The final climb up to the Col de l'Ospedale promised an exciting battle between the favourites of the Criterium International, including the strong men of team Sky expected to play the leading roles. Between Richie Porte, winner of yesterday's time-trial and Chris Froome, announced as the team leader, it was finally the Brit who managed to pull away in the last five kilometres, claiming his first success on the event. Seventeen years after Chris Boardman, another rider from Great Britain claims the Criterium International, but this time on Corsican soil. It was to be a Sky master-piece, as Richie Porte claimed second spot on the day and overall.
Voigt, young at heart
Many breakaway candidates gave it a go as soon as the first kilometres of the 179-km stage. As expected, Jens Voigt (RLT) was one of them. The German tried his luck on his own at kilometre 12 but his attempt was finally vain and he was caught three kilometres later. At km 20, Florian Vachon managed to power away, taking with him five other men: Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Edwig Cammaerts (COF), Paul Poux (SOJ), Yann Huguet (ARG) and José Goncalves (LPM). The front group was soon to be caught by a seventh rider, Laurent Didier (RLT), who joined the breakaway at lm 28.
Roy, on a quest for climber's points
The seven front men rapidly gained ground on the pack, not too concerned, at least until kilometre 40 where the escapees could enjoy a maximum 4'35 lead. Team Sky then really started chasing and the gap stabilised before dropping down. As soon as the first climb, the Côte de Roccapina, Jérémy Roy showed his keen interest for the polka-dot jersey. First to the top, he continued collecting precious mountain points at the summit of the next climb, the Côte d'Orasi, while the gap had dropped down to 2'35.
Europcar on the counter-attack
Just after the intermediate sprint in Sartène (km 77), the riders from team Europcar joined in the pursuit alongside Sky. After Roy again made it first to the top of the Cote de Viggianello, the gap had dropped down to just 20'' at km 105. That was the moment chosen by Thomas Voeckler, Cyril Gautier and Kevin Reza (EUC) to launch a counter-attack. They were soon joined by Frank (BMC), Mourey (FDJ) and Andy Schleck (RLT). In the climb up to the Col de Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano, Gautier and Voeckler set an even faster pace and several riders were dropped. At the top, there were only three men left in the front group: Frank, Mourey and Voeckler while Schleck, Roy and Vachon were some 25” adrift and the pack just 50” behind.
Froome takes off
The first three chasing riders were rapidly caught by the pack at km 128 while the three leaders kept an interesting 1' advantage at the top of the Col de Bacinu. 41 kilometres were still to be covered and the hunt went on, led by an impressive Sky armada. The escapees were finally caught just after the last intermediate sprint in Porto-Vecchio (km 159) claimed by Voeckler. As soon as the first kilometres up to the Col de l'Ospedale, Sky powered away and several riders were dropped, including title-holder, Cadel Evans (BMC), leaving just 30 or so men in the pack. With 8 kms left, only 20 remained and could still consider stage victory. Johan Tschopp was the first to attack, with 6 kms to go. Shortly after Chris Froome took off in decisive fashion (km 5). The Brit was followed by Jean-Christophe Péraud, but there wasn't much the Frenchman could do against the runner-up of the last Tour de France who flew to stage victory and a first crown on the Criterium International. Meanwhile, Richie Porte, who had reacted with two kilometres to go, managed to breakaway from the chasing group and captured second spot giving Sky and impressive 1-2 both on the stage and in the final GC. Fifth of the day, Tejay Van Garderen captured third spot on the podium and finishes best young rider of this 82nd edition.