Portuguese rider wins on France's national holiday to salvage RadioShack's miserable Tour so far
Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack) provided a bright spot in an otherwise miserable Tour for his team so far by winning the tenth stage of the Tour de France between Chambéry and Gap after a long breakaway. The Portuguese rider outsprinted Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) after the pair escaped from the rest of a six-man break. Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) outsprinted the other breakaway riders, Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouyges Telecom) and Mario Aerts (OmegaPharma-Lotto) 1’29” behind Paulinho at the end of the 179km stage.
After two challenging Alpine stages, the peloton decided to take the closest thing that they could to a rest day, allowing a breakaway group to finish well clear.
“In the last 10km, Mario Aerts was willing to try to attack,” said Paulinho after the finish. “After he was caught, another Belgian attacked and when we got Devenyns back, I decided to try as well. In the finale it was just between myself and Vasili Kiryienka.
“It was a close sprint but the most important thing is to win and so this moment, for me and my team, is a good one,” he continued. “I hope that in the coming days the team can achieve a few more victories.”
With the collapse of RadioShack team leader Lance Armstrong on stage 8 to Morzine-Avoriaz, and with an eighth victory for the American now out of the question, Paulinho’s team has had to re-evaluate it’s strategy in this year’s race.
“The team started with one objective and that is the general classification but also the team prize,” he explained, “so for us the Caisse d’Epargne, Astana and Rabobank are the most important rivals and that’s why I put myself in the breakaway, because there was a guy from the Caisse d’Epargne team. We’ll stay in the fight for the team GC.”
Paulinho’s victory is a rare one for a rider on a team undisputedly lead by Lance Armstrong, where victory for the American always took priority over any personal ambition. Previously only Armstrong’s big friend George Hincapie (now at BMC Racing) and Paolo Savoldelli (both in 2005) have taken an individual stage win while riding in service of Armstrong.
“For me this victory is more important than the silver medal in the Olympic Games. This is the best race in the world and to win one stage in the Tour is the pinnacle of what a cyclist can achieve."
On France’s national day the (unwritten) rules say that there must be Frenchmen in the break!
After an aggressive start, seeing attacks from a number of riders, a group of four was finally allowed to get clear. They had to wait until Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) and Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) contested the first intermediate sprint in La Buissière after 19.5km though. The Italian double-stage-winner beat the Norwegian green jersey wearer, cutting his lead in the competition by two points, partly cancelling out the six points that Hushovd took as part of yesterday’s early break.
Mario Aerts (OmegaPharma-Lotto), Dries Devenyns (Quick Step), Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack) and Vasil Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) were the lucky four to be allowed to get away; with no Frenchman in the group though there was a flurry of counterattacks, much to the chagrin of those in the peloton who wanted to relax.
Eventually, Maxime Bouet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouyges Telecom), both Frenchmen, got away; after a chase of around 20km they managed to catch up with the leading four.
With the Saxo Bank team of new race leader Andy Schleck looking to take it easy in anticipation of possible fireworks toward the end of the stage, the breakaway’s advantage grew steadily.
The peloton sleeps as Pineau reclaims the polka-dots
At the top of the 1st category Côte de Laffrey after 77km the sextet’s lead was up to almost 8 minutes. The first bit of action in the peloton since the breakaway escaped saw Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) and Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouyges Telecom) do battle for the few remaining mountain points. Pineau, who’d worn the jersey until Charteau took it from him yesterday, came out on top; with the six riders out front virtually certain to take all the remaining points in the stage, he claimed back the jersey.
After the brief flurry on the Côte de Laffrey the Saxo Bank team settled back on the front and continued to ride a steady tempo. So relaxed was it that Schleck himself fetched a few bottles for his teammates as he returned to the front of the peloton after a discussion with his team car. The six riders in front continued to work together though and with 60km to go the lead stood at 11’10”; a gap that meant it was all but certain that the break would succeed.
With 35km to go, close to the top of the Col du Noyer, Bouet was briefly dropped but the Frenchman managed to claw his way back on just before the summit.
As the peloton approached the summit of the Noyer, Christophe Moreau (Caisse d’Epargne) attacked off the front; the French veteran was apparently chasing some remaining points at the top of the climb, but as 2nd category climbs only award the first six riders over the line there were none. He was immediately marked by Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack), as both teams were currently separated by just 31 seconds in the team classification.
The pair crossed the Col 11’20” behind the leaders, but was soon pulled back into the peloton on the descent.
Temporary friendships end as the finish is in sight
With just over 15km to go, on the on the unclassified rise before the final descent to the finish, Aerts attacked. The Belgian was quickly pulled back by work from Kiryienka, which caused Bouet to be dropped once and for all. As Aerts was recaptured Devenyns made his move and opened a gap over the others; Kiryienka and Paulinho steadily pulled him back, leaving the others behind and the Portuguese rider jumped away alone.
Kiryienka steadily reeled Paulinho in and the pair rode together to the top; Aerts and Rolland caught up with Devenyns and the three riders tried to recapture the pair ahead that was now 20 seconds clear.
On the fast descent to the finish in Gap, on the roads that saw Joseba Beloki’s career-threatening crash and Lance Armstrong’s impromptu cross-country ride back in 2003, the two leaders extended their lead over the three pursuers to a minute. With the two riders working together Kiryienka looked to be the favourite to take Belarus’ first ever stage win, having been a medallist in the World championship points race in 2006.
More than 12 minutes behind the breakaway Nicolas Roche (AG2R-La Mondiale) attacked the peloton. As the Irishman was no immediate threat to Schleck’s lead, and with nobody wanting to take too many risks on the notorious descent, the Saxo Bank team let him get away.
Track man completely misjudges sprint with time triallist
Kiryienka led into the final kilometre; the Belarusian seemingly confident that his track pedigree would be enough to beat the Portuguese time triallist. Paulinho launched his sprint with 400m to go, but from such a long way out Kiryienka seemed to have him under control. The Caisse d’Epargne rider came around on the right and threw his bike at the line, but left it just too late and Paulinho took the biggest win of his career since finishing second to Italy’s Paulo Bettini in the 2004 Athens Olympic road race.
Roche managed to stay clear to finish 12’58” behind Paulinho with Rémi Pauriol (Cofidis), having also escaped on the fast descent, 59 seconds later.
Danilo Hondo (Lampre-Farnese Vini) led the peloton in to the finishing straight with his team captain Petacchi on his wheel. The Italian launched his sprint as Hondo pulled over, but Mark Cavendish won the dash for ninth despite having to go around the slowing Hondo, 14'19" back. Petacchi held on to beat Hushovd though, chipping a further point off the Norwegian’s lead in the green jersey competition.
Roche’s late move took 1’21” back on the overall classification, and moved him from 17th to 13th overall. With everybody else finishing together there were no other changes to top of the standings; Andy Schleck holds onto the yellow jersey that he took yesterday, 41 seconds clear of Alberto Contador (Astana).
Result stage 10 1. Sergio Paulinho (Por) Team RadioShack
2. Vasil Kiryienko (Blr) Caisse d’Epargne
3. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step @ 1’29”
4. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouyges Telecom
5. Mario Aerts (Bel) OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 1’33”
6. Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale @ 3’20”
7. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R-La Mondiale @ 12’58”
8. Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis @ 13’57”
9. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Columbia @ 14’19”
10. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
Standings after stage 10 1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Team Astana @ 41s
3. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 2’45”
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank @ 2’58”
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) OmegaPharma-Lotto @ 3’31”