This flat stage took us through recently harvested fields where the only animal life we spotted was a family of donkeys. They were very sweet, but trois ânes do not equal une vache. Fortunately a Reuters photographer became an unwitting cowrespondent for us with this pic:
Thanks to Lesli Cohen for finding this and using the #lvdt tag!
Like the previous vache-free stage, this one was characterised by a number of stomach-churning crashes. Chris Horner of RadioShack was down for quite a while but managed to make it to the finish a little over 12 minutes after the stage winner. Poor Bradley Wiggins of Sky was forced to abandon (I hate that term – it sounds so purposeful when it is clear that these guys really need to be dragged from their bikes) and the stage five crash finally took its toll on Tom Boonen, who had struggled through the wet stage six but clearly needed to be somewhere other than on a bike. I am hesitant to use the word “ironic” in this context, but I did have a wry smile when Paul Sherwen mentioned that a lot of the crashes happen because riders are desperately trying to get to the front. Janez Brajkovic, who was injured in stage five, has written about his (sadly shortened) Tour and why he thinks there are so many crashes in the early stages here.
As the finish line loomed, the early breakaway was caught and HTC started getting into position to deliver Cowvendish to the line, which he did, just ahead of Petacchi and Greipel. The only jersey to change hands tonight is the green, which is going back to Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas. [edited: in fact, the white jersey went to Gesink after the end of this stage]