76.5km to go: Ladagnous has crested the day’s one categorised climb with a lead of around 2min 55sec.
78km to go: Cherveux, which is currently being passed, has a very nice castle. Much of the castle was built in around 1470 by Robert Conningham, a Scot who was also head of Louis XI’s personal bodyguard.
80km to go: We are more than half way through today’s stage, and only minutes away from An Actual Thing, namely the category four climb to the Côte de Cherveux.
84km to go: The lead is being trimmed slightly, now down to 2min 25sec. They go through Saint-Gelais. There is a remote chance that the name rings a bell, from the popular 16th-century poet (as in, he was popular in the 16th century) Mellin de Saint Gelais. Mellin was apparently named after popular British fictional character Merlin. Sadly he was born in Angouleme, about 100km away from Saint-Gelais.
88km to go: They’re already getting excited about next year’s flowery boats, it seems:
90km to go: They go through St-Maxire. Every year St Maxire celebrates La Fete des Bateaux Fleuris, or the festival of the flowery boats, a tradition that dates back to 1942 and sees up to 10 boats decorated with “between 10 and 15,000 crepe paper flowers” according to a different theme. This year’s was sadly postponed, so you’ll have to wait until July 2021 if you want to witness this phenomenon for yourself.
93km to go: Still not much by way of action here. Ladagnous leads by 2min 45sec.
100km to go: The increasingly lonely Ladagnous remains in solo leadership, with a gap of a shade under three minutes separating him from the peloton.
104km to go: They now reach Coulon. Just before they hit the centre of town when they abruptly turn right, so really they only experienced a semi-Coulon.
106km to go: Now they’re going around Niort (as opposed to through the middle of it). I’m angry about this, because Niort is not mentioned on the stage’s list of estimated timings from which I have been taking names of towns I should look up, and Niort has a lot more going on than the likes of La Repentie. Notably there’s a donjon, which according to Eurosport “has a particular Plantagenet look about it”, which is well above my level of knowledge.
Back to one of the day’s previous staging posts: “Angire’s efforts were not in vain,” writes Phil Woolever. “Due to your listing I noticed three of the bikes via livestream. You can thus consider yourself a civil servant, thanks for the thorough coverage.” You’re most welcome.
111km to go: They’re about to reach La Repentie. This is nothing to do with the poorly-reviewed 2002 Isabelle Adjani film of the same name. It was at the time her first film for four years, and was known in English as The Repentant.
121km to go: Ladagnous leads by 3min 15sec. There’s really not a lot happening, which explains why on Eurosport they are discussing the farci poitevin, the green vegetable pate traditional in the Poitou-Charentes region.
127km to go: With the breakaway swiftly squashed like an irritant mosquito Ladagnous has been able to extend his lead again, up now to 2min 40sec.
130km to go: They pass through Angiré. Looking at the town website it seems they tried to line the route with yellow bikes and put out a call – “If you have an old bike let us know so we can customise it and put it on display.” I’m ashamed to say I didn’t notice them.
135km to go: Ladagnous passes Benon, and the cameras linger on the Abbaye de la Grace-Dieu, ranked by TripAdvisor as the best and indeed only attraction in town. The six people who were chasing him have been sucked back into the peloton, who are 1min 20sec behind the leader.
141km to go: A group of six riders has broken clear and set off in pursuit of Ladagnous. They are Stefan Kung, Jasper Stuyven, Oli Naesen, Michael Gogl, Tom van Asbroeck and Lukas Postlberger, so six different teams are represented. Ladagnous’ lead is now shrinking rapidly, but the six are only half a minute or so ahead of the peloton.
“Apparently the last time the Tour finished in Poitiers was a while back, and the winner was an Irishman from Carrick-on-Suir famous for regularly wearing the green jersey, one Sean Kelly,” writes Robin Hazlehurst. “You’d get pretty good odds on today’s return to Poitiers being won by an Irishman from Carrick-on-Suir currently wearing the green jersey, one Sam Bennett. A pleasing symmetry.”
145km to go: With Declercq not allowed to break from the peloton but still at the front of it it, the lead has started to gently shrink. “With regard to crashes, why don’t riders use carbon fibre armour on elbows, shoulders etc on flat stages?” wonders Gary Naylor. “Sprinters and leadouts might forego it (or remove it en route), but the reward is surely worth the risk of a little extra weight if you’re in the peloton.” I think that wouldn’t be allowed, under UCI regulations that clothing mustn’t change a rider’s “morphology”.
149km to go: Ladagnous leads by over five minutes. Tim Declercq has just launched himself off the front of the peloton, giving chase.
155km to go: Ladagnous extends his lead beyond three minutes. It is 10 years since he first raced the Tour, and his best ever result was in his first ever stage, when he came fifth. He came ninth in his second stage, and hasn’t come in the top 10 since. This is his seventh Tour, and he failed to finish only once, in 2016. Also yesterday, Nicolas Roche lost a “very precious bracelet”, made by Bulgari no less. He has offered a cash reward.
157km to go: Ladagnous has stretched his lead to 1min 45sec, and nobody seems particularly worried about it. One bit of news since yesterday: Davide Formolo, part of Tadej Pogacar’s Team Emirates, has retired with a broken collarbone.
163.5km to go: The Groupama-FDJ rider Mathieu Ladagnous has launched himself off the front immediately, and is already 35 seconds ahead of the peloton.
167.5km to go: They’re off! A few minutes later than scheduled, the racing begins.
They will apparently be riding into a headwind for most of the day, which will slow things down a bit. In other news, a few riders have just come off their bikes at a roundabout in the neutralised zone. Alexey Lutsenko and Soren Kragh Andersen were among them, I think.
They are rolling out. Châtelaillon-Plage is twinned with Knebworth, which on the French town’s website they describe as “a party town known to all rock lovers”.
The riders are gathered in Châtelaillon-Plage ahead of the rollout. Looks like a thoroughly splendid day by the Atlantic, blue skies and light breeze.
Today’s test is a 167km eastwards rip from Chatelaillon Plage to Poitiers. This is what William Fotheringham has to say about it:
The only truly innocuous stage in the first 10 days, and there should be a westerly so this will be rapid. By now it will be obvious which sprinters are in the mix so there will be pressure on the second-stringers such as Nacer Bouhanni of France and Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy if they haven’t landed one yet.
Ah, the perils of the preview. Nizzolo has abandoned with a knee injury, so the pressure on him is over for now, while Bouhanni was left out of the Arkéa-Samsic team so didn’t start the race at all. Still, there will be others sniffing opportunity in the coastal air this morning. Here’s the stage profile:
Here’s the current top 10 in the general classification:
- Primoz Roglic Team Jumbo-Visma 42:15:23.
- Egan Bernal Ineos Grenadiers :21.
- Guillaume Martin Cofidis :28.
- Romain Bardet AG2R la Mondiale :30.
- Nairo Quintana Team Arkea-Samsic :32.
- Rigoberto Uran EF Pro Cycling :32.
- Tadej Pogacar UAE Team Emirates :44
- Adam Yates Mitchelton-Scott 01:02.
- Miguel Angel Lopez Astana Pro Team 01:15.
- Mikel Landa Bahrain McLaren 01:42.
And here’s Jeremy Whittle’s report on Stage 10:
Sam Bennett stole back into the green jersey in the Tour de France, after taking his debut victory on stage 10 from Île d’Oléron to Île de Ré on the Atlantic coast. Bennett has now won stages in all three of Europe’s Grand Tours.
Racing for Deceuninck-Quick-Step, the Irish sprinter had so far been the 2020 Tour’s nearly man, frustrated by rivals such as Caleb Ewan of Lotto Soudal, Wout Van Aert of Jumbo-Visma and Alexander Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates. This time, however, there was no mistake and he edged ahead of both Ewan and the multiple green jersey winner Peter Sagan to take the stage and the lead in the points classification from the Bora-Hansgrohe rider.
Much more here: