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July 12, 2006

Stage 10 on the road

Former world champion Laurent Brochard of AG2R didn't make today's start, and Jimmy Engoulvent of Cofidis abandoned on the road, leaving 168 riders in the race.

A 13-rider break formed at about 45 kilometers, taking the points over the 3rd-Category climb and at the 2nd sprint line.

That break: CSC's Jens Voigt, AG2R's Cyril Dessel, Rabobank's Joost Posthuma, Lampre's Daniele Bennati, QuickStep's Cedric Vasseur, Euskaltel's Inaki Isasi and Inigo Landaluze, Saunier Duval's Christophe Rinero, Française des Jeux's Carlos da Cruz, Liquigas's Manuel Quinziato, Agritubel's Juan Miguel Mercado, Bouyges Telecom's Matthieu Sprick, and Cofidis's Cristian Moreni.

Dessel led Rinero, Sprick and Mercado, the Agritubel team leader, over the Col d'Osquich, which is sort of today's warm-up climb.

Bennati is a fair sprinter, and took max points at the day's last intermediate sprint, ahead of Da Cruz and Voigt.

About 80 kilometers into the 191-kilometer day, the gap is up to about 8 minutes, and the leaders have started up today's longest climb, the Col de Soudet. T-Mobile and Phonak are setting pace in the peloton.

The leaders are splitting now, with Voigt, Quinziato, Posthuma and Da Cruz off the back, and Sprick at the back.

Rinero, Dessel, Mercado, and Landaluze are riding together for the top of the Soudet, with the peloton about 9:15 back. The other 9 former breakaway riders are spread out back down the slope.

Hushovd off the back of the peloton. He'll be looking for the grupetto. Brad Wiggins is back there. Iban Mayo is at the back of the field! He's got two teammates with him; Sandy Casar is at the back. The peloton is still 80 or more riders, but Mayo is about to lose contact, on the first major climb of the Tour. Boonen is back here, as well.

Conversely, Levi Leipheimer is riding right next to the 6 T-Mobiles leading the main group. Hincapie, Moreau, Sastre, Landis, and Evans are all there, as well.

Mercado has attacked in the break, and Dessel is riding with him, but Landaluze and Rinero are dropped.

The grupetto has been gapped; all the sprinters are together back there. Matthias Kessler is doing most of the T-Mobile pacesetting. Near the summit, Mercado attacks, Dessel comes back and passes and gaps Mercado. Dessel takes max points over the summit, with Mercado 50 meters back, which will put Dessel up into 2nd in the King of the Mountains competition.

Honchar is one of the last riders in the main chasing group, with his T-Mobile teammates still leading it. Gilberto Simoni is only a few riders ahead, and Thomas Voeckler has fallen off and sprinted back into the field.

Over the top, the gap to Mercado and Dessel is 9:42, and Landaluze is rejoining them at the front of the race. Now Rinero catches on, and there are 4 leaders. Their gap is up over 10 minutes, with Michael Rogers descending a little ahead of his T-Mobile teammates on the front of the chase group.

Cyril Dessel in the yellow jersey? He's the highest placed rider in the break, which is now up at 10:30, and Inaki Isasi is back in the group.

Now Moreni and Vasseur are very close to rejoining the leaders, which would put 7 riders in the lead, with 10:40 on the primary chasing group, where you'll find most of the team leaders. Mayo has caught back onto this group, as well.

The 7 leaders now have 11 minutes in hand, and have started up the Col de Marie Blanque, with less than 50 kilometers to ride.

Voigt, Quinziato and Posthuma have been caught on the lower part of the Marie Blanque; The gap to Mercado's lead group is 10:20. Mercado and Dessel have gapped the other 5 riders, and quickly got 100 meters on them. Landaluze is coming off the front, and rides between Dessel/Mercado, and Christophe Rinero.

Main chase group has brought it back under 10 minutes. Mercado and Dessel are only 2 kilometers from the summit, then will have 40 kilometers down into Pau.

Peña leads Landis near the front of the main chase group, two Discovery riders are also there. T-Mobile still is doing most of the work, but Honchar has been two-thirds back in that group for a while. Sprick is recaptured from the earlier break. Mercado and Dessel are 9:40 up the road.

Dessel leads Mercado over the Marie Blanque, which will put him in the lead in the mountains jersey; Landaluze is only a few seconds behind.

The main chase group is slimming down again, as Rubiera, Zabriskie, Jerome Pineau, David Monoutié, Axel Merckx, and others are falling off the pace. Honchar is dropped, as well, but only 20 meters off the back. He'll get back on the descent.

Rasmussen has attacked out of the chase group, presumably to take some mountain points. Marcus Fothen is goiing the other way, off the back of the chase group, a few bike lengths behind Leipheimer, who's suffering. Just ahead of him is Damiano Cunego. Honchar is consistently one of the last 2-3 riders in the chase group, but he hasn't lost contact, as have Leipheimer and Cunego.

Over the top, it's 9:20 between the day's leaders and the main chase group. Mercado, Dessel, or Landaluze (13 seconds behind) is almost guaranteed the stage win now.

Twenty kilometers to go, and the chase group is at 9:33. Landaluze has never caught Mercado and Dessel, and rides almost 30 seconds behind. AG2R have sent 5 riders to the front of the chase group to disrupt the chase. Mercado won Stage 8 of the 2004 Tour.

The gap is steady at about 9:35, with only about 6 kilometers (3.5 miles) to ride. Dessel is doing all the pacesetting, as Mercado sits in.

Honchar, who was on bottle duty earlier, now has moved to the front, and will lead T-Mobile and the chase group into Pau in the yellow jersey.

The peloton is finally closing the gap a bit. As the leaders come inside the final 3 kilometers, the gap drops to about 9 minutes.

They're under the flamme rouge, with 1 k to ride. Dessel is watching Mercado closely. They're side-by-side through an S-bend, and Mercado is back on the wheel. Dessel is slowing, there he snaps the whip, Mercado comes around, they're both going hard for the line, and Dessel tries to get around at the last second, and almost does, but Mercado takes the stage win.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2006 in Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Christophe Moreau, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Gilberto Simoni, Iban Mayo, Jens Voigt, Laurent Brochard, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Michael Rogers, Patrik Sinkewitz, Thor Hushovd | Permalink

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