Thor de force from Hushovd
Drama behind as Andy Schleck loses time on rivals
Last Updated: 20/07/11 8:39am
Hushovd: Timed his attack to perfection to see off Boasson Hagen in Gap
World champion Thor Hushovd claimed his second individual stage win of the 2011 Tour de France when edging out fellow Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen to win a dramatic 16th stage in Gap - but just as significant was the eclipse of overall favourite Andy Schleck.
Following Monday's rest day, the Tour began the final six days of racing with a 162.5-kilometre 16th stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Gap - a transitional route before the Alpine ascents which will decide who will stand on top of the podium in Paris on Sunday.
A 10-man breakaway was established after 90km and Hushovd broke clear along with Garmin-Cervelo team-mate Ryder Hesjedal and Team Sky's Boasson Hagen.
Hushovd, who won last Friday's stage to Lourdes and also the team time trial, received help in the finale from Hesjedal to beat his compatriot Boasson Hagen to the line.
Contador on the way back
But that only told half the story as there was unexpected drama in behind from the overall contenders which was sparked by an attack from Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) on the day's one climb, the category two rated Col de Manse, which came in the final 20km.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was able to respond and actually crossed the line three seconds ahead of Contador but it was a nightmare day for Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) whose hopes suffered a huge blow as he lost over a minute.
Evans, Hushovd's predecessor as world champion, moved up to second overall, one minute 45 seconds behind Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), who retained the race leader's yellow jersey.
Frank Schleck is 1:49 back in third but Andy Schleck is now trailing by 3:03 after crossing the line in 36th.
Contador is moving in the opposite direction after finishing 12th to climb to sixth overall, 3:42 back.
The reaction afterwards was understandably contrasting, Contador saying: "I had a very clear idea, which was to attack, and I knew somebody could get dropped and at the end of it all it came off better than I thought.
"It's not a result which makes me feel euphoric, but the good news is that my legs are feeling stronger.
"There are three more mountain stages to come and I will have to try to make the most of them."
Evans also came out of it well and said: "It was a good little move and a good day for me. My teammates got me in the perfect position for that final climb and it worked out well."
Andy Schleck meanwhile was left to play down his losses, saying: "I'm pretty disappointed but I don't think it means much. My shape is good and I'm going to show that again in the coming days."
However he was unhappy with the nature of the finish on stage 16, adding: He said: "I think the parcours was badly chosen today, a race decided on a downhill. We don't want to see riders crashing or taking risks, a finish like this should not be allowed."
Cav still in green
Meanwhile Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) retained the points classification leader's green jersey.
Cavendish did not collect any points today, but his main challengers for the maillot vert, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) claimed just three and two points respectively at the finish in Gap.
The 26-year-old from the Isle of Man now leads by 34 points from Rojas and 69 from Gilbert.
Asked by French television if he thinks he has already won the green jersey, the 26-year-old from the Isle of Man said: "Yes, I think so.
"I'm just going to have to suffer the next three days and try and save some energy. The Tour organisers have changed the rules and the points system this year. If you win a lot of stages you will get the green jersey."