Tour de France Stage 16: Dessel's Day After Dramatic Descent!On a stage that boasted the highest pass in Europe, the winner was truly determined by the riders who established an escape at the end of the first hour of racing. Cyril Dessel may not have claimed many climbing points on a day with two “HC’ cols – that honor went to an aggressive Stefan Schumacher and an inspire John-Lee Augustyn – but the French AG2R rider dropped all but three riders on the final descent and outwitted them at the finish to win his first stage of the Tour de France. Augustyn was first at the top of the Cimme de la Bonette-Restefond but his speed on the descent was too much: he crashed over the edge and would limp home on a spare bike. The battle for general classification standings did take a shake with Menchov losing time on the descent and Vande Velde slipping down the rankings after being shed on the ascent. But Frank Schleck retains his yellow jersey after finishing 12th, one place shy of Cadel Evans.
The Progress Report
The 157km 16th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, from Cuneo in Italy to Jausiers in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, began at 12.32pm. There were 153 riders in the race with no riders retiring on the second rest day of the 95th edition. The itinerary featured two ‘Hors Categorie’ mountains, the Col de la Lambarde – a 2,351m high pass that peaked at the 72.5km mark – and the highest road in Europe, the 2,802m Cime de la Bonette-Restefond with the summit at 133.5km. While the final 23.5km were essentially all downhill, the finish was still at altitude of 1,210m. The intermediate sprints were both in Italy: Vignolo (at 20.5km) and Vinadio (50km). The return to France was at the 73km mark.
Fast First Hour & 29 Eventually Break Free
Before Christian Prudhomme could even announce the official start of racing, Sylvain Chavanel attacked. He was one of the most insistent in a rapid volley of escape attempts in the first hour of racing. It wasn’t until the 42km mark, however, that anyone was able to gain a real advantage. Then the aggressor was Dumoulin (COF) who was soon joined by Stefan Schumacher (GST), Le Mevel (C.A), Rosseler (QST). A counter attacking group of 24 was composed of: Popovych, Arvesen, Voigt, Zubeldia, Txurruka, Arroyo, Gutierrez, Portal, Burghardt, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Cheula, Fischer, Tiralongo, Dessel, Lequatre, Flecha, Freire, Knees, Gilbert, Syl. Chavanel, Pate and Hesjedal. At the base of the climb, the five led 24 by 40” at the peloton by 4’25”. The average speed for the first hour was 49.2km/h.
Col de la Lombarde
Schumacher was the strongest of the lead group; after 5km of climbing he was on his own at the front of the stage. Cunego attacked the peloton early on the first ascent along with Szmyd, Valjavec, Monfort and Casar. CSC was in control of the peloton and allowed numerous other riders room to move when they attacked. Astarloza (EUS) was the highest ranked rider on GC to attack and he did so with about 8km to climb. At the summit the situation was: Schumacher in the lead; Le Mevel at 2’10”; Voeckler at 3’15”; Popovch’s group at 4’35”; Cunego’s group at 5’05” and the yellow jersey’s peloton at 9’35”.
There was a general regrouping on the descent. Schumacher led a group of 30 riders including: Popovych, Arvesen, Voigt, Txurrka, Arroyo, Gutierrez, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Cheula, Fischer, Cunego, Szmyd, Tiralongo, Pauriol, Dessel, Valjavec, Lequatre, Flecha, Tschopp, Voeckler, Knees, Casar, Chavanel, Dumoulin, Moncoutie, Monfort, Hesjedal and Pate by 5’50” at the 93km mark. The peloton was at 10’50”.
Cime de la Bonette-Restefond
Schumacher had a lead of 4’40” on a group including Popovych and Cunego at the base of the final climb and the peloton was at 11’45”. Schumacher led until six kilometers from the 2nd summit when he was caught by Popovych, Arroyo, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Valjavec, Schumacher and Casar. They had a lead of 2’35” on the yellow jersey’s group which had dwindled to eight: Frank and Andy Schleck, Sastre, Evans, Menchov, Valverde, Samuel Sanchez and Kohl. In the last 700m of the climb Augustyn attacked and claimed the 40pts and ‘Souvenir Henri Desgrange’ but he would tumble over the end on the descent and lose his chance of winning the stage.
Dessel Wins After Speedy Descent
Dessel, Casar, Arroyo and Popovych gained an advantage on all other escapees early on the climb and raced into Jausiers in that order after a dramatic, rapid descent. Dessel burst into the lead in the final kilometer after brief attacks from Popovych and Arroyo. It is his first stage win at the Tour de France. In the yellow jersey’s group, Menchov lost ground and descended with Cunego and Kirchen, losing 29 seconds to the yellow jersey. Frank Schleck finished 12, 1’28” behind the stage winner and will retain his lead in the general classification.