Another shortened stage saw the race start from Saint-Péray and l finish as planned in Montélimar. So 108km instead of the planned 185.
However, today the sun was shining in the “race to the sun” and the roads and conditions were far more suited for good racing.
Rabobank and CSC, riding for Erik Dekker and Jens Voigt, controlled the race from the start and at Kilomètre 59, at Clénon-d'Andran, once again the favourites fought for the bonus seconds available. Jens Voigt crossed first and got the 3 seconds, while Dekker gained one.
Voigt continued the charge and 7 riders formed a very dangerous looking break. Alongside Jens Voigt were Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Juan-Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Andrey Kashechkin (Crédit Agricole), Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto), Frank Schleck (Team CSC) and Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile).
Rabobank and Quick Step took control of the peloton and as they chased up the major climb of the day, the côte d'Aleyrac (6,6 km at 4,2 %), the peloton split but the escapees were caught. With 32 kilomètres to the finish in Montélimar, the shattered peloton regrouped, however the final climb of the day at the côte du Bois-de-Grignan (4,4 km at 4,1%), with 19 kilometres to go three riders broke clear:
Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak Hearing Systems), Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prévoyance) and Iker Camaño (Euskaltel-Euskadi.
The chase began, but with ten kilometres to go Fassa launched a counter attack from the peloton which was to prove the race winning move.
Paolo Bossoni, Fabian Cancellara and Juan-Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) made the surge and only Jörg Jaksche (Liberty Seguros-Würth), Bobby Julich (Team CSC) and, surprisingly, Jaan Kirsipuu (Crédit Agricole), could react in time.
The Fassa trio worked effectively to gain a decent gap, but then they were faced with a problem. With Kirsipuu in the break there was no point in leaving things to a sprint finish.
Flecha used his experience and “grinta” to foil the Estonian sprinter. He and Cancellara first broke clear of the other escapees, but Kirsipuu, sensing victory, clung to his wheel. The two Fassa men then attacked and counter attacked Kirsipuu, and Fabian Cancellara sprinted home easily to take the stage and the white and yellow jersey .
The peloton was led home by Tom Boonen 32 seconds later.
So a marvellous display by the Fassa team, which adds another twist to the race as the riders prepare to finish on Mont Faron tomorrow.
CSC Back Voigt
Bobby Julich had another great day today, moving to third on the GC, but CSC will stand by Jens Voigt as team leader –
”It was high paced all day, and the peloton was very nervous. We attacked as planned in the crosswinds, but Voigt and Schleck didn't manage to escape. Fortunately, Bobby was alert, when Jaksche attacked towards the end. It was a daring break away, but the gap wasn't too big, and Bobby improved in the overall standings, which means he now has a nice lead on Valverde, who seems to be our most dangerous rival in this race. Jens Voigt is probably still our best card on Mont Faron tomorrow, but it's definitely a big advantage for us to have so many riders well placed in the GC,” said Kim Andersen after the stage.
"It is a team success, we managed to be three Fassa Bortolo riders in the final group and when we came to the final kilometre mark, I had the advantage of having Flecha with me and I managed to beat Kirsipuu on the line.
"After carrying the yellow jersey on the Tour de France, it's a real satisfaction to have won here and earned the leader's jersey. The first part of my season had reallly been difficult. I was sick and in bad condition."
At 172.5km, the "queen's stage" finishes atop Mont Faron. Along the way the riders face five second category and three third category climbs, before the final leg-breaking 5.5km haul up Mont Faron at an average gradient of 9.3 percent.