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Stage Summaries









letour.jpgAt last, we get a rock 'em sock 'em mountain stage with carnage spread over two giant mountains. The race was blown up like a pinata by CSC and Saunier Duval swept in to pick up the candy.

It was a familiar sight in the mountains: Saunier Duval went 1/2 as Piepoli crossed first and Cobo second. Not far behind was Frank Schleck, who was desparately seeking prize that CSC was seeking most: the yellow jersey. But he'll have to wait for the next mountain stage. Cadel Evans may have been far down the road, but he was able to snag a 1 second lead, and he tearfully accepted his prize. Saunier Duval's Riccardo Ricco may not have been part of the finishing duo, but he finished with the Evans group and also took enough points on the Tourmalet to take two jerseys, KOM and best young rider.

CSC have been the harbingers of pain this Tour. If see them at the front, you know that something hard and nasty is brewing. Last time we saw them digging in at the front the peloton was split in half. They setup their cards early as Fabian Cancellara worked hard to make the breakaway and stay up the road over the Col du Tourmalet. Back in the peloton, Gustov kicked it up, stringing out the leaders on the Tourmalet. Next was Jens Voigt. Riis said he had been saving Voigt, winding him up as a spring, and today he was sprung. With a face screwed up in agony, he pulled the ever-dwindling selection up and cover the rest of the Tourmalet.

The damage was huge -- Valverde and Cunego had been cracked. Not all hope was lost for Valverde and Cunego, though. They were only half a minute down and had the descent to catch on for the Hautacam. But CSC wasn't done yet: they still had one more pain bringer, Fabian Cancellara, waiting in the wings. Cancellara dropped back and banished hope for Valverde. Even with a couple of Caisse d'Epargne teammates, there was little chance of outdoing Voigt and Cancellara.

On the slopes of the Hautacam, Saunier Duval emerged unscathed from CSC's attacks. It was quickly a blur of CSC and Saunier Duval jerseys jumping up the road: Piepoli, Sastre, Cobo, Frank Schleck, back and forth. Piepoli, Cobo, and Schleck were the survivors, and soon the Saunier Duval tandem was able to shed Schleck. The Saunier Duval tactics weren't as well-honed as CSC's -- at one point Schleck was able to use Cobo to bridge up to Piepoli -- but in the end they stuck.

Further down the road the Evans group contained the rest of the riders who can hope to be on the podium in Paris. Garmin-Chipotle's Christian Vande Velde was a happy man as he was able to stick with the attacks and put in some of his own in order to slot into 3rd in the GC. As usual, I'll leave it to the eloquent words of Jonathan Vaughters to summarize their day:

Go F*ckin' Christian!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JV

Gerolsteiner's Bernhard Kohl also did well as he jumped off the front of that group to vault up to 4th in the GC. CSC's Carlos Sastre was probably a little less happy to have to stick with Evans as he had to sacrifice GC aspirations to preserve Frank Schleck's position. Menchov can be happy that he stuck with the group after all the bad luck he's had this Tour. A good time trial could get him on the podium in Paris.

The biggest losers on the day were Valverde and Cunego at almost 6 minutes back (there goes my prediction). They can almost certainly say farewell to the GC as it's hard to imagine they making up that time on Evans. Kim Kirchen lost four minutes and the yellow jersey today.

Stage 10 Link Roundup


Updates 7/19: Millar Diary, CyclingNews Roundup 2, Bob Martin Stage 10 by the Numbers, Tour Tech: Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto) discusses his prototype Campagnolo electronic shifters

Updates 8PM: Bobby Julich on Sinkewitz+doping, CyclingNews Roundup, Slipstream Interview



Stage Summaries/Results:





Vasseur - DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images


Cedric Vasseur gave France and Quick Step a victory as he won the sprint finish from a breakaway of five. Vasseur's career TdF stage tally is now two, the previous coming all the way back in 1997. It was a fairly uneventful stage, save for the actions of the breakaway on the final climbs, as the rest of the peloton was content to get some rest as they leave the Alps behind.

Today's stage had breakaway written all over it and there's no name in the Tour more synonymous with breakaway than Jens Voigt. A break of 11 riders, including Voigt, built up early in the stage and stayed together until the last two Cat 3 climbs. Voigt was the first to shake things up, but it was Halgand who really shook things apart. A group of five made it over the last climb together despite a flurry of attacks by Halgand to further whittle things down. With Voigt forced to the front and the riders all marking each other's wheels, Vasseur lead the sprint up the right side and took it to the line.

FD Jeux's Sandy Casar took second despite having been dropped on the final climb and having to claw his way back. Liquigas' Albasini took third, benefiting from having teammate and Lanterne Rouge Kuschynski there to help back when the break was at 11.

Stage 10: Cambo-les-Bains - Pau


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.

Stage 10: A tactical view


I haven't done any specific entries regarding stage tactics, but this is a good stage to analyze in this regard.

If you're interested in how Stage 10 unfolded tactically, read on, though note that I'm not a cycling expert, and my prediction that Armstrong wouldn't attack today was completely wrong. (update: according to Armstrong's trainer, Discovery wasn't going to attack, but the order was given when they saw Vino weaken during Disco's high tempo up the final climb).

Stage 10: Grenoble-Courchevel


Boom! I guess Armstrong couldn't bear to be without the yellow jersey for more than a day. Armstrong and Team Discovery put down the hammer on all of his contenders in a single stage. I thought that Armstrong was just going to try and contain today and save the big effort for the Pyrenees, but boy was I wrong. Discovery set an amazing pace through the valley towards Courchevel, announcing that Armstrong had loftier goals for the stage. They picked up the pace on the final climb and many major riders were dropped even before the slopes really started kicking in. With Popovych as his last paceman, Armstrong had Popo accelerate and launched his final attack. Ullrich and Vino were quickly dropped, along with Landis, Botero, or just about everyone else that might have a claim to the overall. Basso was the only contender able to follow, but even he was eventually dropped by the fast pace.

Armstrong whittled the group down to Rasmussen, Valverde, and Mancebo, and it was Valverde who was too good for Armstrong to drop. Armstrong attacked in the final 500m and Valverde jumped onto his wheel and then around to take the stage win. Given that Valverde is a rookie, it's easy to see that he may have a big future ahead.

Popo gets a lot of credit for today. Earlier in the stage he was still brushing off the dirt from a run in with an embankment, yet he was the one who put in the final kick that sent Armstrong's opponents off the back. Mancebo also gets a lot of credit for his teammate Valverde's victory -- two teammates in a breakaway of four is a big advantage, especially with Armstrong doing so much work to try and keep up the pace. Mancebo's pulls at the end helped put Valverde across the line first.

A sampliing of some of today's damage:

Basso: 1:02
Ullrich: 2:14
Kloden: 2:14
Landis: 2:14
Vinokourov: 5:18
Heras: ~10:00

Maps and stage log in the extended.