Schlecks Shaken – What a stage last night turned out to be!
Prior to the stage, the thoughts were that it was always going to be a breakaway, and there wouldn’t be much movement on the general classification. Half right!
The high likelihood of the break staying away meant that all of the boys not in with a chance on general were hoping to get a piece of the action, meaning it took hours before the break finally got clear.
On a generally uphill grade, the peloton were hovering at close to 50km per hour for over two hours. Ouch!
Ryder Hesjedal was one of the key men looking for the break, and when the big fella is up for it, he’s a very hard man to prevent getting up the road. I am sure there would have been a bittersweet moment for him when he saw that Thor had bridged across too.
Sweet because he had a teammate to help out in the break, and bitter because if Thor was anywhere near him at the end, he’d be incapable of beating the big man.
Net result? Ryder hit the break hard up the Cat. 2 final climb, got a gap, and then Thor and compatriot Edvald Boassen Hagen dragged him back on the descent, meaning that Ryder had to work for Thor to set him up as Hesje is just not quick enough to match either Thor or Eddie the Boss.
Net result? Hushovd takes the stage, Hesje gets the kudos.
And more interestingly, Contador finally hit the leaders on the final climb, blowing things apart by showing the Schlecks that when you attack, you attack full gas, and keep attacking as hard as you can.
Similar to the last few years, the Schlecks just don’t look good enough or aggressive enough or “winny” enough to launch killer blows. Cadel and a few others covered Alberto’s move, and then on an admittedly hairy descent, Cadel attacked again, taking a few extra seconds out of Alberto, a lot of time out of Andy, and a good whack of time out of Frank.
Things just got a whole lot better for C Evans’ chances of winning the whole show, but Stages 18 & 19 still loom large.
Great showdowns ahead.