Sorry this is late- but hard to do these updates from work and things have been busy outside the office as well. Tour posts might be like this during the week through the tour... sorry.
Today's stage was finally won by a nice little breakaway. Four teams had a rider in the break and the quartet worked very well together to keep the field at bay until the line, by just over 2 minutes.
3km into the race today, Will Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle) lept from the peloton and was joined shortly by his day's companions of Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Romain Feillu (Agritubel) and Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld).
The nearly board flat stage was battered by intermittent rain and some strong winds- though that wind would come in handy at the end of the day. The peloton was just a bit too complacent and misjudged the strength of motivation in the four breakaways. Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team was not too interested in the fight to reel the four riders back, assuming the sprinter's teams would all do the work to bring the escapees back- and in turn give Valverde a free ride to the finish to keep his yellow jersey.
In the end, the sprinter's teams did take up the chase, but just too late to bring the quartet of under dogs back in time. Once the four riders were assured of success, the attacks between them began. But it was clear that all four riders were very tired from their hard work all day. None of the four was able to shake the other three and they warily rode towards the finish line. With around 1km to go, Dumoulin took off for the line but was chased down by both Frischkorn and Feillu, with Longo getting dropped. Shortly after, Feillu launched and looked good for a moment but was chased and passed by Dumoulin who made it to the line before Frischkorn could close the gap. Frischkorn managed to hold on for sceond on the stage and moved into second on GC... meaning that Feillu slipped into the yellow jersey, which is pretty good consolation for getting third on the stage.
The big news of the day was the split that occurred in the field with a crash 25km from the finish. Riccardo Ricco, Christophe Moreau and Denis Menchov were all caught behind the crash and finished over 2 minutes down (almost 5min for Moreau). Now, that may not seem like much, but without time bonuses in this Tour... it could end up being huge. Also, Valverde's stated goal was to do Tuesday's time trial in yellow so that he could see the times of all his competitors... but now he'll be followed by the top three riders suddenly ahead of him.
Tomorrow's time trial is just over 29km and is nearly flat and not very technical at all. This should keep the main GC contenders from really hurting their rivals and should also allow the TT specialists a chance to really torch things up and get some podium time. Should be a good day for going really fast, especially if the winds and rains are in check. If not... look for some nervous GC riders trying not to crash and a few of the fringe contenders possibly riding on the edge of smart and dumb. If it's dry, I'd put my money on Cancellara... if it's wet, I'd put my money on Cancellara.
It's gonna be a cool stage tomorrow- I promise.
On a personal note- I'm very proud of the Garmin-Chipotle team. I've always thought highly of Jonathan Vaughters. He's a good guy doing some great things with his team and it's awesome to see them doing so well. JV- Good job!