It was a dog-eat-dog battle over the two Saint-Bernard mountains in Stage 16 of the Tour de France. Spain’s Mikel Astarloza broke away with a small group early in the 100-mile race to Bourg-Saint-Maurice and won it.
On the second climb, team Saxo-Bank picked up speed and the peloton shred like a cat-clawed armchair. Saxo brothers Andy and Frank Schleck attacked. Alberto Contador in the yellow jersey and Britain’s Bradley Wiggins responded without hesitation. Lance Armstrong dropped back for several minutes, looking like an abandoned puppy, as several of the main contenders rode away. But the cancer survivor in Armstrong knows how to fight pain. In an amazing surge of strength, Armstrong waited until the steepest part of the climb and brought himself back up to the big boys. The group stayed together on the desent and finished one minute behind Astraloza. Contador remains in first place overall followed by Armstrong, Wiggins, Andres Kloden and Andy Schleck.
The steep zigzag descent was disastrous for Saxo’s senior rider Jens Voigt, who crashed riding some 45 miles-per-hour. Voigt hit the pavement with his face and was taken to the hospital. Now, Saxo and its closest rival Astana have lost two instrumental riders. (Astana’s Levi Leipheimer dropped out with a broken wrist last week.)
Tomorrow is another painful day in the Alps. Painful for the racers, but oh, so pleasant for the fans.
–Le Tour Babe