Double for Boasson Hagen
Perfectly-timed attack pays off for Norwegian star
Last Updated: 21/07/11 8:01am
Boasson Hagen: Another brilliant display saw him emerge victorious in Pinerolo
Edvald Boasson Hagen won his and Team Sky's second stage of the 2011 Tour de France with a superb solo attack near the end of the 17th stage from Gap to Pinerolo.
The 24-year-old Norwegian, runner-up to compatriot Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) 24 hours earlier, worked himself into a 14-man escape group on the 179-kilometre route as the Tour headed into Italy.
Boasson Hagen, who won stage six for Team Sky's first Tour stage success, made the decisive attack on the day's final climb with 11km remaining, jumping past Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and soon distancing all his rivals.
He reached the summit of the Cote de Pramartino with a lead of around 20 seconds and fearlessly negotiated the 8km descent to win from Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), who was 40 seconds behind in second, with Sandy Casar (FDJ) third, 10 seconds further back.
Saur-Sojasun's Jonathan Hivert had been Boasson Hagen's closest pursuer but he tumbled on the descent and then lost control further down, entering a roadside driveway.
Voeckler sees GC advantage cut
Behind that drama, the absorbing battle for overall glory continued as reigning champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) attacked for the second day running on the final climb, taking Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), yellow jersey holder Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and others, including Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas), with him.
However this time the initial acceleration achieved little so Contador made another burst, seeking to eat into his rivals' advantage on the descent, as Boasson Hagen celebrated victory.
Contador followed compatriot Samuel Sanchez's (Euskaltel-Euskadi) wheel, but their overall rivals caught up in the finale to finish on the same time with the exception of Voeckler who lost 27 seconds after visiting the same roadside driveway as Hivert on the descent.
Voeckler said: "Three times I went wide on a corner and the third time I was very, very lucky because I had to jump down a step that was about a meter high. I lost time and if I'd been more calm, I could have finished with the favourites but I was a little bit too ambitious."
The latest standings see Voeckler's general classification lead over Evans trimmed to one minute and 18 seconds, with Frank Schleck at 1:22, Andy Schleck at 2:26, Sanchez 2:59 back and Contador at 3:15.
Meanwhile Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) extended his lead in the points classification by one by being the first rider across the line from the peloton, which did not contest the intermediate sprint.
Cavendish, the green jersey incumbent, rolled over the line ahead of team-mate Bernhard Eisel, to move 35 points clear of Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar).
The 26-year-old from the Isle of Man now has 320 points, with Rojas second on 285 and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) third on 250.
Planning pays off
The stage belonged to Boasson Hagen however and he said: "It was a really great day today. I felt a bit disappointed yesterday to not win. I really wanted the win today and I really tried to get into the break. My team-mates did a great job to help me get into it.
"It was really hard to get away in the group as riders were chasing behind. Finally we made it away and I was feeling great the whole day.
"I really wanted to win so I got some extra power from that and also from all the Norwegian fans out on the course. It's so nice to win.
"We did the route in training earlier on this year and I was thinking about this stage. I had a plan and everything was perfect.
"The race goes into some really hard stages now so I will try to save my legs for the time trial (on Saturday)."
Epic stage in prospect
Thursday's 18th stage sees the Tour return to France from Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier - the highest finish in the race's history at 2,645m - and presents an opportunity for the overall favourites to attack once more.
Voeckler expects to be overtaken in the race lead.
He said: "My climbing has been good but I don't think it's good enough for tomorrow. A 6km climb is a lot different to a 35km one."