Post-Race Show: Stage 10
Into the Pyrenees, the race hit the first of two consecutive mountain stages, today climbing the Peyresourde and the Col d'Aspin before a fast descent to the finish. An early breakaway of three riders, Sebastien Lang, Nicholas Jalabert, and Alexandr Kuschynski seized the initiative and quickly built up a lead of over ten minutes. The bunch, content to let the three have their day, unhurriedly ticked down the kilometers toward the day's climbs. It looked to be a tranquilo day in the mountains.
With just under 100 km ridden, a bit of drama interrupted the proceedings when GC favorite Cadel Evans crashed, marking his first setback in a Tour that has so far gone very smoothly for him. It is still not entirely clear how Evans crashed, but he accumulated a significant amount of road rash in the adventure. His Silence-Lotto team quickly paced him back to the bunch, and all was again calm in the main field.
Up ahead, the break of three reached the base of the Peyresourde with just under 10 minutes in hand. Sebastien Lang soon left his breakaway companions behind, and continued the ascent alone. In the main field, Euskaldi-Euskatel rode at the front for the local fans, and the bunch steadily shrank as they hit the steep gradients of the Peyresourde. Belgian climber Maxime Monfort of Cofidis attacked off the front of the main field, and David de la Fuente of Saunier Duval quickly joined him in defense of his KOM jersey. Kuschynsky and Jalabert, though distanced by Lang, who held round about 5 minutes over the main field at the top of the climb, remained up the road. As the main field approached the summit, Luis Leon Sánchez jumped free, scooping up a few mountain points and briding across to Monfort and de la Fuente.
On the final climb of the day, the Col d'Aspin, the situation remained much the same: Lang alone some five minutes up the road, Monfort, de la Fuente and Sánchez chasing, and a small group containing the yellow jersey and the GC favorites. Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner tried a move, but the bunch quickly brought him back. In what was almost certainly a premeditated move, Leonardo Piepoli then went to the front and turned the screws. It was not hard to predict the next move: Riccardo Ricco launched a big move off the main field. No one could - or wanted - to go with him. Climbing in the drops in imitation of his idol Marco Pantani, Ricco quickly built up a gap of 1.00 and steadily reeled in the surviving members of the breakaways. The gruppo maglia giallo never really organized a chase, nor did they push the pace especially hard on the Col d'Aspin. Likely anticipating tomorrow's summit finish on the Hautacam, the field appeared content to allow Ricco to ride away with the stage.
In the run-in into town, Damiano Cunego asked his Lampre team mates to work, and Marzio Bruseghin did his best on the front to limit the gap to Ricco. It was much too late to bring back the il Cobra. Vladimir Efimkin of AG2R made one last doomed effort to bridge on his own, but by then, Ricco had the stage win well in hand, and took his second stage win of this Tour de France. Ricco also improved his GC position, by taking a minute off the favorites, and now sits 2.35 down on GC at 2.35. In a post-race interview, he dismissed the likelihood of winning the overall, but smiled at the possibility of stage-hunting on the Alpe d'Huez.
In the overall classification, Kim Kirchen retains the Yellow Jersey by 6 seconds over Cadel Evans, followed by Christian Vandevelde of Team Garmin at 44 seconds. Andy Schleck took over today as leader of the White Jersey competition after Thomas Lövkvist suffered on the Col d'Aspin and finished 6.27 down on the stage, helped to the line by team mate George Hincapie. Kim Kirchen took back the Green Jersey from Oscar Freire, though Freire will continue to wear the jersey while Kirchen wears Yellow. David de la Fuente successfully defended his KOM jersey.
Tomorrow? The Tourmalet and Hautacam!