Stage 10 of the 2010 Tour de France, from Chambery to Gap, dealt riders 90-degree temperatures, two sprints and three climbs, however, the highly technical descent into Gap was likely the subject of the riders' inner dialogue. The descent is famous for Lance Armstrong's "cyclocross" ride across a field when Joseba Beloki crashed in a corner, breaking his leg and dashing his hopes for the yellow jersey.
Riders, knowing the danger of the descent, exhausted from a few hard days in the Alps, and facing an 8 kilometer uncategorized climb at the end were quick to make a break. At kilometer 36 of 179, four riders broke away. The four were joined by two more to create a six-man break including two Frenchmen who were hoping to make their country proud.
July 14 is Bastille Day in France, and the French have only won on 13 occasions on this day. As such it was expected a Frenchman would attempt to take the win.
The break was comprised of Mario Aerts (BEL/Omega Pharma-Lotto), Pierre Rolland (FRA/Bbox-Bouygues Telecom), Sergio Paulinho (POR/Team RadioShack), Vasil Kiryienka (BLR/Caisse d'Epargne), Maxime Bouet (FRA/Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Dries Devenyns (BEL/Quick Step). The peloton did not chase and the break held a 10-minute advantage over the peloton.
Calm and Collected Peloton
The peloton stayed together and chose not to attack the break which contained no threats to the GC leaders. With so many riders nursing injuries, from Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC Racing) to David Millar (GBR/Garmin-Transitions), the collective mind of the peloton made a decision to rest easy and reserve energy for the upcoming Pyreneean stages.
Race leader Andy Schleck (SaxoBank) was all too happy to have an easy day in the saddle.
"It was very, very hot and I think most of the guys are still feeling the effects of yesterday's stage," said Schleck, who took the race lead from Cadel Evans on Wednesday when the Australian struggled on the Madeleine climb. "A lot of the French guys were motivated today, since it's the national holiday, but we were happy to let the breakaway go. That allowed us to ride at an easy pace for most of the day."
The Breakaway Breaks Up
While the peloton enjoyed a quiet ride through the foothills of the Alps, the breakaway riders were anxious for a stage win. At 15 kilometers to go Mario Aerts (BEL/Omega Pharma-Lotto) attacked in hopes of riding away from the group. His failed attack dropped Bouet and ignited Paulinho and Kiryienka. The pair worked together until the final bend of the race course where it seemed as if Kiryienka had the advantage. His surge, however, may have been premature as Paulinho caught Kiryienka off guard with an acceleration. Paulinho's acceleration did not go unanswered, and Kiryienka jumped, nearly nabbing the Portuegese rider. Paulinho took the stage win in the end--his first Tour de France stage, and the first stage win for Team RadioShack.
Stage winner Sergio Paulinho of Portugal, right, and Vasil Kyryienka of Belarus, left, sprint to the finish line of the 10th stage of the Tour de France.
AP Photo/Christophe Ena
"After all the bad luck we had in the first week of the Tour, this comes at the right time. I hope it gives a bit of morale back to the team," said Paulinho.
"I've been dreaming of this since I was a little child." And even though Paulinho won a Silver Medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, "It's more important to win a stage in the Tour de France than a silver medal at the Olympics--it's the biggest race in the world and I think any rider would agree," he added.
Sprinters Flex Their Muscles
While it seemed the peloton would roll gently into Gap 14 minutes behind the break, the sprinters had other ideas. With a heated points race for the Green Jersey and a sprinter's stage on Thursday, the fast men decided to get an early warm up.
It was Brit Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) who bested the rest with Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese-Vini) edging out current points leader Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) gaining three points on the competition.
Polka Dots Switch Back
In the race for the King of the Mountains, Jerome Pineau (FRA/Quick Step) sprinted past Anthony Charteau (FRA/Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) to gain one point and regain the Polka Dot Jersey on the Category 1 climb, le Cote de Laffrey. The two Frenchmen shook hands after cresting the only Category 1 climb in the stage. There would be no more points available to the two for the final two climbs on the day. With only one point between the two and Christophe Moreau on their heels, keep an eye on this competition to see who will ultimately take home the jersey.
Sisteron, the Gateway to Provence and Bourg-les-Valence in the heart of the Rhone Valley are both first time Tour hosts. The stage has one Category 3 climb at kilometer 56.5, however, this day is picture perfect for the sprinters.
With two intermediate sprints and a perfect sprinter's finish in Bourg-les-Valence, Stage 11 will prove important in the race for the Green Jersey. The course rolls down the foothills of the Alps giving the riders a short break between the mountain ranges that make the Tour de France the most difficult sporting event on Earth.
Look for Cavendish to snag points in his fight from the back of the green jersey points race. Alessandro Petacchi trails Thor Hushovd by 10 points, with Robbie McEwen still firmly in the fight.
Garmin-Transitions has yet to win a stage in this year's Tour de France, and in Tyler Farrar (USA) the team has hope. Expect a heated stage with sprinters going tete-a-tete to the end.
Stage 10 Results
- Sergio Paulinho (RSH) - 05:10:56
- Vasil Kiryienka (GCE) +00:00
- Dries Devenyns (QST) +01:29
- Pierre Rolland (BBO) +01:29
- Mario Aerts (OLO) +01:33
- Maxime Bouet (ALM) +03:20
- Andy Schleck (SAX) 49:00:56
- Alberto Contador (AST) +00:41
- Samuel Sanchez (EUS) +02:45
- Denis Menchov (RAB) +02:58
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OLO) +03:31
- Levi Leipheimer (RSH) +03:59
Other U.S. Riders
25. Christopher Horner (RSH) +11:06
31. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +17:22
84. George Hincapie (BMC) +01:02:37
Overall Points Standings
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 128 Points
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 120 Points
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) - 107 Points
King of the Mountains Jersey
- Jerome Pineau (QST) - 91 Points
- Anthony Charteau (BBO) - 90 Points
- Christophe Moreau (GCE) - 62 Points
Best Young Rider
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 49:00:56
- Robert Gesink (RAB) +04:22
- Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) +05:11
179K (111.2 miles) - Wednesday July 14
- In honor of the 150th anniversary of Savoy's annexation by France, Chambery will be alive with cultural and sporting events
- Watch for a tricky descent on the Col du Noyer pass
- Sprint Points at: La Buissiere, La Fare-En Champsaur
- Mountain Passes: Cote de Laffrey located at 77 kilometers - 7.0km climb to 9 percent grade - Category 1; Cote des Terrasses at 98 kilometers - 3.3km climb to 7.1 percent - Cat. 3; Col du Noyer at 145.5 kilometers - 7.4km climb to 5.3 percent - Cat. 2