France came away from Bastille Day empty-handed as RadioShack rider Sergio Paulinho narrowly beat breakaway companion Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) to win the Tour de France’s tenth stage into Gap.
The pair had previously forced the affair on the final, unclassified climb of the Col de la Rochette with fourteen kilometres to go, leaving their four day-long breakaway companions trailing in their wake.
On an oppressively hot day in the foothills of the Alps, the peloton was content to mirror the stage’s parcours and roll around. Saxo Bank tapped out a steady pace on the front, letting the escape out to a steady 11-minute lead.
The rigours of the previous day also perhaps contributed to the 33km/h average speed, as the bunch finished 35 minutes behind the slowest schedule.
With the French national holiday a perennial hunting ground for hungry home riders, the barrage of attacks lasted 35 kilometres before the right combination came up.
When it went, there wasn’t a Frenchman among them. Sergio Paulinho (Team RadioShack), Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) and Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) were the four who got away.
However, Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) kept up home hopes, chasing doggedly to make contact with the break at the foot of the first-category Cote de Laffrey.
On the undulating parcours, the escapees stayed together over the second-category Col du Noyer, waiting for the unclassified Col de la Rochette to whittle things down before a fast descent into Gap.
French odds immediately lengthened when a visibly-labouring Bouet dropped off the back with fifteen kilometres to go at the foot of the Rochette.
After brief bids from Aerts and Devenyns, Sergio Paulinho and Vasil Kiryienka powered to the front of the race and distanced their rivals.
The pair continued to ride hard down the technical descent of the climb, where Joseba Beloki famously crashed on a similarly-sweltering day in 2003, forcing Lance Armstrong to take evasive action through a field.
At the finish in Gap, a calm-looking Kiryienka, a former world points race medallist on the track, led out the sprint with Paulinho striking out with 200 metres to go.
It was close on the finish line, but the Portuguese rider narrowly held off Kiryienka’s late burst to take the biggest win of his career, which has been spent as a domestique since joining the sport’s top tier following a shock silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games road race.
Moreover, the win is RadioShack’s first in their debut Tour de France. It comes from an unlikely source, considering the team’s bigger players.
Behind, Dries Devenyns took the sprint for third ahead of highest-finishing Frenchman Pierre Rolland. However, after Sandy Casar’s win in yesterday’s enthralling stage into St-Jean-de-Maurienne, the home nation won’t bear much chagrin.
Back in the bunch, Nicholas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacked on the Col de la Rochette, soloing away to opportunistically steal a handy 80-second march on his rivals come the finish. Fellow lone attacker Remi Pauriol (Cofidis) wasn’t far behind.
Mark Cavendish won the sprint for ninth place in the peloton, over fourteen minutes down. As Petacchi and Hushovd won an intermediate sprint apiece before the Italian pipped the current green jersey winner to the post, the pair moved further ahead of their rivals in the race for the points classification.
A chance for Cav
Tomorrow’s 184.5km eleventh stage between Sisteron and Bourg-les-Valence could be decisive for the standings, as it is likely to finish in a bunch sprint – especially if HTC-Columbia has anything to do about it.
Meanwhile, Jerome Pineau edged back into the polka-dot jersey after outsprinting tennant Charteau for the minor points on the Laffrey.
Tour de France stage 10: Chambery – Gap
1. Sergio Paulinho (Por) Team RadioShack 179km in 5-10-56
2. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Caisse d’Epargne at same time
3. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step at 1-29
4. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
5. Mario Aerts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-33
6. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 3-20
7. Nicholas Roche (Ire) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 12-58
8. Remi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis at 13-57
9. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Columbia at 14-19
10. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini at same time
42. Dan Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo
47. Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo
61. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
70. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky all same time
163. Steve Cummings (GBr) Team Sky at 15-47
164. Charly Wegelius (GBr) Omega Pharma-Lotto
177. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Transitions at 16-27
General classification after stage ten
1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank in 49-00-56
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 41sec
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-45
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-58
5. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma at 3-31
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack at 3-59
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 4-22
8. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 4-41
9. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 5-08
10. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 5-09
Points competition Thor Hushovd (Cervélo)
King of the mountains Jerome Pineau (Quick Step)
White jersey Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
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Sergio Paulinho (centre) in the escape
Andy Schleck in yellow
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