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95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

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Stage 7 - Friday, July 11: Brioude - Aurillac, 159km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake

13:00 CEST   
Salut and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage straight from France. Today the riders will face 159 kilometres from Brioude to Aurillac and no less than five categorised climbs. They may not be HC or cat 1 mountains, but if the riders hurry them up fast enough they will sure feel today in their legs in the evening. It may not be enough for anybody to gain a decisive gap for the overall, but it will provide an opportunity for the climbers to soften up the allrounders before heading into the Pyrénées. Let's see what the day brings!

13:05 CEST   
The race hasn't started yet. The racers are slated to set out for their départ fictif in about seven minutes.

13:10 CEST   
Let's have another look back – not to yesterday, but to Super Besse 1996. Emilien pointed out that sprinter Djamolidine Abdoujaparov was in a break with Orlando Rodrigues (Banesto), Luc Leblanc (Polti), Richard Virenque (Festina) and Paolo Savoldelli (Roslotto). Now Howard added that Chris Boardman was in there as well. Boardman was a great time trialer, but could hold his own in the road races. After initially 'only' setting hour world records, he ended up getting a contract with Gan, the predecessor of Crédit Agricole.

13:14 CEST   
There is very little wind at the start, it is partly sunny and the temperatures are at around 21C. That is the nice part. The not-so-nice part is the parcours - the riders will go uphill right from the gun. The first climb of the day, the Côte de Fraisse, is after only 11 kilometres.

13:16 CEST   
There aren't actually many flat kilometres today. It is either up or down all day long. A great day for some breaks to go and the GC contenders to start battling.

13:19 CEST   
We also have to look back to yesterday one more time. Many have of course have drawn comparisons to the famous finale of the 2006 Eneco Tour. George Hincapie led Stefan Schumacher by three seconds going into the final stage. It was a fierce sprint for second and third behind breakaway rider Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) – and for those precious time bonuses.

Schumacher rode close to the barriers, touched the arm of a spectator and swerved left, taking out Hincapie. The latter had no chance of defending himself, while Schumacher sprinted to third and received four seconds in time bonuses – enough to win the race by one tiny second! Hincapie and team filed protest, but it was rejected.

Yesterday's incident was similar, and Schumacher seemed to have mixed feelings. He said right after the stage that "I don't think he [Kirchen] did it intentionally." Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes took a closer look at the mayhem. The article also explains why the so-called three-kilometre wasn't applied, which some of you had asked yesterday.

Schumacher came undone and left his jersey on the tarmac, only a few hundred metres from the finish line in Super Besse
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

13:26 CEST   
To get some moving pictures, check out the Cyclingnews video summary of stage six.

13:29 CEST    7km/152km to go
The départ réel was a few minutes ago and there was an attack immediately. French darling Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) and US hope William Frischkorn (Garmin Chipotle - H30) tried to give it a go, but were reeled at km 4.

Frischkorn (second from left) in the break in stage 3
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

13:32 CEST   
Frischkorn was in the break in stage 3 – you know, the one that stayed away! Will got second that day. Happy to be up there, yet disappointed he couldn't win. Maybe one too many pulls in the end. But still a great ride for the talent.

13:35 CEST   
The riders are on the first climb, but nobody wants to give it some stick right now. It is a tad early, although this would be a good place for a break to form.

13:39 CEST   
Speaking of giving it some stick. Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel said there wasn't enough of that in this year's Tour. He, on the other hand, was in his second break and won twice yesterday. He took out the polka dot from underneath Thomas Voeckler and he gets to wear the red back number today – the one for the most aggressive rider. The latter is not handled like an overall classification. The rider who is the most aggressive in one stage gets to wear the red number on the next.

Chavanel revealed his thoughts on yesterday in his exclusive Cyclingnews diary.

13:41 CEST    12km/147km to go
A group of eight has managed to separate itself a bit as we are over the top of the first climb, the Côte de Fraisse. But the gap is minimal.

13:42 CEST   
The first four who are getting the points are:
1 David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30)
2 Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux)
3 David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
4 Bram Tankink (Rabobank)

13:46 CEST   
This was a cat 3 climb, so Millar will get four points (and 300 euro), Casar three points (and 0 euro), Moncoutié two points (same cash as Casar) and Tanking one point (and a slap on his wrist from his directeur sportif (DS) for not earning any money).

13:52 CEST   
Attentive reader Roger points out that we had six winners from six different teams and six different nationalities – and Roger wishes it to be a seventh today. So maybe a Belgian like Stijn Devolder or Philippe Gilbert. Maxime Monfort rides for Cofidis – the team won stage three and so has had its share...

13:58 CEST   
Prize money for the climbs: For an HC climb, the first three get cold hard cash – 800, 450 and 300 euro. For a cat 1, it is 650, 400 and 150. For a cat 2 only two get money (500 and 250). The first rider over a cat 3 will get 300. The first over a cat 4 200. So don't quit your day job yet!

Unless you think you are so gifted you can take out the polka dot in the end. Then 30,350 euro are yours! Each day a rider wears the polka dot they also get some money. So the total prize money that can be taken out is 101,350, in three weeks. So, yeah, if you think you are stellar climber, maybe you *should* quit your day job!

14:01 CEST    24km/135km to go
Currently attempts by four riders, but the peloton is attentive for now.

14:14 CEST   
Trying to answer more questions from yesterday. Ok, so the feed zone: It is a zone a couple of kilometres long and the soigneurs or helpers of the teams are spread out along this zone, wearing a vest or something from the team so the riders can better spot them. The soigneurs often have four or five musettes (cotton cloth bags with a long handle so the riders can hang it around their necks) over their right underarm.

They will then take one down with their left and hand it to the riders. If multiple riders of the same team come by in quick succession they obviously have to be very quick and also make sure they let go as soon as the riders grab it – otherwise it would probably make the funniest home videos show! In fact in stage two a CSC rider did have a bit of trouble, swerved and slowed slightly, immediately taking out Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel)! Fortunately he was OK and could continue.

The other danger is that after the riders empty the food bags, they will have to dispose of them. They make good souvenirs, so are usually tossed to the side (and some of the less hungry riders may even leave some food in there, providing a nutritious lunch for the fans!). In windy conditions that can be fatal, though. In stage one, Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis) had such an unfortunate encounter. The bag got stuck in his front wheel. Ever locked up your front wheel like that? Duclos-Lassalle ended the day in hospital with a broken wrist. The three-week Tour over after just one day!

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) takes his feed bag
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

14:21 CEST   
It has been 50 years since a rider from Luxembourg has worn the maillot jaune of race leader. It was Charly Gaul back then. This morning Luxemburger Andy Schleck told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown his feelings about it. "I am really happy for Kim [Kirchen], but it was really bad luck for Schumacher. I wish it would have stayed together and I wouldn't have lost seconds."

Andy Schleck was held up behind the crash and dropped his chain. He put it back on rode to the finish, crossing the line 45 seconds behind the winner.

14:26 CEST    45km/114km to go
All break attempts are continued to be nullified by the peloton. The first sprint will be contested soon in St. Flour.

14:33 CEST   
How does a climb get categorised in Le Tour? It is a mix of figuring in the length, the gradient, the altitude gain, the steepest section, how far to the finish and a bit of subjectivity. The organisers want to limit the number of mountain points awarded, so some climbs maybe just as hard or harder than some of the other climbs. Even the road condition may play a role in the final determination which climbs get ranked.

This year, there are eight HC, four cat 1, five cat 2, 14 cat 3 and 26 cat 4 climbs.

14:34 CEST    50km/109km to go
The sprint in St. Flour was won by Robert Hunter, ahead of Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd.

14:36 CEST   
Cyclingnews' ground crew reports that there are intermittent rain showers along the route, just like yesterday. The forecast did say there would be thunder showers, so it should be another interesting day out in France, weather wise.

14:38 CEST    51km/108km to go
We are one km form the top of the Côte de Villedieu. Five riders are slightly ahead. David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30), Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) and Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner)

14:44 CEST   
Now Jens Voigt is not a surprise to be up front. He talked to Gregor Brown this morning about his plans. "Today will be the day – if I have the legs, I can make it. I am allowed to go in a break. But it is quite demanding, as the race starts uphill. It is not just that you have to be cunning – you have to be strong enough to make the break, too. In one respect, it is simple, you have to have the legs. But if you don't, you have a small chance of making the group."

Voigt ever not having the legs? We don't think so! Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) also has joined the break, which is gaining a bit of ground.

Current race situation

  • David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30), Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Benoît Vaugrenard (FdJ), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) and Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner)
  • Peloton at 0.27

14:47 CEST    59km/100km to go
Columbia is reducing the gap to 15 seconds. CSC is right behind to have an eye on things.

14:48 CEST   
George Hincapie is taking over at the front. That spells trouble for some riders behind, as the road tilts uphill. Not all are in the great shape and a few riders are dropping off the back. A tad early!

14:51 CEST    61km/98km to go
A small crash and the peloton is cut in two. There are only 25 or so riders in the front.

It is Cunego who went down! Flecha was also involved and got a new bike.

14:52 CEST   
The speeds are really high right now, because Millar is in the front and he is only 47 seconds back on GC.

14:54 CEST   
There are now three groups. Cunego is in the third group, surrounded by most of his Lampre faithfuls, such as Marco Marzano. Sébastien Chavanel (Française des Jeux) and Christophe Brandt (Silence-Lotto) are also in this group.

14:55 CEST    64km/95km to go
The leaders are still almost thirty seconds out.

14:57 CEST   
There are 20 secs between the 25-rider group of Kim Kirchen and Sylvain Chavanel to the main peloton. A high speed chase. Cunego may be even further back.

14:58 CEST   
There is a right hand bend, but then the road follows to the left, with a divider in the middle. Some riders jump the divider!

14:58 CEST   
Millar seems to have a technical problem with his bike, but he keeps going for now.

15:00 CEST   
Caisse is also pitching in to the chase.

The front group has sat up. Millar couldn't roll very well with his flat tyre.

Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne) is now off the front.

15:01 CEST    68km/91km to go
Right now, the riders are enjoying a good tail wind!

CSC has hit the front of the bunch. Cancellara, to be precise, which the riders behind may not appreciate too much.

there is still a gap between this 25 rider group and the main field.

15:04 CEST   
CSC has lined itself up on the front now. The wind is coming from behind, but slightly from the left, so the line up accordingly.

Sanchez still out front by 15 secs.

15:06 CEST   
Jens Voigt hits the front and Sanchez is back in the pack.

The main peloton is strung out single file. It looks as if Frank Schleck is stuck behind there. All the other CSC's are still leading the front group.

15:09 CEST   
Fränk Schleck is in the front group. Most of the top 10 are also there. Currently missing out are Damiano Cunego (Lampre), George Hincapie (Columbia), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)

15:11 CEST    75km/84km to go
Freire is also in the front. He takes the sprint in Paulhac ahead of Kirchen, who fights for the green also.

15:14 CEST    78km/81km to go
Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) is hanging on the back of the front group for dear life! The race is just exploding. Lampre is pulling the main peloton. It is 45 secs behind the 25 or so leaders. It is moving alright!

15:17 CEST    80km/79km to go
Well, well. CSC shows it has some TT power there. Having Cancellara and Voigt pulling will mean that the Lampre guys will need some help from other teams in order to get back. The gap is still at 40 secs.

15:19 CEST   
Amazing!!!! Cancellara sets the pace at the front and little Sastre is struggling at the back!!! The Spaniard has a gap of a couple of metres. Fränk Schleck sits close to the back, no doubt just to be there in case Sastre gets dropped.

15:20 CEST    84km/75km to go
Now, if Sastre loses overall chances because he gets ridden out the group by his 'domestique' that would be a tad ironic.

The peloton is now 34 secs behind. There is still a third group, a couple of minutes behind. Absolutely stunning here. We haven't even hit the high mountains yet!!!

15:23 CEST   
Christophe Moreau is dropped. He was the first attacker of the day, but now it goes a tad too fast for him.

CSC and Caisse are near the front. Chavanel is in the third group, 2'30 down. Maybe his comments today about the racing being a bit lame has inspired some to show him where home is.

15:25 CEST    87km/72km to go
Lampre gets help from Quick Step. That may mean that Devolder is back in that second peloton. Milram is also there. They hit the feed zone. Tense times again. Except for on stage we had a crash in every feed zone so far. With the high speeds at least they are strung out a bit.

15:26 CEST   
The gap is coming down now. 20 secs separate the two groups. Caisse is helping out now, but who can match the moto Cancellara?

15:27 CEST   
A wide road, which makes a left. The second peloton can see the front group very well. It is a desperate chase to get back to the tail end. Just a stunning stage so far.

15:29 CEST    91km/68km to go
The question now is if the gap came down because of the feed zone? It was down to 15 secs, but is back up to 17.

15:30 CEST   
And Caisse has been replaced by Cancellara again. He leans over his machine, resting his under arms over the bar and basically assuming a time trial position.

15:31 CEST   
Some riders are desperately trying to get back into the slipstream of the second group.

The groups are coming back closer together now.

15:31 CEST    93km/66km to go
And there we go, the front group finally took out the juice a bit and the two groups join again.

15:33 CEST   
Immediate counter from Josep Jufré (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d'Epargne)

15:35 CEST   
Well, there is no slowing down today. Next up is the Col d'Entremont, a cat 2.

15:36 CEST   
The jumping continues. A few riders hit the lower slopes and stay to right, as that is the way the road turns. After about a dozen riders there is a small gap, then it is Columbia pulling for Kirchen.

15:37 CEST    96km/63km to go
Christophe Moreau has abandoned the race!

15:38 CEST   
That is the second abandon of the day. Mauro Facci (Quick Step) was the first one to go.

We have 5km to go to the top.

15:39 CEST   
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval-Scott) are taking a flyer.

15:39 CEST   
The gap to the front duo of Sanchez and Jufré is 31 seconds.

15:41 CEST   
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) and Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) are finding it too taxing after the high-speed chase of today. They drop back ion the climb. We still have about four km to go to the top.

Current race situation

  • Josep Jufré (Saunier Duval), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) at 0.16
  • Peloton at 0.33

15:43 CEST   
Trent Lowe (Garmin Chipotle - H30) is looking for some bottles from the car. Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto) the same. The front of the peloton is led still by Columbia.

The Nibali-De La Fuente has joined the front, so we have four leaders. 2.5km to the top. The gap is 37 secs.

15:45 CEST   
The main peloton is already 5'40 behind the leaders and five minutes to the peloton!

The latter is passing a few campers parked on the side of the road.

Burghardt has his jersey unzipped and his face doesn't look like he is currently enjoying the Tour. He has to do a lot of work.

Current race situation

  • Josep Jufré and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas
  • Peloton at 0.43

15:47 CEST   
Schumacher is dropping back to the team car.

The leaders have to go another km to the top.

15:47 CEST    101km/58km to go
Moreau has not crashed, which his DS just confirmed. We will find out later why the Frenchman had to abandon.

15:48 CEST   
David De La Fuente passes ahead of Jufré, Sánchez and Nibali over the top.

15:49 CEST   
The pack approaches the summit, where a lot of fans are waiting. It is fairly windy. The wind comes from the left.

15:51 CEST   
Columbia leads over the first peloton 1'15 behind the four-man break, which is going down the descent at good speed.

The sun is out and the road is *mostly* dry, but there are few wet patches - very dangerous with the high speeds the four enter the tight corners. And of course the same for the peloton.

15:51 CEST   
Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole) and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Columbia) have taken the remaining points.

15:53 CEST    106km/53km to go
Nibali is unwrapping a bar and trying to eat a bit. At the high speeds not that easy, but now the twisty descent is out of the way and he gets a chance to take one hand of his bar (his handle bar, not the sports bar).

15:56 CEST   
Phew, the crazy part seems to be over for now. The break and the peloton settle into a rhythm and the gap goes up to 1'40. Now, if they would have let that break let go at km 1, things may have been less hectic. It is really hard to keep up with the blimp - fortunately we were a bit lucky with the winds today!

15:57 CEST    108km/51km to go
Peter Velits pedals and pedals and nothing happens! His chain broke in full wing! He just about manages to not get hit and swerve over to the right, just ahead of some team cars that came flying by. The one from Milram stops and off he goes with a new bike.

16:00 CEST    110km/49km to go
We have another abandon today, John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale). The pace today was certainly high, and during the Tour some riders are suffering from colds (by the third week there are likely very few healthy riders in the peloton...).

Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole) by the way used the last climb to accelerate away. He is currently one minute behind. Is it a chasse patate???

16:01 CEST   
Seven km to go to the top of Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary), a cat 2 also.

16:03 CEST    111km/48km to go
Burghardt is at the front again. He had previously zipped up the jersey for the descent, but now decides to bring the zipper halfway down again. His shades rest upside down on the front of his helmet. The look on his face is not much happier than earlier. Such is the live of a domestique - they have to suffer earlier, then can 'enjoy' the rest of the stage. For the leaders it is vice versa.

Stuart O'Grady is now having trouble to hang on.

16:05 CEST   
As he road tilts up and the pace does, too, he lets a small gap develop, but keeps his pace. He is quickly back on the back of the bunch.

However, it does look like he is really having trouble now.

16:06 CEST   
Burghardt and Hincapie lead the bunch up the climb, two minutes behind the four leaders.

Current race situation

  • Josep Jufré and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas
  • Christophe Le Mével (Crédit Agricole) at 1.30
  • Peloton at 1.59

16:07 CEST   
So what what is in those feared food bags? Some bottles with sports drinks. That is just for convenience, as the domestiques will often go back to the team cars and grab new bottles. Riders drink half a dozen or a dozen bottles depending on length of stage and how hot it is. Unless you are Floyd Landis of course, in which case you may consume 70 bottles....

As for food, there are the obligatory sports bars and gels. The latter are especially helpful on hot days and when the riders are going all out. They are easily sucked down and digested. Only problem is they do litter and when you are out on a ride consider taking them home and throw them in a trash can.

Many riders will want to eat something better, so they will opt for sandwiches. They are wrapped in aluminium foil to prevent spilling of the previous add-ons, like cheese, bacon or, for those with a sweet tooth, rice pudding or Nutella (a chocolate spread). The latter supposedly was Pantani's favourite!

16:10 CEST   
De La Fuente does most of the work, his team-mate Jufré the least. The others are in-between. The bunch has five to go to the top. Van Summeren is out of the saddle, trying to make it over the top.

Burghardt takes a drink Half of it goes right back out and spills down his chin. It is hard to drink when you are riding all out!!!

16:11 CEST   
Four to go to the top for the break. Sánchez lifts his arm. He wants something from his team car.

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has also shot out out of the group and is trying to catch the front.

Peter Velits (Team Milram) turns around and checks for the team car. Hopefully his bike is OK now!

16:14 CEST    116km/43km to go
There are clouds rolling over the mountains ahead of the riders. Astarloza is trying to get to the front, but he is still a good minute behind. It will be hard for the Spaniard.

16:15 CEST   
There is a wide rolling meadow, and we are happy to report it is occupied but lots of happy cows. The side of the road is occupied by loads of happy campers - well, the fans are happy anyway.

16:16 CEST   
Le Mevel is back in the bunch, but Astarloza is still out there, now less than a minute behind.

16:17 CEST   
He takes the switchback to the right in the centre of the narrow road. It is very green here. If the fog never lifts, that would not be surprising!

16:18 CEST    117km/42km to go
The bunch takes the same sharp right, with many fans cheering on the riders.

Astarloza passes the 1km to the top sign.

16:19 CEST   
Cancellara has dropped off the back, paying for his work earlier. Ciolek as well.

16:19 CEST   
The bunch breaks up, but with only one km to go they will get back on the descent.

16:20 CEST   
De La Fuente leads the break. They are close to the top.

16:21 CEST   
It is very foggy up here. Visibility less than 100m!

De La Fuente, Jufré, Sanchez, Nibali - the same order as the last time. They don't sprint for the points.

The Chavanel group is nine minutes back!

16:21 CEST    118km/41km to go
Astarloza passes the top 49 secs behind the leaders.

16:24 CEST   
Kanstantsin Siutsou (Columbia) led the chasers over 1'20 behind the leaders. He got the final points. The Cancellara group is about 40 secs behind the main bunch.

16:24 CEST   
Our reporter on the ground, Brecht Decaluwé, caught up with Garmin director Jonathan Vaughters this morning before the start in Brioude. The American was impressed with Christian Vande Velde's performance in the stage yesterday, while regretting that their bid for the yellow jersey did not unfold to plan.

"We did not quite get the yellow jersey but we gave it a shot," he said. "We were impressed with the performance. Christian always rides conservative and it was nice to see him go on the attack. We told him to take the opportunity if it is there. We did not say 'you have to' but we said 'if you feel the moment.'

"It is really too bad that others were attacking - Euskaltel, I don't know what they were doing. Christian might have had a chance if it was just Colombia and Gerolsteiner behind, but there were a lot of other teams that were trying to play into the mix.

"In these two stages, now that we have a bunch of guys off the GC, it will be more aggressive. Christian has to stay pretty quiet and wait for the mountains. They way he is climbing I think he will be a bigger surprise than many think."

16:25 CEST    121km/38km to go
The descent looks a bit neck breaking there. We aren't so much concerned about the front four, they look fine. But the TV moto looks a bit wobbly...

16:26 CEST   
Fortunately on this side of the mountain the visibility is much better, even if there is still a hint of fog.

16:26 CEST   
De La Fuente has moved within three points of Chavanel in the mountains classification.

16:28 CEST    124km/35km to go
If he doesn't crash first. He comes close in a left hand bend. The road is wet and he breaks going into the turn!

His rear wheel slides like crazy, but he regain control before he takes a dive down the ravine on the right.

16:29 CEST   
But he loses contact with the group. His team-mate will wait if necessary, but for now De La Fuente looks vulnerable.

16:29 CEST   
The descent is in a forested part and only parts of the road were able to dry off. Really dangerous conditions.

16:30 CEST   
Van Summeren crashes in the treacherous conditions. He shakes his head, but he seems OK.

16:31 CEST   
Yep, the Belgian is back riding, but looks a bit annoyed.

16:31 CEST   
De La Fuente needs to get back to the front before the cat 3 Côte de Saint-Jean-de-Donne. If he wins it (4 pts) he will get polka dot!

16:32 CEST   
Sanchez and Nibali are not waiting and Jufré is sitting on. Should he wait for his captain? The DS will need to make the call.

16:33 CEST    129km/30km to go
The three leaders pass Mandailles. The number of people out on the side of the roads seem more than in recent years.

16:33 CEST   
Our Tour Lexicon explains some of the important French words being used. Although, as our reader Jay pointed it doesn't contain the term "chasse patate." That refers to a rider who is in the unfortunate position of being in-between groups, possibly not making much progress towards the front, but strong enough to stay ahead of the group behind.

This is a bad situation, as the chaser will lose a lot of energy, while not making any real progress.

The word patate can mean a sweet potato or idiot. Take your pick...

16:34 CEST   
Is Astarloza on a chasse patate? And what about De La Fuente - he was brought in a bad situation because of his wobbly descending.

16:35 CEST   
But De La Fuente has turned on the gas and is back up with the front! Good chances for him now to get the polka dot.

16:36 CEST    131km/28km to go
Astarloza is still 42 secs behind, with the first peloton at 1'23.

16:41 CEST   
The break goes down a descent at full speed. Everybody is taking their turns, with the weather holding up. It is overcast, but dry. For now.

Current race situation

  • Josep Jufré and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas
  • Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) at 0.59
  • Peloton at 1.19
  • Gruppetto including Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) at 12.30

16:44 CEST   
The Chavanel group is over 12'30 behind. It contains also am lot of the sprinters, which will now be trying to survive.

Robbie McEwen told Cyclingnews that his "next chance may not come until Paris. But I have no regrets of being at the Tour."

16:46 CEST    139km/20km to go
The break hits the 20km to go marker. They still have a good minute on the chasers. It will be touch and go, after all this is not a sprinters' stage.

16:48 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé also talked to Silence-Lotto team director Herman Frison this morning. Frison was worried about Gerolsteiner losing the yellow jersey yesterday - he didn't think Columbia would be working that much, to save strength for their sprinter Mark Cavendish. He was worried that Silence would have to pitch in.

But Frison needn't worry anymore, since Columbia has done most of the chasing..

16:48 CEST   
Astarloza is caught by the bunch.

16:49 CEST   
Which is why now Euskaltel hits the front. They want to get still get a stage win or something out of this Tour.

16:51 CEST    144km/15km to go
Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto), Fabian Cancellara (CSC-Saxo Bank), Stuart O'Grady (CSC-Saxo Bank), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale), George Hincapie (Columbia) are some of those riders behind in the second group. They are 3'30 behind the leaders.

16:52 CEST   
We are a few kilometres off the final climb of the day. Laurent Fignon has tested it this m morning and found it difficult. But it also may be a lack of training. It is a cat 3, though, and the battle for the polka dot will sure be interesting!

16:53 CEST    146km/13km to go
But only 48 secs now, the break may get caught. With the top at km 9 to go, maybe De La Fuente can hang on. It will be close, though.

16:54 CEST   
Euskaltel doesn't want to let the other two Spanish teams on the front steal the show!

16:55 CEST   
11 to go, the leaders pass Saint-Simon. The climb will start soon.

16:56 CEST   
The gap is now at 40 secs. The sprint is taken in passing by. Jufré, De La Fuente and Nibali.

16:57 CEST   
The CSC led bunch comes to the sprint line 33 secs later.

16:57 CEST   
The final climb of the stage is a 1.7km rise at an average gradient of 9.9 percent.

16:57 CEST    149km/10km to go
De La Fuente dances on his pedals, while Jufré hangs on for dear life.

16:58 CEST   
One more km to the top. Nibali takes a pull, while Sanchez prefers to sit on. Jufré fights.
Voigt drops off the bunch after working hard up until the beginning of the climb.

16:58 CEST   
Attack by Schumacher!!!

16:59 CEST   
Pereiro is with him, but not Kirchen!

16:59 CEST   
A Liquigas is catching up. Is it Kreuziger?

17:00 CEST   
Schumi has 16secs in the overall. If he finds a good group, he can maybe get yellow back!

17:00 CEST   
De La Fuente goes off the front!

17:01 CEST   
He storms to the polka dot, while Chavanel can't stop him, being a quarter of an hour behind!

17:01 CEST    150km/9km to go
Pereiro attacks again, Schumacher can't follow.

17:02 CEST   
The bunch passes the top and Kirchen is only some 20m behind Schumacher.

17:02 CEST   
De La Fuente goes all out, trying to score the stage win also.

17:03 CEST   
All the favourites are now together, with the former breakaway riders all being caught, except for De La Fuente.

17:03 CEST    151.5km/7.5km to go
De La Fuente realises that it is to no avail and sits up, too. Groupe complet!

17:04 CEST   
The front group has split over the top, though. Zabel and Riccò may have been left behind.

Cunego is there, so he may get the victory today.

17:06 CEST    155km/4km to go
Samuel Sanchez, Evans, Kreuziger, Devolder, Valjavec, Kohl, Schumacher, Valverde to name a few. It looks like all the overall contenders are in the favourite's group.

17:06 CEST   
Luis Leon Sanchez attacks again!

17:07 CEST    155.5km/3.5km to go
He wants to get a win desperately. Even though he was in the break a long time.

17:07 CEST   
He passes the town Aurillac

17:08 CEST    156km/3km to go
He goes with an incredible speed through the town, taking the roundabouts at full risk. So do the chasers.

17:08 CEST    157km/2km to go
He has 15 secs, more or less. Kreuziger leads the charge.

17:09 CEST   
He knows how to win in these conditions, he has done it before. The barriers have started.

17:09 CEST   
They are necessary, as the crowd is going wild.

17:09 CEST   
Two Liquigas lead the charge,, with a Caisse in third and protecting the lead.

17:10 CEST   
Sanchez passes the flamme rouge!

17:10 CEST   
It may be enough, he still has a good gap.

17:10 CEST   
He garbs the bar over the brake levers. The chasers can see him, he is maybe 100m behind

17:11 CEST   
Sanchez turns around. Will it be enough???

17:11 CEST   
He fights against the wind.

17:12 CEST   
And Sanchez makes it!!!! He rolls across the line with his arms raised, the head tilted slightly backwards, enjoying the moment.

17:13 CEST   
The group sprints home for second. Schumacher takes the sprint. A Liquigas in third, probably Kreuziger. Then Valverde and Kirchen.

17:13 CEST   
Hushovd leads in a group 33 secs later.

17:15 CEST   
It was Pozzato in third.

17:18 CEST   
Vande Velde finished ninth in the hectic finale. Andy Schleck in tenth.

The top four remain the same in the GC, but some riders have lost time.

17:26 CEST   
That was a great win by Luis Leon Sanchez! Today's stage was active early and certainly a great stage!

Tomorrow we could see something similar, with terrain being up and down until the peloton hits Toulouse.

Thanks for joining us today and see you back tomorrow!

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