It's Bastille Day and the first day in the Alps, although it's expected to be more of a feeling out day than a make or break defining stage of the Tour. The course for the stage includes just the one Category 1 climb over the Col de la Columbiere which comes around 14km from the end of the 197.5km stage.
As pretty much expected an early breakaway was made with a group of 15 riders (probably a little bigger than would normally be comfortable) getting as much as 8'10'' in front.
The composition of the breakaway was Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse D’Epargne) Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) Martin Elmiger (AG2R) Inigo Landaluze and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole) Egoi Martinez (Dicovery Channel) Laurent Lefevre and Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) Benoit Vaugrenard (Francais De Jeux) Bram Tankink (Quickstep) Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval).
Interestingly it was down to the Predictor Lotto to initiate the chase. Obviously with no-one in the break and thinking of Evans' chances in the GC they are being very attentive to the big moves. Here's what the directeur sportif of the Predictor-Lotto squad had to say when the chase began : “Today we have a decent size lead group and although there are no real top riders present, we can’t let them take 15 minutes, that’s why, together with CSC, we have decided to control the peloton because neither team has anyone in the escape. The idea is to try and get the leaders to within about four or five minutes before the start of the Col de la Colombiere and then we’ll let Cadel show what he’s got."
Out of the breakaway emerged Linus Gerdemann, Inigo Landaluze and David de la Fuente who all attacked on the early slopes of the Col de la Columbiere. Guerdermann then marked himself as a real talent to which reaching the top of the Cat. 1 climb 23 seconds ahead of Landaluze and then descended brilliantly to extend the lead to win the stage by 40 seconds from Landaluze and de la Fuente held on for 3rd at 1'39.
The peloton of favourites came in 3'38'' behind the winner with just about all the big names present.
But it's all about Gerdemann today who takes the yellow jersey with the win with Landaluze and de la Fuente taking up 2nd and 3rd (1'24'' and 2'45'' behind respectively).
Silvain Chavenal has kept the Polka Dot Jersey but Michael Rasmussen has begun to pick up points over the bigger climbs and I expect him to pick up a few more tomorrow. It should only be a matter of time before Rabobank has themselves that one.
Cadel Evans did everything that was expected of him today sticking with the main pack and has positioned himself nicely for the very hard stage tomorrow. His effort today has moved him up to 13th place overall 4 min 02 secs behind the leader. The big question will be who will be able to back up tomorrow for an even harder effort. The real race has begun...The Contenders
6 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'39''
14 Michael Rogers (Team Mobile) 4' 03"
15 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 4' 03"
16 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 4' 06"
17 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 4' 06"
18 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 4' 09"
21 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 4' 15"
27 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 4' 22"
29 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 4' 23"
31 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 4' 26"
37 Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) 4' 32"
44 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 5' 16
54 George Hincapie (Discovery) 7' 15"