It is a Tour de France stage that will be remembered for the show of dominance from the young guns as Pierre Rolland (Europcar) emerged from an early break and survived a crash on the last descent to win atop La Toussuire. Thibault Pinot (FDJ – Big Mat) pipped Chris Froome (Sky Procycling) for second place one minute later. The route that included four categorized climb, two HC ranked mountains amongst them, ripped apart of the field. The stage revealed weakness amongst the overall contenders as Cadel Evans (BMC) lost contact with a small chase group that formed behind Rolland. Evans eventually conceded 1:26 to Wiggins and dropped down to fourth overall. Matt White describes the day from a team perspective below.
Having a look at the course, we knew it could be a good day for Pieter Weening to be in the break. There were several attacks before the Col de la Madeleine at 40 kilometers. Michael Albasini was in a large group that formed ahead of the first mountain. When the climb started, Pieter made a concerted effort to get up the road, which he managed to do quite successfully. Alba came back to the bunch. Pieter pressed on, but didn’t have the legs to go with the big boys when they really began to push.
It was a grueling day. These stages are hard for everyone. We covered only 148 kilometers today, but there was probably only 15 kilometers of flat road.
We averaged 31 kilometers per hour today. That’s extremely slow, and that’s because there was so much climbing.
Our guys took it pretty easy. Well, as easy as they could given the terrain. Daryl Impey, Matt Goss, Simon Gerrans and Stuart O’Grady cruised along in a group that had five or six minutes on the grupetto until the penultimate climb. They joined the grupetto somewhere along the slopes of the Col de Croix de Fer. There was a lot of chatter about time cuts before their group came across the line. They made the cut by nearly four minutes. In the end, it wasn’t so close after all.
Our fans along the roads are incredible. I’ve never seen support for Australians at the Tour quite like this. I would venture to guess it’s a combination of Cadel winning last year and the first Australian WorldTour team. It’s a nice feeling to have so much support, and I suspect we’ll see an even larger number of Aussies or Aussie supporters out as we ride closer to Paris.
Tomorrow seems bound for a breakaway. On paper, it’s not a day for the overall contenders. Two hard climbs start the stage, and then it’s mostly flat before the intermediate sprint all the way to the finish. I expect it’s a good day for a break to stay away. Should it come down to a sprint, Gossy will be there to mix it up at the finish.