Today's stage will take the riders 199 km from Colmar in the Alsace region of France to Besancon.
Yesterday's stage may have disgusted a few riders: it was cold and rainy with some nasty climbs. In the end, the two elements allowed a breakaway that started early in the race to hold to the very end, giving victory to German Australian Heinrich Haussler who pedaled the last kilometers into Colmar alone.
But many of the riders in the peleton could have used a drier day. Said a fan, Tobey Davis who had come to watch the Tour with her sister, Erin and were situated just a few 100 meters or so from the top of the Col de Platzerwasel, "[Mark] Cavendish looked absolutely miserable, like, 'Why am I here?'"
Nocentini who retained his Yellow Jersey in yesterday’s stage told a reporter for the ASO that the bad weather was helpful because it kept the aggressive riders and attacks at bay. They wouldn’t dare attack on slippery roads, and risk losing time he said.
Today’s stage, though more favored for sprinters like Cavendish, is giving riders much of the same kind of weather conditions, though over rolling countryside roads, dotted by old farm houses and charming small towns with steepled churches. It's been raining on and off, from pouring, to drizzling, though the finish looks like it will be a dry one, favorable for sprinters.
With 99 km to go there is a group ahead of the peleton by more than 5 minutes consisting of Heyden Roulston (CTT), Martin Masskant (GRM) , George Hincapie (THR) , Nicolas Roche (AGR2) , Daniele Bennati (LIQ) Fredrik Willems (LIQ) , Christophe LeMevel, Sebastian Minard (COF), Daniele Righi ((LAM) Serguei Ivanov (KAT) Gerard Ciolek (MRM) and Albert Timmer (SKS) . But because the conditions have since gotten better, there is a good chance that the peleton will be able to catch up.
Both Ivanov and Roche won their national championships before the start of this year’s Tour.
Earlier today Jens Voigt was part of the break, but a flat tire separated him from the group and he is now back with the peleton.
That means this could be a sprinter's day. Our bets are on Thor Hushovd who beat out Cavendish yesterday and will want to keep his lead. The only wild card is the entrance to the finish, which is through many winding streets, some of which could become dangerous at high speeds. Watch for crashes.
The town is surrounded by seven hills, and is the birthplace of Victor Hugo. Besancon does not retain much of the look of the 18th century, though it does have surviving old fortifications that have been classified a UNESCO world heritage site.
Though used by Stendhal as a backdrop for his novel “Le Rouge et le Noir,” the city looks nothing like a romantic novel. Much of it has been speedily built, perhaps even on a budget so that the elements of a modern France combined with lack of architectural care or finished building materials makes for a depressing modernity.
Add to that the invasion of what is by any measure the massive undertaking of the Tour, the hundreds of trucks and cars that come with the more than 1800 press persons, support caravans, and publicitaires—sponsor companies that are sponsoring the Tour, Besancon looks little like the birthplace of Hugo, or the source of inspiration for Stendhal.
Nevertheless, Besancon has lent its massive circular structure, called the Micropolis, a space which has been built with an expansive ceiling that radiates out from its center with swirling wooden slats to house the brain of the Tour.
Underneath its soaring ceiling hundreds of reporters from around the world type away on portable computers, with giant TV screens televising the Tour action in front of them, and scrolling action screens highlighted in the color of the winner’s jersey—yellow.