Today's stage went careening up and around the hills of Corsica again, hitting the final climb a mere 13 kilometers from the line, prompting the related questions of whether Peter Sagan would survive the route and whether the overall contenders would trade some early barbs. With the final climb only 3.3km long and with an average gradient of a steep but not cruel 8%, fate seemed destined towards the former, especially given the size of the peloton still remaining at 40 kilometers left to race.
At that point, Radioshack - Leopard was dutifully defending the lead of yesterday's stage winner Jan Bakelants and leading the chase of a five man breakaway containing Sébastian Minard (AG2R), Alexis Vuillermoz (Sojasun), Simon Clarke (ORICA GreenEdge), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), and Lieuwie Westra (Vacansoleil - DCM). Gautier was one second off Bakelants' lead and his presence doomed the break, though Simon Clarke made the most of it by gobbling up all the KOM points on the route, trying to lift the maillot a pois from the shoulders of Pierre Rolland. As the breakaway hit the final climb, Clarke jumped clear to try and secure the final points, but behind him other riders had different plans.
The gap was a mere 10 or 15 seconds when Igor Anton tried to jump clear, followed and passed soon afterwards by Pierre Rolland. Paced by a teammate, Rolland quickly passed and dispatched Clarke before venturing across the top of the climb solo, chased by Euskatel's Mikel Nieve and Belkin's Lars Peter Nordhaug. Would Rolland try to push on for a stage win, and some extra seconds on the general classification? His intent to do so was quickly evident, right as Sylvain Chavanel attacked on the final twisty descent, passing Nieve and Nordhaug in quick succession and joining Rolland a mere minute later. As the road flattened out, all four riders coalesced into a smooth rotation, but behind a chasing cadre of Cannondale and GreenEdge made their chances look slim as they held a mere nine seconds with seven kilometers remaining.
The quartet was caught under three kilometers to go and the battle of quite short leadout trains began. ORICA GreenEdge's Simon Gerrans had the better leadout and jumped with 150m to go with Sagan on his wheel. The Australian rider's lead shrunk all the way to the line but he barely held off Sagan with a bike throw to win the second Tour de France stage of his career. JJ Rojas of Movistar rounded out the peloton behind.
Though he was beaten at the intermediate sprint by Kittel and Griepel, Sagan took over leadership of the points classification after his second podium in as many days. All other jerseys remain in the same hands as yesterday.