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Hunter falls, Schleck stays tall

Portugal’s Sergio Paulinho took the gap to give his RadioShack team their first ever Tour de France victory and deny a French cyclist the stage victory on Bastille Day in Wednesday’s 10th stage between Chambery and Gap.

And South Africa’s sole Tour representative, Robbie Hunter took a nasty tumble early in the stage before gingerly remounting and chasing back to the bunch to finish in the same group as Armstrong. After the day’s action he found himself in 124th spot in the general classification, 1hr 24min 42sec off the pace.

And his Garmin-Transitions team are also right off the pace, having dropped to 17th in the team category, 1:29:22 behind leaders Caisse d’Epargne.

Hunter went to hospital as a precaution after the race and will start Thursday’s stage nursing a small fracture in his arm. “Got a small fracture on the head of the radial bone up in the elbow area. Xrays can’t show any muscle damage so I’m gonna start,” Hunter said on his Twitter feed.

“What a day… hard crash in the start some tool dumped it in front of me had nowhere to go. Arm hurt like hell all day & plenty swollen. Besides all that was a hard day! Def not my best day on the bike, lots of guys were hurting today. Thank goodness we had a head wind!!

The Tour left the high Alps in their wake, as did Paulinho who outsprinted Belarussian Vasil Kiryienka in the last few 100 metres of the 179-kilometre stage.

The Caisse d’Epargne rider was just centimetres behind Paulinho on the line as the Portuguese rider stopped the clock at 5hr 10min 56sec. Much further down the field and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was again battling, finishing 15min 47 back.

The race favourites, including race leader, Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, were in the main bunch who cruised across the finish in 14:19.

In the general classification standings, Schleck still holds sway after just over 49 hours of riding. The Team Saxo Bank rider has a 41sec gap over defending champion Alberto Contador of Astana and Samuel Sanchez of the Euskaltel-Euskadi outfit is back in third (2:45 down).

Armstrong is now in 31st spot, 17:22 in arrears and with little hope of getting back into contention.

Thursday’s 11th stage is a 184.5km ride from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence and looks to be another stage where the sprinters come to the fore. The Tour rarely visits these roads and the main pull of the day is the category three Col de Cabre 56km into the day.

But after the climbs they’ve coped with thus far in the tour its unlikely to do too much damage to the sprint brigade as the stage then tails off with mainly flat and downhill sections after that.

Mark Etheridge