After a rest day, the body can respond in odd ways. The day was not supposed to be one where the GC challenges one another because there was no mountaintop finish. It is easier to catch up on the descent, thus a person could waste a lot of effort if attacking on the climb before the descent.
There was another break, where Jerome Pineau went out to grab some KOM points. Also in the break? Thor Hushovd–because there were sprint points to be had today. This is how he won last year by snapping up the small sprint points on the road. A rider can win the Green even if he does not win too many stages. Consistency is the key and what Thor does not win in stages, he can gain in intermediate sprint points. Who else in the break? Jens Voight (Saxo Bank).
Still, the day was a difficult one with many climbs and then an HC Col de la Madeleine. When the teams hit the base of the Madeleine team BMC tried to take charge, but then Saxo Bank tried to up the tempo. Astana’s Vinokourov would have non of it, and broke off the front as a lone chaser to the leaders while the heads of state stayed put in the peloton. BMC and Saxo alternated driving the peloton. Everytime Saxo got on the front, they increased the tempo. It decimated the goup, decreasing it to about 30 riders….and eventually Cadel Evans! Evans did not have a good day (remember what I said about the body reacting after a rest day?) about 1/2 way up the Madelaine as a result of Astana’s blistering pace. Leipheimer was locked on Astana, while Armstrong cracked, again. Then, Leiheimer popped, and the only one who could keep up was Andy Schleck. Schleck then attacked! Contador kept pace. There was no real group left on the Madeleine; carnage was all over the mountain. Schleck hit and slowed, hit and slowed all the way up the Madelaine. It was a real treat to watch. But Contador kept pace and sat on his wheel. While all this was going on, Evans was losing minutes. What a great tour this has turned out to be.
An interesting fact up the Madeleine was that a rider from Caisse-D’epargne, a Spaniard, gave Contador his bottle. Contador and Schleck overtook the members of the break–who were faltering on the climb–until they reached Voight, who tried to up the pace to destroy Contador. It did not work. They caught the break under 1km to go and sprint for the finish. It was a wild descent, and a wild stage.
Who lost the Tour today? Cadel Evans. Oh, Sandy Casar won today’s stage. Schleck is now in yellow. That is not the best place for him to be after a week in.