2010 Tour de France – Stage 9 Wrap-up

2010 Tour de France - Casar Wins Stage 9

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Today’s stage was quite possibly the most exciting I’ve ever seen.  The only letdown: what once seemed to be a wide-open Tour now appears to be a two-horse race.

Here’s what’s what:

1. Sandy Casar’s win renders moot the huge tactical gaffe committed by the 4-man break in allowing itself to be caught by Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, and Christophe Moreau within the final kilometer.  Had Schleck and Contador a bit of time to catch their breath before the sprint, they just might have taken the stage—as it was, they looked set to ride right by the original four had a corner not interrupted their plans.

2. For Casar, it was his third Tour de France stage win (he was declared the winner of last year’s Stage 16 after Mikael Astarloza’s DQ), and the first this year for La Francaise des Jeux.  After a rather anonymous first week, it’s easy to see why Madiot had his boys following wheels until now.  And those kits…magnifique!

3. As for Luis Leon Sanchez, we really expected more from a rider we thought might make a serious bid for the GC.  True, he sits eighth currently, but one has to wonder if he’ll remain there for long.  As for the stage, Sanchez and Cunego were the two favorites to take the win—had they better knowledge of the finale.

4. As for the rest, it’s become abundantly clear that Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are the two main contenders for the 2010 Tour de France.  Samuel Sanchez is doing his best to spoil the party, but after what we saw today, it’s hard to see anyone other than Schleck and Contador on the first two steps of the podium in Paris.

5. Behind Schleck, Contador, and Samuel Sanchez, the rest of the top-10 began to shake itself out as well, as Rabobank’s duo of Robert Gesink and Denis Menchov pulled Radio Shack’s Levi Leipheimer and Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez away from Jurgen Van den Broeck, Ivan Basso, and Lance Armstrong (who appeared to rebound quite nicely after Sunday’s 12-minute loss).  The effort bumped Menchov into fourth over VDB2, and Levi, Gesink, and Rodriguez into sixth, seventh, and ninth.  Not a bad day for them.

6. Rabobank is now the only team with two riders inside the top-10, after Roman Kreuziger lost time to slip to 11th—one spot behind his teammate, Ivan Basso.  While Kreuziger’s performance certainly wasn’t terrible, it’s a bit disappointing that he was unable to stay with one of the first three groups of overall contenders.  For a rider many were looking to challenge for a top-5 placing in Paris, things aren’t looking very promising at the moment.

7. And speaking of teammates, at what point are people going to lay-off Alexandre Vinokourov?  His acceleration seemed to be un-choreographed, a brash show of defiance from a rider many would love to see derail Contador’s Tour.  But to Vino’s detractors, I say this: give the guy a break!  You are more than welcome to hate the rider, but his tactics appear sound.  His attack forced an already thinning peloton to up the pace just a bit, shedding several secondary contenders and the yellow jersey.  And with Vino still lurking in 13th-place on GC, he’ll remain just enough of a threat to warrant attention from other teams—giving Contador a tactical advantage over Schleck and Saxo Bank.

2010 Tour de France - Evans After Stage 9

Fotoreporter Sirotti

8. As for Evans, it was revealed after the race that he rode the stage with a broken elbow sustained—we are to assume—in his crash early in Sunday’s stage.  The news seemed to stop many of Cuddles’ detractors  in their tracks, quickly turning snickers of “we knew he was too good to be true” into sighs of  “wow, what a rider”.  On second thought, maybe I was wrong.

2010 Tour de France - Wiggins in Stage 9

Fotoreporter Sirotti

9. And last but not least, at what point will everyone admit that Bradley Wiggins is a bust for Team Sky?  Wiggins lost another five minutes today and has never been relevant in this year’s race.  His performance this year proves what many of us—Jonathan Vaughters included—suspected: Wiggo is not a grand tour contender.  Hey Brad, Wayne Rooney’s on the phone.

2010 Tour de France - Contador in Stage 9

Fotoreporter Sirotti

10. My final thought for the day: Alberto Contador has Andy Schleck—and his team—right where he wants him.  With several hard transitional days before the Pyrenees, Schleck and his Saxo Bank mates will once again be faced with the burden of protecting and maintaining the race lead.  At this point in the Tour, there are few men out of contention enough to take yellow in one these next few stages, thus making it difficult for Schleck to turn over the jersey to another squad.  All Contador—and his team—need to do now is follow Schleck’s wheel and wait for the next major mountain rendezvous.  With only 41 seconds in his pocket, things don’t look good for Andy.

Have a great day—share your comments below!

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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16 Responses to 2010 Tour de France – Stage 9 Wrap-up

  1. nickelbag says:

    good stage indeed. VBD II showed a bit of fight, but nobody can stay with Bert and Andy. Jens, as always buried himself selflessly. If Denis gets stronger, he may be making trouble in the Pyrenees, and I like the way Vino rides. Nothing he’s done has put Contador in trouble, just made other teams do some work.

  2. Joe says:

    As much as this race looks like a two horse race today, I keep thinking (or maybe just hoping) that we’ll be treated to a Giro-like flip of the GC. The race has a lot of climbing this year (a lot still yet to come).

    Andy know’s he must attack Contador every single day, until he cracks big, but in the process of cracking Alberto, he may well crack himself. If the race for 3rd is going strong, then a handful of 3rd place hopeful’s could find themselves back in the BIG race.

    Maybe wishful think, but who doesn’t like to dream.

    • Whit says:

      I hear ya, Joe. It seems it will be a two0horse race, but I do miss Sunday, when it felt more wide-open. It would be fantastic for someone to emerge as a third–and fourth–challenger. Thanks for the comments!

  3. Mike says:

    What happened to Levi, why wasn’t he on Lance’s wheel?

    • Whit says:

      Do you mean the opposite, Mike? Levi was in the group ahead of Lance. After Lance lost so much time Sunday, Levi’s the new leader of Team Radio Shack, that’s why he was able to ride ahead for himself.

  4. Scott says:

    I missed most of the stage but ducked out of work to hit up the local bike shop where they had the live feed playing, so did manage to catch a bit of the action.

    As nickelbag said, it was great to see Jens out front again just killing himself and setting a wicked tempo. Believe it or not, I actually picked Wiggo in my top 5 this year but boy, is he struggling..I guess the pressure is getting to him. Wonder what the rest of Team Sky is thinking right now with him as their “leader”? On another note, I am wondering about Navarro on Astana..he has been pounding hard at the front for a couple of days now ( Scott crosses fingers he does not test positive)…seriously, where is he getting the legs from????

    • Whit says:

      Good points, Scott. So far we’ve had a “clean” race. Should one of Contador’s domestiques turn-out to have doped it will really put a stain on things. For now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping they’re super-motivated. Thanks for the comments!

  5. Pappy says:

    Let me say thank you Whit, for pointing out Brad Wiggins`excessive cause for noise and ink. Wiggo has the personality and ability to get quoted constantly, but if it`s all for this sort of Tour performance its a waste of space. Wiggins has been all talk and no trousers as Brits like him would say.

    • Whit says:

      You’re welcome, Pappy. I never thought Wiggins deserved all the attention–and money. Sky has to be worried at this point in the Tour with little to show for their investment.

  6. nickelbag says:

    I forgot to mention that I enjoy your writing and insight very much. Thanks

  7. Hank says:

    As you say, Contador seems perfectly positioned. Andy must risk blowing up to get time enough to compensate for the TT while Contador can conserve energy and just do enough. Astana has provided more support then better regarded teams with Vino and Navarro, especially Navarro doing yeoman work.

    Andy and Alberto will likely provide more entertainment then we have seen in years for years to come. While I think this is AC’s year AS probably has more then one grand tour win in his future.

    • Whit says:

      Thanks Hank. I do think AS will get his shot–this just doesn’t appear to be his year for it. Although things can always change.

  8. ml says:

    To me it seems like more racers are making a lot of pained expressions than in the (recent) past. Is this the new style? I think Jens would have been able to go 0.5 mph faster if he just relaxed his face. Looks a little like a Cat 5 race out there.

    • Whit says:

      Interesting observation, ML. Never noticed it, but you’re right. Is this year’s Tour just harder than the last and we’re not used to seeing the riders suffer so much?

  9. Big Mikey says:

    Great recap. Don’t know if Contador/Astana planned it, but having Schleck/Saxo in yellow takes a lot of pressure off of Astana. If it’s on purpose, it’s masterful strategy. That leaves AC having to drop Schleck on one of the last mountain stages ftw.

    A number of us have predicted that Wiggins would not have it this year at the TdF. There are frequently one-time contenders (Wiggins, Mayo, VdV, Heras, etc.) that are talked up but can’t pull it off. Wiggins got a free ride last year, as did VdV the previous year, but that won’t happen again. Besides, who can keep up with AC/AS? Those guys are unreal.

    Lot of noise lately about Navarro. I’m not aware of that guy doing anything even remotely similar to these performances previously. Suspecious.

    • Whit says:

      Thanks Mikey. Navarro did win a stage in the Dauphiné, but otherwise, you’re right–nothing. Let’s just hope he’s super-motivated…

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