While all the big named favorites in this year’s Tour de France are watching each other and doing little else it seems; no one is watching Eusketel’s Samuel Sanchez.
Andy and Frank Schleck, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, Alberto Contador, and the French Yelow Jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler are the main players in this year’s Tour, but not any single one of them it appears want to take the initiative and attack. Not yet anyway as we go into the final week of the Tour.
Go all the way back to Stage 6 and Contador, after being caught behind crashes and other misfortunes, was way down in the General Classification (GC) at 34. Behind him at 48 was a young Spanish rider named Samuel Sanchez.
As Contador slowly inched his way up the GC, a few places each day, Alberto’s young countryman also moved up at a slightly faster rate.
Then came Stage 9 a day marred by horrible crashes and a serious breakaway that changed the GC. The stage was won by a different Sanchez, namely Luis Sanchez of the Rabobank Team. This stage also put Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (2nd on the day.) in the Yellow Jersey and Lius Sanchez in second spot in the GC.
That same Stage 9 saw Alberto Contador 16th in the GC, and Samuel Sanchez now not so far behind in 20th position. The two pretty much held these positions until the first real mountain stage, Stage 12; as expected it sorted out the men from the boys, the climbers from the non-climbers.
Thomas Voeckler held onto the Yellow, but 2nd place Luis Sanchez lost over 18 minutes and plunged all the way down to 37th in the GC. Contador as expected moved into the top ten for the first time in 7th place.
Sammy Sanchez ended the day just 11 seconds behind Alberto in the GC in 8th position. He managed this with an impressive stage win; his first in the TDF. Sanchez had been allowed to escape at the bottom of the final climb with Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma – Lotto.) (Picture below.)
While the big names in the GC half heartedly attacked and counter attacked each other, up ahead Sanchez got the better of Vandendert to win the stage. (Above.)
Stage 13 saw a great win by World Champion Thor Hushovd; Sanchez finished at the same time as Contador and the top ten of the GC pretty much remained unchanged.
However, on Stage 14, another serious mountain stage, the exact same two riders who had slipped away on Stage 12, were allowed to go again. First Jelle Vandendert who was not a GC threat was allowed to go on his own.
But what were the GC contenders thinking, or rather not thinking, when the let Samuel Sanchez go off in a lone pursuit of Vandendert?
Sanchez had proved that he could climb and was now in the top ten of the GC. He was closing fast on Vandendert but failed to reach him by the finish, and he took second place. Andy Schleck made a late token attack to take third in the stage. His effort only netted him a scant 2 seconds over Evans.
Sanchez however, scored big; he switched places in the GC with Alberto Contador and is now in 6th place, sitting right between Contador (7th.) and Basso (5th.)
When racing starts again tomorrow after today’s rest day, it will be interesting to see who is watching Sammy Sanchez?
General Classification after Stage 15
1 VOECKLER, Thomas (EUROPCAR) 65h 24' 33"
2 SCHLECK, Frank (LEOPARD-TREK) + 01' 49"
3 EVANS, Cadel (BMC RACING) + 02' 06"
4 SCHLECK, Andy (LEOPARD-TREK) + 02' 15"
5 BASSO, Ivan (LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE) + 03' 16"
6 SANCHEZ GONZALEZ, Samuel (EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI) + 03' 44"
7 CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (SAXO BANK SUNGARD) + 04' 00"
8 CUNEGO, Damiano (LAMPRE - ISD) + 04' 01"
9 DANIELSON, Thomas (GARMIN-CERVELO) + 05' 46"
10 DE WEERT, Kevin (QUICKSTEP) + 06' 18"