There’s no crying in cycling, but don’t tell that to Cervelo’s Heinrich Haussler.
The powerful Australian-born German crossed the line first today in a classic solo win over a challenging mountain stage. With his nearest challenger more than four minutes back, he had time to relish the moment of the first Tour de France stage win of his career – and the moment overwhelmed him.
Covering his face, rain-soaked and exhausted, Haussler sobbed visibly as he raised his hands for a victory salute.
Better known for his sprinting prowess, Haussler often serves as the key leadout man for Thor Hushovd. Today, however, the glory was all his. Heinrich went with a break of 7 that formed just 5k into today’s stage – by the time he’d shed his companions to cross the line alone he’d been off the front of the race for a grueling 195 kilometers.
How it unfolded
Biblical rain pounded the race as the riders set out to conquer five climbs including the Category 1 Col du Platzerwasel, an 8.7 km climb that averages 7.6 percent. The tough, winding 200k route, coupled with the abysmal weather made this a perfect day for a hard man to ride away with the win.
When the break of 7 formed early in the race, the peloton was determined to keep it on a short leash because of Rabobank’s Manuel Garate presence among the would-be escapees. At just 6:56 back from the race lead, he presented a serious threat to the yellow jersey.
Haussler eventually attacked at 60k with two others from the group: Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi). The four remaining riders faded back to rejoin the peloton and the trio up front soon had a sizable gap that grew to as much as 9 minutes over the course of the race.
Back in the main field, Astana and Saxo-Bank drove the pace up the major climbs and began to drop riders one by one. All the major GC contenders, including Nocentini with the yellow jersey, were able to match the pace but by the top of the Col du Platzerwasel, most of the rest of the peloton had been shed, leaving an elite crew of 20-25 big guns on the front.
Up ahead, Moreno went into difficulty and popped off the back of the breakaway – Chavanel made it to the top of Platzerwasel with Haussler but couldn’t match the young German’s speed on the fast, technical descent. By the bottom, Haussler had a 20 second gap and decided to hit the gas and go for it.
Behind him, Brice Feillu (Agritubel) and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) attacked out of the peloton and began to give chase. The two men caught a fading Chavanel and continued on in pursuit of Haussler.
Tapping out an impressive rhythm over the final two climbs of the day, Haussler opened up his gap on Chavanel and held off Feillu and Txurruka to cruise to the finish line alone.
Four minutes later, his chasers would arrive followed shortly thereafter by the front of the main field (and all of the major players for the GC). With no major attacks, the overall classification did not change today, leaving Nocentini to spend another day in the maillot jaune.
Columbia-HTC GC hopefuls hang tough as the pace lifts
Columbia-HTC GC hopefuls Tony Martin and Kim Kirchen played is smart today – marking their rivals and staying out of trouble in the front of the group. With a solid ride through these “medium” mountains they’ve maintained their positions in the overall classification and should both be relatively well-positioned (6th and 19th) heading into the Alps.
Maxime Monfort has maintained his hold on 11th place and represents another card for Columbia to play as they head into next week’s decisive stages.
Manx Missile vs. The God of Thunder
The race for the Points Classification is officially on fire.
Thor Hushovd managed to hang with the front of the main field over today’s big climbs. The impressive ride from the Norwegian Thunder God earned him 5th place, garnering 15 more points to add to his tally. He now leads Cavendish in the race for green by 5 points.
But Cavendish won’t have to wait long to attempt to regain the lead – tomorrow’s stage is made for the sprinters.
Looking ahead to Stage Fourteen
199 relatively flat kilometers will take the race from Colmar to Besançon. Two category three climbs in the middle of the race should not create too much difficulty, and you can expect to see Columbia-HTC charging hard for another stage win.
This is the last chance for a bunch sprint finish until the race rolls into Paris on the final day, so tensions will be high. Everyone (and I mean everyone) will be looking to de-throne Cavendish on this day, but with the green jersey on the line (he’ll have to win and hope Hushovd does not podium to reclaim it) you can bet that he’ll be be in the mix when the group roars into Besançon.
(Don’t forget – flat stages are also a prime place for escape artists to foil the chasing peloton in a bid for glory. It’s unlikely that the sprinter’s teams would let a breakaway stick, but it’s the Tour de France – and you never can be too sure.)
Stage 13 Results: Top Five Individuals
1. HAUSSLER Heinrich CERVELO TEST TEAM 4h 56' 26"
2. TXURRUKA Amets EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 04' 11"
3. FEILLU Brice AGRITUBEL + 06' 13"
4. CHAVANEL Sylvain QUICK STEP + 06' 31"
5. VELITS Peter TEAM MILRAM + 06' 43"
Top Ten Individual Standings (GC) after Stage 13
1. NOCENTINI Rinaldo AG2R LA MONDIALE 53h 30' 30"
2. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 06"
3. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA + 00' 08"
4. WIGGINS Bradley GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 00' 46"
5. KLÖDEN Andréas ASTANA + 00' 54"
6. MARTIN Tony TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 01' 00"
7. VANDE VELDE Christian GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 01' 24"
8. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 01' 49"
9. NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS + 01' 54"
10. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 02' 16"
Columbia-HTC Individual Standings after Stage 13
6. MARTIN Tony 135. CAVENDISH Mark
11. MAXIME Monfort 136. GRABSCH Bert
18. KIRCHEN Kim 152. RENSHAW Mark
28. HINCAPIE George 153. EISEL Bernhard
115. ROGERS Michael