Thursday, 12 July 2012
Australian rivals Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers nearly collided on a day where the Tour de France status quo was maintained.
Rogers suffered a tyre puncture in the incident during stage 10 on the descent of the Col du Grand Colombier.
Evans then hesitated and was put on the back foot as Italian Vincenzo Nibali attacked.
Nibali's rivals eventually reeled in his high-speed escape attempt and Wednesday featured no major changes to the top of the general classification.
Evans remains second overall, one minute and 53 seconds behind Rogers' Sky teammate Brad Wiggins.
Nibali is fourth, still 2:23 from the lead.
Big attacks are expected in Thursday's 11th stage through the Alps, which features a summit finish at La Toussuire-Les Sybelles.
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler won the 194.5km stage 10 from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and its 17km climb up the Colombier, 43km from the finish.
It was a good day for Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE and their sprinter Matt Goss.
He won the intermediate sprint while green jersey leader Peter Sagan finished third.
That meant Goss reduced the gap to Sagan in the points classification by five to 26.
After the near-miss with Rogers, Evans said he paused just as Nibali went on the attack.
"When Nibali went, there was a little bit of confusion because there was a little crash behind me," Evans said.
"I was a little bit ... I don't know, sometimes you don't get any rewards for sportsmanship, do you?
"Nibali went away and I was a little bit hesitant and maybe it was a missed opportunity."
Rogers was unavailable at the finish but later tweeted that he had to wait almost two minutes for a replacement wheel.
Sky manager Dave Brailsford said he was more nervous about such scares than the performance of his powerful team.
"Mick punctured today, he locked up as Cadel came in, but those types of incidents, you never know when they're going to happen," Brailsford said.
Richie Porte, the other Australian rider supporting Wiggins, was prominent as Sky controlled the pace of the yellow jersey group on the Colombier.
Porte had a slight illness on Tuesday's rest day, but looked in top shape during the climb.
By contrast, Evans' key mountain lieutenant at BMC, American Tejay Van Garderen, lost touch on the Colombier and later said he struggled.
Goss, Australian teammate Simon Gerrans, Sagan and Voeckler were in a breakaway of 25 that formed early in the stage.
Soon after the intermediate sprint, that front group splintered on the Colombier.
Voeckler, who led the Tour for 10 days last year, was in a selection of five riders that contested the finish.
He bolted clear inside two kilometres to go and held on for the solo win.
Evans sprinted at the slight uphill finish but gained no time on Wiggins as they placed 12th and 13th, more than three minutes behind Voeckler.
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