Sandy Casar (FDJ) claimed his country's third stage win at the Tour de France as he outsprinted Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. It was the second time Casar has stood atop a Tour podium, the only other time being in 2007 in Angoulême after stage 18 although he's had a number of close calls.
"This morning, I wanted something out of this stage", Casar said after the race. "Usually when a stage starts from Morzine, the first breakaway isn't the right one but still, I went and I didn't regret it.
"We never got much time over the Tour favourites. I was struggling on the last climb but when I got back on, I thought nobody could beat me. I had seen the profile of the finish on the race manual, so I knew about the left hand curve at the end. I didn't want to get trapped like two years ago when I lost to Cyril Dessel in Jausiers."
"It's fantastic for French cycling to have three stage wins out of nine stages and there might be more to come," said Tour director Christian Prudhomme. "Casar has been so often second. He hangs on all the time. I'm delighted with all of what happened in today's stage."
Casar came second twice in last year's Tour, but he was actually named the winner of stage 16 in Bourg-Saint-Maurice after the disqualification of Mikel Astarloza who tested positive and whose results were subsequently nullified.
In 2008, Jausiers was a village at the bottom of the col de la Bonnette, which is Europe's highest pass. In 2009, the finish in Bourg-Saint-Maurice was located after the downhill of the col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. Today's finale was the descent of the col de la Madeleine towards Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. "In uphill finishes, I can't stay with the best climbers", the Frenchman said.
"Initially I was here for GC as well", added the FDJ rider who came 11th at the Tour last year. "I suffered during the first week. Maybe it hasn't been seen on TV but it was a very hard and nervous first week and it was hot for the first time of the year. We didn't race in the heat in May and June."
He opened the sprint the same way he did when he won stage 18 in Angoulême in 2007. That day, the recorded TV images made him famous because of the crash he sustained earlier in the stage when a dog crossed the road in front of his breakaway group.
"When I'm close to winning, I always think of my dad who would have told me: with 200 metres to go, you start sprinting. My dad was a sprinter."
André Casar passed away during the 2004 world championship and Sandy was asked to stop the race. Since then, he has performed every year at the Tour de France except in 2006 when he didn't recover from his 6th place overall at the Giro d'Italia.