STAGE TEN: Limoges – Issoudun
Tuesday, July 14
WHAT'S THE COURSE LIKE?
After a rest day in Limoges, the Tour de France is back on the road. There are three early fourth-category climbs on the menu, as the riders head east, skirting the northernmost reaches of the Massif Central.
This is no pan-flat offering though, as the narrow Limousin roads undulate all day long. Things flatten out for the final 40 kilometres into the finish at Issoudun, a ville étape for the first time.
There are intermediate sprints at Lauriere (44km), Aigurande (72km) and Saint-Août (167.5km).
Stage 10 map and profile >>
WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN?
If the race organisation get their way - despite a rider petition - this stage will be the first of two this year to be run without race radios. Theoretically, this brief return to old-fashioned, instinctive racing will favour attacking riders. However, on a relatively straightforward stage such as this, it remains to be seen whether it will have much of an impact.
The French riders will undoubtedly be ultra-motivated to win on Bastille Day. Expect the first hour to be frenetic, as riders try to infiltrate the right escape. However, as this rolling stage follows a rest day, a succesful breakaway is far from a sure thing.
It's a close one to call; in theory, Cavendish and co. could rally their troops and reel in the breakaway to continue the battle for green jersey points at the finish in Issoudun. The flat closing forty kilometres favour the chasers.
However, despite the repose in Limoges, there will still be a fair few tired legs after the Pyrenees. Columbia didn't get much help shutting down breakaways in the opening week, so how much will they receive now?
MEN TO WATCH
Sylvain Chavanel - It's been a bumper Tour for French riders thus far, and home victory on Bastille Day would be the icing on the gateau. Both Chavanel and Quick Step are in need of a stage win after a fruitless opening ten days.
David Moncoutié – His planned assault on the King of the Mountains competition has not yet come to fruition. As the Tour hits the halfway point and the other French teams enjoy success, the pressure to perform is on Cofidis and their star man.
Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd – Cav needs to redress the balance in the points competition at some point this week. He looks to have saved his energy well over the Pyrenees, but how much willpower or firepower do the rest of the Columbia team have?
Experienced Hushovd knows what fighting for the green jersey is all about. Understanding that Cavendish is the strongest sprinter in the race, he may be content to play a waiting game, letting a breakaway stay away and using early intermediate sprints to stretch his advantage.
CW'S TIP TO WIN
Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) continues France's red-hot streak on their national holiday.
WHO'S WEARING THE JERSEYS?
Yellow – Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondiale)
Green – Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team)
Polka-dot – Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
White – Tony Martin (Team Columbia-HTC)
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