Sergio Paulinho of RadioShack took the sprint by a tyre's width from Vasil Kiryienka of Caisse d’Epargne, the sole survivors of a six man break that escaped 40 minutes into today's Stage 10 of the Tour de France in Gap this afternoon as French fans faced another year without a Bastille Day winner, the last being David Moncoutie in 2005.
The last time the Tour de France headed into Gap, in 2003, provided one of the most memorable moments of Lance Armstrong’s seven-year reign, when on the day’s final descent from La Rochette, he had to resort to cyclocross skills to avoid the crashed Josep Beloki, riding off the road and into a field to rejoin the race as it came off a hairpin bend.
With the peloton taking things very gingerly on some scary descents - many riders still bearing the cuts and bruises, not to mention broken bones, of the first ten days' racing - there was no such drama today, a rarity in this year’s edition of the Tour.
Early attempts to get off the front of the race after the commissaire waved the flag to start the race proper outside Chambery were quickly chased down as the peloton rode the opening kilometers at a fair old clip as it headed towards an intermediate sprint 20km into the stage.
That was taken by Lampre-Farnese Vini’s Alessandro Petacchi from points classification leader Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam with Robbie McEwen of Katusha third.
Finally, coming up to 40km into the stage, a quartet of riders – Sergio Paulinho of RadioShack, Mario Aerts from Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step’s Dries Devenyns and Vasil Kiryienka of Caisse d’Epargne – attacked and succeeded in quickly building a gap of a minute, at which point it seemed as though the rest of the riders decided to give themselves a day off after the exertions of the previous two stages in the high mountains.
All except two, that is. With this being Bastille Day, the idea of a day-long breakaway with no French representation was unthinkable, particularly since the race was due to pass under the watchful gaze of a huge statue of Napoleon on horseback – the emperor had followed these roads, now called la Route Napoléon, on his return from exile on Elba ahead of the ill-starred Waterloo campaign.
Accordingly, two home riders, Pierre Rolland of Bbox Bouygues Telecom and Maxime Bouet of AG2R-La Mondiale, shot up the road after the escapees, presumably with shouts of “Pour la Patrie!” ringing in their earpieces from the radios back in the team cars, and bridged the gap to the break ahead of the day’s most taxing climb, the Category 1 Cote de Laffrey.
By the time the day’s final, unclassified, climb came, less than 20km from the stage finish, Bouet had been dropped, with Rolland now the sole representative of French hopes for a home win on the Fete Nationale, but he too struggled as first Aerts, then Devenyns attacked, but neither had the legs and in the end it was Kiryienka and Paulinho who were left to fight it out on the final descent into Gap.
The main bunch came in 14 minutes 19 seconds after the winner, and was headed by Cavendish who outsprinted Petacchi and Hushovd to finish ninth, giving him an outside chance of winning the points competition, although the fact he didn't contest the day's opening sprint suggests that stage wins may be his priority.
Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, the two riders battling it out for the maillot jaune, came in just behind the sprinters on a day when the only change to the top of the GC was AG2R-La Mondiale's Nicolas Roche breaking off the front of the bunch on the final climb to claim seventh on the stage and move up to 13th overall.
Top 20 Tour de France 2010 Stage 10
1. PAULINHO Sergio TEAM RADIOSHACK 5h 10' 56" 2. KIRYIENKA Vasil CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 00' 00" 3. DEVENYNS Dries QUICK STEP + 01' 29" 4. ROLLAND Pierre BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 01' 29" 5. AERTS Mario OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 01' 33" 6. BOUET Maxime AG2R LA MONDIALE + 03' 20" 7. ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 12' 58" 8. PAURIOL Rémi COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 13' 57" 9. CAVENDISH Mark TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA + 14' 19" 10. PETACCHI Alessandro LAMPRE - FARNESE + 14' 19" 11. HUSHOVD Thor CERVELO TEST TEAM + 14' 19" 12. MC EWEN Robbie TEAM KATUSHA + 14' 19" 13. MONDORY Lloyd AG2R LA MONDIALE + 14' 19" 14. TURGOT Sébastien BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM + 14' 19" 15. ROJAS Jose Joaquin CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 14' 19" 16. LANG Sebastian OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 14' 19" 17. ROELANDTS Jürgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 14' 19" 18. KOREN Kristjan LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 14' 19" 19. MONIER Damien COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 14' 19" 20. BRESCHEL Matti TEAM SAXO BANK + 14' 19
Top 20 on General Classification after Stage 10
1. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK 49h 00' 56" 2. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 41" 3. SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 02' 45" 4. MENCHOV Denis RABOBANK + 02' 58" 5. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 03' 31" 6. LEIPHEIMER Levi TEAM RADIOSHACK + 03' 59" 7. GESINK Robert RABOBANK + 04' 22" 8. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon CAISSE D’EPARGNE + 04' 41" 9. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin TEAM KATUSHA + 05' 08" 10. BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 05' 09" 11. KREUZIGER Roman LIQUIGAS-DOIMO + 05' 11" 12. HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN - TRANSITIONS + 05' 42" 13. ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE + 06' 23" 14. VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 06' 31" 15. ROGERS Michael TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA + 07' 04" 16. SASTRE Carlos CERVELO TEST TEAM + 07' 13" 17. WIGGINS Bradley SKY PRO CYCLING + 07' 18" 18. EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 07' 47" 19. LÖVKVIST Thomas SKY PRO CYCLING + 08' 03" 20. KLÖDEN Andréas TEAM RADIOSHACK + 09' 05"
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.