Savoldelli revels in Tour stage win
By Shane Stokes
Three days after George Hincapie put the Discovery Channel jersey on top of the stage winner's podium, double Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli repeated the feat on the 17th stage of this year's Tour. The Italian came out best in a two up finish against CSC's Kurt Asle Arvesen, reeling in a late attack by the Norwegian and clipping by with 50 metres to go.
Australian Simon Gerrans (Ag2R-Prévoyance) and Frenchman Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) were also clear and took third and fourth at the finish in Revel. The quartet had all been part of a 17 man breakaway group which went clear inside the first 35 kilometres of the stage, opening up a 25 minutes-plus lead over the main field.
This gap came down slightly at the finish, thanks mostly to an unexpected acceleration by some of the biggest names in the race. Alexandre Vinokourov and Jan Ullrich attacked on the final third category climb in an attempt to distance Michael Rasmussen, third overall, but were latched onto by Armstrong, Basso, Rasmussen, Hincapie, Popovych, Leipheimer, Mancebo and Mazzoleni.
Motivated perhaps by the chance to distance Floyd Landis, who Armstrong considered had made unsavoury comments about him in L'Equipe, Discovery floored it all the way to the line, with Armstrong himself helping to drive the pace. The group came in 22'28 behind Savoldelli but 0'20 ahead of the next group, containing Evans, Landis, and Moreau. The top six placings in GC remain unchanged but Vinokourov overtook Evans and Landis in jumping to seventh overall. The large time gap at the finish enabled the American team to take over from T-Mobile as best squad.