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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 12 - Friday, July 14: Luchon-Carcassonne / 211 km

Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan, Hedwig Kröner and Brecht Decaluwé

Live report

Live coverage starts: 12:10 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

New maillot jaune Floyd Landis
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

12:10 CEST   
Good afternoon from Luchon, where we are about to commence today's Quatorze Julliet stage which will take us 211 km to Carcassonne. After a couple of difficult days in the Pyrenees, today is one for the breakaways. And given that it's France's national holiday, we can expect a Frenchman or two to get in the winning break. In theory, the stage could end in a bunch sprint, but normally the sprinters teams are too knackered to chase anything down now, so a break usually gets away containing no GC threats. That's the script, but let's see what happens.

The starting point for an attack today could be the Col des Ares, a cat. 2 climb coming after 27 km, averaging 4.5% for 7.2 km. That is followed by the Côte de Pujos (km 47.5, Cat. 4, 1.3 km climb at 6.4%), Côte du Pâl de Pailhes (km 126, Cat. 4, 4.5 km climb at 3.6%), Côte de Pamiers (km 136, Cat. 4, 3.9 km climb at 2.9%). The two intermediate sprints are at Caumont (km 76.0) and Mirepoix (km 162.0). It's once again sunny and warm, and there is no rain predicted for today.

12:20 CEST    2km/209km to go
After a fairly short neutral section, Sebastian Joly (FDJ) attacks almost straight away. And the race is on!!

12:24 CEST    6km/205km to go
Joly, who was leading the lanterne rouge classification (last rider on GC) for a while, is now being pursued by Jimmy Casper (Cofidis), Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) and Bjorn Schröder (Milram).

Wim Vansevenant (Davitamon-Lotto) is actually the last placed rider on GC, eight seconds behind Joly. There's a certain symmetry about the general classification, if you ignore the other 161 riders in the middle.

Anyway, Joly's group is caught, and a counter move by David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) goes nowhere too. All back together.

12:27 CEST    8km/203km to go
A new attack goes with Jens Voigt (CSC), Robbie McEwen (Davitamon), Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne), Tom Boonen (Quick.Step), Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas) and a number of others - 14 in total. They have 8 seconds.

12:31 CEST    12km/199km to go
The full composition of the break: Jens Voigt (Team CSC), David Kopp (Gerolsteiner), Robbie McEwen and Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon-Lotto), Daniele Bennati and Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Tom Boonen (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval), Carlos Da Cruz (Française Des Jeux), Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas), and Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom). They have 22 seconds on the peloton, with Fedrigo being best placed on GC at 24'24 in 42nd spot.

12:33 CEST    14km/197km to go
It's an interesting looking move this, especially with the presence of sprinters McEwen and Boonen. Will they be allowed to go though? 28 seconds is the gap...

12:35 CEST    16km/195km to go
Discovery has missed the move, and is riding on the front of the peloton. As they have no-one left for the GC, they are going for stage wins now. This is a stage where you definitely want a rider in the break. Half a minute is the lead of the front 14.

12:37 CEST    18km/193km to go
They're racing up through the valley under the warm sun (32 degrees) with almost no wind. The first climb of the day, the Col des Ares, is just about to start. The summit is at 27 km.

12:44 CEST    22km/189km to go
The leaders have 38 seconds now as they hit the climb and loop through Antichan-De-Frontignes.

Not only did Discovery lose its GC chances yesterday, Paolo Savoldelli had to get five stitches to his right eyebrow after being hit by a spectator while he was descending the final climb after the stage finished. He is currently getting treatment from the race doctor.

There's a crash in the peloton involving Cedric Vasseur (Quick.Step), but it doesn't seem too serious.

Isaac Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne) abandons.

12:44 CEST    22.5km/188.5km to go
But as the climb gets harder, the bunch starts to come back to the 14 leaders. The gap drops to just 10 seconds.

12:46 CEST    24km/187km to go
The peloton has regrouped on the climb, pulling back the 14 leaders. The pace is still high though.

12:49 CEST    25km/186km to go
But the attacks continue, of course. Now George Hincapie (Discovery) goes away with Voigt (again), Bennati (Lampre) and Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne).

12:50 CEST   
Mountains leader David de la Fuente is already in trouble...

12:51 CEST    26km/185km to go
The break grows to 10: George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Jens Voigt (Team CSC),
Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Damiano Cunego and Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears),
Cristian Moreni (Cofidis), David Millar (Saunier Duval) and Michael Albasini (Liquigas). They have 20 seconds.

12:53 CEST    27km/184km to go
Stephane Goubert (AG2R-Prevoyance), David Moncoutié and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) are chasing the lead group of 10, which is just about at the summit of the first climb. The peloton sits 25 seconds behind.

12:54 CEST   
The lead group splits again, with just Hincapie, Voigt, Rasmussen, Bennati and Pereiro remaining up front, but there may be some regrouping on the descent.

12:59 CEST    33km/178km to go
Rasmussen takes the 10 points at the summit, but he's still well off the mountains jersey. Hincapie is second ahead of Pereiro, Bennati and Voigt, then Guerini at 8 seconds in sixth, followed by Hushovd at 28 seconds and then the front bit of the peloton at 0'38.

13:00 CEST   
But it doesn't look like this break is going to go the distance. The bunch has regrouped and has pulled back most of the lead on the descent.

13:03 CEST    35km/176km to go
The five leaders manage to keep their advantage though, as Stephane Goubert (AG2R-Prevoyance), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Moncoutié and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) try to bridge the gap. But they need to close 28 seconds.

13:08 CEST    37km/174km to go
This looks more promising. We have 15 riders in the lead now, after various groups joined together on the descent: Damiano Cunego (best on GC at 16'17) and Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Stephane Goubert (AG2R-Prevoyance), Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Moncoutié, Cristian Moreni and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), David Millar (Saunier Duval), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile).

The bunch is at 55 seconds, and that's a dangerous sort of gap.

13:10 CEST    41.5km/169.5km to go
The bunch hasn't given up yet though. The gap comes back to 45 seconds as the 15 leaders continue to work in front.

Jose Alberto Martinez (Agritubel) has quit the race.

13:13 CEST    43km/168km to go
The leaders have covered 43 km, and are close to the second climb of the day, the Côte de Pujos. The bunch hasn't let them go, and the time gap is still 40 seconds.

13:15 CEST    45km/166km to go
Alas for Savoldelli, the Discovery rider has had to abandon as a result of his post-stage spectator crash yesterday.

13:20 CEST    48km/163km to go
The riders have covered 46 km in the first hour. That has got to hurt after yesterday. The powerful lead group is still 47 seconds head of the peloton, where Davitamon has been chasing for a bit.

13:23 CEST    50km/161km to go
David Millar (Saunier Duval) gets the points on the second climb, the Côte de Pujos, protecting his teammate David de la Fuente's lead in the mountains competition. Rasmussen is second ahead of Pereiro.

13:28 CEST    54km/157km to go
FDJ is also helping Davitamon in its pursuit of the leading 15, which contains hitters such as Cunego, Rasmussen, Hincapie, Voigt, Moncoutié, Hushovd and Bennati. The green jersey threat of Hushovd and Bennati is the reason for Davitamon's chase.

13:35 CEST    61km/150km to go
Slowly, but surely, the break's lead is increasing, despite the best efforts of Davitamon and FDJ behind. 1'10 is the gap between the bunch and the front 15, who have plenty of Tour stage winners in their midst.

13:39 CEST    63km/148km to go
In the points GC, Bennati is over 50 points behind McEwen, so he can't take the green jersey today. Hushovd is 80 points behind, so his chances of green are fairly remote. And both of these riders would be doing well if they were able to finish with the front part of the break, which is likely to attack itself to bits later on.

That's provided it stays away. No guarantee of that until the chase stops. The gap is still a minute.

13:43 CEST   
Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel) is the latest rider to abandon, and is the second from Discovery out today.

13:45 CEST    69km/142km to go
The leaders are approaching the first sprint of the day in Caumont, as the terrain flattens out a bit. But they are by no means sure of staying clear, as Davitamon has wound it up behind to peg the gap back to 30 seconds.

13:51 CEST    73km/138km to go
Six of the 15 have sat up, including Hushovd, Moreni, Chavanel, Cunego, Pereiro and Rasmussen. That actually might give the break a better chance of succeeding. The gap is still 30 seconds.

13:52 CEST    74km/137km to go
Think of a number, any number, and take away the number you first thought of. That leaves: Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital), George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Stephane Goubert (AG2R-Prevoyance), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), David Millar (Saunier Duval), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), and Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile).

13:56 CEST    78km/133km to go
The nine leaders survive to the first sprint at Caumont, on the outskirts of the sleepy town of Caumont. Davitamon have been assisted by Bouygues (who have no guys in front) in the chase.

13:58 CEST    79km/132km to go
Not surprisingly, Bennati takes the 6 points in Caumont ahead of Beppe Guerini and Hincapie. Now the break's lead is going up again: 45 seconds.

14:02 CEST   
Stéphane Goubert (AG2R) is in the break today. He told CN this morning, "The team worked hard yesterday, trying to defend the jersey, so we're all really tired. We'll see how the day unfolds. Of course we would like to show ourselves again today for the quatorze juillet, but with everything we gave yesterday, I'm not too sure. You just can't do everything, can you?"

14:03 CEST    84km/127km to go
FDJ is also chasing, bringing the nine leaders back to 25 seconds. Will this be closure? There's still a lot of racing to go in this stage.

14:10 CEST    89km/122km to go
There is a bit of attacking going on in the front group, as Michael Albasini (Liquigas) has a go through the feed zone, joined by Hincapie, Voigt, Goubert and Moncoutié. The latter has obviously been saving himself for this stage!

The five leaders have 38 seconds on the bunch.

14:14 CEST    90km/121km to go
The other four (Verdugo, Millar, Bennati and Guerini), are absorbed by the bunch, which has not given up its pursuit of the break! Still 25 seconds.

14:20 CEST    96km/115km to go
And the break has finally been caught after about 70 km out in front. Peloton groupé.

14:21 CEST   
Stuart O'Grady (CSC) was all smiles at the start in Luchon this morning. "I'm so happy," he said to Cyclingnews. "So happy to have made it through the first mountains. I'll last until Paris now I'm sure. The other day, when I attacked in the finale, I was testing myself a little, and it worked well. A great boost for my ego!"

14:23 CEST    97km/114km to go
The average speed after two hours is a brisk 46.6km/h! Everyone wants to be a winner today, it looks like. Now the counter attacking is starting, with a group of 20 or so splitting off the front of the peloton.

Poor old David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval) is still behind the bunch though. He's going to lose a bit of time today.

14:25 CEST    99km/112km to go
Popovych is in the new break, with Freire, Ballan and Le Mevel. They have a small gap on a group of 20 chasers, with the bunch at 20 seconds.

Johan Bruyneel (Discovery Channel) told us today, "Yesterday was a big disappointment, but I think we can get the boys back on track. From now on, each day in the Tour de France is considered as the last one over here. There are still ten chances to win a stage, and we want to have a go on every one of them."

14:32 CEST    105km/106km to go
This is an interesting move, with Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) - best placed on GC at 9'00), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), and Christophe Le Mevel (CA). But it may not be allowed to go far, with Popovych and Freire there. 34 seconds is the gap.

14:38 CEST    110km/101km to go
It looks like they've done it, for the time being at least. The four up front lead by 1'29 as Popovych drives it along.

14:44 CEST    114km/97km to go
The leaders increase their advantage to 2'36, after a bridging attempt by McEwen, Hunter, Bennati and Commesso failed. Now Phonak has settled into setting tempo.

14:47 CEST    117km/94km to go
Landis sits with his Dutch teammate Moerenhout and chats about the situation. They won't want to give Popovych too much rope, because he's only 9'00 down on GC.

14:52 CEST    123km/88km to go
The lead increases to 3'23 as the four in front hit the Cat. 4 Côte du Pâl de Pailhes, a 4.5 km climb at 3.6%.

14:57 CEST    124km/87km to go
Grabsch, Pena, Jalabert, Hunter and Perdiguero set the pace for Landis on the climb, keeping the break at around three minutes. Freire's presence in the break may see Davitamon chase it down towards the end - we'll see. Freire trails McEwen by 36 points in the points classification.

14:59 CEST    125km/86km to go
Popovych and Freire are doing a fair bit of the work in front at the moment, with Popo spending nearly 40% of the time taking the wind. They are 500m from the summit of the Côte du Pâl de Pailhes.

Oscar Freire
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

15:01 CEST    126km/85km to go
Le Mevel takes the points on the climb ahead of Freire, Popovych and Ballan, although they didn't really sprint for it. The bunch is motoring up the climb, 3'40 behind.

Axel Merckx (Phonak) told us today, "AG2R wont take the responsibility as they don't have the jersey. But if they want to take the jersey, they can. I expect a crazy start with lot of attacks, but once the right group is gone it will go easier. The right group is an escape with not too many riders who are far away on GC."

15:06 CEST    131km/80km to go
The bunch goes over the top of the climb with Phonak to the fore, 3'53 behind the leading quartet. Now it's back down again.

The pace has been high thanks to a nice tailwind today.

French champ Florent Brard
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
(Click for larger image)

15:10 CEST   
We spoke with French champion Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne) today, to see whether he was up for a Quatorze Julliet stage win. "Today's a special day for French riders - they all want to be up front today. Of course, the public especially wants to see the French champion out there... Yesterday was a tough stage, and I have the cyclists' disease: my legs hurt terribly. But I'll still try, and on top of that, I spoke to the whole peloton to let me win today for the national holiday... they were all OK with that - but maybe some of them lied...

"I like the stage profile, but I'm sure it will will a very fast start, and the fight for the right breakaway will certainly last a while until it's done. We might see a sprint finish today."

15:12 CEST    133km/78km to go
The leaders are now on the Côte de Pamiers, the final climb in today's stage. It's fairly easy: 3.9 km at 2.9%. Ballan and Freire swap off, then Popovych comes through. Le Mevel is the only French rider in this break, but he's going to have a hard time winning against these riders. And the peloton, which is 4'04 behind.

15:15 CEST    136km/75km to go
Grabsch continues to set tempo for the yellow-clad Landis in the bunch, which is also on this climb. Phonak is stronger than it looked yesterday - Floyd explained this in the post-race press conference, that he told his teammates to take it easy yesterday. Axel Merckx was the only rider within cooee of Landis at the finish.

Popovych takes the points on the climb ahead of Le Mevel, Ballan, and Freire.

15:17 CEST    138km/73km to go
Interestingly, Landis is wearing black and white shorts, as opposed to his teammates wearing yellow and green. Maybe the Phonak yellow didn't quite match with the maillot jaune. We wouldn't want a clash, would we? That would be very unhip.


Landis is also riding a black and yellow bike.

15:19 CEST   
Discovery team director Dirk Demol gave us some more info on Paolo Savoldelli, who abandoned earlier today. "We driving up the Pla-de-Beret and suddenly we saw a rider standing next to the road with a rag to his head. I hoped it wasn't Paolo, but of course it was him. Paolo said that a fan suddenly, unintentionally, jumped on the road. He couldn’t brake anymore and crashed into the person. He hit the ground with his head. We rode back down immediately to investigate the wound. He needed ten stitches and has got quite a headache now."

15:23 CEST    137km/74km to go
JaJa Jr leads the bunch through Pamiers, roughly four minutes behind the four leaders. In front, Popovych seems to be enjoying himself.

15:26 CEST    144km/67km to go
The back of the bunch is a veritable hive of activity, as various riders go back to their team cars for water. It's fairly strung out as they leave Pamiers, 3'47 behind the break. AG2R, with Cyril Dessel, is in the second rank of the bunch behind Phonak.

15:33 CEST    150km/61km to go
McEwen drops back to the team cars, or perhaps to visit the race doctor.

The leaders sit 3'50 ahead of the bunch, which has the situation well in hand as it rides past the Pamiers-les-Pujols airstrip. And a fine airstrip it is too.

15:36 CEST    152km/59km to go
The peloton cruises past a field of sunflowers, where approximately 500 photographers are camped out waiting to take their Tour shot of the day.

15:42 CEST    157km/54km to go
The current gap is just under 4'00, which puts Popovych into a virtual 12th overall. He's probably not riding for a good GC position today, but for the stage win. He'll have to beat Freire, Ballan and Le Mevel though!

Now, will the sprinters teams work to bring them back? Davitamon might.

15:47 CEST    160km/51km to go
The leaders are approaching the second and last sprint of the day in Mirepoix. Look for Freire to take the points.

Le Mevel is motivated, but is suffering from the heat a bit. Salt is caked over his jersey.

15:49 CEST    163km/48km to go
Popovych leads them until 200m to go, then Ballan comes through for a short turn before Freire cruises past the Italian to take the six points. Le Mevel is third.

A big crowd cheers the riders through Mirepoix. I remember this street from when we were trying to find our hotel at about midnight in 2003.

15:52 CEST    165km/46km to go
Grabsch leads the peloton up towards the sprint, 4'11 behind the break. It doesn't look like Davitamon is interested in chasing yet. Maybe they're saving their powder for Evans. McEwen can at least pick up some points for fifth, if the break doesn't come back.

15:52 CEST   
Cadel Evans (Davitamon) commented to us this morning that "Floyd Landis really impressed me, he’s riding really good. He’s looking as the strongest climber in the race. We'll see what the Alps will bring.

"I wasn't really happy with Menchov and Sastre, as they were only interested in the stage win. That’s why I worked with Landis to gain more time on guys like Klöden. Sastre nearly got away from me, but luckily I could beat him on the line."

15:54 CEST   
Davitamon is doing a good job of controlling the back of the peloton, with Steegmans, Vansummeren and Aerts all there. Going back to the lanterne rouge classification, maybe they want to protect Vansevenant's position as last on GC.

15:59 CEST    169km/42km to go
Dessel looks a bit knackered as he sits behind Landis, with the bunch going through another field of sunflowers. If there's any chasing happening, it's gotta happen soon.

16:03 CEST    173km/38km to go
The leaders are sitting on 60 km/h now as they negotiate a small descent, 4'16 ahead of the bunch. Boonen has moved up to the front of the peloton, so maybe Quick.Step is interested in a chase.

Aha - two Milram riders are on the front with Phonak.

16:04 CEST    174km/37km to go
The peloton is sitting in the right hand cutter as Christian Knees lifts the tempo in front. The gap is 4'33. It might be too much, but we'll see.

16:06 CEST   
Some small gaps are being created in the peloton now as the tempo in front takes its toll. Crosswinds are always fun.

16:08 CEST    175km/36km to go
A group has been shelled from the peloton with Simoni, Casar, Albasini, Zberg, and Steegmans, among others. They chase at 15 seconds. Simoni was quite far back when the tempo lifted.

Still two Milrams driving it with Phonak.

16:10 CEST    177km/34km to go
Voeckler manages to catch back onto the peloton, making contact with the end of the long tail, where he finds a very tired Phonak rider.

The Simoni/Steegmans group has basically given up the ghost.

16:12 CEST    178km/33km to go
The gap seems to be stable at 4'26 as no-one is really helping Milram. Quick.Step is near the front with Boonen, but they don't seem to be interested in setting it up for a stage win. Especially without Cretskens, who DNF'd yesterday.

16:16 CEST    181km/30km to go
The break rides through Fanjeaux, which is perched on a small hill to ward off attacks. The bunch doesn't look like catching the break, despite the efforts of Milram.

Boonen chats to Landis up front.

16:17 CEST    183km/28km to go
Milram has given up the chase and left Phonak to control the bunch to the finish. The break will not be caught now.

16:20 CEST    186km/25km to go
We descend gradually, towards La Force, as the break rides along the tree-lined road. Ballan's lanky form is quite distinctive. The other riders are a lot more compact.

16:23 CEST    188km/23km to go
Grabsch, JaJa Jr and Pena lead the peloton past 25 km to go, as Rabobank moves up its main man Menchov to the front. Alliteration for all, I say.

16:25 CEST    189km/22km to go
Simoni's group is still sort of chasing, but Simoni doesn't seem to have his heart in it. He's got teammate Ricardo Ricco with him. They are trailing the bunch by over a minute.

The leaders are now 4'45 ahead of the peloton.

16:26 CEST    190km/21km to go
The four in front ride through Montreal. "Curse, we've come too far" [to paraphrase the late, great Spike Milligan].

16:27 CEST   
The four in front will start to think about attacking soon. The road ascends slightly here. Good time to go...

16:29 CEST    191km/20km to go
The quartet goes under 20 km to go, still cooperating well. Who wants to ride with Freire to the finish? No-one. But Freire is pretty handy on his own sometimes...

16:32 CEST    194km/17km to go
Freire looks almost lazy as he leads the break on the descent out of Montreal. Phonak has kept the gap to 4'26, so Popovych will likely move up on GC to around 11th or 12th.

16:33 CEST    196km/15km to go
The break goes under 15 km to go, with no-one looking like attacking just yet. It's still a waiting game. The stage was pretty hard early on, so maybe everyone is a bit stuffed.

16:36 CEST    198km/13km to go
13 clicks to go in stage 12. Will a Frenchman win on Quatorze Julliet, or will it be an Italian, Ukrainian or Spaniard? So many possibilities. Well, not that many. I would still bet on the Spaniard, seeing as he is the triple world champion and all.

4'20 to the peloton.

16:38 CEST    200km/11km to go
Although Freire could make big inroads into McEwen's lead in the green jersey classification today, McEwen could still take fifth in the stage. Freire did win one intermediate sprint, so that's six of the 36 points he needs to get McEwen.

16:39 CEST    201km/10km to go
It's slightly downhill to the finish in Carcassonne, so there are no really obvious places to attack. The 10 km to go banner approaches. Well, the break approaches it. It depends on your frame of reference.

16:40 CEST    202km/9km to go
Freire drapes his hands over the front of his virtual TT bars, as does Le Mevel, who is building up even more salt on his jersey. They ride past vineyards now, but no Vino.

16:42 CEST    203km/8km to go
Robbie McEwen is not chatting to Landis.

Up front, Popovych has attacked very hard. Let's get it on!!!

16:42 CEST   
Popovych is chased by Ballan and Freire, while Le Mevel has problems following. Ballan tows Freire up to Popovych.

16:43 CEST   
Freire counters, but he'll be caught.

16:44 CEST    205km/6km to go
Popovych counters Freire, but Ballan closes the gap for the third time. Then Ballan attacks with Freire, and Popovych has to chase. This is making Le Mevel's life hard.

Popovych closes the gap and rides to the front, keeping the tempo up.

16:45 CEST    206km/5km to go
The leading three slow, prompting Freire to attack, but it's not hard. Ballan catches him. Poker... Of course, Popovych goes again, and Ballan chases.

16:46 CEST    207km/4km to go
Popovych doesn't quite have the has, and the three are still together. Ballan has done all the chasing.

Le Mevel gets some help from a moto to try and rejoin the leaders. Not much though.

16:46 CEST   
Popo goes under 4 km to go, and Ballan chases him yet again. Freire watches on Ballan's wheel, seeing how far the Disco rider will get.

16:47 CEST    207.5km/3.5km to go
The gap is closed and Ballan looks back at Freire, but the Spaniard is not budging. He doesn't have to - he looks to be the strongest today.

Le Mevel is dying, 16 seconds behind.

16:47 CEST    208km/3km to go
Popovych goes again, Freire waits, and Ballan lifts the tempo. 3 km to go. Popovych looks good.

16:48 CEST    209km/2km to go
Popo puts his head down and hammers, 10 seconds on Freire and Ballan, who are not really chasing. Freire must be too tired, as he could have closed that gap easily otherwise. He chats with Ballan.

16:49 CEST    209.5km/1.5km to go
Popovych is on track to win the stage in Carcassonne, as he glides around several corners and keeps the power down. A massive crowd cheers him to the finish.

16:50 CEST    210km/1km to go
Popovych goes under 1 km to go, weaving his way through the town with the crowds three or four deep here. He looks back, and realises that he'll get it. He's happy, and so will his team be.

16:50 CEST   
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) rides up the finishing straight with a big grin on his face, in pain as well as joy. He has plenty of time to celebrate his victory.

16:52 CEST    211km/0km to go
And Popovych crosses the line to win in Carcassonne, crossing himself several times as he crosses the line.

Le Mevel comes up on Ballan and Freire, but can't get them. Ballan is second and Freire third, while Le Mevel takes fourth. Freire didn't even bother contesting that sprint - he gave it to Ballan.

16:56 CEST   
Lampre and Phonak lead out the bunch, which is going for fifth place. McEwen is there on Boonen's wheel, behind Zabel. Zabel gets led out by Velo, then De Jongh leads Boonen up to the last corner. Bennati is right up there, with McEwen in his wheel. In the end, it's Boonen who gets it (at last) from McEwen! Pretty solid sprint there.

17:05 CEST   
So the GC doesn't really change much, with Popovych just moving into the top 10. Floyd keeps the yellow jersey, McEwen stays in green, De la Fuente stays in dots, and Fothen stays in white. Everyone is happy.

We'll be back with the post-Quatorze Julliet stage tomorrow, between Beziers and Montélimar. Until then, adieu!


1 Yaroslav Popovyvch (Ukr) Discovery Channel                4.34.58
2 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                      0.27
3 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                                  0.29
4 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Crédit Agricole                    0.35
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic                       4.25
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                
7 Francisco Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval                                
8 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram                                         
9 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                               
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                

General classification after stage 12

1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                53.57.30
2 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                           0.08
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                 1.01
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                            1.17
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                 1.52
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                                2.29
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                                3.22
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel                          3.33
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                      3.44
10 Yaroslav Popovyvch (Ukr) Discovery Channel                  4.15

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