Luis Leon Sanchez and Jens Voigt throw their bikes at the finish line but Sanchez was the faster finisher whilst Voigt faded in the last 20 metres.
Early in the stage a large group of 28 riders went away as crosswinds whipped the peloton, yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins was in this group but Alejandro Valverde was not and the Spaniard put his team to work on the chase meaning a frantic first hour. The move contained, another escape went and this included Voigt, Sanchez and Frederik Veuchelen (Vacansoleil), Simon Geschke (Project 1T4i), Mickael Cherel (AG2R), Anthony Geslin (FDJ) and Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank). Veuchelen did well to take more mountain points after his breakaway yesterday.
This move never got a big lead, a sign of a tiring day for all. It looked like a sprint finish was coming up but with 15km to go Sanchez and Voigt took off. Visibly giving it everything, the pair were fortunate that the bunch chase was only being led by Omega Pharma – Quickstep, other teams didn’t join in and the lead stayed at just over a minute. The lead two collaborated perfectly until the final kilometre where they started trying to manoeuvre each other, each wanting the other to lead. In the end Voigt launched a powerful sprint but Sanchez countered with a very determined last 100 metres and just took the win, pipping the 40 year old German in Sisteron, on the edge of the Alps.
All teams are delighted with wins but Rabobank will want this win even more. Michael Matthews took a win in Spain but the Dutch squad has found sections of the domestic media asking questions about their lack of wins so far this year. Luis Leon Sanchez certainly had answer. The winner of Paris-Nice in 2009 as well as several stages Sanchez has a nose for the right breakaway, he masters what the French call science de la course, the science of racing. Last year saw him move to Rabobank and he admitted problems settling in, a language barrier amongst other problems.
Rabo’s day wasn’t perfect, Bauke Mollema quit the race. Several others did the same, including Ivan Basso. Bradley Wiggins hopes of winning overall get more and more real but tomorrow’s stage has some climbing and tricky descending and the podium places are still up for grabs. This is a race that will be decided by seconds, not minutes.