Sanchez Snares Maiden Tour de France Triumph
Spain’s Samuel Sanchez has soared to victory in Stage 12 of the 2011 Tour de France, the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist enjoying his maiden success in the world’s most iconic cycling tournament.
Sanchez, who finished fourth overall in last year’s Tour de France, won the 211km 12th stage beating Belgian Jelle Vanendert into second.
It was a hard-fought battle up the 13.3km incline to Luz Ardiden, Sanchez winning the challenge over the Omega-Pharma rider in the final 400 metres.
Famous for his ability to power through the hilly classics, Sanchez’s win further dashed the hopes of beleaguered Alberto Contador to take out the yellow jersey.
The 12th stage Tour de France result also saw Aussie Cadel Evans fall from second overall to third, with Luxemburd rider Frank Schleck sneaking into Evan’s former spot.
Continuing his surprise form turnaround, France’s Thomas Voeckler for Team Europcar has held onto his lead for the yellow jersey after finishing a close fourth.
It was a good time make-up for Sanchez, who earlier lost over a minute in the opening stage.
“I really wanted this stage, I was determined,” he said.
“I lost a lot of time in the first week, so this has helped me make amends.”
Along with Contador, other notable riders to lose time to their yellow jersey rivals were German Andreas Kloden, America’s Christian Vandevelde and Dutchman Robert Gesink – the trio dropping out of contention.
Triple Tour de France champion Contador, however, was the most sour over his finish losing 10 seconds when the last climb to Pyrenean proved a tactical affair and tough going for the Spaniard with an injured knee.
Schleck brothers Andy and Frank employed their devices to derail Contador, who following the 12th stage flop and his earlier crash on the first stage, is now positioned seventh overall at 4 minutes behind.
“I was trying just to be vigilant throughout the final climb,” Contador said.
“I saw the (Schleck) brothers speaking between themselves so I knew one of them was going to attack.
“Finally it was Frank who went, he must have been the stronger of the two.
“But I’m still satisfied with the first high mountain stage.”
Frank was able to finish third just ahead Voeckler, while Andy crossed seventh.
Voeckler now leads Frank Schleck in the overall standings by 1min 49sec.
Cadel Evans is third overall with 2:06 while the younger Schleck, Andy, sits fourth at 2:17.
It has been a good start for Andy Schleck who has been runner-up to Contador for the past two years.
“It was a perfect day for us,” he said.
“It was a first test, and not the last.
“Obviously today wasn’t decisive but we showed our strengths.
“Contador isn’t unbeatable, he lost more time today.”