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94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 14 - Sunday, July 22: Mazamet - Plateau-de-Beille, 197km

Live commentary by Shane Stokes and Bjorn Haake

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 13:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Bonjour again to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the 94th edition of Le Tour de France. We have adjusted our Cyclingnews clocks to the French time zone and will be starting the coverage slightly earlier. Today the riders go from Mazamet to the Plateau de Beille. It is a mostly flat stage - well, for the first 100 kilometres. After that it's a free for all, with two back-to-back hors catégorie climbs and a mountain top finish at the Plateau de Beille.

12:13 CEST    13km/184km to go
The peloton is currently riding together, after the first attacks have been thwarted off. Initially it was Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to take the initiative. He was joined by Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Félix Rafael Cárdenas (Barloworld) and Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic). Schumacher subsequently crashed and the five were gobbled up by the peloton

12:17 CEST   
Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) and Cyril Dessel (Ag2r Prévoyance) have been distanced on the first difficulty of the day, the category two Saint-Saraiille climb. Bad news for Nicolas to get dropped virtually in his hometown. Brother Laurent may not appreciate it. But he's the one to talk, following the Tour on the back of a motorcycle and updating France 2 on what's happening on the road.

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
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12:20 CEST   
Over the top of the climb it's David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval-Prodir) in front of Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Juan Manuel Gárate (Quickstep-Innergetic), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Laurent Lefčvre (Bouygues Telecom).

12:24 CEST   
So Soler took one point back from Popo, to be in second place by four points over the Ukrainian. Soler is wearing the red dotted shirt that really belongs to Rasmussen. The rules say that the yellow has to be warn - no choice for the Dane. Not that he wanted to trade it, anyway. He looks pretty cool in all yellow.

12:29 CEST    29km/168km to go
After a few fruitless attempts and smaller groups being slightly off the front, a large group of 27 has formed and are currently 45 seconds ahead of the field. We are about 30 kilometres into the race.

12:32 CEST   
The race started in Mazamet and is, as indicated, the hometown of the Jalaberts, who are both in the race. The younger Nicolas is back in the peloton, after having some trouble in the beginning. It is hard to start race with a climb. But of course it's hard to finish a race with a climb and it's likely not the last time that the younger Jalabert will be having trouble today, although he he surely won't be the only one.

12:35 CEST   
The field has passed le montages noir (black mountain), but fortunately they went by far enough west so they didn't have to go over the higher peaks, like the 700+ metre high Pradelles-Cabardès. There is plenty of climbing left anyway.

12:36 CEST    37km/160km to go
The group in the front contains Rasmussen! Which is why Predictor-Lotto is driving the pace right now.

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
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12:37 CEST   
Six guys have peeled off the front, while the Predictor work has reeled in the yellow jersey group.

12:39 CEST   
Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Antonio Colom (Astana) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) are the six who took off about 35 kilometres into the race.

Current situation

  • Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Antonio Colom (Astana) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
  • Peloton at 0.45

12:48 CEST   
The Plateau de Beille first featured in the Tour de France in 1998. Ullrich had flatted at the bottom of the climb and came back to front like a "Storm of Power." Pantani had to courtesy to wait until Jan was back, before attacking and taking valuable time out of the German. The first crack in the Armour, that year.

12:51 CEST    48km/149km to go
The lead of the six front runners has steadily increased and is now over four minutes. Truce is on and Rasmussen being in the front group may just have been a sign of attentiveness, rather than an attack.

12:53 CEST   
Plateau de Beille is the finish, for the third time this year. The climb is almost 16 kilometres long and averages 7.8 percent, topping out at 1780 metres.

Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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12:57 CEST   
The other hors catégorie climb is the Port de Pailhères, a climb that is in the program also for the third time, after 2003 (stage winner: Mercado) and 2005 (stage winner: Totschnig). It is about a kilometre longer than the finishing climb, but less steep (7.2 percent), but it's top is over 2,000 metres, which will leave many gasping for air.

Current situation

  • Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Antonio Colom (Astana) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
  • Peloton at 4.20

p>13:02 CEST   
The sprint in Carcassone is won by Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) in front Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne)

13:04 CEST    57km/140km to go
After staying steady for awhile the lead of the front group has sky rocketed after the sprint and is now over ten minutes. Well, they will need a lot more than that!

13:09 CEST   
Marcus Burghardt's heart rate is currently between 70 and 80 beats per minute. That is close to the resting heart rate for some people and shows that the peloton isn't doing more than necessary (to avoid tipping over). You can see the rider's data by clicking the link at the top or bottom of the page. This cool feature is brought to you thanks to hard work by our partners SRM and the sponsor of the live telemetry, T-Mobile.

Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile
Photo ©: Sirotti
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13:09 CEST   
Please note the SRM and T-Mobile telemetry needs the latest version of the Java runtime environment to be installed on the user's system. If you don't have this - and it's useful, non-invasive software needed for many web-based applications - please visit the Sun website for the Java download page. When the telemetry page opens, please select a rider and then wait a few moments for the data to begin to load. Each day we will update the riders using this equipment, as the group of riders who are connected each day will change. In addition to today's group, other riders who may also be connected in subsequent stages include Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile), Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and Christian Vande Velde (CSC)

13:13 CEST   
We also used to have Patrik Sinkewitz here, but can't locate his data easily anymore. He also wasn't easily located for his out-of-competition doping control in June. This was revealed yesterday in a sports broadcast featuring anti-doping Helmut Pabst and Sinke's lawyer, Michael Lehner. Mick Rogers wasn't even granted a shower after a hard training ride in the Pyrenees. Sinkewitz managed to sneak in his room anyway, where he was quickly rescued again from the doping testers.

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)
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13:19 CEST    64km/133km to go
One third of the course completed and there is some truce between the leaders right now. The peloton is half-way between the only two sprint of the day. The second sprint comes up at kilometre 91.5. This is also when the riders will get the only feed zone of the day. They may not really looking forward to it, as it also indicates the start of the uphill. Slightly at first, but brutal later.

13:22 CEST   
Two persons however gladly look past the feed zone and that's because they are hungry. Not (only) for food, but for the mountains. Michael Rasmussen and Alexander Vinokourov are expected to go on the attack. The Kazakh to make up for lost time following his crash in stage 5, the Dane to get more time before the second long time trial. For more on Vino read this.

Current situation

  • Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Antonio Colom (Astana) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
  • Peloton at 10.20

Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

13:26 CEST    71km/126km to go
The lead has gone up to 10'40", but enough is enough and the peloton is starting to pick up the pace. With the result that the lead has dropped to 10'35"

13:33 CEST   
Quick.Step's Carlos Barredo tried twice today, he desperately wanted to be in the break today. Just like Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)

13:35 CEST   
Francisco José Ventoso (Saunier Duval-Prodir) showed a lot of courage yesterday and the day before to finish despite his crash injuries sustained in the crash just before the finish two days prior. Especially his hand looked pretty bad. He decided to not take the start today. The Tour is cruel!

13:38 CEST   
Well, the lead has gone out again. Apparently the field has decided to let them dangle over the first climb and catch up later.

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
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13:42 CEST   
Laurent Jalabert took the green jersey in 1992. In 1994 he had a less pleasant experience, crashing heavily in Armentière. But it had its good, as Jaja developed into a more diverse rider, winning Paris-Nice and even the polka dot jersey.

13:46 CEST   
American Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) had a great time trial yesterday and moved into fifth place overall. With team-mate Contador in third Discovery has some good cards to play. But so does Astana, occupying 4th, 6th and 9th.

13:52 CEST   
Laurent Jalabert took the decision to quit the 1998 Tour, saying there should be some dignity towards the riders. That was the year of the Festina scandal and several strikes from the riders, even deciding not to contest the stage into Aix-les-Bains. The whole peloton sat on the street for more than an hour before taking off their numbers.

13:58 CEST   
Thousands of crazy and not so crazy are already up in the mountains, some more drunk than others. The hill sides are lined with campers and it's best to not only arrive a few days earlier, but also stay a few days afterwards, as the traffic jams are large. Actually, the best way is of course to ride the bike up (bring a tent!) and then stay for some gorgeous hikes in the Pyrénées.

13:59 CEST   
The temperatures are 25 degrees in the valley and 15 degrees on the peaks. Most importantly, it's dry.

14:07 CEST    98km/99km to go
Our attentive readers have caught a mistake in the Tour de France history book. Stage 13 in 2003, which went over the Col de Pailhčres, was won by Carlos Sastre, who is one of the hopefuls for this Tour. He is currently 7th at 4'45".

14:10 CEST   
Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has the red number of most aggressive rider and he is in the break again! He has team-mate Rubén Pérez with him. Euskaltel is always looking for the mountain stages

14:13 CEST    102km/95km to go
The lead holds steady at just above 10 minutes. Astana has the yellow numbers, leading the teams classification after their stunning time trial performance yesterday. Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and Ińigo Cuesta (Team CSC) are towards the back of the field right now

14:14 CEST   
The peloton is heading through the fee zone. A Saunier rider is drinking a coke. They have some nice goodies in their musettes! Need to make the mind healthy so the body can follow up the mountains.

14:15 CEST   
Moreau is behind right now, using a couple of team-mates to get back up. He may have had a flat tyre right in the feed zone.

14:17 CEST    105km/92km to go
Saunier is leading the peloton through this really beautiful area right now, with the rolling hills on the left and right that are littered with hiking trails. The field is winding its way through Campagne sur Aude - yes, we are in the French campagne (countryside) alright!

Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
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14:19 CEST   
The break is still looking good and cohesive. Everybody is pulling through, including Iván Gutiérrez, who has a big bandage on his left arm. Ouch.

14:20 CEST   
It is confirmed that Moreau had a flat, right in the feed zone. Must have been something really spicy in those food bags! He's back in the field alright, but is still smarting from the time trial yesterday.

Current situation

  • Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Rubén Pérez and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), Antonio Colom (Astana) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
  • Peloton at 10.14

14:25 CEST   
The scenery is stunning. The peloton passes through a rock -the road simply was cut through this large gorge. It's a narrow valley and the rocks go straight up vertically on the side of the roads. It'd be nice to do a bike tour here, without the stress of a race.

14:27 CEST   
Many people of course make the Pyrénées their vacation destination, be it to ride their bikes or hike through this stunningly scenic area.

14:29 CEST   
The Spaniards can smell the nearby border. five of the six in the front are from the south side of the Pyrénées. It'll be madness again in the mountains and expect a few incidents with crazy spectators that don't realize those guys are riding at speeds that most spectators are only able to reach in the flats.

14:31 CEST    113km/84km to go
Under the work of Saunier Duval and the Rabobank team, which is sitting right behind the yellow Spanish team in the front, the lead has decreased to 9'39". Saunier as a Spanish team missed the move, which explains why the ride on the front.

14:33 CEST   
Rasmussen in yellow blends in very well with the Saunier riders, who all wear yellow. For a while, the Tour made teams wear a different outfit, such as the pink that Onze chose in the 90's, but the pressure of the sponsors was too high and today the teams can ride in any colour.

14:35 CEST   
The break rides with great urgency through the valley, along the Aude river. The field is a little behind, by like nine minutes, and just now passes Axat.

14:37 CEST    117km/80km to go
The field has the pleasure to ride under a rail road bridge. The tourist train has stopped right over the street, allowing the passengers in the open, roofless car to have a peek on the storming peloton. The bridge is pretty, with several arches, about 15 metres high..

14:39 CEST   
Cyclingnews’ Gregor Brown spoke to stage winner Filippo Pozzato this morning before the start. The Liquigas Italian rider said that he had “three more days of survival ahead, in which I hope save something for the final 3 stages.” He’d very much like to take a second victory before – or in – Paris.

Monsieur Brown also talked to Simon Gerrans (Ag2r Prévoyance), who was in great spirits. Gerrans said that Christophe Moreau crashed during the TT. The Frenchman didn’t ease off in the test; he was pushing it all the way to the finish, but still lost a lot of time. Clearly just a bad day.

Levi Leipheimer can sympathise with that. Last year he dominated the Dauphine, then arrived at the Tour with much-reduced form. It's better to be good in June and better in July, rather than the other way round.

14:39 CEST   
We are now in the Gorge de Saint Georges. From the blimp the view is incredible. The road is almost not visible between the majestic rocks and the sunny day adds to the beauty of this part of the country.

14:41 CEST    120km/77km to go
Of course the riders are now heading the wrong way in the valley, so it's uphill. Ouch. The break is still labouring hard, but after the feed zone the pace has picked up and the lead has decreased to under ten minutes.

14:41 CEST   
Gregor also talked about the weather and the start. It is around about 22 degrees, and the forecast at the finish is for about 16 degrees.

There were very big crowds at the start, due in part to the fact that the start village is where the two Jalabert brothers come from. Apart from that claim to fame, Mazamet is also known historically as a major centre for wool and leather production.

14:43 CEST    121km/76km to go
The sprint after the feed zone was taken by Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), in front of Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne)

14:44 CEST   
Saunier is now really putting the hammer down for their leader, Iban Mayo. The gap is down to just over 8 minutes.

14:48 CEST    123km/74km to go
Our blimp is hanging low over the Gorge. We almost hit one of the sharp rocks! We really want to be close to the action here in France. The road is in, well, let's call it French condition. Good thing we don't have to deal with it, but the riders will curse about the additional resistance offered.

14:50 CEST   
The Saunier Duval Prodir team are riding like men possessed for Mayo, who is fired up to do well today. His confidence differs markedly from what happened the last time the race visited here, in 2004. Mayo’s form had collapsed after winning the Dauphiné (sound familiar?) and he actually tried to pull out of the race on the road to Plateau de Beille. He was persuaded to continue but finished almost 38 minutes down, dropping to 49th overall, 45'04" behind maillot jaune of Thomas Voeckler. He did not start three days later.

At the time, Mayo said: "I already knew that I couldn't give it my all today and I'm sad about that. I wanted to abandon but my teammates told me I must continue...and then I realised that when you lose you can learn more from this. But I'm mad because I'm not going good and I don't know why! But it's not the worst day of my life today; I'm only 26 and I know and there will be more Tours for me in the future."

He probably didn’t expect that it would take him three years to get back to that level in the Tour. But if he wins today, he will exorcise that bad memory.

14:52 CEST   
We figured out the puzzle of the previous appearance of the Pailhčres. It was Sastre who took the stage, but Mercado who went first over the top. Totschnig on the other hand was first over the top *and* won the stage in 2005.

14:53 CEST   
The walls go up at maybe a 60 percent angle on both sides of the road. Unlike the earlier gorge it is now completely covered with trees. The Saunier riders are not looking left and right and are missing out!

14:55 CEST    127km/70km to go
The road is winding left and right and offers some variety to the breakaway. The breaks on the long straight roads, that are typical in many parts of France, are terrible for the mind. Here in the Pyrénées on the other hand, it is fun to be ahead in a small group. Well, maybe a mountain or two less would fare better on the rider's morale in the front.

Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) gets second
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

14:55 CEST   
Another who will be licking his lips at the thought of the tough mountain finish will be Alberto Contador, who is shaping up as a strong contender for the overall. Cyclingnews’ Brecht Decaluwé spoke to team manager Johan Bruyneel this morning. He said that if Contador feels good at the bottom of the climb, that he would ‘certainly try something.’

14:57 CEST   
The Basque fans may have mixed feelings about the chase; while Saunier Duval is riding for Mayo and his bid for a stage win, the driving behind is also harming the chances for this break to stay clear. Two riders from that area's Euskaltel-Euskadi team are in the move, so the chase greatly decreases their chances of success.

Current situation

  • Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Rubén Pérez and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic), Antonio Colom (Astana) and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas)
  • Peloton at 6.30

14:59 CEST   
Mayo left the Euskaltel-Euskadi team last year so things may be peculiar between them anyway.

15:00 CEST    131km/66km to go
And the break has started the ascension of the Pailhčres. The Euskaltel riders are on the front, setting the pace. No surprises here. The lead is down to 6'30"

15:01 CEST   
Rabobank’s Erik Dekker said at the start that the Rabobank and Predictor-Lotto teams would ride together to control things for their GC contenders Michael Rasmussen and Cadel Evans, first and second overall. . “There are no big, dangerous groups going because we have 15 guys to ride.”

15:02 CEST   
The spectators have no choice and are refined to the side of the road where the river runs by. On the other side, a rock wall goes up vertically. Maybe a rock climber's delight, but too dangerous to stand in the middle of the road with no ditch to jump into when the field comes by.

15:05 CEST   
The field passes a more open area on the left. There are some ruins, the Château de Usson, which overlooks the area. Boy, there is not much left in the interior of the ruins. Looks as shredded as the field in a little bit.

15:06 CEST    133km/64km to go
There are already many spectators out there on the climb. The field has now turned off the main road, up onto the steeper part as well.

15:08 CEST   
And the break is disintegrating temporarily, but it's already back together. There is a split in the main field so, and two groups are bit behind, including Hushovd

15:09 CEST   
Christophe Moreau is also dropped. Looks like his Tour is completely in shatters. Kuschynski is dropped off the front group. 5 Spaniards in the front now.

15:10 CEST   
Moreau is in the group with Tom Boonen. Never a good sign in the mountains. Cancellara is also there.

15:11 CEST   
A large gruppetto has formed already. Better to arrive in a big group together!

15:15 CEST   
Ten more kilometres to the top. The Spaniards are still hammering n the front, with Euskaltel doing a loot of the work. Well, they have two riders in the break. Ivanov (Astana) and Isasi are dropped from the field. So are Righi, Dario Cioni, (Predictor-Lotto) and Sergio Paulinho (Discovery Channel)

15:16 CEST    137km/60km to go
And Txurruka accelerates. He rolls off the front. Not really an attack, but enough to distance the other four.

15:18 CEST    138km/59km to go
Rubén Pérez catches up with his team-mate, but the others are there as well. The peloton rides through Mijanès, which is a very pretty town, set on the slopes and having a terrace like look

15:21 CEST   
The landscape has changed now from the rugged rocks to a softer rolling hill area, with meadows close to the roadside and the forest in the back. The road goes up now in switch backs and Saunier is keeping to put the uphill hammer down.

15:23 CEST    139km/58km to go
And Pérez has a go now in the front group. The Euskaltel have the numbers advantage for 1-2, but also their resumes are littered with mountain experience. Maybe they can even keep the red number in their team today.

15:24 CEST   
Markus Fothen is shelled out the back. For someone who wanted to improve on his 15th place last year and his words before the Tour, saying that Gerdemann needs to prove that he can finish a three-week race, he's not doing well.

15:25 CEST   
Txurruka and Colom catch up with Perez, but their lead is below 5 minutes.

15:27 CEST    140.5km/56.5km to go
Now it's Gerdemann to get dropped. The German war of words may continue...

15:29 CEST   
David Millar is making the pace in the front, for his team-mate Mayo, who wants to win in the Pyrenees. Perez is now dropped by Colom and Txurruka. Burt now Colom has to do all the work

15:30 CEST   
Vino is close to the back of the main field. Klöden is closer to the front - a better place to be. Astana just lost Navarro. Perez has caught up again - Colom had to do all the work.

15:31 CEST    141.5km/55.5km to go
Vino is now dropped too!!!! He is with Navarro.

15:31 CEST   
He may be paying for his efforts of yesterday. He has a hard time holding the wheel of Navarro. They are about 100 metres back.

15:32 CEST   
Today's first intermediate sprint was held in Carcassonne. It's a stunning walled city and a UNESCO world heritage site. It's also a place with a very interesting (and, unfortunately, strife-filled history). One of the stories dates back in the years between 1209 and 1229 when the Albigensian Crusade/Cathar Crusade happened in the region. It was a two decade campaign initiated by the Roman Catholic Church against the Cathars of Languedoc.

The crusaders attacked the city of Béziers and killed all those within, burning the city to the ground. They then marched on to Carcassonne and arrived there on August 1, 1209. By August 7 they had cut the city's water supply, and by August 15th it surrendered. The people were not killed, but were thrown out of the town. One writer said they were ejected without clothes, another said they were in their "shifts and breeches".

15:33 CEST   
Frank Schleck (CSC) is reported to be in difficulty. Popovych too..that will hurt his chances for the KOM jersey.

15:35 CEST   
The Euskaltel's continue their right-left combos against Colom, but the Astana is holding on. Vino is signalling that he had enough. He also doesn't want the cameras around him. But he doesn't have a choice. The main group is about 30 strong

15:35 CEST   
That's unexpected about Vinokourov. Millar is leading the field and Vinokourov would normally be expected to be stronger than the big Scot. His climbing has been hit and miss this year, though - in the Dauphine he was also in trouble on some of the mountains.

15:36 CEST    143km/54km to go
Evans, Leipheimer, Klöden, Valverde, Rasmussen - all the favs are there, except for Vino. Millar has done a lot of work and is gone now as well

15:37 CEST    144km/53km to go
Lots of small groups are building. The trio in front has a truce now and are about 3 km from the top. Vino is already almost 2 minutes down!!!

15:38 CEST   
Valjavec (Lampre Fondital) has also been dropped. He started the day 25th overall.

15:38 CEST   
Rabobank hits the front, taking over from Saunier. Could be a good day for the Dane Rasmussen.

15:39 CEST   
Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) and Jens Voigt (CSC) are together off the back.

15:39 CEST   
It's Dekker and Boogerd who are setting the pace for the Dutch team. Vino is at the doc's car. Not a good sign.

15:39 CEST   
Rasmussen is looking good in third wheel.

15:40 CEST    144.5km/52.5km to go
Evans is setting pretty as well. He is also one who could profit today.

15:41 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel - Euskadi) has been dropped as well... he was 8th overall this morning, 5'07 back.

15:41 CEST    145km/52km to go
Gutierrez has caught up with the trio in front so four are together about two kilometres from the top.

15:42 CEST   
It looks like there are perhaps 20 - 25 riders in the Rasmussen group now. This pace is really hurting some people.

15:42 CEST   
George Hincapie has also been dropped.

15:43 CEST   
There are 24 riders in the front group. Dekker leads for now, with Boogie Woogie (Boogerd) on his wheel.

15:44 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer is still there and looks quite comfortable. Juan Mauricio Soler is out of the saddle and seems perhaps to be suffering.

15:44 CEST    145.4km/51.6km to go
There are a ton of spectators on the top. The four are about 1km from the top.

15:45 CEST    145.5km/51.5km to go
Pérez, Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Colom (Astana) continue ahead. They are 3'19" clear.

15:45 CEST   
It's getting a bit overcast and the temperatures are around 15 degrees. It's a bit better for a riding a bike uphill than if it were really hot.

15:46 CEST   
Chris Horner (Predictor Lotto) is there for Cadel Evans.

15:47 CEST   
Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) is also in the group, along with riders such as Rasmussen, Evans, Mayo, Kloden - we will have more names shortly.

15:47 CEST   
Kuschynski, who was in the break, is caught by the field. He'll be going out the back soon, but should be able to hang to at least the bottom of the next climb.

15:48 CEST   
Contador is there, too, wearing the white jersey of best young rider.

Vinokourov waves goodbye to the camera. We don't know if he is planning to stop, or if he just wants the TV out of there.

The leaders go over the top of the climb.

15:49 CEST   
Vino has the jersey wide open, his under shirt showing. Over the top it is Perez who takes the maximum points, in front of Txurruka and Colom. Guti is fourth

15:49 CEST   
Soler attacks for the mountain climbs.

15:50 CEST   
He goes over the top, adding to his tally in that competition. Rasmussen is wrapped up in the fight for yellow so the Colombian has a chance of taking it.

15:51 CEST    149.3km/47.7km to go
Mayo is hanging off the back a bit. Not a good sign. But should be getting on at the downhill. They aren't too far off the top.

15:51 CEST   
Soler is going very well. He's racing to the top and looks very strong. We have a real, live Colombian on our hands!

15:51 CEST   
Rasmussen crosses just behind him, making sure that he also takes points.

15:52 CEST   
The campers that are parked near the top look like a village. The four up front are screaming down the mountain, with Colom leading.

15:53 CEST   
Mayo really was in trouble on that climb. Wow...that's a bit embarrasing after your team has been driving the pace. He was quite a bit off the back but will hope to get back on and feel better on the final climb. It doesn't bode well for his chances today, though...

15:53 CEST   
Wegmann is coming over the top. He is not one for the big mountain stages, but has a decent appearance today.

15:54 CEST   
Vinokourov is way down now..he passes the sign for 1km to the top of the climb. He's going to be a long way back this evening.

15:54 CEST   
A lot of riders have clearly not recovered from yesterday's time trial, Vino included.

15:54 CEST   
Wegmann was indeed still a kilometre away from the top. He is in the Vino group.

15:54 CEST   
The road for the front group is really wide, and they are going all-out right now.

15:55 CEST   
Mayo is chasing with Fofonov (Credit Agricole).

Antonio Colom
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

15:55 CEST   
This descent is 34 kilometres long. It then hits the village of Les Cabannes, where the final climb begins.

15:56 CEST   
Vinokourov is back with David Millar. His team-mate hands him a jacket for the descent.

15:57 CEST   
Mayo is hitting 90 km/h, desparetly trying to get back to the group ahead.

15:57 CEST   
Wow...Vinokourov crosses the summit 8'17 behind the leaders. They were in turn 2'54 up on the yellow jersey group, so Vino has lost 5'23 to Rasmussen and the other contenders.

15:58 CEST   
Rabobank continue to lead on this flatter part of the descent.

15:59 CEST   
Mayo's high-speed chase has paid off, but it was also helped by the front runners sitting up. A group with Hincapie and Voigt is also still chasing behind, hoping to make the downhill their saviour.

16:01 CEST    159km/38km to go
The front four are going through Goulours, crossing a small stone bridge.

16:01 CEST   
Wow...Pereiro has attacked on the descent and is really moving... He is flying through the corners and has several seconds on the others.

Current situation

  • Rubén Pérez and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Antonio Colom (Astana)
  • Carlos Barredo (Quickstep-Innergetic) at 0.50
  • Peloton at 3.08
  • Gruppetto at 6.45

16:03 CEST   
A group is chasing behind, amongst them George Hincapie. Popovych is here also. That means that Contador and Leipheimer are almost certainly alone up front.

16:05 CEST    162km/35km to go
It looks like Pereiro has been caught.

The gap is 2'53 to the leaders. The Hincapie/Popo group rejoins the peloton.

16:07 CEST    165km/32km to go
It looks like our riders with the SRM data have decided to stop breathing and pedalling. We apologize for the inconvenience - but think about the inconvenience for the riders, too! As soon as we have reanimated the bunch we'll let you know. Also possible that the downhill was simply breathtaking. Or maybe it was the stunning views.

16:07 CEST   
Rasmussen will try to underline his control by taking time on the other contenders on the final climb. If he can do this he will score a big psychological point, particularly after his TT performance yesterday. However if he loses time to challengers such as Contador and Evans, this will do the opposite.

16:07 CEST   
Then again, it's not just about motivation and confidence. Vinokourov won yesterday but his Tour has really fallen apart today.

16:08 CEST   
The front four are going through Ax-les Thermes, a nice Pyrenean town near the foot of the Plateau de Beille.

16:10 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins was asked about his performance in the time trial. "I don't want to talk about yesterday. I am sick of it," he said.

He had previously seemed satisfied with how he rode, so perhaps he is just tired of hearing the same question. There are a lot of media people at the race and so it's likely he's been asked for his reaction approximately 342,578 times since yesterday evening. Give or take a few thousand.

16:11 CEST   
Andreas Klöden is dropping back to get some drinks from the team car. David Arroyo is also there. Cadel Evans said before the start that he expects Astana to attack and expects also something from Discovery. He mentioned that it'll be fun for the spectators, but hard for the riders. He spoke in fluent French, by the way.

16:12 CEST   
George Hincapie now hits the front and pulls for his team GC rides Contador and Leipheimer.

16:12 CEST   
Barredo is trying to make the most amazing comeback, inching back to the front four. There are the two Euskaltel's, Rubén Pérez and Amets Txurruka as well as Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Antonio Colom (Astana)

16:14 CEST   
Guti is flagging his team car. One bit of advice, some liquid and the odd rest next to the car. Always appreciated.

16:16 CEST    172km/25km to go
The lead group passes the 25 kilometre mark. If only it weren't mostly uphill...

16:17 CEST   
It is indeed the fourth time the Tour finishes on the Plateau de Beille, after 1998, 2002 and 2004.

16:19 CEST   
Hincapie leads the group under the banner signifying 25km to go.

16:19 CEST    174km/23km to go
Barredo is back!!!! A tremendous effort by the Quick.Step rider, who catches the leader about 23 kilometres from the finish.

George Hincapie (Discovery)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

16:20 CEST   
Hincapie is followed by two Rabobank riders, but for now they leave him to do all the work. He will sacrifice himself for Levi and Bert, ie Leipheimer and Alberto Contador.

16:22 CEST   
Hincapie has this group all lined out. He's in a TT position, using a pair of invisible aero bars. They are of course much safe than the old ones, banned on grounds that they were dangerous..

16:23 CEST   
Perez is on the front of the lead group, really hoofing it along. Gutierrez is on his wheel.

16:23 CEST   
Menchov sits just ahead of Rasmussen in the chasing group. There's perhaps 30 or 40 riders there now. No Vino, though.

16:25 CEST    180km/17km to go
Rubén Pérez is now working for Amets Txurruka. They are at the start of the final climb.

16:27 CEST   
It starts out with a really tough section, going up at 9%

16:27 CEST    181.5km/15.5km to go
Perez has done his work, so there are four in the front now.

16:27 CEST   
Barredo also has to pay for his efforts trying to get back to the front.

16:29 CEST   
Well, Barredo is amazing. He comes right back, just riding his own rhythm.

16:30 CEST   
The peloton hits the bottom of the climb. Immediately, Hincapie pulls over and Thomas Dekker hits the front. Rabobank are going very hard, so this suggests that Rasmussen may attack from a long way out. He must be feeling good.

16:30 CEST   
Hincapie has blown, as you might expect after all that work. Evans and Horner are on Rasmussen's wheel.

16:31 CEST   
Rasmussen looks quite comfortable. At the back of that group, many riders are slipping away.

16:32 CEST    183.1km/13.9km to go
The break is 2'15 ahead and looks likely to be caught on this climb.

16:32 CEST   
Boogerd takes over at the front of the Rasmussen group.

16:33 CEST   
Contador and Leipheimer are in the front as well. The big showdown can start, though Astana has lost one of its favourites already. Vino is way back, but Klöden is in the group.

16:33 CEST   
Txurruka drives the pace of the break, with Colom and Gutierrez stuck to his wheel like super glue.

Savoldelli has been dropped from the maillot jaune group.

16:34 CEST   
Colom attacks the front group!

16:34 CEST   
Wow...he looks strong.

16:34 CEST   
He gets a gap on the other two, who are slipping back.

16:35 CEST   
Txurruka is fighting to get back on terms (Gutierrez just sits on his wheel, because that's all he can do for now) but Colom has an increasing gap now.

16:36 CEST   
Cuesta (CSC) has been dropped, as have Kirchen (T-Mobile), Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne), Mayo (Saunier Duval), Fothen (Gerolsteiner) and others.

16:37 CEST   
Popovych leads the Rasmussen group, driving the pace. Mayo is, indeed, goooooonne...

16:38 CEST   
Zubeldia has also been dropped, as has Valverde, Astarloza, Pereiro...

16:38 CEST   
Gutierrez is turning a huge gear. Txurruka has a much higher cadence.

16:38 CEST   
Evans is out of the saddle, as is Contador. Rasmussen sits and looks focussed. This group is down to ten riders, and will surely explode soon.

16:39 CEST   
Klöden is at the back of the group and looks to be in difficulty...

16:39 CEST   
In contrast, Kashechkin looks strong... Menchov has been dropped.

16:41 CEST   
Soler gets water from a spectator and offers some of it to Rasmussen. He doesn't take it.

Sastre is at the back of the group now. Pereiro, Valverde and David Arroyo are all together, the three Caisse d'Epargne riders losing time.

16:42 CEST   
Colom continues to lead and nears the 10km to go banner. He's still got 1'57 so might do it. However, an attack from the yellow jersey group could eat up that time.

Boogerd continues on the front, driving hard for his team-mate.

16:43 CEST   
Contador is likely to be dangerous to Rasmussen. So too Evans, if his legs are good.

16:43 CEST   
Contador is second wheel, behind Popo. Rasmussen sits just behind him, then Evans. Contador is looking frisky...

16:44 CEST    187km/10km to go
Colom goes under the banner..

Boogerd is dropped. Rasmussen looks back at Evans, who is all over the bike. Klöden is being dropped, inch by inch...

16:45 CEST   
Popo continues to ride, having made a big recovery since the last climb. Klöden is five metres off the back of the group.

16:45 CEST   
He's gooooone....

16:45 CEST   
This Tour is full of surprises!

16:46 CEST    188km/9km to go
Evans is out of the saddle and weaving left and right, trying to get every ounce of energy out of his body.

16:46 CEST   
The Popo-led chase group goes under the banner. Mr Bungee Klöden somehow gets back to the group.

16:46 CEST   
Valverde and Menchov are passing the 10km to go sign.

16:46 CEST   
Contador is out of the saddle, but slips back...is he in trouble.

16:47 CEST   
He's blown! So too Sastre!

16:47 CEST   
Hang on..Contador is coming back on quickly..what's going on? Popo continues to drive it. Maybe he just wanted to be out of sight, out of mind. Rasmussen was marking him closely.

16:48 CEST   
Klöden is about 3 seconds back.. .

Current situation

  • Antonio Colom (Astana)
  • Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) at 0.55
  • Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Andreas Klöden (Astana), Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) at 1.55
  • Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) at 2.37
  • Gruppetto at 7.04

16:49 CEST   
Evans is out of the saddle a lot...he doesn't look too comfortable. He's puffing and panting, while Rasmussen looks composed.

16:50 CEST    189km/8km to go
With eight kilometres to go, Colom has 1'40. He could do it...

16:50 CEST   
Colom is still up front, riding steadily but definitely labouring as he has had a long day in the front. Astana may at least get a stage win.

16:50 CEST   
Sastre also got back up that time, but he doesn't seem as strong as the others.

16:51 CEST   
Rasmussen leads the group, Popo has blown. Rasmussen looks back to see what is happening. Leipheimer goes! He attacks, Soler covers and then the others.

16:51 CEST   
There goes Contador! He accelerates, Sastre gets his wheel. Were they both bluffing?

16:51 CEST   
Klöden passes a spectator with a German flag. Some motivation for the German.

16:52 CEST   
Kashechkin has also been dropped. Astana are in trouble...

16:52 CEST   
Rasmussen goes! Contador covers it, Evans scrambles across.

16:52 CEST   
Rasmussen leads, the others are on his wheel...

16:52 CEST   
Soler tries desperately to get back and brings Leipheimer with him

16:53 CEST   
Rasmussen continues to drive it. Contador is right there, Evans hangs on but is suffering..

16:53 CEST   
The others come back up to them. Six now, Rasmussen, Contador, Evans, Sastre, Leipheimer and Soler..

16:54 CEST   
Soler blows...five left... Rasmussen continues to lead.

16:54 CEST   
Soler gets back up again as the group eases. Leipheimer goes to the front for now.

16:55 CEST   
A fan dressed in the stars and stripes runs alongside and gives a bottle to Leipheimer. Crash danger!

16:55 CEST   
Wow...Soler attacks! He was in trouble a few moments ago (or earning an Oscar), but now he goes..

16:55 CEST   
Sastre and Leipheimer are dropped after the latest attacks! fireworks are on

16:55 CEST   
Rasmussen goes after him, with Contador and Evans on his wheel. He catches him and then sits up. Sastre gets back up, and so too Levi.

16:56 CEST   
Soler looks to be really suffering. He knows that there are double points on this climb.

16:56 CEST   
He goes again! He wants the KOM jersey... Rasmussen also wants it, but he may have to decide...

Contador attacks! Leipheimer is gone..

16:56 CEST   
Kash and Klöden are together and try to ride themselves back into the race.

16:57 CEST   
Rasmussen goes around Contador and tears past Soler... Contador is with him, as is Evans. The Australian is very determined..

16:57 CEST   
Leipheimer is still not too far, maybe he can come back

16:57 CEST   
Contador goes again... Rasmussen does not respond... There is a big stall behind.

16:58 CEST   
Yes, Levi is back in the group.

16:58 CEST   
Now he goes...but he looks to be running out of gas..

16:58 CEST   
He is chasing hard, with only Evans on his wheel... Evans has blown...

16:58 CEST   
So it looks to be Rasmussen vs Contador...

16:59 CEST   
The latest accelerations have dropped Leipheimer and Soler again, and it looks this time for good.

16:59 CEST   
Evans has really slipped back... Yellow against white...

17:00 CEST   
Rasmussen leads Contador.

17:00 CEST    192km/5km to go
It is 5km to the finish. Colom still has 30 seconds. That may not be enough with the Rasmussen-Contador train.

17:00 CEST   
Contador then takes his turn at the front. They are really closing up on Colom. It looks like one of these two will get the stage.

17:01 CEST   
Evans is back with Leipheimer, Soler and Sastre...he is really suffering here but pushes on..

17:01 CEST   
Evans has been dropped....he's cracked...

17:02 CEST   
Klöden and Kash pass the 5 kilometre sign. Can they limit their losses?

17:03 CEST   
The accelerations of Rasmussen and Contador really hurt the Australian, who is in all sorts of discomfort now. Ahead, Contador and Rasmussen remain together.

Sastre leads the chase. He is pulling all sorts of faces but climbing well.

17:03 CEST    193km/4km to go
Colom is just ten seconds clear... He's toast, methinks..

17:03 CEST   
Contador and Rasmussen are taking equal turns at the front. They know that they are taking serious time out of the others.

17:05 CEST    194km/3km to go
A fan is running beside with the Basque flag. Maybe there will be a Spanish victory today. It's either Rasmussen or Contador. Not sure if Colom has the power now.

17:05 CEST   
Rasmussen started the day 2'31 ahead of Contador. The Spaniard beat him in the TT, but only by 37". So Contador needs to drop him at some point before the final time trial if he is to win the Tour.

17:06 CEST    194km/3km to go
The two leaders caught and dropped Colom a few hundred metres ago. They will be fighting it out for the stage win..

17:07 CEST   
Contador has a nice climbing style...very fluid.

17:07 CEST   
Cadel Evans passes the 3km sign and is about a minute behind.

17:08 CEST   
It's a mad house on the top. Evans is trying hard, but he is struggling.

17:09 CEST   
Klöden and Colom are with Evans now.

17:09 CEST   
Chicken is followed by a look-alike. A person in a chicken costume - maybe they are related? The fake chicken gets almost taken out by a motorbike.

17:10 CEST   
Soler has attacked the others, chasing some KOM points. However Rasmussen is up the road with Contador, so the Colombian will be losing out today. He will try to limit his losses for now.

17:11 CEST    196km/1km to go
Rasmussen and Contador are really moving. They go under the kite...

17:12 CEST   
Soler is 24" back, with Evans 1'24" down and Valverde 3'03" in arrears.

17:13 CEST   
There are bonuses at the top of the climb; 20" for first and 12" for second. So the two leaders will really go for it in the sprint.

17:13 CEST   
Sastre chases alone..

Rasmussen leads out the sprint..

17:13 CEST   
Contador comes past...

17:14 CEST   
Contador takes the first stage win of his career! He also gets the maximum bonus..

17:14 CEST   
Soler comes home, approximately 36 seconds back. Leipheimer is another couple of seconds back, then Sastre comes in 52" down.

17:16 CEST   
Klöden and Evans are next. They finish 1'52" behind Contador and Rasmussen. Colom is waiting for Kashechkin, and the two come in together 2'23" down.

17:17 CEST   
Popovych, Boogerd and, we think, Astarloza are next in.

17:18 CEST   
John Gadret finishes now as first Frenchman, 4'47 back.

17:20 CEST   
So Rasmussen and Contador have marked themselves out as the big riders for the GC; the Astana challenge appears to have dissolved today. Vinokourov is certainly gone, and it will be hard for Klöden and Kashechkin to come back.

17:22 CEST   
Contador is 2'23 back while Evans is 3'04 down. He needs to improve tomorrow if he is to challenge for the final yellow jersey. He should fare better than the other two in the final time trial, but has to get time back before then. Otherwise he's looking at a podium place at best.

17:23 CEST   
What an eventful stage! Many dreams died today - some big names really blew up. Moreau, Vinokourov and Valverde stand out, but others also suffered and fell back.

17:36 CEST   
Contador gets his flowers as stage victor. The Paris-Nice winner showed excellent form today. So too Michael Rasmussen, who is looking more and more like a possible winner of this race. He gets another yellow jersey, plus a Crédit Lyonnais lion. And a polka dot jersey too.

He was pleased with today's showing. "We tried to distance the others, Evans, Sastre and the rest. We didn't speak about the stage win, I think everyone could see that we were both going for it. We went all the way to the line.

"It is the Tour de France, we don't give presents here. It is a well-deserved victory for Contador, he was very strong."

Rasmussen was asked if this helps his bid to win the Tour. "First of all we will see how tomorrow goes," he answered.

That completes our coverage for today's first Pyrenean stage of the Tour de France. Come back later for more from stage 14... Thanks for reading!

Provisional standings at Finish

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel
2 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
3 Mauricio Soler (Col) Barloworld                     0.36
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel             0.38
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                        0.52
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana                         1.52
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
8 Antonio Colom (Spa) Astana                          2.23
9 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana
10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel          3.06

General classification

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel 2.23 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto 3.04 4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel 4.25 5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 4.38 6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 5.50 7 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 6.58 8 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 8.25 9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 9.45 10 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 10.55

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