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Tour de France 2011: Stage 8

Stage 8 of the Tour de France, 189km from Aigurande to Super-Besse Sancy.

After the stresses and spills of the opening week in the north west of France, the peloton moves into the Massif Central. Heavy roads and lumpy climbs will carries the riders towards today's final climb, the short, sharp ascent to Super-Besse Sancy (1.5km at 7.6%), where another reshuffling of the deck of overall contenders is anticipated.

The peloton is making its way through the neutralised zone before the flag is dropped on today's action.

189km remaining from 190km

As the race gets underway, we have one pre-stage abandon to catch up on. The unfortunate Chris Horner spent the night in hospital after falling in the finale of yesterday's stage. He suffered a concussion and a broken nose in the fall that saw him cross the line over 12 minutes down, and not surprisingly, the 39-year-old is a non-starter today.

There are 189 riders still in the race at the end of a hectic first week of racing. In recent years, we've grown accustomed to having one or at the most two chaotic days in the opening week, strewn with crashes or echelons. Think Passage du Gois in 1999, Iban Mayo's crash on the cobbles in 2004, the Spa and Arenberg stages last year. But this time around, every day of the first week has seemed like a war of attrition, like the crash-strewn opening days of the 1997 Tour with added echelons. It could take a real toll on the peloton as we head towards the mountains.

185km remaining from 190km

The peloton is clipping along at a decent pace early on. There have been a few tentative attempts at slipping clear, but so far none of the moves have stuck.

One would imagine that a decent-sized break will manage to get away early today, as the big hitters save their legs for the sting in the tail in the closing 30km of the stage. Indeed, we might well get two races for the price of one today, one for the stage up front, and then another battle between the overall contenders on the day's final climbs, the Category 2 Col de la Croix Saint-Robert (6.2km at 6.2%) and the final category 3 haul to Super-Besse Sancy (1.5km at 7.6%).

That said, a break won't get clear until one forms with the right balance of teams and riders who aren't a threat on GC.

181km remaining from 190km

Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) jumps clear after 8km and a small group of riders makes it across to him.

Riblon is joined by Rui Costa (Movistar), Xabier Zandio (Sky), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Julien El Farès (Cofidis) in an interesting 9-man break. Some very solid riders in there.

172km remaining from 190km

The nine-man break had a lead of 35 seconds at the 10km mark, with a further three riders chasing hard trying to make it across.

The trio of chasers have been swallowed up, and now Vacansoleil-DCM are frantically leading the pursuit behind. The Dutch squad have nobody in the break, and that clearly wasn't part of the pre-stage briefing on the team bus this morning.

Ironically, the last time the Tour came to Super-Besse, their former teammate Riccardo Riccò won the stage, although a week later he would test positive for CERA. Alejandro Valverde was second on the day, just ahead of Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck.

Arnaud Coyot (Saur-Sojasun) is attempting to make it across by himself as the heat goes out of Vacansoleil's pursuit. He's caught in no man's land at the moment, and it will be difficult for him to make it as the break stretches its lead out towards the minute mark.

168km remaining from 190km

Coyot sits up and retreats to the sanctuary of the peloton, and it looks as though the nine men up front have had their day passes stamped. Vacansoleil-DCM have given up the ghost and the pace in the peloton is finally settling down after a rapid start.

Cadel Evans' BMC squad have come to the front of the peloton now and are controlling affairs. They're setting a sensible tempo while the break continues to chug away up the road.

Evans has scarcely had a pedal stroke out of place in this Tour de France so far. The best of the rest behind Philippe Gilbert on day one, he led his team expertly in the TTT the following day and was well worth his stage victory atop the Mur-de-Bretagne on Tuesday. Then again, a flawless opening week put him into the yellow jersey 1:30 clear of Contador last year, before a fractured elbow stifled his challenge. After two difficult Tours, the Australian is certainly due a change in his fortunes in France.

161km remaining from 190km

30km into the stage, and the nine riders in front have a lead of two minutes over the peloton. Rui Costa is the best-placed overall. This morning, the Portuguese rider was 4:02 down in 43rd, one place and two seconds ahead of his breakaway companion Cyril Gautier.

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has enjoyed a fine opening week at the Tour, winning the first stage and wearing the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys at various points. The Belgian is expected to be in contention again today, even though he has picked a "wounded" Alberto Contador as his favourite for the win.

155km remaining from 190km

Meanwhile, the break's lead is just shy of 3 minutes. They're maintaining a brisk pace, but they'll be careful not to build up too big a lead too soon, so as not to set off any alarm bells in the peloton behind.

Addy Engels is riding well in today's early break. The Dutchman was the one Quick Step who waited to pace Tom Boonen after his crash on stage 5 to Cap Frehel. Thanks to Engels' help, Boonen made it home inside the time limit, but the Belgian was forced to abandon the race yesterday. It appears that he had suffered an undiagnosed concussion from his fall on Wednesday, and it really is remarkable that he had been allowed to continue racing in such a state.

Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo spoke with Garmin-Cervelo doctor Prentice Steffen about the protocol for dealing with head injuries in cycling.

140km remaining from 190km

It's been a searingly fast start to stage 8. After a brief lull in the pace when Vacansoleil stopped their chase, the speed has ratcheted upwards again. The nine escapees covered a leg-stinging 48.4km in the first hour of racing.

The opening 60km southwards from the start in Aigurande are quite flat today, but once the peloton hits the category 4 climb of the Cote d'Evaux-les-Bains, the terrain becomes decidedly more rolling.

Rui Costa has certainly had a busy year. Twelve months ago this week, he made the headlines for his post-race fight with Carlos Barredo on stage 6 of the Tour. Worse was to follow for the Portuguese rider in August, when it emerged that he and his brother Mario had tested positive for methylhexanamine at the national championships. After claiming that the positive test was triggered by a food supplement, Costa returned to racing with Movistar in April, and recently impressed at the Criterium du Dauphine.

126km remaining from 190km

The nine escapees are approaching the fourth category Cote d'Evaux-les-Bains, and as they do so, the rain is beginning to fall lightly.

Julien El Fares takes the point at the top of the climb, while the peloton remains 5:15 behind the escapees.

El Fares finished in a very respectable 27th overall in his first attempt at the Tour last year. The 26-year-old Frenchman hasn't won often in his career, but when he has, he has won well. He took the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in Capannori in 2009, and a stage of the Tour of the Mediterranean last year. He's yet to get off the mark in 2011, but he showed some flashes of form at the Tour of Luxembourg in June.

There's a decent French presence in today's break, with young talent Cyril Gautier and 2010 stage winner Christophe Riblon also up there with El Fares. After a hugely successful Tour in terms of stage wins for the home nation last year, French riders have yet to get off the mark in 2011. FDJ and Europcar have both been very aggressive, but with no reward to date.

BMC led the peloton over the climb, 5:50 back on the nine leaders.

116km remaining from 190km

The nine men up front are less than 10km from the day's intermediate sprint. It'll be interesting to see how many sprinters in the bunch behind have the motivation to chase the points for 10th place.

As has been the case for much of the first week, it's an uphill intermediate sprint at Auzances today. The sprinters certainly aren't being given anything easily on this Tour de France.

106km remaining from 190km

Christophe Riblon clips off the front of the break to take 20 points at the intermediate sprint, ahead of Rui Costa and Alexandr Kolobnev.

The pace is rising considerably in the peloton behind now, as Omega Pharma-Lotto work to lead out the sprint for Philippe Gilbert.

Green jersey Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) is locked on Gilbert's wheel as Greipel leads it out.

Gilbert jumps and just holds Rojas off for 10th place in the sprint, to claw back a little of the Spaniard's lead in the points classification.

Francisco Ventoso was next across the line just ahead of Mark Cavendish, who adds another 3 points to his tally with his 13th place in that sprint.

Omega Pharma-Lotto's brief cameo at the front sheared 30 seconds off the break's lead, but now BMC and George Hincapie have returned to their place at the head of the peloton. If it all stays together among the favourites on the final climb - assuming, of course, that Thor Hushovd can't hold the wheels - then BMC's Cadel Evans would move into the overall lead tonight.

98km remaining from 190km

We're so often used to soaring temperatures and melting tarmac in this neck of the woods, but today as the peloton speeds through Le Mas, it does so on greasy roads and under grey skies.

The roads are becoming noticeably more rolling as the break heads south out of Creuse  towards the departement of Puy-de-Dôme.

The mythical climb of the Puy de Dôme hasn't featured in the Tour since 1988, and with the road up there currently inaccessible to cyclists, it's sadly unlikely to return any time soon.

It will be interesting to see what Tejay Van Garderen can do in this breakaway. The young American was a revelation at the Dauphine in 2010, but has come to this Tour to work for Mark Cavendish rather than to chase a high overall placing of his own. He's put in a very honest stint in the opening week, and finds himself 8:06 down in 78th place overall.

94km remaining from 190km

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) is sitting near the front of the peloton in front of yellow jersey Thor Hushovd. After a difficult opening day, the American managed to come through the remainder of week one unimpeded and unscathed, and he knows that the business end of his Tour will begin today.

Pierre Rolland (Europcar) gets his cape stuck in his back wheel and is forced to roll to a halt to untangle himself.

91km remaining from 190km

The stylish Alexandr Kolobnev is riding smoothly in the break. The Russian is without a win so far in 2011, and failed to make the kind of impact he would liked in the Ardennes classics. He was 5th at Amstel Gold Race and followed that up with 11th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

If conditions remain as greasy as this in the finale, the descent of the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert could pose some problems, particularly if the race splits up on the way up that climb.

85km remaining from 190km

BMC and Brent Bookwalter in particular are continuing to set the pace at the front of the peloton. They're efforts are keeping the break pegged at 5:15 on the approach to the feed zone at Tralaigues.

The nine escapees come through the feed, while at the back of the main bunch, Andy Schleck gets some running repairs made to his rear brake.

Andy Schleck is lying in 7th overall, 12 seconds down on Thor Hushovd, but 1:30 clear of Alberto Contador. In spite of that healthy advantage over his main rival, Schleck enters today's stage with a degree of apprehension. He got caught on the wrong foot on the climb at Mur-de-Bretagne on Tuesday and coughed up a handful of seconds to Contador and Evans. He looked similarly uncomfortable on the punchy climb at Mende last year, and there could well be some more questions asked of him in the finale today.

80km remaining from 190km

5:15 the advantage with 80km still to race. In a little over 10 kilometres' time, the break will face the climb of the Cote du Rocher des Trois Tourtes, and from there on in, the race will surely begin to sparkle into life behind.

BMC are still controlling affairs behind in the main bunch. With Thor Hushovd set to lose the yellow jersey today, Garmin-Cervelo have the luxury of not having to work at the front of the peloton today. David Millar lies 4th overall at 8 seconds, but he will need to dislodge both Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck in the finale to assume the maillot jaune.

On paper, today's stage should be suited to a punchy rider in the Damiano Cunego mould, but the Italian told Gazzetta dello Sport this morning that his Tour preparation has been based around improving his resistance in the longer climbs of the Alps and Pyrenees, and he reckons that he is lacking the power to match Evans, Contador and Gilbert on a day like today.

“I’ll be happy to finish just behind the best, or even better, up there with them,” Cunego told Gazzetta. “I don’t consider it a mountain stage, but a day that’s suited to explosive riders, because the finish is at the top of a climb.”

“In recent days I’ve shown that I don’t have the same power of people like Gilbert, Evans, Contador and Vinokourov. I’ve worked a lot for the longer climbs, and they’ll come too. And so will the heat.”
 

After second overall at the Tour de Suisse, Cunego would rather make a tilt at a top 10 finish in Paris than slug it out for stage wins.
“The Tour de Suisse gave me the knowledge that I can fight for the general classification, although we’re not in Switzerland, we’re at the Tour, and the competition is higher,” Cunego admitted.

“Here, I just wanted to get through the first week without any trouble, so now I’m curious myself to see what might happen. If the GC continues to go my way, I’ll focus on that. Otherwise, I’ll fight for stage wins, day by day.”
 

69km remaining from 190km

Alexandr Kolobnev takes the single point on offer atop the Cote du Rocher des Trois Tourtes ahead of the Cofidis duo of Zingler and El Fares.

BMC have shaved another 30 seconds off the break's advantage on the run-in to this climb, and their lead is now down to 4:45.

The sun has poked its way out through the clouds now and the roads are beginning to dry out. Cadel Evans drops back to the team car to have some lubricant applied to his chain. That particular ritual brought Evans a dose of good fortune on the road to Mur-de-Bretagne, and he'll be hoping for more of the same today. It's the kind of finish where Evans should be to the fore, as he was at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie earlier in the season.

62km remaining from 190km

Gautier and Costa lead the break up a testing uncategorised climb. There are constant ups and downs from here all the way to Super-Besse, and they'll have to use up a lot of energy even before they get to the 2nd category Col de la Croix Saint-Robert.

BMC are continuing their travails at the front of the peloton, while there is a platoon of Garmin-Cervelo riders lined up behind them, with Thor Hushovd sitting comfortably in their midst. BMC are riding as though they already have the yellow jersey and haven't looked for any help as they keep a rein on the break.

58km remaining from 190km

Tejay Van Garderen puts in a big turn at the front of the break on a lengthy false flat. The nine leaders still have 5 minutes in hand as they pass through Muratel.

53km remaining from 190km

While Riccardo Ricco' was the last winner at Super-Besse in 2008, the race also came here in 1996, when Rolf Sorensen outsprinted Banesto's Orlando Rodrigues and French duo Richard Virenque and Luc Leblanc in a breathless finish atop the climb. On that occasion, the race tackled the climb from the other side, but Rui Costa will still be hoping to go one better than his fellow countryman Rodrigues. He'll have his work cut out, however, as the break's lead is down to 4:23, and Astana are beginning to lend a hand to BMC's chase effort.

50km remaining from 190km

A puncture for Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), but he quickly makes his way back towards the rear of peloton. Today's stage seems to be well-suited to a rider of his characteristics, and like many of the overall contenders, the Spaniard will view the final 30km of this stage as the first robust test of his GC credentials.

46km remaining from 190km

Astana are throwing their weight behind this chase now, and the break's lead has tumbled to 3:45. Alexandre Vinokourov is desperate to wear the yellow jersey in what is set to be the final instalment of his chequered Tour career.

Vinokourov is currently 32 seconds down in 11th place. He'll have his work cut out if he is to leapfrog the likes of the Schlecks, Evans and Robert Gesink this evening.

Tomas Vaitkus is setting the pace at the front of the peloton for Astana, and things are becoming a bit stretched. A few of riders look to be struggling to stay in contact at the rear of the bunch.

43km remaining from 190km

Vinokourov might well be tempted to have a go on the second category Col de la Croix Saint-Robert, hence Astana's pace-making. The bunch will the base of the climb in a little over 10km, and positioning will be crucial at that point.

On cue, Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert glides forwards through the peloton, while Garmin-Cervelo are also looking to keep Thor Hushovd and David Millar as far forward as possible.

Even if the race doesn't qite explode into action on the Croix de Saint-Robert, there should be a selection of sorts before the final haul to Super-Besse. That might well suit a rider like Andy Schleck, who didn't seem to enjoy the rough and tumble approach to Mur-de-Bretagne on Tuesday.

39km remaining from 190km

Meanwhile, the gap to the breakaway is continuing to fall under the Astana impetus. 2:35 the advantage with a little over 6 km to go to the foot of the Croix de Saint-Robert.

Before the climb, we just have time for today's Cyclingnews/Easton competition.

Here is today's trivia question in the Easton/Cyclingnews Tour de
France Trivia Challenge: Which rider has spent the greatest number of days in the yellow jersey? You are entered for the random drawing for prizes by filling in your answer here - http://easton.cyclingnews.com/. Good luck!
 

On the off chance that you need a hint, you can take a peek here. And the answer to yesterday's question? The winner at Chateauroux in 2008 was, of course, Mark Cavendish.

35km remaining from 190km

Rui Costa has done an awful lot of work in this breakaway, and he's pushing the pace here as they approach the climb with a little over two minutes in hand on the peloton.

Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is now leading the peloton in support of Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

32km remaining from 190km

The break is now at Mont-Dore and beginning the climb of the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert.

Tejay Van Garderen accelerates at the foot of the climb, and only Kolobnev, Zandio, Rui Costa and Gautier can follow initially.

Rui Costa responds with a dig of his own, while Van Garderen and Gautier scramble across.

In the main peloton, there's an attack from an Paolo Tiralongo to prepare the ground for Vinokourov.

Van Garderen powers clear of Rui Costa and Gautier, but they've managed to claw back up to him. Gautier is really struggling to hold the wheels.

Johnny Hoogerland and Rigoberto Uran have gone clear of the peloton on the climb after a dig from Amets Txurruka (Euksaltel-Esukadi) was pegged back.

28km remaining from 190km

Back in the main peloton, the pace is brisk but not searing, and so far none of the overall contenders have blinked. Nonetheless, a number of riders are beginning to lose contact at the back of the bunch.

Van Garderen and his companions still have over two minutes in hand on a tentative peloton.

Correction, it's Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) who is accompanying king of the mountains Johnny Hoogerland in his pursuit of the break.

Up front, Van Garderen and Rui Costa have bid adieu to Cyril Gautier and they are powering towards the summit. Hoogerland and Flecha are hoovering up the remnants of the break behind.

In fact, Txurruka was never brought back by the peloton, and he's just in front of Hoogerland in the company of Pierre Rolland, Paolo Tiralongo and Cofidis' escapees Zingle and El Fares.

As expected, Alexandre Vinokourov has ripped clear of the peloton on the steepest section of the climb. The Kazakh has 10 seconds over the yellow jersey of Thor Hushovd with a kilometre to go to the summit.

25km remaining from 190km

Tejay Van Garderen leads Rui Costa over the top of the climb. Behind, Vinokourov has made light work of the gap to the Hoogerland-Flecha group, and has just latched onto the back.

Vinokourov has a teammate in this group in the shape of Paolo Tiralongo. The Sicilian was a stage winner at the Giro d'Italia, and is clearly in fine form.

The Vinokourov group crosses the summit 1:39 down on Van Garderen and Rui Costa. So far the rain is holding off, but this descent could be chaotic if the weather breaks.

BMC, Leopard Trek and Saxo Bank-SunGard all have a presence at the front end of the peloton, but nobody seems willing to take full responsibility for the pursuit of Vinokourov. 

On the descent of the Croix Saint-Robert, BMC are taking the initiative in the peloton.

Up front, Christophe Riblon and Cyril Gautier have made it back up the Rui Costa and Van Garderen, and the leading quartet have 1:42 in hand on the peloton. Thor Hushovd is still up there at the front of the peloton in the yellow jersey.

18km remaining from 190km

In between the break and the peloton, Vinokourov is still giving chase with Tiralongo and the Sky duo of Flecha and Zandio. Vinkourov is yellow jersey on the road by handful of seconds with 18km still to race.

The Vinokourov group is 50 seconds clear of the peloton, and the Kazakh is making real inroads into the leading quartet's advantage on the rolling roads to Super-Besse. He's 45 seconds behind Van Garderen, Riblon, Gautier and Rui Costa.

Vinokourov is doing the lion's share of the work in his group, although to their credit the Sky pair are offering aren't holding anything back. The four riders are riding with noticeably more abandon on the corners than the peloton behind. If they continue at this rate, the controversial Vinokourov could be riding his way into the yellow jersey at Super-Besse this evening.

Kolobnev has been caught by the main peloton. A group featuring Sylvain Chavanel, Roman Kreuziger and Robert Gesink had been left behind by the BMC-led group on these rolling roads, but it appears that they are safely back on board.

12km remaining from 190km

The peloton is 1:15 behind the leading quartet and 44 seconds behind Vinokourov's group. The Kazakh is in the virtual yellow jersey with 12 seconds to spare.

Riblon attacks from the leading group, but Rui Costa moves to close the gap.

Hushovd is sticking tight to the front of the group, while Andy Schleck is up there surrounded by a phalanx of Leopard Trek riders on increasingly slippery roads. Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans are also safely ensconced in the front end of the peloton.

10km remaining from 190km

Rui Costa is the next man to attack from the leading group, but they've come back together under the 10km to go banner. Their lead over the peloton is still 1:15.

Constant attacking in the lead group. Rui Costa goes and is brought back, and then Van Garderen has another go before being reeled in.

Zandio has lost touch with the Vinokourov express, although Flecha and Tiralongo are still able to hang on to the flying Kazakh.

8km remaining from 190km

Van Garderen's latest acceleration is brought to heel. Tiralongo is dragging the Vinokourov group along 30 seconds behind.

The climb to Super-Besse is an exposed one, and word reaching us from the summit is that the riders will have to tackle a stiff headwind. A strong man is sure to win up there.

7km remaining from 190km

The BMC-led peloton is tackling some very wet roads on the final approach to the foot of the day's last climb. Nervous moments for the overall contenders.

Van Garderen is still trying to force his way clear of the leading break, but is the American doing too much?

Gautier springs an attack with 6km to go, and Van Garderen is the man to chase him on a stiff little climb. Rui Costa makes it across too, but Riblon is suffering.

5km remaining from 190km

Rui Costa attacks on a short steep section and moves clear. Van Garderen grits his teeth and grinds his way back up towards Rui Costa's wheel. Gautier and Riblon are distanced, but Vinokourov is closing fast behind.

5km remaining from 190km

Van Garderen can't quite close the gap to Rui Costa. He's 20 metres shy of his rear wheel and is grappling for the Portuguese rider's coattails.

Tiralongo has been dropped by the Vinokourov group. It's just Flecha keeping Vinokourov company, and the experienced pair are closing in on Riblon and Gautier.

The BMC-led "peloton" has been seriously thinned out, but Hushovd is still in there, battling to retain his yellow jersey. Vinokourov is in the yellow on the road by a handful of seconds by our last calculations.

4km remaining from 190km

Vinokourov has dropped Flecha on this long uphill grind before the final climb proper to Super-Besse. Rui Costa is continuing to inch clear of Van Garderen, but Vinokourov is closing.

Rui Costa gets out of the saddle to keep up his momentum. He's more concerned about Vinokourov than Van Garderen at this point.

A difficult moment for Robert Gesink. He's been dropped by the group of favourites with 4km to go. A number of Rabobank riders are back to help him.

3km remaining from 190km

Rui Costa is 20 seconds clear of Vinokourov, who has caught and passed Van Garderen.

1:07 the gap to the peloton, and Vinokourov is riding his way into the yellow jersey. He's showing few signs of faltering as he scans the horizon for a glimpse of Rui Costa.

2km remaining from 190km

Rui Costa takes a desperate look back through the mist to see where Vinokourov is on a brief flat section before the final kick up to the line.

1km remaining from 190km

Rui Costa still has 17 seconds in hand as he begins the final climb to the summit. He climbs seated, while the squat Vinokourov is bursting out of the saddle.

Saxo Bank set the pace in the group of favourites behind, and the pace is rising accordingly. Alberto Contador is priming himself for a dig here.

1km remaining from 190km

Chris Anker Sorensen attacks from the group in support of Contador.

Gilbert accelerates with Contador on his wheel, and Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans are lined up behind them.

Cunego is up there too, as Contador dances to the front, with Schleck and Evans vigilant.

Gilbert punches his way clear of the group, and Contador responds after a delay.

Contador sits up when Schleck marks him and Cunego goes over the of of them in pursuit of Gilbert.

Up front, Rui Costa wins the stage for Movistar.

Gilbert zips across the line in second place, his effort reeled in Vinokourov in the final 500 metres.

Gilbert was 12 seconds down, while 3 seconds later Cadel Evans takes the sprint for 3rd.

The Schlecks and Contador finished together in the Evans group, but remarkably, Thor Hushovd managed to hold on, and has retained his overall lead for another day.

Vinokourov failed to dose his effort correctly on this occasion, and was swallowed up by the favourites' group in the finale. Damiano Cunego and Samuel Sanchez were also up there in the Evans group.

Result:

1 Rui Alberto Faria Costa (Por) Movistar Team 4:36:46
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:12
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15
4 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
6 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
10 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek

Contador and Schleck were very tentative in their efforts on that final climb, although it's hard to tell if they were heavy-legged or if they were simply too concerned with marking one another. Either way, Cadel Evans was perhaps the most impressive of the overall contenders on that climb, as he went with Damiano Cunego in pursuit of Philippe Gilbert and took out the sprint for third.

Philippe Gilbert will have been disappointed to miss out taking the stage, but he will have done enough to move back into the green jersey.

General classification:

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervélo 33:06:28
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC 00:00:01
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 00:00:04
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) BMC 00:00:10
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 00:00:12
6 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
7 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 00:00:13
8 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
9 David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo 00:00:19
10 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 00:00:30
 

Another fantastic ride from Hushovd to retain the overall lead, and at this rate he could be in yellow until the stage to Luz Ardiden on Thursday. With BMC doing the lion's share of the pace-setting, Garmin-Cervelo didn't even have to do a significant amount of work to defend the yellow jersey.

A disappointing day for Robert Gesink. The Rabobank man came home 1:23 down, and that's a big blow ahead of the mountains.

Cyclingnews have the full results, a report and pictures to follow from Super-Besse shortly, and we'll also have all the news from the team buses and post-race press conferences, as the overall contenders give their thoughts on the first major rendezvous of the race. Thanks for joining us for today's live coverage, we'll be back for another long day in the saddle tomorrow.

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