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94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 5 - Thursday, July 12: Chablis - Autun, 182.5km

Complete live report

Good morning and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Le Tour. After the sprinters had their day of fun in Joigny yesterday, they'll find the going a little bit tougher on the 182.5 km journey from Chablis to Autun.

Stage 5 contains some serious racing on a winding, rolling parcours with eight categorized climbs. A break will certainly get away and in the second half of the stage, the road ascends to the windy roads of Morvan Plateau before a final ascent of the Cat. 3 Côte de la Croix de la Libération with eight kilometres to race, which could make the difference for the race winning move.

The major obstacles of the day are as follows:
Km 39.5: Côte des Grandes-Châtelaines: 1.5km climb @ 6.7% avg. grade / 4th Cat.
Km 52.5: Côte de Domecy-sur-Cure: 1.3km climb @ 6.2% avg. grade / 4th Cat.
Km 58.5: Côte de Champignolles-le-Bas: 2.0km climb @ 6.5% avg. grade / 3rd Cat.
Km 86.5: Côte de Coulon: 1.0km climb @ 6.2% avg. grade / 4th Cat.
Km 98.5: Côte de Saint-Maurice: 3.0km climb @ 5.2% avg. grade / 3rd Cat.
Km 119: Côte de Château-Chinon: 2.5km climb @ 3.8% avg. grade / 4th Cat.
Km 135.5: Haut-Folin: 12.9km climb @ 3.7% avg. grade/ 2nd Cat.
Km 174: Côte de la Croix de la Libération: 3.4km climb @ 5.4% avg. grade / 3rd Cat.

Km 36: Avallon
Km 88: Montreuillon
Km 145: Bibracte-Mont-Beuvray

13:00 CEST   
We have four riders who have abandoned the race so far. Our list of unfortunates is as follows:

  • Stage 1: DNF Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Spa) Agritubel - broken collar bone
  • Stage 3: DNS Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Discovery Channel - broken thumb stage two
  • Stage 4: DNF Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne - broken collar bone
  • Stage 5: DNS Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française des Jeux - broken elbow stage four

13:04 CEST   
After quite a cool morning in Chablis, a winter-like 6 degrees that would have been a great temperature to keep that crisp white wine out on the porch to chill, the sun came out and warmed the temperatures to the mid-teens. It should be close to 20 degrees for the riders today.

13:09 CEST   
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) holds a slim lead in the polka dot jersey competition. He has a two point lead over David Millar (Saunier Duval) and his own team-mate Sylvain Chavanel. There are eight categorised climbs today, so we will definitely see some changes in that competition today.

13:10 CEST   
There was a major shakeup in the points classification, thanks to the Norwegian thunder, Thor Hushovd, winning his first race since the Vuelta last year. Hushovd jumped from tenth to fifth in the green jersey competition on stage four, making up for some of the disappointment when he lost points in stage two. He and many others had to watch his competitors on the video screen after being held up behind the mass crash. He has now 79 points to Boonen's 98.

Robbie McEwen (84 points) is still handicapped after his stage one crash, and had to concede second place to Erik Zabel, who is two points ahead of the Australian, and is dreaming of an unprecedented seventh Maillot Vert. Robbie Hunter from Barloworld moved up to fourth with 81 points, while French sprinting wonder Romain Feillu (57 points) is down to tenth now.

Hushovd waves from the podium
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

13:12 CEST   
The riders rolled out from Chablis and reached the end of the neutral zone at 12:56, and are currently rolling along gruppo compatto.

13:15 CEST    8km/174.5km to go
The riders' first bit of excitement today will be the intermediate sprint in Avallon at km 36, and they'll quickly hit the first KOM 3.5km later for a 1.5 kilometre long climb with an average of 6.7% on the Côte des Grandes-Châtelaines.

13:15 CEST   
Thor Hushovd also moved up to second overall, thanks to his time bonus, and is now 29 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara. Hushovd, who is a decent time trialer, had the goal to get the yellow, but his hopes were dashed by the tremendous ride of Swiss Fabian Cancellara in the prologue and the crash in stage two, that prevented mighty Thor from participating in the sprint.

He said yesterday that today's stage will be very hard, with its many climbs, but after losing hope early on he at least sees a chance to take yellow again before the mountains.

13:16 CEST   
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) attacked at kilometre 8, but was quickly reeled in by the peloton.

13:21 CEST   
Jens Voigt is rather infamous for his relentless attacking, but has had to control himself so far this Tour since he's been working to defend the yellow jersey since day one. When asked yesterday by John Trevorrow if he'd get a chance to make his mark on this Tour, he replied, "That was not the plan today. We have had to do a bit of work in defending the jersey with Fabian. But it's basically the same as usual, a break goes away, we ride on the front and then it's a bunch kick. Today's plan was to just defend the jersey. Now it's all for Fabian and then in the Alps Frank and Carlos and, maybe, after the Alps I will have a chance, and in the last week maybe Stuey. So we are looking forward to some great racing. "

13:26 CEST   
Sylvain Chavanel attacked 13.5km into the stage - it looks like Cofidis really wants keep that red and white polka dot jersey in their hands. He opened up a small gap, but today's pace is a bit faster than previous days. It's a perfect day for a breakaway to have a chance today with the category two Haut Folin coming just 47km from the finish.

13:28 CEST   
Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) and Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) tried to bridge up to Chavanel, but the peloton was right on them and now they're all back together.

Current situation

  • Gruppo compatto

13:34 CEST   
Today's parcours is the hilliest of the non-mountain stages, and while it's not a day for the pure climbers, it will favour the aggressive take-no-prisoner style of riders like Andrey Kashechkin, Alessandro Ballan or maybe even Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.

13:37 CEST   
We have our first break of the day - Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) are leading Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld) about 1'00 ahead of the peloton.

13:40 CEST    24km/158.5km to go
The three riders up front escaped 19km into the stage, and have now opened up a 1'45 gap on the field. The chasing man from Barloworld is having a hard time getting on terms, and is lagging by 55" behind the breakaway - smack in the middle of 'no man's land'.

13:43 CEST    26km/156.5km to go
The race is 10km from the first intermediate sprint in Avallon, and the leaders have opened up an advantage of 2'50 on the peloton. Cheula is still in no man's land.

13:48 CEST   
The peloton will most likely let a break go today, with CSC hinting that they might let the jersey go today. The CSC team had to work hard to control the breakaway on stage four, and while they got a bit of help toward the end from other teams working for a bunch sprint, they had to fight the wind for much of the day.

Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow spoke with Stuart O'Grady, who described yesterday's stage, saying "Thor Hushovd is now within striking distance of the jersey, so maybe we will look at handing it on sooner rather than later. Defending the yellow jersey is very draining on any team and we have had a great five days in the golden fleece. But we do have another agenda, and that’s to win this bloody race. "

13:50 CEST   
It looks as if O'Grady was right, since the bunch has let this escape go. Poor Cheula isn't making any ground on the leaders, but is still working to stay 1'50 ahead of the peloton.

13:52 CEST   
O'Grady will be happy to take a back seat to an opportunistic team today - perhaps the Crédit Agricole team of Hushovd. Stage four was a bit taxing for the team, he described, "At least it was a lot better than yesterday [stage three] where we went from striving to save the yellow jersey to the euphoria of winning the stage. Today [stage four] we didn't wait so much on the sprinters teams, we simply put the hammer down and kept the speed up ourselves. The wind did not abate, but neither did we. A total contrast to yesterday."

13:59 CEST   
Last year's Maillot Vert isn't having the best of luck in this year's Tour since he won stage one in Canterbury. He crashed before winning that stage, and sustained a gash on stage two as he narrowly avoided the huge crash in Gent. After stage four, he told John Trevorrow that his sprint was ruined again in Joigny. "I wanted to make a run on the left hand side but two guys came together and nearly crashed themselves," he described. "Something flew off somewhere and cut my arm (again) and one Agritubel guy lost control and was all over the place. I needed to get up on the left but there was just no where to go. And when I did get a run the guys on the front swung across and blocked my run again. There was almost another crash and I hit the wheel of one guy."

14:01 CEST    39km/143.5km to go
The riders rolled through the first sprint in Avallon, with Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) taking first ahead of William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) and virtual maillot jaune Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis).

14:01 CEST   
Mark Cavendish of T-Mobile said this morning that he is feeling much better physically, following his crash in stage two. He revealed that yesterday was the worst, which is "often the case, two days after a crash." But things are getting better and he was very happy with the team, who "gave one hundred percent." Cavendish loved Eisel's lead-out, but "we were just too far back."

14:04 CEST    40km/142.5km to go
Just after the first sprint came the first climb of the day, and it was Chavanel who took over the polka dot jersey competition from his team-mate Augé by winning the category 4 hill ahead of Gilbert and Bonnet.

14:06 CEST   
Chavanel now leads his team-mate by one point in the climber's classification.

As the riders leave the first climb and head toward the second one 13km away, they're heading south out of the start town of Chablis.

Chablis is the cradle of a very ancient vineyard covering over 10,000 acres and comprising four grape varieties: Petit-Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premiers Crus, and 7 Chablis Grands Crus, an important asset in the land of wine.

Chablis is also blessed with a wealth of architectural wonders: The St Martin collegiate church is among the more visible ones, but there are also smaller treasures, like the Hôtel Dieu (God hotel) that was converted into a hotel and restaurant and has the infamous Michelin stars to its credit.

14:09 CEST   
It looks like the peloton might have stopped for some of that nice wine - or maybe some of the other culinary delights of this area such as the Chablis andouillette (pork bladder stuffed with all sorts of rather unspeakable 'goodies') and pastries such as the Chablisien or the Duché. And of course chocolate can't be missing on a cyclist's menu, so they could be enjoying some Pilier de Chablis.

They have let the breakaway get nearly nine minutes.

Current situation

  • Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
  • Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld) at 2.35
  • Peloton at 8.40

14:13 CEST   
With the race averaging a light tempo of 38.7km/h, it doesn't look like anyone has stepped up to try to receive the yellow jersey from CSC. If the situation stays the way it is now, it will be Sylvain Chavanel of the Cofidis team who will take over the Maillot Jaune. He started the day 7th overall, 44" behind Cancellara.

14:15 CEST   
Discovery Channel's George Hincapie is expecting a break for sure and said before the start that "We will try to send someone with a break." He acknowledged that for him personally a break would be a waste of energy, considering his overall standing, where he is currently in fifth.

14:16 CEST   
The last time the Tour de France finished in Autun, it was won from a much larger breakaway than we have today. Magnus Backstedt stage 19 to Autun in 1998.

He became the first Swede to win a Tour stage when he made a break of 13, and hung on when the group split with 20km to go. His win was made a bit controversial when Backstedt declined to put in his share of work because he had his Australian sprinter Stuart O'Grady lurking in the second group behind. The Swede, in his third year as a pro, was able to out-kick Rabobank's Maarten Den Bakker and Saeco's Eddy Mazzoleni to win.

Current situation

  • Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
  • Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld) at 2.30
  • Peloton at 10.40

14:24 CEST   
The race bible marks the dangerous points in the route, but for today it didn't even bother to mark the exact locations, just saying there are 26 things hazardous stretches. Those include roundabouts, dividers, narrow roads, speed bumps and other obstacles generally not suited for bicycles at high speeds.

14:31 CEST   
The three leaders are working well together, but where is poor Cheula? He was last seen in no man's land about three minutes ahead of the peloton, stubbornly trying to get up to the trio but lagging by close to seven minutes.

Sunny skies, a bit of a breeze and cool temperatures are par for the course today.

Andrey Kashechkin (Astana)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

14:32 CEST   
Andrey Kashechkin, the Kazakh of Astana, received the good news that he became a father during the Tour de France. But he wasn't the only one who received happy news. A string of bicycle-related babies recently born will make sure we will have Tours in a couple of decades from now.

14:38 CEST    61.5km/121km to go
Cheula, our lost man from Barloworld, was actually working his way up to the leaders. Lost from the cameras in the trees, he emerged just behind the break of three at the second climb of the day 30 seconds in arrears as Chavanel took the points over Gilbert and Bonnet again.

Cheula caught up just after the top of the hill, and now we have four men out front.

14:40 CEST   
Liquigas and Rabobank are currently leading the peloton at a slightly brisker pace, which means the lead is currently constantly dropping. At the moment it is 12'15".

14:43 CEST   
The peloton is reaching the cat 3 climb and it is Discovery and Astana on the front as well. A few teams have decided that 14 minutes is more than enough and the field is strung out as they go uphill.

14:46 CEST   
Cheula's bridge to the trio wasn't quite as heroic as we stated earlier. Lost to our commentators for a bit, he trailed the leaders by just over a minute for much of the early part of the stage, and joined them after the category three and third climb of the day, the Champignolles-di-Bas.

14:51 CEST    68.5km/114km to go
The leaders are now just 10'27 ahead and the gap is dropping under pressure from Milram, Liquigas and Caisse d'Epargne, who has amassed most of their team at the front of the peloton. Astana now puts a man on the front, and he's got a Discovery Channel man behind to take over.

14:56 CEST    70.5km/112km to go
Somewhere back around the 52.5 kilometre mark there was a little category four speed bump called the Domecy-Sur-Cure, which our leaders effortlessly spun up in the order: Chavanel, Gilbert, Bonnet.

They're 9'48 up on the peloton now, which is going through the a lovely Nature Park. The terrain, belied by the eight categorised climbs today, is decidedly rolling. Some horses are taking shade under the wind break between the fields, and don't even raise their snouts from grazing to watch the race pass by.

14:58 CEST    72.5km/110km to go
The breakaway is passing through Lormes to the cheers of a few hundred spectators, and Chavanel takes the front to keep the tempo high through the narrow village streets.

Current situation

  • Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld)
  • Peloton at 9.41

15:02 CEST   

German Schumi
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

15:03 CEST   
Gerolsteiner is pushing hard along with Caisse d'Epargne on the front of the chasing peloton. They may be working for Stefan Schumacher, winner of this year's Amstel Gold race. The finish in Autun is not quite as difficult as the Cauberg, but the last climb with 8.5km to go is a category three (3.4km long at 5.4%) and the finish line is a bit of a climb, too. Perfect for Schumacher.

15:04 CEST   
The directeur sportif of Bouygues Telecom mentions in a live feed from the team car that his riders don't have to be at the front for the moment as other squads have more of an interest to bring back the break. He will not confirm the rumours that Pierrick Fédrigo is going to Ag2r, but says that "Pierrick is at the end of his contract and it is normal that he would look for options."

15:09 CEST    81.5km/101km to go
The lead quartet is 5km from the 4th climb, the Coulon - just a category four one kilometre long hill. They still enjoy more than eight minutes on the chasing peloton, but their advantage is steadily falling.

15:13 CEST   
We've just gotten word that Australian Brett Lancaster (Milram) has retired. A sad time for the man who started the Tour with stomach issues, crashed, and the told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow that he was also suffering from a saddle sore.

15:15 CEST    86.5km/96km to go
The break heads up the Coulon with 7'28 on the field, and the grade looks pretty steep in parts. They're all out of the saddle and in the small ring. Chavanel leads with Gilbert behind - and then Bonnet again. Cheulu gets no points for the category 4 climb.

15:18 CEST    88.5km/94km to go
The peloton was heading through a village and on a sharp turn there was a crash in the peloton. Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) went down - he's OK, but five guys have come back for him. They're in sight of the rear of the peloton and not in a panic. Ruben Lobato takes this opportunity to get a bottle from the team car. Three more riders from the team came back for Mayo indicating his is a protected rider for this Tour.

15:20 CEST    89.5km/93km to go
The entire Saunier Duval team is doing a team time trial to get Mayo back into the fold, but on the front, hard work is still being done by Gerolsteiner and now Rabobank. It will be a bit of an effort for the lemon yellow boys, but they're in the cars now.

15:22 CEST    91.5km/91km to go
Mayo and his boys make it to the back, but Christophe Moreau is back in the following cars - he's had to stop either because of that crash or a mechanical (or maybe even the call of nature?) and he's chasing back to the peloton now. A team-mate finally comes back for him.

Philippe Gilbert and Pierrick Fédrigo
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

15:23 CEST   
Belgian Philippe Gilbert is in the break. He is a very aggressive rider and had a good showing in Milan-San Remo, where he was in a break with Riccardo Riccò on the Poggio. He also got third recently in the Belgian National Championships.

15:24 CEST    93km/89.5km to go
José Luis Arrieta has come back for his captain, and it looks like they'll make it back on. They're heading into the second sprint of the day at 88km now - just under 2km for the leaders.

15:28 CEST   
The second sprint of the day Montreuillon is taken by Bonnet, in front of Gilbert and Chavanel. In the back the domestiques are getting bottles from the cars and some riders are answering the call of nature. Saunier Duval is still at the back of the peloton and catching their breath after the high speed chase.

15:31 CEST    96.5km/86km to go
The leaders are on the Saint-Maurice climb, the category three is 3km long and is slowing the four men down quite a bit. Sylvain Chavanel dropped back to the cars for a moment holding his knee. He's been off the front two days in a row, and it's understandable that his legs would hurt a bit, but we'll hope this is nothing serious.

15:35 CEST   
The peloton passes under a bridge that is in the style of the ancient Roman aqueducts - but is really quite a bit more modern. This area is known for its Roman ruins, and the finishing town of Autun is no exception.

Autun was founded at the end of the 1st century AD by the Emperor Augustus, and lies between the wooded hills of the Autunois region and the Morvan. It has more than 20,000 residents.

The town is famous for the Cathedral of St. Lazare - a 12th Century cathedral with Roman influence on the inside and a bit of tacked on Gothic architecture on the outside. The St. Lazare cathedral touts some of the most famous works of the sculptor Gislebertus, including the Temptation of Eve.

15:36 CEST    98.5km/84km to go
At the top of the St. Maurice, it's once more Chavanel, who has taken all the climbs so far, ahead of Gilbert, who has been second on them all and Bonnet. There must be an agreement in the breakaway because they didn't have to work to come across in that order. Cheula is lucky that this is a category three because that means he'll get one point for his efforts.

15:40 CEST   
Today's finish in Autun could very well come down to a sprint, but it will be unlikely that the entire peloton will be together. With a big hill inside the last 10km, we'll see the strong men splitting off to battle it out like gladiators.

15:43 CEST   
CSC has put a man on the front of the peloton just in case they can keep Cancellara in yellow. They're not spending too much energy, and are getting plenty of help from Gerolsteiner for Schumi, Liquigas for their man Pozatto, and Astana who could be hoping to launch Vinokourov to victory today.

The boys in bright teal blue have a few danger men in their roster. Kashechkin could escape, or perhaps even Iglinsky. All these men won stages in the Dauphine.

15:45 CEST   
Rather, Kashechkin wore the leader's jersey but place second on the stage to Vinokourov.

15:50 CEST    108.5km/74km to go
Caisse d'Epargne has men chasing now, and could be working for the Spanish champion José Ivan Gutierrez. He's won the Tour Méditerranéen already this year.

The breakaway is coming up on the feed zone in a few kilometres, but Gilbert is already having a snack - an appetizer perhaps.

15:52 CEST   
Crash! Astana has two men in the ditch. It's Daniel Navarro (Astana) and Kloden!

15:53 CEST   
Klöden has only Navarro with him now as they fall well behind the peloton. The Liquigas car passes the pair to get back into its position in the following convoy.

15:56 CEST   
Paolo Savoldelli comes back to help Klöden get back on. It looked like Klöden was not paying attention and just rolled off the narrow road. He didn't have much room for error as there was a knee-high dip right next to the pavement. It's a bit tight here as they head up toward the feed zone in Saint-Gy.

15:59 CEST    113.5km/69km to go
Klöden is close to being back on, but stops at the race doctor's car to get some treatment for his left side. The breakaway is in the feed zone up ahead with 3'44 on the field. It's lunch time now, and they're digging into their bags. Chavanel doesn't want that energy bar - wrong flavour - and he flings it to the ground.

16:02 CEST   
They've left the dense forests behind them now and are on a high ridge reminiscent of the Sierra Grade stage of Tour of California (except a dense green and not the brown colour of the landscape outside San Jose).

16:03 CEST    116.5km/66km to go
The peloton is in the feedzone now, just 3'36 behind our fearless leaders. They'll need to eat quickly because the next climb starts just under 4km from here.

16:04 CEST   
Another crash! Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis) has a yard sale going on - his feedbag emptied all over the road. He's holding his right arm and appears to be in a good deal of pain.

16:05 CEST   
Lequatre apparently got someone else's feedbag caught in his wheel, and he doesn't look good. He dropped to the ground in pain.

16:09 CEST    118.5km/64km to go
The breakaway is heading up to the top of the third to last climb, the category four Côte de Château-Chinon - and Chavanel sees the banner and powers ahead of his three companions. Gilbert and Bonnet are second and third again.

Chavanel has swept all the mountain points in this stage. His team-mate Geoffroy Lequatre is still receiving medical attention.

Current situation

  • Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and Giampaolo Cheula (Barloworld)
  • Peloton at 3.40

16:13 CEST    123.5km/59km to go
Today's stage isn't that much faster than stage three, the long slow 236.5 kilometre death march that crawled along behind the break of Nicolas Vogondy and Mathieu Ladagnous. They've averaged just over 36km/h so far today.

Stuart O'Grady offered a different perspective on the day - which many viewed as a sort of protest against the organisers on part of the peloton due to the length of the stage. O'Grady explained, "I've never seen anything quite like it in my life. There we were, just cruising along, hour after hour, no one attacking, waiting for some one to take charge. It was as though the sprinters teams lacked faith in the leaders. Sure, the two boys out front weren't doing much but who can blame them. It was when the two fresh riders joined them that the race really came alive."

The Liquigas car got hit
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

16:14 CEST   
The riders are not the only ones crashing during the Tour de France. In the heat of the action the team cars getting super-close to each other - sometimes too close. Liquigas and Française Des Jeux had an encounter with each other yesterday.

16:17 CEST    125.5km/57km to go
Just as in the previous stages, American Christian Vande Velde (CSC) is doing quite a bit of work up front. Unlike previous stages, he has plenty of help from other teams. The yellow jersey of Cancellara has moved up to 8th wheel.

The four men up front are doing equal shares of work and are on the lower slopes of the Haut-Folin. This climb is 13km long, and Gilbert was encouraging his three friends to keep pushing - to believe that they can stay away up this category three climb. It only averages 3.7% so they're all big-ringing the hill and doing their best to have faith.

16:22 CEST    127.5km/55km to go
Cheula goes back to his team car for a chat - maybe trying to get some words of wisdom or some sympathy... it's not looking good for the four men as the gap is just 2'37.

16:23 CEST   
Not again! A load of riders have to hit the brakes and come to a standstill in the peloton. It's just David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) getting a sudden flat - everyone stays upright, but Arroyo is all on his own chasing after his wheel change.

16:24 CEST   
Sylvain Chavanel would not say before the start of today's stage that an objective for him is to carry the Maillot à Pois of the best climber into Paris. He stated that he rather wants his legs to do the talking. And his legs are chatting away today, as he took all the mountain points so far. Asked about the tactics for the Polka-dot Jersey, he said it has to be done like Richard Virenque did it. Just getting as many points as possible on the first category and hors category climbs.

16:25 CEST   
The peloton is heading up the hill, bringing the gap down quickly to 2'23. Caisse d'Epargne's man up front doesn't let off the gas to allow his teammate Arroyo to get on easier. In fact, another man from that team comes up - perhaps just to let him know about the situation.

Barloworld has a few men near the front and could be scheming to launch a counter-attack as the break gets nearer.

16:29 CEST    129.5km/53km to go
The breakaway is halfway up the climb and have lost another minute to the field - just 1'25 right now and the fireworks will begin soon! Chavanel and Gilbert have left Bonnet and Cheula behind.

16:30 CEST   
Thor Hushovd is off the back of the field having trouble with this hill. He's not a great climber, but this is a bit early to head into the autobus for yesterday's stage winner. He's got his team car next to him egging him on.

16:32 CEST    132.5km/50km to go
Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) has come back for Hushovd. Gilbert and Chavanel are forging ahead up front, just 3km to go to the top. Behind them, Cheula and Bonnet are rocking and rolling up the hill in their small rings now - still trying but not making ground on the two up front who are out of the saddle.

16:34 CEST   
Moreau is looking calm near the front - he's sitting 5th wheel and the Dauphine winner is another good candidate for a win in Autun.

At the back, Valverde has stopped for some reason, and it's Pereiro who goes back for him? I guess we know who the real team leader is now.

16:35 CEST    134.5km/48km to go
With 1km to go to the top, the leaders still have just two minutes and change. Looks like the explosions in the peloton will wait until the final climb of the day inside the last 10km.

16:39 CEST    135.5km/47km to go
Chavanel takes the points ahead of Gilbert on the climb, and as the peloton descends into the department of Nievre they're going from spring into summer - the temperatures are going up and the race is heating up too.

Cheula took third at the category two Haut-Folin ahead of Bonnet. There are two more places worth of points for the peloton.

16:42 CEST    138.5km/44km to go
Discovery Channel took the points ahead of Rabobank on the climb for the last two spots, and while the break climbed more than a minute slower than the field on the Haut-Folin, they're opening it back up on the descent. Gilbert is looking a bit quicker than Chavanel on the descent, but the Cofidis rider gets back on terms.

16:43 CEST   
Hushovd and Feillu are the only sprinters off the back right now, but they should be able to make it back to the field after the downhill.

16:45 CEST    141.5km/41km to go
Bonnet and Cheula are losing ground to Chavanel and Gilbert, who are maintaining their two minute lead.

It was actually Rasmussen taking the points from the field ahead of Discovery's Portugese rider Paulinho, so the 'chicken' has taken six points toward his goal of the final polka dot jersey.

16:47 CEST   
More sprinters are forming the group affectionately known as the 'autobus' - it's where the slow riders get together and work to finish within the time cut, not an actual vehicle.

Bonnet and Cheula are now caught by the peloton and the chase is strung out single file as they scream down the hill toward the last intermediate sprint in Bibracte-Monte Beuvray.

16:48 CEST   
Sastre has gotten a flat - bad timing for CSC's GC hopeful, and the CSC boys will leave the front of the peloton now to go back to get him.

16:49 CEST   
Gregor Brown is at the finish line and reports that Tour weather is ON! The CN crew have bought new clothes, but we will need lighter clothes soon because is getting that HOT.

16:49 CEST   
Gilbert gets the sprints point ahead of Chavanel. That is fair, as the Frenchman gets all the mountain points.

16:50 CEST    145.5km/37km to go
Carlos Sastre is all alone back in the team cars - he gets a bottle from the CSC car, but needs some more help. He's coming up on Sven Krauss who was dropped from the peloton earlier, and now has Erik Zabel, who had a flat as well, as company.

16:51 CEST    146.5km/36km to go
CSC still has two men with the yellow jersey at the front, while Liquigas sets tempo. Robert Hunter (Barloworld) sprints ahead to take the last points in the intermediate sprint.

Meanwhile, back at the cars, Zabel is getting four of his team-mates to help him chase back on. Will he be able to repeat Robbie McEwen's feat of chasing back then winning the stage?

Robert Hunter (Barloworld) tries to get ahead
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

16:53 CEST    149.5km/33km to go
CSC has managed to get a handful of men to the back to help Sastre, and they're being joined by the Milram train with Zabel so they all will now work with a common purpose - getting back into the very quickly moving peloton.

16:54 CEST   
Robbie Hunter takes the two points available at the sprint after the two leaders already passed. He has 83 points now and is three behind Zabel, who could not sprint due to his flat.

Current situation

  • Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux)
  • Peloton at 1.57
  • Hushovd, Feillu, Napolitano, Krauss and others

16:57 CEST    151.5km/31km to go
Sastre, his team and Milram train are behind the Mavic car that trails right behind the peloton now - in plenty of time. Phew! The category three Côte de la Croix de la Libération begins at around 170km into the stage, giving them 20km or so breathing room.

The break of Chavanel and Gilbert is holding on - looking strong and only ceding a few seconds on the descent. They're 1'46 ahead, and Gilbert is waving his team car forward.

16:59 CEST   
Liquigas is setting a hard tempo at the front, and it's not good timing for Philippe Gilbert to get bottles from his car. He's stuffing his jersey full, expecting to be caught - he'll hand them off to his team-mates when he they inevitably come past.

17:02 CEST    157.5km/25km to go
Gilbert and Chavanel are really pumping the pedals now - Chavanel is gasping for air in an all-out effort. The Liquigas man in the bunch is working equally hard, and unfortunately for our two men he's getting help from CSC.

17:03 CEST    157.5km/25km to go
Crash! More bad luck for Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) - he's gone down in a turn!

17:05 CEST    158.5km/24km to go
Vino's shorts are ripped open on the right side, and he was bent over in pain on the side of the road.

17:06 CEST   
Seven men are back with Vino, with Klöden and Kashechkin staying in the peloton... Astana is passing a Predictor-Lotto rider as they head back toward the bunch.

17:07 CEST    161.5km/21km to go
CSC is on the front again - now it's O'Grady who is putting the hammer down and lining the peloton out with just over 20km to go.

17:08 CEST    162.5km/20km to go
The leaders go under 20km to go with 1'26 - Gilbert and Chavanel get out of the saddle to power up a small rise, but they've lost the supple, easy pedal strokes they used earlier in the stage.

17:08 CEST    163.5km/19km to go
Johan Van Summeren (Predictor - Lotto) is back on the Astana train, but not lending a hand as the Vinokourov group is 1'05 behind the peloton.

17:10 CEST    164.5km/18km to go
The break is coming back quickly now - 1'12 with 18.5 km and falling fast. Vinokourov is getting no mercy from CSC who are simply hammering the front of the chasing peloton.

17:12 CEST    166.5km/16km to go
The yellow jersey is sitting 7th wheel as the break comes back to less than one minute under pressure from Liquigas. Vino's Astana team time trial is actually losing time to the peloton now - bad news for his GC hopes!

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

17:13 CEST   
Like Lance Armstrong said, "every second counts" and to lose time on a stage like this is very bad.

17:15 CEST    167.5km/15km to go
The leaders are 44" ahead, with Vinokourov's group 2'04 behind the leaders. That's 1'20 in arrears of the peloton and losing ground. Gerolsteiner is back on front as the field comes through the 15km banner now 34" behind.

17:16 CEST   
Grégory Rast (Astana) can't take the chasing any more and gives up contact with his team who is trying to get Vino and Klodie back on. As the peloton decides who will take control now, they make up some time and are 1'03 behind the peloton.

17:18 CEST    169.5km/13km to go
The real climb doesn't start for another 1.5km, but the peloton is on a rise. Quinziato is dropped from the peloton, as is the polka dot jersey of Augé. Astana moves past the sprinters' autobus which contains several Predictor riders.

The field can now see the break of two.

17:19 CEST   
Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) attacks! He powers off the front and opens up a good gap as he can see the two men ahead just 14" away.

17:20 CEST    170.5km/12km to go
The leaders are on the final climb now, and the roads are narrow and lined with cars and spectators. Chavanel gets out of the saddle to keep up the momentum, but this hurts after 150km!

17:20 CEST   
Wegmann didn't get any daylight between himself and the peloton, and Rabobank is pulling Rasmussen to the front to go for the points up ahead.

17:21 CEST    171.5km/11km to go
Gilbert is cooked - and he's caught while Chavanel keeps trying, but is only metres ahead of the Rabo train.

17:22 CEST    171.5km/11km to go
Chavanel is just tired to hold on, and get's a 'chapeau' as the bunch speeds by.

De la Fuente attacks!

17:22 CEST    172.5km/10km to go
Vino is back behind the Rabobank car- he has Iglinksy with him and Francisco Ventoso (Saunier Duval) who is going backwards.

17:23 CEST   
De la Fuente (Saunier Duval) isn't getting distance, Rabobank is insisting on getting Rasmussen the maximum points on this hill.

17:24 CEST    172.5km/10km to go
De la Fuente is caught, and at the back, Vino with his right buttock bloody and exposed, is now alone in the cars with 10km to go for the front of the field.

17:25 CEST    173km/9.5km to go
Vinokourov is the only man left and he is coming up on the 10km banner about 600m behind the field - but going uphill this is 54"!

17:25 CEST    173.5km/9km to go
Rabobank is still controlling, but there's an attack from Lefevre!

17:26 CEST    174km/8.5km to go
Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) opens up a sizeable lead and is heading to the banner - he takes the points!

17:27 CEST    174.5km/8km to go
Vinokourov is in a traffic jam of cars and dropped riders, going by Boonen and a few other sprinters.

17:27 CEST   
Lefevre has held his gap and is being joined by a Discovery rider.

17:28 CEST    175km/7.5km to go
Lefevre took the mountain points ahead of Kirchen, Rasmussen and Alejandro Valverde - interesting to see a GC contender sprinting at this early stage.

17:28 CEST    175.5km/7km to go
This could be Popovych - it's not Big George Hincapie, that's for sure. He's in the front of the field, and now Lampre chases.

17:29 CEST    176km/6.5km to go
The Discovery rider is leaving Lefevre behind on the descent, and Vino is not having any luck getting on terms. He's got Boonen with him, and Boonen pulls through.

17:30 CEST    177km/5.5km to go
The Disco rider is flying down the hill, dropping Lefevre and railing the turns.

17:30 CEST    177.5km/5km to go
He reaches 5km to go and nearly runs off the road in a turn - Cancellara is chasing?!

17:31 CEST   
This field is breaking up on the run-in, and the Disco rider gets onto the bars in an aero tuck to bomb down the hill. Cancellara goes off the road!!!!

17:31 CEST   
He misjudged a turn and so did the Disco rider - they both went onto the grass, but stayed upright.

17:32 CEST    179km/3.5km to go
Lampre now takes the lead of the peloton now that the front two lost momentum on the grass.

17:32 CEST    179.5km/3km to go
Is that Ballan? There's a small split, and the two Lampre's up front look back and slow up.

17:33 CEST    180km/2.5km to go
Bouygues Telecom has one, Lampre has the entire team up front. Hincapie is getting into position

17:33 CEST    180.5km/2km to go
Vino's group is a minute back... at 2km to go, Lampre still has control with a bunch of riders up front.

17:34 CEST   
Bouygues Telecom attacks again! He's joined by a Saunier Duval!

17:34 CEST   
Cancellara is chasing them himself

17:35 CEST    181.5km/1km to go
Vino's group is 1km behind as the leaders hit the red kite.

17:35 CEST   
David Millar is the S-D rider in front!

17:35 CEST   
Lampre is barreling down behind the two.

17:35 CEST   
Euskaltel takes off on the right, and the uphill sprint starts

17:36 CEST   
A Liquigas rider starts the sprint and Zabel comes up on the right!

17:36 CEST   
Hincpapie is right there, and Rabobank comes on the right

17:36 CEST   
But it's Pozatto who takes the stage!

17:37 CEST   
Vinokourov's group is coming in shattered- 1'18 behind. A big disappointment for Astana.

17:37 CEST   
78.94km/h was the reported speed of that sprint - incredible!

17:38 CEST   
Pozatto threaded his way through the sprint like Cipollini used to and came from way behind to take that mad dash to the line.

17:39 CEST   
It was Freire in second ahead of Lampre's Bennati.

17:40 CEST   
T-Mobile's Kirchin was 4th ahead of Zabel with a bike throw.

17:42 CEST   
More groups are rolling through the finish now, 5' down. With that sprint, Pozatto moves into third overall since Hushovd was dropped.

17:43 CEST   
It's another flat stage tomorrow - another field day for the sprinters. But for today, it's 'Pippo' Pozatto who gets the accolades, flowers and champagne. He said he'd do it and he followed through!

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Provisional results

1 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas
2 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
4 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile
5 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
6 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
7 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Cofidis
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 
9 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic
10 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom

General classification

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
3 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas
4 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir
5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
6 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne
8 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
9 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
10 Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise des Jeux

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