It’s going to be a very hard stage. There is one category H climb, then a descent followed by another category 1 climb. It’s supposed to be the hardest last 40km in the Tour this year.
At 102 km, there is a breakaway that has a 9:55 lead. The breakaway is composed of 9 riders. The peloton is chasing. The pace has stretched out the peloton in a long single file. Liquigas and Astana are doing the pacing. At 90km, the gap is down to 8:44. Riblon, Vaugrenard, Thomas (SKY), Van der Walle, Zabriskie, Auge, Pavel Brutt, Rolland, Moinard are in the breakaway. They are of no threat to the GC.
At 78.5km, it’s down to 7:35. At 69km, it’s down to 6:37. At 60km, it’s down to 5:42. At 52 km, it’s down to 4:50. At 44.2km, it’s 3:59. They start the climb, which lasts 15.5 km. It’s supposed to be a nasty one. Auge is immediately distanced on the slope. Vaugrenard is distanced as well. Thomas is next out. Meanwhile, the brutal climb is wrecking havoc in peloton. Valls Ferri from Footon Cervetto tries to get away from the peloton. 3 Astana riders are leading the peloton. Charteau, the polka dot jersey leader is at the front. Schleck is nearby, with Contador behind him. Schleck doesn’t have many of his teammates from Saxo Bank around.
Di Gregorio tries to make another move at 41.1km. Valls Ferri is 3 minutes behind the breakaway. The peloton is 3:15 behind. Sastre tries to makes a move as well. He’s got a teammate on the wheel behind him. Sitsov from HTC tries his move. Di Gregorio is caught but then joins Sitsov, Sastre and the other rider from Cervelo, Gustov.
The lead pack is whittled down to three riders, Riblon, Moinard, and Van der Walle. Valls Ferri is 2:45 back at 39.4km. Schleck is in the middle of the bunch. He’s not far off, but he looks to be trying to find his teammates. Valls Ferri passes Auge. Di Gregorio is caught. Valls Ferri is making good progress. He’s got a minute on the peloton. The Cervelo groupetto passes Auge.
Sitsov has stopped his ascent. He is looking back. The Cervelo duo goes forward. Valls Ferri passes Thomas. A few minutes later, he passes Vaugrenard. Kiryienka tries to make a move from the top of the peloton. Sastres and Gustov pass Thomas. The peloton catches Thomas. Sastre and Gustov pass Vaugrenard. Armstrong is dropped off the peloton. This is the second time this has happened.
Kiryienka catches up with Sastre. Gustov isn’t there anymore. Schleck goes back to a team car to stock up on gels and gets back into the peloton. Charteau is still in the front of the peloton. Sastre is looking really good. He’s dropped Kiryienka.
Once again, Schleck is towards the rear of the peloton. Valls Ferri is 1:08 behind the leaders. The peloton is 2:19 at 32.1km. It looks like the favorites will all be together in the peloton for the final climb.
The gradient is 10% at 32km and the leaders drop Van der Walle. Sastre is 15 seconds behind Valls Ferri, who’s still at 1:06 from the leaders. Wiggo is at the back of the peloton. Riblon distances Moinard at the front. Charteau makes a move as the leader of the KOM comp. Cunego is trying to join him. Sastre catches up to Valls Ferri.
Charteau is 15 seconds behind the Sastre group. They’ve dropped back to 1:47 to the leader. Cunego catches Charteau. Kiryienka is still at the back of Sastre.
Riblon is sprinting down the slope. Sastre and Valls Ferri are also going fast. The bunch have lost some time to Riblon. It’s 2:40 and we’ve got 25km to go. Cunego is about to catch up with Sastre’s group. Charteau looks to be waiting for the peloton.
Riblon is 1:55 ahead of the Sastre group. Van der Walle joins Sastre. Riblon is doing a fine job. At 12.1km, the gap hasn’t changed much. Moinard is about to catch up with Riblon again. At 9km, their lead is 3:08. Moinard never is able to bridge the gap to Riblon, who distances him on the start of the final climb. Sastre drops Kiryienka. Valls Ferri and Cunego are still there. Riblon is still in front by 3 minutes. Sastre’s group is only 30 seconds in front of the peloton.
Navarro and Vinokourov are setting the pace. Contador keeps checking where Schleck is. Sastre drops Cunego. He accelerates away. Valls Ferri is caught by the peloton. Riblon’s lead is 2:27 at 6km. Vinokourov is trying to make a move at the front. Gesink, Klöden, and other favorites are dropped off the rear of the peloton. Vino is caught.
Riblon is being drenched by his team manager. He doesn’t look so good anymore. Sastre is looking a lot stronger. Cunego and Kiryienka are caught by the peloton. Leipheimer is dropped. At 4.4km, Contador tries to make a move. Schleck is on his wheel. Menchov comes after them. Sastre is caught by the favorites. The leaders of the peloton are undulating, kind of like in track cycling, trying to see who will make a move. Sastre tries to go again. He’s got 2:05 and 4km to make up. He gets caught quickly. Between 4 and 3 km, the slope gets wicked.
The rumor is that Schleck and Contador might be on the same team next year. Contador makes another move at 3.3km. Schleck is on him and Menchov as well. At one point, they almost came to a standstill. Menchov tried to make a move, but he’s quickly caught.
Riblon has got 1:45 and 2.1km. Contador and Schleck are getting dropped by Gesink and Menchov. That was a stupid move. Menchov is making his move and accelerates away. He’s got quite a distance on his group and the GC leaders. Riblon is looking good. He’s got 1km to go and 1 minute on Menchov. Schleck and Contador are 1:41 behind Riblon.
Riblon wins the stage. That’s great, for a Frenchman and a French team. Sanchez catches Menchov on the flat stage. Contador and Schleck are back in the groupetto with Van den Broeck. Menchov is 52″ behind. Schleck crosses the line at 1:07. Sastre and Cunego finish 1:47 behind. Sanchez and Menchov made up a bit of time on Contador and Schleck. It might have have been the legs, but honestly, I think that it was all mind games. They were baiting each other so that the other would make a move first.