Mercado Takes Stage 10; Dessel in Yellow

PAU, France — Cyril Dessel (AG2R) of France surprisingly became the fifth leader of the Tour de France when he finished second Wednesday to Spain's Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) in the mountainous tenth stage of the Tour de France.

Tour de France 2006

Cyril Dessel (AG2R) of France (left) beat out Spain's Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) in the mountainous tenth stage of the Tour de France.

Mercado and Dessel, were the only two left from a 15-cyclist breakaway that formed about 31.2 miles (50 kilometers) in to the 118.3-mile (190.5-kilometer) stage from Cambo-les-Bains. Mercado was victorious in four hours, 49 minutes, and 10 seconds.

Dessel, who closed on Mercado in a two-rider sprint, finished second in the same time. Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was third, trailing by 56 seconds. The stage included the first beyond category climb of the race and also featured a Category 1 ascent about 25 miles from the finish.

Dessel, who began the day in 28th position, now leads Mercado by 2:34 in the overall standings. He also assumed the lead in the climbers' classification.

"Today, I had an opportunity and I made the best of it," said Dessel, who Tuesday signed a new two-year contract with his team. "I will try to keep the (yellow) jersey, but tomorrow is a very difficult day in the Pyrenees, and I will see how I am able to rest for tomorrow."

Serhiy Gonchar (T-Mobile), who assumed the race lead after winning the seventh stage time trial, finished 56th in the main field, 7:23 behind. He's now third overall, trailing by 3:45.

Floyd Landis (Phonak) of Murrieta, Calif., who began the day in second, 1:00 behind Gonchar, also finished in the main group, and fell to fifth overall as the highest-placed American, trailing by 4:45. Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) of Santa Rosa, Calif., was the highest-placed U.S. rider in the stage, finishing 21st in the main field. Leipheimer, the highest finisher from the 2005 Tour de France in this year's field, is 58th overall, 10:28 behind.

David Zabriskie (CSC) of Salt Lake City and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) of Greenville, S.C., also finished in the main group and are in the top-20, respectively in 12th place (5:37) and 19th place (6:15).

The peloton, now down to 168 riders, will face a second consecutive mountain stage Thursday as the race enters Spain. The 128.2-mile (206.5-kilometer) 11th stage from Tarbes to Pla-de-Beret includes four Category 1 climbs and one beyond category climb.

Lead Photo: Beth Schneider
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