So Bastille Day was also 'No Earpiece Day' and when the whining from the pros and directeur sportif's stopped, today's stage turned into a sullen 194.5Km trudge from Limoges – Issoudun. Well for the first 160km - then the pace hotted up as the sprinters sniffed a stage victory. Mark Cavendish duly took the honours out-sprinting Thor Hushovd to take the win, it wasn't a good day for fellow Brit Bradley Wiggins though, he dropped 15 seconds after being held up by a crash in the final sprint.
This being Bastille Day though, three Frenchman escaped up the road: Thierry Hupond (Skil Shimano). Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) were joined by Mikhail Ignatiev the serial escaping Russian (KAT) who, in the spirit of the day, then contributed not a jot to the break as they only got 90 seconds on the bunch. You could sort of see his point.
Whether out of fear for their own safety, but more likely on the orders of their directeurs the peloton effectively neutralised the stage, trundling along at a stately 37Km/h for the first half. Whether Tour organisers ASO will chose to 'let it lie' we will find out in the next couple of days. It will be interesting to see whether they stick to their guns and leave the ban in place for Thursday's mountain stage to Colmar and if they do, whether the riders will try the same stunt again.
The pedestrian pace did at least set up the prospect of a bunch sprint at the finish - a scenario tailor-made for Mark Cavendish and his Columbia – HTC team mates.
The slow speed did not prevent a nasty crash in the middle of the peloton at the 100Km mark with six riders going down. Kurt Asle Arvesen of Saxo Bank came off worst, nursing an injured shoulder all the way to the finish and gamely hanging on to the back of the peloton. It later transpired that Arvesen had broken his collarbone so the Norwegian National Champion is out of the race and his team are a man down heading in to the Alps.
With 33Km to go, such was the level of excitement that Filippo Pozzato had the time to change his top and show us his very extensive tattoo – thanks Filippo! While Filippo was getting himself together the sprint teams were manouvering for position.
And then the pace upped. Columbia moved to the front and for the final 15Km the other teams were trying to get in to their slipstream, with Cervelo and Thor Hushovd prominent and Tom Boonen right there too. Had the break cared to look back down the long straight road into Issoudun they would have seen the peloton coming – not surprisingly they didn't.
With 10Km to go, the gap was still 30 seconds and Ignatiev was taking his turn at the front. Then with 2Km left he attacked – the French riders were not having any of that and quickly reeled him in, but all the time the peloton were thundering towards them. Samuel Dumoulin then had a go, then Hupond tried just as the peloton swallowed him up with a few hundred metres short of the 1km mark.
On the final right hander a Katusha rider over-cooked it and went down. But the Columbia HTC train was in front and out of trouble – Cavendish went for it pretty much all the way out from the last corner and won from Hushovd with Tyler Farrar third for Garmin Slipstream.
That late crash may not have cost Cavendish but it did nothing for the chances of his fellow Brit Bradley Wiggins who along with a big chunk of the peloton including Levi Leipheimer of Astana lost 15 seconds as a result causing both of them to drop down the general classification. Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong and yellow jersey holder Rinaldo Nocentini avoided trouble, just, as did Carlos Sastre all of them finishing at the back of the last part of the peloton unaffected by the crash.
Tomorrow's stage is a lumpy 192Km stage from Vatan to Saint-Fargea featuring two 4th category climbs and three intermediate sprints. The riders will have their radios back so that'll make them happy.
Afterwards comments and tweets from riders either made light of the radio ban or showed irritation at the reaction to their reaction to it. There is little doubt though that today the riders and their team managers were out to make a point, and while it is unlikely that LL Cool J's Just can't live without my radio featured on too many peloton iPods (too Old Skool) Levi Leipheimer spelt it out in a post ride tweet: "We learned one thing is for sure today, it's the riders who make the race." Not today though, because their directeur sportifs wouldn't let them. Many reading this will think Levi wrong on two counts – it's the fans that make the race and today the riders and the teams let them down.
Tomorrow though is another day and it may be another one for an escape too - although the sprinters will be keen to make sure it doesn't succeed. The finish should be interesting because if the course profile is to be believed there's a slight uphill run in to the line.
Top 10 Tour de France 2009 Stage 10
1) Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - HTC) 4:46:43
2) Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team)
3) Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream)
4) Leonardo Duque (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne)
5) Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne)
6) Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale)
7) Kenny Robert van Hummel (Skil-Shimano0
8) William Bonnet (BBOX Bouygues Telecom0
9) Daniele Bennati (Liquigas)
10) Saïd Haddou (BBOX Bouygues Telecom)
Top 10 on General Classification after Stage 10
1) Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) 39:11:04
2) Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) 0:00:06
3) Lance Armstrong (Astana) 0:00:08
4) Andreas Klöden (Astana) 0:00:54
5) Levi Leipheimer (Astana)
6) Tony Martin (Team Columbia - HTC) 0:01:00
7) Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) 0:01:01
8) Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream ) 0:01:24
9) Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) 0:01:49
10) Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 0:01:54
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