall in the Tour de France on l’Alpe d’Huez, and immediately after crossing the line, the Italian cited his May training crash as a contributing factor to his disappointing third week.
Basso crashed while training on Mount Etna in late May, suffering facial injuries and struggled in the build-up to the Tour but emerged unscathed from its hectic opening week. After appearing to be among the strongest of the overall contenders in the Pyrenees, however, Basso faded in the Alps, where he had expected to come to the fore on its long ascents.
“It didn’t pan out the way I expected in the second part of this Tour,” Basso said after stage 19. “In the end, losing out on ten days of work in May, which is a crucial month for preparation, made itself felt in the third week and on the third consecutive day in the mountains.”
Basso spent much of the short stage to l’Alpe d’Huez attempting to chase back on to the group of overall contenders after Alberto Contador’s (Saxo Bank-Sungard) early raid on the Col du Télégraphe put him in difficulty. Although Basso made the juncture on the descent of the Galibier, he was dropped again on the early slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez.
“Today was a very hard day for me,” Basso admitted after crossing the line in 15th place, 2:06 down on stage winner Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
“I tried to defend myself as well as I could. Now there’s just the time trial. Obviously it was one of the most difficult days for me, but at least I was able to fight right until...
Hinault predicts tight time trial result
The last mountain stage of this year's Tour de France panned out reasonably well for Team Leopard Trek, with Andy Schleck taking the yellow jersey from Europcar's Thomas Voeckler as planned, and his brother Fränk moving up the classification from third to second. The younger of the two followed Alberto Contador's early attack on the Col du Telegraphe, while Fränk rejoined the leaders before the mythical Alpe-d'Huez.
"This has always been our dream, and now it's become a reality. We are very motivated now to maintain our GC placings like this until Paris," Andy Schleck said at the finish.
The new overall leader took control of the race in stage 18 to the Galibier, in which he launched a powerful solo attack with 60 kilometres to go, and finally took the jersey from Voeckler today.
"I wasn't afraid of this stage. Sure, I went in a long escape yesterday, in the wind, and I left a lot of energy there. But those riders who came in a few minutes behind me did the same work. Some of them looked as if they were even more worn out than I was. I think if you are strong in the mountains today, you'll be strong tomorrow," he shrugged.
Johnny Schleck, a proud father of his sons, was at the finish atop the Alpe. "It's incredible what they have done. I am very proud of both of them. For Andy to have taken the jersey from Voeckler is enormous as he is very strong," the former professional said.
The final test of tomorrow's time trial in Grenoble will determine the overall winner of the Tour. Schleck leads his brother Frank by 53 seconds, and BMC's Cadel Evans by 57 seconds. In theory, the Australian is the better time triallist, but the Luxembourger felt confident that he would be able to take the jersey to Paris.
"I believe I can keep the...