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Tour de France 2011 Stage 12: Sammy Sanchez victorious on first high mountains day

Thomas Voeckler with a very strong defense of yellow

Sammy Sanchez reigned supreme on the Tour’s first high mountain stage, attacking on the day’s final climb of Luz-Ardiden to take his first Tour win, grab the polka dot jersey and move into the top ten on GC. Thomas Voeckler showed how the yellow jersey animates a rider by staying with the favourites almost the very end. He’ll wear it again tomorrow on day two in the Pyrenees.

A hopeful six-pack of riders formed the day’s breakaway. Ruben Perez (Euskatel), Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar), Geraint Thomas (Sky), and Blel Kadri (AG2R) went for the glory, and, despite Thomas’s delay after ditching his bike twice on the descent of the first big climb Hourquette d’Ancizan, stayed together until Luz-Ardiden. Roy was especially animated on the Hourquette and the Hors Categorie Col du Tourmalet.

It was on the slopes of Luz-Ardiden that the race exploded. With a Leopard driven, dwindling peloton closing in, the breakaway began to crumble as well. Thomas found himself soloing off the front until Roy rejoined him. Behind, Euskatel’s Sammy Sanchez and new revelation Jelle Vanendent of Omega Pharma-Lotto attacked the peloton. Ivan Basso put his Polish teammate Sylvester Szmyd on the front after Leopard had burnt all its matches, and under Liquigas’s impetus, the bunch shrank ever further, leaving panting riders all over the mountain.

Sanchez and Vanendert passed Thomas and Roy just before the attacks began among the Heads of State. Andy and Frank Schleck in particular kept hitting a pared-down group consisting of Voeckler, his teammate Pierre Rolland, Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Basso and Damiano Cunego with a one-two punch. Even Basso, slowly finding form in a disappointing season, had a go at the GC men. Finally, Frank Schleck stomped on the gas and roared towards the Spaniard and Belgian ahead. His appearance over their shoulders with only a couple of hundred metres to go spurred their sprint, which Sanchez won with ease. As Sammy celebrated, Contador found himself lagging behind his group-mate’s final run to the line, losing time to all of them.