The final climb of the day in stage 12 of the Tour de France proved to be explosive.
At the start of the climb all the favorites started to move to the head of the peloton. BMC’s George Hincapie could be seen leading team captain Cadel Evans up the side of the group. Once deposited to the front it was up to Evans to finish the stage off.
On the steepest section of the 3.1 kilometer Cote de la Croix-Neuve climb all the favorites started to advance to the front of the charging peloton. Up the road four escapees held onto a slim lead – however they were no longer working together and just trying to stay ahead of the group. Astana’s Vinokourov, a member of the four person break, pushed on by himself. Was he looking for stage glory or part of a team strategy?
On the steepest section of the climb Alberto Contador attacked and bridged up to Vino with Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). Vinokourov couldn’t hold the wheel of his teammate who was desperately trying to gain time over his rival Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank). In the sprint on the runway Rodriguez took the win over the Contador. Vinokourov was visibly disappointed with Contador crossing the line in second, slamming his hand on the handlebar in frustration.
Evans crossed the line 35 seconds behind Rodriguez and remains in 18th place overall. Greenville’s George Hincapie came across with Lance Armstrong’s group three minutes and thirty-five seconds back.
The world champion said he felt better, though he couldn’t go with the decisive move. “I wanted to take today as a bit of a test and see if I could follow and see how I am going,” Evans said. “I’m better, but not back to the level of where I was at Morzine-Avoriaz. Climbing out of the saddle, especially on the steep climb today, I couldn’t pull on my left side.”
While the chance to stand on the top step of the podium is gone, Hincapie still believes that Evans can move further up the G.C. ladder.
“We still believe Cadel can be in the top five despite his injury,” Hincapie said. “He just has to get back to the level he was coming into the Tour. We have full confidence he can do that.”