Laurent Jalabert is a happy man.
The nasty little climb the Tour organizers named after Jalabert provided the biggest drama in stage 12 to Mende.
The Montee Jalabert was just over three kilometers with a 10% grade and was freshly paved. It was a smooth black launch pad for Alberto Contador who made his signature acceleration and quickly left behind Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank. It wasn’t a disaster for the man in yellow but he did lose ten ticks of his forty second lead.
Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Katusha) worked with Contador as they did the quick descent to the finish on a wide field above Mende. The rider for the Russian sneeze gazuntit Katusha team took a terrific win followed by Contador and his teammate Alexander Vinokourov — who picked up the prize for most combative rider. Vino should always get that award.
“It was a great victory for me today. It was just a question of biding my time and then giving it a push and just avoid panicking, keeping focus,” said Rodriguez. Focus was not easy on this day on a 210 kilometer roller coaster with five climbs. Not the high alps but very few places to relax.
“I was a bit worried, but in the end I managed. It was nice for me to compete with the guys on GC and it gives me ambitions. The Pyrenees are coming we’ll see if I’m able to do something up there.”
Jalabert’s gift to anaerobic misery was also a scary reminder to Schleck and everyone else with GC fantasies that nobody hits the gas harder and faster than Contador. That was three kilometers, the Pyrenees run a tad longer and those kind of time gaps destroy hope.
After the stage, Lance Armstrong described the stage as “one helluva hard day.” He can thank his follow marathon runner Laurent Jalabert.