With a grimace bordering on a smile as he steamed towards the finish line, Nicki Sorensen of Team Saxo Bank won the 11th stage of the Tour today.
The Danish rider was a part of an early breakaway in this mostly flat 211.5 km stage from Tonnerre to Vittel, but pulled away from them 5.5 km before the finish.
It was a valiant effort for the rider who was able to hold off the 160 riders in the peleton as well.
Mark Cavendish of Columbia HTC took the finish among sprinters of the big teams who still had to sprint to the finish for standings.
It was also a productive day for fellow breakaway riders Egoi Martinez and Franco Pellizotti who battled it out for the Polka Dot jersey at the three stage sprint points, but left Martinez still holding the coveted white and red jersey at the end.
Cadel Evans of Silence Lotto crashed just before the finish, but made the final cut off of 3 km, to stay with the peleton time.
Egoi Martinez (EUS) and Franco Pellizotti (LIQ), Remi Pauriol (FRA) Cofidis, Laurent Lefevre (FRA) Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Sylvain Calzati (FRA) Agritubel, and Markus Fothen (GER) Milram were a part of the six-man group that stayed ahead of the peleton with Sorensen for the bulk of the stage, but with one mile to go, none of the riders seemed to want to take the lead to catch Sorensen.
At 64km, Lefevre began an attack and was chased down by Pellizotti, Martinez (EUS), Pauriol , Calzati, and Fothen. They were chased momentarily by a group that included Andy Schleck (SAX), Cadel Evans (SIL), Levi Leipheimer (AST) and Astarloza (EUS).
The counter-attack was caught around the 73km mark after gaining about 10 minutes on the peloton.
At 75km, N. Sorensen bridged to the six leaders and by 83km the advantage they were ahead of the peleton by 2 minutes.
But by the time the peleton--which included Lance Armtrong, Rinaldo Nocentini, and Alberto Contador--left the feedzone at 111.5 km, the lead group was more than 4 minutes ahead.
It's likely no one wanted to chase--especially the leaders in the General Classification, because tomorrow is the beginning of the Alps and the competition will be racheted up considerably among the top 10 riders. There will be many attempts to take the Yellow Jersey away from Nocentini, not just by the top two Astana riders, but by others who have not accomplished stage wins in this tour so far.
But the heavy weighting of French riders in the break group today once again shows that the French have been very aggressive in this Tour de France in forming early breakaways, and trying to make a name for themselves by winning a stage.
If taking into consideration the move by the race organizers to ban radios, it's almost as if the French want to reown the Tour de France. And well, why shouldn't they?
There are now only 167 riders left in the Tour. Vlaidmir Efikim who crashed yesterday is still in the tour.
Rinaldo Nocentini still wears the Yellow Jersey, followed by Contador in second and Armstrong in third for the overall classification.
The sprinter Tyler Farrar of Garmin Slipstream has said publicly that he has given up on winning against the green jersey wonder boy, Cavendish.
Tomorrow's race from Vittel to Colmar will offer more excitement with several 3, 2 and 1 category climbs over 124 miles. The biggest climb over Col de Platzerwasel may be tortorous for the riders.
Tomorrow BBB will be reporting from Colmar, so expect the report to be a little later--and full of juicy, on the scene tidbits!!
Overall GC Standings
1. NOCENTINI Rinaldo 87 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 48h 27' 21"
2. CONTADOR Alberto 21 ASTANA 48h 27' 27" + 00' 06"
3. ARMSTRONG Lance 22 ASTANA 48h 27' 29" + 00' 08"
4. LEIPHEIMER Levi 24 ASTANA 48h 28' 00" + 00' 39"
5. WIGGINS Bradley 58 GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 48h 28' 07" + 00' 46"
6. KLÖDEN Andréas 23 ASTANA 48h 28' 15" + 00' 54"
7. MARTIN Tony 76 TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC 48h 28' 21" + 01' 00"
8. VANDE VELDE Christian 51 GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM 48h 28' 45" + 01' 24"
9. SCHLECK Andy 31 TEAM SAXO BANK 48h 29' 10" + 01' 49"
10. NIBALI Vincenzo 95 LIQUIGAS 48h 29' 15" + 01' 54"
1. SORENSEN Nicki 38 TEAM SAXO BANK 4h 52' 24"
2. LEFEVRE Laurent 146 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 53' 12" + 00' 48"
3. PELLIZOTTI Franco 91 LIQUIGAS 4h 53' 12" + 00' 48"
4. FOTHEN Markus 183 TEAM MILRAM 4h 53' 12" + 00' 48"
5. MARTINEZ Egoi 64 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 4h 53' 12" + 00' 48"
6. CALZATI Sylvain 173 AGRITUBEL 4h 53' 12" + 00' 48"
7. PAURIOL Rémi 129 COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 4h 53' 57" + 01' 33"
8. CAVENDISH Mark 71 TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC 4h 58' 22" + 05' 58"
9. HUSHOVD Thor 6 CERVELO TEST TEAM 4h 58' 22" + 05' 58"