CARMAUX, France – After all the feuding and hard words, Andre Greipel finally got what he wanted and it had nothing to do with talk: a winning ride in the Tour de France.
The German sprinter beat Mark Cavendish – his former teammate and sometimes adversary – by the length of a wheel Tuesday to capture the 10th stage of a three-week race that is soon to leave the flatlands for the perilous climbs of the Pyrenees.
Thomas Voeckler of France kept the yellow jersey after nestling safely in the main pack for most of the day. Defending champion Alberto Contador did much the same, and the Spaniard had even more reason to be careful after hurting his right knee during crashes in the fifth and ninth stages.
“At the beginning of the stage, I wasn’t sure what to think,” said Contador, a three-time champion. “But as the stage progressed my knee was feeling less sore.”
Contador, the best climber in the world, trails main rivals Cadel Evans of Australia and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg by 1:41 and 1:30 entering today’s flat run.
The 98-mile trip from Aurillac to Carmaux ended with Cavendish applying brutal acceleration and seemingly headed toward his third stage victory in this Tour. Instead, Greipel got on his wheel and surged ahead in the last 20 yards, a winning leg in cycling’s showpiece race secure.
Greipel and Cavendish clashed last year while on the HTC-Highroad team. Greipel, who now rides for Omega Pharma-Lotto team, was in a conciliatory mood.
“I have a lot of respect for Cavendish – he has won 17 stages of the Tour de France. Now I have one,” Greipel said. “He was not always really friendly with his comments (about) me.”
Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain was third. The top three completed the stage in 3 hours, 31 minutes, 21 seconds.
Cavendish is one of the most outspoken cyclists. He and Greipel cleared the air this time.
“Now I’m happy for him. He’s come to the Tour de France and he’s won,” Cavendish said.
Today’s 11th stage is made for sprinters, a 104-mile route from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur.