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Photo ©: Sirotti

93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 17 - Thursday, July 20: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne- Morzine, 200.5 km

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

Live report

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

23:20 CEST   
The final act in the 2006 Tour's Alpine Trilogy is the longest yet. At 200km, it contains two category one, one category two and a category three climb, with a final ascent of the steep Hors Category Col de Joux-Plane, where Lance Armstrong cracked big time in 2000, before a wild plunge to finish in Morzine. An early break can get an advantage on Stage 17, but can they hold it all the way to Morzine?

11:33 CEST   
We're rollin' rollin' rollin' in Stage 16 of this topsy-turvy Tour of surprises. It definitely ain't over yet as we face a third tough day in the Alps today, without forgetting Saturday's time trial. Oscar Pereiro is in the maillot jaune after taking it back in spectacular style yesterday, but there are five riders who can realistically take it from him. Although Phonak was responsible for giving away the yellow jersey to Pereiro last Saturday, I'd say some of the other teams are regretting not keeping the gap down that day...

The climbs on the menu: Col des Saisies (km 82.5, Cat. 1, 14.9 km climb at 6.4 %), Col des Aravis (km 109, Cat. 2, 5.9 km climb at 7.1 %), Col de la Colombičre (km 134, Cat. 1, 11.8 km climb at 5.8 %), Côte de Châtillon-sur-Cluses (km 162, Cat. 3, 5.1 km climb at 4.9 %), Col de Joux-Plane (km 188.5, HC, 11.7 km climb at 8.5 %).

Sprints today: Le Grand-Bornand (km 122.0), Verchaix (km 172.5)

Commentator's brain function: __________/\_____ [signs of life! We're good to go]

11:41 CEST   
It's already hot (30 degrees) as the riders roll out of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and along the valley for their 6.6 km neutral section. The skies should stay clear today, as there is no rain predicted.

11:47 CEST   
The riders get the flag and they're off and racing in stage 17. The huge mountains on either side dwarf the peloton as it winds along the valley.

11:52 CEST    4km/196.5km to go
Jose Rujano (Quick.Step), who finished last yesterday and was theoretically outside the time limit, didn't start this morning. He had been suffering from a sore throat (following an inflamed toe) and he decided to pull out.

11:54 CEST    7km/193.5km to go
Let the battle commence! The first attack of the day comes from Paolo Tiralongo (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), Luca Paolini (Liquigas) and Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom), who have 10 seconds at 6 km.

11:58 CEST    9km/191.5km to go
Carlos da Cruz (FDJ) is trying to get across, but he is caught as Team CSC closes down the break of six.

12:04 CEST    15km/185.5km to go
The bunch sticks together for a bit, as it snakes up towards Epierre.

12:09 CEST    18km/182.5km to go
The next attack takes 14 riders clear at km 12: Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate and Bram Tankink (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Patrice Halgand and Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), former mountains leader David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), and Luca Paolini (Liquigas). The group has 40 seconds on the peloton, which is moving rapidly.

12:11 CEST    20km/180.5km to go
Of the group, Patrik Sinkewitz is best on GC in 36th at 49'57, so that's not going to bother the GC riders. But the presence of De la Fuente may concern mountains leader Rasmussen. The Saunier Duval man could take the mountains jersey back with a good ride today. But maybe that's not Rabobank's main concern: They won't chase this break as they have two riders in it, and Rasmussen might well be assigned to protect Menchov today.

12:14 CEST    24km/176.5km to go
Joost Posthuma drops out of the break, which has 45 seconds on the bunch.

12:17 CEST    25km/175.5km to go
They've been averaging 50 km/h for the first part of this stage as the breakaway tries to establish itself. 13 riders still lead the bunch by 45 seconds.

12:23 CEST    31km/169.5km to go
David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) has also dropped out of the break, probably at the request of the Others. With him there, Rabobank will want to chase. And Peter Weening also drops out, leaving 11. The pressure is now off the bunch, so the group gets 1'30. There is no-one up here who can threaten anybody (in the context of the race!) so these guys can be let go all day, if necessary.

12:23 CEST   
The group is now: Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile - best on GC at 49'57), Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate and Bram Tankink (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Patrice Halgand and Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), and Luca Paolini (Liquigas).

12:30 CEST    37km/163.5km to go
The lead gently balloons up to 4'00 as the 11 leaders buckle down to their task. It's an interesting mix of riders, and there are some decent climbers here, like
Garate, Sinkewitz and Halgand.

12:36 CEST    41.5km/159km to go
The first part of this stage is either flat or downhill, and the breakaways are making the most of it. The lead increases to 4'50 and continues to rise.

12:42 CEST    46km/154.5km to go
The leaders will cover close to 50 km in this first hour, and they have a good sized group to do it. There are some useful tempo riders here like Padrnos, who will probably find it tough in the hills.

12:48 CEST   
The bunch rolls along, now 8'30 behind the 11 in front, who have just gone through Albertville, known for its Winter Olympics.

12:51 CEST    52km/148.5km to go
And as predicted, the average speed in the first hour is 50.3 km/h, while the peloton has averaged around 43 clicks. That's still respectable, and hardly 'piano'. The gap is up to 9'32.

12:57 CEST    55km/145.5km to go
The foot of the first of the day, the Col des Saisies is 12 km hence, and the riders are already starting to climb gradually. The lead continues to rise as the breakaways now have 11 minutes. It looks like all the favourites will save their powder for the final climb today, and try to put Pereiro under pressure.

13:02 CEST    58km/142.5km to go
The lead in this Tour de France has changed nine times so far between seven different riders (Landis and Pereiro have both had it twice). The record is eight different leaders, which happened in both 1958 and 1987. So if (say) Sastre gets today and Klöden takes it on Saturday, that will be a first.

It's been a remarkable Tour in many ways, and the most open in years. 2003 was the last 'close' one, and in the decade before that, we didn't see too many changes at the top. 1989 was an interesting year, but it was mostly between Fignon and LeMond.

Well, none of the riders in the break will take the lead today, even though the gap is now 11'05.

13:05 CEST    60km/140.5km to go
The gap comes down for the first time, from 11'05 down to 10'46. The break has probably eased off a bit, having established a decent lead now.

13:14 CEST    65km/135.5km to go
Caisse d'Epargne sits on the front of the peloton, riding a controlling tempo now as the leaders get very close to the Col des Saisies. As mentioned at the top, this is a Category 1 climb, 14.9 km long averaging 6.4%. Not easy, especially after the last two days.

13:21 CEST    69km/131.5km to go
The leaders hit the climb with an 11'18 gap to the bunch, but that falls to 10'44 as the uphill starts.

13:28 CEST    71km/129.5km to go
Phonak is working on the front of the bunch, keeping the gap stable. After his jour sans yesterday, Floyd Landis is up for it today.

13:29 CEST    72km/128.5km to go
Phonak has done a good job, and pegged the leaders back to 8'44 as the front group is now 5 km into the climb. As a result, there are just 30 riders left in the group maillot jaune.

13:34 CEST   
The gap plummets to 7'09 as Klöden and Landis take off, leaving Pereiro behind!

13:36 CEST    74km/126.5km to go
The chase group: Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Andreas Klöden and Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) and Floyd Landis (Phonak).

Behind them, Oscar Pereiro is with teammate David Arroyo and José Luis Arrieta (AG2R-Prevoyance).

13:37 CEST   

13:38 CEST    75km/125.5km to go
Landis is alone now, 6'43 behind the leading group of 11! Behind him, Klöden, Rogers, Menchov, and Evans are chasing, then the yellow jersey group, which is still quite big, is further back.

13:39 CEST    76km/124.5km to go
Klöden and co have gone back to the yellow jersey group, where Caisse d'Epargne is setting temp for Pereiro. Landis is now 6'02 behind the leaders, with the bunch at 6'48.

13:42 CEST    77km/123.5km to go
The leaders are 6 km from the summit of the Saisies, with Landis closing in on them slowly. The lead group again: Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile - best on GC at 49'57), Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate and Bram Tankink (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Patrice Halgand and Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), and Luca Paolini (Liquigas).

Moreau is coming back to the yellow jersey group, as well as Hincapie, Fedrigo, Horner, Vandevelde, Commesso, and a few others.

13:44 CEST   
Landis pours water on his head as he rides up in the big chainring. This is a bold move, but it might go the way of Leipheimer's yesterday. Or it might go the way of Rasmussen's... The bunch is 1'20 behind the Phonak rider.

Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) has quit the race.

13:45 CEST    77.5km/123km to go
Miguel Perdiguero abandoned after leading out Landis for his attack on this climb.

The leaders accelerate, and Paolini and Le Mevel go out the back. Hmm, Le Mevel's teammate Halgand is the one doing the forcing.

13:48 CEST    79km/121.5km to go
Pereiro still has three teammates with him on this climb, which flattens out for a bit. Garcia Acosta is on the front, setting tempo.

Landis is carrying a bidon in his hand as he climbs, constantly pouring water on his head. He doesn't bother to put it back in the bidon cage. He's 4'50 behind.

Moreau is dropped from the yellow jersey group again, but he doesn't look too bad.

13:51 CEST    80km/120.5km to go
Landis is now over two minutes ahead of the yellow jersey, as he drapes his hands over the front of the bars to get more aero on a flatter part of this climb. He's 3'47 behind the now seven leaders: Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile - best on GC at 49'57), Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate, Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux).

13:55 CEST    81km/119.5km to go
Landis closes to within 3'30 of the front seven, who are close to the top of the Col des Saisies. This is putting Pereiro under a lot of pressure, and if Landis doesn't win, someone else might profit.

13:57 CEST    81.5km/119km to go
David Millar is well placed in the yellow jersey group, just behind Pereiro.

Still seven leaders, who are now 1 km from the summit of the first climb. Landis, chasing, has sweat pouring off him. But he looks determined. Full credit to him!

13:57 CEST   
Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval) has abandoned.

13:59 CEST    82.5km/118km to go
The wind is against the riders on the climb. At the top, it's Halgand sprinting for the points and getting them ahead of Gilbert. He keeps going too.

Landis is 1 km from the top.

14:02 CEST    85km/115.5km to go
Landis is doing what Pantani did in 2000, when Armstrong almost cracked on the Joux-Plane. Pereiro had better take care - Landis was 'only' 8'08 behind. Landis continues with the bidon in his hand. He does everything his own way, that's for sure!

At the top of the Saisies, Landis is under three minutes behind the leaders, and over three minutes ahead of the yellow jersey group, which is about 30 riders strong and led by Vicente Garcia Acosta.

14:04 CEST   
The results of the Col des Saisies. 1. Halgand, 2. Gilbert, 3. Garate, 4. Padrnos,
5. O’Grady, 6. Sinkewitz, 7. Righi, 8. Le Mevel.

14:06 CEST    88km/112.5km to go
Le Mevel has rejoined the lead group, which is now eight riders strong. They are just about on the main part of the descent.

14:07 CEST   
Landis and Phonak (for a bit) pulled back eight minutes on that climb. Chapeau Floyd!

14:10 CEST    91km/109.5km to go
Le Mevel stops to check his bike. He gets a bike change and is going again. He should catch on on the descent. Auge has rejoined the leaders too, and tells Halgand to take it easy so Le Mevel can get back.

Landis is now 2'28 behind the leaders(!) while the bunch remains at 6'00.

14:13 CEST    94km/106.5km to go
Landis descends like a demon, and is now 1'56 behind the leading nine. He was renowned for doing this as an amateur rider - generally giving the pros a hard time.

14:16 CEST    96km/104.5km to go
The lead group is back to 11 as Tankink and Paolini get back on on the descent. Landis should be able to get them on the next climb. Or the next descent.

14:19 CEST    98km/102.5km to go
The leaders ride through the feed zone in Flumet, and everyone grabs feedbags. Landis will take more time back because of that. He is descending very well, taking tight lines through the corners. His MTB skills are coming in handy.

Le Mevel is a bit knackered as the road goes uphill again. He's off the back. Also Paolini, Auge, Tankink are off the back, as Halgand has attacked!

14:20 CEST    99km/101.5km to go
Landis gets a bidon and some food from the team car. He doesn't take a feed bag though. He's 1'37 behind Halgand, with the bunch still at 5'25.

14:21 CEST   
The bunch snakes down the hairpins at the foot of the Saisies, with Caisse d'Epargne leading all the time. Everyone makes it and they ride through Flumet.

14:23 CEST    101km/99.5km to go
Landis continues to eat and drink as he falls back to 1'55 behind the leader Halgand. The yellow jersey bunch is at 4'50, but will lose time through the feed. Garcia Acosta is still on the front.

14:23 CEST   
Leipheimer has problems with his feed bag, and lets a gap open up, but he'll close that fairly easily.

14:25 CEST    102km/98.5km to go
Landis gets back into his aero position, hoping to erase the two minute difference between himself and the riders in front. They are almost on the Col des Aravis, a Cat. 2 climb that is 5.9 km long averaging 7.1%.

14:26 CEST    103km/97.5km to go
At the foot of the climb, Landis has caught the next group! Only Halgand is in front of them.

The average after two hours is 39.1km/h.

14:29 CEST    104km/96.5km to go
The chase group is now: Floyd Landis (Phonak - 11th at 8'08), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate, Bram Tankink (Quick-Step-Innergetic), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Luca Paolini (Liquigas), Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole).

Garate, Landis and Sinkewitz are riding tempo, 1'20 behind Halgand. Le Mevel is dropped. Then Paolini, Auge, probably Tankink... Yep. Gilbert too.

14:32 CEST    105km/95.5km to go
In the yellow jersey group, Menchov and Klöden sit towards the back with Leipheimer and Guerini. Is that because they're bad or they are waiting?

In the Landis group, Garate and Sinkewitz set tempo, putting Padrnos in trouble next, but he fights to hang on. Now just O'Grady and Righi are left with Padrnos, Garate, Sinkewitz and Landis.

Halgand, meanwhile, has 1'46.

14:33 CEST   
There's an acceleration in the group and Padrnos drops off with Landis. But then they both ride back fairly easily. Garate was going pretty hard there.

14:34 CEST    106km/94.5km to go
Garcia Acosta is dropped from the maillot jaune group, work done for the day. Just two Caisse d'Epargne riders left with Pereiro. The group is 4'45 behind leader Halgand, while the Landis group is 1'45 behind him.

14:36 CEST   
Zandio and Arroyo are the men riding for Pereiro now in the bunch, with Sastre, Dessel and Schleck right on their wheels. Moreau is there too, and Boogerd, Hincapie, Evans, etc. The T-Mobile riders are about halfway up the group, which is at least 35 riders strong.

14:37 CEST   
In the chase group, Garate is no longer there. Not sure if he's off the front or the back. Landis is doing the work, bidon in hand.

14:38 CEST    107km/93.5km to go
It looks like Garate has been dropped from this group. Padrnos is often in trouble, but he's hanging on. They are not far from the summit, and the big Czech rider will had to chase on the descent.

14:40 CEST    108km/92.5km to go
The rest of the early break is at 3'00: Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Luca Paolini (Liquigas). Also, Landis' helper Axel Merckx is about 10 minutes down on the leader, so he's not with the yellow jersey group.

Landis drives the pace up towards the top, with just Sinkewitz, Righi and O'Grady able to follow.

14:42 CEST    108.5km/92km to go
Halgand is less than 1 km from the summit of the Col des Aravis, and he gets encouragement from a lot of fans. The group behind is getting closer: 1'20 and falling.

14:43 CEST    109km/91.5km to go
Halgand will take the points at the summit, but he's not a threat for the polkadot jersey. The French rider is now over the top.

Zandio rides tempo in the yellow jersey group with Arroyo and Pereiro on his wheel. The other teams will be happy enough with this, but the situation will change on the Joux Plane.

14:45 CEST    110km/90.5km to go
Landis, sweating a lot, leads the chase group up to the top of the Aravis, 1'14 behind Halgand. Then Sinkewitz, Righi and O'Grady follow in that order. And Padrnos in sixth, not too far behind.

14:48 CEST   
Arroyo has dropped back in the yellow jersey group, leaving just Zandio setting tempo for Pereiro, 5'30 behind Halgand. So Landis has 4'20 at the moment.

Paolini is caught by the bunch.

14:51 CEST    116km/84.5km to go
Zandio leads his captain to the top, 5'48 behind the front group. At the back, Gonchar is eating and drinking, just behind Fothen. Cunego is also in this group, and will be aiming to make up time for the young rider classification today. He's just 2'42 behind Fothen.

Pereiro asks Sastre what CSC will do today. "I don't have any guys left!"

Aha - first official cow sighting. Brown, white stripes. Grazing.

14:52 CEST    117km/83.5km to go
The third hour is run at 32.8 km/h, which means the overall speed after three hours is 37 km/h.

Landis gets a gap on the rest through La Cluzaz, as he takes the right line through a roundabout. The gap is 0'55, with the bunch at 5'40.

14:54 CEST   
Arroyo is back to the front of the peloton, riding for Pereiro.

14:55 CEST    120.5km/80km to go
Landis uses a very "low slung" position on this descent, which is pretty quick, not too technical. Padrnos is back on the group. They have pegged Halgand back to 40 seconds.

14:58 CEST    122km/78.5km to go
Halgand is in Le Grand-Bornand, taking the sprint points, but only keeping 30 seconds of his lead to the Landis driven chase group. They'll catch him soon enough, and his team director might have advised him to sit up.

14:59 CEST    123km/77.5km to go
Halgand is now on the Col de la Colombičre, a Cat. 1 climb, 11.8 km long at 5.8 %.

Landis and Sinkewitz take second and third in the sprint, with Righi, O'Grady and Padrnos hanging on. They take a sharp left hander and are on the climb too.

It's getting hotter, with the temps in the valleys in the mid 30s. This is going to hurt a lot of riders today.

15:01 CEST   
Landis closes the gap to Halgand, putting O'Grady and Padrnos O.T.B.

Four leaders: Floyd Landis (Phonak - 11th on GC at 8'08), Patrice Halgand (CA), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital). The peloton is 5'32 behind. Impressive ride by Landis, who is on a mission today.

15:04 CEST    124.5km/76km to go
The peloton comes up to the sprint, still a good 40 riders strong.

Landis continues to set the tempo, bidon in hand, sweat pouring off him, shedding Righi. Just Sinkewitz and Halgand left with the determined Floyd.

15:07 CEST    126km/74.5km to go
Landis gets off the bike and gets a new one. He gets a push, and is on his way back to Halgand and Sinkewitz.

15:08 CEST   
Landis pours water over his head and back again. He's going to keep cool today.

Fedrigo has a bleeding nose, and the race doctor is holding it for him.

Gilbert and Auge are caught by the bunch.

15:10 CEST    127km/73.5km to go
Arroyo and Zandio continue to ride in the group maillot jaune, 5'21 behind Landis.

Righi, O'Grady, Padrnos, Garate, Le Mevel and Tankink are still in between the leaders and the peloton.

15:13 CEST   
Landis has ridden Halgand off his wheel...only Sinkewitz left now.. Halgand has blown and slipped right back.

15:15 CEST    129.5km/71km to go
Halgand is already 28 seconds back, as Landis continues to power away with Sinkewitz clinging on for dear life. The peloton is now 6'00 behind.

15:17 CEST    130km/70.5km to go
Given that Landis is the best time trialist of the GC riders, the other riders in the bunch are probably getting concerned. A tad. But there is still the Joux Plane to overcome, and you can bet that the pace will increase behind.

Landis is in second overall, virtually.

15:20 CEST    131km/69.5km to go
Landis signals for his team car, and gets two bidons, one of which he empties over himself. He rides up the Colombičre with the young T-Mobile rider still doing well to hang on. The mountains dwarf them on either side, and the fans encourage them in their bold effort. This has been another great stage.

The Caisse d'Epargne riders are a bit stuffed now. Only Arroyo is left as Zandio shakes his head and drops back. The maillot jaune still looks cool, but he's running out of friends.

15:23 CEST    133km/67.5km to go
It's up to 7'09 to the peloton as Landis continues to get more bidons from the team car. He's just drunk one, got two more, emptied one of them on his head. He's determined to stay cool. Maybe he's going for a water bottle consumption record, like the time he (allegedly) drank 14 cappuccinos in Girona with his friend Dave Zabriskie.

15:25 CEST    134km/66.5km to go
Arroyo has a pained look on his face as he realises he's the only one left for Pereiro in the MJ group. No other teams seem to be interested in riding yet, although they certainly will once the Joux Plane starts. It may be too late then...

Halgand is a minute behind Landis/Sinkewitz. Still fighting to stay in some sort of contact. But he'll have a hard time taking that back on the descent.

15:27 CEST    135km/65.5km to go
If...and it's still an if...Landis wins the stage, he'll probably need 7'38 to take the yellow jersey back, assuming that he takes the next bonus sprint. 20 seconds bonus for the stage win plus 10 seconds en route, and he started the day 8'08 behind.

Landis takes the points at the summit, Sinkewitz second. Halgand is third at 1'00.

15:28 CEST   
It's 7'40 now, so Landis is very close to being the virtual maillot jaune (taking bonus seconds into account). What a ride!

15:31 CEST    138km/62.5km to go
Landis massages his leg on the descent, as he keeps the aero position, but doesn't get too low yet. Sinkewitz keeps his wheel as they snake around the corners at 61 km/h. Sinkewitz is not quite as good on the descent, but he can hang on ok.

8'06 is the gap. Halgand is at 1'07.

15:33 CEST    140km/60.5km to go
Schleck chats on the batphone to his director, but is not given the instruction to chase. He pats Pereiro on the back 'sorry mate, can't work, boss's orders'.

Gonchar is now treated by the race doctor for nosebleed.

15:35 CEST    142km/58.5km to go
Rogers moves towards the front, next to Arroyo. Maybe T-Mobile will ride for Klöden.

De La Fuente attacks for mountain points, but there can't be many left. He catches Tankink at the top. That should give him 10th, with the peloton crossing at 8'35.

15:37 CEST    143km/57.5km to go
The bunch now glides down the descent of the Colombičre, with Arroyo leading.

Fourth over the climb was Padrnos, then O'Grady, Righi, Garate, and De La Fuente, who got eighth.

This is not an easy descent, as the roads are in poor condition.

15:39 CEST   
Phonak tells us that the reason for Floyd's bike change on that climb was a broken spoke in his back wheel.

15:41 CEST    148km/52.5km to go
Arroyo is joined by Zandio on the descent, in front of the group maillot jaune. That'll be good for the Caisse d'Epargne riders.

Landis and Sinkewitz lead Halgand by 1'16, then the group is at 8'50. Various parts of the break are in between, but we can ignore them for the time being.

15:43 CEST    151.5km/49km to go
Floyd's descending skills have earned him more time on the chasers. 1'36 to Halgand and 9'02 to the bunch.

If he ends up within striking distance of yellow today, he could take it in the time trial.

Ah, now CSC is riding. This will change things.

15:45 CEST    152.5km/48km to go
Voigt and Vandevelde get to the front of the bunch with Sastre, Arroyo and Pereiro in tow. This should prevent Landis from getting much more time. He's now at Cluses, with 48 km to go. Still doing all the work with Sinkewitz sitting on, protecting Klöden's lead.

Halgand is at 1'57. He ain't coming back.

15:47 CEST   
Garate is caught next as CSC continues to work on the front. They want Sastre to win the Tour, so obviously they're not going to sit on, riding to make Pereiro lose.

15:49 CEST    155.5km/45km to go
Sinkewitz waves to his team car as Floyd time trials in front, on the flat. He knows that the T-Mobile rider won't help him.

15:52 CEST    157.5km/43km to go
The gap is still 9'06 as the two leaders hit climb 4, the Côte de Châtillon-sur-Cluses. It's only a Cat. 3 climb, 5 km at 4.9 %. But the Joux-Plane awaits.

Voigt is doing a lot of work in the chase.

15:53 CEST    158km/42.5km to go
Landis sits on the point of the saddle, keeping the CSC chase at 8'43. He still has sweat pouring off, and he still looks very determined as he tackles this climb in the big ring, arms over the tops of the bars. He keeps pouring water on his head too.

15:54 CEST    158.5km/42km to go
Voigt and Vandevelde are leading the chase, with Arroyo in third wheel. They catch Righi and Padrnos. And probably O'Grady soon. He might be able to help them chase too.

15:56 CEST    160km/40.5km to go
Landis' jersey is transparent with sweat and water as he powers up this short climb. How far can Sinkewitz get? Now more riders are riding in the peloton, with two T-Mobiles up there with CSC. 8'47 is the gap.

15:57 CEST    160.5km/40km to go
Gonchar and Kessler are working with Vandevelde and Voigt, and a couple of AG2R Riders are also there. Hincapie is in eighth wheel, maybe going to work, but that would be strange if he did.

Halgand is at 3'30.

15:59 CEST    161km/39.5km to go
Landis opts for a lower gear as he pedals towards the summit of the Châtillon-sur-Cluses, bidon in hand, keeping his cool. Sinkewitz hasn't been drinking as much as Landis.

Vandevelde leads the bunch to the foot of the climb, 4 km behind Landis.

16:00 CEST    162km/38.5km to go
The bunch looks pretty ragged as it tackles the climb. Evans sits behind Zubeldia. Sprick lifts his wheel off the ground, yelling at himself to keep going, keep hanging onto the peloton.

16:02 CEST    163km/37.5km to go
Landis takes the points at the summit. but he won't threaten Rasmussen's lead in that polkadot competition.

Halgand is at 4'08, while the Gonchar driven bunch is at 8'25. They look desperate now.

16:03 CEST    164km/36.5km to go
Gonchar buries himself with Vandevelde and Voigt hanging on. Garzelli is dropped.

Landis is now on the descent, perfectly positioned. He's using a hands on the tops position, very low.

8'19 is the gap.

16:05 CEST    164.5km/36km to go
The two CSCs work on the front of the peloton as Floyd and his shadow Sinkewitz ride through Taninges.

16:06 CEST   
Halgand is now at the summit of the climb, 4'49. His stage is over, if he had any thoughts of victory.

16:07 CEST    165.5km/35km to go
Gonchar is pedaling a remarkably small gear, bringing the gap back to 8'08. He takes a water bottle from a spectator and pours it on his head.

16:08 CEST   
O'Grady is caught, as he was probably asked to continue riding hard until this climb. He does some work, but Gonchar takes over again and O'Grady falls back through the bunch.

16:09 CEST    168.5km/32km to go
The gap at the top of the climb is 8'04 as Voigt leads the bunch over for fourth. Vandevelde takes over for his turn.

16:10 CEST    169.5km/31km to go
Floyd is on the bars in the faux-TT position, as Sinkewitz signals again for his team car. Maybe he wants a tow rope. He doesn't get one, only a bidon.

16:11 CEST   
Landis is pedaling at 90-95 rpm, keeping a strong tempo and - importantly - in the aero position.

Hincapie hasn't been contributing to the chase, only T-Mobile and CSC.

16:12 CEST    171.5km/29km to go
Voigt, Gonchar and Vandevelde hammer the peloton on the flat as we approach the foot of the Joux-Plane. This is an 11.8 climb at 8.5% (ouch!!). Things will change there.

16:14 CEST    172.5km/28km to go
Even Pereiro is suffering to hold onto the pace of the chasers ahead of him. Remarkable ride by Landis, who looks so smooth. He comes up to the sprint in Verchaix.

16:16 CEST    173.5km/27km to go
The chase is even splitting the peloton on the flat, which is about 35 riders strong. But somehow, Landis holds his eight minute gap.

16:17 CEST    175.5km/25km to go
Aha, the gap is down to 7'23 as the chase finally has an effect. They go under 25 km to go.

Landis got the six seconds at the sprint ahead of Sinkewitz.

16:18 CEST    176.5km/24km to go
The sweat drops onto Landis' computer as he shifts position on the front of the bars. Sinkewitz looks relaxed behind him, salt caked on his gloves. But the Joux Plane is starting soon.

16:19 CEST    177.5km/23km to go
Halgand took third in the sprint, and is 6'35 behind Landis. The bunch is at 7'13, and Landis is definitely out of the virtual yellow. But out of the race? No way.

Leipheimer sits last wheel in the bunch, getting a bidon. Kessler works on the front with Gonchar.

16:20 CEST   
Landis and Sinkewitz start the Joux-Plane, and it's steep straight away.

Halgand is caught.

16:21 CEST    178km/22.5km to go
Landis gets out of the saddle, keeping the cadence up as Sinkewitz stays seated. The gap is 6'53 to the bunch, which is going to blow to bits on this climb.

16:22 CEST    178.5km/22km to go
Sinkewitz is dropped! Landis doesn't care. That's amazing riding.

Correction: Vandevelde was third in the sprint.

16:23 CEST   
The group maillot jaune is in full flight towards the foot of the climb, led by Kessler and Gonchar, who will give everything for Klöden. CSC is in next rank. Pereiro is in about 10th.

16:24 CEST    179.5km/21km to go
Landis signals again for his car, which can feed him until 20 km to go.

16:25 CEST   
Sinkewitz has his glasses off now, perched backwards on his neck. 6'18 is the gap between the bunch and Landis. Can the Floyd hang on to win the stage? He certainly deserves it. What a ride.

16:26 CEST   
Voigt does another turn, then Gonchar as the peloton reaches the foot of the Joux-Plane, just 6'21 behind Floyd Landis. They turn left, and the race is really on for the GC. Vandevelde pulls off, then Kessler does a turn, Voigt pulls off, Schleck and Sastre next in line.

16:27 CEST   
The bunch quickly reduces and Pereiro is a fair way back. He's going to have a tough time of it today.

16:27 CEST   
Landis' PowerTap reads 20 km/h and 371 watts.

Leipheimer is dropped. The maillot jaune group is really thinning down. A lot of T-Mobile riders: Guerini, Mazzoleni...

16:28 CEST   
Leipheimer is going backwards. He goes out with most of the Discovery team (Azevedo, Hincapie, Popovych). Schleck rides hard with Sastre on his wheel. They get a gap. Boogerd looks back for Menchov...

16:29 CEST    179.5km/21km to go
So it's Sastre and Schleck riding away from the yellow jersey group, which has Dessel, Klöden, Cunego, Zubeldia, Arroyo, Mazzoleni in it.

Sastre is now alone.

16:30 CEST    180.5km/20km to go
Rogers is dropped with Rasmussen. Sastre is third on the road, 6'03 behind Landis.

16:31 CEST   
Menchov and Rasmussen are off the back of the yellow jersey group, which is led by Guerini and Arroyo. Dessel is still there. And Klöden, Caucchioli and Zubeldia.

Boogerd, Evans and Fothen are a bit ahead.

16:32 CEST    181km/19.5km to go
Moreau and Evans are in pursuit of Sastre, who is 6'12 behind the incredible Landis. Pereiro is at 6'20.

16:33 CEST    181.5km/19km to go
Behind Moreau and Evans, Cunego and Schleck ride. Then the yellow jersey group with Dessel and Klöden and most of the other GC riders.

Sastre is 5'58 behind Landis.

16:35 CEST   
Sastre looks OK as he keeps his gap up. Sinkewitz sits up when the team car pulls along side.

Evans can't quite hold Moreau's wheel, but he's there. Menchov and Boogerd are just behind those two. The yellow jersey group is already 40 seconds behind Sastre.

16:36 CEST    182.5km/18km to go
Everything is happening on this climb, but still Floyd Landis is out the front. He has 5'53 on Sastre and is motoring up the climb.

Moreau, Evans are being chased by Menchov, Boogerd, Schleck and Cunego. Evans can't follow Moreau.

16:36 CEST   
Moreau should probably be helping Dessel, but what the hey...

16:38 CEST    183.5km/17km to go
Sastre goes under 20 km to go, in pursuit of Sinkewitz. He's still 5'55 behind Floyd! If Pereiro cracks, Floyd needs about 6'18 on Sastre to take yellow. But there are bonuses (he has 10 seconds so far). Anyway, we'll see...

Evans is caught by the Boogerd group. The yellow jersey group has Guerini, Klöden, Mazzoleni, Rasmussen, Caucchioli, Fothen, Dessel.

16:40 CEST    183.5km/17km to go
Floyd is 5 km from the top, and it should get a bit easier now. Sastre already has 1'00 on Pereiro.

16:41 CEST    184km/16.5km to go
Behind Sastre, Moreau is still alone, then Boogerd, Schleck, Menchov and Cunego. Then the group maillot jaune, led by T-Mobile. Moreau is about 20 seconds behind Sastre, and the maillot jaune is still a minute behind the CSC rider. Sastre needs 1'50 to take yellow.

16:43 CEST   
Schleck is offered a bidon from the team car. He takes it.

Sastre catches Sinkewitz: 5'47 behind Floyd. Then Moreau at 6'09, then Menchov at 6'21, then Pereiro rides hard in the yellow jersey group to put Klöden in difficulty.

16:46 CEST    185.5km/15km to go
Cunego attacks in pursuit of Moreau, and gets him. This is a mad stage. The yellow jersey is already 7'00 behind Landis.

Klöden is goooone from the yellow jersey group, which has Pereiro, Rasmussen, Zubeldia, Valjavec...and now Dessel is dropped.

16:47 CEST    185.5km/15km to go
So it's Floyd Landis looking great for the stage win today. He's powering toward the summit, just 3 km to go. Sastre is still 5'47 behind. Floyd is under 15 km to go. Sastre looks a bit cooked. He hasn't close much of the gap.

Then Cunego gets rid of Moreau, and is en route to Sastre.

16:48 CEST    186km/14.5km to go
The group maillot jaune has regrouped with Pereiro, all the T-Mobiles, Zubeldia, Dessel, Valjavec and Rasmussen. But they're at 7'03 behind the leader!!

16:49 CEST    186.5km/14km to go
Landis basically has to hold it together on the descent to win the stage and he will certainly put himself back in contention for yellow. What a stage!

16:51 CEST   
Cunego is trying to get up to Sastre, with Moreau now in fourth, alone. Then the Boogerd/Menchov/Evans/Schleck group.

Dessel loses the yellow jersey group again, along with Valjavec. Klöden is fighting hard to keep in contact with Pereiro, Rasmussen and Zubeldia. Sinkewitz is helping him.

16:52 CEST    187.2km/13.3km to go
5'38 to Sastre, 6'04 to Cunego, 7'04 to the maillot jaune. Landis has actually put time into Pereiro on this climb. Sastre is very close to yellow too. He needed 1'50 on Pereiro, and there's a 12 second bonus for second.

16:53 CEST   
Dessel fights hard with Valjavec and Guerini, as Klöden swings off the back of the yellow jersey group with Sinkewitz helping.

16:54 CEST    187.5km/13km to go
Landis is 1 km from the summit, and he's still pedaling powerfully, getting a light push from an FDJ fan. Sastre gets some encouragement from another, better looking fan.

Moreau has Cunego in his sights.

16:56 CEST    188km/12.5km to go
The yellow jersey group hangs together, with Pereiro keeping the damage at 7'04. Klöden is still hanging tough, with Sinkewitz doing a great ride. Ahead of them, Menchov and Boogerd have been dropped by Evans and Schleck.

Moreau is back with Cunego.

16:57 CEST    188.5km/12km to go
Time bonus for the win: 20, 12, 8 seconds. If Landis beats Sastre by 6'00, and Pereiro by 7'38, he'll take yellow.

Landis is at the summit of the Joux Plane with over five minutes on Sastre.

16:58 CEST    189.5km/11km to go
Boogerd and Menchov are back with the yellow jersey, with Menchov going backwards fast. Rasmussen eases up to wait for him. They are still in contact, but only just.

16:59 CEST   
Sastre is now 1km from the top of the mighty Joux-Plane, 5'12 behind flyin' Floyd. Moreau is at 5'58, ahead of Cunego now, and the yellow jersey is at 7'21.

Floyd is starting the descent.

17:00 CEST    191.5km/9km to go
Menchov and Rasmussen are 10 seconds behind the yellow jersey group now. Only Pereiro, Evans (just getting caught), Klöden, Sinkewitz, Zubeldia in that group.

17:01 CEST    192.5km/8km to go
The descent will be critical. Landis is the best descender, but he'll be also very tired. Just hold it up!

Sastre puffs his way to the summit, doing a great ride today, and he could also take yellow.

17:02 CEST   
Sastre crosses the summit 5'07 behind Landis. Then Moreau will be third.

17:03 CEST    195.5km/5km to go
Christophe Moreau is over the top at 5'59, then Cunego at 6'19.

Boogerd and Schleck are just in front of the yellow jersey group, and Boogerd comes over next at 6'52, then Schleck, Pereiro, Zubeldia and Klöden.

17:04 CEST   
Now Rasmussen comes up with Evans, Menchov and Sinkewitz at 7'20. Rasmussen checks to see where Menchov is, and rides hard.

17:05 CEST   
Landis is driving down the descent as Dessel comes over the top at 8'20 with Guerini and Valjavec.

17:05 CEST   
Landis gives it everything on the descent as Sastre goes over the final false flat over the top of the Joux-Plane.

17:06 CEST    197km/3.5km to go
Landis is within 4 km of the finish, gliding down the Joux-Plane and taking the corners carefully. He has 5'20 on Sastre.

17:07 CEST    198km/2.5km to go
Landis dives into another corner. 3 km left. Just keep it up, and he'll be home.

17:07 CEST    198.5km/2km to go
Sastre is now 5'24 back as Floyd rides a great descent into Morzine. 2 km to go. He gets around that corner that Heras crashed on several years ago.

17:08 CEST    199.5km/1km to go
Last km, and Landis makes it around the last tricky corner. Maybe that was the Heras corner.

17:08 CEST   
Landis is hammering and is on track to a fantastic stage win. He gives a big push on the pedals, but is careful.

17:09 CEST   
Floyd Landis has 500m to go as he reaches the finishing straight. This is the best ride in recent Tour history by any rider.

17:10 CEST    200.5km/0km to go
Floyd Landis hammers it top the finish, getting everything he can out of the bike. He clenches his fist in triumph. YES!!! What a brilliant ride.

17:11 CEST   
Landis has a look of fire on his face as he rehydrates after the finish. What can Sastre do?

17:12 CEST   
Pereiro leads his group on the descent, now at 5 km to go. He's at 7'20. Landis might not take yellow today, but he's got a great chance on Saturday.

17:13 CEST   
Dessel has crashed on the descent. But he's back on the bike, luckily.

17:15 CEST   
Sastre is home now, after descending well and keeping it upright. The CSC sprints full out. The gap at the finish is 5'40. That puts him 20 seconds ahead of Floyd on GC. Moreau is third at 5'57.

17:17 CEST   
Cunego is fourth at 6'40. Then Pereiro leads the bunch up for fifth. But Boogerd and Schleck take him at the line. 7'07, so Pereiro holds yellow. Just.

17:21 CEST   
Pereiro was probably regretting his "Let him go, he'll die in the hills" tactic on the Col des Saisies. But he still leads the classification by 12 seconds from Sastre and 30 to Landis.

17:26 CEST   
It ain't over yet, that's for sure. The top three are separated by just 30 seconds going into tomorrow's transitional stage between Morzine and Mâcon. Then Saturday's long time trial will decide the Tour, and would you bet against Floyd after today? As he said at the finish, he was happy with the win, but "I came here to win the Tour".

We'll see you again tomorrow.


1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                            5.23.36
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                            5.40
3 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                                 5.57
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                                    6.40
5 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                                          7.08
6 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 
7 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                
8 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile        
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                              
10 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                      7.20

General classification after stage 17

1 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears                  80.08.49
2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                            0.11
3 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                               0.31
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                                           2.29
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                       3.08
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                            4.14
7 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                                      4.24
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                                 5.45
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                                 8.16

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