Unpredictable stage today, with a high average speed (46km/hour) during 178 km and the last category 2 climb, which mixed things up.
The most surprising was, indeed, the motivation of Mark Cavendish in this last climb. The English cyclist kept his head on and won his fifth final sprint after a suspenseful ride to the line.
I also think that Cavendish will want to mark this historical competition with a sixth stage victory in Paris and make his name legendary.
Lance Armstrong didn't get trapped in the break created during the descent towards Aubenas, contrary to all his rivals for the third place on the podium. He demonstrated today that he is still here thanks to his professionalism.
To me, the two first places on the podium seem reserved for Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck.
Sentimentally, Armstrong deserves the third place on the podium. In fact, the American brought so much to current cycling and could continue to pull the sport of cycling upward with this new podium.
However, the ultimate explanation will take place tomorrow on the slopes of the mythical Ventoux. The Tour de France is waiting for 500,000 spectators on the edge of the road of this last important stage.
My feeling today is that we enter again in a period of domination--with Cavendish, who is simply the fastest for the sprints, but also with Contador, who appears above everybody. Andy Shleck could be the only guy to perturb the Spanish champion, but he will have to work hard for that.
Tomorrow, see you on top!
Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.