Good racing, good breakaway, though not good enough. Brioches did a fine job of protecting Thomas and chasing after the breakaway. I was happy that, in the end, Thomas came away in yellow again.
Most of the stage was made up of BLB putting the hammer down and the breakaway trying to be stronger than the peloton. They managed a high of maybe almost 5 minutes, but eventually they were caught. Although, by that time, BLB had secured Thomas in yellow of the next day and were sitting back. The sprinters teams, man. They totally took over.
It was fun to watch the breakaway try to keep away. From six down to four, and they were jumping all over each other's wheels. I would have liked to see FDJ's Carlos Dacruz come away with the win, but the peloton was having none of it. One winning flat-stage breakaway seemed to be enough. And poor Juan Antonio Flecha. He did the same thing last year, though I believe it was on a mountain stage, and ran away with the win. It was not to be, this year. He, too, was eventually caught.
Gerolsteiner, Lotto, Quickstep, FDJ, and others were putting a lot of pressure on the front of the peloton and Flecha's 50 second gap was eventually overcome. In the end, it was a great day for most of the sprinters. Steuy almost came away with his second win, but Tom Boonen just ran away with it.
Sad notes of the day. Cipo and Petacchi both didn't start. Rumor has it that this is it for Cipo. As for Petacchi? He had a hard crash yesterday: "I'm really sorry I can't continue," he said. "It's a big disappointment to me, and basically it's because I just cannot raise my arm. Last year I came here and I was in worse condition but I managed to be a protagonist in the Tour. Now I'll just have to see what happens."
And then, argh. With about 10km left, I was going to tell my mother that I'm glad there hadn't been many crashes (just one at the beginning when Lance fell) but I didn't say anything, I didn't want to jinx it. In the end, though, it didn't matter. The race was almost over when suddenly there were a handful of sprinters (thankfully Baden and Hondo were among them) and no one else. The cameras panned back and there was a massive pile-up. When we finally got to see the replay, it reminded me of the footage of the crash on Stage One last year. Oddly enough, it happened right under the 1km to go, so everyone got the same time. But still.
And the cause of the crash? Most likely the peloton pressing too hard and the poor Gerolsteiner boy (who crashed hard in last year's tour as well), Rene Haselbacher. They have him finishing the race in 179th, but I assume he never really made it. I have no idea how he'd have been able to walk.
Gerolsteiner sprinter Rene Haselbacher crashed hard into the left side of the barriers, smashing his left leg and chest and head at 60km/h. Haselbacher was taken to Angers Hospital after the stage, where a medical exam revealed a broken nose and three broken ribs.
And now I'm caught up and looking forward to tomorrow's stage. I really hope Baden can pull out some wins. Matt's no longer working for Brad, so he'll be able to be the lead-out man. And Baden only needs to win a few stages to catch up to Stuey (in green now, as Robbie crashed and didn't make it to the sprint). Allez FDJ!