Billed as one of the stages that could prove tricky to the general classification contenders as all three climbs came inside the final 50 kilometers, including a finish on top the Category 3 Côte de la Mauselaine, today offered opportunities to claw back some small time on opponents, especially for the brave souls willing to attack over the penultimate climb and take risks on the last descent. The stage also offered the best opportunity yet for a breakaway to take the stage win and the first hour was correspondingly fast as team after team tried to put their guys up the road.
The eventual break was composed of Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - Quickstep), Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Simon Yates (Orica - GreenEDGE), and Adrien Petit (Cofidis), a powerful combination of legs that had a good chance of staying away. Chavanel was the best placed rider in the group at over twenty minutes down, so though Astana may have wanted to relinquish the yellow jersey for a few days it looked unlikely today. As the break hit the three climb it began to splinter, first under the impetus of Sylvain Chavanel and then Biel Kadri as the climber bridged across to Chavanel and then dropped him on the penultimate climb. Kadri took a measured, but not overly cautions approach to the descent and hit the final 1.8km climb with about a minute on Chavanel and several more on the smaller and smaller group of general classification contenders behind.
With a stage win for Kadri - and the first for France this year - all but assured, attention turned to the general classification contenders who were starting to fall apart under pressure from Alberto Contador's Tinkoff - Saxo team. Andrew Talansky overshot a turn on the final descent and took some time to get going again after an issue with his rear wheel. As the group hit the steep pitches of the final climb Contador took matters into his own hands and gradually shredded the lead group down to himself, race leader Vincenzo Nibali, and Sky's Richie Porte trailing slightly behind. Though the duo looked evenly matched, Contador pried out a few seconds in the final 100 meters of the stage, perhaps sending a message of things to come to Nibali. Behind, the carnage wrought by the short climb straggled in. Nibali still leads by a wide margin over his next competitors, but beneath him the lower standings shuffled around quite a bit.
- Biel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale)
- Alberto Contador (Tinkoff - Saxo) 2'17"
- Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 2'20"
- Richie Porte (Sky) 2'24"
- Thibault Pinot (FDJ) 2'28"
- Jean Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) 2'28"
- Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 2'36"
- Tejay van Garderen (BMC) 2'40"
- Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) 2'48"
- Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) 2'54"
- Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
- Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) 1'44"
- Richie POrte (Sky) 1'58"
- Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) 2'26"
- Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 2'27"
- Alberto Contador (Tinkoff - Saxo) 2'34"
- Romain Bardet (AG24 La Mondiale) 2'39"
- Rui Costa (Lampre - Merida) 2'52"
- Bauke Mollema (Belkin) 3'02"
- Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) 3'02"
- Peter Sagan