This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 2nd full tour.
Portuguese gun fires on Bastille Day!!
The 10th Stage of the TdF was from Chambery to Gap, a distance of 179km. Today’s stage was perhaps the easiest of all stages so far in the Tour & it reflected also in the sort of truce that was apparent between all the teams who initially did not allow a breakaway to form at all and later in allowing the escapees to fight it amongst themselves for the Stage win. For the lucky six who escaped, it was a bonanza – a once in a life time chance, to win a stage at the biggest race in the world, something which any professional cycle rider would give his left or right arm for. A point to note was that this breakaway had riders who are all domestiques in their own teams and have no chance what so ever in winning a Stage in this race. But on July 14th which is Bastille’s Day, it was Portuguese rider Sergio Paulinho of Team RadioShack who timed his final sprint to win this stage.
Chambery, with a population of around 60,000 is being part of the Tour for the 2nd time only, though another annual race The Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré has been here 20 times. The town has historical links to Italy and has some of its charms too. With lakes and mountains, slated roofs, multi colored façades and historical heritage all of which combine to make this town, which lies on the road to Italy and the great Alpine valleys, as a great place to spend some leisure time. The Eureka Gallery and its Espace Montagne exhibition on the mountains help visitors to better understand and appreciate the Alps, especially the protected areas and surrounding mountain ranges.
The finishing stage town of Gap with a population of around 40,000 is being part of the tour for the 20th time. Though with such a historic past, the still talked about incident was in 2003 when Lance Armstrong had to go off the road into the fields and cut across the field and rejoin the race to avoid Joseba Beloki who had crashed in his bid to bring in an escaping Vinokourov. It is located on the famous Napoleonic route linking Golfe-Juan to Grenoble. Gap-Tallard is the leading French spot for aerial sports: parachuting, paragliding, hang-gliding, hot air ballooning, gliding, etc.
The stage began at Chambery with all 181 riders turning up, including Garmin Transition rider David Millar who fought one of his biggest battle yesterday to make it to the finish within the time frame of to avoid disqualification, after riding an almost solo effort at the back of the peleton with a body already battered and broken. The race route for this stage was one with three categorized climbs - one Cat I, one Cat II, & one Cat III climbs. There were just 2 intermediate sprints in the course for the sprinters to grab the Green jersey points.
Many riders tried to escape from the peleton right from the very beginning, but each time the peleton neutralized the efforts. At the first sprint point it was Ale Jet who rode to the line to grab the top points outwitting Hushovd. There were couple of crashes also involving Popovych of RadioShack & Brent Brookwalter of BMC as also Robbie Hunter of Garmin, but no one was seriously hurt.
It was around the 37km mark that finally four riders – Mario Aerts of OmegaPharma-Lotto, Dries Devenyns of Quick Step, Sergio Paulinho of RadioShack and Vasil Kiryienka of Caisse d’Epargne could actually escape and make the breakaway group. This being Bastille Day, lots of French riders also tried to make the cut, but the peleton almost always hauled them back. Finally after another 20km two French riders – Maxime Bouet of Ag2r and Pierre Rolland of Bbox Telecom joined the leading group of four. In the mean while Jerome Pineau of Quick Step rode away from Anthony Charteau of Bbox Telecom & the peleton to grab some points in the King of Mountains jersey classification and get his jersey back.
With peleton declaring peace and showing no signs of chasing the lead group, it was up to the top six to keep their pace. All 6 of them kept working together till the last categorized climb when slowly Bouet found the pace a bit difficult to handle. He was dropped but in a supreme effort, goaded on by 1000’s of Frenchmen cheering him on, he came back & rejoined the leaders after a few kms. But as the destination was nearing, so was the nervous energy in the leaders. It was Aerts who fired the first salvo and tried to do a solo run with around 12km remaining. He was soon caught by others, and soon enough Devenyns of Quick Step tried to do a Chavanel and make his escape. Even that was not to be. These bursts of speed ensured that Bouet’s was dropped once & for all. Then it was the turn of Kiryienka of Caisse d’Epargne, who tried to make off on his own. This time only Paulinho of RadioShack could answer him & that left the strongest 2 of the breakaway to fight amongst themselves for the stage win. Kiryienka of Caisse d’Epargne, a Belorussian with strong track record thought he could outgun Paulinho, but the Olympic Silver medalist beat him to the finish line with a extremely well timed sprint, thus winning for his team the first Stage win of TdF.
The peleton rolled in 14min later – with Cavendish beating Petacchi & Hushovd in the final sprint to grab a few Green jersey points. There was no change no in the overall classification.
Sergio Paulinho after winning the stage recounted the last few kms before the finish, “In the last 10km, Aerts was willing to try to attack. After he was caught, another Belgian attacked and when we got Devenyns back, I decided to try as well. In the finale it was just between myself and Kiryienka. It was a close sprint but the most important thing is to win and so this moment, for me and my team, is a good one. I hope that in the coming days the team can achieve a few more victories. The team started with one objective and that is the general classification but also the team prize so for us the Caisse d’Epargne, Astana and Rabobank are the most important rivals and that’s why I put myself in the breakaway because there was a guy from the Caisse d’Epargne team. We’ll stay in the fight for the team GC. For me this victory is more important than the silver medal in the Olympic Games. This is the best race in the world and to win one stage in the Tour is the pinnacle of what a cyclist can achieve.”
At the end of Stage 10 the over all race results are as follows. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank continues in the Yellow. Thor Hushovd continues in the Green jersey. Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank leads in the White jersey category (though on the road tomorrow Robert Gesink of Rabobank will wear that jersey as Andy wears his Yellow jersey), Jerome Pineau of Quick Step grabs the King of the Mountain jersey back after a day’s break. Caisse D’Epargne continues as the best team in the race.
The Tour de France Stage 11, is from Sisteron to Bourg-lès-Valence, a distance of 184.5km and with just one major categorized climb in the route, tomorrow I think it will be the Manx Missile who fires away.
So till tomorrow…:)
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