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Dramatic closing moments catch in stage 9

Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel) and Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze) fought a long tough battle today against the peloton. But like so many other riders in other stages, they fought and lost, but this time, dramatically, almost right on the line. Passing them only a couple of lengths of the finish, green jersey holder McEwen took his second stage win.

After numerous others attacked and failed, the pair made their escape from the peloton after about 40km of the 160.5km between Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat and Guéret. As neither posed a threat to the General Classification, it would be down to the sprinters teams to chase.

With just over 60km remaining, Landaluze and Simeoni had stretched their lead to ten minutes over the peloton. For a while it looked as though it was to be their day. But this was to prove the pinnacle of their achievement as the riders behind, led by Quick Step, Credit Agricole and Brioches La Boulangere, used the 60km to go mark to pick up the pace in a serious way and after about 20km had closed the gap down to six minutes.

What had seemed like a pretty tall chase order over a relatively short stage, gradually became more plausible. While the leaders began to flag, the peloton kept up their pace and narrowed the gap to just one minute with 7.5km to go.

The closing kilometres were heart-stopping stuff, Landaluze and Simeoni battled to hang on to their lead while the main field picked up its attacks, determined to catch them. Inched in by the chasers the two leaders went round the final corner and into the closing kilometre just fifteen seconds ahead of the peloton. After the leaders’ shilly-shallying with positions Landaluze attacked too late and the sprinters caught them: McEwen up front with yesterday’s stage winner, Hushovd, and O’Grady behind.

The main contenders all came in safely and the overall standings at the top look much unchanged: Voeckler enjoys a fourth day in yellow and McEwen widened his lead in the points race.

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