By Dirk Friel
As the Tour de France wraps up its first week of racing on the lower slopes of the Pyrénées, it seems the racing action among the general classification favorites has been put on hold for a while. Stages 8 and 9 had similar scripts — allow a lead break of non-GC contenders to escape, race the major Category 1 climbs at a cautious pace, and limit all losses.
In fact there have been no noticeable changes in the top 10 of the general classification since stage 7, which ended in Arcalis. This is where Alberto Contador flexed his climbing muscles and rode away to gain 20 valuable seconds over his rivals (and teammate Lance Armstrong).
Team Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck is entering Monday’s rest day in relatively the same position he entered the Pyrenees. However, Andy did also flex his muscle within stage 8 on the final category 1 Col d’Agnes which showed his main rivals he is one to be taken seriously. As Levi Leipheimer put it, “no one was very spunky after Andy’s attack.”
Chris Anker Sørensen also held his own within stages 8 and 9 and proved exactly why Team Saxo Bank chose him for their squad. This is Sørensen’s first Tour de France and, if it keeps going like this, he deserves to ride many more.
Sørensen has ridden superbly for his team in the mountains and has been seen several times setting the pace for the front group. He most certainly deserves Monday’s rest day and can hopefully recover well for the stages in the Alps yet to come.
As Sørensen entered the final categorized climb on stage 8, his teammate Andy Schleck attacked at the base ,which produced a five-minute power average of 432 watts for Sørensen. Following the re-grouping, he stayed near Schleck and set tempo several times at the front group on the Col d’Agnes. This climb was 12 kilometers, averaged 6.5 percent and gained 2388 feet. Sørensen averaged 351w, with an average heart rate of 169 beats per minute.
In the final kilometers four men stayed away from the original break away to fight out the stage victory. Two minutes behind Sørensen finished safely within the 53-man field, along with his team leader Andy Schleck.
Chris Anker Sørensen’s SRM Power Data
|Mean Max 5-minutes:||432w*||397|
|Mean Max 20-minutes:||383w||388w*|
Stage 9: Col du Tourmalet completed
Stage 9 climbed the legendary Col du Tourmalet and Sørensen set his highest mean max 20-minute of the Tour so far at 388watts. The entire 8-mile climb saw Sørensen average 349w, and an average heart rate of 170, for 45-minutes.
The stage however ended with a bit of unwanted drama as Andy Schleck flatted a tire with 4 to go. If it had been within 3km to go to the line he would have received the same time as the group he was with, but since he was not within this protected zone he had to chase.
Sørensen waited for Andy and helped him chase back on, along with Jens Voigt. During this three-minute stretch, Sørensen averaged 400w, which included several technical corners where he actually coasted at zero watts followed by all-out efforts well above 600watts.
Andy Schleck explained the drama in the final few kilometers as, “That was the worst place to flat in the whole race. 3 km is the safe zone. I rode it for a kilometer and then changed my bike. From 4km to 3km was my sprint.”
To view the entire archive of power data files for the Tour de France, visit Trainingpeaks.com.
Dirk Friel raced professionally on the roads of Europe, Asia and the Americas and is a co-founder of TrainingPeaks.com. You can follow Dirk at twitter.com/dirkfriel.