As expected, three riders blasted out of Sisteron on Thursday's 184.5 kilometer stage 11 of the 2010 Tour de France. Sisteron sits in between the Dauphine and Provence regions in France and is a first time host to the Tour.
The heat has taken its toll on the peloton. Temperatures in the 90s during the day and the apparent lack of air conditioning in France are causing many riders to have difficulty sleeping at night. This fatigue did not stop Anthony Geslin (FRA/Francais-des-Jeux), Stephane Auge (FRA/Cofidis) and Jose Benitez (ESP/Footon-Servetto) who attacked a soon as race director Christian Prudhomme officially started the race.
The break stayed away, gaining points and prize money until kilometer 162, only 22 km from the finish.
Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, Sebastian Lang of France, and Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, left to right, ride in the pack during the 11th stage of the Tour de France.
AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski
Team SaxoBank took control of the peloton around kilometer 18 in protection of the yellow jersey of Andy Schleck. As Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara forced the pace, the crosswinds gave aid in blowing the peloton to pieces.
Just outside of 7 kilometers to go, Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel (FRA), no stranger to making bold moves, launched an attack. Yaroslav Popovych (Team RadioShack) marked the attack which was subsequently pulled back by the peloton in a matter of seconds. There were no other attempts at glory today, except from the sprinters.
The blistering pace set by Saxo Bank as the peloton approached the town of Bourg-les-Valence split the field. In 2009, Astana's Alberto Contador (ESP) was left out in the wind in a similar stage. The Spaniard learned his lesson and latched on to the wheel of Schleck with the help of Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov.
The sprinters' teams were up next, as Team Sky, Lampre-Farnese Vini, HTC-Columbia, Cervelo TestTeam and Garmin-Transitions vied for position. The final run into town presented the riders with one sharp right hand bend and one sharp left hand bend creating a dangerous environment for the speeds in excess of 60km/h.
The wind up for the sprint included Mark Cavendish with his lead out man Mark Renshaw, Tyler Farrar with Julian Dean, Alessandro Petacchi and Robbie McEwen.
As the riders approached the 200 meter mark, it seemed as if Cavendish would have to fight with Farrar. At the last moment, Renshaw threw several headbutts at Dean, pushing him out of the way of Cavendish. At the same moment, Farrar had hooked on to Cavendish's wheel, which could have meant a win for Farrar. In a second rogue act, however, Renshaw veered into Farrar and cut him off, ruining his chances for victory.
Mark Cavendish took the sprint with his 3rd Tour stage win this year and his 13th Tour de France victory. As such, Cavendish bests the 12-stage victory tally of several notable sprinters including German great Erik Zabel, Italian Mario Cipollini and Australian Robbie McEwen.
Alessandro Petacchi (ITA/Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Tyler Farrar (USA/Garmin-Transitions) finished second and third respectively.
Renshaw Relegated, then Removed
Referees immediately relegated Renshaw, later deciding to eliminate him from the race for his dangerous and unsportsmanlike actions.
Top race official Jean-Francois Pescheux said after the race: "Renshaw was declassified immediately but we have decided to also throw him off the race.
"We've only seen the pictures once, but his actions are plain for all to see. This is a bike race, not a gladiator's arena."
Green Goes to Petacchi
Petacchi took the green jersey from Thor Hushovd in the sprinter's competition narrowly by four points.
The Lampre rider leads the green jersey race on 161pts, with Cervelo's Hushovd second on 157, Australian Robbie McEwen on 138 and Cavendish on 132.
Andy Schleck retains the yellow jersey with no change in the top of the General Classification and remains just 41 seconds over Spaniard Alberto Contador.
Stage 11 Results
- Mark Cavendish (HTC) - 04:42:29
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) +00:00
- Tyler Farrar (GRM) +00:00
- Jose Joaquin Rojas (GCE) +00:00
- Robbie McEwen (OLO) +00:00
- Yukiya Arashiro (BBO) +00:00
- Andy Schleck (SAX) 53:43:25
- 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) +11:35
32. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +17:51
81. George Hincapie (BMC) +01:02:37
Overall Points Standings
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 161 Points
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 157 Points
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) - 138 Points
King of the Mountains Jersey
- Jerome Pineau (QST) - 92 Points
- Anthony Charteau (BBO) - 90 Points
- Christophe Moreau (GCE) - 62 Points
Best Young Rider
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 53:43:25
- Robert Gesink (RAB) +04:22
- Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) +05:11
With five small climbs and over 200 kilometers, Stage 12 may provide another opportunity for heroic breakaways. With so many opportunities for King of the Mountain candidates to gain points, look for Anthony Charteau (FRA/BBox-Bouygues Telecom) and Jerome Pineau (FRA/Quick Step) to continue their best-climber's battle for the polka dot jersey.
The final 5 kilometers of the stage deliver 10 to 11 percent slopes, known as the "Jalaebert climb" before leveling out to flat for one full kilometer into Mende. This intermediate day is considered flat by Tour de France standards, however, it will suit the riders hoping to win a stage in this year's race.
184.5K (114.6 miles) - Thursday July 15
- A regular stop on the Paris-Nice race, Sisteron is playing host to the Tour de France for the first time this year
- Watch for a sprint to the finish
- Sprint Points at: Montlaur-En-Diois, Mirabel-et-Blacons
- Mountain Pass: Col de Cabre located at 56.5 kilometers - 5.0km climb to 5.9 percent grade - Category 3