A German Australian Heinrich Haussler, stole today's rain-drenched mountainous stage and streamed into Colmar to a cheering, soaked crowd that waited for hours in the pouring rain for the first rider to appear.
"On the last hill it was absolutely amazing, I was getting goosebumps all over me and this is what you do cycling for: to get these feelings and these emotions," said Haussler of his descent after leaving behind his other breakaway partners at 50 km to go.
It could have been a day when the real or imagined competition between Astana team mates Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong, both second and first at the start of the day, would finally come to blows on the 3, 2 and 1 category climbs through this first major section of the Alps. But it was not to be.
Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) managed to regain the Green Jersey today, having shed Cavendish in the mountainous sections.
Levi Leipheimer who crashed at the end of yesterday's stage was out of the race this morning with a fractured scaphoid, a loss that could cost the Astana team dearly in the week to come.
An early breakaway that started at 3 km with Christophe Moreau and Haussler, who were later joined by Jens Voigt (SAX), Garate (RAB), Perez Moreno (EUS), Uran (GCE) and Chavanel (QST), eventually brought Haussler to victory when he pulled away from his fellow riders.
At 18km, the lead group was ahead of the pelton by almost a minute, with a chase led by Liquigas, Lampre and Cofidis. It was close, with the gap narroowing to to within 15 seconds at the first climb (46km).
Haussler, Perez Moreno and Chavanel accelerated ahead of the group at about 57 km, and the shed riders were caught by the peloton at 62 km while the three off the front took a full minute lead.
At the start of the toughest climb if the state, Col du Platzerwasel, the peloton was 7 minutes 20 seconds behind the three breakway riders.
Moreno dropped out of the lead group with 4.5km to climb, but the peloton was now 3 minutes 10 seconds behind at the top and, when Franco Pellizotti (LIQ) moved ahead to claim fourth-place points. Martinez (EUS) was dropped just before the top and earned no climbing points. Then Brice Feillu (AGR) and Txurruka (EUS) attacked after the summit.
On the descent of the Platzwasel, Haussler attacked Chavanel. He arrived at the top of the col du Bannstein with a lead of 45 seconds and four minutes ahead of the counter-attack from Feillu and Txurruka. The peloton was 6 minutes behind at the top of the fourth ascent.
Feillu who made headlines in a breakaway win in Stage 7 was dropped by Txurruka with 25 km to go. Then Frenchman Chavanel was caught by Txurruka with 22 km to go. With 15km to go, Haussler led Txurruka, Chavanel, Feillu, at various time breaks, and the peloton by almost 7 minutes. Those riders came in to the finish one at a time to rain slicked streets and cool 65 degree weather.
Feillu did make a bid to make up some time in the general classification but finished just 30 seconds ahead of the peloton. It did not seem to matter to the French and German crowd here in Colmar: they cheered and banged the boards the loudest when the young Frenchman came through the finish line.
Pellizotti earned 27 points in the climbing classification, which is enough to put him in the polka-dot jersey for stage 14. The top GC placements are still the same, with Rinaldo Nocentini in the Yellow Jersey, Contador second and Armstrong third.
There were 164 riders at the start of the race. Besides Leipheimer (AST) the other non-starter was Wrolich (MRM).