Post-Race Show: Stage 10, Pau-Hautacam!
An Early Move. A breakaway of unusual size split off from the main field, and with 134 km to go (85 km to the Tourmalet), they held just over a minute in hand. Several French riders celebrated Bastille Day by joining the break, including French national champion Nicholas Vogondy, Sylvain Chavanel, Romain Feillu, and Rémy DiGrégorio. The break included Oscar Freire on the hunt for points, and in a hint of things to come, CSC rider Fabian Cancellara also joined the move. Silence-Lotto sent Yaroslav Popovych along for the ride, too.
Col du Tourmalet The break hit the Tourmalet with some 8.00 minutes in hand, and French climbing hope Rémy DiGrégorio went up the road on the early slopes of the climb. No one felt the desire to join him. As the main field steadily ascended the climb, the bunch thinned markedly, with Team CSC-Saxo Bank doing much of the pace-making. Clearly, CSC intended to ride today. On the upper slopes of the Tourmalet, Jens Voigt took over, turning the screws in the final kilometers of the climb, and Damiano Cunego and Alejandro Valverde fell behind the main field. Over the top of the Tourmalet, DiGrégorio held 2.00 over the remnants of the original breakaway and 7.15 over the main field, driven by CSC. Yellow Jersey Kim Kirchen of Team Columbia remained in the main field, but looked very lonely with his team mates distanced over the course of the climb.
CSC-Saxo Bank Plays its Hand. Down to the valley floor, the group of favorites descended. Cunego and Valverde remained just under a minute behind, and up ahead, DiGrégorio still dreamed of a Bastille Day win. But Team CSC-Saxo Bank had other ideas. Cancellara dropped back from the break, and together with Jens Voigt, he turned the screws on the Yellow Jersey group, quickly shrinking the gap to DiGrégorio and further distancing Valverde and Cunego, whose team mates were no match for the World Time Trial Champion. At the base of the Hautacam, Rémy DiGrégorio held less than a minute gap over the charging CSC-led field. So much for France's Bastille Day hopes. Worst still was the day of Valverde and Cunego who reached the final climb of the day over 2.00 minutes down on the other GC favorites. In just under 10 kilometers, CSC-Saxo Bank had eliminated two GC hopefuls.
Climb to the Finish. As the race hit the lower slopes of the climb, splits opened almost immediately. Kim Kirchen, the Yellow Jersey, quickly found himself out the back and all alone, and eventually finished just over 2.00 minutes down on the other GC favorites and fell to seventh overall on GC (1.56, the gap). Up ahead, Saunier Duval took over, and forced the pace. Leonardo Peipoli and Juan Jose Cobo Acebo attacked, making a play for the stage win. Fränk Schleck joined the move, and the threesome quickly opened up a gap over the ever-shrinking main field.
Soon enough, only five survived to chase the break: Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto, Denis Menchov of Rabobank, Riccardo Ricco of Saunier Duval, Christian Vandevelde of Team Garmin, and Carlos Sastre of CSC. In between the Evans group and the Peipoli group, Vladimir Efimkin of AG2R and Bernard Kohl of Gerolsteiner ascended alone, largely un-noticed. Kohl's ride brought him to within 46 seconds of the race lead and to fourth overall in GC by the time he reached the finish. No doubt Kohl will not go un-noticed much longer.
The Evans group rode steadily, but none of the GC riders yet wanted to show their cards. Evans did the majority of the work for the chase, in a successful effort to ride himself into the Yellow Jersey. Carlos Sastre and Riccardo Ricco sat on, benefiting from their teammates' work in the break. Up the road, Peipoli and Cobo traded attacks and inside 3 km to go, distanced Fränk Schleck. Leonardo Peipoli soloed the final kilometers to win his first Tour de France stage. Behind, Schleck chased desperately in an effort to ride into yellow. He fell just 1 second short at the line, thanks in part to the willingness of Vandevelde to contribute to the chase behind. Bernard Kohl crossed 1.06 behind Peipoli, and the Evans group came in at 2.17 down. Vladimir Efimkin held on just ahead of the Evans group at 2.05. Further down the results, Damiano Cunego came in 5.51 down on the stage, ending his hopes for the general, while Alejandro Valverde finished 1 second behind him at 5.52. White Jersey leader Andy Schleck finished at 8.59 down, ending his run for the young rider classification.
Classifications. With the exception of the Green jersey of points leader, all of the jerseys changed hands today. Oscar Freire showed for the first time in his career that he is serious about the points jersey in this Tour de France and rode the break, adding ten points to his lead over Kim Kirchen. He now leads the points classification. Cadel Evans wears his first ever Yellow Jersey, leading the general by 1 second over Fränk Schleck of CSC-Saxo-Bank, 38 seconds over Christian Vandevelde of Team Garmin, and 46 seconds over German climber Bernard Kohl of Gerolsteiner. After two days in the mountains, Riccardo Ricco has taken over both the White Jersey of best young rider and the Spotted Jersey of best climber. Vincenzo Nibali sits just 1.49 down on Ricco in the young riders classification, while Ricco's team mate David de la Fuente holds second in the climbing competition.
Tomorrow, we rest...