Photo: © Bettini
Today was Bastille Day in France and the national holiday certainly brought out the crowds. Frenchman Jeremy Roy once again put his team's colors in front of the cameras for a long spell as he got into the breakaway once again.They also saw their National Champion, Sylvain Chavanel, try and fly the colors while giving the victory a go, but he hasn't looked at all like the rider we saw in last years Tour and finished way down on the day. The yellow jersey smacked into a car after he cooked a corner, sliding his rear tire and causing a crash behind him. He was okay and subsequently rode what Paul Sherwan characterized as a 'storming ride' to keep his jersey, for unexpectedly or maybe characteristically, another day or more.
Leopard Trek tried to hurt Andy Schleck's rivals, but didn't have the success that they wanted. Ivan Basso (Liquigas), directed his teammates to turn up the pressure on the Luz-Ardiden today with a little over 10 km to go. It was great to see American Tom Danielson climbing with the best in the world as he fell in behind the Team Liquigas boys and finished 11th on the day. With 5.5km to go the chase was still behind the two lead riders by about a minute. Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez and Omega Pharma-Lotto rider Vanendert. With about 3.5km Andy Schleck, then his brother Frank, tried their best 1-2 punch, but couldn't knock anyone out. Until, when a little over 2km to go, Frank hit again and got a gap and tried to whittle down the :48 gap to the leaders. Then, Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans took off and Contador and A. Schleck stayed right with them. Frank almost caught them with 500m to go and the Belgian Vanendert took off in a panic, but it was Sanchez who took the win. It was a great win for Euskaltel-Euskadi who had their orange army of fans out today. Contador lost another :13 seconds and down 4 minutes on yellow and about 2 minutes behind Schleck. There is still a lot of racing left though.
Tomorrow's major climb, the Col d' Aubisque is 16km of climbing at an average gradient of 7.1%, with sections of 10% & 9%. That's 7ft of vertical rise for every 100 ft traveled vertically. Steep, long, and exceedingly difficult. The riders will welcome the long descent into Lourdes, where Italian great Gino Bartali won the last stage to finish in this town back in 1948 when he won the tour for his second time, after a nine year gap caused by the war.
The main GC riders will be happy to let a breakaway go ahead and fight it out, while they watch each other and make sure their rivals don't attack. An attack by the big boys isn't likely however, but an opportunist might take advantage of Contador and Schleck's relatively poor descending skills.
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