Stage 10, the first really mountains stage, and after Sky’s dominance of the time trial, the rivals for the Yellow Jersey knew that the real racing starts from here. The profile included the Hors Categorie classified climb of the Col de Grand Colombier, but before that a break of 11 formed, including French National Hero Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and renowned hardman Jens “shut up legs” Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan). On to the main climb of the day, and Sky set a blistering pace, not allowing any space to the main rivals of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale). Over the top, and Nibali attacked, using his descending skills (best descender in the peloton?) and burning up teammate and Green Jersey wearer Peter Sagan, to gap the remaining 25 or so riders by 30 seconds and move into virtual 2nd place in the GC. Sky, however, know how dangerous he is, and a massive turn by Australian Richie Porte pulled the bunch back up to him. And so it stayed, the only other move of note being Jurgen Van Den Broek (Lotto-Belisol), who attacked on the last climb and took enough time to move himself up from 9th to 8th on GC. Voeckler (Europcar) won the stage with a well timed “sprint” into the uphill finish – I use the term advisedly as after the day’s efforts, they looked like they were riding through treacle.
Stage 11 is already on the road, they’re just approaching the top of the HC climbs of Col de la Madeleine (26km), with the Col de la Croix de Fer (22.4km at 6.9% average) after the descent. The other two main climbs are the 2nd category Col du Mollard, and the stage finishes on the 18km / 6.1% climb to La Toussuire, only the second mountain top finish of the race so far. The GC contenders know they need to attack Sky and try to isolate Wiggins by the end if they are to take any time, but Wiggins’ “domestiques” (support riders) of Rogers, Boassan Hagan, Porte and Froome are an awesome combination, so it will take some doing. The break is away, with 23 riders and some big big names in there, but no-one to challenge Wiggans. Should be an exciting day!