Results tagged “AG2R” from spare cycles

Are we clear yet?

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Disco Posse - (c) Ken Conley

It's Contador's team

Nocentini - (c) Ken ConleyBrice Feillu and Christophe Kern went 1/2 for France from the breakaway as the race transitioned from Spain to France with its stop in the tiny country of Andorra. Cancellara put on a good show of defense of his yellow jersey, but the writing was on the wall as the climb in Arcalis dragged on. No one probably predicted that another rider in the breakaway, Rinaldo Nocentini, would be the one to take it off his shoulders, but that's the rare promise that motivates a great breakaway.

It feels good to put the Astana leadership debate to rest, for now. Contador showed why he can win the Tour by putting in an explosive attack that none of the other GC contenders could chase down. He went so fast it looked like he was descending as he freewheeled around a switchback. Armstrong and Levi were loyal teammates, following the wheels and keeping themselves in a strong position in the GC. Overall, Astana did a great job setting the early tempo on the Arcali, controlling the field up until the moment of Contador's attack.

If there's any doubt that Astana is in the driver's seat, just look at the GC standings:

  1. Nocentini
  2. Contador 0.06
  3. Armstrong 0.08
  4. Leipheimer 0.39
Nocentini - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Mavic - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley Big Hair Superfan - (c) Ken Conley

More Stage 7 Photos

Nocentini was a surprise winner, beating out a break that included the likes of Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, Frank Schleck, and Chris Baldwin. With most of the teams represented in the break, Astana was content to set tempo and keep the break at a comfortable three-minute lead.

I don't have a arms-raised finish photo to share -- Roulsten really looked to have the sprint, so I focused in on him. By the time I saw Nocentini raise his arms the buffer on my camera was full. I wasn't the only one to bet on Roulsten and loose the finish photo. The finishing straight was especially wide and with Roulsten on the far right and Nocentini on the far left, you had to pick your horse.

I rode today with in Mavic 2, the support car that follows the breakaway. Unfortunately, Astana was intent on reeling in nearly every breakaway that went. Svein Tuft and Oscar Sevilla were among the riders denied multiple times by Astana. As it was, we only got to jump into the support slow with 1km to go on Millcreek Summit, which limited the shooting opportunities. I was still happy to get some shots of the descent, Baldwin and Vande Velde chasing on, and Big Hair Superfan.

More Stage 7 Photos

Stage 10: Cambo-les-Bains - Pau

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Mercado takes a stage win over Dessel on a long break of attrition. What was originally a 13-man break became a battle between Mercado and Dessel as the two managed to drop the rest of the break going over the massive Col du Soudet. Five riders caught back on in the runup to the Col du Marie Blanc, but Mercado and Dessel dropped them once more and held onto the finish. As they approached the line, Dessel had already secured his new KOM and yellow jerseys, but he wanted it all -- overall, mountain, and stage. Mercado asked Dessel to let him have the win, Dessel said no, so Mercado decided to sit on Dessel's wheel in the final kilometers. Dessel still made it a go in the final sprint and was just barely beat to the line. The smartest move they made on the day was probably not allowing Landaluze to join their break. Landaluze managed to get within ten seconds of latching onto their break, but they pushed away from him and kept the spoils to themselves. Dessel is now the fifth rider to wear yellow this Tour in just ten stages, and I'm betting on that jersey passing to someone else's shoulders tomorrow. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Bennati took the field sprint just over Zabel for some more points in the green jersey competition. Bennati also made it into the break earlier in the day and took an intermediate sprint for more points.

The mountains are finally here, but this wasn't a stage designed to be decisive in the overall competition. The long run-in to the finish meant that none of the overall contenders were going to waste too much energy attacking, and tomorrow's very difficult stage means that everyone wants to save as much energy as possible. The result was a breakaway that the peloton barely gave chase to -- it held about a ten minute lead nearly the whole day that was only pulled back to seven-and-a-half minutes by day's end. T-Mobile set tempo most of the day but probably didn't want to given their seven-man status, and we may have seen some of the effect of the departure of the Tour boss, Lance Armstrong: there's no clear leader or favorite in the peloton anymore, so every team is doing its best to pretend that it doesn't have to do work, that it doesn't have a clear leader. Hopefully this will sort itself out tomorrow, or else the breakaways will have a huge advantage in the mountains.

Seventy-three riders made the selection in the main peloton, which doesn't whittle things down too much. Cunego and Levi had been dropped but reintegrated, as was Simoni, but Simoni had a flat tire to blame Zabriskie barely held on, but he's probably working for Sastre. The only real surprise was how bad Mayo did -- he's not really an overall favorite anymore, but now it's doubtful that he'll even do well in the mountain stages to come. Mayo was dropped early and finished with the likes of McEwen.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Sprinters win, Freire first, Zabel second, Hincapie third, Gonchar still in yellow * Actual: Minus the breakaway, I might have actually done quite well :). Zabel finished second in the field sprint behind Bennati, but with the breakaway this put Zabel in 9th place. Gonchar lost the yellow to Dessel. Freire made the first selection over to the Col du Soudet but got dropped on the Col du Marie Blanc.

A great win by Calzati on a solo breakaway. Calzati went with Zabriskie, Aerts, Kessler, Carlstrom, and Halgand. It was an interesting break, with both a Lotto and Credit Agricole rider, which meant that QuickStep would be on its own chasing the break down for a sprint finish. With a long week in the yellow jersey for QuickStep, that seemed to be the last thing QuickStep was going to do. The presence of Kessler and Zabriskie, though, made the break too dangerous for the overall positions, so Phonak and FD Jeux gave mild chase. Calzati decided to jump from the break and try his chances on his own, and it played out well. The peloton stopped giving chase and Calzati was actually able to expand his lead by the finish. Calstrom and Halgand attempted to follow Calzati, but went too late to catch onto his wheel. Calzati's win was a great for the French fans; too bad about the World Cup...

Zabriskie's presence in the break gave him the opportunity to rack up 10 seconds in time bonuses and move up in the overall classification. In his post-race interviews, though, there doesn't appear to have been an actual strategy to move Zabriskie into a break today. In his words, it was his turn to cover a break and it just happened that it stayed away. When Calzati jumped, Zabriskie was a little too tired to follow and let it go, thinking it wouldn't succeed and also having to watch Kessler (according to VeloNews, Zabriskie had a bee sting). Zabriskie's teammate Voigt had tried a breakaway earlier in the day -- CSC is now saying that Voigt intentionally threw the previous day's time trial to save strength -- but that breakaway wasn't able to stick.

McEwen won the field sprint to take the fourth place sprint points. Boonen continues to by mystifyingly bad in planning the sprints as he went too early and ended up sitting up.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Boonen first, McEwen second * Actual: Calzati wins from the breakaway, McEwen wins the field sprint for 4th