There were a dozen more favored riders in an elite group that raced together up the final ascent of the 14th stage but none showed the panache that Jelle Vanendert did at Plateau de Beille.
The Belgian gave his Omega Pharma-Lotto team its third stage win of the 2011 Tour de France by hanging with the yellow jersey’s posse until the 6.5km to go mark when he grew tired by the regular volley of surges by the likes of Andy Schleck and even the race leader Thomas Voeckler.
Up ahead was just one rider who had escaped the peloton the first two kilometers of the 168.5km stage from St-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille, Sandy Casar. Within a minute of launching off the front of the Contador group, Vanendert was in the lead of the stage and that’s where he stayed through to the end. A late challenge by the winner at Luz Ardiden, Samuel Sanchez, netted the 2008 Olympic road race champion another second place in a climbing stage of the Tour and the order from two days ago was reversed: Vanendert first, Sanchez second… while Voeckler’s impressive seventh place in the same time as the other GC favorites ensured that he will keep the yellow jersey for yet another day.
Post race interview Jelle Vanendert:
Stage 15 preview and who to watch:
This is the sprinters’ second last chance before Paris, although their ambitions and efforts could be tempered by how much their teams need them in the stages that follow. A team with yellow jersey ambitions may rein the sprinters in. Otherwise, breakaway attempts will be tightly controlled ahead of a likely bunch finish. Watch out for the likes of Mark Cavensish, Andre Greipel, Tyler farrar and Thor Hushovd.
Video of Stage 15 route:
Overall standings after Stage 14:
1. Thomas Voeckler, France, Europcar, 61 hours, 4 minutes, 10 seconds.
2. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, 1:49.
3. Cadel Evans, Australia, BMC, 2:06.
4. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, 2:15.
5. Ivan Basso, Italy, Liquigas-Cannondale, 3:16.
6. Samuel Sanchez, Spain, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 3:44.
7. Alberto Contador, Spain, Saxo Bank Sungard, 4:00.
8. Damiano Cunego, Italy, Lampre-ISD, 4:01.
9. Tom Danielson, United States, Garmin-Cervelo, 5:46.
10. Kevin De Weert, Belgium, Quick Step, 6:18.
11. Rigoberto Uran, Colombia, Sky Procycling, 7:55.
12. Jean-Christophe Peraud, France, AG2R La Mondiale, 8:20.
13. Rein Taaramae, Estonia, Cofidis, 9:02.
14. Pierre Rolland, France, Europcar, 9:20.
15. Haimar Zubeldia, Spain, RadioShack, 9:30.