Peloton racing by sunflowers
Peloton racing by sunflowers

Discovery Channel’s Savoldelli Wins Stage 17; Kloden Drops Out

Peloton racing by sunflowers

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Paolo Savoldelli put another feather in team Discovery Channel’s cap with a win today in the longest day of the Tour—the marathon, 148-mile Stage 17 from Pau to Revel.

Peloton racing by sunflowers

Peloton racing by sunflowers Peloton racing by sunflowers

The 32-year-old Italian joined a 17-rider breakaway at 19 miles that opened a cavernous gap in front of the peloton, as much as 24 minutes ahead. In the final mile, Savoldelli ran down the desperate attack by Team CSC’s Kurt-Asle Arvesen and out-sprinted him to the finish line after more than five hours, 41 minutes of racing.

Savoldelli, the two-time winner of the Giro d’Italia, is the second Discovery Channel team rider to win a stage this year.

Though Lance Armstrong finished more than 22 minutes behind the lead group, he started the day well ahead in the overall classifications and remains in the yellow jersey. However, a strong push by Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov, and several other riders looking to improve their chances at a podium finish forced Discovery to work hard in the final miles.

“It looked like it was going to be an easy day but it turned into a hard day in the end,” Discovery Channel’s George Hincapie told the Outsdoor Life Network (OLN). “We just set a high tempo so they couldn’t attack.”

The pace dropped Phonak’s Floyd Landis and Davitamon-Lotto’s Cadel Evans 1.5 miles from the finish. Both lost time in the overall standings, slipping behind Vinokourov, who is now in seventh place, 9:38 behind Armstrong.

The top six overall leaders finished in the same group and received identical times. Armstrong is still 2:46 ahead of second-placed rider Ivan Basso, and 3:09 ahead of third-placed rider Mickael Rasmussen (Rabobank), the leader in the climbing competition.

Along with three stage victories and Armstrong’s yellow jersey, Discovery Channel’s Yaroslav Popovych has claim to the white jersey.

Though he led the team to a slim victory in the team time trial in Stage 4, in which they set a Tour record for the fastest average speed, Armstrong still hasn’t won an individual stage this year.

“I’m not bummed at all,” Armstrong told OLN. “It just keeps getting better.”

The Tour also suffered yet another rider loss today. One of Armstrong’s top rivals last year, T-Mobile’s Andreas Kloden, who was in 11th place overall coming into the day and finished second to Armstrong in 2004, abandoned the race today. He broke a bone in his wrist in a crash yesterday.