Tourmalet fails to shake GC

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) looks relaxed before the start of stage five.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) looks relaxed before the start of stage five. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Sunday’s third day in the Pyrenees was similar to Saturday’s second, with no shake-up of the overall classification, despite the route featuring some major climbs.

While the Col du Tourmalet has traditionally been one of the Tour’s battlegrounds, on Sunday’s tenth stage it was inconsequential – apart from to give the riders sore legs. With a run-in of 70km to the finish, the climb was effectively neutralised – there was little point in a climber such as Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) launching an attack, and giving the thousands of fans the spectacle they craved.

It begged the question: what was the point? Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream), who maintained his eighth place overall, seemed to agree. "A 25mph average for a stage that included the Tourmalet?" he said. "It’s weird.

"You still suffer up the Tourmalet," he added, "but it was a strange day, very strange."

As for the organisers’ motives in featuring such classic climbs so far from the finish, Vande Velde speculated: "I think they wanted to get in these climbs without making it a pure climbers’ race, because they’ve made the third week so heavy. I think they feel obliged to do these Pyrenean stages, to put in the mountains but with no mountain top finish… but it is weird."

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Richard Moore is a freelance journalist and author. His first book, In Search of Robert Millar (HarperSport), won Best Biography at the 2008 British Sports Book Awards. His second book, Heroes, Villains & Velodromes (HarperSport), was long-listed for the 2008 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

He writes on sport, specialising in cycling, and is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews, the Guardian,, the Scotsman and Procycling magazine.

He is also a former racing cyclist who represented Scotland at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the 1998 Tour de Langkawi

His next book, Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France, will be published by Yellow Jersey in May 2011.

Another book, Sky’s the Limit: British Cycling’s Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, will also be published by HarperSport in June 2011.