After several stages in the mountains, today was a bit of a reprieve for the riders in the peloton of this year’s Tour de France, allowing the climbers to take a break, while the sprinters once again moved to the front of the pack.
The 184.5 km (114.6 mile) course ran from Sisteron to Bourg-lès-Valence on a route that featured a slow, steady ascent up to a single Category 3 climb, followed by a long, and very fast descent to the finish line. Throughout the day the top sprinters jousted with one another, prepping for the stage win, with teams like HTC and Garmin working hard to put their top rider in a position to contend.
As expected, as the riders approached the finish line, the Green Jersey contenders were all in position, and it was a big rush to the get over the line. In the end, it was Mark Cavendish taking the win, his third of the year, followed closely by Alessandro Petacchi and Tyler Farrar. For Petacchi, this is another great showing for a guy who has struggled in recent years. His high placement today means that he has now ripped the Green Jersey off of Thor Hushovd’s back and will be defending it in the days ahead, with a rejuvenated Cavendish coming on strong. The battle for the top sprinter will most likely come down to a showdown on the Champs Elysees.
The rest of the standings once again remain the same, with Andy Schleck wearing the Yellow Jersey as the overall leader. Jérôme Pineau is in the Polka Dot Jersey, with very little for the climbers to do today, and Robert Gesink in White, which is on loan from Schleck.
Tomorrow will be a bit more of a challenging day, as the stage will take on some rolling hills between Bourg-de-Péage and Mende. The 210.5 km (130.8 mile) route is filled with Category 2 and 3 climbs that will give the King of the Mountain competitors a chance to stretch their legs before the Pyrenees this weekend. The sprinters won’t have too rough of a go with it, but they’ll be hanging on once again. Should be a good ride.