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Photo ©: Schaaf

94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 9 - Tuesday, July 17: Val-d’Isère - Briançon, 159.5km

Live commentary by Shane Stokes, Bjorn Haake and Laura Weislo

Complete live report

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

Bonjour again on the Cyclingnews live coverage of the 2007 Tour de France. Today is another one of those days where the cyclists will be unable to find any flat stretch of roads. From the gun it goes uphill to the Iseran over 15 kilometres. The stage is the shortest (159.5 kilometre), but up to now the hardest. After the Iseran, the next mountain looming is the Télégrphe, immediately followed by the Galibier. From then on it's only downhill to the finish in Briançon, with the little exception of the final kilometre and a half, which is up to 13 percent steep.

12:59 CEST   
At 12:35 the start happened. Rabobank lined up in the front and there was a fear that the race would explode immediately. But it went out with the gruppetto compatto, and it started tranquilo.

13:00 CEST   
The weather is warm and there is no chance of canceling most of the stage as happened in 1996, when stage 9 was scheduled to go from Val d'Isère to Sestrière, but had to be shortened to 46 kilometres.

13:01 CEST    8.5km/151km to go
We have a new, exciting feature, thanks to our partners SRM and the sponsor of the live telemetry, T-Mobile. On the bottom of the screen there is a link titled "Click here to see Live Rider Data and Positioning." From there you can see live data from several riders. Watts, heart rate, speed and cadence, along with GPS data where the riders are. Not all the riders' data is currently available.

13:01 CEST   
We hope that this feature will help you better judge the performances of the riders and hopefully also better track the riders on the route

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), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) and Christian Vande Velde (CSC) .

The first attack of the day was set by José Luis Arrieta (Ag2r Prévoyance). Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) has countered and joined the Frenchman. They have currently 1'30" on the field.

13:03 CEST    9.5km/150km to go
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) lifts the pace. He wears the polka dot, even though he is ranked behind Rasmussen. But Rasmussen has to wear yellow. Not sure if the Dane approves of someone else wearing 'his' shirt.

13:04 CEST   
Chavanel is caught but there is a flurry of activity now. Rasmussen rides towards the front.

13:05 CEST    10.5km/149km to go
Popo has left Arrieta and is riding up with a lot of power. He doesn't want to wait for anybody right from the start. He's got 1'19" over the peloton.

13:08 CEST   
Tom Boonen is already in difficulty. This will play into Erik Zabel's hands - he is regarded as a better climber and if he can limit his losses on the climb, he could get some points in the two intermediate sprints after the summit.

13:10 CEST   
Arrieta has been caught. Popo is by himself, with Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) chasing.

Several other attacks have been fired off but these have been reeled in.

13:12 CEST    12.5km/147km to go
Laurent Lefevre has attacked. The Bouygues Telecom rider is chasing, and catching, Soler.

13:14 CEST   
The very first mountain time trial in the Tour was on the Iseran in 1939, although it went up on the other side, where the field will be descending today.

13:14 CEST    14.7km/144.8km to go
The peloton is fragmenting under the pressure. Another Discovery Channel rider is attacking and going across to the two chasers.

13:16 CEST   
Up front, Popovych pushes on and nears the top. The slopes around him still have patches of snow, but the sky is blue above. There are clumps of spectators dotted by the side of the road, cheering him on.

13:16 CEST   
And Popo passes the top.

13:18 CEST   
Soler is chasing hard behind. He's really digging in. Lefevre is on his wheel, and then comes past for the points. They've slightly distanced the Discovery Channel rider who was with them; that's Gusev, the former white jersey holder.

13:22 CEST   
The riders are tearing down the descent, using the full width of the road. The scenery is stunning, as you might expect.

A fourth rider has joined the chase group...stand by..

13:24 CEST   
Popo had 50" on the chasers at the summit, which is a staggering 2770 metres above sea level. However the riders started around 1900 m today, so they didn't have a huge amount of climbing to do before reaching the top. Fifteen kilometres, to be exact.

13:25 CEST   
The order over the climb is as follows:

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom), Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Francisco Pérez (Caisse d'Epargne), Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom)

13:26 CEST   
We've resurrected the Hindenberg IV Mark II for today's stage and are currently soaring high above the mountains. Our trusty old pirate's telescope is of great use here, although with careful piloting we can get quite close to the riders.

13:26 CEST   
The tenth rider over the top is Denis Menchov of Rabobank and gets 5 points.

13:28 CEST   
Popo won a stage in the Tour last year, rescuing Discovery's race.

13:32 CEST   
All change behind: Jose Ivan Gutierrez, Gusev and Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) are leading the chase and have been joined by Laurent Lefèvre and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel Euskadi). So it's five chasing one.

13:33 CEST   
Popovych and Gusev would relish the chance to go for a stage win, but what's more likely is that they have been told to go up the road and see if team captain Levi Leipheimer or perhaps Alberto Contador can bridge across later. It's a tried and trusted tactic.

13:34 CEST    33.5km/126km to go
Popovych goes through the sprint line. The yellow jersey of Michael Rasmussen (and, presumably, the other overall contenders) are 1'05 back now.

13:35 CEST   
The five chasers are digging in and go over the line now.

13:37 CEST   
They are all driving hard as they try to close up to Popovych. Gusev also does his share of the work, so team orders are clearly for the two Discovery riders to join up and work together.

Vinokourov is in the main bunch and is now missing the bandage from his left leg. That indicates that he is recovering from his crash.

13:37 CEST    34.5km/125km to go
The sprint is not contested, but
Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) is ahead of Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom). They are forming a pace line, and it looks like
Benoît Vaugrenard (Française Des Jeux) had his wheel over the line in third

13:38 CEST   
The bunch seems to be pretty lined out so they don't want to let this move get too far ahead. Although the profile shows a descent the roads look to be pretty flat here. An Agritubel rider takes a flyer from the peloton.

13:39 CEST   
Popeye looks back now for the others. He has something to eat - spinach, maybe?

13:40 CEST   
Rasmussen is clothed head to toe in yellow and looks quite calm as he too eats.

Meanwhile Laurent Lefèvre is driving the pace in the chase group. They are getting close to Popovych.

13:43 CEST   
The peloton crosses a green metal bridge over a winding river. Looks a bit cold for a dip, so they keep going. Actually that's something you tend not to see any more; riders bailing into water. There are black and white images from the early days of the Tour where riders jumped into rivers, canals, even fountains. We don't think it was any hotter back then...I guess they are too busy now to take such breaks.

13:43 CEST   
The rolls that the riders eat during the race are wrapped in aluminum foil. One of the companies in the caravan that precedes the race advertises a more environmental friendly package. Today a lot of the race goes through a 'Parc national', which is why the caravan was instructed to not throw out any advertisement.

13:46 CEST   
Boonen is back in the main field. He's wearing a green jersey and shorts, although he's sporting a white helmet. He hasn't finished the Tour yet, so if he can hold green until Paris it will be a good day for him.

13:47 CEST    42.5km/117km to go
The peloton are 1'05 behind the leaders. Popovych was caught a couple of kilometres ago, so there are now six up front.

13:48 CEST   
The leaders are descending on open roads, arcing around the sweeping bends as they head into the village of Lanslevillard.

13:51 CEST    46.5km/113km to go
The peloton drops through the village, passing a load of mountain chalets.

13:53 CEST   
Ouch... A T-Mobile rider hit a Labrador which strolled across the road. His front wheel is in bits, but both rider and dog appear to be okay.

It was Marcus Burghardt. That's pretty bad on the owner's part. The Tour comes to town and you let your dog wander around?

13:54 CEST   
Burghardt will need a change of wheel (and maybe shorts, even though they were not torn). Kinda scary when a canine appears out of nowhere.

13:54 CEST   
He is chasing behind the T-Mobile car now, and should get back on.

13:57 CEST   
Correction - the Bouygues rider in the break is actually Stef Clement. Lefevre was there over the top of the climb, but the did some reshuffling on the descent.

Burghardt is now with a group chasing the bunch.

13:59 CEST   
Rabobank are chasing on the front of the peloton. They want to keep things under control, as the gap is now 2'33.

14:01 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza was the best placed rider this morning; he started the stage 21st overall, 5'14 back.

14:05 CEST    58.5km/101km to go
The gap is 2'42 at the moment.

14:05 CEST    59.5km/100km to go
The riders are approaching the second sprint of the day. No duel between Zabel and Boonen now as the front will gobble up the points.

14:07 CEST   
Astarloza got the sprint ahead of Gusev. They didn't actually go for it, just kept rolling through as before.

Tour of the Med winner Gutierrez was third across the line.

Rabobank are leading the chase, with Lampre also close to the front.

14:12 CEST   
Johan Bruyneel said that it was a team tactic to send Gusev and Popovych up the road, but that Astarloza's presence in the break threatens their chances of staying away. Rabobank will want to make sure that he doesn't take over the yellow jersey.

14:14 CEST   
We can see a very high bridge over a gorge...there is a huge drop from there. Not sure if the riders are going to head across that. There is a fortress on the nearby peak, so this is a very historic area.

14:16 CEST   
Update on Stuart O'Grady, who crashed heavily on stage 8 and had to abandon the race. His father Darren visited him yesterday, who confirmed that his son's "head and legs are fine, even though the rest of his body looks like a construction zone. He has five broken ribs and his shoulder is injured. But I made him smile. He told me he gives himself seven weeks to get well again, so he told his team to sign him up for the Vuelta. He doesn't want to mess up the good form he has."

14:18 CEST    69.7km/89.8km to go
The gap is now 3'21 over the peloton. They are racing through the town of Saint Martin d'Arc, and everyone seems to be taking equal turns.

14:19 CEST   
The break is close to the feed zone. Gutiérrez is doing most of the work, with Clement doing the least amount.

14:23 CEST    73.5km/86km to go
The break is taking on the musettes in the feed zone. Astarloza has loud discussions with his directeur sportif.

14:24 CEST   
They are going on the left hand side through a roundabout, but fortunately they all have discarded their bags beforehand. Phew.

14:27 CEST   
On the constant lead of the Rabobank team the field cruises along, but the gap keeps growing for now. It is currently 3'43" as the break pedals along through the valley.

14:29 CEST   
The break is taking short turns of about ten to fifteen seconds. They look like a well-oiled machine passing through the French country side, on a route that is next to the major freeway.

14:31 CEST    80.5km/79km to go
Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) said before the start that "nothing is decided yet" and he wants to continue to try to make a difference and move up in the overall.

14:32 CEST   
Niermann and Weening are leading the peloton for their Rabobank team. Niermann was afraid before the start that there "would be a lot of work" for them. Despite their work at the front the lead has gone out to 3'58"

14:36 CEST   
This looks weird. The rail road tracks on the left, the main road (route nationale N6) with the peloton and then the freeway (l'autoroute de Maurienne) divide the river

14:38 CEST   
The valley is very narrow, with the forested walls going up very steep on both sides of the road. Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd are towards the back of the field, still enjoying the flats before the climbing starts.

14:39 CEST   
Leif Hoste is celebrating his birthday today. Well, celebrating may be stretching it right now. The Rabobank work has gotten more serious. The gap is down to 3'27"

14:40 CEST   
The free way is completely empty. We certainly are not at the Tour of California and Los Angeles anymore.

14:43 CEST    88.5km/71km to go
The peloton is now reaching Saint Michel de Maurienne and soon the road will go up to the Télégraphe

14:44 CEST   
Thor Hushovd is already having trouble right at the bottom of the climb. The time limit should be around 45 minutes, but it is still 70 kilometres to the finish, so it may be tough for the Norwegian if he has to ride by himself the whole time.

14:46 CEST   
Vaugrenard has the jersey open to get more air onto his body. The lead is down to 2.49. Chavanel is in trouble at the back of the field. It is Sébastien, the sprinter, not his brother Sylvain.

14:47 CEST    89.5km/70km to go
Tom Boonen is still in the field, but it's breaking up in the middle, so he'll be getting left behind from the front group.

14:47 CEST   
Attack in the front group by Astarloza!

14:48 CEST   
Saunier Duval has taken over from Rabobank. Mayo is feeling good so far in this Tour. He's third in GC,

14:50 CEST   
Astarloza is on the front now. Behind, Cancellara is in a smaller group behind. Zabel and Ballan are also in it. Gruppetto time.

14:51 CEST   
Astarloza has ten seconds on a group of three with both Discoveries in it.

14:52 CEST   
There are many riders going out of the back of the peloton, including Alexandre Botcharov (Credit Agricole) and Axel Merckx (T-Mobile).

14:55 CEST   
Wegmann thought it'd be a race right from the start and hoped he'll have a good day, otherwise it'll be a tough day

14:56 CEST   
David Millar is on the front, pedaling smoothly. He's had a skin allergy problem during the Tour but it isn't affecting him now.

Astarloza continues to lead, and is being chased by the two Discovery Channel riders and Gutierrez.

14:58 CEST    94km/65.5km to go
Astarloza continues to climb the Télégraphe. He has five kilometres to go until the top, and then has a brief descent before starting the Galibier.

He is 25" ahead of the chasers and 2'54 ahead of the Millar-led peloton.

14:59 CEST   
Michael Rasmussen is sitting about fifth in line in the peloton. He would like to take more time today and thus give him a larger buffer heading into the flatter stages and Saturday's time trial. However he's not going to be given much leeway; if he gets clear he will have to drop the other contenders rather than going on a long-range attack.

15:02 CEST   
Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) has been dropped by the peloton. Millar continues to lead and passes the banner for 5km to the top of the climb.

Rasmussen has two team-mates ahead of him. The bunch is clumped up so the hammer hasn't gone down as yet. But even so, a lot of riders are looking uncomfortable.

15:04 CEST    95.5km/64km to go
Astarloza has 3'02 on Rasmussen's group.

Meanwhile Barloworld goes on the attack - it is Soler once again.

Clement has caught the chase group.

15:05 CEST   
Soler tried to grab two water bottles from spectators but dropped both of them.

Millar has blown after doing the pace-setting for a long while. He's dropping off the back now, while another of his team-mates takes over.

15:06 CEST   
Astarloza has 2.1 kilometres left to the top of the climb. He's just over three minutes clear.

15:07 CEST   
The hills on the side go up very steep and the spectators have a hard time standing off the road. The field comes dangerously close at times. We already had an accident with a dog today and don't want any more mishaps.

15:08 CEST   
Rasmussen is looking around a bit. He's fourth in line, behind - we think - Thomas Dekker.

The peloton is quite big, maybe 50 or 60 riders.

15:09 CEST   
Soler is 24 years old and was second in Milano-Torino (Milan - Turin).

15:10 CEST    98.5km/61km to go
Astarloza has just under a kilometre to go until the top. Christophe Le Mevel has attacked the bunch.

15:11 CEST   
Vino is back at the doctor's car. Not a good sign on the climb.

15:12 CEST    98.5km/61km to go
Astarloza goes over the top by himself.

15:13 CEST   
Popo goes the climb in second, followed by Clement and Gutierrez. Gusev is the last of the four-man group.

15:14 CEST   
Voeckler and a teammate attack for some mountain points.

15:20 CEST   
The order of the top is:

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française Des Jeux) and Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom)

Rasmussen didn't get any points, but is more concerned about yellow right now.

15:21 CEST   
The field is now hitting the short descends. Please no crashes today. The climb of the Galibier will start pretty soon.

15:21 CEST   
Astarloza is joined by the group of four behind.

15:22 CEST   
Gusev doesn't wait around, but Gutierrez joins him and counters.

15:23 CEST    106.5km/53km to go
Ok, the break is attacking each other right now, which doesn't serve much of a purpose.

15:26 CEST   
Three guys are trying to bridge, including Voeckler, Le Mevel and a Lampre rider.

15:27 CEST   
There is perhaps 50 riders left in the peloton. Michael Rasmussen's yellow jersey (plus the rest of him) is in about sixth position.

Up front, the four leaders continue to plug away.

15:29 CEST    109.5km/50km to go
Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker are driving the Rabobank chase. George Hincapie is up there too, but he will be blocking rather than riding.

The Rabobank riders already have slightly more work to do than other teams; weight-obsessed Michael Rasmussen only carries one bottle, so that requires more frequent trips back to the car to keep him hydrated.

15:32 CEST   
Clement is coming back to the first four. Meanwhile an Agritubel rider attacks from the peloton.

Current situation

  • Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Yaroslav Popovych and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom)at 0.25
  • Benoît Vaugrenard (Française Des Jeux) at ?
  • Peloton at 2.23

15:34 CEST   
The riders are inside the final 50 kilometres of racing. The top of the Galibier comes 37.5 kilometres from the finish, and then the descend towards Briançon. The final couple of kilometres are quite tough, so gaps could open there.

15:34 CEST   
The five guys in front have now a lead of 2'23" over the field. Vaugrenard is still behind them.

15:35 CEST   
It is 11 more kilometres to the top of the Galibier.

15:37 CEST   
There aren't many trees on the Galibier. No protection from the wind and the sun. There are a few campers on the side of the roads. People had to get up early - no motor vehicles were allowed since yesterday evening.

15:38 CEST   
The steep, rugged climbs look stunning although the riders don't have time to enjoy it.

15:39 CEST   
The Agritubel rider is their leader, Juan Miguel Mercado. He won a stage in the Tour last year.

Up front, Soler has bridged back to the break and jumped clear! They got back onto his wheel but one Disco rider has blown.

15:39 CEST   
And Mauricio Soler, the young Columbian who had attacked a while back has made it up to the front group! He tries to go right past, but they get on his wheel - but it's a struggle.

15:40 CEST   
They are 9 kilometres from the top of the climb. It is Gusev who has blown. Astarloza now drops off the back, paying the price for his earlier efforts.

Soler of Barloworld
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

15:40 CEST    112.5km/47km to go
At the start of the Tour, nobody had heard the name Soler before, but he'll be a well known name now that he's shattered this break!

15:41 CEST   
Gutierrez also blows..he's goooone....

Soler continues to push the pace and has just Popo for company now. They are 2'09 ahead of the yellow jersey group/peloton.

15:43 CEST   
Rabobank continue to lead the bunch. Rasmussen is about 12th in line, while Vinokourov is further back. Thomas Voeckler has been dropped. Also in trouble is Francisco Perez Sanchez and Nicolas Portal of the Caisse d'Epargne team, plus last year's white jersey runner up Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner)

15:44 CEST   
The riders can see the summit. It looks too far away form their perspective. The Galibier looks like the moon on top. At least today the weather is cooperating. When Pantani dropped Ullrich in 1998 it was pouring!

15:45 CEST    114.5km/45km to go
Astarloza is trying to get up to Gutierrez. Mercado is chasing further down the mountain. He's going to be fresher and so if he can bridge, he will be dangerous.

Soler is doing all the work as they near the top. They have 2'29 of a lead over Rasmussen.

15:46 CEST   
Tents are pitched on the side of the road, where the fans have been waiting for hours. It's celebration time and spectators wave the French flag high over the riders

15:46 CEST   
Soler has finally snapped Popo..the Discovery rider has blown. The Colombian is alone as he heads towards the summit.

15:47 CEST   
Le Mevel has dropped his chain. Meanwhile Valverde has attacked hard!

15:48 CEST   
Evans hits the front and drives it! He is marked by Valverde, Rasmussen, Contador, Mayo and one other. Moreau is dropped!

15:49 CEST   
There's perhaps 14 riders with Rasmussen's group now..the stuff has hit the fan.

15:49 CEST   
The last time a Columbian won in Briançon was Botero. Can Soler be the next?

15:49 CEST   
Gerdemann and Vinokourov have been dropped by the Rasmussen group. Gerdemann has completely blown.

Valverde goes again and they reel in Mercado. Rasmussen is on the Caisse d'Epargne leader's wheel.

Valverde leads Contador
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:50 CEST   
Evans is looking good, and Contador, Leipheimer, Kashechkin, Moreau, Mayo and several others are also there.

15:52 CEST   
Moreau was initially in trouble but he is okay now. Correction - that seems to be Klöden up there. Kashechkin has been dropped.

Menchov now leads, with Rasmussen on his wheel. Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) is also there. No Vino.

15:53 CEST   
There are 15 riders in the yellow jersey group. Sastre is also there. Behind, Maxim Iglinskiy is with Vinokourov. Karpets is also there.

15:53 CEST   
Valverde goes again!

15:54 CEST   
Mercado has blown. Mayo brought the others up to Valverde. Moreau is getting dropped.

15:55 CEST   
Menchov is goooone...

The Valverde/Rasmussen group has eased slightly and Moreau has got back on.

15:56 CEST   
Evans now hits the front and pushes it. He's looking good. Moreau has been dropped again.

Evans continues to lead, with Rasmussen on his wheel. Valverde hits the front again.

15:56 CEST   
Rasmussen is stuck to Valverde's wheel, then Leipheimer and Mayo.

15:58 CEST   
Pereiro is also missing from this group. He hasn't looked in top form this year. Soler continues to lead and drives towards the summit.

Contador goes! He rips clear and is flying!

15:58 CEST   
He has a gap but Valverde is chasing. Evans is also trying to get back to him.

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) rode strongly
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:59 CEST   
Evans gets back to Contador! They are clear of the others now. Evans has been quietly confident this year.

16:01 CEST   
Valverde is leading the chase behind, with Rasmussen on his wheel. Gusev, Leipheimer, Mayo, Klöden, Cobo (Saunier Duval) and Kirchen are also there. Moreau is perhaps ten seconds behind and trying to get back on terms.

16:01 CEST   
Iban Mayo and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Levi Leipheimer and Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Andreas Klöden, Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) are staying just ahead of Moreau - but Evans and Contador are riding away, picking up the remnants of the earlier break.

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:02 CEST    120.1km/39.4km to go
Soler still leads, and is 2'42 ahead of Rasmussen.

Contador goes again and has dropped Evans. He's blown.

16:03 CEST   
Evans looks to be in trouble but will try to pace himself and recover. Rasmussen and Cobo lead the chase behind. Gusev has been dropped by the group.

16:05 CEST   
Gusev is on Moreau's wheel. Further down the mountain, Vino is suffering his way up the slopes. He is on Iglinskiy's wheel, in a group of perhaps ten riders. Kashechkin is also there, as is Schleck, Horner, Zubeldia.

Soler is 1 km from the top of the climb. He's looking strong but still has 38 km to go until the finish.

16:06 CEST    121.5km/38km to go
Contador continues to chase...

Moreau is finally back to the group. Sastre is there too. Gutierrez is leading the chase, working for Valverde.

16:07 CEST   
The fans are out ion force close to the top. It's a surreal scene how they line it up on both sides of the road in this bare, rugged landscape and wave their flags.

16:08 CEST   
Soler is out of the saddle, pushing to get every second he can. Vino is being dropped that chase group...wow... Maxim Iglinskiy is doing what he can to keep him in touch.

16:08 CEST    122km/37.5km to go
Soler crosses the top and starts to drop down towards the valley floor. Fortunately he's using the road for that. :)

16:09 CEST   
The fans are even lined up on the downhill side. Maybe they expect a spectacular crash? But Soler look solid.

16:09 CEST   
Contador is chasing hard. He's got a nice style, looking like a pure climber.

Rasmussen's group is 3'10 behind Soler.

16:09 CEST   
The Spanish flags are flying for Contador who is still before the top.

16:09 CEST    123.5km/36km to go
Contador is catching Popovych...that's good timing, as the two can work together on the descent.

16:10 CEST   
Contador goes over the top two seconds behind Popo and 2'04 behind Soler.

16:11 CEST   
They are together now. Evans is also over the top and is chasing hard.

Valverde is leading as the Rasmussen group near the top. Klöden is on his wheel. Kirchen goes over at the back of the group. He was second in the Tour de Suisse and is having a great season.

16:12 CEST   
Klöden gets a bag as the go over the top. Nutrients are important now.

16:14 CEST   
Vino is now nearing the top...he's suffering and goes over the line 4'58 behind Soler. Ouch...

16:18 CEST   
The two Disco riders are working together, chasing hard. Sastre is at the back of the Rasmussen group, which is lead by Gutierrez and Valverde.

16:18 CEST   
The order over the top is as follows: Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance), Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)

Current situation

  • Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
  • Yaroslav Popovych and Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) at 1.47
  • Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
  • Cadel Evans (Predictor - Lotto) at 2.07
  • Yellow jersey group: Iban Mayo and Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Saunier Duval), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), Alejandro Valverde and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Andreas Klöden, Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) and Christophe Moreau (AG2r Prévoyance) at 3.07
  • Vinokourov group at 3.21
  • Peloton at ?

16:18 CEST   
The order over the top is as follows: Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance), Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)

16:20 CEST    133.3km/26.2km to go
Sastre is losing a few lengths on the corners but is then chasing back on. The descent is a pretty fast one.

Up front, Soler plugs away. He is 1'37 ahead of the two chasers and 2'56 clear of the Rasmussen group. Can he do it?

16:20 CEST    134.5km/25km to go
Soler goes under the 25km to go banner.

16:23 CEST   
Soler is looking very concentrated. He's certainly got his team name in highlights today.

Mayo is now leading the yellow jersey group chase.

16:24 CEST   
As Soler is riding down the beautiful valley at high speeds there are still many spectators and campers parked on the side of the road. They won't see much as the riders speed by with 60 or 70 km/h

16:26 CEST    140km/19.5km to go
Contador started the day in 8th place overall, 3'10 back. He's driving it and then Popo goes through.

Evans is still clear of the Valverde group. He's chasing, alone.

Soler is doing a great ride, holding off the two Discovery riders. He is 1'36 ahead with Evans at 2'07 and the yellow jersey group at 2'33.

16:29 CEST   
Menchov has been caught by the Vinokourov group. So he's not on a super day either.

16:29 CEST   
On the long, long descent the chasers behind Contador/Popovych and Soler have been picked up by the yellow jersey group. It's now 12 riders: Cadel Evans (Predictor - Lotto), Iban Mayo and Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Saunier Duval), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), Alejandro Valverde and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Andreas Klöden (Astana), Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) and Christophe Moreau (AG2r Prévoyance) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi)

16:30 CEST   
Contador and Popovych continue to ride well together.

Mayo is at the back of the Rasmussen group.

16:30 CEST    144.5km/15km to go
Soler goes through the 15km to go banner. He is 1'26 clear of the two chasers.

16:32 CEST   
After he won a stage of the Tour de France, Santiago Botero became a national hero in Colombia - Mauricio Soler, if he can hold on, will be surely elevated to that status!

16:32 CEST   
Contador talks to Popo as he passes by to take his turn. They go under the 15km banner 1'20 back. Soler is resisting the chase well; his chance of victory will depend on how he fares in the final couple of kilometres, which are steep.

16:35 CEST   
Mayo seems to be under pressure on the descent. There is a split in this chasing group and he is behind. Sastre, Evans, Moreau, Leipheimer, Cobo, Mayo and Klöden are here. So Evans was caught on the descent.

Valverde, Gutierrez, Rasmussen, Astarloza, Kirchen have got a gap and are several seconds ahead.

The Mayo group are messing around a bit...that won't help.

16:36 CEST    149km/10.5km to go
Astarloza is under pressure in this group, as you might expect. He was away for much of the stage, after all.

Kirchen is impressive. He's filled the shoes of Michael Rogers very well.

16:37 CEST    149.5km/10km to go
Soler goes under the 10km to go banner. He is 1'03 ahead.

Behind, Leipheimer tries to get the others to work together. The co-operation of this group is not very good.

16:38 CEST    150.3km/9.2km to go
The Rasmussen group are flying! They are just 1'19 behind now; can they catch Contador and Popovych?

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:39 CEST   
Soler is turning around, riding in the middle of the road. It almost looks like a bike path.

16:40 CEST    152km/7.5km to go
Kirchen was marked by Astarloza and the other three then returned. Still five in this Rasmussen group.

16:41 CEST   
Vino's group go under the 10km to go banner. He is 3'18 behind the leader. The Astana team were trying to get help from those in the group but the Caisse d'Epargne rider there (Pereiro?) wouldn't work.

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

16:41 CEST   
Rasmussen's group are catching Contador and Popovych. Kirchen leads the chase. They are 5 seconds behind now, and closing fast.

16:43 CEST    154.5km/5km to go
This would help Soler, normally, except for the fact that Rasmussen, Valverde et al. are as focussed on getting time on those behind as they were with getting Contador back.

Klöden, Evans and the others are now riding a bit better together.

Rasmussen's group catches the two Disco riders. So there are seven in this chase pack.

16:44 CEST   
Soler presses on. He is nearing the final ramp up to the finish. His chances will depend on what he has left. Valverde could well be dangerous here - he has a burst of power which could see him take a few seconds out of the others and grab a time bonus at the line.

16:45 CEST    155.5km/4km to go
Cobo has been dropped from the Mayo group. These chasers are about to rejoin the Rasmussen group! So it's coming back together.

16:46 CEST    156.5km/3km to go
Those two chase groups have merged as they go under the 4km to go banner. Soler is further ahead, of course.

Current situation

  • Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
  • Yaroslav Popovych and Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel), Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Cadel Evans (Predictor - Lotto), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval), Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), Andreas Klöden (Astana), and Christophe Moreau (AG2r Prévoyance) at 0.55
  • Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Saunier Duval)
  • Vinokourov group at ?
  • Peloton

16:48 CEST   
Soler is on the final climb. He is approaching the 1km to go sign...

16:48 CEST   
Evans is now going on this climb...the others are there. Moreau is under pressure. Leipheimer was, but he is back on.

Soler presses on...

16:49 CEST   
Soler heads to the line. Santiago Botero was second here two years ago...can he take the win for Colombia?

16:49 CEST   
Valverde is in fourth place, waiting for the sprint. Soler is looking good... He has 500 metres to go and is fighting his bike all the way.

16:50 CEST   
He drives it hard...he looks good...

16:50 CEST   
It looks like a Barloworld win... He is pushing it and smiling at the same time. Victory!

16:51 CEST   
Evans is leading them home behind. He's been impressive today. Moreau is gone, so too Astarloza.

And now Valverde goes, as expected.

16:51 CEST   
Valverde gets second, 37 seconds back, then Evans.

16:51 CEST   
Moreau finishes 54 seconds back. Cobo is coming in alone.

16:52 CEST   
Mayo, Leipheimer and the others were in the Valverde/Evans group. Popo comes in 1'35 back.

16:53 CEST   
Kashechkin leads a group with Vino, Horner, Pereiro, Zubeldia, Karpets, Schleck and several others. They are over three minutes back.

16:54 CEST   
Vino grimaces..he really is suffering today. The group comes in 3.23 down. The Astana leader appears to have lost his chance of winning the Tour.

Provisional results

1 Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)          0.38
3 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)                  0.40
4 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)           0.42
5 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
6 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
7 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
8 Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)                         0.46
9 Andreas Klöden (Astana)
10 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)
Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)                    3.23

General classification

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)                   2.35
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir)                        2.39
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)                           2.41
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)                    3.08
6 Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance)                     3.18
7 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC)                                3.39
8 Andreas Klöden (Astana)                                 3.50
9 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)                     3.53
10 Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile)                                 5.06   

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