Stage 12 of this year’s Tour de France witnessed the first outing to the Pyrenees and it left the fans more than satisfied with what they saw. Felix Cardenas won the 166km stage in dramatic fashion, catching lone breakaway survivor Paulo Bettini, who had been away for 90km.
However while the Kelme rider stomped past the trying Italian all eyes were glued to what was happening lower down the final climb. Although Ullrich kept to his word and attacked Armstong, it proved to be little more than a lead out for the Texan, who stormed past the 1997 Tour winner. Ullrich’s move didn’t lack surprise or strength, but Armstrong’s reaction was swifter and more precise. The US Postal team leader followed his challenger until the final two kilometers and then produced another injection of high cadence power to open up a substantial gap on Ullrich.
While Francois Simon keeps his yellow jersey for another day, Christophe Moreau (Festina) abandoned the Tour with stomach problems. The prologue winner had been lying in sixth place and a repeat of last year’s fourth overall looked promising.
As far as the fight for the yellow jersey goes, Armstrong is moving ever closer to claiming it from Simon. Its clear that the rest-day did not harm his form and that he’s more than capable of handling Ullrich. Although he’s four minutes ahead on Ullrich, he’ll know its not over yet.
Stage 12 Perpignan Ax-les-Thermes 166km
1st Felix Cardenas (Col, Kelme) 5h03m’34sec
2nd Roberto Laiseka (Esp, EUS) at 13sec
3rd Lance Armstrong (US, USPS) at 15sec
4th Jan Ullrich (Ger, Telekom) at 38sce
5th David Etxebarria (Esp, EUS) at 59sec
6th Oscar Sevilla (Esp, Kelme) at 1m’01sec
7th Joseba Beloki (Esp, ONCE) at s.t
8th Santiago Botero (Col, Kelme) at 1m’35sec
9th Michael Boogerd (Hol, Rabobank) at s.t
10th Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz, Telekom) at s.t