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94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 19 - Saturday, July 28: Cognac - Angoulęme, 55.5km

Live commentary by Shane Stokes and Bjorn Haake

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 13:15 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:45 CEST

Bonjour and welcome back to the Cyclingnews coverage of the 2007 Tour de France, which is nearing its end. One more time trial before the procession down the Champs Elysées tomorrow. The ride today will cover 55.5 kilometres from Cognac to Angoulême. We expect the big showdown between Spaniard Alberto Contador and Aussie Cadel Evans, who are separated by a mere 1'50". ENJOY!

13:33 CEST   
Cadel Evans gained three seconds yesterday when there was a cut at the end of the race in the sprint for fifth. Three seconds may not sound like much, but every second counts.

13:42 CEST   
A total of 70 riders have left the start house and as of now, the best time is held by Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto). He's covered the 55.5 kilometre distance in a time of 1 hour 5 minutes and 33 seconds. Second thus far? It's world TT champion Fabian Cancellara who just missed out. He's seven seconds slower.

13:44 CEST   
Wow...that's terrible...David Millar had just started his TT and his Mavic TT wheel disintegrated. The rim came clean away from the carbon covering. He threw his bike down in disgust and got another one. That'll cost him time though. Millar was aiming to try to win today's TT.

13:49 CEST   
Cancellara was running second to Hoste at all the time checks bar the first. Here, at 17.5 km after the start, he was 5" clear of Hoste. But from that point on he was behind, dropping to 15" down at the second (Saint Genis D'Hiersac, km 35), the same deficit at the third (50.1 km) and then 7" behind at the finish in Angoulęme.

Quick.Step - Innergetic rider Sébastien Rosseler is currently third, 58" behind Hoste. Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) is fourth, 1'20" back, while William Bonnet (Credit Agricole) is a further 1'02" back in fifth.

13:51 CEST   
Since their finish, another rider has been running quicker. Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) was 11" quicker than Cancellara at the first time check, and then 9" quicker than Hoste at the second. He came to the Tour hoping for a stage win and while things didn't work out that way so far, he'll aim to ride as well as possible today and tomorrow.

13:53 CEST   
Millar is yet to reach the first time check; it will be interesting to see how far he is down. He lost 20", maybe more with that mishap.

14:06 CEST   
The top twenty riders will go at the following times:

15.23: Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval – Prodir)
15.26: Tadej Valjavec (Lampre – Fondital)
15.29: Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas)
15.32: Frank Schleck (CSC)
15.35: Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d’Epargne)
15.38: Chris Horner (Predictor Lotto)
15.41: Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval – Prodir)
15.44: Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)
15.47: David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne)
15.50: Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne)
15.53: Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi)
15.56: Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Barloworld)
15.59: Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel)
16.02: Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)
16.05: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne)
16.08: Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel Euskadi)
16.11: Carlos Sastre (CSC)
16.14: Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
16.17: Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto)
16.20: Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)

14:10 CEST   
To determine the start times of riders before that, it's in reverse race order. Those up to 21st overall go off at two minute intervals; the top 20 riders have three minutes between each other. Makes it less likely that a rider will catch the competitor in front and, more importantly, it prolongs the suspense!

14:12 CEST   
Millar's bike problems have cost him dearly. At the first time check he was 37th, 1'38" back. So it seems that any chance of a stage win is now gone.

14:15 CEST   
Schumacher hasn't been as fast in the second half of the TT. Having been quickest at the 17.5 and 35 kilometre points, he had dropped to third at the 50.1 kilometre check. He was 28" behind Leif Hoste there, and lost a further second in the remaining 5.4 kilometres.

14:18 CEST   
There is a hard finish here today. The final 5-600 metres are the same as yesterday's stage; in other words, the riders face an uphill drag to the line.

14:18 CEST   
Millar's TT position looks great. He looks to be moving quickly here; can he recover some time?

14:21 CEST   
Millar's mechanical happened perhaps 200 metres from the start house. He accelerated down the ramp and was getting up to speed, then bits of carbon fibre started flying all over place. It looked pretty dramatic.

14:22 CEST   
Sergio Paulinho (Discovery Channel) is now fifth-fastest at the first check.

14:25 CEST   
Discovery Channel DS Dirk Demol said he was happy with the tailwind, feeling that it will boost Alberto Contador's chances. "The speed will be higher and the gaps will be smaller. The time trial will be less hard and that's in our favour. We did the reconnaissance yesterday but we couldn't do the final kilometres because there were a couple of one-way streets where we couldn't drive through," Demol said to Cyclingnews. The Spaniard would do another reconnaissance when riding in the team car behind his compatriot Benjamin Noval.

14:27 CEST   
Grivko finishes now, taking 5th place. He's 1'19" back.

14:28 CEST   
Because of the tailwind, Cadel Evans will use 55 x 11 today...

14:30 CEST   
Well, not all the way...but that's the top gear he will have on.

Millar looks fast and has a super TT style, but he was 25th at the second time check as well.

Yesterday's stage winner Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) is now on the course.

14:36 CEST   
Millar now has 15 kilometres to go. He was 3'12" back at that second time check.

14:38 CEST   
Paulinho is fifth at both the first and second time checks. He was 53" behind at the latter.

14:42 CEST   
Millar goes around a roundabout, using every inch of the road to keep his speed up.

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is doing a decent time on the course. He was 14th at the last time check, 2 minutes back.

14:45 CEST   
Cadel Evans is trying to take yellow today and prepared himself in a different way to Contador. "Cadel rode the complete time trial this morning when the course was released but before the first rider Wim Vansevenant started his time trial. Our hotel is right at the finish so after his reconnaissance he could rest to get ready for his 55km against the clock," Predictor's Filip De Myttenaere
said to Cyclingnews. "Right now, Leif Hoste goes 'ŕ block' to get good reference times for Cadel, just like he did in Albi."

14:46 CEST   
Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) was asked who he thinks will win the battle for the yellow jersey. 'Alberto Contador' was his response.

14:46 CEST   
Thomas Dekker now goes. The Rabobank rider could do a good time today..

14:49 CEST   
And now it is former yellow jersey Linus Gerdemann who starts. He accelerates hard to get up to speed, then drops onto the bars into what looks like a good TT position.

14:53 CEST   
Millar finishes 27th, 5'04" back. He'll be disappointed with that.

14:55 CEST   
Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) is racing now. He's wearing the Russian TT champ's jersey, as he is entitled to do. He held the white jersey early on in the race but then slipped back in the mountains.

Alberto Contador now has a firm grip on the maillot blanc. As for the maillot jaune, today will show how secure that grip is.

15:00 CEST   
Frank Schleck is doing his warmup. He will leave at 15.32, but will have spent a lot of time getting ready for the TT. The riders go quite hard; they really need to be ready to go flat out from the start.

Bernhard Kohl
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

15:01 CEST   
Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) starts now. He was hoping to contend for the white jersey but started this morning fourth overall in that classification.

15:05 CEST   
Thomas Voeckler, a non-TT specialist, comes in with quite a decent time. He is 15th, 3'01" behind Hoste.

15:07 CEST   
Jens Voigt (CSC) is pedalling now, complete with a very big white bandage on his left leg.

15:09 CEST   
Thomas Dekker is going well! He's second at the first time check, just one second behind Stefan Schumacher there. He spent a lot of energy riding for Michael Rasmussen in what is his debut Tour, but now he has a green light to try to do something before the end of the race.

15:11 CEST   
George Hincapie is next to start. He's not wearing the US TT champ's jersey as that belong's to Dave Zabriskie. Unfortunately the CSC rider is out of the race, having had problems with an old knee injury after changing shoes prior to the Tour.

George Hincapie (Discovery
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

15:12 CEST   
Linus Gerdemann is also going well; he is fifth at the first time check, 17" back...

15:17 CEST   
Nicolas Portal (Caisse d'Epargne) comes in for the 15th best time.

Hincapie is pedalling along well, riding what is rumoured to be his last Tour with the Discovery team setup. Of course, that sponsor is stopping at the end of this year, but even if they get a new backer it's heavily rumoured that Hincapie is moving elsewhere.

15:24 CEST   
We have no indications as to whether conditions have changed, but the leaderboard has been relatively constant for quite some time. That said, Dekker and Gerdemann have gone very quickly at the first test, so that's a sign that faster times are on the way. Certainly we'd expect the GC contenders to shake things up [especially with a yellow jersey at stake].

15:27 CEST   
Cedric Vasseur has completed his TT and said that due to the nature of the course and the conditions, he doesn't see big time gaps being opened between the top three overall. Evans would probably prefer a headwind rather than the faster conditions there are out there.

15:28 CEST   
Ruben Perez (Euskaltel Euskadi) comes hope to finish 9th, 2'18" back.

15:31 CEST   
Dekker is going very well...he's second at the 35 km time check, 2" behind Schumacher. The German rider slowed down in the second half of the test; can the young Dutchman keep it going at the same speed?

15:32 CEST   
Juan Manuel Garate nearly lost it on a left hand corner; he went in too fast but luckily was able to run up on a path and make the bend.

Hincapie goes quickest! He is 3" faster than Schumacher at the first time check.

Frank Schleck rides along
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:33 CEST   
Frank Schleck (CSC) is now on the course, having started a few moments ago. He won the Alpe d'Huez stage last year but hasn't really performed at the same level this time. Still, he's had a solid Tour and has been riding in support of Carlos Sastre.

15:34 CEST   
Christophe Moreau is coming to the second time check but doesn't look to be on a super day.

Contador and Leipheimer are warming up in front of a fairly large crowd beside their bus.

15:39 CEST   
The 20th rider overall, Cobo, looks to be going well. He's had a solid Tour.

15:40 CEST   
We have had no more information about the rumoured doping positive from stage 14. It remains to be seen if something will emerge from it, or if the reports coming from France were inaccurate.

15:41 CEST   
Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval - Prodir), Cobo's team-mate, is next to go. He's had a decent Tour and is lying 14th overall heading into the TT. As the old saying goes, better than expected but not as good as he hoped.

15:44 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-Fondital) is in...he's been riding very strongly and places 7th, 1'24".

New best time; Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) goes 4" quicker than Hincapie at the first time check.

15:48 CEST   
Gutierrez makes it safely around the corner where his countryman Garate nearly ended up in the wall.

Jens Voigt comes to the 35 km time check. The road looks to be wet in places and so he takes the bends carefully.

Dekker is now second at the third time check, just 5.4 km from the finish..

15:49 CEST   
He was 12" behind Hoste there and is thus very unlikely to get that back before the end.

15:51 CEST   
Yesterday there were a lot of rumours about Mauricio Soler having tested positive after stage 14. Several outlets had reported that the Barloworld hotel was raided as well. Well, as it turns out there was an Ag2r car parked in front of the Barloworld hotel. And those cars look apparently just like (French?) police cars. From there the whole thing self-accelerated, with German TV (ZDF) immediately going to the hotel. They have the resources, as they have set up a special team that just covers doping cases at the Tour. It's easier to staff for them now that they don't do any live broadcasts anymore. This was what the press conference this morning was mostly about, along with the ongoing ASO-UCI tug of war. Watch out for more coverage on the press conference in our next couple of news editions.

15:52 CEST   
For UK fans, Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) is currently a solid 30th, having finished 3'53 behind Hoste.

Dekker comes in towards the line now...he fights his bike on the final drag but can't get Hoste. He finishes second for now, 6.7" back.

15:54 CEST   
Hincapie comes to the second time check. He's quickest here..

Cadel Evans is warming up on his TT bike and looks very concentrated. Can he do it?

Mikel Astarloza starts..

15:54 CEST   
Linus Gerdemann finishes...very good ride...he is 4th at this point, 29" back.

15:57 CEST   
Juan Mauricio Soler starts now. There were rumours flying around last night that the police were at the Barloworld hotel and the website HLN.be went as far as to say he had tested positive on stage 14, but his presence here today at the TT shows that both stories were unfounded.

15:58 CEST   
Linus Gerdemann looks happy after his finish. He's had a good Tour, winning a stage and wearing both the yellow and white jerseys. He's outspoken against doping and so his success was welcomed by many.

15:58 CEST   
Christophe Moreau comes in now. It's a decent time, but he's done better; he's 22nd, 3'05" back.

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

16:00 CEST   
Popovych starts now. He is 8th overall, 12'47" back.

16:01 CEST   
Evans is on his resistance trainer, sweating heavily as he counts down the minutes to the start. This is the most important TT of his career.

Provisional standings

Finish - km 55.0
1 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto             1.05.33 (50.801 km/h)
2 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                      0.06
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                  
4 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile                    0.29
5 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner             
6 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic     0.58
7 Bert Grabsch (Ger) T-Mobile Team                  1.19
8 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Milram                        1.19
9 Sergio Paulinho (Por) Discovery Channel           1.24
10 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Française Des Jeux         2.16

Intermediate Times

Timecheck 3 - km 50.1
1 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                                        59.51 (50.226 km/h)
2 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                       0.12
3 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                   0.15
4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner               0.28
5 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team                0.36
6 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep - Innergetic    1.00
7 Andry Grivko (Ukr) Team Milram                     1.11
8 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - Fondital           1.19
9 Bert Grabsch (Ger) T-Mobile Team                   1.20
10 Sergio Paulinho (Por) Discovery Channel           1.23

Timecheck 2 - km 35.0
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                      41.48 (50.239 km/h)
2 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                              41.50
3 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                                         0.09
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                                           0.24
5 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep - Innergetic                            0.49
6 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.53
7 Andry Grivko (Ukr) Team Milram                                             0.55
8 Bert Grabsch (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                           1.07
9 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                                  1.22
10 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank                                              1.27

Timecheck 1 km 17.5
1 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                    20.15 (51.852 km/h)
2 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne         0.10
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.14
4 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                        0.17
5 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                0.18
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                            0.28
7 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Crédit Agricole                       0.32
8 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                          0.33
9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                    0.34
9 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team                             

16:05 CEST   
New best intermediate time! Karpets is quickest at the first check. He was a full ten seconds ahead of Gutierrez. Meanwhile Hincapie was the fastest at the second intermediate point, 7" quicker than Schumacher, but Gutierrez has now gone 13" quicker.

Markus Fothen sprints in to place 20th on the stage. Last year the final TT saw him scrap it out with Damiano Cunego for the white jersey, the latter getting it.

16:07 CEST   
Alejandro Valverde starts. He looks set to achieve his primary goal of reaching Paris, but will have mixed feelings about his Tour performance. He was very strong on the second Alpine stage, but after that his form seemed to drop. Nevertheless, he was 6th overall today.

16:08 CEST   
Kohl finishes a solid 11th, 1'49" back.

Now Zubeldia goes. He's fifth in GC. Can he take over 27" out of Sastre and move into fourth overall?

16:09 CEST   
Evans gathers his thoughts; not long left.

16:11 CEST   
George Hincapie sets another best at 50.1 km! He is 12 seconds faster than Leif Hoste. Hincapie is doing a great ride.

16:12 CEST   
Voigt is heading up the final rise, his face grimacing in pain. He ends up in 12th place right now, but all the favourites are still to come.

16:12 CEST   
Now Sastre is underway...only the top three to go...

16:14 CEST   
Here comes Hincapie...

16:15 CEST   
Hincapie goes fastest...he beats Hoste by 15'52"!

16:19 CEST   
Now Karpets hits the 35 km time check...he's going to be quickest here. And he is..

Hincapie spoke after the finish. "This was a hard Tour. Many things happened," said Hincapie. He said that team-mate Contador was "nervous, but we hope he can do it. The course is not as hard as Albi so the time gaps might be less."

Vande Velde comes in for 8th place..good ride..

16:19 CEST   
Cadel Evans is on the course! He's down the ramp and away, settling quickly into his rhythm. Contador is in the start house now, waiting for the off.

16:20 CEST   
He blesses himself several times, Spanish style.

And he's off... Clad completely in yellow, apart from a blue TT helmet, he accelerates up to speed.

16:22 CEST   
Karpets was a full 31" quicker than Gutierrez at that second time check. Meanwhile Hincapie's time at the top of the leaderboard looks to be brief; Gutierrez was 6" faster at the penultimate check.

16:23 CEST   
He takes the lead! He finishes in a time which is 5.87" quicker than the American.

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

16:24 CEST   
Kirchen was just 2" slower than Karpets at the first time check! Also, Popovych is going well..he is third there, 7" behind the Russian.

16:25 CEST   
Evans has taken back three seconds on Contador thus far.

16:25 CEST   
Leipheimer looks to be going well too. The first time check (km 17.5) will give us a clearer indication.

16:26 CEST   
Despite a long day in the break yesterday, Boogerd is doing a pretty decent time. He is 11th at the second time check.

16:27 CEST   
Leipheimer is very low on the bike, his chin nearly touching his hands in a real ski position.

16:29 CEST   
Leipheimer appears to be quicker than Evans at this point. He has reduced his overall deficit from 59" to 50".

16:30 CEST   
Before the start of today’s crucial Time Trial and, without doubt, the most important 55 kilometres he has ever ridden, Cadel Evans told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow that his shoulder was still sore from the collision near the end of yesterday’s stage.

"It’s pretty sore actually but I’m alright. It was a bit of a scare last night as it was quite inflamed. But it will be fine. No excuses."

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

16:30 CEST   
Contador looks to be going well at this point. His TT position is also pretty sleek.

16:32 CEST   
So, at this point Gutierrez leads, 6" ahead of Hincapie and 21" up on Hoste. Dekker is fourth, 28" down, and Cancellara is on the same time in fifth.

16:34 CEST   
Leipheimer is going very quick here; he is 46" behind Evans in the overall now. Is the Australian struggling a little, or is he aiming for a stronger second half?

16:35 CEST   
Sastre is going well. He was third at the first time check, but now Leipheimer scorches through to take the provisional best time there... He was a full 39" seconds quicker than Karpets there!

16:36 CEST   
Oscar Pereiro is third at the second time check now, 32" behind Karpets.

16:36 CEST   
Evans should be through that first time check soon. He'll be behind Leipheimer, but by how much?

16:38 CEST   
Evans comes to a testing left hand bend but takes a very good line through it. He's taking time out of Contador..he's now 1'35" back overall, having gained 15".

16:38 CEST   
Evans needs to accelerate, taking more time out of Contador and holding off Leipheimer...

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

16:40 CEST   
Here comes Karpets...best time. He goes 30.5" quicker than Gutierrez!

Evans is holding Leipheimer now; he is 14" behind at the first time check, so the gap seems to have stabilised.

Meanwhile Popovych goes second-best at the 35km time check..

16:42 CEST   
Contador was 36" behind Leipheimer at the first check..so he's lost just 22" to Evans so far. If he keeps this up, he will hold on.

16:44 CEST   
Kirchen now comes through the 35km check...he is 6th fastest.

At this point, Contador is 1'28" ahead of Evans on the road [in terms of the overall classification], with Leipheimer 2'13" back.

16:46 CEST   
Those in the Predictor Lotto car have sheets of paper in their hands (not the driver, we hope) doing all sorts of calculations..

Evans is 1'17" behind now...He's taken 33".

Provisional standings

Finish - km 55.0
1 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne        1.04.41 (51.482 km/h)
2 Iván Gutiérrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne             0.30
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel           0.36
4 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                0.52
5 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                      0.58
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                  0.58
7 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile                    1.20
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner              1.21
9 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic     1.50
10 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team CSC             2.01

Intermediate Times

Timecheck 3 - km 50.1
1 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne        59.33 (50.479 km/h)
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.06
3 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                          0.18
4 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                0.30
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                            0.33
6 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                        0.46
7 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team                         0.54
8 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep - Innergetic             1.18
9 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team CSC                        1.24
10 Andry Grivko (Ukr) Team Milram                             1.29

Timecheck 2 - km 35.0
1 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne        41.28 (50.643 km/h)
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.13
3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                        0.20
4 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                0.22
5 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                          0.29
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                            0.44
6 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team                             
8 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - Fondital                    0.51
9 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Quickstep - Innergetic             1.01
10 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team CSC                       1.02

Timecheck 1 km 17.5
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            19.36 (53.571 km/h) 
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto                                  0.14
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.36
4 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                              0.39
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team                                      0.41
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC                                  0.43
7 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team           0.46
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                  0.48
9 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                  0.49
10 Chris Horner (USA) Predictor - Lotto                                0.50

16:47 CEST   
Leipheimer is really low...he's resting his chin on his hands.

16:49 CEST   
Valverde comes to the 35km time check; he's losing time to Kim Kirchen, who started the day 1'18 behind him. If this continues, Kirchen could take his sixth place overall.

Evans is pushing a huge gear along..

16:50 CEST   
Kirchen is on a drag and is really pushing it here. He's done very well in this Tour, making up somewhat for the team's loss of Michael Rogers. How would he have done had he not crashed? We'll never know, but to fall on the day where he could have taken yellow was hard.

16:53 CEST   
Leipheimer is on a long drag, and being cheered along by large crowds.

Evans looks to be moving very fast...we will see at the next time check.

16:54 CEST   
Leipheimer goes through the 35km check with the fastest time...1'12" faster, it seems. Evans and Contador still have to reach that point.

Evans is now 1'03" behind Contador in the overall...he needs to take more time.

16:55 CEST   
Pereiro comes to the line...he's done a good time. He's 4th for now, 39" behind Karpets.

16:56 CEST   
Evans is out of the saddle, fighting for time...

16:58 CEST   
He's on one of the drags on the course, then heads through the second time check. He's actually lost more time to Leipheimer; 35", to be exact. Could he lose his second place overall?

17:00 CEST   
Astarloza finishes 6th...good ride..

Sastre is tenth at that time check. Leipheimer is now just 22" behind Evans overall.

Here comes Contador...

17:03 CEST   
Contador heads through the time check 1'29" behind Leipheimer.

Evans is now 55" behind Contador overall, so he has halved his deficit...

17:04 CEST   
Calculations on the road put Evans 56" behind Contador, and Leipheimer 1'20" back... Things could be very close overall this evening!

Popovych comes home, placing 2nd..he's 5.32" off the best time.

17:04 CEST   
Soler finishes for 35th.

Contador is going at 60 km/h now.

17:05 CEST   
Leipheimer is now just 15" behind Evans in the overall standings...

17:06 CEST   
Evans is now 35" behind Contador! The question is, if there is a new jersey..just who will have it?

17:07 CEST   
Hmm...we are not sure if that last time check was correct...it could be a little more than that...bear with us..

17:08 CEST   
Kim Kirchen comes in to the finish, sprinting to the line. He takes 10th on the stage, 1'04.19" back..

17:08 CEST   
Leipheimer is now just 11" behind Evans. He takes a drink and then gets back onto the aero bars.

He catches Sastre and thunders by.

Provisional standings

Finish - km 55.0
1 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne     1.04.41 (51.482 km/h)
2 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel      0.05
3 Iván Gutiérrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne          0.30
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel        0.36
5 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne           0.39
6 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto             0.52
7 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi        0.53
8 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                   0.58
9 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC               0.58
10 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile                    1.03

Intermediate Times

Timecheck 3 - km 50.1
1 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                    59.00 (51.282 km/h)
2 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne         0.33
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.39
4 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                    0.40
5 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                          0.51
6 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                1.03
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC                            1.06
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                        1.19
9 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team                         1.27
10 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quickstep - Innergetic            1.51

Timecheck 2 - km 35.0
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team     39.44 (52.852 km/h)
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto                                  0.35
3 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                              1.13
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team           1.28
5 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    1.29
6 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                  1.44
7 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                             1.45
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                  1.46
9 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team                                      1.50
10 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            1.57

Timecheck 1 km 17.5
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            19.36 (53.571 km/h) 
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto                                  0.14
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.36
4 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                              0.39
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team                                      0.41
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC                                  0.43
7 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team           0.46
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                  0.48
9 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                  0.49
10 Chris Horner (USA) Predictor - Lotto                                0.50

17:09 CEST   
The two of them go through a roundabout, taking it carefully. No crashes wanted here..

17:10 CEST   
Judging it on the first three places overall, this could end up being the closest Tour de France ever...

17:11 CEST   
Leipheimer and Sastre are on a climb, heading towards the finish.

Meanwhile Valverde finishes, doing quite a decent TT. He is 13th, 1'40". That keeps him in sixth, methinks.

17:12 CEST   
Evans is approximately 40" behind Contador in the overall. But where is Leipheimer?

17:13 CEST   
Leipheimer is racing towards a stage win, providing he doesn't crash. He will hit the penultimate time check soon.

17:14 CEST   
Evans is 11" behind Leipheimer in the overall standings..

17:15 CEST   
Evans has been taking risks on the corners...he wants time... He's on the drag now, being cheered on by spectators waving the Aussie flag..

17:15 CEST   
He has 5 kilometre to go..

17:16 CEST   
Leipheimer went through that penultimate time check with the best time, 1'46" ahead of Karpets...

17:17 CEST   
He heads towards the finish now.. Best time, he is 1'55.85" ahead if Karpets!

17:17 CEST   
Sastre comes in, taking a decent 14th on the stage.

17:18 CEST   
Evans started the day 59" ahead of Leipheimer...he was 51" behind at the time check...wow....

Evans is still 37" or so behind Contador in the overall. He is really pushing it now, taking many risks...

17:19 CEST   
Evans is now 34" behind Contador in the overall... This will be tight between the three of them.

17:19 CEST   
Contador has five kilometres to go. Evans is under the red kite...

17:20 CEST   
Evans is pulling all sorts of faces...he's really hammering himself...

He needs to finish within 59" of Leipheimer..

17:21 CEST   
He finishes second, 50" behind Leipheimer...he stays second by nine seconds..but where is Contador...?

17:21 CEST   
He was 32" ahead of Evans at the third time check...so it looks like he will hold on...

17:22 CEST   
With 3km to go he was 1'18" slower than Evans, who started the day 1'50" behind...

17:23 CEST   
Contador is pushing it hard, trying to keep the speed up. He has two kilometres to go.

The final 400 metres or so are very tough..every rider has been fighting with their bike here.

17:23 CEST   
Contador has a very fast cadence. He comes to the kite now, one kilometre to go.

17:24 CEST   
He is 27" ahead of Evans in the GC with one kilometre to go..he will hold on..

17:25 CEST   
Contador comes to the line, sprinting up the final drag. He places 5th, 2'18" back..that will do it...

17:26 CEST   
He is completely mobbed by photographers and TV crews, but escapes behind the barriers.

17:27 CEST   
Leipheimer wins the stage, 51" ahead of Evans and 1'56" up on Karpets. Popovych is next, then Contador at 2'18.

In the general classification, Contador holds on by 23" over Evans. Leipheimer is 31" back, so there's just 8" between second and third overall...

17:42 CEST   
Cadel Evans spoke to French TV after the finish. He conceded the Tour is over, saying that he the difference was made on one day in the mountains.

"I lost the Tour on the Peyresourde," he said, referring to stage 15. "I was alone, Astana and Caisse d'Epargne were there with team-mates but didn't really ride. I lost the Tour there.

"Second at the Tour is very good," he said, looking on the positive side. "This year I really trained hard for the Tour, it was my big goal."

Evans's performance is the best ever by an Australian at the Tour. Phil Anderson was fifth in 1982 and again in 1985. Evans was fifth last year and eighth in 2005.

17:45 CEST   
It's a gusty ride from him. Chris Horner was there towards the end of the key mountain stages, but Predictor Lotto did got to the Tour with twin goals; the general classification for Evans, the green jersey for Robbie McEwen. This meant that they had less men for the high mountains than some other teams.

17:50 CEST   
Contador gets another maillot jaune and looks relieved; he was very nervous starting today's stage but got through it just fine. He also gets the white jersey, and Soler keeps the KOM. Boonen holds green.

Leipheimer rode strongly to take a fine stage win. Will he try to get past Evans tomorrow, as regards the time bonuses? We don't know, but will find out...

That completes our live coverage for the penultimate stage of this year's race. Full results will be posted soon, with a report to follow after that. And the latest in Tour news will be available later on today. Thanks for reading, au revoir for now!

Provisional standings

Finish - km 55.0
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel      1.02.45 (53.068 km/h)
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto               0.50
3 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne         1.56
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel       2.01
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel        2.18
6 Iván Gutiérrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne           2.26
7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel         2.32
8 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne            2.35
9 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto              2.48
10 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi        2.49

Intermediate Times

Timecheck 3 - km 50.1
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team     57.14 (52.522 km/h)
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto                             0.51
3 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                       1.46
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    1.50
5 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel                      2.09
6 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne           2.19
7 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team      2.25
8 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                      2.26
9 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi           2.36
10 Leif Hoste (Bel) Predictor - Lotto                           2.37

Timecheck 2 - km 35.0
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team     39.44 (52.852 km/h)
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto                                  0.35
3 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                              1.13
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team           1.28
5 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    1.29
6 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                  1.44
7 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                             1.45
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                  1.46
9 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team                                      1.50
10 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            1.57

Timecheck 1 km 17.5
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team            19.36 (53.571 km/h) 
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto                                  0.14
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team    0.36
4 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne                              0.39
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile Team                                      0.41
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC                                  0.43
7 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team           0.46
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                  0.48
9 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                  0.49
10 Chris Horner (USA) Predictor - Lotto                                0.50

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