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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 8 - Sunday July 9: Saint-Méen-le-Grand-Lorient, 181km

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

Live report

Live coverage starts: 12:25 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:25 CEST

After a tough time test, this stage across the rolling hills of central Brittany to the gritty seaport of Lorient will be a day when the big teams will likely let an early break get up the road. Rabobank's Oscar the Cat Freire is a likely candidate for the win for his 2nd stage win at Le Tour. After stage 8, the Tour entourage will board a charter flight to Bordeaux and rest day #1.

12:08 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' Live coverage of the Tour de France! After a tough time test yesterday, stage 8 across the rolling hills of central Brittany to the seaport of Lorient will be a day when the big teams will likely let an early break get up the road. This evening, the Tour entourage will board a charter flight to Bordeaux and rest day #1.

12:33 CEST   
T-Mobile will be one of the teams controlling the pack today, as the new Maillot Jaune is Serguei Gonchar, who smashed his rivals in yesterday's time trial. The stage might be a little hectic as there are four small climbs ahead on the 181-km course to Lorient, and many riders believe this could be one of their big chances for the limelight - plus, they have the rest day tomorrow to recover from their efforts.

The four climbs are as follows: the Mûr-de-Bretagne after 75 kms (Cat. 3, 1.6km at 7.5 percent), just after that the Côte de Saint-Mayeux (Cat 4, 1.3km at 5.9 percent), the Côte de Gouarec (Cat 4, 1.6 at 5.4 percent) and the Côte de Ty Marrec (Cat 4, 1.4km at 5.2 percent). After that it's pretty flat until the finish on the Atlantic coast - and a sprint finish can't be excluded at all. There are also some sprint points to collect along the way at km 38, km 122 and km 142.

Watch out for Bouygues Telecom to keep early attacks in check, or send mountains leader Jérôme Pineau (or a teammate) up the road to keep the polkadot jersey within their ranks.

There are no non-starters today, all 170 remaining riders are now rolling from the stadium of St-Méen-le-Grand to the official start on the Départementale 125.

12:43 CEST   
The sky is grey at the moment, it's about 19°, and some raindrops could make this stage a rather unpleasant one. At the moment, a light drizzle is coming down. But today's weather forecast says that it should get better on the peloton's way out West, with some sun coming out as well. We're not so sure about that, since it's currently raining in Lorient as well. Moreover, the bunch will face a moderate head- and side wind as it's blowing from Wets-Southwest at about 15-25 km/h.

The stage has started; Christian Prudhomme just waved the flag out of his "directeur de course" car. Peloton together.

12:50 CEST   
Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis) is the first rider attacking today. He went off at km 5, and several other riders have joined him. Still waiting for confirmation on who these are - it's a nice little field of 15 men.

12:52 CEST   
But no - this didn't work out. They were caught at km 11. This is always a nervous phase of the race - and as we saw on the stage to Vitré a couple of days ago, it can go on like this for quite a while.

12:57 CEST    15km/166km to go
Egoi Martinez (Discovery), José Luis Arrieta (AG2R) and Michael Albasini (Liquigas) tried their luck, too, but couldn't get away.

12:59 CEST   
An update on yesterday's unlucky Bobby J: Team CSC's Bobby Julich had x-rays done at the hospital in Rennes on Saturday afternoon and team doctor Joost De Maeseneer commented: "First off the x-rays show no fractures, but he has a big open wound on his right wrist. When they've cleaned it up properly, they'll be able to examine it further during surgery here in Rennes. Bobby will be staying in hospital over night and later on a scan will show, whether he has any fractures."

Team manager Bjarne Riis commented, "Losing Bobby is a major set-back for us, because he was ready for a big Tour de France. His experience and strength in the mountains will be sorely missed. Bobby will be very hard to do without, but we have to keep on fighting with the remaining riders. And luckily I can feel that they all still have the motivation to work hard towards gaining some results."

13:04 CEST   
Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) initiated the next try, and currently a group of eight riders has got a little distance, including Jens Voigt (CSC), Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Wim Vansevenant (Davitamon), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Ralf Grabsch (Milram) and Cédric Coutouly (Agritubel).

They have 20 seconds now, while others try to bridge the gap.

13:08 CEST   
Salvatore Commesso (Lampre) tried to get across, but failed. So did Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), amongst others. The break continues to increase its lead, they now have 30 seconds since their move started around km 18.

13:10 CEST   
Meanwhile, the morning drizzle has stopped, which will make it a little nicer for the riders.

13:14 CEST    25km/156km to go
The advance of the eight-men break is continuing to grow, but slowly. They have 40 seconds now, as Anthony Geslin (Bouygues) and Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) counter. Now, hasn't the Italian TT champion had enough yesterday? Apparently not.

13:18 CEST    30km/151km to go
The bunch is led by Bouygues Telecom and T-Mobile, who seem yet reluctant to make this the break of the day. The gap is remains the same at this point.

13:26 CEST   
Now, Quickstep and Lampre have also joined in, helping T-Mobile and Bouygues to catch that break - or at least not let it get too much of a distance. The gap is about 30 seconds, still.

13:31 CEST    41km/140km to go
The break got to the first intermediate sprint in Plessala, where Dumoulin took the points ahead of Garcia Acosta and Voigt. But they are in real danger now, as their lead his diminished to only 17 seconds...

13:33 CEST   
Cyclingnews talked to Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) at the start this morning, who couldn't make a good result in the time trial yesterday although he is a specialist. "Yesterday I wasn't that good. My shoulder sores, which have always been bothering me, are playing up again; it wasn't my day."

On today's stage, the Belgian said, "The breakaway might make it to the finish today, everybody in the team will try to get into the escape." So Cofidis should be happy with the sprinter's teams' work at the moment! And the support of T-Mobile...

13:33 CEST    45km/136km to go
Peloton groupé. The break is over. 45.5 kilometres were covered in the first hour... it's definitely moving today!

13:39 CEST   
Dave Zabriskie (CSC), Matze Kessler (T-Mobile), Sylvain Calzati (AG2R), Mario Aerts (Davitamon) and Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) are the next riders trying their luck.

Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole) tries to bridge the gap of about 15 seconds now.

13:42 CEST    48km/133km to go
And this break seems to get the green light as its advance is already at 1 minute! Halgand at 20 seconds. He's unlikely to make it if this continues as it does.

13:48 CEST   
The five in front are riding very well together, and the peloton has basically sat up for a moment... 1.40 in just a few kilometres! But they are also waiting for Halgand, it seems. With six riders, their chances of getting through are even higher.

Sending Kessler up the road is of course an excellent move by T-Mobile, as it now isn't responsible of the bunch any more.

13:50 CEST    56km/125km to go
Halgand is with them now. We have a very strong breakaway, including outstanding rouleurs, which might make it to the finish today: Dave Zabriskie (CSC), Matze Kessler (T-Mobile), Sylvain Calzati (AG2R), Mario Aerts (Davitamon), Kjell Carlström (Liquigas) and Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole).

13:57 CEST   
Their advantage is growing very fast. If this break succeeds, and the bunch finishes over 2 minutes behind, either Zabriskie or Kessler have a good chance of taking over the Yellow jersey from Gonchar, as they are both 2.03 minutes off the Ukrainian on GC.

14:08 CEST    64km/117km to go
Back in the bunch, Floyd Landis' team Phonak is now riding in front.

The break is now nearing the foot of the first climb, the Mûr-de-Bretagne (Cat. 3, 1.6km at 7.5 percent), with a respectable gap to the chasers to rely on: 7.30 mins.

14:15 CEST   
The break is literally flying. It will be very very hard to catch them again before the finish - Davitamon won't chase, Crédit Agricole won't chase, T-Mobile and CSC won't chase. Quick.Step and Lampre will be on their own to ride for a sprint, and pulling that through will be difficult.

14:22 CEST   
Cyclingnews also caught up with McEwen's top lead-out man, Gert Steegmans at the start this morning, who had this to say on a possible bunch sprint: "We will try to do the same as usual, but luckily McEwen can do it without me as well. In the past week we could finish it twice, with one failure in between.

"In theory, it might not succeed again today, but we will try to give it the best we got. There will lots of riders trying to escape... it depends on how Quickstep and T-Mobile will control the race." Well, he won't have to work a lot today since Davitamon was smart enough to get somebody in the break: Mario Aerts.

14:27 CEST    80km/101 km to go
The break has mastered the first of the four climbs of today. Calzati passed the summit in front, followed by Aerts and Kessler. There are three previous Tour de France stage winners in this group... ah, no, that's too silly to be the question of the day...

14:33 CEST   
Phonak is imposing a considerable pace on the field. If it goes on like this, it might split apart, especially in these little climbs - they're already at the next one, the Côte Saint-Mayeux.

14:35 CEST   
Calzati was the fastest on top of the second climb again, in front of Carlström and Zabriskie. In a couple of clicks, they'll be at the feed zone in Laniscat.

14:39 CEST   
Wilfried Peeters, Quickstep's team manager, told us in Saint-Méen this morning:

"We will help to bring the peloton back to a possible breakaway, but only with about 50 or 60 kilometres to go. That costs a lot of effort but as we don't have the yellow jersey anymore, we got rid of that pressure. We've analysed the previous finishes and there were some mistakes, we saw for example that De Jongh started his lead out too late. Knowing that we will make another decision, which will see how the train will run. We saw that the winner is always coming from behind, so we have to adapt on that situation."

So maybe we'll see Tosatto instead of De Jongh as lead out for Boonen in the sprint? "That might be the priority - maybe," Peeters smiled. "Everything was perfect this week, only in the last 500 metres, there was a mistake. Boonen was always locked up and that can't happen anymore."

14:42 CEST    89km/92km to go
The bunch has now also passed the feed zone; that'll calm them down a bit.

14:51 CEST   
The break's lead is still holding: about 6.15 at km 82. Phonak will try to limit the gap as nobody knows how well Kessler or Zabriskie can climb...

14:55 CEST    100km/81km to go
In the peloton, Ventoso (Saunier Duval) seems to have some sort of a problem, as he's riding a little behind the bunch, turning a big gear.

The gap is down to 5.41, so Phonak's drive is paying off.

14:59 CEST   
In the break, Kessler isn't doing a lot of turns, as he has the advantage that one of his team mates is leading the race. Very good tactics then by T-Mobile. And it's rare that all those words appear in the same sentence...

15:03 CEST   
Cyclingnews also had a chance to talk to Discovery team manager Johan Bruyneel this morning, who reflected on his team's poor performances at the TT yesterday. "It was a bad day for us but we were not the only team with bad results. Mayo, Cunego and Leipheimer suffered as well. We will search for an opening where it is possible. There are lots of teams who need to ride offensively so maybe we will have more allies than ever before.

"I don't have a explanation for the bad result of Hincapie, as he was feeling good before the race. T-Mobile and Landis are the major winners, but the Tour de France isn't decided yet. We started with big ambitions this year but more than ever we realize what we did during the past seven years. We had a great team and Armstrong always handled the pressure really well."

15:08 CEST   
The wind is still blowing into the faces of the riders, sometimes slightly from the side, as they race through the Morbihan region. The gap is constantly decreasing as the whole Phonak team is working hard at the front of the peloton, now led by Nicolas Jalabert, the younger brother of Laurent.

15:14 CEST    113km/68km to go
All of the breakaways still look very fit, especially Kessler, as he's only sucking wheels, sitting in the back all the time while the others circle bravely.

Zabriskie took the points and 6 seconds at the second intermediate sprint.

15:18 CEST   
Some pigs have been painted the French flag on their backs; they run over the field as the bunch rides by! Of course, all of France is waiting if "they" will become World Cup champion again tonight!

15:24 CEST   
This last part of today's course is less bumpy than the first. One more climb to come: the Côte de Ty Marrec (Cat 4, 1.4km at 5.2 percent), and one more intermediate sprint at km 142, where Dave Z could get another 6 bonus seconds to make that 12.

T-Mobile doesn't seem afraid to carry the responsibility of the Yellow jersey with seven riders - then again, maybe they don't mind losing it in a controlled fashion today.

But the bunch could still reel them back in if Quickstep and Lampre get a little more help from Phonak.

15:29 CEST   
Huge flags depicting Zinedine Zidane and Liliam Thuram of the French soccer team are laid on the fields by the roadside. Good stuff!

Halgand's pedaling isn't as supple as the others', it would seem.

15:31 CEST    127km/54km to go
The weather has cleared up since this morning, and the Tour de France is taking place under beautiful sunshine now.

Benjamin Noval is bringing up a jersey full of water bottles for his teammates at Discovery Channel.

15:35 CEST   
Halgand got a piece of cloth from his team car and rubbed down his legs a bit while pedaling. Maybe he put some warming oil on his legs this morning as it was raining then.

15:39 CEST    131km/50km to go
One rider from La Française des Jeux has joined Phonak in the chase.

In front, the situation remains the same with all riders taking regular turns, except for Kessler who is just holding their wheels. But the their advantage is fading: 4.20 now.

15:43 CEST   
Zabriskie clearly wants to make up for his performance yesterday, holding up the tempo.

Behind, there are now three Française des Jeux riders sitting in the first spots of the bunch, together with Phonak.

15:48 CEST    138km/43km to go
The leaders have arrived in the last climb The Côte de Ty Marrec. There are many fans cheering them on, some have come with their campervans just like in the high mountains.

15:54 CEST   
Five Française des Jeux riders, followed by the whole Phonak team, now pull the bunch over the climb. Their pace eats away at the break's lead: it's now down to 3.30. mins.

In the last intermediate sprint, Zabriskie was surprised to see Aerts take the points, but the American CSC rider still took 4 additional seconds.

15:57 CEST    144km/37km to go
Other jersey colours in the front of the bunch include the blue/pink of Lampre, who has just reacted and sent one rider up. It's pretty strung out now. The chase is definitely on now.

16:01 CEST    148km/33km to go
Calzati is talking to his directeur sportif in the team car. The final kilometres are wide, straight and flat roads, so not very suitable for an attack.

Even Caisse d'Epargne has joined in the chase! And we haven't seen Quickstep yet... This will be hard for the break.

16:04 CEST    150km/31km to go
At the moment, they're still on windy and narrow country roads... and Calzati attacks! Halgand counters. The three others don't react.

16:08 CEST   
Halgand has trouble bridging up to Calzati, whose acceleration was impressive. The AG2R rider doesn't seem to wait, either, even if they might have more chances being two.

Ah. Halgand has sat up.

16:10 CEST   
Halgand and Carlström continue their effort, while Aerts, Kessler and Zabriskie leave it be now. They will soon be back in the bunch.

16:13 CEST    158km/23km to go
The road is getting wider now. Calzati looks very good, he accelerates well out of the corners and seems to have a lot of power left.

16:15 CEST   
Calzati is riding about as fast as the bunch at the moment, keeping the same advance since he left his break mates: about 2.30, even gaining some seconds on them. Impressive!

16:18 CEST    161km/20km to go
Zabriskie, Kessler and Aerts just roll along now, basically waiting for the bunch to come back on them.

16:21 CEST   
Of course, if the bunch starts to really chase in anticipation of a bunch sprint, it will be hard for Calzati to resist. He's definitely being cheered on by the spectators...

Also, there is still a little wind.

16:23 CEST   
Ah. Quickstep is coming to the front now. Vasseur is there, taking over for a Française des Jeux rider. They can see the remainder of the break now.

16:24 CEST    166km/15km to go
Calzati is still powering away, but you can see he's suffering badly.

16:26 CEST   
But it seems that the bunch has eased up a bit now. Maybe they think 2.30 mins on the last 15 kms will not be enough for a sprint... and Boonen just punctured!

16:27 CEST   
Boonen got a front wheel change. Bad timing for a flat!

16:30 CEST    169km/12km to go
Carlström and Halgand are still between Calzati and the bunch, at 1.27 now. They might battle it out for second and third. And the peloton has given up the thought of catching the leader: the gap is increasing again to 2.48.

Calzati will win this - maybe the first French victory for today (thinking about the World Cup again...)!

16:34 CEST    173km/8km to go
Calzati, winner of the Tour de l'Avenir in 2004, is increasing his lead over the bunch, while behind Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) has attacked. The Belgian has 100 metres.

16:39 CEST   
Gilbert is swallowed again, as Lampre gives it a little gas.

Calzati is on a motorway now, all alone, that must be hard! But with the victory almost in sight, he must be emotional - that's his greatest win so far!

16:41 CEST    178km/3km to go
Calzati gives five to his DS Julien Jurdie in the car beside him. They're happy!

16:45 CEST   
Calzati is under the flamme rouge, with Halgand and Carlström two minutes, and the bunch three minutes behind him. The French love it, of course, and the crowd goes wild.

16:46 CEST   
Calzati looks back, still. Old habits.

Now he raises his fists and celebrates in the last few hundred metres...

16:47 CEST   
Halgand leads as the two are in the final kilometre. He stares back at Carlström.

16:48 CEST   
They look at each other. Halgand still in front. Now the sprint is on...!

16:48 CEST   
..And Carlström wins!

16:50 CEST   
The bunch is right there, too, and McEwen wins! In front of Bennati and Zabel.

16:51 CEST   
Boonen, again, loses this sprint. He just seems to lack the final drive, as he wasn't locked in or anything this time. He went perhaps too early, but after the finish said, "I really can't do it anymore. I couldn't care less at this moment. I'm going to stop sprinting! What an amateur I am, I mistook the polka dots for the finish, I started way too early!"

Serguei Gonchar keeps the maillot jaune, Zabriskie moves into the top 10, and we will see you again (we hope) after tomorrow's rest day in Bordeaux. Adieu!


1 Sylvain Calzati (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                  4.13.18
2 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas                            2.06
3 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Crédit Agricole                      
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                       2.15
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                  
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram                                
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux                   
8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas                            
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic                       
10 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner                          

General classification after stage 8

1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile                        34.38.53
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                 1.00
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                             1.08
4 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile                           1.45
5 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner                          1.50
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                                 
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears     1.52
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                             
9 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC                            1.53
10 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                             2.00


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