Three stages to report on, I’ll keep it brief:
Stage 12, the longest stage of the year and the first of 2 “race saving” rides for one of the big teams, with Garmin-Sharp‘s David Millar taking the victory after the break stayed away to the finish. Two category 1 climbs in the first 100kms meant the break was full of climbers, and as the only non-climber Millar must have looked around after the second descent and fancied his chances. In the end, he got clear from the group with Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) with a few kms to go, and easily took the victory. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the bunch kick from Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), to extend his lead in the Green Jersey points competition. Incidently, Millar’s win made him the fourth different British rider to win a stage at this year’s tour, and with Wiggins and Froome in 1st and 2nd place on GC, and Mark Cavendish in the World Champion’s jersey, this is really a golden year for British cycling.
Stage 13 was brutal. The course headed down to the coast and was quite hilly, but looked like a sprinters stage. However a very nasty Cat 3 hill at 194km split the bunch, and on the other side the peloton hit a brutal section of crosswind. The main favourites were well positioned, losing no time, but the most impressive ride came from Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) who got over the top of the hill and positioned himself well to take the stage win. The bunch was down to 43 riders at the end, showing how even an easy “trasition day” out of the mountains can cause suffering if the racers want it enough.
Stage 14 was the second “race saving” ride, with Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) making up for the team’s misfortune with a solo victory. The earlier part of the stage saw the peloton sabotaged by someone spreading tacks on the road, causing 30-40 punctures, including a team car, and leaving Cadel Evans (BMC Racing, currently 4th on GC) stranded for over a minute with no one to give him a new wheel – eventually a team mate passed him, stopped and got him going again. Bradley Wiggans, in his role as race leader, slowed the bunch to wait for those affected, an action which won him praise for sportsmanship. Of course, slowing the bunch allowed the break to get away, and Sanchez attacked the five remaining breakaway riders to solo to the finish. A number of teams have lost multiple riders, but none so much as Rabobank who have now lost 5 of their original 9 riders.
Today’s stage is the final transition stage, 158.5km into the Pyrenees, finishing at Pau. With a few hills at the end, this is probably one for the breakaway, but the finish is downhill so it may come down to the bunch sprint. Tomorrow is a rest day, and the riders will be making the most of it with the fireworks likely to start on Wednesdays massive mountain stage