As this story goes online, the 13th stage of the Tour de France is 40km from its conclusion in Revel.
Up front, three riders are away – Juan Antonio Flecha, Sylvain Chavanel and Pierrick Fedrigo.
Behind them, HTC Columbia and Lampre-Farnese have been riding at the front of the bunch, slowly pegging it back. Despite the presence of a third-category climb in the final 7km, they’re thinking of a stage win for their sprinters.
Both Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish have already proved their ability in this year’s Tour with five stages wins between them.
But one question now hangs over Mark Cavendish – how will he fare now that key leadout man Mark Renshaw has been disqualified?
Renshaw had been key for Cavendish in all three of his stage wins this year and many of his victories last year. But after leading Cavendish out for his win into Bourg-Les-Valance on Thursday, Renshaw was kicked off the race for head-butting rival leadout man Julian Dean in the final kilometre.
Cav protested and HTC appealed the decision, but on Friday morning in Bourg de Peage, it was confirmed that Renshaw was out. As a result, Bernhard Eisel has now been charged with the role of filling Renshaw’s shoes as Cav’s final lead out man.
Like Renshaw, Eisel is a reasonable sprinter in his own right. In March he won Ghent-Wevelgem from a six rider sprint and has previously taken results at the head of a bunch gallop. He is also highly experienced, often taking the position of road captain for the HTC team.
Asked if he was up to the task for today’s stage, Eisel said:
“I hope so. I will have to be. Renshaw is out and we take that decision as it is.”
“We just need to stay focussed on trying to win races and I’m confident everything should be fine.”
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish’s win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a ‘must win’ situation for Tour’s green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour’s top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain
Bradley Wiggins: Tour rest day conference
Evans faces rough ride in yellow
Riis secures replacement sponsor but Shleck in doubt
Tour de France 2010: rest day review (July 12)
Armstrong’s Tour de France dream ends
Sky’s objective clear ahead of Tour’s high mountains
The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins