The first day back after the rest day in the 2011 Tour de France was a gentle 158km jaunt from Aurillac to Carmaux.
The stage consisted of four classified climbs—two Category three and two Category four—most crucially a Category four climb about 20km from the end, which was used to try to break the dominance of Mark Cavendish.
The stage underlined how important a coherent team is, particularly to a top sprinter on a relatively flat stage.
Omega Pharma-Lotto chose the final to attack as a team to attempt to lose sprinters—particularly Cavendish—who will be challenging to get the green jersey off Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert himself took the opportunity to launch an attack off the front of the bunch.
Gilbert was joined by yellow jersey holder Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), Dries Devenyn (Quick Step) and Tony Martin (HTC), but the quality of the group made it a break that the peloton was never going to allow to succeed.
The HTC team took control of the race and dragged the peloton back to catch Gilbert with just under 5km to go, keeping the tempo high enough to catch any of the mini-breaks that tried their luck after that.
Sadly, however, the effort involved in catching Gilbert and Co. proved too much for HTC, which destroyed the highly polished lead-out train for Cavendish, leaving the Manx Missile to deliver himself into a position to challenge for the stage win.
Amazingly, Cavendish found himself second-wheel with 300 metres to race and paved the way for the grudge match between Cavendish and former teammate Andre Greipel from Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Greipel claimed the victory by half a wheel, and it heightened the well-established personal animosity between him and Cavendish, whose presence at HTC kept Greipel out of the Tour for years.
Today’s stage was thankfully free of the carnage and crashes that have been the hallmark of the Tour so far and did little to affect the overall standings in any of the jersey classifications.
It also marked a successful return to the race for Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland, who were involved in the horrific crash with the TV car on Stage 9. Hoogerland has developed a cult status amongst cycling fans everywhere for his courage in riding with his horrible injuries.
Tomorrow is the last chance for the sprinters to accumulate points before the pain of three days in the mountains begins on Thursday with three brutal climbs.
The 2011 Tour is just getting started.
Standings and jersey holders courtesy www.letour.fr the official site of The Tour de France.
Jersey holders after Stage 10
|181||VOECKLER Thomas||TEAM EUROPCAR||42h 06' 32"|
|32||GILBERT Philippe||OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO||226 pts|
|204||HOOGERLAND Johnny||VACANSOLEIL-DCM||22 pts|
|41||GESINK Robert||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||42h 10' 33"|
|TEAM EUROPCAR||125h 37' 34"|
Standings after Stage 10
|1.||VOECKLER Thomas||181||TEAM EUROPCAR||42h 06' 32"|
|2.||SANCHEZ Luis-Leon||47||RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM||42h 08' 21"||+ 01' 49"|
|3.||EVANS Cadel||141||BMC RACING TEAM||42h 08' 58"||+ 02' 26"|
|4.||SCHLECK Frank||18||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||42h 09' 01"||+ 02' 29"|
|5.||SCHLECK Andy||11||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||42h 09' 09"||+ 02' 37"|
|6.||MARTIN Tony||175||HTC - HIGHROAD||42h 09' 10"||+ 02' 38"|
|7.||VELITS Peter||179||HTC - HIGHROAD||42h 09' 10"||+ 02' 38"|
|8.||KLÖDEN Andréas||74||TEAM RADIOSHACK||42h 09' 15"||+ 02' 43"|
|9.||GILBERT Philippe||32||OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO||42h 09' 27"||+ 02' 55"|
|10.||FUGLSANG Jakob||13||TEAM LEOPARD-TREK||42h 09' 40"||+ 03' 08"|