Editor’s note: VeloNews.com is presenting selections from the January 2012 edition ofVelo, the magazine’s 24th annual awards issue. It’s only a sampler — so if you want the full scoop, pick up a copy of the January 2012 edition of Velo.
The contenders threw down with a vengeance on the ascent of L'Alpe d'Huez.
The final summit finish of this year’s Tour, at L’Alpe d’Huez, delivered what the Tourmalet summit finish failed to deliver in 2010 — drama and suspense.
Alberto Contador’s kamikaze attack just 16km into the stage set in motion a sequence of events that involved Cadel Evans’ mechanical (and subsequent desperate chase); yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler’s stubborn attempt to bridge across alone to Contador and Andy Schleck; and a final showdown on the Alpe, where the stage win, the race lead and the overall win were up in the air.
With the group of GC favorites back together at the base of the Alpe, Contador again attacked, drawing out Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez and Voeckler’s faithful Europcar lieutenant Pierre Rolland, and putting Voeckler into trouble.
An inspired Contador hit the climb with aggression — he even reached out and punched a jeering fan — but the defending Tour champ’s bid for a stage win ultimately fell short when he was caught 2km from the line.
A crafty Rolland went on to take the stage win and the best young rider’s jersey. Behind, Evans and the Schleck brothers attacked each other repeatedly, but finished on the same time, with Voeckler trailing in 2:25 back.
Schleck took yellow from Voeckler, but with just a 57-second lead on Evans heading into the Grenoble time trial, the likelihood that the Leopard-Trek rider could win the Tour had dropped dramatically.