Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team went into one of the toughest stages of the tour — Stage 11, with 71km of climbing out of 148km total — with the a highly aggressive tactical approach. Peter Velits gave it his all in a stage with two HC climbs, a Cat 2, and a Cat 1 finish on Thursday, making a large elite group that eventually produced solo winner Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar). Levi Leipheimer also bridged to this group and was with Velits in the earlier points of the break.
Velits also earned 25 points for being King of the Mountain on the Col de la Madeleine, and stayed with the lead group on HC Croix de Fer as well. However, Leipheimer fell off the pace with 69.5km to go, and eventually Velits also fell off the pace. Velits, however, was not finished and continued to try and chase. He stayed at his own pace, and was not caught and dropped by the yellow jersey group, with GC leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky ProCycling) until the final Category 1 climb to the finish. Velits finished 21st.
"It was a hard day," Velits said. "It was a hard day for everyone, it doesn't matter if you are in the front or in the back. So, of course it's better to be in the front. I was happy. On the beginning of the Madeleine I went with Valverde and Basso and Scarponi on the attack. We catch the first group and then we formed the breakaway. I did the sprint on the Madeleine. Levi was also in the group at that point so I was like 'OK, we can play with two cards here actually.' So I decided to go for the points."
Velits, however, was not finished.
"Then I was up front on the Croix de Fer as well," Velits said. "I thought with Levi maybe we can try for a stage or something, but then on the last part of the Croix de Fer I was dropped. I kept going at my own speed and in the downhill I caught the first group again. Then I attacked again. I was thinking 'OK, maybe they will hesitate a little bit and let me go. Maybe I will gain a few meters or a few seconds.' I knew it would be good for me because I knew the guys were faster in climbing than me today. I risked a little bit, but at the end, it didn't work. Everybody went on his own, at his own speed. That's how things formed like they did."
While Velits tired near the end, it was not due to a lack of effort.
"After yesterday, this was a great performance," Velits said. "I knew yesterday was a bad day, and for sure it will be good the next day. I hope to improve in the Pyrenees. We will see how it goes there. Now it is day by day."
Leipheimer said the tempo of Europcar put him in difficulty, after a hard effort to make the key move.
"When I was in the second group and saw there were about 20 guys in the group ahead, I jumped," Leipheimer said. "I made it to the group and saw Peter was there, which was good to have two guys in a group of about twenty five. But, Europcar had two or three guys in the group and they started going really fast," Leipheimer said. "I tried to stay with them as long as I could, but I only made it about 10km or something and exploded. That was it, really. From then on it was just to survive.