Chavanel races to victory in first mountains stage

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) won his second stage of this year's Tour de France at Station des Rousses on Saturday, and completed another double, taking over the yellow jersey, just as he also did in Spa at the end of stage 2.

Unlike in Spa, however, the history books will show no asterisk against Chavanel's name after this victory - which, again, he achieved alone.

If his win in Spa carried a hollow ring, with the race neutralised behind him following the crash-marred descent of the Stockeu, at the summit of Station des Rousses, there was only acclaim and admiration after a gutsy and perfectly-timed and executed counterattack.

From Chavanel himself, there was an exuberant, fist-pumping, medallion-kissing celebration along the finishing straight, while, behind him, there were skirmishes and a minor sort out of the overall contenders, but no significant winners or losers.

"We are on a roll on this incredible 2010 Tour," said Chavenel to Letour.com. "We started with the whole team, and it has gone perfectly. What we did in the stage to Spa was extremely rare. But to do it twice - oh, it's wonderful. Now we will try to win a third!"

Indeed, a stage described as a "medium mountain" stage conformed exactly to expectations. The six classified climbs included two long category two-rated ascents towards the end - the Col de la Croix de la Serra and the Côte de Lamoura - and these saw the favourites gather at the front.

"I think next year I will no longer compete for the month of May, considering the form I've currently got at the Tour. I had legs of fire, and I knew I was on climbs that suited me very well - a gradient of four per cent, hills more than a mountain," said Chavenel to Letour.com.

But while the Croix de la Serra acted as the launchpad to Chavanel's victory, and effectively ended Fabian Cancellara's (Saxo Bank) spell in yellow, it told us very little about the climbing form of Alberto Contador (Astana), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) or Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), with last year's top four all present, correct and looking comfortable.

"I was à bloc [flat out]. It was hot, really hot. It was too much for me, I couldn't do it," said Cancellara to AFP. "I've had some nice days in the yellow jersey, and tomorrow I'll go back to my normal one. Things will be quieter, calmer, less stress."

The 14km climb of the Côte de Lamoura, to the finish at Station des Rousses, appeared tough at the bottom, with a series of hairpins, but it proved to be no more revealing.

Contador had two Astana teammates set the pace, and, with the main group now whittled down to around 35 riders, it was enough to drop the day's darkhorse for the yellow jersey, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). With Thomas eventually conceding more than three minutes to that group, the white jersey for best young rider passed on to Schleck.

"I am very happy to have the white jersey, I hope that in the coming days, I can get one of another color," said Schleck to AFP. "Fabian (Cancellara) was not on a good day. Now it's my turn to play. I feel fine."

At the finish, as French TV hailed the stage winner's panache, Chavanel embraced his countryman and Quick Step teammate Jérôme Pineau, who completed an outstanding day for the Belgian squad by featuring in the day's main break and significantly increasing his lead in the King of the Mountains competition.

Pineau had said, before the start, that he intended to try and score maximum points on the road from Tournus to Station des Rousses, and he almost succeeded, being first to the top of five out of the six climbs. It was Chavanel, of course, who scored double points at the stage finish, and he now sits second in the King of the Mountains competition, eight points behind Pineau.

"I had to score points to consolidate my polka dot jersey. I've been criticized at times for attacking too much, but it's been paying off at the Tour," said Pineau to AFP. "Rather than trying to make the right break, I attacked and found myself with Samuel (Dumoulin). It worked out well. On the last climb I gave it everything. When I heard that Sylvain was all alone, I picked it up to help, if even for 20 metres."

The man in polka dots first signalled his intent early, attacking in the first kilometre and being joined soon after by Christian Knees (Milram), Danilo Hondo (Lampre), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis).

By the summit of the first climb, the Côte de l'Aubépin, after 51km, they had a lead of eight minutes, 30 seconds - with Pineau first across the line, of course, ahead of Knees and Perez.

It was the Côte du barrage de Vouglans, the fourth hill of the day - and the first Cat. 2 climb of this year's Tour - that began to inflict the damage. Cancellara began to yo-yo - as, surprisingly, did Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) - as the main group split in two, and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) bridged across to a counterattack that included Thomas Voeckler and Cyril Gautier (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne).

Up ahead, Pineau took off with Hondo, and they reached the top of the climb together. Knees followed, then Voeckler, Gautier, Cunego, Lloyd and Perget, with the peloton just over a minute behind.

Chavanel, meanwhile, sensed that the group containing Cunego - with the Italian widely fancied for the day's stage - was the one to join, and he set off in pursuit, bridging the gap in no time at all.

On the approach to the final climb Chavanel made another key decision, this time that Cunego's group wasn't going fast enough. And so he launched himself again - and so, at precisely the same time, did Pineau, dropping Hondo, and setting up a Quick Step pursuit race.

It didn't take Chavanel long to catch a spent-looking Pineau. "He tried to lead me," said Chavanel later to Cyclingnews, "but he was really tired, and it wasn't possible for him."

The climb to the finish, Chavanel admitted, was "exactly the type of climb I like." And it showed as he stormed up a gradient that averages five percent, pushing a huge gear.

"I began to think of the yellow jersey on the last climb, and I told myself that after having lost it, it was quite a coup to take it back again," said Chavenel to Letour.com.

Behind him, Pineau predictably dropped like a stone - he came in almost four minutes behind Chavanel - but Chavanel had a surprise pursuer in the form of Rafael Valls Ferri (Footon-Servetto), who chased him all the way up the climb and came in just 57 seconds down.

As Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) - the winner of last year's penultimate stage to the summit of Mont Ventoux - came in for third, and Voeckler held on for fourth, the main group of 35 came in 1:47 down.

As well as last year's top four, the other favourites were all there - Cadel Evans (BMC), the Liquigas pair of Ivan Basso and Roman Kreuziger and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack). In fact, the only loser among those who might be considered top 10 candidates was Armstrong and Leipheimer's teammate, Andreas Kloden, who conceded four minutes to Chavanel.

"It was very hot, it was a very hard day," said Schleck to AFP. "I was surprised by the difficulty of the stage. I am a little disappointed with myself. On the last climb, Contador and his team pushed the pace a bit too high in my opinion, because of the sudden the others would not ride with them then."

Chavanel plans to defend his jersey in Sunday's stage 8, 189km from Station des Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz. "Tomorrow I will do everything to defend it, but I know that the battle will mainly concern Contador, Schleck and Evans," said Chavenel to Letour.com. "In the midst of it, I'll always give everything, but if I lose, it does not matter. Right now I'm on my little cloud, I'm floating and I don't know how else to describe it. But I see that I have great support on the road and everywhere. It warms my heart."

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step4:22:52
2Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Footon-Servetto0:00:57
3Juan Manuel Gárate Cepa (Spa) Rabobank0:01:27
4Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom0:01:40
5Mathieu Perget (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 4 - Cell 2
6Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 5 - Cell 2
7Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom0:01:47
8Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - TransitionsRow 7 - Cell 2
9Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 8 - Cell 2
10Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-ServettoRow 9 - Cell 2
11Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 10 - Cell 2
12Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team MilramRow 11 - Cell 2
13Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) AstanaRow 12 - Cell 2
14Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 13 - Cell 2
15Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 14 - Cell 2
16Lance Armstrong (USA) Team RadioshackRow 15 - Cell 2
17Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 16 - Cell 2
18Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 17 - Cell 2
19Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 18 - Cell 2
20Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 19 - Cell 2
21Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-DoimoRow 20 - Cell 2
22Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioshackRow 21 - Cell 2
23Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 22 - Cell 2
24Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) AstanaRow 23 - Cell 2
25Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 24 - Cell 2
26Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quick StepRow 25 - Cell 2
27Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-DoimoRow 26 - Cell 2
28Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 27 - Cell 2
29Denis Menchov (Rus) RabobankRow 28 - Cell 2
30Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 29 - Cell 2
31Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 30 - Cell 2
32Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 31 - Cell 2
33Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) AstanaRow 32 - Cell 2
34Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - TransitionsRow 33 - Cell 2
35Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioshackRow 34 - Cell 2
36Christopher Horner (USA) Team RadioshackRow 35 - Cell 2
37Robert Gesink (Ned) RabobankRow 36 - Cell 2
38Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 38 - Cell 2
40Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 39 - Cell 2
41Michael Rogers (Aus) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 40 - Cell 2
42Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team KatushaRow 41 - Cell 2
43Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini0:03:07
44Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step0:03:55
45Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne0:04:00
46Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues TelecomRow 45 - Cell 2
47Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 46 - Cell 2
48John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 47 - Cell 2
49Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 48 - Cell 2
50Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioshackRow 49 - Cell 2
51Bram Tankink (Ned) RabobankRow 50 - Cell 2
52Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 51 - Cell 2
53Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team KatushaRow 52 - Cell 2
54Iban Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 53 - Cell 2
55Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team HTC - ColumbiaRow 54 - Cell 2
56Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:05:02
57Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) AstanaRow 56 - Cell 2
58Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team0:05:18
59Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:06:04
60Julien El Farès (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 59 - Cell 2
61Grischa Niermann (Ger) RabobankRow 60 - Cell 2
62Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick StepRow 62 - Cell 2
64Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 63 - Cell 2
65Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack0:10:02
66Sergio Paulinho (Por) Team RadioshackRow 65 - Cell 2
67Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 66 - Cell 2
68Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-DoimoRow 67 - Cell 2
69Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 68 - Cell 2
70Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team MilramRow 69 - Cell 2
71Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test TeamRow 70 - Cell 2
72José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 71 - Cell 2
73Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team MilramRow 72 - Cell 2
74Charles Wegelius (GBr) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 73 - Cell 2
75Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick StepRow 74 - Cell 2
76Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Team MilramRow 75 - Cell 2
77Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d'Epargne0:11:02
78Francis De Greef (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto0:12:59
79Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 78 - Cell 2
80Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) Caisse d'EpargneRow 79 - Cell 2
81Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La MondialeRow 80 - Cell 2
82Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 81 - Cell 2
83Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Omega Pharma-LottoRow 82 - Cell 2
84Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank0:14:12
85Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 84 - Cell 2
86Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 85 - Cell 2
87Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo BankRow 86 - Cell 2
88Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'EpargneRow 87 - Cell 2
89Iban Mayoz Echeverria (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 88 - Cell 2
90Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa) Footon-ServettoRow 89 - Cell 2
91Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 90 - Cell 2
92Alexander Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas-DoimoRow 91 - Cell 2
93David De La Fuente Rasilla (Spa) AstanaRow 92 - Cell 2
94George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 93 - Cell 2
95Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese ViniRow 94 - Cell 2
96Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel) Quick StepRow 95 - Cell 2
97Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank0:18:57
98Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 97 - Cell 2
99Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team RadioshackRow 98 - Cell 2
100Grégory Rast (Swi) Team RadioshackRow 99 - Cell 2
101Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling TeamRow 100 - Cell 2
102David Millar (GBr) Garmin - TransitionsRow 101 - Cell 2
103Robert Hunter (RSA) Garmin - Transitions0:19:14