Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) denied Mark Cavendish a third stage win in this Tour de France, winning Tuesday’s stage 10, a 58-kilometer race from Aurillac to Carmaux, the first of two stages through the Cévennes as the race heads toward the Pyrenees.
Race leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) finished in the front group and retained his jersey.
“It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for all year. I’ve worked really hard all year and I want to say thanks to everyone who has supported me and kept behind me,” said Greipel.
Greipel added: “He (Cavendish) is probably the best sprinter on the Tour de France, so to beat him is pretty special.
“We’re big rivals, and I hope we get a chance to contest another stage win.”
Hills, but no mountains
The route featured four categorized ascents — two cat. 3 and two cat. 4. The day started out sunny, although a short hail storm pelted the start area just before the neutral start.
An early crash took down several well-known riders, including Fabian Cancellara, Levi Leipheimer, Robert Gesink and Christian Vande Velde, but none appeared to be seriously hurt.
Soon after, six riders escaped and built up a substantial lead. The best placed was Cofidis’ Julien El Fares, who was in 53rd at 15:06. The other break members: Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM), Arthur Vichot (Fdj), Sébastien Minard (Ag2r) and Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun).
At the intermediate sprint, Vichot grabbed the first points. Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) won the field sprint for seventh and his teammate Mark Renshaw was eight, ahead of green jersey contenders Jose Rojas and Philippe Gilbert, reducing their points harvests.
Europcar drove the pace at the front to protect Voeckler’s lead, and the gap to the six-man break maxed out at about four minutes.
In the final 50k, BMC and HTC took over the chase duties and trimmed the gap to to 1:30 with 42km to go.
The break was sucked back on the final climb, the Cat. 4 Côte de Mirandol-Bourgnounac, where Omega Lotto drove the pace in hopes of shedding Cavendish, Farrar and Petacchi. Philippe Gilbert himself drove the pace at the front while Voeckler also looked strong; Gilbert, Voeckler, Dries Devenyns, Tony Martin and Tony Gallopin got a gap coming over the summit and built out an 11-second gap. Voeckler drove the pace, while Martin, mindful of Cavendish trying to regain contact, declined to take a pull.
Gilbert was the last survivor of the late breakaway, as Leopard-Trek led the chase to draw them back. Then it was game on for a field sprint for those who had survived the late hills. Prominent at the front was Cavendish, who came into the final 800 meters in second position behind Liquigas’ Daniel Oss.
Cav came around with 250 meters, opening the door for Greipel to wait for the final 40 meters to pull beside and, with a bike throw, take the win by a wheel. Rojas was third and Hushovd fourth.
Wednesday’s stage 11 is a sprinter’s stage through the hilly Tarn-et-Garonne area. The finish in Lavaur is on a wide, straight road after a long downhill run, perfect for the big sprinters and their teams to set up.