The Tour de France begins its second phase tonight, after a rest day that gave everyone a chance to process the tumultuous events of the first ten days of the race.
For a week where the script had to be torn up again and again, stage 10 produced a cliffhanger episode worthy of HBO. Favourite characters (or villains, depending on your feelings regarding Mr Contador) were written out of the plot, new storylines emerged, and fevered speculation over a broken bike added a touch of intrigue.
Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) tightened his grip on the maillot jaune with a decisive attack on the final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. He now leads the race by 2’23” to Australia’s Richie Porte (Sky), with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) at 2’47”.
If the past week has taught us anything, it’s that everything can change in an instant, but so far Nibali has ridden a perfect race.
Stage 11 is a challenging 187km route from Besançon to Oyonnax.
A classic transitional stage between the Vosges and the Alps, it features three Category 3 climbs and a single Category 4, but there is barely a flat moment and riders with dull legs after the rest day will suffer.
The finish in Oyonnax comes after a 15km descent from the Côte d’Échallon – the first time the Tour has finished in this city.
It’s not really a day where the GC leaders would expect to duke it out, but a breakaway stands a good chance – perhaps an opportunity for the freshly decapitated Tinkoff-Saxo squad to regain some purpose?
Also watch out for Orica-GreenEdge to have a dig. The Australian team lost its road captain Matt Hayman during the rest day, but still has plenty of riders who could do well on a stage like this. The Roar’s Luke Durbridge seems positive.
Fabian Cancellara also withdrew on the rest day. He will return home for some R&R before beginning his build up to the World Championships.
I’ll be live-blogging the stage on The Roar from 10pm AEST.