Tour de France stage 10: Greipel the Gorilla gets the monkey off his back

Stage 10: Aurillac to Carmaux, 158km

André Greipel – nicknamed ‘The Gorilla’ – edged out former HTC-Highroad teammate Mark Cavendish in a sprint finish in Carmaux after Omega Pharma-Lotto teammate Philippe Gilbert had attempted to beat the entire peloton single-handed. The current green jersey was unsuccessful in his solo bid, but he did blow the peloton apart on the final climb of the day, denying several of the pure sprinters the opportunity to contest the finish.

André Greipel beats Mark Cavendish to take his first career Tour stage (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

A busy rest day and a rapid start

Cult hero Hoogerland still has his sense of humour

The big news from the rest day was the withdrawal of Katusha’s Alexandr Kolobnev after a positive doping test for the banned diuretic drug hydrochlorothiazide, which can be used as a masking agent. In addition, Yaroslav Popovych pulled out due to a fever, further weakening Andreas Klöden‘s prospects after crashes had previously claimed Janez Brajkovič and Chris Horner. Popovych’s departure meant RadioShack joined Omega Pharma-Lotto in taking the day’s start with just six remaining riders.

More hearteningly, however, Johnny Hoogerland was able to ride in the polka dot jersey on his newly polka-dotted bike, despite requiring 33 stitches after he had been personally introduced to a barbed wire fence on Sunday. Before the start, he told ITV’s Ned Boulting that the entire team had been randomly drug-tested at 7.30am, and that he didn’t feel like much of a hero – although he clearly hasn’t lost his sense of humour:

I’m taped and I’m bandaged everywhere, so I feel more like a crash-test dummy than a cyclist or a hero.

Re-energised by a day’s rest, the stage set off at a flying pace on a gradual downhill profile, with nearly 52km covered in the first hour, making it the quickest start to any stage to date. Six men – all but one French – formed the early break, with the highest placed being Cofidis’s Julien El Fares, who started the day 15:06 behind race leader Thomas Voeckler. He was joined by compatriots Rémy Di Gregorio (Astana), Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Sébastien Minard (AG2R La Mondiale) and Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), and also Italy’s Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM).

Vichot claimed maximum points at the intermediate sprint in Maurs after just 37.5km. Less than three minutes later the peloton arrived to contest seventh place, and Mark Cavendish claimed the nine points on offer. José Joaquín Rojas was denied eighth by Cavendish’s lead-out man Mark Renshaw, and similarly Philippe Gilbert was denied tenth by Rojas’s teammate Francisco Ventoso as tactics came to the fore in the green jersey competition.

Marcato took maximum points over the first three climbs of the day to protect teammate Hoogerland’s King of the Mountains advantage. The peloton allowed the leaders to maintain a lead of around three minutes before a couple of bursts of acceleration brought the gap down to under a minute in advance of the final climb with 15km to go.

Gilbert takes on the peloton single-handed

Gilbert had the courage and power to take on the peloton single-handed

With the pack closing in, Marcato, Minard and Vichot broke free of their breakaway companions in an attempt to fend off the peloton. However, Omega Pharma-Lotto hit the front on the fourth-category climb and set an aggressive tempo to try to dislodge the other teams’ sprinters. Their pace quickly swallowed up the three survivors and succeeded in tearing the peloton asunder.

Shortly before the summit, Cofidis’s Tony Gallopin went off the front and Gilbert responded with a big kick to which only three other riders were able to respond: yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler, Dries Devenyns (Quick Step) and Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), giving us the rare image of both the yellow and green jerseys in a break at the front of the race. For a brief moment, it looked like they might just elude the peloton as they built a 16-second lead, but with Garmin-Cervélo and Leopard-Trek committing numbers at the front, the break was gradually reeled back in.

Undeterred, Gilbert forged on alone as the group’s effort fizzled out, but as the road ramped up with 5km to go he stalled and the peloton swallowed him up half a kilometre later. Three separate counter-attacks followed in rapid succession, the last by Garmin’s David Millar. But the pack now had the smell of the finish in their nostrils and they were not going to let it go. Millar was pulled back with 1.3km left, and Omega Pharma took control of the field under the flamme rouge.

Greipel has now won stages at all three Grand Tours

The HTC train had by now disappeared – Mark Renshaw had been dropped on the climb and Matt Goss was ill during the stage – but Cavendish nonetheless looked in prime position as the leaders flicked through a chicane and both right and left 90-degree corners in the final kilometre. With Liquigas’s Daniel Oss providing a convenient lead-out, Cavendish jumped out of his slipstream inside the final 200 metres only for Greipel to come off his wheel and sneak past in the final 25 metres to win by a wheel-length. Rojas was a distant third.

Nonetheless, with tomorrow’s stage even better suited to the sprinters, Cavendish more than halved his deficit to Gilbert in the race for the green jersey. He now trails the Belgian by 31 points, with Rojas in between. It now appears to be between these three, although if Thor Hushovd can gain some useful intermediate points in the mountains he may be able to claw his way back into contention.

All the leading GC riders finished safely in the 81-strong lead group, with no change in the top ten. Hoogerland finished well down the field but retained the polka dot jersey.

Greipel’s first Tour victory makes him the 14th active rider to record wins at each of cycling’s three Grand Tours – the Giro, Tour and Vuelta – after Gilbert and Tyler Farrar also completed their hat-tricks last week. Cavendish had already completed this particular triple at last year’s Vuelta.

Greipel hailed his win as the biggest of his career:

When I crossed the line I was just really happy. It was the biggest moment in my cycling career and it’s a special day.

I’m really happy to have found a team [Omega Pharma-Lotto] that I could ride for in the Tour de France. Of course I had my own ambitions here and I tried to win a stage and now I’ve managed that. I wanted to show myself and prove that I can be competitive in this race. I’m happy that I could win for this team.

He was tactful in his comments about Cavendish, with whom he had a fractious relationship at HTC:

[Cavendish] has proved he’s the fastest sprinter in the world. He’s won 17 Tour stages and I’ve won just one, so that says it all. I have a lot of respect for him. [He] was not always friendly toward me in his comments, but that’s not my style. I prefer to let my legs do the talking.

Cavendish, not always the most gracious of losers, said he had made a mistake but nonetheless congratulated Greipel:

I’m disappointed. I feel I made a mistake but Greipel beat me, so there’s no excuse I can say about that. I went early but it wasn’t too early on this type of finish. But I didn’t commit enough. I kicked with 170 meters to go but Greipel came fast and beat me. I’m happy for him. He’s come here to the Tour de France and won.

Gilbert was pleased to have contributed to his teammate’s victory after a great tactical plan executed by all six remaining members of the Omega Pharma team gave both himself and Greipel a fair shot at victory:

This victory [by Greipel] is a victory for the team. We planned to make the race hard on the final ascent. It was not very steep, but we really climbed it quickly. Then I continued to ride at the front – then there were only five of us, and I tried and thought I might be able to win the stage.

In the end, it became very difficult because there was still a climb near the finish and I could not hold on to my advantage. I went back in the peloton, and immediately took the wheel of Greipel so no other sprinter could get in his wake. Finally he managed to win, it is very beautiful. He really wanted this win!

The energy expended by Gilbert in his solo effort could ultimately cost him the green jersey in Paris – he did well to finish 14th and salvage four points – but his incessant willingness to attack has been the defining feature of a race which passed its halfway points (in terms of distance) today. Win or lose, cycling fans wouldn’t have it any other way, particularly from a rider who combines both style and substance so effectively. Chapeau.

Stage 11 preview

A gently rolling stage which presents the last opportunity for a bunch sprint until Sunday, on the other side of the Pyrenees. If a break has not successfully formed early on, an attack is certain to go away on the third-category Côte de Tonnac, the ascent of which starts at 25km. Both the intermediate sprint and the finish are flat, so expect Gilbert, Rojas and Cavendish to be active at both in search of green jersey points. It will be a big surprise if the finish in Lavaur is anything other than a bunch sprint.

Stage 10 result:

1. André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 3:31:21

2. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) same time

3. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) s/t

4. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) s/t

5. Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) s/t

General classification:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 42:06:32

2. Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) +1:49

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +2:26

4. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:29

5. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:37

6. Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) +2:38

7. Peter Velits (HTC-Highroad) +2:38

8. Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) +2:43

9. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +2:55

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) +3:08

Points classification:

1. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 226 pts

2. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) 209

3. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) 197

4. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 163

5. Cadel Evans (BMC) 135

Mountains classification:

1. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) 22 pts

2. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) 17

3. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) 5

4. Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) 5

5. Rui Costa (Movistar) 5

Links: Tour de France official

Race analysis

Is the new green jersey points system working?

Week 1 winners & losers

Stage recaps

Stage 1: Gilbert climbs to victory as Contador faces uphill battle

Stage 2: Hushovd takes yellow as Evans misses out by one second

Stage 3: Farrar’s green jersey challenge is born on the 4th of July

Stage 4: Evans wins slug-fest but Hushovd clings on to yellow

Stage 5: Cannonball Cav conquers crash carnage

Stage 6: Boasson Hagen wins battle of the strong men

Stage 7: Cavendish wins again as the Sky falls in for Wiggins

Stage 8: Costa’s winning break as Contador continues to look vulnerable

Stage 9: Voeckler leads Tour of attrition as peloton licks its wounds

Tour de France preview

The Tour in numbers

Teams and sponsors (part 1)

Teams and sponsors (part 2)

Official Tour teaser video

Ten riders to watch

Six key stages

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