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The 2010 Tour de France has so far been as exciting as any year we can remember. We’ve decided to bring you up to speed with the race so far and highlight the best bits and the key moments since the riders rolled off the ramp in Rotterdam. Cobbles, crashes, sprints, rider protests and feather weight punch ups have all had us gripped to the action and with today’s stage being flat(ish), the sprinters will want to strut their stuff again after spending a few days suffering in the mountains.

Sylvain Chavanel has been the star of the show, getting Yellow on stage 2 the day before the Tour entered France.

He did go on to lose it on the cobbles, but his efforts on stage 2 were outstanding. Having spent much of the day in a break, Lady Luck finally shone on Chavanel, who has experienced a terrible run of fortune thus far in 2010. He hung tough at crucial moments in the stage and when he was thrown a moment of opportunity (another significant crash in the peloton), he took it like the proverbial ‘dog with a bone’ and capitalised with a magnificent victory.

This was also an unusual day in that the main peloton decided to neutralise the finish and not contest the sprint. Earlier in the stage the road appeared to be covered in ‘oil’ and even the mechanics who were scrambling around with spare wheels were struggling to stay on their feet. Pretty much everyone had a fall on this stage, some more than others with Andy Schleck having to borrow a team mates bike and stick out the remaining K’s.

Stage 3 was the cobbles and saw an unlucky Frank Schleck crash properly, breaking his clavicle. From the helicopter shot we saw, he went down very hard and at a bad time in the race. Thor triumphed in the sprint as expected and won a very tough stage.

Stage 4 was supposedly a chance for Cavendish to shine. The stage ran through the champagne region and was flat enough for Cav to latch onto his HTC lead-out train but once delivered to the line, he had nothing left, sitting up and allowing Petacchi to put another win to his name. Collective panic in the office and all over the UK!

This was all a bit worrying for us Brits, what had gone wrong? We could only hope that on the next day, which was also likely to be a sprint finish, Cav should regain his title of being the ‘fastest man on earth’. Respect to Cav for taking the blame. Losing despite his great lead-out must have been tough.

Would Cav let us down?

Certainly not! Stage 5 and then the following stage 6 were where Mark Cavendish shone.

This honestly raised the office morale, we all hunched round whatever monitor we could to see the sprint and boy did he win convincingly! We’ve said it many times already but well done Mark, you really are the best in the world.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and the first proper test of the riders’ climbing legs. A testing stage around Geneva and up to Avoriaz with the climbs coming in the final part of the stage. The headline?

Contador and Schleck are quite simply some of the most amazing climbers of this generation. Fact! Twisted spoke blog put it perfectly:

Twisted Spoke on Andy and AC: “These two riders are head, shoulders and anaerobic max’s above everybody else who dares pedal a bike in their vicinity”

Of course the other headlines of a mountain stage were who went backwards. Unfortunately Lance fell 3 times on stage 8, which must have seriously dampened his spirits. At the finish he was over 11:45 down and surely must have realised that his dream of winning his last Tour were dashed. His team did all they could to support him including Brajkovic who we thought would shine in the mountains, were there to help Lance out. Maybe Brajkovic has been skiing rather than cycling with those massive panda eyes he has?

Cadel finished in the main group and with enough time to gain the Yellow jersey.

We’ll also mention Bradley Wiggins who suffered on the climb. Team Sky hit the front early in the stage trying to force the pace, Juan Antonio Flecha leading, Thomas Lofkvist following, with Wiggins, sitting third. Come the time to respond and accelerate he finished 1:45 down, which isn’t actually all that bad, but not good enough.

Luckily a rest day around Morzine-Avoriaz followed which gave the riders chance to relax, have a spin (although none of this area is especially flat) and even film some TV commercials (Contador). There were also plenty of twitpics from the riders and teams as they lunched around the area and in the sunshine.

Stage 9: from the profile and map this was going to be one of the make or break days of the Tour. If you want yellow in Paris you need to be in the front group on this stage.

Heading south from Morzine the peloton went over 3 climbs before hitting the Col de la Madeleine. This last climb is 28km long and gains around 1700m in that distance. This gives an average of just 5% but the middle flat section helps this and helps to mask the long 9% ramps which will test even the best legs.

There is quite simply too much to write in here about what went on, but here are some quick pointers:

  • Team Saxo Bank and Schleck – brilliant day for Andy, with big Jens Voigt giving it his all to try and help Andy out. When he swayed and swerved over the road after leading him up the climb you knew he was cooked, what a ride!
  • Contador and Schleck were on a different level of ability. Despite Vino’s attempts AC and Andy toyed with each other on the climb and simply dropping Samual Sanchez like he was not even trying. To watch these two was incredible and will stick in all our minds for a long time to come.
  • A group of 7 came over the line first, 5 of these being the breakway which AC and Schleck pretty much just rode up to! Another stage win by a Frenchman, this time Sandy Casar sprinting it out with LL Sanchez, Cunego, Moreau, Charteau.

Yet another happy Frenchman in this 2010 Tour

  • The other favourites: Cadel was just happy to see the finish line. Losing the Yellow jersey, his team worked hard and we then found out today that he has a fractured elbow but he didn’t announce it in case the other teams took advantage of this and attacked! We knew the Pro riders are tough but this takes it up a step!

Stage 10 was by most stage standards a fairly quiet affair. There was no Bastille Day victory for a Frenchman and it was in fact the Portuguese RadioShack rider – Sergio Paulinho who won by a spoke after he and 5 other riders had a lead of about 11 minutes with 40k to go. As no-one in the break were a threat to the overall standings, the peloton took it nice and steady down some narrow and treacherous descents and arrived safe and sound after a long and very warm day in the saddle.

Overall standings see Andy Schleck remain in the yellow jersey with a total time of 49-00-56, Thor keeps the green jersey and Pineau has the polka dot to add to his collection.

You can keep up to date with all the action on our Facebook Fan page and Twitter feeds. The rest of the Tour looks like it’s going to be a cracker and the Contador v Schleck battle is hotting up nicely!

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