|Race commentators wondered if Lady Luck has deserted Contador this year, but as @craiglewis85 pointed out on Twitter, he's still pulling in 4 million euros a year.|
The peloton worked it on the downward slope, reducing the gap considerably which had us - and a good few other Twitterers - predicting that the breakaway would be caught before the intermediate sprint. After all, with Cavendish bolstered up by his stage win yesterday, anyone would have thought he'd fancy twenty juicy points, right? And we all, even those who were doubting his form this year, know that he's still got the ability to do it. Yet that also was not to be and the leaders took the best on offer, leaving Cav to go through in sixth place (leading the bunch, needless to say) for another 10 points. The breakaway kept going.
"190 cyclists stop for a 'natural break'. Quality daytime tv." (@dennisgbuckley, Twitter)
The weather did start to look up for a while shortly after the sprint and the pace picked up correspondingly: cycling in heavy rain - especially with the best part of two hundred either cyclists spraying water and filth all over you - is no fun at all and can even make the professionals plod along, heads down and trying to forget where they are until it's all over and the gap closed accordingly. However, the lead group was still ahead at the second climb and this time Roux and Hoogerland swapped places, Roux cresting it first.
|Expect some quality stuff in the write-ups of today's stage - it may not have the natural grandeur of the Alps and Pyrenees, but this part of France has some of the nation's most beautiful features.|
The final climb, another Category 3, was soon within sight. The wind had picked up by now, splitting the peloton. The faster of the two groups succeeded in chasing down Duque, Roux and Hoogerland, but Malori and Westra were still out there and showed no signs of slowing - with 33km to go, they were still over two minutes ahead. The last climb really took its toll with a number of riders dropping back from the peloton, forming a trailing group ten riders strong 2'40" behind the bunch. Malori and Westra's lead dropped to 1'10" and it finally became clear that, despite earlier promise, they were not going to be able to drag it out all the way Then, incredibly, Malori attacked! Where he found the necessary reserve of energy is likely a mystery even unto him, but it was enough to start increasing the gap. Westra, realising that he was in the presence of either a superman or a madman, decided that now was the time to throw in the towel and he dropped back to join the pack.
"There's nothing quite like the exquisite misery of a 200+km bike race in the cold, driving rain. Sleep will come easy tonight." (@placemoregear, Twitter)
Even he couldn't keep going forever, though, and by the 12km it looked like he had just seconds left - but, somehow, he was still going with 6km to go despite the wet and technical roads requiring speed to be cut back. Back in the pack, Omega-Pharma Lotto had taken on lead duty. HTC didn't seem too bothered, even though by this time they're usually dominating the frontline and preparing to send Cavendish into battle. The last 3km included a climb of 88m, which made the final sprint difficult and exhausting, a battle for the strongest riders - in other words, very much the sort of place where yellow jersey Thor Hushovd might do well and it looked as though he would do as he muscled his way through. But other riders had plans - suddenly, Geraint Thomas appeared among the the contenders. The Welshman is a brilliant rider, but would he have the strength to defeat the God of Thunder?
|Edvald Boasson Hagen took Team Sky's first stage win after a cunning plan |
formulated with Geraint Thomas came to fruition.
|Almost unbelievably, Malori was|
Lanterne Rouge in 2010.
1. HAGEN Edvald Boasson 5h 13' 37"
2. GOSS Matthew Harley
3. HUSHOVD Thor
4. FEILLU Romain
5. ROJAS Jose Joaquin
6. VICHOT Arthur
7. GILBERT Philippe
8. CIOLEK Gerald
9. MARCATO Marco
10. JEANNESSON Arnold (all received same time)
Overall General Classification:
1. HUSHOVD Thor 22h 50' 34"
2. EVANS Cadel + 00' 01"
3. SCHLECK Frank + 00' 04"
4. MILLAR David + 00' 08"
5. KLÖDEN Andréas + 00' 10"
6. WIGGINS Bradley + 00' 10"
7. THOMAS Geraint + 00' 12"
8. HAGEN Edvald Boasson + 00' 12"
9. FUGLSANG Jakob + 00' 12"
10. SCHLECK Andy + 00' 12"
Green jersey: Philippe Gilbert; Polka dot jersey: Johnny Hoogerland; Youth: Geraint Thomas; Team: Garmin-Cervelo; Combativity: tbc - but we can probably assume it's going to be Adriano Malori with a high degree of certainty,.