Saturday, 17 July 2010

Bernie blasts Cavendish to the sprint, but its Vino who takes the stage.

Yesterday's most aggressive rider, Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) proved how aggresive he can be, attacking in the final climb before the drop into Revel for the finish, winning the stage. Cementing his comback after being dismissed from the 2008 Tour for testing postive for EPO, the Kazak rider stormed to victory having been denied a win on the run into Mende.

Meanwhile, following the loss of Mark Renshaw as both leadout man and roommate for Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia promoted Bernie Eisel to the prime position for blasting his leader in the sprint. Denied a third stage victory by Vinokourov, Cavendish had to settle for second place; a bargain he was happy to broker as he took 30 sprint points for it, moving up into 3rd place in the competition. Despite his work for the intermediate sprint points Cervelo sprinter, Thor Hushovd saw the Maillot Vert go to Petacchi (LAM) once again as he finished ahead of the thunderous Norweigan.

The pace of the day had been fast and furious, with the sprint teams happy to let HTC-Columbia keep the high tempo going at the front of the pack, while a breakaway of 3 men stormed down the course ahead of them. With Renshaw gone, the other teams wanted to test the resolve of the Manxman to see if he was still unbeatable without his loyal Aussie leadout man guiding him through the roaring chaos of the sprint. But despite their disadvantage, HTC-Columbia proved they were still a force to be reckoned with once the line was in their sights.

Tomorrow the peloton heads into the Pyrenees to celebrate the centenery of the Tour visiting the region. For the next five days, the peloton will be tested to their limits of their bodies and psyches in equal measure; their only let up coming in the form of a repos in Pau on Wednesday. With not one but two awesome ascents of the Col du Tourmalet by the time the riders leave for Bourdeux for Stage 18 on Friday the GC may already have its Maillot Jaune; their final chance coming in the Time-Trial on Saturday. For now however, the Maillot Jaune rests with the young Andy Schleck, while Geshink (RAB) keeps his Maillot Blanc warm. Having Taken the Maillot a Pois yesterday, Chauvenal remains in the jersey as the King of the Mountains Champion.

Despite crashing at the start of the race but while still in the neutral zone, Radio Shack leader, Armstrong finished in 100th place, now 4 mins 35 seconds down on the race leader. As things go from bad to worse for the Texan, it is unclear how he will fair in the Pyrenees during this coming week.

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