LOURDES, France (VN) — Jeremy Roy (FDJ) won a consolation prize by earning the day’s most combative award, but French riders have come up empty so far in the 2011 Tour de France.
David Moncoutie (Cofidis) was second and Roy was third behind Thor Hushovd’s impressive win into Lourdes.
Last year, six French riders won stages in what was hailed as a renaissance of French cycling. This year, the French seemed to have fallen flat again.
Thomas Voeckler’s brave defense of the yellow jersey is bolstering national pride, however, but even he said that winning is never easy at the Tour.
“To win a stage at the Tour is never easy. In fact, it is quite complicated, especially when you consider the sprinters and GC climbers account for about two-thirds of the stages. It doesn’t leave much for the attackers,” Voeckler told VeloNews. “You can have great legs and not win a thing.”
French riders will continue to attack to look for an elusive stage win. In fact, French riders have been present in just about every major breakaway so far in this year’s Tour. Their lack of stage-victory success certainly isn’t for a lack of trying.
Sandy Casar (FJD) was third in stage 9 and Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) was second in stage 3 and posted four other results in the top 6 in the sprints before abandoning.
The GC picture is more bleak, however. Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ), who also wears the white jersey right now, is best-placed behind Voeckler with 13th at 5:50 back. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) is next, at 19th at 8:20 back.
A top-10 finish by a French rider looks like a real challenge right now.
Bernard Hinault, the last French rider to win the Tour de France, back in 1985, says he doesn’t see any young French prospects who look to have the ability or the willpower to someday aspire for overall victory.
“Pffft,” Hinault told VeloNews. “We’re on vacation here.”
Gilbert chasing green
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) is chasing the green jersey, but not in the bunch sprints, where he knows he will be beat straight up by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad).
Gilbert surged away on the descent off the Col d’Aubisique in a brave quest for points. The Belgian superstar knows that’s the only chance he has.
“I am chasing the green jersey, not riding for GC,” Gilbert said at the line after his sortie pushed him into ninth overall. “I know I am good on the descent and I wanted to make differences on the bunch. In the end, it was a hard effort for only a few points.”
Gilbert managed to gain six points at the finish line in Lourdes, but archival Jose Rojas (Movistar) won four in Lourdes and five at the day’s intermediate sprint. Mark Cavendish defended by taking four at the intermediate sprint.
“HTC has a very strong team here and we are just six. HTC is all riding for Cavendish every day, so it will not be easy,” Gilbert said. “I tried to get into the breakaway early today, but HTC chased it down. I will need to try to surprise them when I can.”
Cavendish defended green with 264 points to Rojas’ 251 and Gilbert’s 240.
Another rider who moved up in the green jersey battle was stage-winner Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo), who slotted into fourth with 192.
It’s Hushovd’s oft-stated intention of not chasing green that opened the door for his stage win in Lourdes.
“I’ve said the green jersey is not a goal,” Hushovd said. “I know that if I went for it this year, I could have won it. When I look back, I realize it was good for me, there’s less stress. Today I was free, I am not in the green jersey competition and that allowed me to get away and win this beautiful stage.”
Yellow: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) defended the yellow jersey after his team controlled the day’s main breakaway. Voeckler finished 17th at 7:37 back and defended his 1:49 lead to Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek).
Green: Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) kept green in a hectic day. Jose Rojas (Movistar) took a point back on Cavendish at the day’s intermediate sprint and Phlippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) attacked on the Aubisique to chase points at the finish line. Cavendish leads Rojas, 264-251, with Gilbert third with 240.
Polka-dot: Jeremy Roy (FDJ) overtook the King of the Mountains jersey by leading the break over the Aubisique. He now leads Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), 45-40.
White: Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) kept his 1:37 lead to Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) to defend the white jersey.
Most aggressive: Jeremy Roy (FDJ) won the day’s prize, his second of this year’s Tour and the fourth for FDJ.
Best team: Europcar kept its five-second lead on Leopard-Trek.
- Markel Irizar (RadioShack), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r): 50CHF fine for irregular mechanical assistance (Article 12.1.040.20.2)
- DS Wilfried Peeters (Quick-Step): 200CHF for not respecting the instructions of the commissaires (Article 12.1.040.28)
- Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis): 100CHF fine for public urination (Article 12.1.040.29)
- Andriy Grivko (Astana): 30CHF fine for “sticky water bottle,” bidon collé (Article 12.1.040.37)
- DS Alexandr Sheffer (Astana): 50CHF fine for above offense
- Gerard Ciolek (Quick-Step): groin pain
- Rui Costa (Movistar): tendonitis in left leg
- Tony Gallopin (Cofidis): trauma right ankle
- Ben Swift (Sky): leg pain
- Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis): small wound on chin
- Crash 130km – Romain Zingle (Cofidis): cuts to right elbow, buttocks
The fast start wreaked havoc on banged-up riders struggling to hang on. Lars Boom (Rabobank), Andreas Kloden (RadioShack) and Vladimir Isaichev (Katusha) all dropped out. Gert Steegmans (Quick-Step) did not start, leaving 171 riders in the peloton.
Mostly sunny skies with chance of afternoon showers at the finish line; strong, gusty northwesterly winds from 20 to 40kph; temperatures in the high 20Cs in the valley and 12C at the Plateau de Beille summit.