With nine categorized climbs on the route and almost an equal number of uncategorized hills, today's stage solicited comparisons with Liége-Bastogne-Liége. Certainly not one for the sprinters, especially with the Jenkins Road climb (amusingly Frenchified into the Côte de Jenkins Road on the route profile) serving up double digit percentages and summiting inside the final five kilometers.
An early break was fell apart as the climbs took their toll and Biel Kadri was the only rider remaining with 60 kilometers to go as the bunch summited the category 2 Holme Moss climb. Thomas Voeckler attacked near the top of the climb and joined Kadri and the duo were soon joined by Tony Martin, Marcus Burghart, and Cyril Gautier to form a strong breakaway. The threat was soon apparent to Cannondale, who took the front soon afterwards to chase down the group in hopes of delivering Peter Sagan across the line in first. With thirty kilometers remaining the peloton was reduced to perhaps 40 riders as Garmin and Sky in turn drove the pace over the final four climbs. Pierre Rolland and Jean-Christophe Peraud sojourned off the front, but the duo soon broke up on an uncategorized climb and Rolland was finally mopped up inside the final ten kilometers.
Cannondale led out into the final climb, using the last of their three riders to ramp up the pace even more on the bottom slopes of the 800 meter climb averaging 10.8%. On the steepest ramps near the top of the climb Alberto Contador and then Chris Froome moved to the front, perhaps to stay in front for the technical descent towards the line. Sagan lurked close behind them and made a move on the descent, tucking as aerodynamically as possible and coming within scant inches of a few curbs as he railed the turns. His bike handling skills got a gap, but only a slight one and the group was back together at 3.5 kilometers to the finish. A number of attacks out of the now 21 rider strong group kept the pace hard but were chased down in turn. Jacob Fuglsang and Greg Van Avermaet went, followed by a number of solo moves. In a short respite at 1700 meters to go, Vincenzo Nibali launched and everyone just stared at each other. In the end, everyone looked at Sagan to close down the gap and he refused to chase full gas, either in hopes of winning the sprint or to let his former teammate and friend take the victory.
As the Italian national champion crossed the line with arms aloft the sprint opened up behind him with Van Avermaet and Michal Kwiatkowski crossing the line two secondes behind in second and third. Nibali will take the yellow jersey into tomorrow's stage while Sagan now has outright control over the green jersey. All of the major general classification contenders finished in the chase group behind Nibali.
- Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
- Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), at 2"
- Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma - Quickstep), s.t.
- Peter Sagan (Cannondale), s.t.
- Tony Gallopin (Lotto - Belisol), s.t.
- Michael Albasini (Orica - GreenEDGE), s.t.
- Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), s.t.
- Bauke Mollema (Belkin), s.t.
- Tejay van Garderen (BMC), s.t.
- Romain Bardet (Ag2R - La Mondiale), s.t.
- Vincenzo Nibali
- Peter Sagan, at 2"
- Greg Van Avermaet, at 2"
- Peter Sagan (69pts)
- Bryan Coquard (47pts)
- Marcel Kittel (45pts)