Sunday, 10 July 2011

Truce costs Thor his jersey on a day beset by carnage

When the peloton rolled out from Issoire this morning they knew they would be have to be on their guard from surprise attacks. Little did they know they would have to be on their guard from the errant driving of French TV journalists. Swerving to avoid a tree, the driver clipped Juan Antonio Flecha who then collided with Hoogerland to send him hurtling at speed towards a barbed wire fence. The two had been part of a successful breakaway for much of the day; Hoogerland having accumulated points that would see him tearfully take the King of the Mountains jersey having painfully eased his bloodied battleworn body onto the podium at the end of the stage.

Earlier in the day as the peloton descended the category-two Puy Mary climb, a nasty pile-up involving Vinokurov, Millar, Zabriske and Van de Broeck, Vinokurov flying off the road and into trees below fracturing his femur and van den Broeke hitting the deck hard and said to have broken his shoulder blade, saw only Millar return to the race.

Following the incident the peloton called a temporary truce to establish the extent of injuries and to allow returning riders to regain lost ground allowing the breakaway to gain around 7 minutes. This move proved disastrous for Garmin, who were unable despite huge efforts, to drive the peloton forward fast enough to regain this precious time, ultimately costing Thor Hushovd the Maillot Jaune he had hoped to take into the rest day and onto stage 10 on Tuesday.

With the breakaway riders affording no such luxury to the bloodied pair of Flecha and Hoogerland following their unceremonious dismounts courtesy of the French journalist, Voeckler took charge hoping to take the stage and snatch the Maillot Jaune in a coup de grace for the French rider. Ultimately he was out-smarted and out-gunned by Spanish rival Luis Leon Sanchez who piped him to the post for the stage victory, leaving the Frenchman to contend himself with the race lead.

Tomorrow the riders will no doubt enjoy a much needed rest day, many receiving more medical care than they perhaps had envisioned before the start of the Tour which has had more than its fair share of crashes and seen several GC contenders depart sooner than they had hoped. On Tuesday the race returns briefly to sprinter territory before heading into the Pyrenees where the Tour will begin in earnest.

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