PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Saturday's 13th stage of the Tour de France may have been a relatively uneventful stage in itself, but it was certainly quite an eventful aftermath as Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro, second to stage winner Jens Voigt (CSC), took the yellow jersey from Phonak's Floyd Landis.
With the peloton again facing a long stage - in fact, the longest of this year's race at 230km - in a temperature of 35 degrees, plenty of the 160 pairs of legs left were happy to take things easy.
Following the usual flurry of unsuccessful attacks in the opening kilometres, six riders went clear after 21km - Voigt, Pereiro, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Andriy Grivko (Milram), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Cofidis's Arnaud Coyot - and quickly built a lead.
Coyot decided to drop back to the bunch after just 5km in the lead group, perhaps realising that he had a long, hot day ahead, but the rest pushed on to build a lead of over five minutes with 50km covered.
A bike change for Grivko after a problem with his rear derailleur at the 200km mark seemed to inspire the Ukrainian - no doubt hoping to follow the exploits of countrymen Serhiy Honchar, who wore yellow earlier in this Tour, and Friday's stage winner Yaroslav Popovych - to attack on the final climb of the day. Having got back to the group, the 22 year old attacked on the Cote de Villeneuve de Berg, but was chased down, and then dropped.
The bunch, meanwhile, despite the presence of yellow-clad Landis's Phonak squad on the front, was content to let the gap hover around the 29-minute mark. The remaining four pushed on, and after a few efforts from Chavanel inside the last 15km, it was Voigt who put in the decisive charge with 5km to go.
Only Pereiro could match the German's pace, with Quinziato leaving Chavanel to chase, either unwilling or unable to help. Voigt and Pereiro, on the other hand, were working well together to make sure of the gap.
Voigt tried again with a kilometre to go, but was tracked by Pereiro. Voigt tried once more, opening up the sprint, and there was no way that he was going to let Pereiro come around him.
"It was the fifth time this year I've tried to get away, and finally it worked," the amiable German told reporters. "It wasn't easy, though. I think I just wanted it more than the others - I'm not sure that I actually had the best legs. It's a big weight off my shoulders, and the team's. Hopefully it will give everyone a big smile on their face!"
It was then an agonising wait for Pereiro to see whether he would take yellow. Having started the stage in 46th place, 28-50 behind his former team-mate Landis, the bunch came in 29-57 down, led home by Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) who added more points towards his green jersey. With a 12-second bonus for second place on the stage, Pereiro now leads Landis by 1-29.
"Getting yellow was a surprise," Pereiro admitted. "This morning, it was my intention to get away in a break, but I never thought that I'd be able to get the yellow jersey. But once the gap got so large, I began to think that it might be possible."
Good news for Pereiro and his Caisse d'Epargne team, then, but also good news for Phonak, who decided not to chase so as to take the pressure off them trying to hold on to the jersey. As Axel Merckx told procycling in the start village ahead of the stage, it was never the intention to take the yellow jersey so early in the race, "and we wouldn't be that disappointed if someone else took it".
"I knew Phonak weren't chasing," Pereiro said. "But it's understandable that they didn't want the responsibility. Now I'll just have to do my best to defend it."
Stage 13, Beziers-Montelimar
1 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 230km in 5.24.36 (42.51kph)
2 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis 0.40
4 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas
5 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Milram 6.24
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 29.57
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise des Jeux
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic
9 Carlos Da Cruz (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
10 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Cofidis
29 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
1 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 59.50.34
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 1.29
3 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r 1.37
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 2.30
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2.46
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC 3.21
7 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile 3.58
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 4.51
9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel 5.02
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2r 5.13
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 252
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 222
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 207
1 David De La Fuente (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 80
2 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2r 62
3 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 61
Best young rider: Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner