The Spoke Word: Tour de France Stage 10 report

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RadioShack’s Portuguese climber Segio Paulinho won Stage 10 of the Tour de France on Wednesday, claiming a two-man sprint over Caisse d’Epargne rider Vasili Kiryienka of Belarus.

The two were part of a six-man break that dominated the day’s action as the peloton took things easy on a sweltering, 111-mile day in the Alps. The main bunch, including race-leader Andy Schleck in his first day in yellow, rolled in more than 14 minutes later. HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish won the bunch sprint to pick up points in his hunt for the green jersey.

There was no change to the top of the overall standings. Shleck still leads Alberto Contador by 41 seconds, with Spain’s Sammy Sanchez third at 2:45. RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer remains the highest placed American rider. He sits in sixth place, 3:59 behind Schleck. (Full standings here.)

Paulinho’s win was a bit of a surprise. Lance Armstrong’s team has never been built for stage wins, aside from stage wins for Armstrong. During his seven-year Tour reign, only two of his teammates ever won a stage. Their goal was always to sacrifice themselves to set him up for the win. As a result, they were rarely in place to ride for their own interests.

After Armstrong’s meltdown in Stage 8 this year, it was assumed that RadioShack’s best hope for glory was to get Leipheimer on the final podium. While that’s still an outside possibility, no one gave them much of a chance for a stage win. But Paulinho proved that, while the team may have come into this race all about Armstrong, it is a team built of riders who have the legs to compete once they’re set free to ride for themselves.

The next three days will see no change in the overall, with back-to-back flat stages that will likely see a return to the sprint finishes of the first week. Cervelo Test Team's Thor Hushovd leads the sprinters’ points competition (green jersey competition) with 128 points. Italian Alessandro Petacchi is second with 120. Cavendish, in fifth with 85 points, has his work cut out for him. But as he showed with his back-to-back stage wins last week and his sprint today, he’s the best pure finisher in the race and can’t be counted out.

The next test for the overall contenders will come on Sunday as the Tour heads into the Pyrenees.

—John Bradley

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