Sprinting’s most fiery rivalry came to the fore in the final metres of the Tour’s tenth stage in Carmaux today – with Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) beating Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) by half a wheel length.
The two sprinters had earlier been dropped as the peloton split into two on the final climb of the day, but they came back to the front of the race for a straight-sprint showdown and it was the German who prevailed.
A sharp bend in the course as the peloton entered Carmaux prevented Cavendish’s teammates from delivering him to the line and he entered the final few hundred metres on the wheel of Liquigas rider Daniel Oss.
He was followed by Greipel and, as Oss tired, Cavendish was forced to jump round him earlier than he would have liked. He didn’t have the legs to maintain his sprint to the line and Greipel sat in his wheel for a few vital seconds, allowing him to make a late surge for the line.
The third spot on the podium was filled by José Rojas (Movistar), with Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) fourth. Sky’s highest representative was Geraint Thomas, who finished ninth.
As the peloton approached Carmaux, however, it looked like Cavendish and co might be denied a bunch sprint. An attack by Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) with fifteen kilomtres to go was joined by yellow jersey-holder Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and several others. It was a sign of how much of a threat the move was that Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) bridged to it early on in order to mark it on behalf of his team.
The group pulled close to twenty seconds out on the peloton but were ultimately unable to hold their advantage and were swallowed with six kilometers to go.
Gilbert did make a solo effort as the others in the break sat up, but it would have needed something superhuman to stay clear of the speeding bunch, and he was caught with 4.4km to go.
Gilbert’s late effort meant he collected no Green Jersey points, but he remains at the top of the standings, however. Rojas remains second, seventeen points behind and Cavendish now sits in third, a further twelve points further back.
Last climb split
With two third category and two fourth category climbs the presence of Cavendish and other sprinters at the front of the race come the finish was not guaranteed.
As it happened, the pace was not fast enough to shed any riders until the final one and, as Omega Pharma-Lotto piled to the front in an effort to set up Philippe Gilbert for a sprinter-free finish, the peloton split into two.
They never established enough of a gap between the two groups for them to stay separate. They rejoined as the race descended into Charmaux, but it was Omega Pharma-Lotto’s burst of pace and the subsequent split, however, which was used as a springboard for the opportunistic move of Gallopin, Voeckler and Gilbert.
Earlier in the day, six riders had broken free and stayed away until the final climb. They included Arthur Vichot (FdJ), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Sebastien Minard (AG2R), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), Remy di Gregorio (Astana) and Julien el Fares (Cofidis).
In comparison to earlier stages today’s was relatively crash-free. There were a few incidents early on in the stage. One crash involved the calamitous Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack), Fabien Cancellara (Leopard-Trek), Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) and Bjorn Leukemens (Vacansoleil), but all weren’t too badly hurt and rejoined the peloton for the remainder of the race.
Thomas Voeckler finished in the bunch and keeps his yellow jersey.
Tour de France 2011, stage 10. Autrillac – Carmaux 158km
1. Andre Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma Lotto 3-31-21
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
3. Jose Rojas (Esp) Movistar
4. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo
5. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
6. Daniel Oss (Ita) LIiquigas
7. Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Borut bozic (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM
9. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
10. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis all at same time
77. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at same time
Overall classification after stage 10
1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar 42-06-32
2. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank at 1-49
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 2-26
4. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 2-29
5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 2-37
6. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad at 2-38
7. Peter Velits (Slo) HTC-Highroad at 2-28
8. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Radioshack at 2-43
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 2-55
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 3-08
Philippe Gilbert leads an escape group that also contained race leader Thomas Voeckler
Juan Antonio Flecha complete with bandages as a result of being hit by a car on stage nine
Andre Greipel celebrates his first Tour de France stage win
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