With some bad weather on a course that included just one climb - a category two - few fireworks were expected out of the general classification contenders on Stage 16 of the 2011 Tour de France. Instead, Alberto Contador attacked multiple times, creating improbable time gaps on a category two climb and a short descent. The big loser of the day was Andy Schleck, who lost nearly a minute to Contador, Cadel Evans and Samuel Sanchez, as well as a further 40 seconds to his brother Frank and Thomas Voeckler. The winner of the day was Thor Hushovd, beating out Edvald Boasson Hagen and his teammate Ryder Hesjedal after the three escaped as part of a breakaway.
The breakaway that won the day didn't go at the very beginning of the race, but instead made their move about halfway through the stage. A total of 15 riders were eventually successful in breaking away from the field, with 10 riders in the lead group and five in a chase group. That breakaway would get split up on the climb near the end of the race, with the survivors being Hesjedal, Boasson Hagen, and Hushovd. Hesjedal went over the climb first to claim maximum points in the King Of The Mountains race, but he was caught by his two rivals on the descent.
Meanwhile, back in the peloton, Contador shocked everyone by mounting an attack halfway through the climb. He was matched by both Schleck brothers, Fabian Cancellara, Evans and Voeckler, and eventually came back to the pack. He went a second time, this time taking the same riders with him minus Cancellara and plus Samuel Sanchez. However, he only created a small gap on the main field once again. His third attack was much more successful, as only Evans and Sanchez were able to match him while both Schleck brothers were left behind, along with Voeckler. Top 10 contenders Ivan Basso and Damiano Cunego were nowhere to be found.
On the descent, Voeckler, a fantastic descender, went to the front of his group and took risks in an attempt to bring back some of the time lost to Evans on the climb. Unfortunately for him, he was slowed by a crash by Arnold Jeannesson, who is involved with the fight for the white jersey.
Ahead of everyone, the three riders lined up for the sprint with Hesjedal in front of Boasson Hagen and his teammate Hushovd. Following the instructions of his teammate, Hesjedal delayed the start of the sprint and let Hushovd take off before Boasson Hagen could react, winning the stage easily to take his second individual stage win and third overall stage win of the 2011 Tour, as well as his 10th career individual stage win.
Back in the groups involving the general classification contenders, Evans attempted to open up a large gap on Contador and Sanchez before the finish. It appeared that he was going to succeed, but he was eventually reeled in by the two Spaniards, who lost just three seconds. Voeckler came in 21 seconds behind Evans in a group with Frank Schleck, keeping his yellow jersey. Andy Schleck fell behind at the end and lost nearly 40 seconds to Voeckler and nearly a minute to Evans. Andy is now 3:03 behind the yellow jersey, 1:18 behind Evans, and only 39 seconds ahead of Contador. Evans trails Voeckler by 1:45 in second place.