Alexander Kristoff of Katusha, winner of Milan-San Remo in March, has continued his breakthrough season by taking his maiden Tour de France stage in St-Etienne. Peter Sagan of Cannondale, still seekin his first stage win of this year's race, finished second for the fourth time in the 101st edition, with French champion Arnaud Demare of FDJ.fr third. Vincenzo Nibali of Asan retains the race lead.
Within the final kilometres, Lotto-Belisol's Andre Greipel, seeking his second stage win of the race, crashed with Sylvain Chavanel and was clearly blaming the IAM rider afterwards.
Today’s 185.5 kilometre stage from Bourg-en-Bresse had four main climbs, two of them Category 3, the other pair Category four, ahead of an undulating final 7 kilometres to the finish.
In contrast to last week’s wet weather, today for the second day running saw baking temperatures, with the thermometer registering 37 degrees Celsus and race radio warning teams of places on the route where the road surface had melted.
One rider who fell victim to the softened roadtop was NetApp-Endura’s David De La Cruz, a member of the day’s break, out of the race with a suspected broken collarbone after crashing with 92 kilometres left to go.
Also coming down in that crash was Garmin-Sharp’s Sebastian Langeveld, though he was able to carry on and after two other escapees had been dropped paired up with the other survivor from the group, Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Clarke, to head the race as it entered the final 50 kilometres.
Europcar had been active at the front of the bunch, and with 30 kilometres remaining, Perrig Quemeneur and Cyril Gautier attacked at the bottom of the long drag of the Category 4 Col de Grammond.
With Clarke attacking Langeveld, the latter was dropped and then passed by the Europcar pair, who got across to the lone leader.
Entering the final 20 kilometres, however, the leaders’ advantage stood at not much more than half a minute, with the chasing pack, led by Giant-Shimano, determined to avoid a repeat of yesterday when Lotto-Belisol’s Tony Gallopin sealed the win with a late solo attack.
Gautier and Clarke, the final pair out front, were swept up with 5 kilometres remaining as the sprinters’ teams began jostling for position ahead of the finale.
Andrew Talansky of Garmin-Sharp, who battled on yesterday to finish the stage in last place more than half an hour after Gallopin had won it, failed to start this morning, the pain in his lower back making it impossible for him to continue.
Tomorrow, the focus swings back to the General Clasificatiion as the race enters the Alps, where riders including Team Sky’s Richie Porte, second overall, will try to start taking time back from race leader Nibali.
Stage winner Alexander Kristoff
I still believe Milan-San Remo is a bigger win. It's a one-day classic. Here at the Tour there are 21 stages. But I've always dreamt of winning a stage at the Tour de France, so it's the second biggest win of my career today.
I knew this morning there was a possibility to win. Yesterday, I took it easy because I wanted to be in full capacity today. I saved my legs. I tried absolutely nothing yesterday and I still felt good in the climbs today. I never reached my limits.
However, I was a bit nervous before the sprint. I was afraid of being boxed in. In fact, I lost my team-mates Luca Paolini and Alexander Porsev. Many teams tried to go to the front but I realised that Matteo Trentin had the best lead out, so I took his wheel. That was a good move.
I started my sprint exactly where I wanted. I did the right thing. I hope it's crazy in Norway tonight and it's party time in the whole country. It's funny to hear that some people cried, because I didn't cry. It's a good feeling though. I can imagine my family, my friends and other people being happy.
I've been in Norway watching the Tour de France so many times so I know that feeling of watching a Norwegian winning and I'm the only Norwegian in the Tour de France this year. This is the biggest race. It's THE race that everybody knows.
Peter Sagan, leading the points classification, but 2nd today
A lot of riders in the peloton would like to finish second four or five times but I don't. Giant has worked at the front all day. Then my team organised the sprint finish and everything went well until three kilometres to go but Kristoff has done better than me. It seems to being my destiny to come second… but it's all good, I'm here for the green jersey. I might be more tired than the other sprinters who take it easy more often than I do.
Race director Christian Prudhomme, speaking about Andrew Talansky
It was an extraordinary lesson of courage.Andrew Talansky entered in the Tour legend but not the way he had hoped. I still believe that this is going to help him in his career. He showed an out of the ordinary strength of character,
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.