Part of what made the first hour of Wednesday’s stage 10 so difficult was the day’s first intermediate sprint, located at 20km. Three riders in the hunt for the green jersey contested that sprint, with double stage winner Alessandro Petacchi finishing ahead of points leader Thor Hushovd, and Robbie McEwen finishing third.
Other than his two stage wins, it was the first time Petacchi has shown his interest in battling for the maillot vert.
Two riders not contesting the intermediate sprint, however, were Tyler Farrar and Mark Cavendish.
Though Cavendish sits fifth in the competition, with 97, his chances of seeing the green jersey in this Tour are almost impossible, while Farrar, with 53 points, has no chance of seeing green at this Tour.
Instead, both men are hoping the 184.5km stage 11 from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence — which features just one categorized climb, a cat. 3 at 56km, and rolls mainly downhill for the final 100km — ends in a field sprint.
For Cavendish, a win would add a third victory to his pair during the first week, and catapult him back into the points race. He did not sprint for Wednesday’s first intermediate points, but he did win the bunch kick for ninth place, 14 minutes behind the stage winner, but ahead of Petacchi and Hushovd.
For Farrar, a win would bring redemption to a disappointing Tour that saw his stage 1 sprint marred by a crashing rider, and the rest of his Tour hampered by a fractured wrist following a crash on stage 2.
Following stage 10, Farrar said he plans on contesting the stage 11 sprint.
“It depends on how the stage unfolds, but (stage 11) is a stage we’re taking pretty seriously,” Farrar said. “It’s probably the only sprint in the second week of the race, so I think all the sprinters are going to want to take a crack at it.”
Points standings after stage 10
- 1. Thor Hushovd, Cervelo TestTeam, 138 points
- 2. Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre-Farnese, 131 points
- 3. Robbie McEwen, Katusha Team, 116 points
- 4. Joaquin Rojas Jose, Caisse d’Epargne, 98 points
- 5. Mark Cavendish, Team HTC-Columbia, 97 points
- Complete points standings
Farrar added that should stage 11 come down to a sprint, his wrist injury shouldn’t cause him any problems.
“The wrist made it through the Alps OK. It’s still broken, but it’s certainly manageable,” Farrar said. “I came here with the intention to win a stage, and due to bad luck I’ve only really had a chance to take a crack at it once. There’s tomorrow, and there are two chances in the third week. Hopefully I’ll finally get some good luck on my side in one of these sprints.”
Asked if sitting out the intermediate sprints could work to his advantage at the end of stage 11, Farrar said, “It’s not like (intermediate sprints) are full lead-outs for 10km, they’re right at the (sprint point). But every little bit helps.”
HTC-Columbia director Rolf Aldag said the team would gun for a field sprint, but wouldn’t fully commit without the help of other sprint teams.
“For sure we would like to have a sprint, but it’s very difficult to control it on our own,” Aldag said. “If some other teams also count on a sprint, that would be helpful, because if you have, say, 12 guys down the road you just can’t control it. We have people suffering from crashes. We have people suffering from the heat. It’s just too much to ask them to chase everything down. We need to have some help. But if that happens, if some sprinter teams work with us, we’ll take the share of the work, and we’ll try to deliver.”
As for the green jersey contest, Aldag said Cavendish would focus on stage wins and let the points fall as they may.
“Right now the priority is the stage win over the green jersey,” he said. “During the first sprint today Mark did not sprint, and Thor took some more points. The Tour this year is very tricky, and very difficult and hard, so everybody first of all has to make it to Paris. We try to keep (the green jersey) in reach, we’ll try to see what happens in the next couple of days, in the Pyrenees, and then we’ll see what the outcome might be. But for tomorrow we’d prefer the stage win to more points.”
Current points leader Hushovd said the battle for the green jersey is on after Petacchi showed his intentions 20km into Wednesday’s stage.
“Now the big battle for the green jersey begins. Every point counts,” said Hushovd.
Petacchi, who has only finished the Tour once, in 2001, said he emerged from the Alps with a new objective.
“The first goal was to win stages,” Petacchi said. “Then I wanted to see how I got through the Alps. I came through well, and now the goal is to make it to Paris.”