He finished second to the world champion in the rain of stage 16 but when the Tour de France returned to Italy, it was Edvald Boasson Hagen who achieved another coup for Norway. The young rider attacked the final ascent and used it as his launch pad for a winning surge that allowed him to finish 40 seconds ahead of the best of his former escape companions, Bauke Mollema.
It would be Sky’s second stage win in the 2011 race and Norway’s fourth with the runner-up in Gap, the winner in Pinerolo. At the end of the 179km stage, Alberto Contador again danced on the pedals to animate the race and prompt reactions from all the other GC specialists. Amongst them is Thomas Voeckler who, despite several close calls on the frantic descent, was able to finish within 27 seconds of the defending Tour champion who worked hard to gain time on his rivals but ultimately failed despite a strong collaboration with the rider who is now fifth overall, Samuel Sanchez.
“It was very difficult yesterday, and today I was able to do better,” said Boasson Hagen. “I didn’t want to lose this race today.”
He praised the large contingent of Norwegian fans that has been supporting him and Hushovd throughout the race.
“It’s really great to see all the Norwegian flags and Norwegian people around the course. It gives some extra power.”
Post race interview Edvald Boasson Hagen:
Stage 18 preview:
The ‘Queen’ stage in the Alps will play a huge factor in deciding overall victory. Three major mountain passes are on the menu — the Col de l’Agnel, Izoard and Galibier — all of which are unclassified. The Agnel summit, at 2744 metres the highest point of this year’s race, is reached via a 23.7 km ascent never used before on the race. The 14.1 km ascent to the ominous-looking Izoard ensues before the final, 22.8 km ascent to the 2645 metres summit finish of Galibier.
Video of Stage 18 route:
Overall standings after Stage 17:
1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) 73hr 23min 49sec
2. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) at 1:18.
3. Frank Schleck (LUX/LEO) 1:22.
4. Andy Schleck (LUX/LEO) 2:36.
5. Samuel Sanchez (ESP/EUS) 2:59.
6. Alberto Contador (ESP/SAX) 3:15.
7. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 3:34.
8. Ivan Basso (ITA/LIQ) 3:49.
9. Tom Danielson (USA/GRM) 6:04.
10. Rigoberto Uran (COL/SKY) 7:36.
11. Jean Christophe Peraud (FRA/ALM) 7:53.
12. Kevin De Weert (BEL/QST) 8:07.
13. Rein Taaramae (EST/COF) 8:35.
14. Pierre Rolland (FRA/EUC) 10:03.
15. Sandy Casar (FRA/FDJ) 10:33.
16. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/RSH) 10:38.
17. Arnold Jeannesson (FRA/FDJ) 10:52.
18. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/OLO) 11:39.
19. Peter Velits (SVK/HTC) 12:06.
20. Jerome Coppel (FRA/SAU) 12:44.