POPOVYCH WINS STAGE 12
Yaroslav Popovych saved Discovery Channel's battered pride in Carcassonne on Friday by winning the 211.5km twelfth stage with a late attack.
All the Discovery Channel team struggled and lost any chance of overall success in the Pyrenees on Thursday and then Paolo Savoldelli and Benjamin Noval retired during Friday's stage but Popovych finally gave them something to smile about by making sure he was in the decisive break and then by outwitting Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre).
The former amateur world champion attacked four times in the final eight kilometres and after Ballan refused to chase with three kilometres to go, Popovych got a decisive gap and won by 27 seconds. Ballan finished second and an angry Freire was third at 29 seconds. Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole) was also part of the decisive four-rider break and finished best Frenchman on Bastille Day, fourth at 35 seconds.
"It was tough yesterday for all the team and so we had to bounce back by trying to win the stage,” Popovych said.
“Hincapie was in one break and then I got the right one. I know it would be difficult to win against Oscar Freire but that’s why I attacked and attacked in the finale. I went five or six times and eventually got away . I’m really happy.”
Popovych pulled back almost five minutes on Landis and moved back to tenth overall at 4-15 but he is not optimistic about his overall chances.
“We’ll see what happens in the Alps but it’ll be difficult to pull back any more time. The first ten days of the Tour have been tough for Discovery Channel. We’re basically out of the overall standings and so can only really go for stage wins.”
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) won the bunch sprint at 4-25 ahead of Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) and Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval) as they battled for precious points. Floyd Landis (Phonak) finished in the bunch, protected by his team mates and so kept his eight-second lead on Frenchman Cyril Dessel (Ag2r). Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is third at 1-01 and Cadel Evans (Davitamon) is fourth at 1-17.
Despite the hard racing in the Pyrenees on Wednesday and Thursday the 211.5km stage started fast with several major attacks going up the road in the first two hours. David Millar (Saunier Duval) was part of a 15-rider move that went clear over the top of the early Col des Ares after 37km. Things looked good with the likes of George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Jens Voigt (CSC) in the move but they were pulled back and then Popovych went away with Freire, Ballan and Le Mevel.
Millar eventually finished 132nd at 5-12, while Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) did a little better, finishing just off the back of thr bunch in 90th place at 4-44.
Saturday's 13th stage is another so-called transfer stage as the Tour de France travels across southern France towards the Alps. at 230km the stage from Beziers to Montelimar is the longest of this year's race and is expected to dominated by breakways as riders look for stage wins. Two four category climbs in the last 40km should make for some entertaining racing in the last hour.
1 Yaroslav Popovyvch (Ukr) Discovery Channel 211.5km in 4.34.58
2 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital 0.27
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 0.29
4 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Crédit Agricole 0.35
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 4.25
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
7 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
9 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Overall standings after stage 12
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 53.57.30
2 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 0.08
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.01
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.17
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 1.52
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile 2.29
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 3.22
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel 3.33
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 3.44
10 Yaroslav Popovyvch (Ukr) Discovery Channel 4.15