sábado, 24 de noviembre de 2012

8 seconds. The most exciting Tour ever. Part IV.

When the Tour faced the Alpes a thing was clear, Delgado was back and just four riders were going to fight for the yellow. Fignon, Lemond, Mottet and Delgado.
The first serious test was the individual time trial of 39 kilometers to Orcieres Merlette, where Luis Ocaña had dropped Merckx 28 years before.



It was the 15th stage and the overall was led by Fignon with 7" to Lemond, 57" to Motet and 3'03" to Delgado ( who had been fined 10" for irregular feeding previously). It was a very hard time trial

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..with two climbs to Manse and Orcieres Merlette.

Delgado was the favourite to win the stage, as he had done the previous year in the mountain time trial to Villard de Lans
Photo Antonio Sevillano

However the Spaniard didn´t have a good day and only gained 8 seconds to Lemond, who did a good time trial taking again the yellow jersey due to a bad day of Fignon.

Photo www.greglemondfan.com
Lemond had used again the handlebars, were they an advantage? , who knew ...
The winner of the stage was the PDM climber Steven Rooks, with Lejarreta second and Indurain third.
Charly Mottet lost even ore than Fignon and was now threatened by Delgado in the third position.

The following day riders would have a rest day, who was followed by a classic stage with the cols of Vars and Izoard in the way to Briancon.

Pascal Richard won the stage and Fignon saved the day after dropping in Vars and Izoard only losing 13 seconds to Lemond´s group. It was going to be an important margin.
Delgado had attacked in the Izoard but he semmed to be less strong than in the Pyrenees.

The 19th stage was the queen stage of the Tour, from Briancon to Alpe D´Huez, 169 km

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It was perhaps the last chance of  Delgado to challenge for the yellow, Fignon suld try something too, but lemond was feeling strong in the Alpes, he was now the main favourite.

The overall classification was:

1º Lemond..............72h42'30"
2º.Fignon.....................53"
3º. Mottet...................2'16"
4º.Delgado.................2'48"
5º.Rooks....................6'05"
6º.Theunisse...............7'14"
7º.Lejarreta................7'28"
8º.Alcalá....................7'37"
9º.Indurain..................8'25"
10º.Hampsten.............8'35"

It was a sunny and hot day, and there were several attacks on the ascent of the Galibier, being the most important one the PDM long haired Theunisse.

Theunisse dropped all his breakaway partners in the Croix de Fer.Fuerte and Richard were the last ones to resist the Dutch....

Photo graham watson


 Meanwhile , Delgado´s team was chasing behind and the third overall , Charly Mottet was dropped. He was losing the third position in favour of Delgado but all was going to be decided on the Alpe DHuez, not enough terrain for Delgado to overcome Fignon and Lemond.

At the bottom of the Alpe, Theunisse had and advantage of 4'14" over the leader´s group with some cyclists between them.

But the moment was to come, when the Delgado attack was expected, Lemond and Fignon started a series of attacks and counterattacks that destroyed the field, and for the fist time in the mountains Delgado was suffering, the Tour was going to be a two guys duel..........

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 The difference with Theunisse was decreasing and the two old mates were fignting hardly.

Then a moment of relaxation came and Delgado put his mate Rondon at the fron to increase the pace, and the rest of riders were dropped, only Lemond and Fignon resisted

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Theunisse continued his solo breakaway with more than two minutes still

Photo www.cyclosportmag.com

And with four kilometers left to the summit, Fignon noticed tha t Lemond was suffering and attacked, Delgado waited for Lemond reaction, but it didn´t come, the American was exhausted after a hard climb.......another turn of screw in the Tour, Fignon was now searching for the glory

John Pierce, Photosport International

Delgado finally reacted and pursuited Fignon leaving Lemond alone in his agony..........what an exciting Tour, Fignon was taking the 53 seconds to Lemond, he was going to wear the yellow jersey again, as he did in 1983 and in 1984 in this climb. Delgado joined Fignon and the couple openned the gap to Lemond.......in front of them Theunisse was riding for another Dutch victory on the Alp.........

.....5 h 10' 39" for Theunisse who was going to be 4th overall.

And behind him the drama, Lemond was recovering the pace while Fignon forced with Delgado on his wheel, the former winner was in some way surrendering.

The last bend, and Delgado outsprinted Fignon 1'09" ahead of  Theunisse, the seconds were counting waitning for Lemond
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 50",51",52",....Fignon was the new leader, then arrived Rondon 2'08" ahead of Theunisse, and then Lemond

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.2'28" slower than Theunisse, 1'19" ahead of Fignon, who was now the leader by just 26".

A great Tour, an exciting Tour, what a great event, and there were important stages to come.

Overall:

1º.Fignon.........77h55'11"
2º.Lemond.............26"
3º.Delgado............1'55"
4º.Theunisse..........5'12"
5º.Mottet...............5'52"

There were two more stages in the Alps, from Bourg d´Oisans to Villard de Lans and from Villard de Lans to Aix le Bains. They seemed to be not very important ones, because of the short lenght and the fact that the toughest climbs had been passed ( such as Izoard, Galibier, Croix de Fer and Alpe D´Huez)

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With the closing duel that Fignon and Lemond were having, the individual time trial of the last day was starting to seem importante for the final result of the Tour.

It was still far , but that individual time trial was in Lemond´s and Fignon´s mind .....

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It was being the closest Tour in years and it seemed to be like that till the end.
The closest Tour had been the 1968 edition with Janssen winning by the close margin of 38" over Van Springel, would this Tour be the closest of the History of the race?..........

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