BORDEAUX FRANCE - JULY 23: Cyclist Alberto Contador stands on the podium as he is presented with the yellow jersey at the conclusion of stage 18 of the Tour de France on July 23 2010 in Bordeaux France. England’s Mark Cavendish won the stage while Spaniard Contador kept the race leaders yellow jersey. The iconic bicycle race will include a total of 20 stages and will cover 3,642km before concluding in Paris on July 25. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Tour de France 2010: Alberto Contador Wins, But Andy Schleck Makes A Statement

The most grueling race is sports is underway: one prologue, 20 stages, 23 days and a total distance of 2,263 miles. Throughout the month, you can follow along, both here in this SB Nation StoryStream and over at our cycling blog, Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 19: Alberto Contador Set To Win Third Tour In Four Years

On Sunday, Alberto Contador held on to win the time trial in Stage 19, and now appears all but certain to win the 2010 Tour de France, his third in four years.

Andy Schleck made a charge that gave Contador reason to worry, but Contador was able to ride consistently enough to seal the win.

Our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, reflects on the Schleck/Contador battles of this year's Tour:

Schleck's performance was an upset, or maybe it was the high expectations for Contador, but either way it made for great drama on the road, and it failed to put to rest the debate over Contador's attack on stage 16 when Schleck lost 39" to a chain drop. Ultimately, though, while Schleck was inspired, Contador rode a very smart race, not panicking and riding better over the latter half of the race.

Here are what the standings look like at the end of Stage 19:

  1. Alberto Contador, Astana
  2. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 0.39
  3. Denis Menchov, Rabobank, at 2.01
  4. Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel, at 3.40
  5. Jurgen VandenBroeck, Omega Pharma, at 6.54
  6. Robert Gesink, Rabobank, at 9.31
  7. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions, at 10.15 
  8. Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha, at 11.37
  9. Roman Kreuziger, Liquigas, at 11.54
  10. Chris Horner, Radio Shack, at 12.02

Stage 20, which takes place on Sunday, is the Tour's final stage and is otherwise known as the Champs-Élysées. It's largely ceremonial, so these standings are not likely to change. This officially sounds the bell on Lance Armstrong, who currently sits in 23rd place and had designs on winning his eighth Tour de France.

For more on the Tour de France, be sure to check out our cycling blog, Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 17: Andy Schleck Wins The Day, But Alberto Contador Keeps Yellow Jersey

On a cold, rainy and generally nasty day in the Pyrenees, the final day of mountains in the 2010 Tour de France, Andy Schleck rode to victory in Stage 17, crossing the finish line at the top of the famous Col du Tourmalet just before rival Alberto Contador, who conceded the stage win to the man from Saxo Bank -- but not his eight-second overall lead in the Tour.

On the Tour's Queen day, a 108-mile ride featuring two category-one climbs and a finish atop the hors catégorie Col du Tourmalet, the mountains belonged to Schleck and Contador for the final 10km, with the two riders going head-to-head, and the man from Luxembourg desperately hoping to shake the Spaniard. But he was never able to ride away, meaning it is likely Contador's yellow jersey to lose.

"I'm satisfied with the stage win but I also wanted to turn white into yellow but unfortunately it wasn't possible. I really tried hard, you have to believe me about that. I changed rhythm and I tried everything but I think we're on the same level on the climbs. Alberto attacked and I could go with him - it was a quick response - but in the end he didn't sprint to win the stage because I did the most work. I have a lot of respect for that, it shows that he's a great champion.

"I tried to find out how he was feeling. You need to look at someone to see how he was coping. I think you can find out a lot if you look someone in the eyes. He didn't have the sunglasses on today so it was possible to see, that's why I looked so many times. But he always looked good and that's kind of what killed me.

"El Pistolero is strong, huh? I could no drop him. He was always there. I wanted to find out if he was getting weak but he didn't succumb. He even attacked me to show, ‘Hey, listen young boy, I'm still here! You better stop playing these games with me.'"

The Tour will now likely be decided on Saturday's Stage 19, a 32-mile time trial in which Schleck, who is weak in time trials, will need to make up the eight seconds (he lost 1:44 in a similar stage last year).

General Classification After Stage 17:

1. Alberto Contador, Astana
2. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank(+ 00:08)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 03:32)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 03:53)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 05:27)

Top Americans:
10. Christopher Horner, Radioshack (+ 10:37)
13. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 14:24)
23. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 37:58)

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Friday's Stage 18 should mark the return of the sprinters after four days in the mountains, with a flat 123-mile ride from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux in the western part of France. Bordeaux has been visited 79 times before on the Tour, second only to Paris and is typically host to some fantastic sprint finishes. 

For more, visit our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, for all things Tour de France.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 16: Lance Armstrong Narrowly Misses Stage Win In What Was Likely Final Chance

Lance Armstrong, riding in his final Tour de France, was part of a nine-man breakaway in Tuesday's Stage 16, a 118-mile ride through the Pyrenees that featured four brutal climbs, including two first-categories and another two that were "beyond categorization" (highlighted perhaps by the Tour's first visit to the Col du Tourmalet).

The tough day culminated in a sprint finish in Pau, with Armstrong digging for the win in the final few hundred meters, but he just did not have enough left in the tank as French cyclist Pierrick Fedrigo (team Bbox Bouygues) took the stage victory.

Armstrong finished in sixth place. It was France's sixth stage win in this year's Tour.

The race's tribute to the original stage through the Pyrenees 100 years ago took them over four major climbs today, but none within 60km of the finish, so the main contenders rode comfortably in a large group containing all but the vertically challenged. Unsurprisingly, Green Jersey leader Alessandro Petacchi was among those riding in the Autobus, while Thor Hushovd was not, winning the sprint for tenth place and six valuable points. He'll start Thursday all decked out in green.

Armstrong attacked from the beginning of the stage and for most of the day looked like the man who won seven consecutive Tours. But in the end, the 38-year old, vying to become the second-oldest stage winner ever, just had nothing left.

Overall, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, a day after the Spaniard took the yellow jersey, crossed together in the peloton, setting up for what should be an epic Stage 17 on Thursday (after Wednesday's rest day). 

General Classification After Stage 16:

1. Alberto Contador, Astana
2. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank(+ 00:08)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:00)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:13)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:39)

7. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 05:25)
25. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 33:46)

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Wednesday is a rest day in the 2010 Tour de France, giving the riders a chance to recharge and plan their strategy for Thursday's Stage 17 -- the Queen stage (the most difficult stage) -- and its four climbs. It begins with a small four-category ascent up the Cote de Renoir and then heads into a pair of category-one climbs -- the Col de Marie-Blanque and the Col du Soulor -- before a second attack up the the Col du Tourmalet, a no category climb that ends with a summit finish.

For more, visit our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, for all things Tour de France.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 15: Thomas Voeckler Climbs His Way To Victory, Contador Now In Yellow

The French success at the 2010 Tour de France continued on Monday's Stage 15, the second day in the Pyrenees, with countryman Thomas Voeckler climbing his way to a victory. Voeckler broke away from a 12-man lead group during the tough ascent up the hors catègorie Port de Balès and crossed the line a full 1:20 before Alessandro Ballan, who finished second.

But the day's main storyline is the passing between Alberto Contador and morning's race leader, Andy Schleck: specifically, Contador passed Schleck on the Port de Balès, resulting in Schleck passing over the yellow jersey. But it was not without controversy, as Contador only sped past Schleck when the man with the mallot jaune had mechanical difficulties.

Alberto Contador sauntered into the yellow jersey today when an attack at the top of the Port des Bales went horribly awry for Andy Schleck. The Saxo Bank rider's chain appeared to come off or jam at the worst possible moment, just as Contador had launched a counterattack, and though Contador appeared not to press his advantage (as etiquette dictates), he was nonetheless away in a select group containing the two combatants for third, Denis Menchov and Sammy Sanchez. Sanchez in particular kept the pace high, and Schleck couldn't rejoin them, losing 13 seconds at the top of the climb and another 30" on the way down to the finish.

The time difference was enough for Contador to take the yellow jersey. The defending champion now sits in first, eight seconds ahead of Schleck with just five more days of racing (Wednesday is a rest day).

Schleck spoke after the stage, and he was not pleased.

"Now I'm really angry. I will ride on the Tourmalet until I fall from my bike and give everything to this race. I felt really good but what counted at the end of the day is the time that you have when you arrive at the finish and I was so far back even with what I did on the descent ... Things happen, and everything happens for a reason. People can say what they want but they also have realize that Alberto was one of the guys who waited for me in Spa and that was really a great sign of fair play. Chapeau! Today was a different story, a different scenario but the Tour is not finished.

Levi Leipheimer remains the top American, but lost time on Monday and is currently 5:25 back from Contador. Team Radioshack, however, is the top squad in the Tour, 4:27 ahead of the Spanish team Caisse d'Epargne.

General Classification After Stage 12:

1. Alberto Contador, Astana
2. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank(+ 00:08)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:00)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:13)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:39)

7. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 05:25)
32. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 21:16)

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Tuesday's Stage 16 is another long day in the Pyrenees, and features the same climbs the Tour de France originally visited in a stage in 1910, prompting the winner Octave Lapize to yell at the race organizers, "Vous êtes des assassins" ("You are murderers"). 

It is comprised of four major climbs: Col de Peyresourde, Col d'Aspin, the famous Col du Tourmalet (east side) and Col d'Aubisque. That's two first-category climbs, and another two that are "beyond categorization."

For more, visit our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, for all things Tour de France.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 12: Rodriguez Wins, Contador Sends Message, Schleck Stays In Yellow

One of the more technical stages of the 2010 Tour de France made for a fast, exciting, up-and-down (literally) 131-mile ride from Bourg-de-Péage to Mende. The bumpy course of Stage 12 culminated with a climb up the Montée Laurent Jalaber, a short -- just 3 km -- but very steep -- 10-11% gradients -- climb to the finish. Podium Cafe predicted that this Alberto Contador special would "open up splits in the field," and indeed it did. 

Contador (Astana), defending Tour champion, repeated his effort from Paris-Nice 2010 and exploded up the hill, accelerating away from his rivals, including Andy Schleck and his yellow jersey. He quickly caught, and passed, the break-away group before battling Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha Team) over the final 1 km, all while having the appearance of a cyclist out for a casual ride on a Sunday morning. Rodriguez proved to be the faster sprinter to the finish line to earn the win in Stage 12, but Contador managed to gain a valuable 10 seconds, and now trails Schleck by only 31 seconds. 

Podium Cafe says that if Contador was trying to send a message, it likely was successful. 

Contador's effort overcame his own teammate Alexandre Vinokourov in the final kilometer, after Vino separated from the remnants of the day's breakaway on the Mende ascent. 

Schleck remains in yellow, but must have some doubts in his mind, as he gave back ten seconds in a phase of the Tour where he needs to be padding his lead. Meanwhile, Thor Hushovd used a few intermediate sprints to retake the green jersey, and Anthony Charteau overtook Jerome Pineau once again in their two-man battle for the KOM.

Elsewhere on the Tour on Friday, American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) announced he was withdrawing from the race, dropping out just 32 minutes into Stage 12. This news comes a day after he finished third in Stage 11's sprint (with the now infamous Mark Renshaw headbutting incident). It's not clear if something happened to Farrar today, or if the pain of riding with a broken wrist suffered in Stage 2 just grew to be too much to bear. 

General Classification After Stage 12:

1. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador, Astana (+ 00:31)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:45)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:58)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:31)

6. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 04:06)
32. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 21:16)

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Saturday's Stage 13 is technically considered a "flat stage," but there are five climbs, including two in the third-category, as the Tour rides 122 miles from Rodez to Revel in southern France. The Côte de St-Ferréol, a steep hill just before the finish, could provide opportunity for a quick break-away. A nice preview before the Tour's hardest stretch: four days in the Pyrenees. 

For more, visit our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, for all things Tour de France.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 11: Mark Cavendish Wins Third Stage Of Tour, Teammate Mark Renshaw Kicked Out

The Tour de France officially left the Alps on Thursday's Stage 11, with a mostly downhill, 119-mile course, meaning it was time relax and exhale after a tough few days in the mountains. It also meant that it was time for the sprinters to re-emerge. The finish set-up perfectly for a mass sprint, and for the third time in 2010, it was HTC-Columbia perfectly positioning Mark Cavendish for another win

Another long, hot day on the roads of France ended in familiar fashion, with Mark Cavendish blasting the field in a sprint, notching his third victory of the Tour de France. Alessandro Petacchi snuck past Thor Hushovd into the Green Jersey with his second place, while Tyler Farrar got a bit stuck in traffic before finishing third.

It was Cavendish's 13th career stage win in the Tour de France, tied for 13th most wins all-time, but it was not without controversy.

Mark Renshaw, Cavendish's teammate and widely considered to be the best lead-out man in cycling, was seen head-butting Julian Dean, Team Garmin-Transition's lead-out rider for Tyler Farrar, during the final 400m of the sprint, and then also seemingly tried to block the advance of Farrar (who finished third). For his actions, Renshaw was immediately disqualified from the stage, and after further review, he was also completely kicked out of the Tour.

Top race official Jean-Francois Pescheux said after the race: "Renshaw was declassified immediately but we have decided to also throw him off the race.

"We've only seen the pictures once, but his actions are plain for all to see. This is a bike race, not a gladiator's arena."

Pescheux added: "He head-butted Dean like in a keirin race. This is cycling, not fighting. Everybody could have ended up on their backs."

It should be very interesting to see how Cavendish and HTC-Columbia perform with no Renshaw, especially with at least three more stages likely to end in a sprint.

Meanwhile, the big name riders all were in the peloton, so no changes among the general classification.

General Classification After Stage 11:

1. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador, Astana (+ 00:41)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:45)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:58)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:31)

6. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 03:59)
32. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 17:51)

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Friday's Stage 12 is a hilly ride from Bourg-de-Péage to Mende, stretching roughly 131 miles. There is a pair of second-category and a trio of third-category climbs before the day finishes with the Col de la Croix before it flattens out atop Mende's aerodrome. 

Profile_stage12_medium

For more, visit our cycling blog, Podium Cafe, for all things Tour de France (like that neat stage profile above).

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 10: Portugal's Sergio Paulinho Sprints To Radioshack's First Win

Sergio Paulinho became the first Portuguese rider to win a stage in the Tour de France in 21 years when he narrowly edged Vasil Kiryienka in Wednesday's Stage 10, a 111-mile stretch from Chambéry to Gap that saw the Tour work its way out of the Alps on Bastille Day. 

Paulinho earned the first win for Team Radioshack in 2010, and finished roughly 14 minutes ahead of the peloton, a time gap the GC riders were happy to surrender since no one in the break-outs were in contention for the podium, especially after a tough two days in the mountains. 

With the main heads of state grouped together in the peloton, there was no change among the leaders.  

General Classification After Stage 10:

1. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador, Astana (+ 00:41)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:45)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:58)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:31)

6. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 03:59)
31. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 17:22)

 

Thursday's Stage 11 is flat stage, likely welcomed relief after four days in the mountains. There is an early (around mile 35) third-category climb, the Col de la Cabre, and then the stage descends to the finish line for the final 84 miles. Remember the sprinters? You'll see them again in Stage 11.  

Profile_stage11_medium

As always, visit our excellent cycling blog, Podium Cafe, for all things Tour de France (like that neat stage profile above). 

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 9: Andy Schleck Trades Attacks With Alberto Contador On Col de la Madeleine, Takes Yellow

After Monday's rest day, the riders of the Tour de France were back in their saddles again on Tuesday, taking on Stage 9, an Alpine course that featured one of this year's most difficult climbs, the Col de la Madeleine, a climb that is hors catégorie, or "beyond categorization."

And it was on the Col de la Madeleine where the Tour may have become a two-man race to Paris, with Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck setting a blistering pace during the 25km climb that left behind a group of contenders, including Levi Leipheimer, and completely broke Cadel Evans, who not only lost significant time, but also the yellow jersey after Tuesday.

The new owner of the maillot jaune is Andy Schleck, who attacked Contador again and again on the Col de la Madeleine until the two finally decided to work together to catch the day's break-away group, reaching the four leaders with just 1km to go, but France's Sandy Casar held off six other riders to claim the stage win. Evans now sits in 18th place, nearly eight minutes off the lead.

Leipheimer finished 10th in today's stage, moving him up to sixth in the general classification. At 3:59 back, it is likely that Team Radioshack will shift their attention off of Lance Armstrong, who is over 15 minutes back from Schleck, and instead focus on helping Leipheimer earn a spot on the podium.

General Classification After Stage 9:

1. Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank
2. Alberto Contador, Astana (+ 00:41)
3. Sammy Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi (+ 02:45)
4. Denis Menchov, Rabobank (+ 02:58)
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Omega Pharma-Lotto (+ 03:31)

6. Levi Leipheimer, Radioshack (+ 03:59)
31. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 15:54)

 

Wednesday's Stage 10 is a medium mountain stage, running roughly 111 miles from Chambéry to Gap as this year's Tour says goodbye to the Alps (don't worry, the Pyrenees still loom. It consists of three categorized climbs, with the second-category Col du Noyer being the most difficult.

For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France, Stage 6: Mark Cavendish Earns Second Stage Win In As Many Days

This should end concerns and answer any questions critics may of had about Mark Cavendish. The Manx Missile won Friday's Stage 6, the longest of the Tour, a 141-mile ride from Montargis to Gueugnon -- his second consecutive stage win -- out-sprinting American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) to the line.

For the second day in a row, it appeared that team Garmin-Transitions had the best position to launch Farrar, but for the second day in a row, it was HTC-Columbia that proved to be better organized with their positioning. And for the second day in row, it was HTC-Coulmbia's Mark Krenshaw, the best lead-out man in the world, once again perfectly delivering Cavendish to a stage win in the Tour de France, something he has now done 12 times over the past three years. 

A split time in the peloton allowed Geraint Thomas to gain three seconds, which may make the difference this weekend in the mountains, and could see Fabian Cancellara relinquishing the yellow jersey (which may be happening anyways, with Team Saxo bank likely shifting their efforts to helping Andy Schleck).

General Classification After Stage 6:

1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank
2. Geraint Thomas, Sky (+ 00:20)
3. Cadel Evans, BMC (+ 00:39)
4. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions (+ 00:46)
5. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step (+01:01)

9. Alberto Contador, Astana (+ 01:40)
18. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 02:30)

 

The 2010 Tour enters the Jura Mountains in Saturday's Stage 7, a 103-mile ride from Tournus to Station des Rousses. It features six total climbs, with the two most difficult saved for the end, the Col de la Croix de la Serra and the Cote de Lamoura, both second-category climbs reaching over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) in elevation. Expect a shake-up among the leaders after Saturday.

For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 5: Mark Cavendish Sprints His Way To First Stage Win This Tour

Thursday's Stage 5 was another ride that belonged to the sprinters. The flat course stretching roughly 116 miles from Épernay to Montargis, France, was won by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) with a furious dash to the line, narrowly edging out Germany's Gerald Ciolek.

For Cavendish, the "Manx Missile," even though it was only the sixth day of racing, the win was a long time coming for someone who took six stage victories in 2009, and had been shutout in this year's sprint finishes up until today.

For the final 5 km, it appeared that the Garmin-Transitions team had everything in order to launch their sprinter, American Tyler Farrar, but Cavendish's lead-out man, Mark Renshaw, burst through and left Farrar behind (he finished 10th).

HTC-Columbia's Mark Renshaw gave one of the best sprint leadouts you'll ever see today, and his teammate Mark Cavendish finally got his unbeateable act together for the sprint victory in Montargis. With several teams vying for control Team Garmin-Transitions put its leadout train on the front for the final 2km, setting up Tyler Farrar to see if he could sprint effectively only three days after cracking his wrist in a crash (answer: not quite yet). But it was Renshaw who crashed the party, first boxing in Thor Hushovd, then accelerating through an opening past the Garmin train and dropping Cavendish off in perfect position to finish off the field.

It was another day with no change to the overall leader board with the peloton finishing shortly behind the sprint-out.

General Classification After Stage 5:

1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank
2. Geraint Thomas, Sky (+ 00:23)
3. Cadel Evans, BMC (+ 00:39)
4. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions (+ 00:46)
5. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step (+01:01)

9. Alberto Contador, Astana (+ 01:40)
18. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 02:30)

 

Friday's Stage 6 is the longest of the race so far, stretching roughly 141 miles from Montargis to Gueugnon. It is also the last flat ride before they Tour enters the Alps this weekend.

For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 4: Alessandro Petacchi Earns Second Win Of Tour In Another Sprint Finish

Stage 4 of the Tour de France, a flat and relatively short ride from Cambrai to Reims, France, was billed as a sprinter's race, and it did not disappoint. The long and straight roads were surely a welcomed a relief to the riders after they spent the past two days dealing with wet conditions and cobblestones, resulting in carnage rarely seen in the Tour. Indeed, Stage 4, the fifth day of riding, was set up perfectly for the sprinter's in the field, and they were quick to take advantage of the perfect conditions.

Team HTC-Columbia, led by Mark Renshaw, did its best to get their man, Mark Cavendish, into position for the final, furious dash to the finish line, but in the end it was Italy's Alessandro Petacchi (team Lampre-Farnese) coming from the outside with speed that was too quick to catch to win the stage, his second victory of the 2010 Tour.

SB Nation's excellent cycling blog, Podium Cafe, wrote that Wednesday was just another example that the veteran Petacchi still has plenty left.

Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre's veteran sprinter, showed the field that he has plenty left in his long, powerful legs as he stomped into high gear from 300 meters out and nobody could catch him. This was vintage Ale-Jet, forcing the high speed from early in the final sprint and daring anyone to try to come past. Among those who couldn't were Mark Cavendish, who gave up with 50 meters left; Thor Hushovd, who was glued to Cavendish and had nowhere to go; Edvald Boasson Hagen and Robbie McEwen, who gave it a go at least; and a duet of Garmin sprinters, Hunter and Dean, stepping into the void left by Tyler Farrar's wrist fracture.

The easy day will surely leave the riders in a better mood, and boost overall morale just days before the Tour enters the Alps. Unless, of course, you're on team HTC-Columbia.

[T]he HTC camp [has] seen their Tour plans crumble. Today they put their leadout train on the front in the final 5km, but not for long as Lampre's Danilo Hondo sprinted up alongside them inside of 3km and signaled the end of HTC control of the race. From there it was an uncontrolled run-in to Petacchi's eventual victory.

With the leaders and other main riders bunched together in the peloton at the finish, there was no change to the overall leader board on Wednesday.

General Classification After Stage 4:

1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank
2. Geraint Thomas, Sky (+ 00:23)
3. Cadel Evans, BMC (+ 00:39)
4. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions (+ 00:46)
5. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step (+01:01)

18. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 02:30)

The defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana), is in ninth position, 01:40 back.

 

Wednesday's Stage 5 is another flat ride, stretching roughly 116 miles from Épernay to Montargis. A pair of fourth-category climbs present themselves early, meaning we should be due another sprint finish at the end. 

For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 3: Thor Hushovd Emerges From Hell Of The North, Cancellara Reclaims Yellow Jersey

It was another day of crashes and chaos in the Tour de France, with the cobblestones of Stage 3 destroying bike tires, tearing apart groups and taking the yellow jersey off the back of Sylvain Chavanel.

A wild fourth day -- a 132-mile ride from Wanze, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, the first day that featured cycling in France -- was won by Norway's Thor Hushovd ("The God of Thunder"). Chavanel rode with the maillot jaune, but the cobblestones were too much to overcome, twice giving him flat tires and causing him to switch bikes.

The roads of Northern France delivered the promised blow to the Tour de France, shattering the peloton into splinters and taking out one big name for good -- Saxo Bank's #2 Frank Schleck, who left without his collarbone intact. And Fabian Cancellara towed away the lead group, including Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans, as well as stage winner Thor Hushovd, now firmly ensconced in the green jersey. Alberto Contador was looking solid in the second chase group until a late flat cost him a handful of extra seconds, in an odd scene where his teammate Alexandr Vinokourov seemed to drop him in the last kilometer. Contador's time losses won't mean much in a couple weeks.

Lance Armstrong appeared to suffer a flat tire and fell back. He surged to make up some of the distance, but still lost valuable time to the leaders, particularly rival Alberto Contador  falling all the way from fifth to 18th in the general classification. Lance is now a full 2:30 back from Fabian Cancellara, who re-took the yellow jersey with a strong ride on Tuesday.

Andy Schleck finished fifth today, and now sits in sixth overall. His brother was not so fortunate -- Frank Schleck crashed (again), suffering a broken collarbone, an injury that will force him out of the race, team Saxo Bank announced.

General Classification After Stage 3:

1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank
2. Geraint Thomas, Sky (+ 00:23)
3. Cadel Evans, BMC (+ 00:39)
4. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions (+ 00:46)
5. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step (+01:01)

18. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 02:30)

The defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana), is in ninth position, 01:40 back.

The Tour rides completely in France for the first time on Wednesday, with a shorter (roughly 95 miles) Stage 4, from Cambrai to Reims. The mostly flat course should be a welcomed relief for the riders after Tuesday's cobblestones.

For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010: Sylvain Chavanel Wins Wild Stage 2, Takes Maillot Jaune

Emerging from another rainy, chaotic day at the 2010 Tour de France, the third day of racing, was Sylvain Chavanel, the Frenchman who rides for Quick Step. Chavanel attacked early and often, breaking away just 17 km into the race from Brussels to Spa, and stayed out in front for the rest of the day, crossing the finish line first some 183 km later.

It is Chavanel's second ever stage win at the Tour, and the first time he will don the yellow jersey.

Monday's Stage 2 was marred by another collection of nasty crashes.

A wet descent threw the race into chaos today allowing Sylvain Chavanel to win from a daylong break. Behind him several GC riders fought with all they had to avoid timelosses after the big crash. The Schleck-brothers managed to reconnect but the detante in the field cost Fabian Cancellara and Saxo Bank the leaders jersey.

Indeed, Andy Schleck, last year's second-place finisher in the Tour, fell victim to the rain-slicked roads of Belgium, and was seen favoring his left arm and shoulder, with his right elbow and leg bloodied and scratched. He eventually took a teammates' bike and got back into the race. It is not known how severe his injuries are.

The Peloton crossed the finish almost four minutes after Chavanel, and did so together, out of protest for dangerous road conditions, with no sprinting, per the strict instructions from Fabian Cancellara. As such, the first 123 riders after Chavanel all received the same time.

Italy's Alessandro Petacchi will wear the green jersey (sprint points) since Chavanel is wearing yellow, while Jérôme Pineau will take the polka dot jersey (top climber).

General Classification After Stage 2:

1. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step 
2. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank (+ 02:57)
3. Tony Martin, Team HTC-Columbia (+ 03:07)
4. David Millar, Garmin-Transitions (+ 03:17)
5. Lance Armstrong, Team Radioshack (+ 03:19)

The defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana), is in seventh position, 03:24 back.

The Tour enters France for the first time on Tuesday, with a 132-mile Stage 3, eight miles of which is cobblestones, culminating with the Trouée d'Arenberg (Arenberg Trench), considered to be the most difficult part of the Paris-Roubaix road race. For more on all things Tour de France, head on over to Podium Cafe.

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Tour de France 2010, Stage 2: Nine Quick Climbs Highlight Rainy Ride From Brussels To Spa

Monday's Stage 2 of the 2010 Tour de France, a 201 km (124.9 mile) ride in Belgium, from Brussels to Spa, is an up-and-down course, featuring a series of nine quick, steep climbs. It's "a tribute to the Ardennes classics," writes SB Nation's cycling blog, Podium Cafe, in their Stage 2 preview

It's a bumpy ride, though none of the climbs are especially long. The course is likely difficult enough to eliminate the pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish and the terrain may slow the chase sufficiently to allow a break to survive to the finish. Riders like Jérôme Pineau and his team-mate Sylvain Chavanel could find stage glory from a break. If the race comes back together, sprinters like Oscar Freire and Thor Hushovd who climb better than many of their rivals will have the advantage.

Podium Cafe highlights Jérôme Pineau from team Quick Step, but also look for Alberto Contador to make a move to better his position -- he won't want to fall too far behind in the Tour before it reaches his playground, the mountains.

For everything you could need for today's stage, Podium Cafe has you covered, with a live thread that already has hundreds of comments, a stage profile and a course map (via Bikemap):

Stage_2_map_medium

General Classification After Stage 1:

1. Fabian Cancellara, TEAM SAXO BANK
2. Tony Martin, TEAM HTC - COLUMBIA (+ 00' 10")
3. David Millar, GARMIN - TRANSITIONS (+ 00' 20")
4. Lance Armstrong, TEAM RADIOSHACK (+ 00' 22")
5. Geraint Thomas, SKY PRO CYCLING (+ 00' 23")

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Tour de France 2010, Prologue Results: Fabian Cancellara Takes Yellow Jersey; Lance Armstrong In Fourth

The brief prologue -- the first stage of the Tour de France -- has concluded, and Fabian Cancellara will get to wear the yellow jersey for at least one day. The 29-year-old Swiss cyclist, racing for Team Saxo Bank, was one of the final riders to start. Germany's Tony Martin held the lead for much of the stage, but Cancellara was able to best his time by a full ten seconds in wet conditions.

Lance Armstrong, racing for Team RadioShack, delivered a strong performance. At the end of the first stage, Armstrong stands in fourth place out of 197 riders, 22 seconds behind the lead.

Here are the top ten in the standings at the end of the prologue stage. Teams in bold indicate multiple finishes in the top ten.

1. Fabian Cancellara - Team Saxo Bank (10'00")
2. Tony Martin - Team HTC-Columbia (+0'10")
3. David Millar Garmin-Transitions (+0'20")
4. Lance Armstrong - Team RadioShack (+0'22")
5. Geraint Thomas - Sky Pro Cycling (+0'23")
6. Alberto Contador - Astana (+0'27")
7. Tyler Farrar - Garmin-Transitions (+0'28")
8. Levi Leipheimer - Team RadioShack (+0'28")
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen - Sky Pro Cycling (+0'32")
10. Linus Gerdemann - Team Milram (+0'35")

You can view the full leaderboard here. Read more on the Tour de France from the experts at SB Nation's cycling blog, Podium Cafe.

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