TdF 2011 - Part I
After 11 days of stress, crashes and plenty of broken bones, the race on the Pyrenees seemed extremely tactical, "blocked" by prudence and the fatigue accumulated in the previous flat stages, which were undoubtedly dominated by nervousness and the ceaseless fight to keep to the front of the peloton.
In the 12th stage the main group climbed the Tourmalet in 48’40” (VAM = 1540m/h); Franck Schleck rode the final climb to Luz-Ardiden in 37’15” (1584m/h), slightly ahead of all the main rivals.
In the last 10 km of the climb, his VAM was 1624 m/h on a 7.8% gradient, equal to 5.84 w/kg.
In the 14th stage, after 5 categorized climbs, the winner Vanendert did the final ascent to Plateau de Beille in 46’01” (1627 m/h = 5.85w/kg); Samuel Sanchez was not far behind (20") and the group of favorites did it at 1600m/h (5.75 w/kg).
An excellent performance by Vanendert, who attacked 7 km from the finish, facing the headwind alone but proceeding at a constant pace, contrary to the contenders for the final victory who instead decided to waste precious energy in short and violent accelerations, followed by blatant slowdowns.
This tactical behavior didn't produce the expected selection among the best riders, favoring the yellow jersey Vockler, a light rider who's very strong in quick pace variations.
Thomas is in great shape, as is the whole Europcar team, and he managed to climb Plateau de Beille 4 minutes faster than he did in 2004, when he successfully defended the yellow jersey from Lance Armstrong, who climbed it together with Basso in 45’ (1664 m/h).
The climbing performances have therefore been remarkably inferior to the ones expressed recently at the Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse, more or less by the same riders:
- on the climb to Les Gets (940m difference in height at 8.4%) the best riders (Gesink, Vino, Wiggins, Evans) did 1700-1740 m/h;
- on the Triesenberg ascent (1150m difference in height at 8.8%) Cunego and Leipheimer expressed a VAM = 1725 m/h.
This is because there is never an easy stage at the TdF, either from a physical or mental/nervous point of view: even the strongest riders are forced to spend loads of energy, making it very difficult to recover.
The second rest day comes just at the right time, before the final week in the Alps, allowing those riders with the best recovery skills to store the energy needed to make a difference.
On today's edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Claudio Ghisalberti wrote that Vanendert's VAM in the last 10 km towards Plateau de Beille was equal to 1855 m/h, reporting a time of 26’35”.
A rather dubious measurement: as the total climbing time on the 15.8 km ascent was 46'01", according to the journalist the first 5.8km would have been done in 19’26”, at 17.8 km/h, which was certainly not the case.
Actually, even if the time measurement were correct, the difference in height of the last 10 km is 753m; a time of 26’35” would therefore correspond to 1698 m/h…