Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Hincapie takes Tour’s toughest stage; Armstrong solid in yellow

Lance Armstrong didn’t take the stage win in the final summit finish of his celebrated Tour de France career, as many had predicted, but on Sunday in the Pyrénées of southern France he did get the next-best thing — a stage win for his close friend and Discovery Channel teammate George Hincapie. Hincapie, the only man to ride with Armstrong in all seven of his post-cancer Tours, took the win atop the Pla d’Adet ski resort out of a 14-man breakaway group that shattered on the Col de Peyresourde, the fourth of six categorized climbs, while Armstrong crossed the line five minutes later with

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Neal Rogers

Hincapie wins his first Tour stage

Hincapie wins his first Tour stage

Photo: AFP

Lance Armstrong didn’t take the stage win in the final summit finish of his celebrated Tour de France career, as many had predicted, but on Sunday in the Pyrénées of southern France he did get the next-best thing — a stage win for his close friend and Discovery Channel teammate George Hincapie.

Hincapie, the only man to ride with Armstrong in all seven of his post-cancer Tours, took the win atop the Pla d’Adet ski resort out of a 14-man breakaway group that shattered on the Col de Peyresourde, the fourth of six categorized climbs, while Armstrong crossed the line five minutes later with only one of his main rivals, CSC’s Ivan Basso.

On a day sadly marked by a passage over the Col du Portet d’Aspet, where the two Americans’ former Motorola teammate Fabio Casartelli tragically died on the road’s steep, winding descent 10 years ago, it proved a perfect stage for the Discovery Channel team.Full Results

“It’s a best-case scenario,” beamed Discovery Channel team director Johan Bruyneel. “There were some critics that said that Lance was isolated yesterday [on the Port de Pailhères], and I think the team responded, like they did a week ago when Lance was alone in the final. Today we won the stage, we kept the jersey and [Yaroslav] Popovych got more advantage for the best young rider’s jersey. That’s not so bad for a weak team.”

Armstrong and Basso put the screws to Ullrich

Armstrong and Basso put the screws to Ullrich

Photo: AFP

The stage win marked the first for any teammate of Armstrong’s in any of the 11 Tours he has ridden, which includes a record six consecutive wins and – barring disaster – an impending seventh when he arrives in Paris in one week’s time. Armstrong’s lead over Basso is now 2:46, with King of the Mountains Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) in third overall, 3:09 down.

As for Armstrong’s perennial rival Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), he followed the moves for most of the day but faded on the final climb to Pla d’Adet and lost 1:24 to the yellow jersey. The German now sits fourth, 5:58 off the race lead.

There are few stages remaining in which Ullrich can hope to take more than six minutes from Armstrong. When the race resumes after Monday’s rest day, stage 16 has four climbs – but only one hors catégorie ascent.

“I lost some time today on a section of the climb where I shouldn’t have,” Ullrich said. “But I’m still hoping to finish on the podium. I’ll put up a big fight. For now, I’m happy about [Monday’s] rest day.”

The day had a deceptively mellow start...

The day had a deceptively mellow start…

Photo: Graham Watson

Podium challenger Rasmussen, who is expected to lose time to Ullrich in the final time trial, said: “The [polka-dot] jersey is sitting firmly on my shoulders, so if I can stay upright to the Champs-Elysées I should hold it. So now it’s a fight to see if I can maintain a podium spot. We still have 1000 kilometers to go, and a lot can happen between now and then. I’ll start worrying about the final time trial next Saturday.”

The queen stage
The largest time gap of the Tour thus far opened up on its queen stage, a 205.5km grind from Lézat-sur-Lèze to Saint-Lary Soulan and up to the ski resort atop Pla d’Adet. With six categorized climbs — the Cat. 2 Col du Portet d’Aspet, four Cat. 1 mountains and the final hors catégorie finish atop Pla d’Adet — the field was sure to be blown apart en route to the final summit finish of the three-week race.

.. the day's escape quickly built a nice lead.

.. the day’s escape quickly built a nice lead.

Photo: Graham Watson

After a series of heavy attacks, an early breakaway developed 29km into the day. With all the teams of the prime general-classification contenders represented, the break’s gap quickly stretched as the peloton rode tempo on another day of searing summer heat.

In the break were Hincapie, Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile), Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Télécom), Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Télécom), Iker Camano (Euskaltel), Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval), Alan Davis (Liberty-Seguros), Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Alessandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze) and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank). Pereiro was the highest placed rider, 24th at 24:40 down on GC, with Hincapie one place behind him and sitting on.

“Initially when we started there were a lot of attacks,” Hincapie said. “We didn’t say anything about getting in the breaks at the meeting this morning. I kind of decided on my own that, you know what, I’m going to go with one of these breaks with 10 or 12 guys and I’ll be able to get a good gap, and I can definitely be there for Lance on the last two climbs … and wait for Lance when he needed me.”

By the 45km mark the break’s gap had grown to 7:20; at the summit of the Portet d’Aspet, it had ballooned to 14 minutes. By the summit of the day’s second climb, the 7km Col de Menté, it had reached 18 minutes. It was then that Hincapie realized he might be on his way to finishing ahead of the peloton.

“Johan said, ‘Listen, George, you’re probably not gonna come back, you can do your own race.’ I knew Pereiro was strong and that Boogerd was a good climber, but I also knew that the day I was pulling on the Galibier they weren’t there,” said Hincapie, referring to his efforts in the Alps a few days ago.

On the slopes of the day’s fourth climb, the Col de Peyresourde, the breakaway began to crumble after Kroon attacked, hoping to break up the bunch and launch Boogerd. Atop the climb, their lead down to 12 minutes, only six riders remained in front: Hincapie, Pereiro, Boogerd, Brochard, Sevilla and Caucchioli.

Behind, CSC and Discovery set tempo. In the yellow-jersey group were Armstrong and teammates Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli, José Azevedo and José Luis Rubiera; Ullrich and teammates Andreas Klöden and Alex Vinokourov; Basso; Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears); Rasmussen; Americans Floyd Landis (Phonak), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval) and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner’s); Horner’s teammate Leonardo Piepoli; Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto); Christophe Moreau and Andrey Kashechkin (Crédit Agricole); and Eddy Mussolini (Lampre-Caffitas).

On the way to Pla d’Adet
As the six remaining breakaway members hit the day’s penultimate climb, the Col de Val-Louren Azet, two races had developed — one for the stage win the another for the GC. The time gap from the leaders to the main bunch assured that one of the breakaways would win, and with Hincapie the freshest up front, it appeared likely that the New York native, who now lives in South Carolina, would be fighting it out for the stage win.

Ullrich tried to stay aggressive.

Ullrich tried to stay aggressive.

Photo: Graham Watson

Behind them, the battle for the overall was playing out. Basso, whom some criticized for not being aggressive enough at last year’s Tour, was first to attack on the Val-Louren Azet. Armstrong quickly reacted and joined the Italian; Ullrich eventually pedaled his way back on. The trio began to pick up remnants of the breakaway, while at the summit the leaders’ advantage had fallen to 8:35.

Not having his best day was American Floyd Landis (Phonak), who finished 19th, 9:34 behind Hincapie. “I don’t even know what happened,” he said. “I was cross-eyed the entire last mountain. I was dropped on the second-to-last climb. It was just Lance and Ullrich and Basso and the rest of us trying to get back on in the descent. Everyone pretty much just rode their own speed up the last climb. Nothing anybody can do then. [The pace] was out of hand.”

Don't try this at home, kids . . .

Don’t try this at home, kids . . .

Photo: AFP

Ahead, the break was down to four. Hincapie, Sevilla and Pereiro had managed to shake off Caucchioli by the final climb, but the Italian caught back on and then attacked, but was quickly countered. Then Sevilla shot away at the base of the Pla d’Adet – Pereiro answered, followed by Hincapie, and when Caucchioli fell off the pace, the struggle for the stage win had boiled down to a two-man battle.

With 4km remaining, Hincapie and Pereiro exchanged some words of agreement to work to stay away, but the plan seemed to change in the final kilometer as the American declined to take any pulls. When Hincapie punched the accelerator in the final 300 meters, Pereiro couldn’t respond.

Pereiro had some select words about the degree to which Hincapie honored their temporary agreement. “It was all day on the wheel, this is something you have to take notice of,” the Spaniard said. “I had hoped to drop him because I knew he would be strong in the sprint. He said, ‘Let’s work together and try to get to the finish line,’ then it seemed like I was doing all the work. It just didn’t work out for me. This is a sporting competition and sometimes the strongest man doesn’t win.”

Behind, Basso attacked again, and this time only Armstrong could respond. Ullrich fought to catch on, aided by Sevilla, who dropped back to pace his team leader to the line.

“I gave everything today,” Basso said. “I want to leave my mark on this Tour de France. I attacked as hard as I could, but Armstrong was able to follow. I didn’t have another attack in me, so we rode together to try to put time on Ullrich and the others.”

As the remnants of the break trailed into the finish, some behind Armstrong, others ahead, Hincapie savored the sweetest win of his career. After the yellow jersey crossed the line, the two friends celebrated together; Armstrong was delighted over the victory by his loyal lieutenant.

“It’s a great day for the team,” Armstrong said. “It was an ideal situation, with a teammate in the breakaway and three or four guys with me. It’s his first victory on the Tour, and to do it on a climbing stage like today is just incredible.”

Hincapie dedicated the win to his French wife, Melanie, and his newborn baby, Julia Paris, before attributing much of his success to Armstrong.

“Lance and I met when I was 14 and he was 16,” Hincapie said. “Even then he was amazing to me. The first race we did together I asked him, ‘What’s your tactic today?’ and he told me ‘I’m going to go from the gun and I’m going to win.’ I said, ‘You can’t do that,’ and he did it. He’s been doing that ever since.

“The relationship that Lance and I have has been amazing, and he’s one of my best friends. I owe everything to him.”

Stage results

1. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery, 205.5km in 6:06:38 (33.63kph)
2. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Phonak, at 0:06
3. Pietro Caucchioli (I), Crédit Agricole, at 0:38
4. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:57
5. Laurent Brochard (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 2:19
6. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, at 5:04
7. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery,s.t.
8. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), T-Mobile, at 6:28
9. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, s.t.
10. Mickael Rasmussen (Dk), Rabobank, at 6:32
Full Results

Overall Standings
1. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, 62:09:59
2. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, 02:46
3. Mickael Rasmussen (Dk), Rabobank, 03:09
4. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, 05:58
5. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, 06:31
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Gerolsteiner, 07:35
7. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, 09:33
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, 09:38
9. Christophe Moreau (F), Credit Agricole, 11:47
10. Andreas Kloden (G), T-Mobile, 12:01
Full Results


To see how the stage developed, simply CLICK HERE to bring up our Live Update window.

Photo Gallery