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.

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TiVo-delayed stage log

Predictions: The run in to the finish is long enough that I think Gonchar can hold the yellow, though Gonchar's teammate Rogers could always attempt a jump at the end and take it instead. My money is that a couple of sprinters will make the selection -- Freire and Zabel. Freire's is more likely to have a strong teammate with him, so I say Freire first, Zabel second, Hincapie third, Gonchar keeps the yellow jersey. Do I have a chance of any of this being correct? Probably not.

Surprise, surprise, Voigt is part of a 13-man break that's 6:35 ahead. The sprinter in the break is Bennati (Lampre) and he's even taking some intermediate sprinte points. Other people in the break include Posthuma (Rabobank), Moreni (Cofidis), and Mercado (Agritubel). The breakaway has built up its lead to nearly 8 minutes.

It's amusing to see Robbie McEwen just behind the T-Mobile train going up the mountain. He won't be there very long.

TMobile and Phonak are controlling the peloton.

Col du Soudet

The climb of the Col du Soudet has begun...

Vassuer, Moreni, Mercado and Dessl others have broken away from the 13-man break.

Mayo is the surprising cracking on the day. He's got no tempo whatsoever going up the climb and is falling back, and back, and back. On the other side, Levi is riding up at the front, a new position for him this Tour. Maybe his legs are back, but yesterday's finish was a bit questionable.

Dessel and Mercado are in in the lead as the rest of the break has fallen behind. Mercado got 10th in the Vuelta and could be threatening with enough time.

Mercado starts the sprint for the top. Dessel counters and Mercado's answer is slow and Dessel takes the top of the climb easy.

Zabel is starting to slip off the back of the peloton, Pineau is with him. Lets see if he latches back on for my sake.

Gonchar is starting to crack under the pressure from his own team. Not too much of a worry for them as they can move Rogers into yellow instead.

T-Mobile has the peloton under control but they still aren't closing down Mercado's/Dessel's lead.

Zabriskie is riding with Gonchar at the back of the peloton, but the peloton is now going over the top of the Soudet climb.

Landaluze has caught the two leaders. Rinero has now caught up as well.

Rogers is way in front of the peloton descent. They are still in the cloudline.

Oscar Freire is back in the peloton. I think Zabel is in there as well as I spotted Pineau.

The five leaders (Isasi caught on) are descending much faster than the peloton and have boosted their lead to 10:51. Moreni and Vassuer are linking up with the five leaders,so the peloton will have even more difficulty pulling this back.

Voigt, Posthuma, and Quinziato have been caught by the peloton. In the meantime, Simoni is getting a wheel from a teammate.

Col du Marie Blanc, Cat 1

Mercado is attacking on the Col du Marie Blanc. Dessel is following. It seems they have dropped the other five quite easily. Landaluze is every so slowly following.

The breakaway should win today, the only remaining question is who? Dessel may not be that person, but he could be donning the yellow jersey if they finish 4 minutes ahead of the pack.

Voigt is dropping off the back of the peloton, having p aid the price for his break.

T-Mobile is still setting tempo, but it seems to be faster now. Discovery is riding in pairs and appears to have most of their team in the pack (minus Ekimov and Padrnos). Landis is up at the front being protected by a teammate.

KOM: Dessel took the Col du Marie Blanc climb as well, which puts him into the KOM jersey over Pineau. Landaluze came over not too far back and should reconnect. Rinero and Moreni may be able to link up as well.

Zabriskie, Zabel, CheChu, Pineau, Noval, Astarloza, Moncoutie, and more are falling off the back of the peloton. Gonchar is falling off the back as well, but staying close.

Rasmussen is attacking the peloton. Not sure what he's going for -- 8th place KOM points? Fothen (best young rider) is cracking. Levi is cracking as well. Cunego is cracking. Gonchar has reconnected with the peloton. Rasmussen made it over in front the peloton and now it's the long descent to the finish. Those that cracked should be able to reconnect, but there will be a lot of chasing to cut down the lead of the break.

Once again, Michael Rogers is leading the descent while his team stays 50 ft behind. 9:11 with 30.1k to go is quite a lot to pull back. The peloton may pull that back to 5 minutes, which would still put Dessel in yellow. Mercado is doing most of the work up front, which is surprising as Dessel has the yellow jersey as a carrot.

Levi, Fothen, Cunego, and Simoni have linked back up to the peloton.

Zabel is making it back into the peloton.

Landaluze trying to link up to the break, but the break isn't making it easy. It looks like Landaluze isn't going to bridge. At 20km to go he appears to be losing ground.

Gonchar is delivering bottles to his teammate. This will be his last day in yellow.

Another team will have to take over from T-Mobile if there is going to be a real chase because they are not pulling back any time on the break. No team wants to take over the role of the Blue Train of the past 7 years. 9:28 lead. Now 9:35, so the lead is increasing.

Dessel and Mercado are now negotiating the finish with 9.2k to go. Dessel will gain the most: KOM jersey and yellow jersey. Mercado is taking advantage of this and sitting on Dessel's wheel now. Mercado could take the yellow tomorrow if he still has energy.

Gonchar is now pulling at the front of the peloton.

Dessel and Mercado are now slowing down, with Mercado still sitting on Dessel's wheel. They can't goof around too much with Landaluze closing.

1k to go: Dessel keeps glancing over his shoulder.

Dessel is going and Mercado comes around. Dessel is trying to grab Mercado's wheel but Mercado barely holds him off.

Landaluze is coming across in third at a minute back.

Zabel is riding 4th on the runup to the finish, just behind Bennati. Zabel didn't have enough to come around Bennati.

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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