|Tour de France 2011 - Analysis Stage 19 - Alpe d'Huez|
Alpe d'Huez is, for sure not the Tour de France's hardest mountain . It's 13.8 kilometers and 1,127 altitude meters of climbing. Yet each of the 21 turns at Alpe d'Huez is named after at least one Tour de France stage winner.
Days before the stage fans start to occupy the best viewing spots on the side of the roads. Wherever you can park a motorhome or set up a tent is occupied - every centimeter on the side of the road is taken. When the race arrives the riders climb into a wall of spectators. It's loud and nasty. It's always astonishing that none of the nuts, probably drunk guys stumble and crash into a rider.
Today's stage was short and packed with action. High alert from the start! Alberto Contador attacked with 92 kilometers to go and started the action. 109.5 kilometers packed with action and a surprise winner, Pierre Roland - his first French stage win in this Tour de France - Thomas Voeckler's team mate who yesterday showed that he is one of the best riders of the third week.
Chris Anker Soerensen (Team Saxo Bank - Sungard) set up the first strategically important attack. Right at the bottom of the Col de Telegraphe he accelerated with an effort of 840 watts max, forcing Team Leopard Trek to set the pace in the peloton. Three minutes later Alberto Contador attacked and immediately closed the gap to Chris Anker. Alberto stayed on Chris Anker's wheel for about 20 seconds, then Daniele Navarro overtook and went to the front. Chris Anker had nothing left to give and got dropped but was able to stay in the next group.
Chris Anker's average for 6:50 min was 433 watts (6.7 w/kg), his heart rate went from 139 to 170 bpm. That was his max heart rate for the day - after three weeks and especially after three hard days in the Alps he is not able to get even close to his max heart rate recorded at the beginning of the Tour.
Still Chris Anker managed to stay in the first bigger group, passing the top of the Col du Télégraphe and passing the mountain top after 32:13 minutes with an average power of 383 watts (6.0 W/kg).
Yesterday the stage climbed the Col du Galibier from the south-east coming from Briancon, today the riders came from the north, passing the beautiful Valloire. But they certainly didn't have a thought for the beauty of the Alps. The race was lively and the speed high. Chris Anker's average speed was 20 km/h for the 16.7 km, climbing more than 1100 altitude meters. He averaged 332 watts (5.2 w/kg) even though he was in the bunch.
When Chris Anker reached Bourg d'Oisans, the beginning of the climb up to Alpe d'Huez he started riding at his individual speed and it took him 47:10 min from the bottom to the top. Compared to Pantani's record from 1997 (37:35 min) Chris Anker was nearly 10 minutes slower. His average power was 341 watts (5.3 w/kg). He crossed the finishline 12:44 minutes behind Pierre Roland, getting 52nd today.
Although he was not in a breakaway Jérémy Roy's average power of 297 watts show the high intensity of today's stage,especially the Col du Télégraphe with 407 watts (5.9 w/kg) was hard work.
Markel Irizar (Team Radioshack) finished the last mountain stage with the grouppetto 25:27 min behind Pierre Roland. No problem for him, he just wanted to finish the stage with as little effort as possible. After three weeks of racing this is more than understandable.
We are looking forward to the big showdown in Grenoble today ?. How high will the toll of the high intensity, fabulous mountain stages in the Alps be? What impact will the accumulated fatigue of three weeks hard riding have on the time trial performance of specialists like Fabian Cancellara (Team Leopard Trek) or Toni Martin (Team HTC Highroad) be? Or on the GC contenders - Cadel Evans (Team BMC) and the Schleck brothers? Can they defend their lead? Could we have cycling history with two brothers finishing first and second in the Tour de France? In theory Cadel Evans is the better time trialist...