It took two hours of constant attacking and 100km to finally sort out who was allowed in the day's breakaway and ten riders finally were able to get away, including Ryder Hesjedal, Jeremy Roy (again!), HTC's Tony Martin, and a pair of Norweigens Thor Hushovd, and Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Ryder "Weight of a Nation" Hesjedal found himself alone topping off the climb of the Col de Manse and had about about 11km to go to win it. Later on the descent he was joined joined by his teammate, World Champion Thor Hushovd, and Team Sky's Boasson Hagen, Hesjedal tried his best to distance himself for the win, but he had two pretty heavy hitters with him. Team tactics would certainly play a part.
Behind the trio, with about 3km to go to the summit of the Manse, Alberto Contador launched an attack which was immediately followed by Yellow jersey holder Thomas Voeckler, then Cadel Evans, but Andy Schleck couldn't match the speed. Voeckler fell back to rejoin the chaser including Italians Basso, Cuenego, the Highest place American Danielson. Gold medalist and stage winner this year, Sanchez joined up to the pair and summited the Col de Manse with Evans, and Contador and a gap of 18 seconds.
The presence of Evans and Sanchez, definitely benefited Contador who was the weakest descender of the three. Evans a Mountain Bike World Cup Champion took advantage of his fearlessness on the wet roads to gain 3 seconds on Contador/Sanchez and over a minute on his other main rivals. The knock on Evans has always been that he doesn't attack, but he certainly was not sitting and waiting today. Chapeau!
The cat and mouse tactics started about 2km out from the finish, with Boasson Hagen and the Garmin teammates looking at each other to see who was going to try a go first. All three knew that it had to be Ryder, and although he tried, it didn't work. That left the two Norweigens to battle it out. Thor timed his move perfectly to surprise Boasson Hagen to take his second Stage of this Tour and Garmin's fourth.
Jersey's: Voeckler still has the yellow. Vanendert the Polka-dot, and Cavendish the Green.Uran the White
I've watched A LOT of the Tour this year, and although that's not very remarkable compared to other years, I have not seen a lot of 'The Devil' Didi Senft. So it was good to see him for the second time in as many stages today. European bike races wouldn't be the same without him.
The Stage to to Pinerolo will be where someone will lose their tour and others show that they are ready to win it. The weather is foul, the climbs are brutal. It should be an epic day. It wouldn't be surprising to see someone attack on Sestrieres. I'll take the Sanchez to attack and then try and stay away. He'll need help though, maybe his riding campanion today, Cadel Evans, is willing to go again. Time will tell if today was Andy's 'bad day' that everyone says each Tour contender always has, but tries to hide. The will be nowhere to hide tomorrow. Adieu
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