The Tour bade farewell to the Pyrenees today, starting in the foothills in the town of Pau, with its Chateau of Henry IV dominating the skyline, to make the first of today’s lower category climbs, that of Côte de Baleix. There were other low passes and hills – Côte de Villecomtal, Côte de Miélan, Côte de Sainte-Dode-aux-Croix and Côte de Theux (none of which I could find pictures for) – then the ride through the almost flat agricultural landscape of Tarn et Garonne with plenty of yellow sunflower fields. One more low hill, Côte de la Montagnère,
awaited the riders before arrival at Castelsarrasin with aeriel shots the town, including Port Castel (pictured) on the River Garonne.
The initial breakaway group of eight riders eventually dwindled to four – Daniele Bennati, Markus Fothen, Martin Elmgiger and Jens Voigt. In the end Bennati managed to sprint ahead from Fothen’s attack in the final kilometre and win the stage. Contador now holds the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification, which is by no means secure as Cadel Evans is close enough behind to pose a threat, especially as the time trial is only two days away and Evans should prove the stronger rider. David Millar, who had been one of the original eight who had broken away, finished in 5th place and the main peloton came in over 9 minutes after the leaders, led in by Tom Boonen who retains the green jersey. Following the events and withdrawals of the past few days morale seems at a low ebb and it was sad to see Denis Menchov (Rabobank), who had been riding in support of Rasmusson, decide to abandon the race today.
RESULTS (British riders in italics)
POLKA DOT (climber) – Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
GREEN (points) – Tom Boonen (Quickstep Innergetic)
WHITE (under 25) – Alberto Contador (Discovery)
COMBATIVE – Jens Voigt (CSC)
LEADING TEAM – Discovery Channel Team