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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 16 - Tuesday, July 19: Mourenx - Pau, 180.5 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and Hedwig Kröner

Live report

Live coverage starts: 12:10 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Stage 16 profile
Click for stage map

12:13 CEST   
Welcome one and all back to Cyclingnews.com's hot air driven coverage of the 92nd Tour de France, which is now entering its final week. As usual, the race for the general classification has been sorted out in the Alps and the Pyrenees with some very tough stages last week, and coming into today's 16th stage from Mourenx to Pau, Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) is securely in the yellow jersey, with a 2'46 buffer to Ivan Basso (CSC), and 3'09 to Danish climber Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Armstrong once again showed his strength in the mountains and looks to be unbeatable in an unprecedented seventh consecutive Tour de France victory.

Today's stage is another mountain stage, and does contain the tough climb of the Col d'Aubisque, but its distance from the finish means that it's unlikely that a major GC player like Basso or Rasmussen could get away and hold off Armstrong and his team for the last 72 km.

The climbs on offer today:

Col d'Ichère (km 50.5, Cat. 3, 4.4 km climb at 6.2 %)
Col de Marie-Blanque (km 70.5, Cat. 1, 9.3 km climb at 7.7 %)
Col d'Aubisque (km 108.5, HC, 16.5 km climb at 7 %)
Côte de Pardiès-Piétat (km 161, Cat. 4, 2.6 km climb at 5.2 %)

The sprints are at Bidos (km 27.0) and Arthez-d'Asson (km 140.5).

The stage starts with a 3.7 km neutral section before the start proper at 12:20. Weather today: cloudy but the sun is starting to come through, and it should be a moderately warm day with temperatures in the upper 20s.

Robbie McEwen
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Click for larger image

12:20 CEST   
The Australian riders at the start today are wearing black armbands in memory of the tragic accident that happened yesterday in Germany involving the Australian national women's team. In summary, one rider (Amy Gillett) died and five others were badly injured when a car driven by a 18 year-old German girl lost control, veered onto the wrong side of the road, and hit the riders head on as they were reconnoitring the parcours of the prologue of the Thüringen Rundfahrt. The prologue, scheduled for today, will be cancelled and a service of commemoration will be held instead at 5:30pm on Tuesday in Zeulenroda's market place.

Also see: Tributes to Amy Gillett.

12:25 CEST    4km/176.5km to go
The flag drops at 12:19 and straight away, the attacks start. Alex Moos (Phonak) and Salvatore Commesso (Lampre) jump clear, and are being chased by Luke Roberts (CSC), Angel Vicioso (Liberty), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), and Patrik Sinkewitz (Quick.Step).

12:28 CEST    7km/173.5km to go
The two groups merge and are caught by more riders, including Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Kashechkin, Zandio, Righi, Martinez, Zberg, and Turpin.

12:29 CEST   
Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi) and Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre-Caffita) did not start today.

12:31 CEST    9km/171.5km to go
The Popovych group comes back. Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) is already in trouble.

12:37 CEST    13km/167.5km to go
Karpets was dropped because he crashed in the neutral zone. Santi Botero was also back there, but both are back on.

Another crash has taken down Andreas Klöden, but he is also back in the peloton. Thor Hushovd, and Alexandre Vinokourov have to chase to get back on too - not sure if they were involved in the crash or now. Nervous racing so far.

12:40 CEST    16km/164.5km to go
Levi Leipheimer also appears to be in trouble at the back of the peloton. It's been a tough start after the rest day.

12:46 CEST    22km/158.5km to go
Vinokourov, Hushovd and Leipheimer are still chasing the peloton, which is only 5 km from the first sprint at km 27.

A group of seven riders attacks, with Julich, Flecha, Serrano, Canada, Pellizotti, Fedrigo, and Goubert.

12:47 CEST    23km/157.5km to go
Iñaki Isasi, Xabier Zandio, Seb Joly, and Maxim Iglinsky are trying to get up to the seven leaders. They almost do, but the peloton gobbles everyone up again.

Vino, Hushovd, and Leipheimer are back with the peloton.

12:53 CEST    27km/153.5km to go
Zandio (Illes Balears), Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), and Pineau (Bouygues) have attacked again, shortly before the first sprint at Bidos. But they have been caught again.

12:56 CEST    29km/151.5km to go
Julich, Flecha, Goubert, Serrano, Contador, and Canada are continuing to exert pressure on the peloton, and have a small gap at the 29 km mark.

12:58 CEST    31km/149.5km to go
Flecha survives, and is caught by more riders, and we have a group of 11 clear after 31 km: Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone), Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance).

13:02 CEST    33km/147.5km to go
This 11 man group is the most serious breakaway of the day, and currently holds a 45 second lead over the peloton.

Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Ludovic Turpin and Juan Antonio Flecha.

13:03 CEST    37km/143.5km to go
The break now has 2'16 and looks like to be it for the day. Armstrong looks happy in the peloton, behind his Discovery Channel teammates.

13:07 CEST    40km/140.5km to go
Of the breakaways, Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) is the best placed rider on GC, starting the day 12'57 behind Armstrong in 11th place. That's not too dangerous for Discovery. Also, there are no riders who threaten Rasmussen's polka dot jersey, Hushovd's green jersey, or Popovych's white jersey, so this break might be allowed to go all the way.

It's 2'59 now as Noval and Padrnos lead the bunch.

13:09 CEST    39.5km/141km to go
Popovych, in the maillot blanc of best young rider, comes up to give his teammates bidons at the front of the peloton.

13:13 CEST    45km/135.5km to go
The break knows it has a good chance, and all riders are contributing to the workload it looks like. Evans is the best climber here, and he also has one of the best sprinters in the race in Fred Rodriguez with him. But that doesn't mean that Davitamon-Lotto will end up with the stage win today - the other riders will be well aware of these two facts.

It's fairly quiet on the sides of the road in the early part of the stage, as the bunch rolls along in the sunshine through a green, wooded valley.

13:21 CEST    48km/132.5km to go
The breakaways tackle the first climb of the day, the Col d'Ichère (Cat. 3, 4.4 km climb at 6.2 %). Everyone is concentrating on doing their job, keeping the momentum going.

13:23 CEST    49km/131.5km to go
Marcos Serrano attacks the peloton - he'll need to bridge a 5 minute gap on his own, or maybe he has other plans.

Santi Botero is last wheel in the bunch, suffering a bit.

13:27 CEST    50km/130.5km to go
Serrano is now chasing the break, 4'50 behind, as the peloton sits at 5'24. Botero and Kroon are still in trouble on this short climb.

13:29 CEST    51km/129.5km to go
The points on the Ichère are taken out by Jerome Pineau from Jörg Ludewig and Chris Horner.

Botero is yo-yoing off the back of the bunch, along with Brad McGee. Sevilla is also back here, but just looking for his team car.

Philippe Gilbert
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Click for larger image

13:31 CEST    53km/127.5km to go
Serrano is riding really well, and is now 3'48 behind the breakaways. For a lone rider to chase down a 5 minute gap to 13 others is a big ask! The peloton doesn't seem too bothered, as it keeps the gap to the break at a manageable 5'10.

13:34 CEST    54km/126.5km to go
Robert Forster is now in trouble as the peloton crests the top of the Ichère, 5'16 behind the break. Botero, McGee, and Kroon have all survived.

Last night we spoke to Chris Horner (Saunier Duval), who told us, "Yeah I'm going to take it easy in the next couple of days because I think some of the stages at the end of the week on Thursday or Friday suit me. But if a break presents itself, I'll go in it."

13:42 CEST    60km/120.5km to go
Serrano takes the descent of the Ichère like someone who knows it well. He trails the break by about 3'20. Serrano will have a hard time on the flat now, as the break will be much more efficient. The peloton drops back to 5'44.

Xabier Zandio has a chat to one of the race doctors, but he looks OK.

13:43 CEST    61km/119.5km to go
The break hits the second climb of the day, the Cat. 1 Col de Marie-Blanque (km 70.5, 9.3 km at 7.7 %). Evans leads at the foot of the climb.

13:48 CEST    64km/116.5km to go
Serrano gets to the Marie Blanc about 3'30 behind the 11 breakaways, who are again:

Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Cadel Evans and Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone), Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros).

13:50 CEST    65km/115.5km to go
Daniel Becke (Illes Balears), 151st on GC at 3.16.09, has a slight mishap near the foot of the Marie Blanc. He's back on his bike again now, chasing the Discovery led peloton, which has given the breakaways 6'14.

13:58 CEST    67km/113.5km to go
There has been an attack on the Marie Blanc by Pereiro, Vinokourov, Leipheimer, and Kashechkin! Sastre is going across to them.

14:00 CEST    68km/112.5km to go
Sastre goes back to the peloton and Kashechkin actually stops, rides across the road in front of the peloton and heads back down the mountain. How bizarre is that?!?

He has a bleeding nose after being hit by a fan. He's with the race doctor.

14:03 CEST   
Pereiro and Vinokourov ride away from Leipheimer, and Vino has problems following Pereiro on a tough section of the climb.

Kashechkin is now getting his nose seen to by the doctor. He got hit in the face by a fan waving something they got from the caravan.

Mazzoleni and Basso get to the front of the peloton, with Leipheimer getting on their wheels.

14:03 CEST    68km/112.5km to go
Armstrong has to chase Mazzoleni and Basso, as Mancebo is also there. They'll get Pereiro and Vino, it looks like. This has reduced the peloton to about 30 riders, very strung out.

14:06 CEST    69.5km/111km to go
Vino comes back to the Armstrong group, where Hincapie gets to the front and sets a steady tempo. Ullrich is up there, and Leipheimer, Landis, Mancebo...al the top 10.

The leaders are 1.7 km from the summit of this very steep climb. Serrano chases at 4'00.

Pereiro is now back with the bunch, waiting for Landis probably. He's setting some sort of a tempo.

Guerini and Klöden are chasing back on, while Savoldelli(?) and Popovych are a bit further back. Then Zubeldia even further. Quelle damage.

14:09 CEST   
Pereiro keeps attacking the yellow jersey group, which has Armstrong, Hincapie (Discovery), Basso (CSC), Contador (Liberty), Mancebo (Illes Balears), Ullrich (T-Mobile), Rasmussen (Rabobank), Landis (Phonak), Mazzoleni (Liberty), Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Pereiro (Phonak), and Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner). Jaksche seems to be dropped.

14:11 CEST   
Moreau has dropped off too, and will have a hard time defending his 9th place on GC today. This has been a difficult stage so far.

Pereiro has one km to go to the summit, as Guerini and Klöden make it onto the Armstrong group.

Boogerd, Popovych, and Vinokourov are dropped.

14:12 CEST    71km/109.5km to go
Ludewig and Geslin lead the break over the Marie Blanc, in that order. Then Zandio, Gilbert, Evans, Turpin, Vasseur, and Horner. Rodriguez has been dropped from the break though.

14:14 CEST   
Serrano crosses the summit 1'32 behind the break. Pereiro will be next, then Mazzoleni, who is nearly on the Phonak rider's wheel. They cross at 2'50.

14:15 CEST    73km/107.5km to go
The Armstrong group comes over at 3'16, having carved three minutes off the lead of the break in 10 km. The group has:

Armstrong, Hincapie (Discovery), Basso (CSC), Mancebo (Illes Balears), Heras(!) (Liberty), Ullrich, Klöden, Guerini (T-Mobile), Rasmussen (Rabobank), Landis (Phonak), and Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).

14:18 CEST   
And in some non-Tour news Czech rider Ondrej Sosenka has unofficially broken Chris Boardman's hour record in Moscow, riding approximately 49.72 km, beating Boardman's mark by 300m or so.

Rodriguez has rejoined the break in front.

14:21 CEST    78km/102.5km to go
Landis and Armstrong are talking to reach other now, maybe about Pereiro. Their group has been caught by Popovych and Vinokourov on the descent, and maybe another 15 riders.

14:24 CEST    80km/100.5km to go
The breakaways reach the feed zone as the yellow jersey group reforms about 3'40 behind.

Mazzoleni and Pereiro are at 2'40, while Serrano is at 1'32 behind the 11 man break.

14:26 CEST    81km/99.5km to go
Cyclingnews talked to breakaway man Juan Antonio Flecha this morning, who had his mind focussed on an early break attempt already. "I feel good, normal. The rest day was okay, I did 90 kms and I'm motivated. Anything can happen in these stages. A break is surely going to get through today - we saw that last Sunday the break started early, and today the same will happen. A lot of riders are going to try today, and nobody's got the legs anymore to chase down the break anymore."

Do you have the legs to do it today, we asked the Spaniard, who confirmed that he was in contract negotiations with the Dutch Rabobank team for next season. "I hope I have the chance! But tomorrow or Friday could also be stages for me. But I want to be there today as well, cause there are not so many options anymore," he said.

14:31 CEST    87km/93.5km to go
The yellow jersey passes through the feed zone in Bielle with a 4'22 deficit to the 11 breakaways. Thus the situation on the road is that we have a break of 11 with:

Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Cadel Evans and Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone), Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance)

Then Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros) chasing alone at 1'29, then Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), and Eddy Mazzoleni (Lampre) at 2'23, then the yellow jersey bunch at 4'22.

14:36 CEST    90.5km/90km to go
Kashechkin (Credit Agricole) has made it back to the bunch, as has his teammate Hushovd, and O'Grady (Cofidis). There are maybe 60 riders now as Padrnos gets to the front and sets a very steady pace. No doubt it will pick up again on the Aubisque.

Discovery Channel - surprisingly, given its riders - hasn't been strong as the US Postal team of last year, which was able to ride on the front all day in a Pyrenean stage and blow everyone off its wheels, save for Armstrong, Azevedo, Basso and Klöden. This year, it's been the other teams mainly doing the damage to the peloton. But now it seems that the other teams will wait until the Aubisque to try to cause some damage. The bunch is back to 6'00.

The leaders are halfway to Pau now, as Turpin has a puncture.

14:38 CEST   
Turpin gets a wheel finally, right at the foot of the Aubisque. He's on his way again.

The Col d'Aubisque is the Tour's last Hors Categorie climb, 16.5 km climb at 7 %. Not easy at all.

Rodriguez is dropped immediately.

14:41 CEST    93km/87.5km to go
Turpin rejoins the break as Rodriguez sits up and toddles up the Aubisque at his own pace.

Mazzoleni and the always aggressive Pereiro are now at the foot of the climb. They'll catch Serrano, who is waiting.

14:42 CEST   
Serrano accelerates to join Pereiro and Mazzoleni, who are 2'18 behind the 10 + 1 leaders.

Now the Padrnos-led peloton is starting the climb, 6'58 behind. That's good for Evans, who might ride into a top 10 on GC today, or possibly a stage win.

14:45 CEST    96km/84.5km to go
The breakaways take turns on the climb, knowing that they have a real chance of staying away today. The pace isn't too hot at the moment.

14:46 CEST   
And on cue in the peloton, Alexandre Vinokourov attacks! The T-Mobile rider has a gap now.

14:47 CEST   
Vinokourov is amazing. He's like an energizer bunny. His attack is most likely to set up something for T-Mobile later on on the climb, maybe with Ullrich getting up to him.

14:51 CEST    98km/82.5km to go
Pereiro's group catch and pass Rodriguez.

Kashechkin and an Illes Balears rider go in pursuit of Vinokourov. The Illes Balears rider can't do much work though.

14:55 CEST    99km/81.5km to go
Vino is now 1'12 ahead of the peloton, and 30 seconds ahead of Kashechkin and Arroyo. He's six minutes behind the break though.

14:57 CEST   
Roberto Heras attacks the Armstrong group, catching Arroyo and Kashechkin in double quick time.

14:59 CEST   
Steinhauser is the next rider to attack the Armstrong group. Aha, the T-Mobile set piece is coming into play. Klöden and Julich also attack.

15:02 CEST    101km/79.5km to go
For T-Mobile, we have Vinokourov about a minute ahead of the Armstrong group, then Steinhauser. Klöden and Julich have been caught by the Armstrong group, which is splitting. Sastre attacks it.

Pereiro, Mazzoleni, and Serrano are just 50 seconds from the breakaways. Maybe Pereiro can win the points on the Aubisque?

Heras has dropped Kashechkin and Arroyo.

Evans attacks the lead group!

15:03 CEST   
Evans has put in a gigantic attack on the Col d'Aubisque, with 7 km to climb. No-one can follow him.

Sastre has caught Steinhauser, who gets on his wheel but looks like blowing a gasket soon.

15:05 CEST    102km/78.5km to go
Sastre rides away from Steinhauser now. The peloton is still fairly together, with Armstrong enjoying the company of four or five teammates - that's better for him. Ullrich has to attack though.

Evans powers away from the rest of the break, where Zandio and Flecha are chasing him.

15:07 CEST   
Klöden now lifts the pace in the Armstrong group with Ullrich on his wheel. They catch Steinhauser. Now Armstrong just has one teammate. Basso is there, as is Rasmussen. Leipheimer and Mancebo as well.

Vino is 4'07 behind Evans, with the peloton at 5'14.

15:08 CEST    103km/77.5km to go
It's now just Armstrong, Basso, Landis, Rasmussen, Ullrich, Hincapie, Leipheimer, and Mancebo left in the maillot jaune group. We have a real race on our hands on this climb. Good to see!

15:10 CEST   
Sastre is caught and Ullrich counters! Basso is there, then Armstrong and Rasmussen join on. Landis, Leipheimer and Mancebo work to close the gap.

15:10 CEST    104km/76.5km to go
The yellow jersey group has caught Kashechkin. Leipheimer, Landis and Mancebo are slowly getting back on.

15:11 CEST   
Rodriguez has now been caught by the Armstrong group, which has dropped Hincapie.

15:13 CEST   

15:13 CEST   
Evans has 25 seconds on the chasing Zandio and Flecha, with the rest of the break at 50 seconds, Pereiro, Serrano and Mazzoleni at 1'35, then Vinokourov and Heras at 4'00. Then the Armstrong group at 5'00.

15:15 CEST    105km/75.5km to go
Armstrong's group has Landis, Rasmussen, Ullrich, Basso, Sastre, Leipheimer, Mancebo, and Kashechkin in it. Hincapie is coming back to it.

Evans is 3.5 km from the top of the climb.

It looks like Vino and Heras will be caught by the Armstrong group soon.

15:16 CEST   
Sastre sets the pace for Basso in the Armstrong group, which is picking up Vino and Heras, now just 16 seconds behind them.

15:17 CEST   
Evans looks very determined as he nears the summit, pedaling hard, but not smooth.

15:23 CEST    107km/73.5km to go
Vino and Heras are chased by the pitchfork waving Didi "Devil" Senft, trying to stay ahead of the Armstrong group. They are 4'40 behind the leader.

Meanwhile, Evans looks full of determination as he gets to within less than 2 km to the summit of the Aubisque.

Zandio is now 25 seconds behind Evans, then Flecha at 1'00, then Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), at Eddy Mazzoleni (Lampre) 1'25.

Then Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone), Anthony Geslin, Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance) at about 2'00.

The Armstrong group is still at 5'05.

15:24 CEST   
Ullrich attacks again, but Rasmussen is right there. And Armstrong and Basso. The others are immediately gapped.

15:25 CEST   
Ullrich's group catches Vino and Heras - that was probably planned, as Vino now makes the tempo for Ullrich.

Hincapie is dropped from the Armstrong group, as Leipheimer, Landis and Mancebo try to cling on. Mancebo has problems.

15:26 CEST    108km/72.5km to go
Now Armstrong himself gets to the front for the first time today.

Evans reaches the summit of the Col d'Aubisque. Now 72 km of tough riding to come for him...

15:29 CEST    112km/68.5km to go
Pereiro will take second on the climb at 47 seconds, then Mazzoleni and Zandio at 1'00, then it looks like Serrano at 1'14, then a rather pained Ludewig at 1'33. Then Gilbert and Flecha at 2'24. Then Pineau, Geslin, and Turpin at 2'40.

Vino attacks the Armstrong group again. But Armstrong drives the pace up and he comes back. Armstrong looks back to see where Hincapie is, but he isn't. Mancebo should get back onto the Armstrong group.

15:30 CEST    114km/66.5km to go
Horner is caught by the Armstrong group at the top. Rasmussen takes whatever points are left at 4'13.

Klöden, Hincapie, Kashechkin and Sastre are chasing to get back to Armstrong and co.

15:31 CEST   
Hincapie's quartet comes over at 5'07. Rubiera is just behind them too, and Popovych is at 5'30. That will help Armstrong if they can get back.

15:32 CEST    115km/65.5km to go
Jaksche and Garzelli lead over a group with Azevedo in it at 5'40, then Moreau, Sevilla and Boogerd at 5'50.

Meanwhile, back in front, Evans is still solo on the Aubisque descent, ready to hit the Soulor soon.

15:37 CEST    117km/63.5km to go
Armstrong now leads on the first part of the descent, at a steady pace, hopefully to allow Hincapie to get back on. Leipheimer is next to him.

Bits and pieces of the peloton are coming over the climb now - a group with O'Grady and Rogers in it at 8'30.

Evans has a chain problem, but he's going again and on the Col du Soulor, which is a non-categorised climb.

Hincapie is now back with Armstrong's group. Also Klöden, Kashechkin and Sastre are there.

15:38 CEST   
More riders are getting back to the Armstrong group, including Popovych, and Rubiera. No doubt Azevedo will get there too. For Armstrong, that's the advantage of having this climb 70 km from the finish. His team - which has been doing a hell of a lot of work - can regroup.

15:40 CEST    118km/62.5km to go
Evans gets to the top of the Soulor, cheered on by big crowds. Pereiro is still chasing him, in search of a stage win that he thought was denied him when Hincapie won on Sunday.

Rubiera now leads the Armstrong group.

Voeckler comes to the top of the Aubisque, looking very very tired at 14'30.

15:43 CEST    120km/60.5km to go
The sprinters bus comes over at 15'00. O'Grady might be able to pick up some points today if he can get back to the growing Armstrong group. Garzelli, Moreau, Iglinskiy, Azevedo and Guerini are back there. Klöden sets the pace, probably afraid that Evans can jump into fourth overall ahead of Ullrich (he'll need 7 minutes at the finish though...)

Evans now takes the descent of the Soulor on his own, as Pereiro closes in on him. It's not easy. They have about 5'30 on the Armstrong group.

15:44 CEST   
Pereiro catches and passes Evans, nearly taking him out. Now the Spaniard opens up some time on the Australian.

15:45 CEST   
Mazzoleni has also caught Evans.

15:49 CEST    128km/52.5km to go
Pereiro has stopped, maybe for a puncture or a broken wheel?

Evans and Mazzoleni don't wait for him. No way!

Klöden leads the bunch on the descent. He's quite good on the downhills.

15:52 CEST    130.5km/50km to go
Klöden is descending very well, having to slow down a bit because he's dropped the group.

Pereiro and Zandio are now closing in on Evans and Mazzoleni. Four leaders.

15:53 CEST   
Pereiro and Zandio are back on so there are: Cadel Evans (Daviatmon-Lotto), Eddy Mazzoleni (Lampre), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) and Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne) with a 5'39 lead over the peloton.

The other riders in between:

Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros) 1'14
Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze) 1'33
Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) 2'24
Anthony Geslin, Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance),Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) at 2'40

15:59 CEST    136km/44.5km to go
The four leaders are riding together now, which means that Pereiro and Zandio's respective team leaders aren't too concerned about Evans taking their GC positions.

At 1'30, we have Ludewig and Serrano, and at 2'30, we have Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance), Anthony Geslin, Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), and Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis).

Armstrong's group continues to grow, but it's 6'24 behind the break. Evans is in a virtual 5th overall that means.

16:00 CEST   
Horner signals for his team car - he needs a new front wheel after breaking a spoke.

16:00 CEST   
Cyclingnews caught up with Cofidis' Stuart O'Grady this morning, who, like his fellow Australian riders at the Tour de France, was sporting a black armband as a mark of respect: "I'm sure all their families and everyone will want us to keep going, and it's a sign of our support as well to keep on racing," he said.

Speaking about the points competition, the South Australian made his intentions known by saying he doesn't care if he doesn't get to wear the maillot vert until the final podium in Paris - so long as he wins overall. "I don't want to wear it and ride around in it - I actually want to win the competition. I've worn it once on the Champs Elysées - been there, done that - this time I prefer to win it.

16:02 CEST    139km/41.5km to go
Serrano and Ludewig are now 1'50 behind the four leaders, and will get caught by the bigger group behind them. No more climbing now, save for the Cat. 4 Côte de Pardiès-Piétat with 20 km to go.

16:06 CEST    141km/39.5km to go
Evans goes for the second sprint in Arthez-d'Asson but Pereiro wants it more and takes it. Zandio third, then Mazzoleni. Pereiro is probably trying to protect Landis on GC.

16:08 CEST    143.5km/37km to go
Gerolsteiner, Rabobank, and T-Mobile are now riding on the front of the Armstrong group, which is falling further behind the Evans inspired breakaway.

16:12 CEST    147.5km/33km to go
O'Grady doesn't seem to have made it back to the peloton, which means no points for him today. The chase is on, led by Rabobank, T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner. The leaders have 1'43 on Serrano and Ludewig, and 2'30 on a group with Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Anthony Geslin, Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r-Prevoyance),Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), and Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis), and 6'46 on the peloton.

16:13 CEST   
The peloton is now fairly large, and Armstrong has five teammates with him again - Popovych, Azevedo, Hincapie, Rubiera, Savoldelli are all there.

16:15 CEST    148.5km/32km to go
Kashechkin is getting more attention from the race doctor. He's obviously breathing OK again after he was accidentally hit by a spectator in the nose.

Serrano has sat up and will be caught by the group behind.

16:17 CEST    150.5km/30km to go
Ludewig is also caught by the Gilbert group, which numbers eight. It's 2'15 behind the four leaders, who have some 30 km to go to the finish in Pau.

16:21 CEST    152.5km/28km to go
Pereiro is being given encouragement and food by the Phonak team car. He's certainly working, and is definitely looking for revenge after missing out on a stage win the other day.

Cadel Evans has his own ideas, as he would probably like to win a stage to dedicate to the deceased Australian rider Amy Gillett. He will move himself up into the top 10 on GC, in any case.

The peloton is at 6'00, the chase group at 2'10.

16:22 CEST    155.5km/25km to go
In the peloton, it's Pieter Weening, Tobias Steinhauser and Pietro Caucchioli working. They've pegged the gap back to 5'51 as the four leaders reach 25 km to go.

16:23 CEST    156.5km/24km to go
Zandio is not doing much work, and neither are Mazzoleni and Pereiro. Evans has to do the most, as he's riding for GC as well as the stage win.

16:28 CEST    158.5km/22km to go
The peloton goes under 25 km at 5'00 behind the breakaways. The eight man group is at 1'50.

16:29 CEST    160.5km/20km to go
The breakaways hit the final climb of the day, the Cat. 4 Côte de Pardiès-Piétat, a 2.6 km climb at 5.2%. They all appear to be cooperating, with Evans doing a lot of work in front.

16:31 CEST   
The Gilbert group is on the climb, suffering a bit as it's been a long day. They are at 1'47, while the peloton follows at 4'47.

It looks like Evans will finish with roughly 3'00 on the peloton, which will move him into 9th overall. Depends a bit on bonus seconds et al.

16:33 CEST    161km/19.5km to go
Pereiro takes over and forces the pace, taking the points at the summit of the climb ahead of Evans and Zandio, and keeping his polka dot chances theoretically alive.

16:34 CEST   
Gilbert attacks the chase group, as Flecha goes with him. A little pointless, as they're not going to catch the leaders. Now Ludewig goes after Flecha. Gilbert goes over the summit, 1'44 behind the break. then Ludewig and Flecha at 1'50.

The peloton is at 4'34.

16:37 CEST    164km/16.5km to go
Philippe Gilbert is now alone, chasing the leaders in fifth place on the road. The peloton is at the top of the climb, riding fairly hard. Wegmann leads it over at 4'30.

16:38 CEST    165.5km/15km to go
Evans leads the break over another small climb, with Pereiro marking him closely. Mazzoleni and Zandio aren't doing much.

16:39 CEST   
Gilbert is caught by Pineau and Vasseur.

Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Click for larger image

16:41 CEST    168.5km/12km to go
The leaders take the short but twisty descent off the Pardiès-Piétat, with 12 km to go to the finish in Pau.

Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan also caught up with the next best-placed American on GC, Levi Leipheimer, who is currently sitting in sixth overall, 7'35 behind his fellow countryman Lance Armstrong. The 31 year-old Gerolsteiner rider looked well-rested at the start in Mourenx this morning, and said yesterday was a much-needed rest day in Pau after two of the most difficult mountain stages in this year's Tour.

"I feel a lot better than yesterday. I was pretty tired after the stage the other day [Stage 15]; getting to the hotel took three hours, it was a long day, so I needed a rest," he said.

Leipheimer believed today's hors categorié climb of the Col d'Aubisque won't be decisive for the riders aiming high on GC due to its proximity from the finish, but stage from Albi to Mende with the mountain-top finish atop the Cote de la Croix-Neuve two days from now could be more telling. However, as he said earlier, he'll be saving all his bikkies for the final TT, where he hopes for a top-five finish in Paris. "One minute from fifth is a lot, but I think it's possible," he said.

16:43 CEST    169.5km/11km to go
All four leaders are cooperating now, as Mancebo's fifth place on GC is not really in danger from Evans. Pereiro doesn't seem to care about Landis's 7th place, which is certainly in danger.

16:44 CEST   
The leaders are going great guns - still holding the next chasers at 1'53 and the peloton at 4'27.

16:45 CEST    170.5km/10km to go
The chasers have caught Gilbert and co, and number eight again.

Zandio leads the break through under 10 km to go.

16:47 CEST    172.5km/8km to go
Pereiro is probably the best sprinter of this group, but watch out for Mazzoleni, who has a stage win in the Tour de Suisse and one in the Tour of Romandie to his credit. He's been riding well in this Tour, but would have to attack the break to win. Zandio is probably the tiredest of the four.

16:49 CEST    173.5km/7km to go
The chasers are losing time to the break - now 1'55 as the four leaders near Pau. But the peloton is riding hard, 4'13 behind at 10 km to go. It's all T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner working.

16:50 CEST   
Evans is strong, as he flicks the elbow a few times for Mazzoleni to come through. The Italian is probably a bit knackered, or just saving his legs for the sprint.

16:51 CEST    175.5km/5km to go
The slight lack of cooperation in the lead group is having an effect, as the peloton comes within 3'48. It's all Evans, all the time.

16:52 CEST    176.5km/4km to go
Evans has to ride hard, as it's his GC he's riding for. It's hard when there are three riders sitting on your wheel though. He almost certainly won't win the stage.

16:53 CEST    176.5km/4km to go
Mazzoleni and Pereiro absolutely refuse to come past for a turn as Evans goes under 4 km to go. Zandio is enjoying his position on the back. They're in Pau now.

16:54 CEST    177.5km/3km to go
Evans is having a good day, and the nearest chasers are at 1'59. The peloton is at 3'29 and closing. It's slightly uphill here but flattens out with 3 km to go. Evans leads all the time.

16:55 CEST   
Ludewig, Pineau, and Gilbert attack the chase group for an honourable fifth place.

16:56 CEST    178.5km/2km to go
2 km of hard riding for Evans, who will get no help from the rest of his breakaway mates. Mazzoleni is perhaps the only one who should help him, while the other two can (finally) use the excuse that they are protecting their GC riders from Evans. Also, Pereiro wants to win.

16:56 CEST    179.5km/1km to go
1 km to go and the situation is unchanged. Evans leads, with Mazzoleni, Pereiro, and Zandio on his wheel in that order. Probably no bonus seconds for Evans today either.

16:57 CEST   
Evans doesn't really care, as he gives it all for the GC. 700m to go as he rounds the last corner.

16:58 CEST    180.5km/0km to go
Evans sprints as hard as he can, then Mazzoleni and Pereiro jump together, and Pereiro wins! Zandio second, Mazzoleni third, and Evans fourth.

17:00 CEST   
Gilbert attacks inside 1 km to go and although Geslin tries to chase him down, he can't. Gilbert is fifth, then Pineau and Ludewig at 2'30.

17:02 CEST   
Fedrigo leads out the sprint for Brochard, who might have just been nipped by Pellizotti for 13th, at 3'25. Evans should be in 7th overall now, just ahead of Landis...

17:16 CEST   
Well, that's the end of the 16th stage. Pereiro and Phonak get their revenge, at the expense of Floyd Landis' 7th place on GC. But all things considered, Landis should be able to take back those few seconds on Evans in the final TT. Phonak's director John Lelangue told Belgian TV1 that he told Pereiro - who did work for most of the day - to stop working in the last few km to try and keep Evans from taking too much time.

Pereiro did get a bit closer to Rasmussen for the mountains jersey, but he'll have to win most of the points in the upcoming stages, and Rasmussen will have to win almost nothing for his jersey to be taken from him. There were no changes in the points or young rider competitions today.

We'll see you in tomorrow's 17th and longest stage, between Pau and Revel.


1 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems         4.38.40
2 Xabier Zandio (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne            
3 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                           
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                             
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française Des Jeux                 2.25
6 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                         
7 Jörg Ludewig (Ger) Domina Vacanze                             
8 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                       
9 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance                          
10 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone        
General classification after stage 16
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel               66.52.03
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                 2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                          3.09
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                           5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne    6.31
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                        7.35
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                         9.29
8 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                 9.33
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                  9.38
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                 11.47                                  


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