Absent was the chest pounding and ego blasting of other riders: Paulinho came to the finish with the grace of a job well done and kissed the sky. It was RadioShack's first stage win at the Tour this year, and was clearly blessed by team leader Lance Armstrong before the start of the race.
It was touch and go in the end, as the two riders battled it out alone: Viriyenka was the better of the two in a sprint, but Paulinho played his cards better letting the younger rider take the lead until it was too late: Paulinho came around him and the Belorussian didn't have time to respond.
And it was no wonder Armstrong was not very forthcoming in his interview this morning, when he was asked if he planned on attacking today: "Oh it's Bastille Day, and we're going to let one of the Frenchmen win," he said unconvincingly. Which is why you have to be prepared if you are competing in this TDF, because Lance always has something up his sleeve.
A four-man break established at the beginning of this last stage through the alps, which included Paulinho. A ho-hum peloton behind them by and large did nothing to chase them down.
That allowed the leaders to be about 11 minutes ahead of the main field about 35 km to the finish, at the base of the last climb of the day, up the Col de Noyer. Two other riders had come to the break, and one of them was Frenchman Maxime Bouet of team AGR2. But the climbs up the last Col were too much for him, and in the end he was in 6th position.
The 10th stage offered an undulating route of 179 km from Chambery to Gap with only two intermediate sprints - the first in La Buissiere (at 19.5km), the second in La Fare-en-Champsaur (at 158.5km). The climbs were at Laffrey (cat-1 at 77km), Terrasses (cat-3 at 98km) and the col du Noyer (cat-2 at 145.5km).
Several attacks were made in the first quarter of the stage, one by HTC Columbia’s Tony Martin, and another by Gregory Rast of Radio Shack.
Another attack established a four man break, which included Mario Aerts (OLO), Dries Devenyns (QST), Sergio Paulinho (RSH), and Vasili Kiryienka (GCE).
Team Saxo Bank chased most riders who tried to bridge the gap to the break. Vogondy tried but he was chased and chastised by Chris Sorensen (Saxo Bank). Then an AG2R rider attacked but was pulled back and Armstrong shook his head: He was protecting his man Paulinho at the front. At that point the attempts to bridge the gap had stopped.
It was Armstrong and a few Saxo Bank riders who were then at the head of the peloton: the four riders ahead posed no threat to either the Yellow Jersey holder Andy Schleck or to any of the GC contenders, but had they also all agreed to let one of Lance's teammates win?
At that point, Aerts, Devenyns, Kyrienka and Paulinho were 40 seconds ahead of the peloton. But Bouet (ALM) and Rolland (BTL) weren’t party to the agreement: They attacked to follow the four leaders who were then more than one and a half minutes ahead.
At 44.5km to the finish, the four stage leaders - Paulinho (RSH), Aerts (OLO), Devenyns (QST) and Kiryienka (GCE) were 4’30" ahead of the peloton, and Bouet (ALM) and Rolland (BTL) were 3’00" ahead.
Jerome Pineau (QST) who was riding in the peloton, attacked at the Cote de Laffrey, beating Charteau to the line and gaining back the lead in the climbing classification with a one point lead. "I like this polka-dot jersey, I think it suits me well and so I wanted it back," said Pineau after the stage finish. At the sprint he and Charteau exchanged a handshake.
At 14 km to the finish and in the middle of the final climb up the Col du Noyer, Dries Devenyns of Quickstep attacked and got ahead of the other 5 riders. Paulinho counterattacked and passed Devenyns on the climb.
Kiriyenka followed Paulinho and the two were ahead of the other 4 riders by more than 15 seconds on the last 12 km from the finish.
They came down the famous winding descents through La Rochette where Joseba Beloki crashed out of the Tour in 2003 and Armstrong went across the grass, and back onto the course after the turn to avoid the pile-up. Fans had outlined the now historical traipse across the grass (see pic).
Paulinho and Kyrienka worked together in the descent as they neared the last 2 miles of the race. With significant experience in track racing, Kiriyenka had an advantage, at least on paper.
But it was Paulinho's third TDF, and at one km to the finish he let the Belorussian to take the lead.
Kiryienka led Paulinho from 1.5 km to go until 400 m to go but then the Portuguese rider launched his sprint from behind. And although Kiryienka came back at him, he had no answer to the speed of the silver medalist from the Athens Olympics road race.
Despite falling back from the leaders on Noyer, Maxime Bouet kept his lead from the peloton and came in 6th.
Nicolas Roche of AGR2 also broke from the peloton in the last 10 km to the finish, and took 7th position, inching his way up in the overall classification to 13th. He is now ahead of Alexandre Vinokourov, Mick Rogers, Carlos Sastre, and Bradley Wiggins.
Remi Pauriol of Team Cofidis also broke to the finish to take 8th in the stage. Behind him in the bunch sprint, Mark Cavendish won over Alessandro Petacchi and Thor Hushovd, but the Green Jersey did not change hands.
Hats off to Cavendish for making it this far in the Tour de France without bailing. He's not much of a climber and he must be putting in a hard day's work every day to stay with the Tour through the Alps. Let's see how he does in the Pyreenees.
General Classification Standings at the End of Stage 10:
|1.||SCHLECK Andy||11||TEAM SAXO BANK||49h 00' 56"|
|2.||CONTADOR Alberto||1||ASTANA||49h 01' 37"||+ 00' 41"|
|3.||SANCHEZ Samuel||181||EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI||49h 03' 41"||+ 02' 45"|
|4.||MENCHOV Denis||191||RABOBANK||49h 03' 54"||+ 02' 58"|
|5.||VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen||101||OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO||49h 04' 27"||+ 03' 31"|
|6.||LEIPHEIMER Levi||25||TEAM RADIOSHACK||49h 04' 55"||+ 03' 59"|
|7.||GESINK Robert||195||RABOBANK||49h 05' 18"||+ 04' 22"|
|8.||SANCHEZ Luis-Leon||161||CAISSE D’EPARGNE||49h 05' 37"||+ 04' 41"|
|9.||RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin||77||KATUSHA TEAM||49h 06' 04"||+ 05' 08"|
|10.||BASSO Ivan||41||LIQUIGAS-DOIMO||49h 06' 05"||+ 05' 09"|
|11.||KREUZIGER Roman||44||LIQUIGAS-DOIMO||49h 06' 07"||+ 05' 11"|
|12.||HESJEDAL Ryder||54||GARMIN - TRANSITIONS||49h 06' 38"||+ 05' 42"|
|13.||ROCHE Nicolas||81||AG2R LA MONDIALE||49h 07' 19"||+ 06' 23"|
|14.||VINOKOUROV Alexandre||9||ASTANA||49h 07' 27"||+ 06' 31"|
|15.||ROGERS Michael||118||TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA||49h 08' 00"||+ 07' 04"|
|16.||SASTRE Carlos||91||CERVELO TEST TEAM||49h 08' 09"||+ 07' 13"|
|17.||WIGGINS Bradley||31||SKY PRO CYCLING||49h 08' 14"||+ 07' 18"|
Stage Standings at the end of Stage 10:
|1.||PAULINHO Sergio||27||TEAM RADIOSHACK||5h 10' 56"|
|2.||KIRYIENKA Vasil||165||CAISSE D’EPARGNE||5h 10' 56"||+ 00' 00"|
|3.||DEVENYNS Dries||134||QUICK STEP||5h 12' 25"||+ 01' 29"|
|4.||ROLLAND Pierre||156||BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM||5h 12' 25"||+ 01' 29"|
|5.||AERTS Mario||102||OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO||5h 12' 29"||+ 01' 33"|
|6.||BOUET Maxime||82||AG2R LA MONDIALE||5h 14' 16"||+ 03' 20"|
|7.||ROCHE Nicolas||81||AG2R LA MONDIALE||5h 23' 54"||+ 12' 58"|
|8.||PAURIOL Rémi||179||COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE||5h 24' 53"||+ 13' 57"|
|9.||CAVENDISH Mark||111||TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA||5h 25' 15"||+ 14' 19"|
|10.||PETACCHI Alessandro||208||LAMPRE - FARNESE||5h 25' 15"||+ 14' 19"|
|11.||HUSHOVD Thor||95||CERVELO TEST TEAM||5h 25' 15"||+ 14' 19"|
|12.||MC EWEN Robbie||75||KATUSHA TEAM||5h 25' 15"||+ 14' 19"|