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Welcome back to the second week of the Tour! We hope you had a nice restful rest day and are ready to take on the next round of stages. as we head towards the Alps. And don't forget, today is Bastille Day, the French national holiday. We will start reporting when the race starts, at 12:30.
The word we are getting right now is that a compromise has been reached on the radio question. No radios will be used today, but they will be allowed on Friday.
Today's stage takes us 194.5 km from Limoges northward to Issoudun. There are three Cat. 4 climbs in the first part of the race, and the rest is quite rolling, although the last 5 km or so are a little less so.
Escape group to the end, or a mass sprint? That is the question today. The rolling profile lends itself perfectly to a break group, and we have certainly seen a number of successful ones this Tour. But it is also one of those stages that the sprinters have cast an eye on, and they don't like to be denied.
The topic of the day, of course, is race radios! The UCI and the ASO decided to do without them today, against the protest of teams and riders. Despite petitions and threats, the organisations have decided to go through with it.
Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown was at the start today. There had been light rain earlier, but was dry when the riders took off, he told us. It is cloudy and a little cooler.
Since today is the French national holiday, we can expect to see a lot of people out along the roads, cheering the riders on. And wouldn't they love to have another French winner today? We have already had three so far this Tour.
And who else but a Frenchman opens the attacks today? Thierry Huppond of Skil-Shimano took off only 4km into the race. He was followed by, and then joined by, Benoit Vaugrenard (FdJ) and Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha). They currently have a 25 second lead over Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), who in turn is 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.
Dumoulin has caught the three in the escape group, and the quartet now has a one-minute lead over the peloton.
Jonathan Vaughters of Garmin says this will be a tough one today after the rest day, with all of those ups and downs. But he also sees an escape group getting away until nearly the end, when Mark Cavendish of Columbia will take the sprint win.
On Twitter, Lance Armstrong (Astana) said there was a light drizzle this morning. He also thinks that Mark Cavendish will win today.
The question remains: who do you think will today? You can discuss it to your heart's content at www.forum.cyclingnews.com
One question has been answered: we seem to have our group of the day. The quartet has quickly built up a lead of 3:40.
Limoges is known for its porcelain, and in fact, more than half the porcelain made in France is made here. But the city is also known for its oak barrels, which are used in the production of cognac.
What are we going to eat in this region? Beef, and lots of it. But there is also an intriguing local specialty, violet mustard. No, it is not made from those little purple flowers, but apparently it does have that colour. It is made of frehsly pressed red grape juice and freshly ground mustard seeds.
We already have the first two climbs behind us. Today's first climb came quite early, at km. 12.5. The Cote de Salvanet, Cat. 4, features a 1.8 km climb with a gradient up to 4.5%. The points went to Ignatiev, followed by Hupond and Vaugrenard.
The Cote de Saint-Laurent-les-Eglises was the second Cat. 4 mountain of the day. It is 2km long with a gradient up to 5.3%. And the points went in the same order as the first.
Our lead group has three Frenchmen in it, appropriate for the French national holiday. And in honour thereof, the only non-French rider, Russian Ignatiev, is letting the other three do all the lead work.
Behind them, Rabobank, Quick Step and Ag2r are leading the peloton, 3:20 back.
As we said earlier, the peloton is riding without radios today, but will be allowed to use them on Friday. Actually they are riding with radios today, but can only communicate with the race commissionaires, not with their team cars. The teams had sought a compromise for today, so that two riders per team would be allowed to have radio contact with their team car, but that was rejected.
The whole radio question is very controversial, and we will look at some of the teams' and riders' opinions on the matter.
Christian Henn, Directeur Sportif at Milram, protested the decision, saying, “We have to defend ourselves. I would say, the teams have the power here.”
We had a number of successful breakaways the first week of the Tour, that is, breaks that got through to the end for the win. The peloton doesn't seem to want that today, so they are keeping a tight rein on the leadqing quartet and have even pulled them back to under three minutes.
The teams and riders see the radio quesion s as a safety issue. “You really have to think about whether you want to say we will make the race exciting at the cost of safety. Then we could just as well take the brakes off the bikes,” said former rider Rolf Aldag, now Sport Director at Columbia.
Milram's Linus Gerdemann saw a different difficulty: “If you have a mechanical problem, then you might stand on the side of the road and the material wagon could drive right by without seeing you.”
Not only are there three climbs today, there are also three intermediate sprints. We just passed the first of them, with Dumoulin taking the glory, followed by Hupond and Vaugrenard.
Jens Voigt of Saxo Bank, who is always good for a quote, didn't mince his words on the matter. “That is simply nonsense. What will happen next? Shall we ride for two days without a helmet, just because it might be funny?”
The gap is starting to creep up again, over three minutes. The peloton is now being led by Milram and Ag2r, and the lead drops again to three minutes.
What do riders do if they need to talk to their DS and don't have a radio? They fall back to the car for a chat, and that is just what Armstrong just did. His comment on the radio ban: “Then we can just ride with woolen jerseys and a tire around our necks, like in the old days.”
Ignatiev is really not pulling his weight in the escape group, as he has done only two percent of the lead work. The other three are sharing the work more or less equally. Looks like Katusha doesn't think the group will come through.
Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) has punctured. Meanwhile the gap is down to 2:30.
Bjarne Riis, head of Team Saxo Bank, didn't look to be willing to take things lying down. “What will they do if we do use the radios? Take us out of the race? Then they will ride into Paris with five teams.”
Hupond was the next one to have a mechanical, but help was quickly at hand and he is back with his escape companions.
If the teams do use the race radios today against the will of the organisers, they would face fines from70 to 70,000 Euros. And, yes, being thrown out of the race is also an option.
The newest trend seems to be having personalized bikes these days. Cadel Evans celebrates Tibet, Alessandro Ballan sports the rainbow stripes, and Armstrong has custom colours and designs, too, of course. Look here and read about it: www.cyclingnews.com/reviews/tour-tech-custom-bikes-for-almost-everyone
We have also passed the third mountain ranking today, without really noticing it. Hupond was the first one over, followed by Vaugrenard and Dumoulin.
The gap has creeped up to slightly over three minutes, but the peloton is not worried. In fact, a number of them decide to take a nature break.
Ignatiev continues to hang on to the end of the group, as the gap goes up to 3:21.
A herd of cows pointedly ignores the peloton as it rushes by.
Thor Hushovd of Cervelo is now wearing the green jersey and expects to hold on to it. Not only does he think his team is strongest, he says that Columbia is showing signs of weakness now. You can read more about it here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/hushovd-focused-on-green-sees-sprint-chance-for-stage-10
We have a gray, overcast day, but it is staying dry.
Mark Cavendish has joined the Air Force! Not the Royal Air Force, but the Sprint Air Force. Read more about his bike at: www.cyclingnews.com/reviews/tour-de-france-tech-look-good-feel-good-go-fast
A number of teams are sharing the lead work in the peloton. Milram, Quick Step, Caisse d'Epargne, Astana, and Ag2r all have one rider up there. And the gap has crawled down again to 2:44.
After yesterday's day of rest, no doubt everyone has forgotten who is leading what ranking and wearing which fancy jersey. So let's take a look at all that. We start, of course, with Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r) in the leader's yellow. Alberto Contador (Astana) is second, by six seconds, and Lance Armstrong (Astana) is third, at eight seconds.
Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) has taken over the green jersey, with 117 points. But Columbia's Mark Cavendish is lurking not far behind, with 106 points. Jose Joaquin Rojus Gil of Caisse d'Epargne is third, with 75 points.
And did we say there was no rain? Well, there wasn't then, but there is now. It has started to drizzle again.
The gap is coming down quite a lot, to under two minutes.
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) is wearing polka-dots these days, as he leads the King of the Mountain ranking with 78 points. Christophe Kern of Cofidis is second with 59 points, and Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti third, with 55.
This escape gorup hs never been able to pick up much of a lead. Presumably the peloton decided that without radio it was too dangerous to let them go too far away, and has therefore kept them on a short leash.
Columbia and Quick Step are now at the head of the peloton. It seems to us that those two teams have sprinters who aren't all that bad and who might want to win today....
Best young rider is still Tony Martin of Columbia. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) is second, 49 seconds down, and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas is third, at 54 seconds.
Marzio Bruseghin is multi-tasking. Not only is he leading the peloton, he is stuffing an energy bar into this mouth.
Crash in the mieddle of the peloton. Half a dozen riders go down. Kurt-Asle Arvesen of Saxo Bank is the slowest to get up and seems to have injured a shoulder or collarbone. He is riding again, one-armed.
Arvesen is going along and passes by the race doctor, but the Norwegian doesn't look very happy.
Le Mevel (FdJ) and Danny Pate of Garmin were also involved in the crash, but are ok and back in the pack.
The gap had gotten down to 1:45, but with the crash is back up to 2:30.
We hear that one of the race helicoptors got a bit too low over the peloton, and the riders complained. Possibly the combination of the noise of the helicoptor and the wet road brought about the crash.
Valdimir Efimkin had a mechanical and is now being brought back up to the peloton.
Arvesen is having trouble keeping up with the peloton, and now drops back to the tour doctor. The doctor puts a tablet into the rider's mouth.
Now there's a helpful teammate. The peloton just went through the feed zone. Arvesen can't unpack his lunch bag, so teammie Fabian Cancellara does it for him, passing the items over one by one.
Ag2r managed to wrest the team title away from Astana, but only just. The French team has a three second lead over Bruyneel's boys. Columbia is third, at 4:45.
We have a real contrast in the lead group. Vaurgrenard is 185 cm tall, which means he towers over Dumoulin, who is the smallest in the race at only 159 cm.
The field passes another herd of brown cows, but these bovines decide to run away from the road.
Carlos Sastre of Cervelo would like to win the Tour again this year, but isn't really counting on it. "I think winning the Tour will be complicated for many reasons. One team has absolute control and that takes the show out of the race," said Sastre. You can read more here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/sastre-realistic-about-title-hopes
There is still a long way to go today, but the gap has come down to two minutes.
A group including Hushovd and Carlos Sastre is moving up to catch the peloton. Don't know why they fell back, perhaps another nature break.
Brad Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) last rode the Tour in 2007, when his Team Cofidis withdrew after Christian Moreni tested positive for testosterone. The Briton swore he would never come back to the Tour, but here he is, and doing quite well, as he is currently fifth overall. More about him here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/wiggins-inspired-by-vande-velde
Ignatiev is still not doing any of the lead work. He is not going to win the Mr. Popularity title among the escape group. And the gap is now under two minutes.
Milram hasn't won any stages, but has brought in eight Top Ten placings, which the team finds satisfactory. What they aren't so happy with is captain Linus Gerdemann, who has yet so show much of anything. The German is currently 4:20 down in 24th place. He said, though, that he knew the early part of the race wasn't anything for him. “I will look now that I come across the Alps good. Then I can better define my goals,” he said.
Columbia and Rabobank lead the chase, for their sprinters Cavendish and Freire, as the gap drops to 1:30.
Now here is drama and excitement and wildlife and cycling all mixed in! A group of snails has decided to try to cross the road between the escape group and the peloton. Will they make it?
You will be happy to know that the snails survived. They were clever enough to send one of their kind out ahead, and he had built up a gap of about two inches. That wasn't enough to bring him really on to the road, so the peloton whizzed on by safely, and all the snails can now take their time crossing the road.
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) has finished second in the Tour the last two years and had hoped that this would be his year to stand atop the podium. But after nine stages he is already three minutes down.
"At three minutes back I would say my work is cut out for me. I will need a lot of luck and for the stars to align," Evans said. The rest of the story: www.cyclingnews.com/news/evans-doubts-possibility-of-tour-win
72km still to go and the lead group has taken the second intermediate sprint with a 1:35 lead.
Grischa Niermann of Rabobank conducted his own little protest this morning against the radio ban. He attached a home-made silver antenna to his helmet. “This is my statement on the subject,” he said. “I find it laughable. We don't need to turn back time.”
This is really a rolling but straight road right now. We see a time gap of 1:22, but looks to be smaller than that.
Arvesen falls back to the Saxo Bank team car. He still doesn't look real happy. His next visit is to the tour doctor, who gives hima talking to. He has a big knot visible on his left arm.
Astana is finding it is not easy having to former Tour winners on one team, especially when both want to win again. Contador admits that he and Armstrong aren't best friends. And team manager Bruyneel has indicated both will have their chance to go for the win.
Leipheimer drops back ortto the team car for a chat.
What did the riders to on their day off yesterday? Take a look at some pictures here: www.cyclingnews.com/features/rest-day-gallery-lying-around-in-limoges
Hupond does some fancy leg stretching exercises on his bike.
There's a big disucssion now among the riders at the front of the peloton.
The sun is trying to come out! We can see some faint shadows on the road for the first time today.
Lampre and Rabobank are together leading the peloton, and we must honestly say, that the pink-and-blue and orange-and-blue jerseys clash with one another.
he orange-and-blue jerseys have won the battle, as three Rabobank riders lead the parade now.
Ignatiev drops back to his team car for a talk. But apparently the DS didn't tell him to move into the lead work. He still isn't doing any at all.
And Arvesen is still at the tail end of the peloton.
Milram's Gerald Ciolek is doing a striptease near the end of the peloton. At any rate he has taken his jersey off and is going topless.
Saxo Bank, Ag2R, Columbia, Liquigas and Milram are all near the head of the peloton. And Gourbert of Ag2r has a mechanical.
Whichever Columbia rider is leading the peloton is wearing black socks. We have to think about what we think of this.
Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank still has hopes of winning this race, and hopes to show more in the upcoming Alp stages. “The Alps will be greatly different," he said. "We will see a lot of damage in stage 17 with the Col de Romme and the other four climbs."
He can certainly count on the support of older brother Fränk. "If Andy is going to be strong in the climbs, of course I am going to sacrifice myself. Further than that I would give my life for my family," said Fränk.
More on the Schlecks here: www.cyclingnews.com/news/schleck-the-alps-will-be-a-different-story
It's getting to be time to get down to business here. 32 km left and a gap of 1:05.
ohannes Fröhlinger of Team Milram enjoyed the rest day, especially sleeping late for a change. The young German says he went out for about 50 km with two teammates, but that some from the team didn't ride at all. Writing on radsport-news.com, he said the team was satisfied with all the stages except the team time trial, but is still planning for a stage win at some point.
Ignatiev finally takes a turn at the front, as the lead drops under a minute.
Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigs is looking forwad to the upcoming stages. "It is hard to say which stage [in the Alps] will be the day. You just have to stay attentive and take your moment because in the mountains the team tactics go out the window." More here:www.cyclingnews.com/news/nibali-rested-for-alpine-fight
Filippo Pozzato has joined the topless trend and is showing off his multiple tattooes.
Milram's Niki Terpstra has moved up near the front of the peloton. His teammate Gerald Ciolek must feel up to the sprint today.
Milram's Niki Terpstra has moved up near the front of the peloton. His teammate Gerald Ciolek must feel up to the sprint today.
Terpstra pulls the field along now as the lead drops to 40 seconds.
20 km to go and under 20 seconds. The pace is too high for Arvesen, who drops off the back.
The three Frenchmen in the lead talk to Ignatiev and try to get him to do some more work. They are no doubt very much hoping he won't just take off and waltz away to a solo win, having rested while they worked.
Terpstra still or rather again at the head of the peloton. He obviously went down a few days ago, as he has a rather elaborate series of bandages on his left leg.
The leading quartet gives its all as it tries desperately to preserve its 42 second lead.
The break are holding their advantage at 0:38 with 11km to go
Arvesen tries to catch the field, but continues to dangle just behind it. The rides are heading straight towards some very dark clouds.
The gap has started to tick down in the last kilometre
Only 10 km to go now. The sprinters are gathering near the front of the peloton, as we just saw Cavendish and Boonen move up.
0:30 is the gap as the leaders have 9km to go
Ignatiev moves to the front and may be trying to make a move. So far all four are still together.
Ignatiev leads the breakaway as they have a 0:26 gap with 7km to go
Columbia dominates the head of the peloton, with Chavanel of Quick Step in there, too.
The advantage of the leaders is 0:21 seconds with 6km remaining in stage ten
Garmin forms its train on the right side of the road, hoping to bring Tyler Farrar to victory.
The peloton are having trouble brining the gap below 0:20 as they follow the leaders under the 5km to go banner
The field can now see the escapees, less than 20 seconds away.
Little Sammy Damoulin drives on no doubt inspired by his compatriots lining the road on Bastille day. The gap is 0:14 with 3.5km to go
Ignatiev goes for it, but the other three aren't going to put with that and catch him.
Two km and 10 seconds.
The field poounds away and catches the four escapees.
The Columbia train leads the way in the last km.
Under the red kite
Lots of curves and corners in the finale. Renshaw, Cavendish, Hushovd and Farrar in the lead.
Another win for Cavendish
Renshaw peels off and Cavendish goes for it. Hushovd is unable to come around him. Farrar finishes third.
Big hugs from Cavendish for Renshaw, Tony Martin and the rest of his teammates.
Two and half minutes later, the two former escapees Dumoulin and Vaugrenard finally cross the finish line.
No changes in the overall today.
That was it, for our radio-free race day. Hope you enjoyed it, and of course we hope you join us again tomorrow for Stage 11. Thanks for reading along!