Andre Greipel of Omega Pharma-Lotto finally got the better of former team mate Mark Cavendish to win Stage 10 of the Tour de France in Carmaux this afternoon on a day on which the focus was firmly on exciting racing following the dramatic crashes of the race's opening week. The German came of out the HTC-Highroad rider's slipstream to clinch the win by the width of a wheel, with Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rojas third. Europcar's Thomas Voeckler retains the overall lead.
Prior to last year's race, harsh words had been exchanged between the pair as Greipel insisted that he had shown better early season form than his then colleague, with Cavendish responding by taking five stage wins after he secured the selection. Greipel left to join Omega Pharma-Lotto at the end of the season, but it's only in the Tour de France that the pair have finally gone head to head in earnest.
On Friday’s Stage 8 in Chateauroux, it had been Cavendish who outsprinted Greipel to the line at the place where the Manxman got his first Tour de France stage in 2008, but today it was the German who was celebrating his maiden win in cycling’s biggest race.
In the process, Greipel, who hails from the same former East German city, Rostock, as 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, gave himself an early birthday present – he turns 29 on Saturday.
In winning today's stage, he also becomes the latest member of the club of riders to have won a stage in all three Grand Tours, something Cavendish achieved last September when he succeeded his former team mate to the points jersey in the Vuelta.
Greipel’s victory followed a thrilling day’s racing that included an attack from maillot jaune Voeckler on the day’s final climb, the Category 4 Cote de Mirandol Bourgnounac, crested 15km from the end of the 158km stage that had got under way in Aurillac.
On that final climb, a five man escape group that had got away early in the stage was swallowed up, but not before Vacansoleil-DCM’s Marco Marcato had done enough to bag himself the day’s combativity prize.
The Italian was the sole non-Frenchman in that group, which also comprised Remi Di Gregorio of Astana, AG2R’s Sebastien Minard Arthur Vichot from FDJ, Julien El Fares of Cofidis and Saur Sojasun’s Anthony Delaplace, the youngest rider in the race.
Vichot was the first rider over the line at the day's intermediate sprint, and behind it was Cavendish who led the peloton across in seventh place, although Rojas protested that the HTC-Highroad rider had taken his line. Philippe Gilbert still leads the points competition on 226 points, with Rojas second on 209, but Cavendish, who lies third, made up some ground on the pair today, taking his haul to 197 points.
At the rear of the peloton, a number of riders were struggling with the pace being set as the road headed uphill on that last ascent. Unsurprisingly those in trouble included sprinters such as Garmin Cervelo’s Tyler Farrar and Lampre-ISD’s Alessandro Petacchi, but AG2R’s John Gadret was also among those suffering on the climb as the peloton was split apart.
Up ahead, Voeckler attacked to clinch the solitary mountain point on offer, Gilbert in the green jersey going with him as well as Quick Step’s Dries Devenyns, Tony Gallopin of Cofidis and HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin to form a select group at the front of the race.
The latter initially seemed reluctant to join the attack as he anxiously looked round at the bunch behind him, presumably to try and pick out which of his team mates – including Cavendish, of course – were there, but clearly got the word to go from his directeurs sportifs as he put his head down and bridged across.
With a little over 7km to go, as a regrouped main bunch of 50 or 60 riders looked set to make the catch, Gilbert dug in deep to go off the front again, getting a lead of around a quarter of a minute. However, the points classification leader was brought back just after passing beneath the 5km to go banner as the main group, with HTC-Highroad to the fore, swept past.
Still the attacks came as a succession of riders sought to get clear of the peloton, including one launched 2.5km out by Garmin-Cervelo’s David Millar, but the sprinters were not to be denied ahead of the twisting and turning finale.
Meanwhile Thor Hushovd was back in the rainbow jersey for the first time since the opening day after spending the past week in the race leader’s maillot jaune, which he lost to Voeckler on Sunday’s incident-packed stage.The Norwegian, like Omega Pharma Lotto’s Gilbert, is rumoured to be heading to BMC Racing for next season.
Today, however, the world champion proved himself to be a consummate team player, weaving his way back through the peloton with water bottles for his Garmin Cervelo colleagues after dropping back to the team car to have his shoe adjusted.
Early on in today’s stage, a crash saw a number of riders including Rabobank’s Robert Gesink hit the deck, but thankfully all of those involved were able to continue.
Two riders didn’t start the stage, however – Katusha’s Alexander Koolobnev, revealed yesterday evening to have failed a drugs test last Wednesday, and RadioShack’s Yaroslav Popovych, who is suffering from a fever.
Tour de France Stage 10 Result 1 GREIPEL André OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 3h 31' 21" 2 CAVENDISH Mark HTC - HIGHROAD All at same time 3 ROJAS Jose Joaquin MOVISTAR TEAM 4 HUSHOVD Thor GARMIN - CERVELO 5 FEILLU Romain VACANSOLEIL-DCM 6 OSS Daniel LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 7 HINAULT Sébastien AG2R LA MONDIALE 8 BOZIC Borut VACANSOLEIL-DCM 9 THOMAS Geraint SKY PROCYCLING 10 DUMOULIN Samuel COFIDIS 11 BONNET William FDJ 12 VAITKUS Tomas ASTANA 13 BOLE Grega LAMPRE - ISD 14 GILBERT Philippe OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 15 HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PROCYCLING 16 HONDO Danilo LAMPRE - ISD 17 MEERSMAN Gianni FDJ 18 PEREZ LEZAUN Alan EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 19 ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE 20 DE WEERT Kevin QUICK STEP Tour de France Overall Standings after Stage 10 1 VOECKLER Thomas EUROPCAR 42h 06' 32" 2 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK + 01' 49" 3 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING + 02' 26" 4 SCHLECK Frank LEOPARD-TREK + 02' 29" 5 SCHLECK Andy LEOPARD-TREK + 02' 37" 6 MARTIN Tony HTC - HIGHROAD + 02' 38" 7 VELITS Peter HTC - HIGHROAD + 02' 38" 8 KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK + 02' 43" 9 GILBERT Philippe OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 02' 55" 10 FUGLSANG Jakob LEOPARD-TREK + 03' 08"
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.