Post Stage Analysis

Ivanov Joins the Solo Victory Club
Katusha rider wins stage, Nocentini holds Yellow on day of Polemica

Serguei Ivanov of Katusha won today’s stage in a solo attack from the breakaway. Ivanov escaped with just over 10 kilometers to go, and the eleven riders behind him could not bring him back. The chase never really organized, as the break chose to attack one another rather than cooperate. Nicolas Roche of AG2R-La Mondiale finished second, Hayden Roulston of Cervélo TestTeam was third.

George Hincapie of Columbia-HTC narrowly missed taking over the Yellow Jersey after riding the breakaway all day. The American’s near-miss provoked an outburst of polemica from the rider and his Columbia-HTC team, who blamed Astana, and Lance Armstrong who blamed Garmin-Slipstream, for Hincapie’s misfortune. Despite these antics, Rinaldo Nocentini will wear the Yellow Jersey again tomorrow. More misfortune came to Columbia-HTC in the bunch sprint when the race jury relegated Mark Cavendish for irregular sprinting. Thor Hushovd now holds an 18 point lead in the Green Jersey classification.

The Story

Animated by Martijn Maaskant of Garmin-Slipstream, a large breakaway went up the road almost immediately after the start of the stage. The break included thirteen riders: Nicholas Roche of AG2R-La Mondiale, George Hincapie of Columbia-HTC, Christophe Le Mével of Français des Jeux, Sébastien Minard of Cofidis, Serguei Ivanov of Katusha, Frederik Willems of Liquigas-Doimo, Hayden Roulston of Cervélo TestTeam, Martijn Maaskant of Garmin-Slipstream, Daniele Righi of Lampre-Ngc, Daniele Bennati of Liquigas-Doimo, Gerald Ciolek of Milram, Albert Timmer of Skil-Shimano, and Jens Voigt of Saxo Bank. Voigt flatted, and with no team car within reach, suffered a lengthy wait for a neutral service car. The breakaway, with the main field still applying pressure from behind, did not wait for the German. Voigt said after the stage that he wanted to punch something when he realized he was not going to make it back into the escape.

George Hincapie of Columbia-HTC and Christophe Le Mével of Français des Jeux were the highest placed in the general classification among the breakaway. The main field looked disinterested, and the break built up a maximum advantage of over 8 minutes. Hincapie took over as race leader on the road, and plainly hoped to hold his advantage to the line. Frederick Willems, meanwhile, took the points over the first climb of the day for his team-mate Franco Pellizotti, and Sébastien Minard of Cofidis took the points over the Côte de Blamont at kilometer 112.

The stage headed west through the valley of Doubs toward Besançon under intermittent rain. Astana worked on the front, though not with a great deal of effort. Inside 50 kilometers to go, AG2R-La Mondiale began contributing to the chase in an effort to keep the Yellow Jersey for one more day. Aware of the chase behind him, Hincapie began to push harder in the break in the hope of taking over the race lead.

Inside 20 kilometers to go, Martijn Maaskant attacked the break. Maaskant wanted to reduce the numbers and try to get a smaller group up the road. Russian National Champion Serguei Ivanov proved quick to follow Maaskant, and it was all back together. A counter came from Christophe Le Mével, then from Nicolas Roche. With 11 kilometers to go, the break remained all together.

Just short of the 10 kilometers to go banner, Serguei Ivanov put in a hard attack up the gutter on the right hand side. The break hesitated, fatigued from the constant series of attacks and counterattacks. Seeing the danger Ivanov presented, Albert Timmer of Skil-Shimano set off in pursuit of the flying Russian. Ivanov’s advantage continued to grow quickly. Behind, the chase proved disorganized as the break attacked one another rather than cooperating. With 7 kilometers to go, Hayden Roulston of Cervélo TestTeam broke the elastic and bridged across to Timmer, but even working together, the two could not bring back Ivanov and his advantage continued to grow.

With 3 kilometers to go, Nicolas Roche set off alone and overtook the tiring Timmer and Roulston. Up ahead, Serguei Ivanov crossed the line to celebrate his third major victory of this season. The Katusha rider won the Amstel Gold Race back in April, and more recently, the Russian National Championship road race. Roche held off the chase to finish second, while Hayden Roulston took third.

Behind, Garmin-Slipstream worked on the front, while Columbia-HTC tried to block the chase in order to help Hincapie into the Yellow Jersey. Silence-Lotto also joined in the pace-making, with Cadel Evans sitting very close to the front. After his mishap two days ago, Evans likely wanted to ensure against any freak crashes or splits in the field.

As the bunch headed into the sprint, Columbia found itself conflicted between slowing the sprint for Hincapie’s Yellow Jersey hopes and taking points for Mark Cavendish in the Green Jersey competition. In the end, they achieved neither. Cavendish won the sprint ahead of Hushovd, but the race jury relegated the British sprinter. In the finale, Cavendish looked behind him and seemed to shift right, pinching Hushovd into the barricades. Analyzing the video, Robbie McEwen commented that the judges likely relegated Cavendish because he was looking behind him and trying to block Hushovd’s line to the finish. Columbia-HTC has appealed the decision, and we will see if the commissaires reverse it tomorrow. Hincapie, meanwhile, missed taking over the Yellow Jersey by 5 seconds.

In his post-race interview, Ivanov said, “I want to say thanks to everyone who supports me, believes in me.” He called the stage very hard, especially the early kilometers before the break escaped. Of his breakaway companions he said, “I has not the strongest. I knew that I had to wait for the right moment.” The Russian champion called today “an incredible victory” but said his win at Amstel Gold Race was more a dream come true.

General Classification Update

Here is the current top ten:
Rinaldo Nocentini AG2R-La Mondiale
George Hincapie Columbia-HTC :05
Alberto Contador Astana :06
Lance Armstrong Astana :08
Christophe Le Mével Français des Jeux :43
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream :46
Andreas Klöden Astana :54
Tony Martin Columbia-HTC 1:00
Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream 1:24
Andy Schleck Saxo Bank 1:49

The general classification favorites all finished safely in the bunch today. After their rides in the long breakaway, George Hincapie and Christophe Le Mével move up into the top ten, though neither is likely to linger there long. Hincapie just missed taking the Yellow Jersey from Rinaldo Nocentini. In a post-race interview, Vincent Lavenu, the team manager of AG2R-La Mondiale said that his riders decided on the road that they wanted to defend the jersey. They had not planned to ride today, but at 45 kilometers to go, they decided they wanted one more day in Yellow.

The near-miss by Hincapie provoked a great deal of polemica after the stage. In an emotional post-race interview, Hincapie criticized Astana for contributing to the chase efforts of AG2R-La Mondiale, though Astana has ridden on the front of the field for much of this Tour de France. Later, on Twitter, Armstrong and Bruyneel blamed Garmin-Slipstream, who rode in the closing kilometers. Armstrong also commented after the stage that he had wanted to see Hincapie in the leader’s jersey, because of the strength of the Columbia-HTC team. In Armstrong’s estimation, Columbia-HTC would have pulled all day, and spared the legs of Astana, who have taken much of the responsibility for controlling the race so far. It's impossible to know for sure what Armstrong intended today, but it was clear that he held Garmin-Slipstream responsible for his former team-mate's disappointment. Maybe Astana intended to give Hincapie the jersey, but the Kazakh team also contributed to AG2R-La Mondiale's pace-making throughout the stage.

According to Garmin-Slipstream team manager Jonathan Vaughters, the team rode to protect the general classification position of Bradley Wiggins against Christophe Le Mével and to ensure that there were no splits or incidents in the finale. Silence-Lotto seemed to have the same idea, as they too contributed to the pace-making in the final kilometers of the stage. Cadel Evans crashed two days ago inside 3 kilometers to go, and today he must have wanted to avoid a repeat of that experience. Certainly, he was riding very close to the front at the end of the stage.

Other general classification riders: 11) Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo @ 1:54 12) Luis Leon Sanchez of Caisse d’Épargne @ 2:16 14) Fränk Schleck of Saxo Bank @ 2:25 15) Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo @ 2:40 17) Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam @ 2:52 19) Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto @ 3:07 21) Vladimir Karpets of Katusha @ 3:49.

Other classifications: With the relegation of Cavendish, Thor Hushovd takes a commanding 18 point lead in the points classification. Cavendish will have his work cut out for him, if he wants to take back the Green Jersey. The British sprinter will need to win the sprint on the Champs Elysées and hope that Hushovd does not place well in the final stage finish. It’s a big ask, and unless the judges reverse their decision, Hushovd may well have the Green Jersey won.

In the mountains classification, Franco Pellizotti continues to lead Egoi Martinez by 3 points. The Italian has proved determined in his pursuit of the Polka Dot jersey and has his team lined up to support him. Frederick Willems took the maximum points on the first climb today to ensure that no one else gained on his team-mates lead. Tomorrow should be a big day for the points with the mountain top finish at Verbier.

Tony Martin, meanwhile, still leads the Young Riders classification ahead of Andy Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali. Martin will certainly come under pressure from both Schleck and Nibali on tomorrow’s mountain top finish. The Columbia-HTC rider has yet to show well in the high mountains of a grand tour, and he has also contributed to the lead-out efforts for his team-mate Mark Cavendish. Still, Martin is a big talent, and he may well defend the jersey for another day.

Martijn Maaskant took home the red numbers for most combative rider today. Maaskant acted as the chief instigator of the break that went early in the stage and survived to the finish.

Looking Ahead

The Tour heads into the Swiss Alps tomorrow for the second mountain top finish of the year. The stage climbs six categorized climbs and the final climb to Verbier carries a category 1 rating. At 8.8 kilometers, the final climb should be enough road to open up gaps in the general classification, though the road is wide and not especially steep. Still, the general classification riders will need to race tomorrow as the time is ticking down to make a difference before the Tour reaches Paris. A storm recently passed through the Verbier area, and the possibility exists for cold and wet conditions tomorrow, though current predictions call for clear skies.

For more details about tomorrow’s mountain stage, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

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Terrain Type: Mostly flat.
GC Importance: Not today.

Côte de Lebetain 2.4 km, avg. 4.4 %, Catégorie 3
Côte de Blamont 2.9 km, avg. 4.9 %, Catégorie 3

Double the fun for the tifosi, this stage departs from Colmar where the previous stage finished. The Tour heads south through the Haut-Rhin region, and follows the trace of the French borders with Germany and Switzerland. There are two categorized climbs located about midway through the stage, but neither should cause anyone much difficulty. The finish on the boulevard Ouest in Besançon is flat and the stage should end with a sprint.

The Tour visits Besançon frequently, 17 times in recent memory. A long-time capital of the French watch-making trade, Besançon is the birthplace of Victor Hugo. Looking further back, Julius Caesar was fond of Besançon for its strategic importance during the Gallic Wars. For the fiction-readers, a portion of Stendhal’s The Red and the Black takes place in Besançon.

The Tour last visited Besançon in 2004 for a time trial. Lance Armstrong won the stage, his fifth of that Tour, ahead of Jan Ullrich and Andreas Klöden. The following day in Paris, the American celebrated his sixth straight Tour de France victory. The most recent road stage finish was in 1996, and Jeroen Blijlevens of TVM won on that occasion.

Profile Details

Departing from Colmar, the stage begins with 87 kilometers of flat racing. The profile gains elevation slowly, but it’s unlikely that anyone will notice. The first intermediate sprint comes at kilometer 34 in the town of Pulversheim. After just over 33 kilometers of false-flat climbing, the riders will contest the second intermediate sprint in Dannemarie at kilometer 67.

The first categorized climb of the day, the Côte de Lebetain, summits at kilometer 90.5. The côte is rated category 3, and climbs 2.4 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.4%. Short and sweet, the Côte de Lebetain should not cause anyone too much difficulty. A brief descent follows the climb.

Less than ten kilometers later comes the second categorized climb of the day, the Côte de Blamont. Another category 3 climb, the Côte de Blamont climbs 2.9 kilometers at 4.9%. Another easy one, this climb should not slow the momentum of the main field, though it may cause a bit of pain in the breakaway.

From the summit of the Côte de Blamont, it’s a bumpy 88 kilometers to the finish in Besançon. There are two un-categorized climbs to keep things interesting, but they should not prove difficult enough to trouble the sprinters. The stage passes through Dambelin at kilometer 128.5 and Branne at kilometer 148.5. With just under 40 kilometers to race to the finish, the final intermediate sprint comes in Baume-les-Dames.

Passing through Novillars with 20 kilometers to go, the course climbs slightly, then it’s a false-flat descent to the finish in Besançon. Just inside 3 kilometers to go, the road makes a sweeping left turn. The final kilometer is a straight shot to the line on the wide boulevard Ouest. It should be a fast sprint finish in Besançon.

Who to Watch

Sandwiched between climbing stages, this one is for the sprinters. With the Alps looming, this stage finish should be hotly contested by the sprinters. Look for Columbia-HTC to do the hard work of controlling this stage in an effort to set up their sprint star Mark Cavendish for the win. Tyler Farrar, Daniele Bennati, Oscar Freire, Thor Hushovd, and Heinrich Haussler should all be up front in the finale in Besançon.  — Gavia

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