The peloton climbed so many mountains that the stage took everyone but Costa at least 6 hours to finish. So, by stage's end, it was tough to recall that adoptive St. Louisan Ryder Hesjedal charged up the toughest climbs, the HC Glandon and Madeline, as the leader with Rolland. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. proved satisfying when I saw Hesjedal, husband of McCluer grad Ashley Hofer, in fine form. He cracked a rib on the first stage and has been riding at the back of the pack, arriere du peloton for those following in French. The injury usually takes about 3 weeks to heal, and Hesjedal gave evidence that the doctors know what they're talking about.
|Ryder Hesjedal's glasses, photo courtesy of|
The Inner Ring
Meanwhile, back in the pack, there was lots of strategery playing out. Riders in second to fifth place were separated by just 47 seconds, and the team competition is just as tight.The end result: few fireworks and no change in the standings.
Alberto Contador took a defensive position, setting a tough pace with teammates Roman Kreuziger and Mick Rogers. The tempo prevented Nairo Quintana from attacking and perhaps moving from third overall past Contador. Joaquim Rodriguez gave it a shot on the final climb the Col de la Croix Fry but was quickly returned to the fold and finished the stage where he started, in fifth place overall, 5:58 behind Chris Froome.
The acceleration temporarily isolated Froomie, but Faithful Richie Porte managed to find his own rhythm after being dropped and caught up on the descent.
The only successful escape was launched by Alajandro Valverde, perhaps hoping to take the team classification from Saxo Bank. Thanks to Contador and Kreuziger finishing together and the 2-3 finish of Radio Shack's Adreas Kloden and Jan Bakelandts, the move was for naught in the team competition. Valverde, though, managed to climb to ninth overall, after Mikel Kwiatkowski and Laurens ten Dam were dropped on the final climb.
But, again, no one touched Froome. With just one day left in the mountains before the ceremonial ride to Paris, he is secure at the top of the standings. But with 47 seconds separating second through fifth, the other two podium positions remain in play. All four want to be there, so they should hit each other hard Saturday.