A 12-man breakaway sprinted to the finish in Besancon today, bringing the stage win to national Russian champion, Serguei Ivanov-- and placing George Hincapie second in the overall Tour.
It was the second Tour stage win for the Russian rider, who came in first in 2001 at Aix les Bains.
Coming in among eight other riders Hincapie of Team Columbia HTC was only 5 seconds away from taking the Yellow Jersey from Rinaldo Nocentini of AGR2-Mondiale and after the finish, he was visibly disappointed.
The day was full of surprises, starting out cold and rainy, and ending with sunshine and a sea of spectators wearing yellow caps, and pounding furiously on the sideboards leading to the finish line.
But Hincapie refused to come down to talk to reporters, according to his handlers who stood by the Team bus door with hard faces after the rider went in.
Bob Stapleton, team manager of Columbia HTC said that Hincapie was very disappointed that he missed winning the lead in the general classification. He also said Hincapie’s family came to see this stage--which made the defeat even harder for him.
Stapleton also said it was not out of the question that Hincapie could take the Yellow Jersey before the Tour is over--and possibly even the win of the whole race.
The new standings also now make Lance Armstrong fourth in the general classification, while his Astana teammate Contador is in third.
The new overall Tour placements mean that the real battle will begin in earnest now in the Alps, with three big teams battling it out, AGR2-Mondiale, Columbia HTC and Astana.
But when it comes to climbing the Alps, it is quite possible the fight could be between Armstrong, Hincapie and Contador. But will the Astana team be significantly weaker in the Alps without Leipheimer, who cracked a bone in his wrist yesterday and is out of the race?
Knowing that their rider was up front in the break, Team Columbia tried to keep the peleton at bay, but were unsuccessful in slowing a pursuit by Nocentini’s team AGR2.
Among the other riders in the breakaway to make it to the nine man finish were Nicolas Roche (AGR2), who came in second in the sprint, and won Ireland’s national championship this year; Heyden Roulston (CTT), Martijn Maaskant (GRM) Daniele Bennati (LIQ) Christophe LeMevel (FDJ), Sebastian Minard (COF), Daniele Righi ((LAM).
Danielle Bennati who was not in the original break came in ninth but got the time of the top 8 riders.
Gerard Ciolek (MRM), Fredrik Willems (LIQ) , and Albert Timmer (SKS) who were part of the original break came in before the peleton.
Jens Voigt who had been part of the break caught a flat tire and was dropped.
In the final peleton spring, Mark Cavendish once again beat Thor Hushovd to the line, but he was unable to gain enough time to take back the Green Jersey. With so many mountain stages coming up, including the first most decisive stage 15 tomorrow from Pontarlier to Verbier, Cavendish may not be able to retake the Green unless he takes time back in the very last stage into Paris.