34-year-old Niki Sörensen (Saxo Bank) won Stage 12 of the 2009 Tour De France into Vittel Thursday. It was a brilliant ride by Sörensen, two time Danish champion and one of the rocks of Bjarne Riis's Saxo Bank squad. Often the worker and seldom the star, Sörensen had the green light today to win the stage and didn't blow his chance. "I just didn't have possibility to fail today. I have so few chances to play my own card that I had to (win)." The likeable Dane from Herning, the same home town as Saxo Bank boss Riis was humble in victory, his 11th career win. "I hope all the work I did today won't hurt me too much in the upcoming mountain stages."
Although he ended up last in the break, Sylvain Calzati (Agritubel) made the key attack with 22km with eventual winner Sörensen, but when the powerful Dane attacked with 8km to go, Calzati couldn't follow. "I realized the break would stay away with 40km to go. There were 7 good riders in the break. I was afraid of Egoi Martinez and Franco Pellizotti, who are both fast sprinters so I decided to make a move with 22km to go and ride all out so I would not regret anything at the finish. I really motivated but Sörensen was too strong. After two difficult years I am happy to be a protagonist again."
Thursday's 211.5km Stage 12 from Tonnerre to Vittel was no easy day for the Tour riders with up and down all day with 5 Cat.4 and 1 Cat 3 climbs. It was a sunny, warm day with little wind and temperatures in the mid-80's. July 16th is Miguel Indurain's 45th birthday and Stefano Garzelli's 36th birthday. Stage 12 started fast with attack after attack and the pace was 48 km/hr and after eventually after 65km of racing over the 2.2km Cat.4 Essoyes climb, a seven man break escaped including Laurent Lefevre (Bbox), Sylvain Calzati (Agritubel - SRAM RED), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Markus Fothen (Milram), Maglia Pois Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Rémi Pauriol (Cofidis) and Niki Sörensen (Saxo Bank).
The seven man escape cruised across the beautiful rural countyside of
the Yonne, Aube Haute-Marne and Vosges départements, passing through
the ancestral home of General DeGaulle, Colombey-Les-Deux-Eglises with
100km to race. The break maintained a 4 lead with Ag2r's Maillot Jaune
Rinaldo Nocentini on the front all day. With 61km to go, Armstrong had
a rear flat and was paced back by three teammates without consequence.
With 22km, two riders attacked out of the break,
Sörensen and Calzati with the peloton at 5. Sörensen took the win at
an average speed of 43.40 km/hr.
Post-stage, Lance Armstrong tweeted "St12 done. Uh, not easy! Up and
down all day long and was aggressive from the start. Took 80 kms for
the break to go. Ouch. Also pretty warm. Levileipheimer had a crash
with 3k to go. I hope he's ok. About to go visit him. Super happy for
Nicki (Sörensen) today. He was clearly the strongest of that break.
He's a consumate pro and teammate. Chapeau."
Alberto Contador of Team Astana told the media post-stage "Tomorrow
will be a very hectic stage. There are some very complicated stages
coming up. Stage 13 to Colmar is a stage has climbs in the middle and
will be very hectic, because there are people with lost time in the gc
and want to get it back. So it will be a difficult day". With the Alps
coming in a few days, Contador said "We'll have to see how the finish
in Verbier develops. It is the first one in the Alps. It could be good
for me, because people have to attack, so we have to see where it can
go". As for the polemics with Armstrong, Contador does not want to say
anything. We have to see how the race develops, because it's the others
who have to attack, so I can wait a little while longer"
Friday's 13th stage is when many riders think the "real" Tour will
being, a 200km stage from Vittel to Colmar, a hard route over the
medium-size mountains of the Vosges, with three mountain passes with
all the makings of a tricky stage with two Cat.3, two Cat.2 and one
tough Cat.1 (Col du Platzerwasel after 138.5km, an 8.7km climb with
7.6% gradient) Watch out for Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) to be a
protagonist on Stage 13.
Stage Result-Thursday, July 16
Stage 12: Tonnerre-Saint-Vittel / 211.5km
1. Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank
4. Marcus Fothen (Ger) Team Milram
6. Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Agritubel
General Classification-Thursday, July 16
2009 Tour de France / General Classification After Stage 12
1. Rinaldo Nocentini / Ag2r-La Mondiale
2. Alberto Contador / Astana
3. Lance Armstrong / Astana
4. Levi Leipheimer / Astana
6. Andréas Kloden / Astana
9. Andy Schleck / Saxo Bank