95th Tour de France
Stage 10 - Pau to Hautacam - 156.0 km (97.0 mi)
14 July 2008
Perhaps yesterday's stage winner Riccardo Ricco is clairvoyant. Perhaps he knew something about today's stage between Pau and Hautacam which no other rider did. Or perhaps his Saunier Duval team is merely lucky. Ricco said yesterday, "Tomorrow is an important stage, but I want to help Piepoli to win a stage. Tomorrow is perfect for a rider of his characteristics." How true his post-race interview would be could hardly have been known when he gave it yesterday.
On this Bastille Day in France, with every French rider on the road dreaming of winning a stage of the national grand tour on the national independence day, it was instead an Italian taking the spoils. Making Ricco's prediction come true, Leonardo Piepoli took the finish ahead of his teammate Juan Jose Cobo and gave Saunier Duval its third stage victory of the 2008 Tour. The climb saw Frank Schleck gain impressive time on the climb riding in a leading trio up to Hautacam before being dropped by Cobo and Piepoli and looking like a yellow jersey contender...
The jersey, though, would not pass to Schleck. The yellow jersey, though, is now on the shoulders of a new rider -- the man in the number-one, Australian Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto. Feeling no ill effects from his crash in yesterday's stage, Evans was on fire today, pushing the lead group and driving the selection of leaders over the finish line 2:17 behind Piepoli and 1:49 ahead of Schleck... and giving Evans the maillot jaune by a SINGLE SECOND over the rider from Luxembourg.
The day started in Pau, which was hosting its sixty-second Tour stage -- the third-most of any city in France. As a gateway to the mythic Tourmalet climb, the city has been a mainstay in the Tour de France since 1930. The cyclists were itching to attack throughout. A large 24-man breakaway, containing both green jersey Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and polka-dot jersey David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) as well as potential contenders such as Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto), 27th overall to begin the stage at 4:34 behind Kirchen. The break soon gained two minutes on the rest of the peloton, but the presence of such highly-regarded riders would ultimately doom the breakaway.
Both jerseys in the lead group upheld their end of the bargain in the breakaway. De La Fuente took the maximum points over the category-three Cote de Benejacq; Friere took the sprint at Lamarque-Pontacq. But the peloton was quickly regaining its focus and reeling back in the break. At Lourdes, 52.5 kilometers into the stage, the lead group split again, seven riders -- Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale), Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Friere, Jeremy Roy and Remy Di Gregorio (both Francaise des Jeux), and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) -- going ahead and leaving seventeen others behind. They would arrive fifteen kilometers later at the third-category Cote de Loucrup climb, which Duque took ahead of Di Gregorio. Friere would bolster his lead on the points classification further when the second intermediate sprint came up in Pouzac.
The feed zone then came up at Campan before riders began tackling the Tourmalet climb. The Col du Tourmalet, riding westward from Campan, involves 17.4 kilometers (10.8 miles) of climbing with a total elevation gain of 1268 meters (4160 feet). The highest mountain pass in the central Pyrenees, the Tourmalet torments riders with pitches of over ten percent along its average 7.4-percent gradient. The fifty-first time this climb has been involved in the Tour de France, today's stage saw its requisite virtue among the riders as the fight for the summit began.
Remy Di Gregorio sprang from the bunch and quickly gained a half-minute jump on his breakaway companions. With a comfortable eight minutes on the peloton, Di Gregorio was looking to make a name for himself by taking the first hors-categorie (beyond distinction) climb of the 2008 Tour de France. As Di Gregorio soloed to the summit victory ahead of the chase group of six, the peloton was being splintered by the slopes. Saunier Duval and Team CSC were locked in a battle to gain time. Valverde dropped back, forty seconds behind at the summit of the Tourmalet. CSC, having pulled back Cancellara into the fold, was driving the remnants of the peloton down the descent and through the flats to the final climb at Hautacam. Di Gregorio hit the slopes of Hautacam with only a forty-second advantage.
With fourteen kilometers of climbing ahead, the lead looked precarious at best. Frank Schleck (Team CSC) put in the first attack on the climb, putting pressure on countryman and yellow jersey Kim Kirchen (Columbia). By now the remnants of the day's breakaway were far behind, Di Gregorio finally cracking after struggling to stay clear. One by one the riders dropped off. Piepoli and Cobo (Saunier Duval) joined forces with Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R) and Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) and the five integrated to put pressure on Cadel Evans and the rest of the contenders behind. The gap quickly grew to a half-minute on the pitches. Evans and Ricco both tried to spring forth from the second chase group but to no avail.
Cobo attacked, only to be pulled back by Schleck -- who himself was marked by Cobo's teammate Piepoli. Efimkin and Kohl soon lost the pace. Five minutes from the summit, maillot jaune Kirchen had all but lost his lead, now two minutes behild Evans and further back from Schleck. The rider from Luxembourg was himself making a serious bid on the yellow jersey. It would come down to where Schleck finished in rellation to the favored Aussie. The three leaders continued to put time into Evans and the remainder of the chase, who were themselves blistering up the climb driven by Evans, who could smell yellow at the summit. Schleck continued onward, but with three kilometers left he was dropped by the Saunier Duval pair. Cobo and Piepoli continued to the top, Schleck struggling alone to reach the top and put in enough time to take the jersey. He crossed twenty-eight seconds behind the winners.
Now Evans was driving the pace. The mark was set -- he would have to finish within 1:50 of Schleck's time to take the jersey. Otherwise the yellow would pass to the CSC rider. The final meters continued to pass by, the fans lining the narrow mountain roads in droves to catch a glimpse of the riders toiling upward. The finish line neared. 1:38... 1:39... 1:40... and then, as the seconds ticked by, Ricco crossed the line first from the group, setting their time at 2:17 back of stage winner Piepoli... and 1:49 behind Schleck. Evans, the favorite who began the stage mere seconds from the yellow jersey, was now taking over the hot seat with even less of a time cushion. Friere padded his lead in the green jersey competition; multiple-stage winner Riccardo Ricco took over both the white jersey of the best young rider as well as the polka-dots of the King of the Mountains. But the biggest celebration still held for the man who took second last year...
This could easily prove decisive. It is a mere second, certainly. But of the three previous stage finishes ever contested at Hautacam, the man wearing yellow at the end of the day has worn yellow all the way to Paris. There is still a lot of racing left before anointing the Aussie, but this could very easily be the springboard he needs to become the first from his country to win the Tour de France. Coming out of tomorrow's rest day into the finaly Pyrenean stage on Wednesday, we will surely either see Silence-Lotto taking over the peloton, or Team CSC will come forth with all-out blistering attacks in support of their man only a second back... either way it should be one interesting time!
Results - Stage 10
- Leonardo Piepoli (ITA) Saunier Duval -- 4.19.27 (36.08 km/h)
- Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) Saunier Duval
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +0.28
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- +1.06
- Vladimir Efimkin (RUS) AG2R La Mondiale -- +2.05
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval -- +2.17
- Carlos Sastre (ESP) Team CSC
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto
- Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank
- Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- all s.t.
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 42.29.09
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +0.01
- Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- +0.38
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- +0.46
- Denis Menchov (RUS) Rabobank -- +0.57
- Carlos Sastre (ESP) Team CSC -- +1.28
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +1.56
- Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) Saunier Duval -- +2.10
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval -- +2.29
- Vladimir Efimkin (RUS) AG2R La Mondiale -- +2.32
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank -- 131 pts
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- 124
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 105
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 96
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram -- 92
- Mark Cavendish (GBR) Columbia -- 86
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval -- 85
- Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld -- 82
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 70
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 64
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval-Scott -- 77 pts
- David De La Fuente (ESP) Saunier Duval -- 65
- Sebastian Lang (GER) Gerolsteiner -- 57
- Bernhard Kohl (AUT) Gerolsteiner -- 56
- Frank Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- 46
- Leonardo Piepoli (ITA) Saunier Duval -- 41
- Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) Saunier Duval -- 36
- Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 31
- Cadel Evans (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- 30
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- 30
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval -- 42.31.38
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- +1.49
- Maxime Monfort (BEL) Cofidis -- +4.18
- Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas -- +4.31
- Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +6.05
- Eduardo Gonzalo (ESP) Agritubel -- +15.46
- Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) Columbia -- +26.07
- Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- +34.19
- Remy Di Gregorio (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- +36.46
- Trent Lowe (AUS) Garmin-Chipotle -- +48.37