Pic: Team Garmin Transitions
The road from Bourge de Peage in the center of Provence to Mende in the Parc National de Cevennes is long and torturous through small back roads, with Cat 5, 3 and 2 climbs, and is ideal for a breakaway.
And so the break happened, but this one dangerous to the contenders in the general classification because in it were 18 riders including RadioShack's Andreas Kloden, Alexandre Vinokourov (AST), and Ryder Hesjedal (GRM), each one capable of challenging the leaders in the Pyrenees to come, and capable of a podium finish.
Also in the break was Sandy Casar (FDJ), Thor Hushovd (CTT), Mario Aerts (OLO), Sivtsov (THR), Santambrogio (BMC), Barredo (QST), Charteau (BTL), Kiryienka and Perget (GCE), Kern, Moinard and Pauriol (COF), Verdugo (EUS), Bole (LAM) and Valls Ferri (FOT).
At 37 km to the finish, four riders had broken ahead from the front, including Hesjedal, Kloden, Vinokourov, and Kiryienka.
Ryder Hesjedal was behind the leader by 5 minutes and 42 seconds at the end of yesterday's stage 11. Currently the break is ahead of the peloton by more than 2 and a half minutes. If he could stay away to the summit of Mende, Hesjedal could bring himself up from 12th to possibly 6th position, or better.
Andreas Kloden is 9 minutes behind the overall leader, and in 20th position, but a stage win could benefit the RadioShack team, and bring Kloden into a higher position before the Tour enters the Pyrenees two days from now.
Pic: Team RadioShack
It was almost as if the team leaders of RadioShack and Astana gave their blessings to their domestiques to win a stage before the Pyrenees start tomorrow. This time Armstrong admitted that his team was allowing someone to go to the break, and it was clear that Astana also allowed Vinokorouv to go ahead, with the idea that he could not challenge Contador's lead.
Still, as I said several blogs ago, Kloden showed strong climbing in last year's Tour, leading Armstrong up Verbier and Mont Ventoux without letting up. So I still see him as a possible podium finisher.
Thor Hushovd made his way into the break, and sprinted for points at the intermediate sprint to gain more points, and take back the Green Jersey from Alessandro Petacchi which he lost yesterday. Now he has 168 points to Petacchi's 167.
HTC Columbia's Mark Cavendish has 131 points, but with his lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw out of the Tour after being disqualified for a head butting in yesterday's sprint finish in Bourg de Valence, there is little chance he can take the Green Jersey in this Tour. "This is cycling, it's not wrestling," said course director Jean-Francois Pescheux, adding that the violation was "flagrant."
In the second half of this race the road widens, and there are two climbs, one cat 3 and one cat 5 before the final cat 2 to Mende. The final ascent to Mende may be ranked category-two but it’s the steepest hill of the 2010 Tour de France.
Alberto Contador has twice won a stage atop the "Montée Laurent Jalabert" - as it is known since the Jalabert's victory in Mende in the 1996 Tour
So don't expect the breakaway to be able to keep the stars away--Contador and Schleck who won't want to see their rankings slip.
General Classification Standing at End of Stage 11:
|1.||SCHLECK Andy||11||TEAM SAXO BANK||53h 43' 25"|
|2.||CONTADOR Alberto||1||ASTANA||53h 44' 06"||+ 00' 41"|
|3.||SANCHEZ Samuel||181||EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI||53h 46' 10"||+ 02' 45"|
|4.||MENCHOV Denis||191||RABOBANK||53h 46' 23"||+ 02' 58"|
|5.||VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen||101||OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO||53h 46' 56"||+ 03' 31"|
|6.||LEIPHEIMER Levi||25||TEAM RADIOSHACK||53h 47' 24"||+ 03' 59"|
|7.||GESINK Robert||195||RABOBANK||53h 47' 47"||+ 04' 22"|
|8.||SANCHEZ Luis-Leon||161||CAISSE D’EPARGNE||53h 48' 06"||+ 04' 41"|
|9.||RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin||77||KATUSHA TEAM||53h 48' 33"||+ 05' 08"|
|10.||BASSO Ivan||41||LIQUIGAS-DOIMO||53h 48' 34"||+ 05' 09"|
|11.||KREUZIGER Roman||44||LIQUIGAS-DOIMO||53h 48' 36"||+ 05' 11"|
|12.||HESJEDAL Ryder||54||GARMIN - TRANSITIONS||53h 49' 07"||+ 05' 42"|
|13.||ROCHE Nicolas||81||AG2R LA MONDIALE||53h 49' 48"||+ 06' 23"|
|14.||VINOKOUROV Alexandre||9||ASTANA||53h 49' 56"||+ 06' 31"|
|15.||ROGERS Michael||118||TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA||53h 50' 29"||+ 07' 04"|
|16.||SASTRE Carlos||91||CERVELO TEST TEAM||53h 50' 38"||+ 07' 13"|
|17.||WIGGINS Bradley||31||SKY PRO CYCLING||53h 50' 43"||+ 07' 18"|
|18.||EVANS Cadel||121||BMC RACING TEAM||53h 51' 12"|