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95th Tour de France - GT
France, July 5-27, 2008
Stage 16 - Tuesday, July 22: Cuneo - Jausiers, 157km
Complete live report
By Susan Westemeyer
After an Italian rest day, the Tour heads back over the Alps to France. After a fairly flat, but gradually rising 50 kilometers, the course tackles the first of the day's two hors catégorie climbs: the Col de la Lombarde, which marks the border crossing. After a long descent, the roads begin to rise again to the second of the day's massive climbs: the Cime de la Bonnette-Restefond, the highest point of this year's Tour, which at 2802 metres is also the highest paved road in the Alps.
There then follows a 23.5-kilometre descent to the finish in Jausiers, the smallest town to host a stage finish at just over 1000 in population. Once again, the high mountains should provide plenty of opportunity for the favourites to attack one another, but that long descent will allow any dropped riders a chance to make up some ground, keeping the gaps relatively small.
Unsurprisingly, it is the first time that either town has hosted the Tour – although Cuneo was the venue for yesterday's rest day. One of the Cuneo's most famous sons is Michele Ferrero, whose eponymous company has given the world Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and Tic Tacs.
12:59 CEST Welcome back to the final week of the Tour. How could it possibly get more exciting than it is now, with six riders within one minute of the lead? We have some nasty mountain stages coming up, which will probably cause more sorting out. Let's just hope we get through the week with no more bad crashes or injuries, and no more of those very depressing positive drug tests!
13:03 CEST 25km/132km to go 153 riders took to the start under the Italian sun today. Things got off to a nervous start, with lots of attacks. Right now Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis has a slight lead and he has just been joined by several others. But they aren't really getting away.
13:05 CEST Chavanel seems determined to do something today and has pulled away from the peloton. How long will he be able to keep that lead?
13:10 CEST The Blimp Lady has finally returned from her vacation in the US to take over the live reports for the rest of the Tour. She admits that her jet lag has her pretty whacked out still, so she begs forgiveness in case she nods off every now and then during the stage.......
13:18 CEST It wasn't Chavanel but Moncoutie. And he decided not to stay away by himself in such a difficult stage. He now has a few seconds lead over the peloton. A dozen or so riders ar now together ahead of the field, but nothing is settled at this point.
13:18 CEST So what will be tactics today, and for the rest of the Tour? Will we see CSC and Garmin ganging up to knock Evans out? And don't forget Denis Menchov. Nor has Valverde given up all hope of a podium place.
13:21 CEST 39km/118km to go Denis Menchov of Rabobank had a mechanical problem, and is being escorted back to the field by a number of team-mates.
13:23 CEST Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown talk to Hans-Michael Holczer, Gerolsteiner's team manager, before today's stage, and asked him if the team would concentrate on keeping Bernhard Kohl in the polka-dot jersey or in the GC. "One includes the other," HMH noted, "because if we keep him in front among the top riders at the final climb, he will be able to defend both."
13:26 CEST 43km/114km to go A group of five has established a 20 second lead over a 20-strong following group. Those five are Demoulin, Le Mevel, Schumacher, Voeckler and Rosseler.
13:27 CEST The peloton is now 1'30 behind the following group, with all the jersey wearers in the peloton.
13:31 CEST 46km/111km to go The five leaders are Samuel Demoulin (Cofidis), Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole), Stefan Shumacher (Gerolsteiner), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) and Sebastien Rosseler (Quick Step).
13:34 CEST Has the peloton fallen asleep? It is now 3'39 behind the five leaders, and three minutes behind the following group. That group includes three Columbia riders, including Siutsou, two from Rabobank, including Freire, two from CSC, with Jens Voigt, and Milram's Christian Knees.
13:37 CEST Holczer didn't seem real sure of how much more Kohl will be able to accomplish, though. "Maybe tomorrow will be his day but I saw him on the rest day, and he was at the point where nothing more was possible. He was fighting for the jersey, but when I saw the images on television, I saw that he was giving 100 percent and didn't have anything more to give."
13:38 CEST We started off in Italy today for a flattish 50 km, before we hit the first monster of the day -- the Col de la Lombarde, which also marks our return to France. After the long descent, we -- or rather the riders -- take on the Bonnette, the "roof" of this year's Tour. There is a 23.5 km descent down to the finish in Jausiers. Sounds like an easy stage, doesn't it? ha ha ha ha.....
13:39 CEST The stage started out in Cuneo, in the Italian province of the same name. It is best known as the home of Michele Ferrero, owner of the firm Ferrro SpA. Never heard of it? Well, you have probably heard of some of his products: Nutella, Mon Cheri, Ferrero Rocher, Tic Tacs.... Ferrero is said to be Italy's richest person, by the way, with a fortune of some 11 billion dollars.
13:43 CEST The leading five have taken a 40 second advantage as they start up the Lombard. They are followed by this group: Popovych (Sil), Arvesen (Csc), Voigt (CSC), Zubeldia (Eus), Txurruka (Eus), Arroyo (Gce), Gutierrez (Gce), Portal (Gce), Burghardt (Thr), Hincapie (Thr), Siutsou (Thr), Augustyn (Bar), Cheula (Bar), Fischer (Liq), Tiralongo (Lam), Dessel (Alm), Lequatre (Agr), Flecha (Rab), Freire (Rab), Gilbert (Fdj), Chavanel (Cof), Pate (Tsl)
13:44 CEST 54km/103km to go Schumacher leads the escape group up the climb. Demoulin is having difficulties. The peloton is now over four minutes back.
13:49 CEST We have had two sprints already today, with the points going this way: #1 in Vignolo: Chavanel, Hincapie, Tankink. #2 in Viladio: Dumoulin, Schumacher, Le Mevel.
13:50 CEST 56km/101km to go Demoulin has dropped out of the lead group, so it is a foursome now. The following group is 1'45 back, with the peloton some five minutes behind.
13:51 CEST Bobby Julich of CSC-Saxo Bank will be joining us again today as a guest commentator. We look forward to what he has to say.
13:54 CEST 57.6km/99.4km to go The pace was too slow for five riders in the following group, and they have taken off. Damiano Cunego lead the charge, and has been joined by Casar, Szmyd, Valjavec, and Monfort. It is now only a trio in front: Schumacher, Voeckler, and Le Mevel.
13:56 CEST This long hard ascent has torn the groups apart, with little groups of three or four together. And now there is only a duo in the lead: Schumacher and Voeckler.
14:00 CEST 59km/98km to go If you go up the South side of the Lombarde, it is a long but not terribly steep climb. But the Tour went the other way and is going up the north side -- 22 km and some very steep sections. The sprinters are paying the price now, as they are falling off the back already.
14:00 CEST Schumacher is alone in the lead now.
14:03 CEST A group of nine is following Schumacher, including most of those who dropped out of the lead group.
14:03 CEST Bobby Julich has now joined us, and says, "the riders got off to a fast start and now with the big break off the front with many teammates of the leaders things will settle down. This attack from Cunego shouldn't cause too much panic though."
14:05 CEST 61km/96km to go Either Schumacher is slowing down or the peloton is picking up speed. His lead has shrunk to 4'34.
14:08 CEST Bobby Julich says, "I personally don't know the Col de la Lombarde, but it looks beautiful up there! It is a great day for a bike race!" The sun is shining, thank goodness.
14:11 CEST Have you wondered why so many teams have sent so many riders into those leading groups? Bobby Julich explains it to us: "All of the teams seem to have the same objective of getting as many teammates of the leaders up the road early in order to help when and if the leaders decide to light it up."
14:13 CEST They are about halfway up the climb now. Did we say the lead had shrunk? It is now up to nearly 6'30" ! And we have our first drop out of the day. Sebastien Chavanel of FdJ has given up the fight.
14:14 CEST Bobby tells us that "right now, I don't see any major advantage for any team." He warns, though, that "for the riders that are already dropped, they have to careful of the time limit on today's stage."
14:18 CEST Gerolsteiner must be happy with the way things are going. When asked about an escape group, Hans-Michel Holczer told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown, " It would be nice to have someone in an escape because they could help later on the Bonnette. We have Schumacher, Lang, Fothen, etc. We have a lot of guys who can escape and climb."
14:20 CEST 67km/90km to go "Schumi" is now 5:05 ahead of the Cunego group of 10, which has now caught Freire. The peloton is now nearly two minutes behind them.
14:22 CEST Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra are falling off the back of the peloton. Will Sylvain join his brother in the broom wagon?
14:26 CEST 69km/88km to go As it stands now, Schumacher has a lead of 1'45 over his former companions. The Cunego group is about 4 minutes back, with another group a minute and a half behind them, and the yellow jersey is back at 7'30.
14:29 CEST 69.2km/87.8km to go And that is the reason why there is no panic in the peloton about that big lead, Bobby Julich tells us. "With so many riders up the road and so many different teams represented, I don't think that 8 minute is too big of a gap." Schumacher may have a huge lead, but the others are all only a few minutes apart. Bobby is a good prophet, the lead is now 8'05.
14:31 CEST "Before the stage, I thought that this would be a "controled" stage because of it not finishing on top of a climb and with the queen stage to l'Alpe d'Huez on the horizon," Bobby Julich says. "Up until now, that seems the case unless one of the favorites decide to take a big chance today on the final climb."
14:34 CEST 72km/85km to go Schumacher is riding easily as he approaches the mountain top.
14:35 CEST Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown today, "I am still looking for a stage to make the escape and win. Before the crono there are two stages that could be suitable. I am happy for what I have done so far in this Tour. I have worked a lot for the team -- for Pozzato and Chicchi, but also for Nibali and Kreuziger. I don't go so strong in the climbs but I try to maintain myself up front to avoid risks and crash. Today and tomorrow will be difficult for me. I really can't climb! I will need to race intelligently and stay in the gruppetto, saving my strength for the escapes in the next stages."
14:38 CEST 84km/73km to go Schumacher is making good time going down alone -- but let's be careful there! He already had a bad experience in this Tour with a crash. He doesn't have to hurry too much, the peloton is over eight and a half minutes back.
14:39 CEST Bobby Julich is already thinking of the next climb. "The final climb of the Cime de la Bonette is scary! I hear that it is the highest climb in France and at over 2800m it could really shake things up if someone takes that risk. I hope that this is a one-way road because I have never seen such a narrow climb!"
14:40 CEST Le Mevel was the second over the top, followed by Voeckler.
14:42 CEST Bobby has found his candidate for today. "I just caught a glimpse of the main peloton and I instantly noticed the cadence and ease of Carlos Sastre. Could this be the day that CSC-Saxo Bank plays the Carlos card to shake things up?"
14:44 CEST A group with Siutsou and Popyvich has about a 40 second lead over the Cunego group. Behind them by about three minutes, CSC is leading the field. Schumacher's advantage is now over nine minutes.
14:45 CEST Bobby Julich thinks things look good for Schumi. "Big props to Schumacher for throwing down the hammer. With the lead that he has, he could make it to the end!"
14:47 CEST Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) talked to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown about his team-mate Nibali and the maillot blanc, saying "We are not racing against each other, but we both have our freedom. He goes strong in the time trial and so I need to take some time in the mountains."
14:51 CEST We have had some readers' questions about team names, with Matt asking, "Why does everyone still refer to them as Team High Road when they have a new sponsor in Columbia Sportswear?" The Blimp Lady admits she still wants to call them T-Mobile or even Telekom, but she confesses that she is old and slow to accept changes.
14:52 CEST One of the best things about watching the Tour is seeing the beautiful landscape. But that is something that is reserved for those watching it on tv. As Bobby Julich says, "what a beautiful area these riders get to race through today, but not as if they are enjoying it as much as the people watching on TV!"
14:54 CEST Matt White (Garmin DS) told CN's Gregor Brown, "It would be ideal to have someone in the escape today. We all know what CSC has to do, they have to get rid of Christian, they have to get rid of Menchov and they have to get ride of Cadel Evans because their guys are not as good of time triallers as the others. The pressure is on them to get rid of the time trial guys. When the pressure goes on at the top of these climbs no one has teammates anyway. It will be ideal to have someone in the escape."
14:55 CEST Danger days today and tomorrow? White said "I don't think either one are that difficult; all the guys were very close on the Hautacam, so I don't think there are going to be too big of time gaps today or on Alpe d'Huez. It will go down to the wire, down to the time trial. I can't recall a Tour where it has been this close -- six guys within one minute."
14:57 CEST Bobby Julich isn't too happy with Schumacher right now. "Schumi is flying down the descent sitting on the top tube. This may look cool and be fast, but my advice to the youngsters out there...DON'T DO IT LIKE THAT! Maybe I am too old and have too many kids to descend like that!!" Th Blimp Lady is happy to know she is not the only one who feels that way.
14:59 CEST Schumacher is sitting on his bike more appropriately now as he approaches the feeding zone. We are not really ignoring the race itself, but the whole peloton has splintered into tiny groups, all of which are now flying down the mountain. Fabian Cancellara of CSC just had a mechanical, but is on the go again.
15:04 CEST CSC continues to lead what remains of the pelton, over 10 mintes behind Schumacher. More importantly, the yellow jersey is now about five and a half minutes behind the following group: Popovych (Sil), Arvesen (CSC), Voigt (CSC), Zubeldia (Eus), Txurruka (Eus), Arroyo (Gce), Gutierrez (Gce), Portal (Gce), Hincapie (Thr), Siutsou (Thr), Augustyn (Bar), Cheula (Bar), Fischer (Liq), Cunego (Lam), Szmyd (Lam), Tiralongo (Lam), Dessel (Alm), Valjavec (Alm), Lequatre (Agr), Flecha (Rab), Tschopp (Btl), Knees (Mrm), Casar (Fdj), Chavanel (Cof), Dumoulin (Cof), Moncoutie (Cof), Monfort (Cof), Pate (Tsl), Hesjedal (Tsl), Rosseler (Qst), Pauriol (C.a)
15:07 CEST Crash for a Caisse d'Epargne rider. He is up and limping around. It is Arnaud Coyot. He slid about 5 meters over the gravel at the side of the road He is holding his left hip, and tore the left leg of his shorts open. Fortunately he crashed at a place where there is a little space along the road, and it was not just vertical!
15:09 CEST Bobby J. gives us his view of that crash: "We just saw a crash by a rider from Caisse d'Epargne. He rolled his tire off the rim which is always a risk on long descents. The reason for this is every time you hit the breaks, you heat the glue on the tire and if you break too hard or too often, the glue melts and you are at the mercy of the gods." Coyot is back on his bike and underway again.
15:12 CEST The CS-led peloton has now hit the feeding zone, and Bobby tells us: "time for some good eats now in the feedzone because soon the riders will start the climb that peaks at 2802m. At that altitude, riders are using even more energy and calories, so it is important to eat and drink enough."
15:14 CEST What are CSC's tactics today? DS Matt White told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown, "We will see what happens on the road, I can't tell you now because then everyone will read it. Ideal situation? To have more time for the yellow jersey. One thing for sure, we have to do something. The descent of Bonette-Restefond is nice, Carlos Sastre and Bjarne Riis have done it. It is a downhill, but a good one."
15:14 CEST Cadel Evans had to drop back for an unknown reason, and is now being brought back to the peloton by a number of teammates
15:16 CEST Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) told Gregor Brown, "It is nice being 'at home.' The rest day went very well, I rested a lot and my family came up from Toscana. My morale is high and I will see how it goes today. The situation has chanced and now it is a little easier for Cadel Evans without being in the maillot jaune. The last descent is very technical and we will see what we can do because Schleck and Sastre don't go very well in descent. If I am there at the very end I will try to do something strong on the Bonette-Restefond decent. I will also watch the escapes, if there are danger-men in the escapes then I will try to join."
15:19 CEST We have more mail, and Jeff Abbot knows who is going to win today "I think Hincapie is going to be the stage victor today. He is a strong rider and problems wants to prove he is still a man to be feared. Columbia/High Road are having a great tour and old George does love the mountains. A close second will be the CSC duo of Voigt and Arvesen. Kurt already had one stage win and will probably be looking to help out the team get another and continue to secure the overall top team."
15:20 CEST How does Bobby view this situation? "With a group this big, things could start to get a bit more tactical. There is always a dangerous rider on GC in a group like this and the favorites have to start to pay attention to who is the best placed in the group and judge their efforts correctly. CSC-Saxo Bank riders, O'Grady and Sorensen are working hard in the main peloton and maintaining order, but if things get out of control on the next climb, expect Voigt and Arvesen to drop from the front group in order to help out the yellow jersey. For the moment however, everything is under control."
15:22 CEST 108km/49km to go The 31-strong Cunego group is now moving up on Schumacher. They ar only five minutes behind, while the yellow jersey is another 6'50 behind them.
15:28 CEST Steve from Pennsylvania says, "I know that one of the commentators mentioned previously that they thought that the leaders would stick together today and tomorrow for the last of the mountain stages. However, wouldn't it make sense for Frank Schleck, Kohl and Sastre to make an attack today or tomorrow to try to distance themselves from the riders (Evans, Menchov, Vande Velde) who are superior time trialists?" Well, yes, that would be a good idea. But what is good in theory doesn't always work out in the practice. We do, however, expect to see someone make a big move. Tomorrow seems more likely because of the mountaintop finish. On the other hand, a good descender could pick up some time today.
15:30 CEST 112km/45km to go 12 minutes for the peloton behind Schumacher!
15:31 CEST Ed Welby of Grays Lake, Illinois, USA, asks Bobby Julich: I know you put in a big effort for the early part of the season, but do you watch this year's Tour and wish you were riding? It seems to be a pretty tough year, with climbs stacked on top of each other. Especially tomorrow. I know this is "what if,", but do you think the tactics might have been a bit different if you were riding this year? Would having you help pace up the climbs helped any more than say Volodimir Gustov or Stuart O'Grady? Bobby answers,"Of course it is hard for me to be watching this on TV, but on a team like CSC-Saxo Bank we have so many qualified riders that the directors had to make a hard decision. I would love to be there with them, but if it meant taking out one of the riders who are there, I would elect to be here with you."
15:35 CEST 114km/43km to go They are on their way up the final climb now. Bobby says, "Let's get ready to rumble! Looks like things will heat up soon on the climb."
15:39 CEST The Bonette is a real monster, over 2800 meters high. This is its fourth appearance in the Tour. Frederico Bahamontes won here in 1962 an 1964, and Robert Millar took it in 1993.
15:41 CEST 116km/41km to go Schumacher's lead is shrinking -- slighlty. He now has 10 and a half minutes. It ought to be enough to give him the stage win, but how much does he have left? He has been off by himself for a long time now.
15:43 CEST Bobby tells us, "it is gut-check time for Schumi on this climb. If he can get to the top with a minute or so, he can win the stage. Cancellara is on the front of the peleton at the start of the final climb. A rider like him will have to be pulling at 440-500 watts!" And as we post that, we see that Cancellara has finished his work for the day and is falling back to ride comfortably to the end.
15:46 CEST Reed Albergotti wants to know who is the virtual Yellow Jersey at this point. We understand that it is Valjavc. Schumi's lead is under ten minutes again for the first time in a while.
15:49 CEST Seth in Chicago is picking a Canadian today for the win. "Ryder (Hesjedal) could definitely take the stage today. He's a great climber and descender too. Plus he has Danny Pate in the group with him (we've seen how hard he can work), and Garmin needs a stage win to make this tour a complete success."
15:51 CEST 119.1km/37.9km to go Schumacher's lead is now 2'33 over the Cunego group, and 9'11 over the Schleck group. Somewhere back there is also the Grupetto, who is only hoping to make it in within the time limit and live to fight another day.
15:52 CEST Valverde is on the rear wheel of Fränk Schleck as they grind their way up the long climb and the narrow road.
15:54 CEST 120km/37km to go Schumi's lead over the Schleck group is now eight and a half minutes, with the Cunego group only about two minutes away. Looks like they have a good chance to catch the shaved-head Gerolsteiner rider.
15:57 CEST How does Bobby J. see things at this point? Will the Cunego group catch Schumacher? "I think that it will be hard for Schumi to maintain his advantage on the Cunego group. This opens up the race for many riders in that group to go for the stage win. With over 15km to go on the climb, it seems that everyone is waiting for the last part of the climb because the pace is not full gas at the moment."
16:01 CEST 122km/35km to go Schumacher gets a drink from the team car as his lead continues to diminish. 7'45 to the Schleck group and 2'14 to the Cunego group.
16:03 CEST We must find a new name for the Cunego group: he just fell out the back of it. There are only about 15 rides left in it now. Back in the peloton, Schleck has lost another helper, as Gustov drops off the back.
16:04 CEST 123km/34km to go The 15 man chase group has broken into two groups, of eight and seven. George Hincapie is in the first group, as is Siutsou.
16:06 CEST Francois of South Africa asks Bobby, Why are some mountain climbers not good in TT (Soler, Rasmussen, Pantani), surely they should be strong riders such as riders who were good in both (Indurain/ Armstrong)? And Bobby answers, "There are many factors but power to weight ratios come to mind as well as when the time trial occurs in the race. The time trial in the last week of the Tour comes down to who is the most fresh and motivated. Those other riders that you mentioned are legends because they could do it all."
16:09 CEST 123.6km/33.4km to go The Schlecks are destroying what is left of their group, putting up a powerful pace. Andy is leading Fränk, with Sastre also hanging in there. They are directly followed by Bernhard Kohl. Kim Kirchen is also in this group, as is Evans, although both are near the back. Efimkin was unable to hold the pace and dropped off the back.
16:10 CEST "Andy Schleck is now on the front, so soon there should be some good action! Andy is doing some damage now to many riders hopes in the GC. Arvesen has dropped back now to help with the pace making." Bobby tells us.
16:11 CEST 124.6km/32.4km to go The lead continues to drop. Schumacher is now only 45 seconds ahead of the chase group, with the Schleck Express 5'16 back.
16:12 CEST Bobby gives us a peak at CSC's strategy, saying "I hope that he (Arvesen) was taking it easy in the front because his pull is going to be important so that Andy can save himself for tomorrow."
16:18 CEST 128km/29km to go Here is sort of an overview as to who is in what group. About 30 seconds behind Schumacher we have Popovych, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, and Valjavec, all about a minute ahead of Cunego. At 4'11 we Andy and Frank, Sastre, Evans, Menchov, Kirchen, Kohl, Valverde. However, w see that Voeckler is also in this group, and we think that Vande Velde may also be there, but we have lost track of him at the moment.
16:19 CEST Vande Velde is not in the Schleck group.
16:20 CEST Even the Tour admits it it not certain right now where VDV is!
16:21 CEST 129.7km/27.3km to go Schumi's long flight is nearly over. The chase group will have him any second now. And the Schleck group is only 3'37 back!
16:22 CEST We must pay a compliment to the riders as they make their way up this very high climb. As Bobby points out,"at this altitude, it is hard to breathe, let alone race bicycles!"
16:22 CEST Gutierrez of Caisse d'Epargne falls out of his group and waves cheerily as he does so.
16:24 CEST Sastre makes a move, and Kohl is the only one to follow. But apparently the Spaniard only wanted to test the waters, as he immediately falls back to his captain. "There has to be a major attack soon if there is to be any major changes in the GC," Bobby notes.
16:26 CEST 131.2km/25.8km to go Berni Kohl moves to the front and Kirchen drops off the back. But they all manage to stay together. Will we have a real attack out of this group?
16:27 CEST Bobby tells us, "Popovych looks good in the front, but George Hincapie is my favorite if he can hang on till the top. The favourites still have 7km to the top, but here is where it gets dangerous for someone already in the 'red'.
16:30 CEST 132.4km/24.6km to go The leading group now consists of Popovych, Arroyo, Portal, Hincapie, Siutsou, Augustyn, Valjavec, Schumacher and Casar. 2'30 back, Fränk Schleck has gotten reinforcements in the shape of Jens Voigt. The lead group has less than 5 km to the top.
16:33 CEST An incredible performance by CSC-Saxo Bank today. They have four riders in their little group! And we are sorry to see Schumacher drop off the back of the lead group. After his long hard escape, he just didn't have enough left over.
16:35 CEST Voigt shows the effort he has put in today, puffing and panting as he leads the Schleck group up the mountain.
16:36 CEST 133km/24km to go One km to the top for the leading group!
16:37 CEST Th leaders are now on what looks like a very narrow ridge, with NOTHING on either side of them.
16:38 CEST John-Lee Augustyn of Barloworld has jumped out of the lead group to try and grab the mountain point.
16:39 CEST Augustyn has built up a slight lead, and Valjevec drops of the back of the group. The Schleck group is two minutes behind.
16:41 CEST Augustan hits the top, ahead of Dessel and Arroyo. Behind them, Knees has fallen back into the Schleck group, while Valverde and Evans drop off the back!
16:42 CEST Andy Schleck continues to grind away and his group is getting smaller and smaller. Will the others be able to catch up again on this descent?
16:43 CEST Kohl leads th way down the mountain. Bobby is excited by the course. "Better not be scared of heights up here because it is a long way down to the left! This climb is incredible! Who is up for a ride? Never mind, this descent is too dangerous for me!"
16:45 CEST No sooner said than done. Augustyn goes over the side. Thank goodness he is able to crawl back up, with the help of a bystander. He went down a good 20 meters or more! How scary is that!
16:46 CEST Augustyn's bike has disappeared down the side of the mountain. Better the bike than him! And Evans veers at almost the exact same place.....
16:47 CEST Bobby reminds us, "be careful guys, there are things more important that bike racing!"
16:51 CEST We now have Dessel, Cesar, Arroyo and Popovych in front. The Schlecks are 1'41 behind.
16:54 CEST We asked Bobby what his wife thinks of scenes like Augustyn's crash. "She just said that one thing about not doing the Tour that she doesn't miss..doing descents like that." And he noted that "in the race you don't see what is just off the side of the road." He is seeing the race from "the other side" so to speak, and asks, "is it always this stressful to watch a race on TV?"
16:57 CEST 148km/9km to go Dessel leads the first group down the mountain. They are 1'15 ahead of the next group, which Evans is now leading. Menchov, Cunego and Kirchen are about 10 seconds behind them.
16:59 CEST Yes, we would say Bobby is very impressed by today's course -- but not in a good way. "I just realized that we are not paid enough to take risks like this! Should have been a tennis:soccer player! I have never been a fan of stages that are decided on the descent instead of the climb! Don't we take enough risk? Shame on you Prudhomme!"
17:02 CEST 2.5km/154.5km to go The four leaders have a 25 second lead over a group of three followers, including Hincapie. Will the trio catch them? Bobby is picking Casar in a sprint.
17:03 CEST The leaders are down and ready to take on the last km. Popo makes the first move but they all stay together.
17:04 CEST Arroyo makes the first move, and Dessel jumps with him. The Frenchman is able to overtake him and take the stage win!
17:04 CEST Bobby says, "That finish was a joke! Never seen a finish like that in the tour!"
17:06 CEST Andy Schleck leads his group over the finish line, followed by Bernhard Kohl and Fränk Schleck. Denis Menchov and Kim Kirchen come in 35 seconds later.
17:06 CEST So Fränk Schleck has successfully defended his yellow jersey, thanks to some outstanding work by his team.
17:08 CEST What will tomorrow's stage bring? It is hard to imagine that it might be even more dramatic than today's action -- but on the other hand, in the Tour, anything is possible! Join us again Wednesday as the Tour tackles the legendary Alpe d'Huez!