Rasmussen soars, Landis blows, Pereiro back in yellow
Race favourite Floyd Landis cracked dramatically on the sixteenth stage of the Tour de France today, as former race leader Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) swept back into the maillot jaune. The Phonak rider’s unexpected collapse came on the final climb up to La Toussuire, with Landis slipping backwards approximately 11km from the line and finishing a massive 10’04 down in 23rd place.
The stage victory went to Michael Rasmussen, the Danish Rabobank rider precisely emulating his exploit of last year’s Tour by going clear very early on, taking all of the points on each of the day’s climbs, soloing in for the victory and opening up a very healthy lead in the King of the Mountains classification. Rasmussen attacked approximately ten kilometres after the start in Le Bourg d’Oisans and was joined on the Galibier by Tadej Valjavec (Lampre-Fondital) and then Sandy Casar (FDJ). He shed both of these heading up the Col de La Croix de Fer, and rode the remaining 70-odd kilometres alone, resisting solo chasing efforts from Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and Carlos Sastre (CSC).
Landis looked composed but was first distanced by Menchov (Rabobank) and several others 13 kilometres from the line. T-Mobile brought he and Klöden back on, but when an attack by Sastre with 11 kilometres left caused the speed to shoot up, the American blew up and began a long, lonely suffer-fest to the summit. Sastre stayed clear to take second place, finishing 1’41 behind Rasmussen and 13 seconds ahead of new yellow jersey Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne), who took a time bonus for third. Cadel Evans (Davitamon) and Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) were a further two seconds back in fourth and fifth, while a disappointed Landis finished 23rd and dropped to 11th overall.