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Tour de France 2011 Stage 14: Both stage winner Vanendert and Voeckler amaze on Plateau de Beille

Astonishing Voeckler keeps yellow jersey

Previously unknown Jelle Vanendert sped ahead of the Big Hitters on the last of the Pyrenees mountains to win his first Tour de France victory and take over the polka jersey. Just two days ago, Vanendert finished second to Sammy Sanchez on Luz-Ardiden. Today it was Sanchez who was the runner up. Thomas Voeckler continues to wow the cycling world by sticking with the GC favourites, fueling Gallic dreams that he can keep yellow all the way to Paris. Only Andy Schleck could put time on his rivals, and that was a mere two seconds.

The course, containing six categorized climbs, sparked an enormous 20-man breakaway, with all the GC favourites’ teams represented save Contador’s. It was unlikely it would stay together as the road tilted up and down. There were three main escapes: Garmin’s David Millar the only non-Frenchman in a foursome containing Sandy Casar (FDJ), Julien El Fares (Cofidis) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R); Euskatel’s Gorka Izagirre after he attacked on the descent of the Cat. 1 Col d’Agnes; and Casar going it alone at the base of Plateau de Beille.

Though Leopard had whipped the peloton to the foot of the HC Plateau de Beille, it was Garmin that helped it catch Casar. After that the attacks began in earnest as the Big Hitters breathed through their ears and marked each other in a mobile chess match. Andy Schleck attacked on five different occasions, while Ivan Basso kept upping the pace, spitting fellow Italian Damiano Cunego out the back.

Vanendert lit out on his own and at first nobody followed. On a gamble Sanchez set out after him and left the others to watch each other. Vanendert topped Sanchez by over twenty seconds. Andy Schleck, not quite satisfied with the stalemate, put in one last surge to put the two seconds into the others. Though history has shown that the winner of Plateau de Beille wins the Tour de France, Vanendert will be thrilled just to savour the victory that will turbocharge his career.