Today the big stories were flat tires and broken collar bones. I think both the flat tires and the crashes were caused by the high heat and long tiring stage, since they mostly happened on flat straight bits.
Out of the race with broken collarbones:
- Freddy Rodriguez, Robbie McEwan’s lead-out man
- Erik Dekker, Rabobank’s team leader
- Alejandro Valverde, a man several commentators though might win overall.
There was the usual long break away that splintered and the last guy got caught just on the base of the last climb, the Cauberg just 2km from the finish. The Cauberg is a feature in the Amstel Gold Classic in the spring, but it was a lot hotter today. Matthais Kessler, the same guy who got caught about 100 metres from the finish yesterday, took off about half way up the Cauberg and managed to hold them off this time, finishing 5 seconds ahead of the rest.
The Cauberg managed to fracture the peleton and some of the top sprinters ended up behind the first major group, including Hushovd and McEwen – but not of course the GC contenders like Hincapie and Landis, whose teams made sure they were kept near the front of the peleton for just such an eventuality.
World Champion Tom Boonen hasn’t been having a great Tour so far, but he was the best sprinter in the front group. cyclingnews.com says he had a slow leak on the Cauberg and finished on a flat tire, so he wasn’t successful sprinting for second place. He had to content himself with 4th on the day, and ending up in both the yellow and green jerseys (green will be worn by Bennati) for tomorrows start in his home country of Belgium.
Tomorrow will be a flat and long stage. Look for Boonen, Hushovd and McEwen to fight it out for a sprint finish. McEwen will miss Rodriguez a lot, though, and Boonen and his team will have to contend with the pressure of being in yellow, which means setting tempo on the peleton and bringing back the break-aways.