Stage 13 of the 2010 Tour de France, from Rodez to Revel, was one of the last remaining stages that the sprinters could use to boost their points before the caravan hits this year's most difficult stages through the Pyrenees.
The 196km ride through the foothills of the Pyrenees, had a scattering of category three and four climbs, similar in profile to the Stage Two from Brussels to Spa, although the weather was to be significantly better with a mild 24 degrees, no rain and consequently there was nowhere near the carnage.
The General Classification riders were conserving energy ahead of four days of hellish climbs, so a breakaway amongst lower placed riders had a reasonable chance to succeed. Teams Lampre and HTC, however, were keen to chase down any escapees to protect their respective sprinters, Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish, to give them a chance of closing in on current green jersey holder Thor Hushovd.
Nevertheless, a breakaway did form very early, as has been the pattern on this year’s Tour containing the winner of Stage Two, Quickstep’s Sylvain Chavanel, Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha and Pierrick Fedrigo of Bbox. Predictably, the breakaway was swallowed up with 10km to race.
No sooner had the breakaway been caught, than BMC’s Alessandro Ballan took off and went for the stage win. This triggered a series of individual attacks with Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov and Bbox rider Thomas Voeckler all trying their hand.
Lance Armstrong’s terrible Tour continued; this time before the race had even started in the neutral part of the race. He was uninjured, but fell off the back of the peloton as they went over the comparatively gentle category three climb of the Cote de Saint Ferreol
Vinokourov managed to stay away to claim the stage win for his team and make up for some of the pain of being swallowed up by the peloton within sight of the finish of Stage 12. It was an emotional victory for Vino as he managed to exorcise some of the demons that have been following him since his doping conviction.
The predicted bunch sprint still happened, albeit only for second place on the stage, and Cavendish eclipsed Petacchi by over a bike length. Without Mark Renshaw, Cavendish cheekily got on Thor Hushovs’s wheel and used the green jersey holder to lead him to the finish.
The top of the General Classification remains unchanged with Andy Schleck leading Alberto Contador by 31 seconds, but all of that will change over the next four days as the Tour gets down to business through the hellish mountain climbs of the Pyrenees.
Watch this space.
Standings after Stage 13
1. SCHLECK A. 58h 42' 01"
2. CONTADOR A. 00' 31"
3. SANCHEZ S. 02' 45"
4. MENCHOV D. 02' 58"
5. VAN DEN BROECK J. 03' 31"
6. LEIPHEIMER L. 04' 06"
7. GESINK R. 04' 27"
8. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER J. 04' 58"
9. SANCHEZ L. 05' 02"
10. KREUZIGER R. 05' 16"
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