Tour 2010: Stage 12

Despite being technically a ‘transitional’ stage, there wasn’t much respite for the peloton today, with three third- and two second-category climbs on the 210.5km slog from Bourg de Péage to Mende. The final climb of the Montée Laurent Jalabert – named after one of France’s most beloved riders, who won here in 1995 – saw Albert Contador (Astana) go on the attack at last: in the end he gained just 10 seconds on Andy Schleck, but the Tour has been won and lost by less than that before. Just as the organisers doubtless hoped and intended, it’s all going to be decided on the great cols of the Pyrenees next week. Expect fireworks.

OPENING SALVO

Two to go,
And the men
Who would be king
Are shoulder to shoulder:
An intimate skirmish
In the wider war
Against gravity, altitude
And lactic acid.

One kicks
With intent
To hurt.
The other
Stays down,
Unable to rise
To this sudden challenge
And everywhere, alarm-bells sound.

This is not
The killer blow
That ends it all:
But to lose
Even a little
From not enough
Is sure to sting
Somewhere.

Bourg de Péage-Mende, 210.5km
Won by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
Maillot jaune: Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)

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