Joost Dantuma pulled a lot of luck out of his backside today : nobody had more than three riders in their squad from the top ten, but Joost had two out of three in the same position they finished : O’Grady at 2 and Hushovd at 5. So he gets 5 bonus points to add to his tally and storms ahead.

++ provisional ++

303(+42) Joost Dantuma (UK)
294(+30) Simon White (France)
238(+17) Francis Lee (France)
232(+25) Paul Evans (France)
52 (+0) Keir Mitchell (UK)

Even without the bonus points, the sprinters performed as expected and are well positioned in Joost’s lineup. The man they are dubbing “the flying Dutchman” is no doubt grinning from ear to ear, having trailed by little margin from me since he last led after stage 7 (the same stage that Keir Mitchell last charted any points). Paul “sour grapes” Evans kept up with the pace and could be seen hanging on nicely to Francis Lee’s wheel ready to attack when needed. He was heard chanting “this game is crap” and other tactical psychological taunts at Franco’s dérailleur all day.

Out on the road, it could have been Chavanel’s day, but the breakaway he led – at one point up to 9 minutes in front – was destined not to stay ahead. The Davitamon Lotto team worked hard to keep McEwen in contention, but it wasn’t until the last kilometer that everything played out. Chavanel was just 8 seconds in front with Horner going under the “flamme rouge” and as the two front riders came around the last corner the peloton streamed ominously round behind them. They couldn’t hold on as the final sprint hit speeds in excess of 75kph. McEwen broke at just the right moment to pip O’Grady to the post, and Hushovd looked a little bit like he’d been left standing. The green jersey race is looking very interesting. However this flat day hardly allowed much respite for non climbers before the gruelling stages in the Pyrénees…

Franco’s team finally loses his first rider : Valverde had to give up today, succumbing to the same fate as Boonen, due to a sore knee.

Interesting quote today after the fall of Discovery Channel team member Beltran : “Manuel Beltran had to stay in the hospital for a 24 hour observation for a concussion but will then return home. He’s fine, but after crashing and wrecking his helmet he still wanted to continue racing, but had no memory whatsoever of going down after touching wheels with another rider.”