Today it’s a rest day on the tour, and most riders deserve it (c’mon Evans, stop being a wheel hugger and ATTACK!) so let’s do a fun recap!
This years tour was the most open tour in an incredibly long time, there was only one man here to defend his jersey (Juan Mauricio Soler, last years KoM from team Barloworld). Pre-race favourites for the GC win were Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans (riding with the #1 as he came second last year), Frank Schleck, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov.
A dramatic crash involving Soler in the opening stage put him into question after he aggravated a wrist injury (and possibly broke it again), and Valverde gave us a spectacular win to take the yellow jersey on day one – he was looking good… it was Thor Hushovd’s turn the next day to take a stage and it seemed like we were back in familiar territory with the big man from Norway reminding us he’s still one of the best, Valverde kept his yellow jersey. Stage 3 was a long flat stage that would suit the sprinters – we were expecting to see Thor Hushovd or Robbie McEwan take the stage but a French rider by the name of Samuel Dumoulin had other ideas. One of the white jersey competitors Romain Feillu took the yellow jersey with Valverde 1min 45 seconds down on the overall race lead.
The next stage was another flat one and all eyes again turned to the sprinters, could Hushovd make it a double? Sadly not, and it was another young rider Stefan Schmacher who blasted the competition to take the stage and the yellow jersey off Feillu! On stage 5 the tour became even more open as we said goodbye to last years King of the Mountains winner, Juan Mauricio Soler who after sustaining nasty injuries on stage hadn’t really been a contender this year. It wasn’t all doom though as the young British rider Mark Cavendish proved he had legs and lived up to his reputation as the fastest rider in the world at the moment to take his maiden stage win, making him the youngest rider ever… Schmacher was able to retain his hold on the yellow jersey with another British rider, David Millar, sitting in third position.
We started hitting the mountains in Stage 6 which was unfortunate for Mark Cavendish as after his spectacular stage win was forced to slog it out for a day without a chance of winning. There was drama in the final climb to the finish when Schmacher touched the wheel of his closets rival Kim Kirchen and crashed 3km from the end, sadly as it was an uphill finish the 3km rule didn’t apply and he missed out on keeping his yellow which by a trick of irony went to Kim Kirchen – Riccardo Ricco impressed everyone by taking the stage and marking him out to be a rider to watch later in the mountains, Valverde came in second and looked to be in good form.
Staying in the mountains with stage 7 we said goodbye to Christophe Moreau without a reason really but there was drama at the end of the race when we had the first positive drugs test of the tour, some people have linked this to why Moreau abandoned as apparently there are nine other riders with suspicious blood levels. The events of after the race did rather overshadow the events of the day with Luis-Leon Sanchez taking the stage win and Kim Kirchen retaining his yellow. Sadly David Millar missed out on his chance of gaining yellow and slipped down the rankings… Cadel Evans was proving to be unexciting and needed to do something really specacular it he was going to take the lead.
Stage 8 was another tough day with a few category climbs but with a downhill finish – Mark Cavendish pulled something out of the bag and went on to take his second stage win, making him not only the youngest rider to win stages in the tour but the first British rider to take two stages in the same year. Predictably most of the big names sat back and took it easy, preparing themselves for the two gruelling mountain stages to come. Kim Kirchen retained his jersey with Cadel Evans in second place, Valverde slipped down the rankings and definitely needed to do something big.
There was a bit of a shock on stage 9 when Cadel Evans took a nasty tumble injuring his left shoulder. He struggled through though to see Ricccardo Ricco take his second stage victory, could he make it tomorrow with the massive climb up the Col de Tourmalet where he would face stiff competition from Ajeandro Valverde, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov. Silence-Lotto were confident that Evans would be fine and after the race doctor confirmed that his shoulder wasn’t broken (but badly hurt) everything was go for stage 10.
Mark Cavendish suffered a slight set back as he crashed early in the stage but all was well and he climbed back onto the bike. Ever since his second stage win the question had been asked: would he’d stay and slog it out in the mountains to try to take some of the later sprinter-friendly stages or would he leave early to start his preparations with the Olympic team? After his fall he might change his decision but for now he’s staying with the tour. Cadel Evans kept his team at the front of the race working hard despite the pain and the obvious blood seeping through his jeresy, barring anything major he would be the likely overall leader by the end of the race as Kim Kirchen struggled to hang on to his six second lead over Evans. Evans closest rival for yellow, Valverde, broke and was dropped by the peloton, as was Carlos Sastre. Despite the strength of Evans and his team they couldn’t quite keep up with the man out in front, Leonardo Piepoli who went on to take the stage and as predicted Evans took the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
With the demise of Valverde and Sastre in the mountains it looks more than likely that Evans will be wearing that yellow jersey once they reach Paris in 11 stages time, however Frank Schleck is only one second behind him and Denis Menchov is only 57s behind. To keep that yellow jersey Evans needs to attack and attack often.
King of the Mountains
| 1. Cadel Evans 42h 29′ 09″
|| 1. Oscar Freire 131pts
|| 1. Riccardo Ricco 77pts
|| 1. Riccardo Ricco 42h 31′ 38″
| 2. Frank Schleck + 00′ 01″
|| 2. Kim Kirchen 124pts
|| 2. David de la Fuente 65pts
|| 2. Vincenzo Nibali + 01′ 49″
| 3. Christian Vandevelde + 00′ 38″
|| 3. Thor Hushovd 105pts
|| 3. Sebastian Lang 57pts
|| 3. Maxime Monfort + 04′ 18″
| 4. Bernhard Kohl + 00′ 46″
|| 4. Alejandro Valverde 96pts
|| 4. Bernhard Kohl 56pts
|| 4. Roman Kreuziger + 04′ 31″
| 5. Denis Menchov + 00′ 57″
|| 5. Erik Zabel 92pts
|| 5. Frank Schleck 46pts
|| 5. Andy Schleck + 06′ 05″