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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 13 - Saturday, July 15: Béziers - Montélimar, 230 km

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

Live report

Live coverage starts: 11:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

Part of the village in Béziers.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

22:02 CEST   
Le Tour's longest day is a flat to rolling stage from the seacoast through the hot rocky vineyards of Herault, Gard and the Ardeche that finishes in the sweet, nougaty town of Montélimar. Stage 13 should be a day long struggle between sprinters teams and escape artists who will try to hang on for the win, but as on Stage 9, the competition for the maillot vert may bring it all together in the end, where Big Bad Belgian Boonen will try to finally turn the tables on Killer Kangaroo McEwen. But don't count out Lampre-Fondital's cannonball Toto Commesso, who will be on the hunt for his third career Tour de France stage win in Montélimar.

11:36 CEST   
Welcome to our coverage of the 13th stage of the Tour de France, the longest stage of the race at 230 km. If this was a stage in the first week, it would be one for the sprinters, but now, things are different. Quick.Step has lost its key driver Wilfried Cretskens, and Davitamon-Lotto won't work for a bunch sprint unless things are exactly right (witness the words exchanged between the Quick.Step and Davitamon camps yesterday). But maybe things have settled down a bit...

Today has five climbs, all category 4, so it's not really a good day for the mountain goats. We start with the Côte de Puéchabon (km 57.5, Cat. 4, 2.6 km at 5.2%), then the Col de la Cardonille (km 77.5, Cat. 4, 2.2 km climb at 5.5%), Côte de l'Arbousset (km 119.5, Cat. 4, 1.5 km climb at 4.5%), Côte de Saint-Maurice d'Ibie (km 195.5, Cat. 4, 1.1 km climb at 4.6%), and Côte de Villeneuve de Berg (km 205, Cat. 4, 1.8 km climb at 5.3%). The two sprints today are at Anduze (km 117.5) and Vallon-Pont-d'Arc (km 177.5).

11:42 CEST   
Today's stage is starting under sunny skies and hot 34 degree temperatures. There is no wind and no clouds, but thunderstorms are predicted for later on, which will probably be a relief to the riders. There were no overnight abandons and we still have 160 of the 176 starters in the race. A big crowd is out to wave the riders off out of Beziers.

11:51 CEST    4km/226km to go
The flag drops at a quarter to 12 and they're racing in stage 13! The heat is likely to be a big factor today, especially after yesterday. Racing for 230 km in 35 degrees is extremely difficult.

11:52 CEST    5km/225km to go
It doesn't stop Salvatore Commesso (Lampre) from attacking, with CSC teammates Jens Voigt and Stuart O'Grady (CSC), Andriy Grivko (Milram) and David Kopp (Gerolsteiner) chasing.

11:53 CEST    7km/223km to go
The break is caught and Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) and Cente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) counter. That doesn't last long.

11:57 CEST    9km/221km to go
The attacking continues as Juan Antonio Flecha flats, and is forced to chase hard after getting a wheel.

12:00 CEST    11km/219km to go
A group of 15 riders splits off next, trying to establish that critical gap. If the composition of the group is right, it will go. As we saw yesterday, even if there are strong riders in the break, if a team is committed to chasing it down, it will come back.

12:02 CEST    15km/215km to go
The 15 don't get far, then Egoi Martinez (Discovery) has a go, but is caught. Peloton groupé.

12:11 CEST    20km/210km to go
It's a groupé peloton after 20 km. There's a fair way until the first sprint at km 117, so the sprinters teams shouldn't be that interested in keeping it together at the moment.

Wilfried Peeters (Quick.Step director) told Radio Donna, "This morning the team has to present itself to the public on the podium; hence the fact that the riders are all rushing to the sign-on. Every team has to do this a few times in the Tour."

Peeters was cool about the heated atmosphere between Quick.Step and Davitamon: "Quarrel? What Quarrel? There's no fight at all between our teams! At least, in our Quick.Step team we don't feel there is. I actually spoke to Hendrik Redant (Davitamon director) yesterday during the stage and I told him we won't take control for once, that's all.

"Everyone is in a good mood this morning. It's a very long stage today, with temperatures above 35 degrees. It's going to be a tough one."

12:13 CEST    23km/207km to go
The latest attack goes with Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Sylvain Chavanel and Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Andriy Grivko (Milram). They have eight seconds.

12:17 CEST    28km/202km to go
The break reduces to five as Coyot drops off. The lead grows to 30 seconds...

12:20 CEST    30km/200km to go
Pereiro is the best placed on GC in the break, at 28'50 down, so it's not a really threatening move for the GC riders. Also, there are no real green jersey threats here either. The gap grows to 45 seconds.

12:21 CEST   
Française des Jeux has missed the break (again) and is leading the peloton.

12:24 CEST    34km/196km to go
The front five: Pereiro, Voigt, Chavanel, Quinziato and Grivko have a lead of 50 seconds as they fly through Belarga, with Française des Jeux in hot pursuit.

12:25 CEST   
Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) gave a rather tired impression at the start of stage 13 in Béziers. As it was already blisteringly hot, the young Belgian took refuge in the shade of the Village Départ. His recent injuries on the left knee covered in vaseline, he told Cyclingnews that he was feeling okay under the circumstances. "I know this could be a stage for me, and I'll try to be in a break," he said. "But we just have to do with the means we've got. It certainly doesn't get any easier as the Tour takes its toll every day."

12:28 CEST    37km/193km to go
The leaders have now reached the 'magic minute', and look to be the echappe du jour in today's long, hot stage. More than a few riders will be suffering from cramps by the end of the day.

12:30 CEST    38km/192km to go
Phonak has assumed the position at the front of the bunch, which means the attacking is over for a while. The lead grows to 2'10, and the bunch could easily give these riders 15-20 minutes without having to mount a serious chase. It will be up to the sprinters teams to do it, if they want...

12:34 CEST    42km/188km to go
It's been a rapid start, with 42 km already covered in just on 50 minutes. The leaders have 3'00 and are riding strongly.

12:40 CEST    45km/185km to go
We're looking at a very fast first hour here! Despite the heat, the five leaders are flying along, now heading through Gignac.

12:46 CEST   
Big Thor Hushovd came by the Cyclingnews reporters this morning in Béziers, too. "I'm feeling alright, thanks," he replied to our inquiry. "The first mountains were hard for me, but I hope it'll get better." But the Norwegian didn't count on a bunch sprint finish in Montélimar later on. "Today, I will try to save energy and not do too much effort. For sure, if the others organise a sprint, I'll see where I stand. But we'll see how the race goes," he added.

12:48 CEST    52km/178km to go
The lead builds to 6'20 as the front five approach the Côte de Puéchabon, 2.6 km at 5.2%. No-one is a real threat for the mountains jersey today: Jens Voigt only has 12 points, while leader David de la Fuente has 80.

12:50 CEST    53km/177km to go
The leaders covered a very impressive 50.4 km in the first hour!! That's the fastest start yet of this Tour. Maybe all these kilometres actually make you fitter.

12:58 CEST    57km/173km to go
The leaders approach the summit of the Côte de Puéchabon with an advantage now over 8 minutes.

13:03 CEST    58km/172km to go
Chavanel takes the three points at the summit ahead of Pereiro and Grivko. The leaders now have 9'05 back to the Phonak-led bunch.

13:05 CEST   
Cyclingnews also interviewed Quick.Step's Wilfried Peeters before the start today. "During yesterday’s stage, I consulted Boonen about the choice on team tactics. We decided not to chase the leaders as Tom wasn’t feeling great. Today, for the first time during the Tour de France Boonen felt better. But it’s a very long stage and I’m wondering who will take the responsibility to lead a chase.

"Yesterday there were some troubles because Davitamon ignored the sign of Landis to take a break. But Landis and McEwen have different goals, so I can understand it. We didn't interfere in the discussion that started about the rules in the peloton. I guess the fatigue is making it hard for everyone, as the peloton was riding hard for almost 100 km at that moment."

13:12 CEST    65km/165km to go
The advantage nudges up towards 10 minutes as the five front runners race through Viols-le-Fort. Strong strings?

13:21 CEST    73km/157km to go
It's still going up, not down! The gap, that is. 11'25 after 73 km, just as the leaders reach the foot of the Cat. 4 Col de la Cardonille.

13:23 CEST   
Ryan Sperring writes in, "Just wanted to show my support for Jens. He's got to be the best guy in the peloton in my opinion, and would love to see him pull one off today."

Still a fair way to go yet for Jensy, and there are also four others in the break who are pretty motivated to win.

13:32 CEST    80km/150km to go
Peter writes in with his prediction for the maximum lead today. "My guess is that today gaps will end up being huge, more than 20 minutes before any type of chase forms. It seems like the sprinter teams are worn out and there's no reason for the GC teams to chase. My wager is the gap maxes out at 21'52 and the break finishes a full 17-18 minutes ahead of the bunch."

It's 12'50 at the moment.

13:34 CEST    82km/148km to go
The leaders aren't particularly concerned about climbing points today, as Andriy Grivko (Milram) leads the group over the top of the Col de la Cardonille ahead of Quinziato and Voigt.

13:51 CEST    93km/137km to go
The speed has dropped considerably in the second hour, and we have an average speed of 44.6km/h after two hours. The break sits at 13'09 in front of the field.

13:58 CEST    95km/135km to go
The break cruises through Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, 13'30 ahead of the Phonak-led peloton. It seems as though the lead has stabilised a bit as the heat and high speed of the first hour takes its toll.

14:00 CEST   
It seems we have plenty of Jens Voigt supporters among our readers. "Jensy always has a go and puts it on the line," writes Larry, from VA, USA. Gotta love the hard men.

14:04 CEST    100km/130km to go
Well, it seems like the stabilisation of the gap was a big fat mirage. The lead is up to 16'03 at the 100 km mark, and it's now unlikely that this break will be caught.

Those riders again: Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears - best placed on GC at 28'50), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) and Andriy Grivko (Milram).

14:07 CEST   
We spoke to sprinters Robbie McEwen and Tom Boonen before the start today. "The team tactic isn’t going to be the one of yesterday, as this is a transition stage," McEwen told us.

Boonen commented, "Alright, there were some problems with the Davitamon team, but that was yesterday. Today, we start with a clean sheet."

14:10 CEST   

14:13 CEST   
The Phonak team continue to set the pace at the head of the peloton. Their goal is more to stop further attacks from the bunch rather than close down this five man move, given that there is no threat there to Landis.

14:14 CEST   
Jens Voigt has a chat to the team car, getting a bottle while he is at it. Chavanel now signals for his auto. Up front Pereiro takes a turn, looking quite relaxed. Then Voigt comes through.

14:18 CEST   
An interesting question: does the black Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears kit hamper those wearing it? Anyone who has worn a dark top on a sunny day knows all about the extra heat that is absorbed. In contrast, light coloured clothing is known to reflect the sun's rays and thus help with cooling.

The kit certainly stands out but given that dehydration and excess heat are limiting factors to performance, would a different colour kit serve the riders better? Just a thought...

14:19 CEST   
Floyd Landis and his friend/flatmate Dave Zabriskie have a chat in the bunch. Unsurprisingly, both are laughing; the two share a similar sense of (wacky) humour.

14:20 CEST   
This countryside really is spectacular, with vast acres of forested land stretching out on either side of the peloton.

In the break, Voigt talks to Pereiro. "Man, you must be roasting in that," he states. Or maybe not...

14:24 CEST    114km/116km to go
The leaders are just about at the halfway point of the stage. They've a long way yet to go but must be feeling confident, given their margin over the others.

Some statistics: Sylvain Chavanel and Oscar Pereiro have done the bulk of the work, each having done 28% of the pace-setting.

Back in the bunch, Jose Rujano gets some bottles for his Quick.Step team-mates. His jersey is quite a bit smaller than the others, so he presumably can't carry as many as the bigger guys.

14:30 CEST   
There are some beautiful ruined castles in this area, including the large Chateau des Montezes...real postcard setting.

The crowds are cheering on the front five as they ride up the fourth category Cote del'Arbousset. Grivko takes over at the front.

14:32 CEST    120km/110km to go
As the categorisation suggests, this hill is pretty short. Chavanel leads them over the top, followed by Pereiro.

14:35 CEST   
Jens Voigt seems to be many people's tip for today. Louw Strydom writes in to say "I too am a big Voigt fan and I hope he gets the stage win. Who can forget his superb sportsmanship in the 19 stage of the Giro when he gave the win to Garate because he felt Garate had worked harder and thus deserved to win?"

14:37 CEST   
The peloton certainly seem content to roll along, the heat of the day and fatigue from two weeks of racing prompting the riders to take it a little easier today. That bodes well for the break, as does the current gap...18'53! That's very considerable, to say the least.

14:41 CEST    127km/103km to go
Saunier Duval rider Francisco Ventoso said this morning that he was keen to do something. "I'll try to get in an escape during the first hour. If that doesn't work out, I hope there's going to be a sprint, where I have my chance on a good result. But I think the only sprint we will see is the one in Paris."

The gap is now 19'25

14:49 CEST    130km/100km to go
Puncture for Alexandre Botcharov. He gets a new wheel from the Credit Agricole team car and continues on his way; should have no problems getting back on.

Moos leads the Phonak train at the front. They are now 19'30 behind, so this stage win is between the five leaders. Best-placed rider Oscar Pereiro should also move up a few places tonight, although he is 20 minutes off a place in the top 20.

14:50 CEST   
The five leaders are rolling through nicely. Chavanel hits the front and will doubtlessly be wishing that today was Bastille day, rather than yesterday!

14:54 CEST   
The peloton splits to go around each side of a big roundabout, or rond-pont as it is called in France.

14:57 CEST   
Feedtime at the Zoo for the peloton, as the riders snatch musettes. The bunch is all across the road, searching out their team helpers. Rabobank leader Denis Menchov looks concerned as he misses one bag (he couldn't get close enough to the soigneur as a rider was in the way) but gets a bag from another one several metres later.

14:58 CEST    137km/93km to go
Food (and drink) is very important on such a long stage. Although the energy demands will be less than in the high mountains, riders need to keep their water plus muscle and liver glycogen levels topped up before the Alps. Monday's rest day will also help, of course.

15:02 CEST   
By the way, Quinziato beat Pereiro and Voigt to take the points at the first intermediate sprint, in Anduze (117.5km).

As mentioned previously, Chavanel went over the top of the Cote de l’Arbousset ahead of Pereiro. Quinziato was third.

15:05 CEST    142km/88km to go
There is clearly a bit of a sidewind, as the Phonak team are now stretched left to right across the road. Moos leads from Victor Hugo Pena.

Manuel Calvente (Agritubel) had a mechanical problem. He ended up having to get a new bike from the team car, so the delay was longer than if it was a simple wheel change. He's going again, but will have to chase for a few kms.

The leaders are a little further ahead: 19'49

15:08 CEST   
Sianhurley from Québec, Canada gets in touch to correct our spelling. The peloton went around a 'rond-point' a while back, rather than a rond-pont. Pont is a bridge in french.


15:12 CEST   
Up front, Pereiro rolls through, followed by Grivko. They have a sense of urgency about them that the peloton lacks today, but their cooperation will probably start breaking down closer to the finish.

The break is 20'46 clear as they pass by a field of sunflowers.

15:16 CEST   
Chavanel gets some advice, words of encouragement and a bottle from the team car. He then goes straight back up to the break and takes his turn.

The bunch is quite spread out, widthways...this again underlines the lack of urgency. There will be a sprint at the end, of course, as McEwen, Boonen, Freire and the others will be keen to take points for the maillot vert competition. So even though the win is gone now, their teams will probably come to the front in the closing kilometres.

Christophe Moreau (AG2R-Prevoyance)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

15:18 CEST   
Chavanel gobbles down some foot while riding at the front.

Boonen is sitting at the back of the bunch, looking relaxed. Another sprinter, Erik Zabel, waves to the camera and a beardless Christophe Moreau has a chat to the tv pilot.

15:20 CEST    153km/77km to go
Rasmussen and Menchov move up through the bunch, flanked by some Rabobank team-mates. They also look relaxed, this contrasting with the body language of those up the road. Pereiro rides through, then Jens Voigt punches the pedals around in his characteristic fashion as he does his turn.

15:21 CEST   
A shoulder injury suffered by Voigt during the off season meant that he had a quiet spring, but a Tour stage would certainly make up for that.

15:24 CEST   
Some more quotes on yesterday's stage, as carried on Sporza TV today:

Hans De Clercq (commentator on Sporza TV and former team mate of McEwen)

"McEwen knew too well he couldn't afford to cooperate in the break yesterday; he would have signed his own death penalty then. His motor is way smaller than Boonen's and he knew if he worked along that Boonen would have beaten him in the sprint, so it was no option for Robbie to ride.

"I remember 2002, I was riding with Robbie at Lotto. Robbie had 7 points more than Zabel for the Green Jersey. Our team director then made us close the gap to ensure a bunch sprint. Robbie didn't want that as he didn't want to jeopardise his lead. There was a bit of a discussion between Robbie and that team director; but we did get a bunch sprint. Result: McEwen ended up two points behind Zabel because he lost the sprint...that's what Robbie is afraid of and that's only normal."

15:26 CEST    157.5km/72.5km to go
The lead continues to grow: 22'50 now. Pereiro is now up to 16th overall on the road.

15:27 CEST   
Yesterday's stage winner Yaroslav Popovych goes back for some bottles and then rides up through the bunch, jersey stretched to the limit.

15:31 CEST   
With the gap now 23'58, Pereiro moves up to (a virtuel) 13th overall.

15:34 CEST   
McEwen's DS Hendrik Redant gave his own take on things to Sporza TV:

"Freire is one of Robbie's rivals and he simply had to chase him; whether Floyd Landis stopped for a piss or not. Surely the others understand. I wonder why the peloton would have reason to react like that, angry at McEwen?

Ok, as far as the first break was concerned, it was a pity for the guys in the break who weren't a threat for us to the Green jersey. Our strategy was different to theirs. For today; we aren't afraid of a mass sprint. I think there's other teams that are, otherwise they would work more to ensure a bunch sprint. But we have three wins already; let the others ride a bit today!"

15:38 CEST    164km/66km to go
The break marches ever onwards... 24'55 ahead now..

Back in the bunch, riders are taking their legs out of the pedals and swinging them back and forth, like big pendulums. A sign of boredom, I guess...

15:43 CEST   
John Joseph from Boulder makes a suggestion:

"How about an alliterative challenge in today's commentary to offset the
stifling heat and lack of interesting climbs? Like the Big Bad Belgian
Boonen Bonks Behind the Pugnacious Persistent Peerless Popovych?"

Pereiro and the other leaders are now over 25 minutes ahead. Perhaps his former team-mate Landis is happy to loan the jersey to him? He and Zabriskie are chatting again, enjoying the fine weather. The temperature is now 37 degrees..

15:45 CEST    168km/62km to go
Jose Azevedo and Jose Luis Rubiera head back for bottles. So it seems that everyone on the Discovery team is acting as watercarriers today.

15:46 CEST   
Pereiro takes the lead up front. He is now up to seventh overall...

Each of the five riders seem to be taking equal turns, swapping off after about ten seconds in the lead.

15:50 CEST    173km/57km to go
Landis would probably be happy enough if Pereiro was to take yellow. He lost a considerable amount of time on stage 11 and so isn't really a GC threat. (Unless he was doing what was a real cunning bluffing tactic...)

Stuart O'Grady goes back for bottles now and has a good chat with those in the CSC car. He's looking happy and is clearly getting over the injuries he suffered earlier in this race.

15:54 CEST   
The gap is now 26'05. So Pereiro needs to get (and keep) just 2'45 more to claim yellow. Of course, if he wins the stage he will get a 20" bonus, so that will help.

Interestingly, if the break keep averaging 42 km/h, the peloton would theoretically be eliminated if it finishes half an hour down. Can't see that happening..

15:57 CEST    177.5km/52.5km to go
That would certainly be one for the history books!

Grivko heads back to his team car for a quick drink. He has won the Ukrainian TT championship for the past two years and so is a strong rider.

The riders pass by the Gorges de l'Ardeche which is, well, gorgeous.. Some stunning scenery here, a really beautiful part of France.

16:00 CEST    181km/49km to go
Back in the bunch, Phonak continue to lead the way. It will be interesting to see if anyone else helps to drive it before the finish or, indeed, if Cyril Dessel jumps clear and tries to get back the eight seconds he lost to Landis two days ago.

16:04 CEST    182.6km/47.4km to go
If Voigt stays clear to the finish, this will clearly change the team classification. CSC will take over at the top by about 15 minutes from Caisse d'Epargne. T-Mobile currently lead the classification from Gerolsteiner.

16:11 CEST    187km/43km to go
Although they haven't been blasting along, Phonak have had a long day at the front of the bunch. The other GC contenders will be happy to see this, as it means their riders should be fresher for the Alps.

16:13 CEST    189km/41km to go
The recent sprint at Vallon-Pont-D’Arc, 177.5 kilometres after the start, was won by Pereiro ahead of Chavanel and Grivko. Pereiro was second in the first sprint and so has taken ten seconds in bonuses.

Jens Voigt's director Bjarne Riis has been interviewed on France 2 television and says that the heat makes it a tough day for everyone. When asked who would be the biggest threat to his rider in the bid for stage succes, he nominated Chavanel.

16:17 CEST   
The peloton are now 20 kilometres behind the break... The leaders on a slight climb now, with Voigt leading it. Attacks should start soon, methinks..

There are two fourth category climbs between here and the finish. At km 195.5 comes the Côte de Saint-Maurice d'Ibie, 1.1 kilometres long at an average of 4.6 %. Then at km 205, 25 km from the end, the riders will climb the Côte de Villeneuve de Berg. This is 1.8 km long at 5.3 %.

16:18 CEST    191km/39km to go
Nothing too arduous, but they could well act as the platform for a stage win if one of those up the road is feeling strong.

16:20 CEST   
David Lopez (Euskaltel) is back with the race doctor for some running repairs.

Voigt passes some spectators waving a cardboard sign with his name on it. He has a look over as he goes by, so is clearly feeling alert.

16:23 CEST    194km/36km to go
Pereiro's virtual GC position is improving ever more as we approach the final 35 km. With the break at 27'41 He is now in a virtual 3rd, 59 seconds behind leader Landis (including the 10 bonus seconds he's picked up en route). A yellow jersey beckons...

16:24 CEST   
The leaders are now on the first of those two climbs, the Côte de Saint-Maurice d'Ibie. Will there be an attack here?

16:25 CEST   
Sanford Sharp sent us this sharp scenario:

"As the languid gruppo ignores the growing gap, they look to Landis for leave to do the loo. Robbie’s boy’s bigger bladders complicate matters and, with the peloton in tatters, Boonen starts moanin’ and groanin’."

16:27 CEST    195.5km/34.5km to go
Nope...the five elected to stay together on the climb, with Grivko leading them over the top. But things will certainly get more active from here on in...

Voigt gets a bottle from the car, guzzling some more fluids before the finale.

16:28 CEST   
Pereiro sits on Voigt's wheel as they roll through. He pushes the pace at the front, then Quinziato comes to do his turn.

16:30 CEST    198km/32km to go
Phonak are still in one long line at the front, with Nicolas Jalabert (mini Jaja) leading.

Grivko has a problem in the break...his chain is off, but he elects to stop and change his bike. He sits in behind his team car and quickly gets back up.

16:33 CEST    200km/30km to go
Grivko seems to have a problem with his new bike. The mechanic hangs out the window and puts his hand on the far seatstay, then near the derailleur. He may have something stuck there; it's hard to tell. But it seems fine now.

16:34 CEST   
Pereiro pushes the pace, while Voigt pulls a face. Things are heating up all right.

16:35 CEST   
Chavanel goes back to the car for a bottle and a chat. Looks like he is getting advice about the run-in to the finish.

The final climb of the day, the Côte de Villeneuve de Berg, is next...

16:37 CEST    202km/28km to go
The break built a maximum lead of 28'20 but it is now down a little on that; 27'57.

Chavanel leads coming up to a sweeping right hand corner, indicating the turn in advance to the other four.

16:39 CEST    204km/26km to go
The leaders hit the Côte de Villeneuve de Berg (1.8 km climb at 5.3%) and continue to work together at the bottom. They're all tired. Who has the legs for an attack? Voigt has been doing the most work in the last 10 minutes.

16:40 CEST    204.5km/25.5km to go
Quinziato looks at the others as he sits in fourth wheel. Then Grivko attacks! Quinziato follows. Then Pereiro, who was leading, tries to get up to them. They stay together, just avoiding a spectator. Quinziato counters! Grivko sits up, Voigt, Chavanel and Pereiro chase, and Grivko is dropped.

16:40 CEST    205km/25km to go
Voigt leads the break to the summit of the climb, taking the three points ahead of Chavanel and Pereiro. Quinziato is in fourth wheel, and skips a turn.

16:41 CEST   
Doesn't look like Grivko is coming back as the break continues to cooperate with 25 km to go. The Ukrainian's bike change probably cost him that extra bit of energy he needed.

16:42 CEST    206km/24km to go
Phonak is riding a bit harder behind, courtesy of Victor Pena and Nicolas Jalabert. The gap comes down to 27'17, keeping the yellow jersey safe.

16:44 CEST   
Voigt does another big turn as the break is reduced to four, with Grivko chasing at 15 seconds. Quinziato looks to be soft pedaling. He's the best sprinter in the group.

16:45 CEST    207km/23km to go
The leaders are still working with each other, making it unlikely that Grivko will come back to them. And if he does, he won't have much gas left for when the real attacks start in the final 20 km. He's probably regretting his attack now.

16:47 CEST    210km/20km to go
One man chasing four: it looks to be an impossible task. But if the cooperation fails in front, the Ukrainian will come back. The gap is 17 seconds between Voigt's group and the chaser as they reach 20 km to go.

The peloton is at 27'20 and holding.

16:48 CEST    211km/19km to go
The gap grows to 20 seconds as Jensy does another strong turn. He doesn't want Quinziato there at the end (or anyone, in fact).

Grivko has croaked in the heat. He drinks more water and eases off the pedals. He's not coming back.

16:50 CEST    213.5km/16.5km to go
Gert Steegmans sits at the back of the peloton with TiTi Voeckler and another Bouygues rider. Not much happening back here. The bunch is about 18 km behind the leaders, but is in no danger of being 'eliminated'. 27'30 is the gap.

16:51 CEST   
The leading four ride through Alba la Romaine, beside a very old and crumbling castle. No time for sightseeing.

Grivko is pedaling in his biggest gear but losing time to the leaders: 33 seconds.

16:52 CEST    215km/15km to go
Past vineyards now (there's been a distinct lack of cows today, alas). Pereiro does a turn and sees the time gap is 27'45 to the main bunch. He's on track for third or fourth on GC at the end of the day.

16:54 CEST    216km/14km to go
The next part is mostly downhill, but it's not a big descent as we drop down about 180m.

Landis sits behind his teammates, talking on the batphone.

Chavanel attacks, then Quinziato reacts. Voigt hesitated and is chasing with Pereiro. Quinziato has to use a lot of gas to close the gap.

16:55 CEST    217km/13km to go
Chavanel looks back and sees he has company. Two on two. Pereiro does a turn behind, and he and Voigt come back to the leaders. The pace slows again. That hurt!

16:55 CEST   
There's a cow!

16:55 CEST   
Pereiro gets to the front and keeps the tempo up, then Voigt rolls over, watching Chavanel. The idea is to get away just before this descent...

16:56 CEST    218km/12km to go
Voigt showers himself with water while Chavanel takes the sunglasses off. He looks the freshest. Quinziato is good too.

16:57 CEST   
The road flattens and then starts to go downhill. It'll be harder to get away now.

16:58 CEST    219km/11km to go
The leaders concentrate again and continue to work together, with Grivko now at 40 seconds and the bunch at 27'40.

16:58 CEST    220km/10km to go
All the riders are taking drinks from their bottles once they finish their turns. 10 km to go and it's downhill for a bit longer.

16:59 CEST    221km/9km to go
The pace remains high in the break but everyone is watchful. No-one wants to be dropped...

17:00 CEST    222km/8km to go
They're nearly at the bottom of the descent. The last 6-7 km are fairly flat, so it opens it up for attacks again.

17:01 CEST    223km/7km to go
Voigt follows Quinziato through, then Chavanel misses a turn and Pereiro slots in. Now the Frenchman does his bit, followed by Quinziato again. Can the Italian keep it together for a sprint?

17:02 CEST    224km/6km to go
In the peloton, Robert Hunter has problems with his zip while sitting at the front.

The leaders navigate through the outskirts of Montélimar.

17:03 CEST    225km/5km to go
The leaders are being very watchful now. Grivko is well out of it: 3'00. The bunch is still at 27'40.

Voigt looks to be watching for an attack, but doesn't seem to be capable of making a big solo move today. We'll see.

17:04 CEST   
Over the Rhône river, and Voigt attacks!! Chavanel marks him, as do the rest.

17:05 CEST    226km/4km to go
Voigt is the most combative rider today, as announced by the race jury. Pereiro counters, and Voigt takes his wheel. Then a gap to Chavanel and Quinziato. The two in front look back and give full gas. Quinziato goes through hard.

17:05 CEST   
Voigt drives it hard as the other two come back. Pereiro doesn't do a turn, and that could doom their chances. He does now. Maybe they'll do it...

17:06 CEST   
Under 4 km to go and Quinziato doesn't want to work with Chavanel. And vice versa, because Quinziato is the better sprinter. The two leaders are gone!! Voigt and Pereiro.

17:07 CEST    228km/2km to go
Over another bridge and the two in front are fighting it out for the win. Chavanel tires to drop Quinziato next as he chases 12 seconds behind the two in front. Pereiro is cooperating with Voigt.

17:08 CEST    229km/1km to go
Voigt does another big turn with Pereiro as they approach one km to go. Chavanel is sitting on the tops now, having failed to drop Quinziato.

17:08 CEST    229km/1km to go
The peloton is at 28'09 - this might put Pereiro in yellow, we'll see.

The Spaniard does a turn as they go under 1 km to go.

17:09 CEST   
Voigt attacks with 800m to go. He gets a gap, but Pereiro hasn't given up.

17:09 CEST   
Voigt stops, and Pereiro stays on his wheel. The German signals to go through. No way José, says Oscar.

17:10 CEST    230km/0km to go
Voigt has to lead out the sprint and he gets the big diesel going and wins the stage!!! He led out with about 100m to go and Pereiro had no chance to come around.

Quinziato almost third ahead of Chavanel, but the Frenchman gets him at the line. 39 seconds.

17:12 CEST   
Voigt is very very happy with his win, and he almost can't believe it himself. He went very late in that sprint, but that's what you have to do when there's two of you. Great win. That definitely wasn't a gift from Pereiro.

17:14 CEST   
The gap to the peloton was up to 29'01, so Rabobank is doing a bit of riding now to save Menchov's third overall. Lampre is also helping. Phonak have done their bit today.

17:16 CEST   
Andriy Grivko crosses for fifth, over 6'00 behind the winner.

17:19 CEST   
Weening and Posthuma lead the bunch under 20 km to go, with Commesso (Mr rolled up sleeves) chatting to Phonak's Perdiguero behind.

17:25 CEST   
Rabobank has stopped riding in the peloton, and Phonak has let the pace drop. This could well put their former teammate Pereiro in yellow by the end of the day. Probably good tactics, given that they won't have to defend it tomorrow and Tuesday.

17:27 CEST   
Maybe Menchov's team were driving it to keep Landis in yellow :-)

Today is not a good day to get dropped from the bunch, as you'll likely be eliminated. Back of the envelope calculations put the time limit at 29'12 behind the winner.

17:29 CEST   
The jersey is changing hands tonight. 19 minutes have elapsed between the finish of the stage and now, and the bunch has just gone under 10 km to go. They don't look like averaging 60 km/h to the finish.

17:31 CEST   
The bunch could well be outside the time limit, but now we can quote from the official rules:

Elimination coefficients

Finishing times may be adapted under exceptional situations (weather conditions, blocked roads, serious accident or incident, etc.) according to the assessment of the stewards committee, with the agreement of the race management. If the percentage of eliminated riders rises above 20% of starters in the stage, permitted finishing times may be increased upon the decision of the stewards committee, with the agreement of the race management.

It is understood that the riders who finish within the new permitted times will qualify for following stages, without a precedent being set for the rest of the race.

17:35 CEST   
A Liquigas rider - Garzelli - punctures at the back. That is not a good time! About 24 minutes have elapsed as they go under 5 km to go. but the speed is fairly high now.

17:36 CEST   
Lampre has the train going for Bennati now. 27 minutes at 3 km to go.

17:38 CEST    228km/2km to go
Lampre on the front with Quick.Step now at 2km to go. Boonen is in about 10th wheel, with McEwen a few wheels back.

17:38 CEST    229km/1km to go
Final kilometre, and Commesso leads before Quick.Step starts to come up. Still two Lampres left. Then a host of Quick.Step/Milram riders.

17:39 CEST   
Garate leads out, then Pozzato, then De Jongh, Tosatto and Bennati. Boonen has chosen Bäckstedt's wheel.

17:41 CEST   
Boonen goes at 150 to go but it's too early (or not fast enough) and McEwen gets him for sixth. Eisel might have taken seventh.

The gap is 29'57 and Pereiro is the new leader!! He congratulates Voigt on his stage win and even Jean-Marie Leblanc is surprised.

17:46 CEST   
And we will leave it at that at the end of the Tour's longest stage. A little odd that Floyd Landis let the jersey go that easily, but the boy knows what he's doing and you can bet that either he or one of the other GC riders are in yellow on Tuesday night in the Alps. Pereiro only has 1'29 on Landis, and given that he lost half an hour before today's stage, I don't think he'll hold it for very long.

Chapeau to Pereiro and Voigt for taking the honours in today's stage!

We'll be back with more Tour action tomorrow, between Montélimar and Gap.


1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                              5.24.36
2 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears    
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis                            0.40
4 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas                       
5 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Milram                                6.24
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                      29.57 
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux                
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic                  
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                      
10 Carlos Da Cruz (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux                            

General classification after stage 13

1 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears    59.50.34
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                 1.29
3 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                        1.37
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                              2.30
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                         2.46
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                              3.21
7 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                             3.58
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                             4.51
9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel                       5.02
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                  5.13


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