Vanendert vanquishes rivals
Voeckler excels to maintain yellow in Pyrenees
Last Updated: July 16, 2011 8:21pm
Vanendert: Attacked and stayed clear to take the biggest win of his career
Jelle Vanendert timed his attack perfectly to take an impressive solo victory on stage 14 of the Tour de France.
The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider took advantage of a stalemate between the overall contenders to move clear on the slopes of the Plateau de Beille and take victory by a comfortable margin on the hors categorie climb.
Samuel Sanchez followed the Belgian home 21 seconds later after also distancing an elite bunch of favourites in the closing kilometres.
"It's really amazing," said Vanendert straight afterwards. "I saw Andy and Frank Schleck attacking several times on that last climb and thought I have nothing to lose as I wasn't high up in the classification.
"I thought if I could attack before them and try and get a gap, then there was a chance of staying out there. Nobody came back at me so I was lucky."
The huge attacks that were expected did not materialise with the overall contenders content to follow each other with only a few brief moves failing to do any considerable damage to leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) led a group of nine riders home 46 seconds later, taking just two seconds over his rivals with a late dig on one of the most difficult summit finishes in the race.
Voeckler finished comfortably in touch with the leaders in seventh to keep the yellow jersey against the odds after three tough days in the Pyrenees.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) maintained contact to finish sixth on the climb, one place behind Team Sky's Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian putting in one of the best performances of his career to move into the young rider's white jersey.
Despite no huge fireworks on the climb, the Schleck brothers still tried to test the form of Contador, with Andy putting in numerous efforts on the climb that, despite distancing a number of riders, were not significant enough to put any favourites in jeopardy.
Frank Schleck said: "We tried several times but the only other person who really tried to attack was Ivan Basso. The others just looked at each other. We tried to race."
His brother Andy added: "I just sprinted full gas at the end there but didn't expect to get a gap. I gained a couple of seconds and every second counts."
When asked how he thought his main rival Alberto Contador was going, he said: "Alberto is strong and in my opinion he'll wait for the Alps."
In many ways the day belonged to Voeckler and the popular Frenchman admitted: "I would be lying if I said I expected to stay with the very best climbers today but I still thought I had a good chance of keeping the jersey as my performance on Luz-Ardiden two days ago gave me great confidence.
"I was really surprised to stay with them right to the end today but it was a good surprise."
On the chances of his staying in yellow all the way to Paris, he was more guarded, adding: "I've been saying I'll take it stage-by-stage and my only focus now is to be careful tomorrow on the sprinters' stage to Montpeller because the wind could make it tricky."
Early break sticks
In stark contrast to Friday's stage, early attacks were immediately allowed to go clear with a 20-man group forming and building up an advantage over the day's first climb, the Col de Portet-d' Aspet.
The large group played into the hands of green jersey holder Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) by soaking up the points at the intermediate sprint, with four more riders bridging across to bolster a group that already contained two members of Leopard Trek.
This ensured Europcar were forced to take up the early pace-setting in the peloton as the gap spun out to over six minutes.
Two men chanced their arm on the descent of the Col de la Core with Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Julien El Fares (Cofidis) jumping clear out of the break and were joined by David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) at the 90km to go mark.
Back in the bunch Leopard Trek put men on the front which saw the pace lift considerably on the Col de Latrape in a move that saw a number of riders, including Cavendish, put into difficulties.
The pace continued on the final climb, with the peloton fracturing to pieces on another tough day in the mountains.
Casar was the last of the escapees to be caught after a brave solo effort on the brutal final climb, swept up with 6.4km to go by a confident Vanendert.