Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck easily retained his yellow jersey as Sergio Paulinho (Team RadioShack) won a tame, torrid stage 10 of the 2010 Tour de France on Wednesday.
Paulinho and Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) were the last survivors of a break that took off some 35km into the 179km stage from Chambéry to Gap and built a lead of more than 12 minutes at one point. The two got away in a flurry of attacks on the run-in, taking a minute on their former companions, and fought it out for the stage win in a two-up sprint.
Kiryienka led it out, pegged up against the barriers on the right side of the finishing straight, but hesitated a fraction of a second as the RadioShack rider shot around him on the left.
He nearly closed the gap, but fell short by about half a wheel as RadioShack got its first win in the Tour — once again denying the host nation a victory on Bastille Day.
“This victory is the most important in my career,” said Paulinho. “Every cyclist dreams of winning a stage in the Tour. For me to be able to achieve this is something incredible for me. It’s the biggest thing since my Olympic medal (silver in 2004).”
“After all the bad luck we had in the first week of the Tour, this comes at the right time,” he added. “I hope it gives a bit of morale back to the team.”
It was another blistering day in France, with temperatures in the mid-90s, and the contenders for the overall apparently called a truce as the break du jour rolled up the road. The favorites all crossed more than 14 minutes behind Paulinho, with the last battle of the day taking place among the rivals for the green jersey worn by Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam).
Lampre began massing at the front for Alessandro Petacchi, likewise Cervélo for Hushovd. But it was HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish stealing a march on the others, and Petacchi could collect only a single point over Hushovd.
Race leader Schleck summed it up: “It was really hot and I think all the riders were feeling it after the hard stage yesterday. It was a good day in yellow. The French were really attacking because it’s their national day. For us, the rest of the day was pretty tranquil. The team protected me well and did a great job today. We were really sweating, but Bjarne told us on the radio that our hotel tonight has a swimming pool, so I think I will go for a swim.”
A hot day on the road
Stage 10 of the 97th Tour included just three climbs, but it was far from a Sunday spin through the park. The ascents included:
The Category 1 Côte de Laffrey, summiting at 77km
The Category 3 Côte des Terrasses, summiting at 98km
The Category 2 Col du Noyer, summiting at 145.5km, 33.5km from the finish.
The day began amid stifling temperatures and with an even hotter pace as rider after rider tried and failed to create a successful break.
Among the early would-be escapees were Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia); Aitor Perez Arrieta (Footon-Servetto); Daniel Oss (Liquigas); and Jeremy Roy (FdJ). The quartet took a slight advantage at 27km only to be yanked back.
Attacks and counters came and went before Omega Pharma’s Mario Aerts and QuickStep’s Dries Devenyns got clear about 35km into the stage. Paulinho and Kiryenka joined them and they set about taking time. Aert was best-placed among the escapees and so the peloton kept a very light hand on the leash.
The early break
- Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), 44th at 32:55
- Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) 59th, at 45:49
- Sergio Paulinho (Team RadioShack), 77th at 56:10
- Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse D’Epargne), 100th at 1:12:20
- Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), 108th at 1:17:06
- Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), 171st at 1:47:24
At 40km, the break’s advantage had already topped a minute. Then Pierre Rolland (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Maxime Bouet (Ag2r) rolled away from the bunch, trying to bridge to the leaders. It took a while, about 20km all told, but the Frenchmen got there — just in time to help the break tackle the Cat. 1 Côte de Laffrey with its 7km of 9 percent grade.
At that point, the break had 8:45 on the bunch.
Backing off the gas
After a brisk start to the stage, both break and bunch were setting a fairly casual pace in the stifling temperatures, which topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Aerts led the break over the Côte de Laffrey ahead of Rolland and Devenyns. Behind, Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) and Anthony Charteau (Bbox) briefly awakened to fight it out for the maximum points atop the Côte de Laffrey, with Pineau getting the best of the new mountains leader and retaking the virtual polka-dot jersey by a single point. The two Frenchmen shook hands afterward — and a happy Bastille Day to you, too, mon ami — and dropped back to the pack.
With 90km to race, Saxo Bank was setting a moderate pace on the front of the bunch, which remained nine minutes in arrears.
Aerts led Kiryienka and Rolland over the Côte des Terrasses and set off on the rolling 47km separating them from the Cat. 2 Col du Noyer, summiting 33.5km from the finish. The peloton was nearly 10 minutes back, just beginning the climb, with a grinning Fabian Cancellara leading the way for Saxo Bank, the entire Astana team sitting just behind.
With 75km to race the leaders had nearly 11 minutes, and it was clear that the break would stay away, barring disaster. Fifteen kilometers further along their advantage remained steady.
Fifty kilometers from the line the situation remained unchanged — Saxo Bank on the front, 11 minutes behind the escapees.
Up the Noyer
The break approached the summit of the Col du Noyer with its advantage unchanged. Bouet was suffering and finally slid off the back with a kilometer yet to climb. Behind, Astana and Rabobank were moving forward to join Saxo Bank in the pace-making.
Aerts, Devenyns and Paulinho crossed the top in that order, and set off on the precipitous, technical descent. Bouet was having a rough go of it, unclipping a foot at one point to use as an outrigger.
The break hit the 20km-to-go mark with Bouet parked firmly on the rear, skipping his pulls. The gap was pegged at 12 minutes with the peloton still navigating the descent off the Noyer.
The only drama playing out in the bunch concerned the points battle between green jersey Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese). Petacchi beat the green jersey in the first intermediate sprint, with Robbie McEwen (Katusha) third.
Just short of 15km to go Aerts decided that it was time to have a go and shot away from the break. Kiryienka brought him back, but Bouet was spit out for good. Next Devenyns tried his luck and took a slight lead over his erstwhile break-mates. Kiryienka and Paulinho were left chasing with Rolland and Aerts just behind.
Devenyns, too, was caught, and then Paulinho shot away. Kiryienka dragged himself back to the RadioShack rider and tried to skip past, but Paulinho was having none of that and latched onto his wheel. They quickly took 15 seconds’ advantage over Rolland, Aerts and Devenyns on the final uncategorized climb before the descent to Gap.
Going over the top with 10km to race the twosome had 46 seconds over their pursuers, while the peloton remained 12 minutes behind after five hours in the saddle.
Five kilometers from the line Kiryienka and Paulinho had nearly a minute on the three chasers. A kilometer further along they were safely past the bend that saw Joseba Beloki tumble to the tarmac in 2003, breaking his right femur in two places, an elbow and one wrist, and forcing Lance Armstrong into an impromptu bit of cyclocross through a field.
With 2km to go the leaders were still trading pace and looking for the red kite. Paulinho led the way into the final kilometer, then let his rival take the front up the right–hand side of the road.
Kiryienka kept it pegged to the barriers, waiting for Paulinho to jump —and jump he did. Kiryienka waited an instant too long to react, and it cost him the victory, but only just; had he just another couple of meters of road he might well have won the stage. Devenyns led out the sprint for third and took it easily.
Paulinho was thinking about more than individual glory on the stage — he got into the break after noting Kiryienka’s presence.
“We are also fighting for the team GC, so when we saw the Caisse d’Epargne rider in the break, we wanted to have someone there to because they are our most dangerous rival in team GC,” he said.
- It wouldn’t be the Tour if someone didn’t fall off. Today’s victims included Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Transitions), Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) and Yaroslav Popovych (Team RadioShack), Francis De Greef (Omega Pharma-Lotto). All four remounted and returned to the peloton.
- A late attack by Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) saw him finish seventh on the day, stealing time on the overall from Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, Cervélo’s Carlos Sastre, HTC’s Michael Rogers and Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov. He moved into 13th overall at 6:23.
- Jerome Pineau regained his polka-dot KOM jersey, outsprinting Anthony Charteau for seventh place on the first climb and breaking his KOM points tie with Charteau.
The Tour exits the Alps in stage 11, cruising through the foothills of the Drôme region. With only one Cat. 3 climb 56km into the stage, followed by a gradual downhill and flat finale in Bourg-Lès-Valence, a big sprint finish is highly likely. This is the last good chance for the sprinters’ teams to organize a bunch finish for more than a week, so it is hard to imagine any other scenario. More on stage 11.
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