A very hilly 158-kilometers (about 100 miles) of warm, humid conditions over 4 categorized climbs saw the peloton working hard today after Monday’s rest day, with the sprinters teams looking to neutralize any breaks to choreograph a bunch sprint finish. And that’s just what happened. It looked like HTC-Highroad’s well-honed sprint train would once again rule the day and slingshot Mark Cavendish to the finish line but Omega Pharma-Lotto’s André Greipel had other plans, coming from behind to catch and pass his former teammate by a full wheel length to win, in impressive style, his first stage at the Tour de France.
The day’s main break of 5 riders formed early and stayed out long, but were dangled by the peloton and yanked back in toward the finish. But after that happened a very interesting 5-man break formed consisting of some really strong riders, Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert, HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin, Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler, Quickstep’s Dries Devenyns, and Cofidis’ Tony Gallopin (nephew of RadioShack Manager Alain Gallopin). With such strong riders, including the 1st and 5th placed in the current overall standings as well as the green jersey, the peloton had to take this bunch seriously, with a furious chase at the finish that saw some extreme speeds before it was over.
The peloton swallowed the group with just a few kilometers to go, and that’s when HTC tried to control things. But with a kilometer left, the leadout men started to run out of gas trying to maintain such a torrid pace and Cavendish was finally left to fend for himself, likely expending more energy than he’d wanted, leaving the door ajar slightly for Greipel to pounce through to beat his main rival. Rounding out the top five on the stage, after Greipel and Cavendish came Movistar’s Jose Rojas, Garmin-Cervélo’s Thor Hushovd, and Vacansoleil’s Romain Feillu. Hushovd’s having an amazing Tour with his new team, with so many top ten finishes it’s getting hard to count.
The day’s effort made exactly zero change in the overall general classification.
General Classification After Stage 10
1. VOECKLER, Thomas Europcar
2. SANCHEZ, Luis-Leon Rabobank 01’49”
3. EVANS, Cadel BMC 02’26”
4. SCHLECK, Frank Leopard-Trek 02’29”
5. SCHLECK, Andy Leopard-Trek 02’37”
6. MARTIN, Tony HTC-Highroad 02’38”
7. VELITS, Peter HTC-Highroad 02’38”
8. Klöden, Andreas RadioShack 02’43”
9. GILBERT, Philippe Omega Pharma-Lotto 02’55”
10. FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard-Trek 03’08”
Team RadioShack After Stage 10
8. Klöden, Andreas 02’43”
25. ZUBELDIA, Haimar 05’14”
36. LEIPHEIMER, Levi 07’16”
98. PAULINHO, Sergio 36’48”
102. IRIZAR, Markel 38’24”
171. MURAVYEV, Dmitriy 1hr12’32”
The points classification’s Green Jersey is still on Philippe Gilbert’s shoulders, with the climbers Polka Dot kit covering the battered and stitched-up body of Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland after his crash Sunday involving a TV car and a barbed wire fence (!). Good thing the teams carry extra cycling shorts in the chase cars cause the man was a bit exposed after somersaulting in a horrible heap taking out a wooden fence post after shredding himself along a length of sharp wire. One tough cookie to get back on that bike and finish the stage. Best young rider’s White Jersey still goes to Rabobank’s 25-year old Robert Gesink and the team competition is being lead by Team Europcar.
With all of the horrible luck Team RadioShack has experienced so far in this Tour, they are still, somehow, in 3rd place in the Team Competition, just 1 minute, 2 seconds back. If Klöden’s back gets better and Levi doesn’t leave anymore skin on the road, one never knows where these two might place after the high mountains – fierce competitors, great climbers, excellent time trialists, they both know what it feels like to stand on that final podium on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. So no one should be discounting either of them too early.
However, one has to concede that Cadel Evans and the Schleck brothers are unhurt and in good position and slowly creeping up the leader board are Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego, and Alberto Contador. Things are shaping up for some real battles in the Pyrenées and the Alps among the sports big names. Perhaps Team RadioShack has rid itself of all the evil spirits and now can count on clear sailing for the final 11 stages of the Tour. After Lance Armstrong’s falls last year and all the spills we’ve endured up till now, one has to believe the team is overdue, if not for some really good luck, at least to stay completely out of danger from here on out.
George Hurst, staff writer