Can this year’s Tour de France get any more eventful? Well of course it can, but it will be hard to top the first 10 days. My cheeky review of Le Tour continues, and wow what a stage 10 it was in the Vosges mountains. I have worked in sports organisations before, and I am pretty sure that the Tour route planners are a devilish bunch. Is it possible that for Stage 10 they were drinking a little too much cognac and champagne? A stage with four category 1 climbs, two category 2 climbs and a category 3 – oh and finishing off with the last 400m at a 20% gradient. As the French say, “c’est fou!”

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Did I mention that the weather was atrocious as well?

El Pistolero Out!

The third major shock exit happened on this stage, El Pistolero – Clentador – Alberto Contador (Tinkhoff-Saxo) crashed spectacularly not once but twice. And contrary to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen’s commentary during the race it was not due to failure of his Specialized bike frame. The riders around Alberto said he was taking risks on the downhill descents, dangerous risks. But I will call it what it is, bike racing at its toughest.

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As you have probably figured out I am not a big fan of Alberto due to part of his dubious past which no doubt was influenced by his team management at the time (Bruyneel et al). But he earned my mega respect by the huge demonstration of Rule #5. He broke his leg in the second crash, then got patched up, back on the bike and rode another 20km uphill to try and get back into the peloton. Alberto showed everybody how to HTFU! Maybe Arjen Robben and many other star players in the Football world can take a lesson or two from a tiny Spaniard.

Robben Falls

Alas Clentador had to pull out and join The Manx Missile and Froome-dog on the couch watching the SBS coverage of La Grande Boucle.

Races within a Race

This stage had action all around independent of Alberto’s troubles. The Panzerwagen (Tony Martin – Omega-Pharma-Quickstep), backed up his huge efforts from the day before to play domestique for his team’s Polish young gun, The Flowerman (Michal Kwiatkowski) – who went on the attack! The Flowerman tried to stick it to the Shark, but it was not to be his day. His breakaway group also contained The Terminator (Peter Sagan) who all but wrapped up the Maillot Vert sprint competition by scoring maximum points on the first intermediate sprint. This all but guarantees him taking a position on the podium on the Champs-Élysées. Then the action kicked off in the Polka Dot competition with Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha) punching it out with the Gurning Champ (Thomas Voeckler – Europcar) on a number of the climbs. Purito came third last year but is out of contention this year after a poor start, so he is ferociously chasing another jersey. I have never seen uphill sprinting of this nature before – awesome!

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But ultimately the day belonged to the Shark (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) who grabbed the stage by the horns and hammered past everyone. In a post race interview, Purito claimed that it was like he was overtaken by an aeroplane, such was the force of the overtaking manoeuvre.

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A warning to the Shark – your chasers are not far behind, this race is far from over. Porte, Van Garderen, Pinot, Bardet, Valverde were all less than 30 seconds behind him. The Pit Bull (Talansky – Garmin Sharp) crashed several times on the stage and is now out of overall contention. This year’s race has become a real battle of attrition. With the big Alpes and Pyrenees climbs looming there is more action to come – and I am loving it!

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

The whole peloton should be given a cement milkshake after this stage going into the rest day, but we have to be judicious.

5pts – The Shark, who grabbed the bit between the teeth and hammered.

4pts – Panzerwagen, backing up for the second day in a row with a phenomenal display of power and sacrifice.

3pts – Voeckler and Purito, for battling it out in appalling conditions chasing the polka dots.

3pts – Clentador, for racing, crashing, getting back on the bike, and riding another 20km with a busted leg – respect

1pt – Flowerman, going on the attack even though it was futile.

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel) Bideau, and Fuglsang

3pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Chameleon (Di Marchi), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – now DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – Edet, Van Garderen, , Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 10 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 10 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 10

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.