Pictures: Of the nine men in the breakaway
This 224 km stage that starts in Barcelona takes the riders deep into the Pyrenee mountains, will shed many riders today.
Egoi Martinez left Chrisophe Riblon right
A lot of tension rides on today's race. For one the difficult climbs, the last to Andorre Arcalis which is hors categorie, or outside of category, are sure to test even the best climbers, like Contador, Sastre, Armstrong, Leipheimer and Evans.
As we noted last night, it could also be the day for surprise results, with riders like Cadel Evans who hasn't done as well as he could up to now, trying to catch up, or unknown riders pushing the envelope to make a name for themselves, or win the stage.
But many are watching to see which rider from the Astana team will be able to handle today's tough climbs, especially the final kilometers to the top of Andorre Arcalis.
The first half of the stage is all 3, 4 and 5 category climbs with a cat. 1 climb at the Col de Sierra Secca.
At this time 8:50 New York time, the riders have reached Sierra Secca, and many have already passed it.
An early breakaway at about an hour into the race involved three riders, Egoi Martinez (EUS), Christophe Riblon (ALM) and Jose Evan Gutierrez (GCE). Later, at the 34 km mark, those three were caught by six others, Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA), Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ), Christophe Kern (COF), Jerome, Pineau (QSI), Brice Feillu (AGR), and Johannes Frohlinger (MRM).
Brice Feillu has his own blog which reads, "Je suis coureur cycliste professionnel au sein de la formation Agritubel. Je me considère bon rouleur et bon grimpeur," which translates to: "I am a professional racing cyclist, with the team Agritubel. I consider myself a good [flat stage rider] and climber." He signs off saying, "Thanks for your encouragements."
Several other breaks were attempted before the 90 km mark and Sierra Secca, but none lasted. At 90 km the peleton is more than 11 minutes behind the lead group.
The chase peleton is being driven at the front by the Astana team who have more than 4 riders who are capable of doing well in this stage, and Armstrong and Contador are in the second and third positions overall, which they need to protect in this stage. Other top Astana riders have opportunity here, including Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer.
The second stage of this climb will be very trying with the toughest part of the climb at the end--to the hors categorie Andorre Arcalis.
And with 77.8 km to go, the breakaway is still ahead of the peleton by 11 minutes and 46 seconds.