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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 8 - Saturday, July 9: Pforzheim - Gérardmer, 231.5 km

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Anthony Tan

Latest live report

Live coverage starts: 11:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Stage 8 profile
Click for stage map

11:32 CEST   
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of Stage 8 of the Tour de France, starting in the German town of Pforzheim and finishing back in French territory in Gérardmer, the first time that the latter has hosted a stage finish. Today's race is 231.5 km in length, which will really test the riders after yesterday's 228 km. But it's not even the longest stage of the Tour, as there is one of 239 km in the final week.

Today's stage is littered with climbs, and it will be a tough day for all after the high speeds of the first week. Starting with the climb at Dobel (Cat. 3, km 14.5), the riders will then tackle the climbs at Bad-Herrenalb (Cat. 3, km 27), Nachtigal (Cat. 3, km 38.5), and Zimmerplatz (Cat. 3, km 48). Then there are three intermediate sprints: Sasbach (km 64.5), Kenzingen (km 125.5), and Illhaeusern (km 162.0). Then the final ascent of the Col de la Schlucht (Cat. 2, km 216), which will likely provide the springboard for the stage winner.

11:34 CEST   
The riders are currently rolling in the neutral zone, ready to start the stage proper at 11:45 AM. It's sunny and warmish, with temperatures in the low 20s, but there are thunderstorms predicted later.

11:42 CEST   
Although today's stage is not one of the big mountain stages, the climb at the end and the downhill finish makes it an ideal one for the GC riders and opportunists to attack. It's a perfect stage for someone like...Alexandre Vinokourov to go away on the final climb and ride like a kamikaze on the descent to take some time out of Armstrong. You can be sure that the Discovery Channel captain will be a bit more alert to a Vino attack than he was the other day.

Christophe Mengin (FDJ) will not start today. He broke the ethmoid bone under his left eye after his crash in stage 6, and although he finished stage 7, he is not in a good state to start today.

11:45 CEST   
The wind is behind the riders again today. 20 km/h.

Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze) attacks straight away as the flag drops at km 0.

11:45 CEST   
Ludewig is chased by Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval), who catches the German.

11:47 CEST    2km/229.5km to go
Moreau and Sevilla fool around trying to chase, then Voigt goes with Landaluze and Jaksche on his wheel. But Bertogliati and Ludewig are still clear.

11:48 CEST   
Moreau and Weening now get a little gap over the peloton, which is being led by Discovery's Popovych. Up front, Ludewig and Bertogliati have 16 seconds.

11:52 CEST    5.5km/226km to go
Ludewig is fairly well placed on GC, starting the day 4'36 behind Armstrong in 72nd place. So Discovery will be watchful.

Fred Bessy goes off in pursuit of the two leaders with a Euskaltel rider on his wheel - Iker Flores.

Calzati is suffering at the back of the bunch.

11:53 CEST   
Calzati is already dropped as the road goes up slightly. He has a bandage on his right wrist and leg as a result of a crash yesterday. This could be a long day for him.

11:55 CEST    8.5km/223km to go
The two leaders ride through enormous German crowds, lined several deep along the road in between the dense trees.

11:58 CEST   

11:58 CEST   
Ludewig and Bertogliati are tackling the Côte de Dobel, a Cat. 3 climb averaging 5.9% for 5.9 km. Gerolsteiner takes over the tempo making in the peloton with Discovery and CSC jerseys up there too. They are interested in keeping the polka-dots on Fabian Wegmann's shoulders.

The peloton rides past what looks to be a giant, inflatable baby.

11:59 CEST    12km/219.5km to go
Bessy and Flores have been caught and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) is the next rider to try to bridge up to the two leaders.

Ludewig has dropped Bertogliati.

12:04 CEST   
Michael Boogerd takes up the chasing at the front of the bunch and Bertogliati is rapidly swept up. Jens Voigt joins in, and Ludewig too is caught.

At the bag of the race, Sylvain Calzati calls it a day and climbs into the team car. Not a good day to be dropped on the first climb.

12:10 CEST    14km/217.5km to go
Voigt is policed by Hincapie, but it turns into a break of five, with Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) going clear alone from there - Boogerd was obviously launching him.

Voigt, Hincapie, Kashechkin and Casar are the other four, a little bit behind. Rasmussen takes the points at the top of the climb at Dobel.

12:13 CEST    20km/211.5km to go
Rasmussen looks to be putting in a bid for the mountains jersey here. At the back, Isaac Galvez who crashed in the finale yesterday is off the back of the peloton.

The neutral service car is dropping in behind Rasmussen and four chasers. He's pedaling on the descent; they're not.

12:19 CEST   
Rasmussen reaches the foot of the descent in the little town of Bad Herrenalp, where the crowds are as thick as we have come to expect on the Tour's German visits. He is a good quarter of a minute up on the four chasers - who will be useful company later if this break goes the distance, I suspect - who are in turn 38 seconds ahead of the bunch. The next climb starts immediately.

More riders in trouble at the back - Jaan Kirsipuu and Luca Pagliarini look to be starting a two-man autobus. Not their sort of day.

12:20 CEST   
Inside Discovery man Chris Brewer reports from the start, "What a difference a day makes, weather-wise. Blue skies and warmer temperatures have brightened everyone's mood. Around the Discovery Channel breakfast table the mood was relaxed and everyone was visibly upbeat. The crowds at the start line are huge to say the least."

12:22 CEST    27.5km/204km to go
Rasmussen is climbing alone, out of the saddle, up the forested climb; behind them the peloton is not taking it too easy, lined out at the front. Plenty more riders are going off the back, including Leon Van Bon and Unai Etxebarria. Ahead, George Hincapie, is now maillot jaune virtuel with Jens Voigt virtually second. Hincapie isn't going out of his way to defend his lead, though, still policing the group.

12:27 CEST    29.5km/202km to go
Rasmussen takes the points over the second of these four close-packed third category climbs. I would guess that he is going to try and stay away alone until these climbs are over, and then drop back to find some company for the long flat(-tish) bit in the middle of this long stage.

12:29 CEST   
And I guessed wrong since Rasmussen has already sat up and dropped back to the four chasers, so now there's a leading group of five. Hincapie is at the front now.

12:34 CEST    33.5km/198km to go
Noblesse oblige and T-Mobile en masse, Guerini at the head, seem to have taken up the chase behind, with the bunch well strung out as the peloton encounters more massive crowds as the race passes through Gernsbach. The gap is stable at around 1.30. The third climbs starts here; behind, Wilfried Cretskens punctures - he'll have a hard chase back here.

12:39 CEST   
A steady flow of riders off the back on this climb - Igor Gonzalez, Magnus Bäckstedt, Robert Förster and several others.

Rasmussen takes the summit first and is now virtually spotty.

12:43 CEST   
The actual wearer of the spots, Fabian Wegmann, is having a hard day hanging on and paying the price for his efforts yesterday.

Isaac Galvez has abandoned the race, unable to chase and suffering from yesterday's abrupt encounter with the tarmac.

12:47 CEST    43km/188.5km to go
Telekom are still putting a lot of work into the chase but without making any major impression; the gap is still stable.

Boonen is among another dropped group.

12:52 CEST   
More from Chris Brewer: "Dan Osipow spoke with Discovery Channel's DS Johan Bruyneel before the stage. The initial thought line was that if a break went away that would work for Discovery Channel (meaning no GC contenders) then DC would possibly not aggressively defend. But with a strong rider like Voigt off the front, he has to be marked. Plus, this is the opportunity for Hincapie that Bruyneel noted he had earned - a chance to be in yellow."

12:55 CEST    48km/183.5km to go
The five leaders crest the Zimmerplatz climb, the last slice of this Black Forest gateau, 1.9 km at 6.7% says Jeff, and again it's Rasmussen who jumps clear to take the four points, putting him six points clear of Wegmann in the mountains competition. Guerini leads the bunch over 1.44 down.

13:01 CEST    53km/178.5km to go
Erik Dekker suffers some kind of mechanical problem - don't think it's a puncture - gets a bike change and is now chasing a very fast moving peloton; rather him than me.

13:04 CEST    56.5km/175km to go
Telekom have all nine of their riders on the front, with Ullrich and Vinokourov in eighth and ninth wheels; a watchful Armstrong is two spots further back. They are pegging the break back now, with the gap down to 1.09.

13:08 CEST   
Dekker is still coming up through the cars, but it looks like he'll make it OK. The gap is now down to 53 seconds and as the terrain opens up it doesn't look good for the breakaways.

The whole bunch is in one long line and Dekker tags on the back, a village length or so behind the T-Mobile train.

13:12 CEST    64.5km/167km to go
The break will stay away long enough to take the first of the day's three bonus sprints at Sasbach; Rasmussen sits up and Hincapie takes the sprint ahead of Voigt (which will strengthen his second place by a few seconds). The remaining quartet sit up and look around; seems like they've decided to call it a day now.

Not quite consensus on that, though; Casar takes a flyer and Kashechkin goes with him. Phonak have now moved up to help the chase.

13:13 CEST    67.5km/164km to go
Hincapie and Voigt come back up to the duo, and then Casar jumps again and goes on alone.

13:16 CEST    69.5km/162km to go
The other three freewheel and wave the commissaires' car past; now it's just Casar ahead. As the bunch catches them and eases up momentarily a Gerolsteiner rider and a CSC (Sřrensen?) jump but don't get too far.

13:21 CEST    73km/158.5km to go
Sřrensen's efforts result in a group of five riders - with Beat Zberg among them - trying to bridge the gap to Casar; there are repeated attempts by other riders to get clear. Casar is still alone and riding strongly ahead, but the situation behind is somewhat fluid.

13:23 CEST   
The bunch reels in the Sřrensen/Zberg group. And although the race has been in glorious sunshine so far, it is now raining at the finish.

Fabian Cancellara has a go off the front.

13:27 CEST   
Cancellara opens an interesting gap but behind there are about fifty riders who all reckon that they ought to be in a break. Someone is trying to get across.

Leon Van Bon has packed; today's stage seems to be taking its toll.

Sřrensen gets across to Cancellara and the two of them join up with Casar.

13:31 CEST    80km/151.5km to go
Erik Dekker tries to get across but after the efforts of his earlier chase back it is a bit too far; he sits up again.

The road here is anything but breakaway-friendly, broad, straight and exposed.

Sřrensen is the best placed of the trio on GC, 2.01 behind Lance Armstrong.

13:33 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo and FDJ are now at the front of the bunch trying to police the counter-attacks, the latest of which is by Thor Hushovd (CA).

13:39 CEST    89km/142.5km to go
Hushovd makes it across the gap. Nice move by the Norwegian. He misses a couple of turns to recover. The gap is just back over half a minute; there isn't a sustained chase but continuous attempts to get clear behind are keeping the bunch speed high.

13:47 CEST    93.5km/138km to go
Gianluca Bortolami has a go at the front of the bunch, but Discovery don't want to let him go and it doesn't last. The chase has otherwise settled down, with a Discovery train at the front but no great haste evident; the bunch is no longer lined out.

The crowds on this fairly built up section of the course are enormous, and the peloton is having a bit of fun negotiating some human chicanes in places.

13:53 CEST    101.5km/130km to go
With things having eased up for more or less the first time in the stage, the bunch find a less populated stretch of the road and a fair number of riders take the opportunity to answer calls of nature. Looks like this may also give a chance for the large group of dropped riders to make it back up into the bunch. Yes, they're coming up through the cars now.

Good news for the four breakaways who now see their formerly tenuous lead increase to a couple of minutes.

14:03 CEST   
Yaroslav Popovych gets his radio adjusted from the team car. The feed is coming up so nobody will be doing anything too abrupt yet.

The four leaders go through the feed with 2.42. Behind them Lotto have moved up and the bunch go through fairly briskly and lined out. It's not clear whether the Boonen/Wegmann group made it back to the bunch there, so Lotto may be trying to keep Boonen safely off the back.

14:10 CEST   
The peloton pace goes up and the gap comes down, as the teams try and show off how easily digestible their food is, one long line of chewing faces at 45 kph.

Boonen is not back yet.

14:13 CEST   
Davitamon-Lotto's Hendrik Redant told Belgian TV1, "We're definitely going to chase those points for the green jersey. Hushovd is at the front and we want to make sure we get points too. It is so that with Tom Boonen in trouble, we are definitely thinking about getting that jersey for Robbie. No, we aren't feeling sorry for Tom Boonen. Why? He's sitting with forty other guys, so we aren't stepping on anyone's toes in particular. The job of a sportsman is not always nice; that's how it is. We think Robbie is in good enough shape to pull this one off too. At this moment I'm driving at 65km/h. Vansummeren is doing some really hard work at the front again.

"Leon Van Bon has dropped out of the race. Once he was on the bike this morning, he kept getting more and more pain underneath his ribs and he had to let go of the group... he got off the bike."

14:14 CEST    116km/115.5km to go
The lead is coming down very rapidly under pressure from Davitamon-Lotto; there's a chance they may be caught before the second bonus sprint of the day, coming up soon, but I doubt it. McEwen wouldn't say no to the points, though. We're now at half distance.

14:19 CEST   
Christophe Brandt and Jurgen Van Summeren are doing the damage, with the lead down to 31 seconds, while Hushovd is driving the break along to at least stay clear for the points sprint at Kenzingen.

14:24 CEST   
Chris Brewer reports from the finish: "The crowds on the Cat 2 climb are tremendous, and hundreds of cyclists are testing themselves before the Tour arrives. The climb itself is not difficult in terms of steepness, but it is long and very twisty. Anyone away will not be seen. After climb the finale is a total descent to the line - it is already raining in the last 4 km and the skies overhead are very grey and foreboding."

14:25 CEST    125.5km/106km to go
Hushovd's efforts are rewarded; be briefly drops his companions but waits for them and then nips up to take the 6 points without any contest from Sřrensen. Then he and the other two let Sřrensen go off ahead alone.

14:26 CEST   
Hushovd and Cancellara are caught by the bunch and the Norwegian has a few friendly words with McEwen. The chase eases up but counterattacks start immediately.

14:29 CEST    131.5km/100km to go
Bortolami succeeds in opening a few metres' gap but only briefly; ahead, Sřrensen is right on the rivet, down on the drops, mouth agape.

14:31 CEST   
After Bortolami, Evgeni Petrov tries again for Lampre; he has a few metres.

14:33 CEST   
Fabian Cancellara has dropped back to consult the race doctor; looks like he is concerned about his right knee.

14:36 CEST   
Petrov's attempt hasn't got anywhere. The peloton are still moving fairly briskly and Sřrensen isn't opening up the gap any further; Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis) is the next to try and join him.

14:40 CEST   
Finally a group of six gets clear, and are very quickly across the gap to Sřrensen.

14:45 CEST   
Weening, Flecha, Vasseur, Jalabert, Commesso, Scholz and Sřrensen (for it is they) are now coming up to the Rhine and the French border. Ludovic Turpin is trying to bridge the gap.

McEwen was off the back among the cars but is coming back up now.

14:55 CEST    149.5km/82km to go
The race crosses back into France after an extremely well-supported jaunt into Germany. The seven breakaways are working very steadily, coming up on the left and back on the right. Behind them the Discovery Channel team are setting the pace for the chase but the gap is opening comfortably, and is over three minutes now.

Poor old Turpin is still in no man's land, gaining on the bunch but losing on the break.

15:02 CEST   
The peloton has eased up now, with once again a fair number of riders taking a quick break beside the road. This time it really is enough of a pause for Boonen and Wegmann to make it back up to the bunch, while the break move further clear.

15:07 CEST    158.5km/73km to go
Turpin seems to have given up the struggle, so it is the seven-man break with five minutes plus lead over the bunch, which has reconstituted itself after its various ancillary activities. Discovery are back at the front, with Armstrong laughing and joking with a TV cameraman.

15:10 CEST    161km/70.5km to go
Commesso takes the day's third bonus sprint without any fanfares; the break too have now settled down to a more comfortable tempo after their gap-opening efforts.

15:13 CEST   
Liquigas have now sent a few riders up to the front of the bunch to set the pace including Magnus Bäckstedt who has come back up with other riders dropped earlier.

15:21 CEST    171.5km/60km to go
The gap seems to have peaked for the moment at around 6.30 and is now creeping back down under pressure from Liquigas, mostly in the person of Magnus Bäckstedt; they clearly have someone who reckons they can do something on the final climb. The flat open countryside is now giving way to the prospect of the foothills of the Vosges looming in front.

15:27 CEST    174.5km/57km to go
The bad weather at the finish has cleared up, but the roads are still damp and the descent to the finish could be tricky. Illes Balears have now moved up to help Liquigas; more than one voice has mentioned Valverde as a candidate for today's stage.

15:38 CEST    179.5km/52km to go
Wildlife spotters will be pleased to know that we have a pretty large stork population in these parts, some of whom are sitting on chimneys and generally acting like something on a corny picture postcard.

The gap is still falling steadily; the chasers look as though they want the break more or less neutralised before the col de la Schlucht, the hardest climb in the race so far, if nothing on what is to come in the days ahead.

15:45 CEST    186.5km/45km to go
The gap has steadied at around four and a half minutes. The roads now are decidedly rolling and the faces on the seven breakaways are a bit grim (except Commesso, who always grins or at least looks that way). Bouygues are now helping the chase along.

15:53 CEST   
The average speed so far has been an impressive 47.1 kph, courtesy of the three different breakaway groups we have had so far. The gap is coming down again now.

At the back of the bunch, Fabian Wegmann is calling for his team car.

15:58 CEST    196.5km/35km to go
With 4 km to go to Munster the break is certainly going to stay clear onto the final climb. They are serenaded by the bell on a less than enthusiastic cow, sounding mainly because its owner is wagging its head by the horns. .

16:07 CEST    200.5km/31km to go
With 200 km covered the seven leaders are now at the foot of the Col de la Schlucht, with the peloton winding their way through the attractive streets of Munster behind. Garcia Acosta is at the front in the chase.

The climb is steady, big ring stuff, but it goes on a fair way. And the first to break up the rhythm is Peter Weening, who takes a flyer off the front as they pass through the village of Soultzeren.

16:11 CEST   
The remainder of the break look at each other for a bit, then first Jalabert and then Commesso try to get across. They split into two trios with Scholz, Jalabert and Vasseur in the first of them.

Hushovd, McEwen and Boonen are reported dropped from the bunch.

16:14 CEST   
Sorry, that was the second trio; Flecha, Commesso and Sřrensen are ahead, but have not caught Weening yet.

Wegmann, Tombak, Cancellara and Voeckler are also among the dropped riders.

16:14 CEST   

16:15 CEST   
Illes Balears are setting the tempo in the peloton, with Discovery massed vigilant behind them.

16:17 CEST   
Nardello, Steinhauser, Arvesen, Bortolami, Ljunqvist and Roberts are all dropped. Weening's lead over the first three chasers is only a handful of seconds bit the road is winding and he's mostly out of sight. He's pulling away bit by bit.

16:19 CEST   
Vinokourov is anchored firmly on Armstrong's wheel. Levi Leipheimer has had a problem but is coming back to the bunch.

16:21 CEST   
Weening is keeping a biggish gear rolling, not in the best of styles but clearly it works for him.

Ullrich is up with Vinokourov and Armstrong, nine or ten back. Vasseur is mopped up by the bunch.

16:23 CEST    211km/20.5km to go
Weening is still opening a gap on his former companions, but it looks as though the bunch, now less than two minutes behind, are going to reel him in fairly soon.

Jalabert and Scholz are caught.

16:26 CEST   
Weening rocks and rolls under the 20 km to go banner.

There are a few attempts to attack by lesser riders in the group and then Alexandr Vinokourov jumps! It's a feint, though, and he eases up as DIscovery chase up with Armstrong second.

16:28 CEST   
Another attack by Christophe Moreau this time, and Vinokourov goes again behind him. This time it's Armstrong in person who chases him down. They mop up the three chasers in short order, only Weening in front. Then Valverde goes.

16:29 CEST   
Armstrong is looking a bit isolated. Klöden attacks. Armstrong is stuck to Ullrich's wheel now. Julich, Basso, Landis, BOtero are all up there.

16:30 CEST    214.5km/17km to go
Klöden is still alone chasing Weening. Discovery seem to be right off the pace today, surprisingly.

16:33 CEST   
A bit calmer in the Armstrong-Ullrich group now, with an Illes Balears leading it, but are they sacrificing an opportunity to put Armstrong in trouble for a stage win for Klöden?

16:34 CEST   
Klöden catches Weening a few metres before the summit and the Dutchman latches on behind him.

16:36 CEST   
McGee, Landis and Vinokourov are at the front of the Armstrong-Ullrich group over the summit; there are 30 or so riders together. Rasmussen took third over the climb to strengthen his lead in the mountains competition from this morning's efforts.

16:39 CEST   
The group had the leading pair in sight just after the summit but they are not pushing it and they seem to have gone a little further clear. The road is dry, winding left and right through the woods; no hairpins so it's pretty quick.

16:41 CEST   
Beloki is hanging on in there with the Armstrong group as well, which is swelling on the descent. Weening and Klöden have a few seconds lead, but not enough.

16:44 CEST    226.5km/5km to go
Fortunately there seems to be nothing left on the road from the torrential rain that fell here earlier, and the sun's out. The bunch, now maybe 40 riders, has eased up a bit, with the situation apparently under control.

16:46 CEST    229.5km/2km to go
Surprisingly quiet, with Klöden and Weening still doing all they can to stay away. Too much looking at one another behind there. Becke and Mancebo seem to be doing what work there is being done, with Valverde in mind, presumably.

16:47 CEST   
Bert Grabsch tries to jump clear but the lead is up at half a minute, looks like it's too late.

16:47 CEST    230.5km/1km to go
Weening tightens his straps, letting Klöden lead out.

16:48 CEST   
Weening psychs it up, Klöden leads out and Weening comes round the outside and - photo finish!

16:49 CEST   
Vinokourov goes for third but Jens Voigt pips him to it. But we still don't know who won...

16:50 CEST   
Brochard, Popovych, Moncoutié are all in a dropped group, having lost the best part of a minute on the Armstrong group there.

It looks as though it's Klöden got it.

Nope, it's Weening ;-)

16:55 CEST   
Weening's winning margin was in the order of a centimetre there. It was in fact Valverde who got third, with Kirchen and Voigt close behind.

Popovych's being dropped there means that he loses the white jersey to Vladimir Karpets. Michael Rasmussen takes the mountains vest from Fabian Wegmann who came in twelve minutes down.

Pieter Weening missed out on being able to make a victory salute, but makes up for it by literally bouncing onto the podium, hands aloft.

So, with some more serious climbing tomorrow as the Tour revisits its first ever mountain climb, 100 years on, things are looking more interesting than some suggested after the opening time trial. Was that a real collapse by the Discovery Channel team, or perhaps a bit of a bluff when it wasn't going to make too much of a difference - not an unknown weapon in the Armstrong/Bruyneel armoury?

Join us tomorrow on cyclingnews.com to find out!


1 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank                           5.03.54
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                             
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne    0.27
4 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo                                
5 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                      
6 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                              
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                        
9 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval-Prodir                        
10 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                      

General classification after stage 8

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel                28.06.17
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                  1.00
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                   1.02
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                1.07
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                  1.26
6 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                            1.36
7 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                   

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