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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 10 - Wednesday, July 12: Cambo-les-Bains-Pau, 190.5km

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

Live report

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

The fans in Cambo Les-Bains
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

12:12 CEST   
Welcome to Cambo-Les-Bains for the start of the 10th stage of the Tour de France. The mountains are finally here, as the riders make their first foray into the Pyrenees, with the 190 km stage finishing in Pau. It's not an overly tough stage, but it will sort out a few who have tired legs.

The climbs on offer are three: Col d'Osquich (km 50, Cat. 3, 6.0 km at 5.3 %), Col de Soudet (km 101.5, Hors category, 14.7 km at 7.3 %), and Col de Marie-Blanque (km 148, Cat. 1, 9.3 km climb at 7.7 %). There are only two intermediate sprints, at Larceveau (km 37.5) and Laguinge (km 74.5).

The weather at the start: sunny and 23.5 degrees, with a 15-20 km/h wind blowing.

12:26 CEST   
The stage starts with a 7.5 km neutral section, before the riders get the flag to start at 12:30.

12:33 CEST    2km/188.5km to go
The flag drops (...) and they're racing in stage 10! Laurent Brochard (Bouygues) is reported as a non-starter.

Euskaltel's Aitor Hernández attacks immediately, and is joined by the lanky Johan Vansummeren (Davitamon), Stuart O’Grady (CSC) and Patrick Calcagni (Liquigas). The four have a 15 second gap over the peloton.

12:35 CEST    3km/187.5km to go
A group of riders is chasing the four in front, including Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Fondital). No-one wants to hang around today!

12:37 CEST    4km/186.5km to go
As they near Louhossoa, the chasers catch the four leaders and we have a group of 14 forming up front, but the gap is still small between it and the peloton.

12:39 CEST    6km/184.5km to go
The group is brought back by the bunch, although David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval) remains up front with a couple of other riders: Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel) and Patxi Vila (Lampre).

12:44 CEST    10km/180.5km to go
The three are caught by the bunch, and the next attack goes with Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval) and Michael Albasini (Liquigas). But they are stopped by a protest.

The attacks continue as the road goes uphill...Boogerd, Calzati, Noval, Sinkewitz are all active, but no-one can break clear yet.

12:45 CEST    11km/179.5km to go
Verbrugghe and Vansummeren are at the back of the bunch now. Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) is the next rider to attack, and Mick Rogers keeps an eye on things behind. There's a lot of looking behind.

Dumoulin is dropped.

12:46 CEST    12.5km/178km to go
Chavanel continues to ride alone about 5 seconds ahead of a group of 10 led by Rogers and Merckx, which doesn't seem to want to close the gap. The peloton slowly regroups.

12:48 CEST    14.5km/176km to go
Well, Chavanel knows what he wants to do: give full gas. He puts the hammer down and tries to increase his gap as the peloton catches the Rogers group. Noval is active for Discovery Channel in pursuit.

12:49 CEST   
Chavanel takes a corner very fast and nearly runs up the back of the race director's car. He'll find it hard now: the peloton is in a long line in pursuit. He has 17 seconds as Calzati goes after him.

12:51 CEST    16km/174.5km to go
Calzati's counter is chased by three more riders, then the rest of the peloton still very strung out. Chavanel has 22 seconds, having started the day in 30th position at 3'56 behind Gonchar on GC. He's at 80 km/h now on a small descent.

12:52 CEST   
O'Grady follows a Bouygues rider off the front of the bunch, with Mario Aerts (Davitamon) and a couple of others also there.

12:54 CEST    17km/173.5km to go
The five chasers get a bit of a gap on the bunch: O'Grady, Aerts, Zandio, Ventoso, Sprick. But there are more riders coming up. A couple of T-Mobiles are on the front of the bunch, controlling the situation. The pursuit ends, but Chavanel is still alone.

12:56 CEST    20km/170.5km to go
Bram Tankink (Quick.Step) is the next rider to go after Allez Chavanel. He's joined by Charteau, Sprick(?) and a Gerolsteiner rider. There are Others coming up to them.

Chavanel has 20 seconds.

12:58 CEST    21km/169.5km to go
Chavanel passes some rather tired looking horse through Irissary, as a group of 10 forms in pursuit: Kessler is there for T-Mob, as is Tankink. They are 10 seconds behind Chavanel.

In the peloton, Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) is sitting a loooong way back.

13:00 CEST    25.5km/165km to go
The peloton really doesn't want to let much go, and bit by bit, the 10 rider counter move is caught. Charteau tries again, but is chased by Boonen and McEwen. He complains - 'let me go!'

The road here is undulating, through the lush green countryside of the Pyrenees.

13:02 CEST    26km/164.5km to go
The peloton regroups and slows. Four T-Mobile riders are towards the front, as an Agritubel rider tries to bridge the gap to Chavanel, which is down to 12 seconds.

13:04 CEST   
A 20 man group peels off the front of the peloton, where T-Mobile is trying to maintain control. Calzati attacks again with Caucchioli on his wheel. Finally, Chavanel takes it a bit easier and hopes that a small group catches him.

13:05 CEST    27km/163.5km to go
Chavanel keeps going for a bit more, getting some help from the motos. Yet another group group of 10 forms in pursuit, as the peloton snakes through the farmlands, passing plenty of cows.

13:08 CEST    30km/160.5km to go
T-Mobile has one man in the chase group, while three more set tempo in the peloton. Merckx, Flecha, Horner, Caucchioli, O'Grady, Vandevelde, Moncoutié, Calzati, Zberg are all in the chasing break.

Ekimov punctures. He gets a fast wheel change and finds a Caisse d'Epargne rider to draft off. He'll be back in the peloton soon.

13:11 CEST    31km/159.5km to go
T-Mobile decides that tempo riding in the peloton is not what they want to do, and send another guy up to join Sinkewitz in the chase group. But the attacks continue in the bunch...

Chavanel is still on his own, but really wants some help.

13:13 CEST    33km/157.5km to go
The chase group: Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady and Christian Vandevelde (Team CSC), Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile), Sylvain Calzati (AG2R-Prevoyance), Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Christopher Horner (Davitamon-Lotto), Axel Merckx (Phonak), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears), Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole), David Lopez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Sébastien Joly (Française Des Jeux), Kjell Carlström (Liquigas), Marco Velo (Milram).

But it's caught, just as it catches Chavanel. Flecha attacks next, with Chavanel and Zberg chasing. The bunch has gaps in it all over the place.

13:15 CEST    36.5km/154km to go
Three leaders now: Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner). But this doesn't look like being the break. A Bouygues rider jumps across.

Mayo is trailing the peloton by a handful of metres. He doesn't look great. The first sprint is coming up in 1 km.

13:16 CEST    37.5km/153km to go
Quick.Step leads the bunch, but no Boonen in sight. Boonen and McEwen almost decide not to sprint for the points. Zberg goes for them, but he can only take second behind Da Cruz (FDJ).

13:17 CEST   
Looked like Quinziato was third there ahead of Vasseur. The four have a small gap over the bunch.

13:19 CEST    39km/151.5km to go
Zberg has been replaced by an Euskaltel rider in the break, which has Vasseur, Quinziato and Da Cruz in it. They race through Larceveau and don't stop to admire the church, which isn't particularly interesting anyway.

11 men are leading now, with the peloton scaring a few cows as Joost Posthuma leads the break. But up front, the cooperation is fairly ordinary.

13:22 CEST    43km/147.5km to go
Several more riders bridge across to the four leaders as the road continues to up up and down. Is that Landaluze for Euskaltel? Moreni is there for Cofidis. Steegmans also. They have a decentish gap. Vasseur attacks again, as the cooperation is still bad.

In the distance, further up the valley, it's misty.

13:24 CEST    44km/146.5km to go
Vasseur gives it up as he sees the break is starting to work. They have 20 seconds over the bunch, led by T-Mobile, which seems content to let them go. There is much discussion among the T-Mobile riders in front.

Jens Voigt (CSC) is in the break.

13:28 CEST    46km/144.5km to go
The leaders hit the Col d'Osquich with 48 seconds on the T-Mobile controlled bunch. This looks like the break: Da Cruz (FDJ), Vasseur (Quick.Step), Quinziato (Liquigas), Voigt (CSC), Steegmans (Davitamon), Moreni (Cofidis), Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Landaluze, Isasi (Euskaltel), Posthuma (Rabobank), Bennati (Lampre), Dessel (AG2R), Rinero (Saunier Duval), Sprick (Bouygues), Mercado (Agritubel).

Dessel is the best placed on GC, sitting in 28th at 3'50.

13:32 CEST    48km/142.5km to go
46.1 km covered in the first hour. The sprinters in the break are already suffering on the climb, which is six km long. T-Mobile is sitting a hard tempo in the bunch with Guerini and Rogers driving it. Gonchar is well placed ahead of Klöden, Boogerd and Leipheimer.

13:36 CEST    49km/141.5km to go
Dessel and Bennati swap off in the break, which looks good on this climb. The peloton has all seven remaining T-Mobile riders in front, at roughly a minute behind the break.

Hushovd is dropped from the break, which is less than 1 km from the summit of the climb. He should be able to get back unless he has cracked.

13:37 CEST    50km/140.5km to go
Rinero attacks first for the points, chased by Dessel and Sprick. Dessel gets them from Rinero and Sprick, with Mercado in fourth place.

13:39 CEST   
T-Mobile comes up to the summit with Mattias Kessler leading at 1'29. Kessler has a lump of almost insoluble material in his mouth, a.k.a. an energy bar.

13:41 CEST    54.5km/136km to go
This break is not that threatening for the GC riders. Even if Dessel took the yellow jersey, he'd have a hard time defending it. He is a consistent rider though.

13:43 CEST   
Rogers leads the bunch on the descent, keeping the tempo up, but not too much. There's a while to go until the next climb, the Col de Soudet. Boonen is at the back of the bunch behind Klöden, who seems to have gone back for some food.

13:45 CEST    56km/134.5km to go
Hushovd and Steegmans, who was also dropped on that climb, are absorbed by the bunch. Not really their type of stage.

13:45 CEST   
The lead group is now: Da Cruz (FDJ), Vasseur (Quick.Step), Quinziato (Liquigas), Voigt (CSC), Moreni (Cofidis), Landaluze, Isasi (Euskaltel), Posthuma (Rabobank), Bennati (Lampre), Dessel (AG2R), Rinero (Saunier Duval), Sprick (Bouygues), Mercado (Agritubel).

13:48 CEST    59km/131.5km to go
Gonchar chats to his teammates in the front of the peloton. The idea should be: take it easy on the flat but ride harder on the climbs, as the rest of the riders don't get as much help from sitting on there.

O'Grady is back with the CSC car, getting some mechanical adjustment.

13:49 CEST    60km/130.5km to go
The gap goes up to two minutes as Guerini consults with his directors on the batphone. Gonchar accepts a T-Mobile bidon from Robbie Hunter (Phonak). The pace has eased right off, and it's time for a nature break.

13:52 CEST    63km/127.5km to go
The pace plummets in the bunch as Gonchar takes time to commune with nature. As such, the gap goes up to 3'00 and will probably go up by several more minutes.

13:55 CEST   
Olaf Ludwig (T-Mobile sports director), explained to Cyclingnews this morning about the team's tactics today. "Tomorrow will be an even harder stages - today it's just about not losing our strategic position in the race, to stay competitive with several riders on GC. So that we have a good tactical basis for tomorrow.

"If a big group goes today, we'll try to have someone in the break. If it's only small, it will be hard for it to go through. There's other rivals, here, too! In our opinion, the greatest favourite is Landis, and his team is focused on him a 100 percent. So we don't feel primarily responsible to control the race."

13:59 CEST    68.5km/122km to go
Patrice Halgand (CA), carrying a bunch of bidons in his jersey, sits rather too close to the back of the Euskaltel team car, which has to stop in the middle of the bunch. Halgand's reflexes are put to the test, but he gets out of it without even destroying his wheel.

4'30 now, as T-Mobile just puts two of its riders on the front. Dessel is in the virtual yellow jersey.

14:01 CEST   
Jens Voigt (CSC) is in the breakaway today. He told us this morning, "Today's stage will probably not be very exciting for the spectators. I think a group will go early, then the tempo in the first climb will be sort of moderate, with nobody to really lose contact, and after that in the plain, in the feed zone, everything will come back together again. On the last climb, there will be a bit of attacking, and at the summit, a small group of 10 will be ahead. But then nobody will want to work, and more riders will catch them to form a bunch of about 50. So in Pau, we'll either have the first breakaway of the day in front, or that big group.

"As for myself, I just want to survive. Maybe we'll be able to get somebody in the break, and if not, I'll switch to survival mode. In the flatter stages, later, I'll turn on the attacking mode again."

14:04 CEST    71km/119.5km to go
The break has settled into its rhythm now, with everyone working. Dessel is keeping the pace up, and his chances of yellow alive. 5'45.

14:04 CEST   
Jimmy Engoulvent (Credit Agricole) has abandoned.

14:06 CEST    73km/117.5km to go
Maillot jaune Serguei Gonchar sits behind Sinkewitz and Kessler, who have been assigned to ride tempo for the time being. It's not a bad speed, as the bunch is fairly well lined out behind.

14:06 CEST   
The break reaches Laguinge, where the second and final sprint of the day is located.

14:07 CEST    75km/115.5km to go
Of course, Daniele Bennati attacks to take the sprint points ahead of Da Cruz and Voigt. Bennati is one of the green jersey candidates.

14:10 CEST   
The peloton rides through Tardets-Sorholus, now 6'35 behind the break. They'll probably give them eight or nine minutes.

14:12 CEST    78km/112.5km to go
Sprick, Posthuma, Voigt and Vasseur are dropped from the break on a small climb, but are chasing back onto the break.

14:17 CEST   
Discovery's team manger Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews this morning that today, "There will be no differences between the favourites. But there might be a breakaway, and I nominated some riders who must try to be in that escape. I can't tell you who they are as our rivals might be reading CN as well."

14:19 CEST   
Xabier Zandio (Caisse d'Epargne) runs off the road, but it's into the grass and he's not too badly hurt. He's chasing back on now with a new bike.

14:21 CEST   
The gap is now 8'10 as Kessler, Sinkewitz and Guerini surround Gonchar. Landis is right behind them in the company of his Phonak teammates. The pace isn't exactly slow.

14:28 CEST    85km/105.5km to go
The leaders commence the Soudet with an eight and a half minute advantage over the peloton. This is a 14.7 km climb at 7.3%.

Salvatore Commesso (Lampre) gets a bike change at the back of the bunch.

14:31 CEST    88km/102.5km to go
the pace is fairly high in the lead group, with Rinero, Dessel and Da Cruz on the front. That's already putting Voigt in trouble.

Juan Miguel Garate (Quickstep) told us this morning, "I think today we will see a big breakaway go, and if the bunch agrees, then it will go to through. If not, the GC teams will chase it down. Traditionally, the stages to Pau are always won by bigger groups, only last year, a small break got through to the finish. It's hard for a climber to reach the finish, as it's so far away from the last climb. Our team is 'tranquilo', we've already had the yellow jersey. Of course we're looking to a stage win, but we'll see if that's going to be in the days to come or later on."

14:34 CEST    90km/100.5km to go
Calzati has a problem at the back of the bunch, but gets a handy bidon to get him up to speed again. There's a crash in front of the bunch as it goes over a narrow bridge. Vandevelde was down, but he's quickly back up and chasing.

14:34 CEST   
The second hour saw the average drop to 44.8 km/h. The peloton hits the Soudet with T-Mobile in front, and McEwen quite close to the front.

14:41 CEST    92.5km/98km to go
The break starts to fragment as the climb steepens. The gap is 9'30 or so, but is starting to come down.

Rinero, Vasseur and Mercado are all in front in the break.

14:45 CEST    93km/97.5km to go
Kessler and Guerini are setting the tempo all the time in the bunch, which is on the lower slopes of the Col de Soudet.

Voigt and Bennati have been dropped from the break.

14:47 CEST   
Hushovd is dropped from the bunch, one of the first victims of the T-Mobile pace. Hinault slows to help his captain. And it looks like Charteau, Wiggins, Steegmans, Cretskens, Auge and Dumoulin are also gone.

Up front, just four riders remain in the lead: Rinero (Saunier Duval), Landaluze (Euskaltel), Dessel (AG2R), Mercado (Agritubel).

14:49 CEST   
Iban Mayo is having a shocker. He's dropped as well, as he rides with some teammates.

14:50 CEST    95km/95.5km to go
Mayo pedals a big gear as Unai Etxebarria stays with him. This climb is a pretty nasty one. They're only 20-30m off the back.

14:51 CEST   
Cadel Evans (Davitamon) said to CN this morning, "I’m feeling quite nervous, as I always do before the first mountain stage. The Tour really starts today. I have no idea what we can expect, that’s why I’m here, to find out. The differences between the GC-riders wont be big, but I might be wrong. We might expect some riders who are back in GC to get into an early breakaway. Also possible is that a sprinter gets over the mountains, like Cunego or Freire. The Spanish rider is my pick of the day."

14:53 CEST   
Mayo is not riding very well as he is all over the bike. The four T-Mobiles (plus Gonchar) on the front of the bunch are riding at a steady but hard pace. Leipheimer, Rasmussen, Moreau, Evans and Landis are all up there with the maillot jaune. Leipheimer looks good today.

14:54 CEST    96km/94.5km to go
Back to the leaders, and it's just Juan Miguel Mercado and Cyril Dessel leading. The remainder of the break is spread over the mountain behind them.

14:56 CEST   
Mayo is with two teammates and Gert Steegmans. He just can't seem to turn his legs today. But if he has the motivation, he will survive.

15:01 CEST   
Argghh...some lunatic spectator just ran alongside the leaders with his shorts halfway down his leg, cheeks on view. It doesn't help that I've just had my lunch...yak..

15:03 CEST   
The two have just passed another spectator dressed up in what looked like a sumo wrestling suit...bizarre. Must be something strange in the mountain water!

15:08 CEST    100km/90.5km to go
Tom Boonen is in the back group, labouring his way up the climb. Today is about survival for him. Bäckstedt is also here, as is Ekimov, McEwen, Gilbert, Verbrugghe and others.

Up front, the two leaders press on through the mist. Dessel is leading Mercado. The chasing bunch is still pretty big, and continues to be led by T-Mobile. Zubeldia is close to the front, so he's clearly got better legs than Mayo.

15:10 CEST   
Mercado attacked Dessel but the Frenchman got back up to him pretty quickly and then opened up a 30 metre gap to take the points at the top. They will join up again on the descent.

15:11 CEST   
We spoke to José Rujano - Quick.Step's Venezuelan climber - before the start today in Cambo-les-Bains. "It' a little complicated for me at the moment. My form is good, but I have a problem with my left foot: an infection under my big toe. I even had some fever, and I normally would need to rest to cure it. But I hope that I will be able to hold on today and tomorrow. I can put pressure on it again now, but it still hurts, especially when I get out of the saddle."

Quick.Step's mechanic told us that Rujano asked to lower his saddle two millimetres for today’s stage. Tom Boonen also asked for a 25 tooth cog on the back.

15:12 CEST   
Mountains leader Pineau is under quite a bit of pressure, but has some team-mates for company. He's gone south, dropping out of the main bunch.

Gonchar is also under pressure. He is at the back of the group but the race leader doesn't look too hot right now.

15:13 CEST    102.5km/88km to go
That's unexpected, given that his team are riding tempo on the front. Perhaps they have decided to switch their attention to Klöden.

Leipheimer is right up there, too, so hopefully his legs have come around somewhat.

15:19 CEST   
Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), who was in one of the earlier breaks, told us this morning, "Ahhh... a lot of people have been waiting for this first day of the mountains, so... I might still wait a bit. As for Michael [Rasmussen - ed.], he will start to go for the jersey either today or tomorrow, I don't know. Tomorrow might be better for him. Today will be a day for guys like Wegmann, and [polkadot jersey wearer] Pineau."

15:19 CEST    108.5km/82km to go
Gonchar is looking under pressure and is now last man in the peloton. His team-mates are still pushing it at the front, which is somewhat peculiar (to say the least). Cripes.

Dessel and Mercado are racing down the descent, arcing around the hairpin bends and using the full width of the road to preserve their speed.

15:21 CEST    112.5km/78km to go
Former Maillot Jaune of the Tour, Thomas Voeckler, is uncomfortable and also drifting southwards as the peloton crests the summit. Gonchar will hold on, though, while his team-mate Kessler gets a soft drink at the top.

Ahead, Landaluze has closed the gap to the two up front; nice going.

15:26 CEST   
1998 King of the Mountains Rinero has also got back up, making it four at the head of affairs.

15:28 CEST    118.5km/72km to go
Landaluze goes back to his team car for a chat. The T-Mobile riders are leading the peloton, with Rogers opening up a gap on the rest due to his descending skills. He's waiting for them now.

15:32 CEST   
Now it's Dessel's turn to get some attention from his car. The mechanic is hanging out the window making an adjustment; it seems to be his front changer.

Isasi also rejoins, so Euskaltel have two riders there now. That may prove useful when it comes to fighting it out for the win. It looks increasingly likely that these riders will stay clear. They have over ten minutes with less than 70 kilometres to go. Dessel must also be in with a good chance of taking yellow.

There are three Spaniards and two French riders in this break.

15:35 CEST   
With regards to Gonchar's difficulties on the climb, some readers have referred to T-Mobile's tactics last year. Vinokourov was chased down a few times then, so the general feeling is that we shouldn't be surprised if things are less than logical.

15:38 CEST    124.8km/65.7km to go
It's food on the go time, with those in the break picking up musettes. One tumbles on the road and nearly causes a problem..dangerous things when full noshbags go under the wheel.

Vasseur and Moreni are chasing behind and are closing up.

15:39 CEST   
Mercado is leading as they head up again. The others are getting fluids and food on board.

Landis is looking very relaxed in the bunch, smiling and having a chat.

15:44 CEST   
Despite Johan Bruyneel's quote beforehand that the team would be aggressive today, they have missed this move.

Guerini is driving it as the peloton heads along the valley floor. The peloton is now 10'50 back, with Moreni and Vasseur still in between break and bunch.

15:48 CEST   
The peloton is now in the feed zone. Many riders take bags. It's important to keep energy reserves topped up in a stage race, as any food or fluid deficit can cause problems. If not in today's stage, then tomorrow.

The two chasers are nearly there...Vasseur pours some water on his face as they join up. Seven up front, now. Three French, three Spaniards and an Italian.

15:50 CEST   
Some readers have been asking us about the weather. This morning, it was about 24 degrees and overcast; it looks similar to that now. The sky is relatively bright but there is cloud cover there. Towards the top of the climbs the mist has been quite thick.

15:51 CEST    135km/55.5km to go
Vasseur is calling for his team car, signaling with his hand and calling on the radio. He gets some food in while he is waiting. He might just be looking for more grub.

15:54 CEST   
Tom Arsenault offers his take on the T-Mobile situation. "I think T-Mobile smells blood in the water, and it is time for them to either make their mark on this Tour or go by the wayside like they have in the past. I also believe that they probably think that Klöden is their best bet for an overall win, and Gonchar being the team player that he is will most likely go along with that, and act as domestique and lieutenant if he can't hold on today. But if he does hold on, they may have to re-think their strategy."

15:56 CEST   
We have also received a comment from a Basque reader, who pointed out that Isasi and Landaluze will be fired up due to the fact that this is an important stage for Euskaltel. The riders are passing through French Basque country today and so a win would be a target.

15:59 CEST    140.3km/50.2km to go
The bunch is quite large at this point, with probably 70 - 90 riders there. Some will have got back on during the descent, but there wasn't a major thinning out on the climb either.

This next one might do that, though. The leaders are now on the Col de Marie Blanque and, for now, are all together.

15:59 CEST   
Wilfried Peeters, team director of Quick.Step, had the following to say to us about the likely shape of the race today: "The big difference wont be made today, still you can lose the Tour today. I don’t expect the GC-riders to get to the front today, as it’s different to win something today. If Boonen feels alright, he could do something today. It depends on what his rivals do today, but things can be resettled after the Soudet and the Marie-Blanque.

"Honestly, I am not predicting that we’re going use all our energy today. Garate and Vasseur might be able to get into an escape, they could do well. Tomorrow’s stage is more something for Rujano, top-5 must be possible."

16:06 CEST   
The Discovery Channel riders are moving closer to the front, so they may try something on this climb. Oscar Freire is still in the peloton and smiles at the camera. He is a better climber than McEwen and Boonen and may grab some points today. Indeed McEwen has said that he is worried about the Spaniard's prospects of taking Maillot Vert points on the hillier stages.

Voigt, Posthuma and Quinziato are still clear of the Eddy Mazzoleni-led bunch, but are about to be gobbled up like a much-needed musette

16:08 CEST    143.5km/47km to go
So far, T-Mobile have been doing all of the work. Simoni has just punctured but got a new back wheel from one of his team-mates. He's chasing now and has a team-mate waiting for him.

16:09 CEST   
António Dias from Portugal has written in with a question:

"Do you believe the peloton will split into pieces in Marie Blanque or the main GC contenders will wait for their helpers? Also, do you think the climb can produce huge time gaps as we've seen last year?

On the other hand, those who will attack should have some team mates to help them on the remaining 40 k, because the parcours is not so easy as it seems."

16:12 CEST   
To answer, the summit is quite far from the finish so we are likely to see less flat-out riding than might otherwise be expected. That said, any GC contenders who are feeling good may try to get some psychological points by putting in a dig, particularly if another rival is looking rough. But we will see...

Dessel and Mercado have gone clear once more. Dessel is driving it, motivated by the thoughts of taking yellow. The French seem to be having a better Tour than in previous years, which some may suggest is to do with the Operacion Puerto fallout.

16:14 CEST   
Some loopy spectator is running alongside the riders holding a large inflatable kangaroo on his head. Someone should tell him neither of the leading riders is Australian.... I'm sure he will be cheering Cadel Evans and the others on in about 11 minutes, though..

16:18 CEST   
Mazzoleni is doing a good ride, still driving the peloton. Victor Hugo Pena comes up near the front and is looking for Landis. He'll give him support if things heat up.

The two leaders are just two kilometres from the top of the climb. Landaluze is chasing but pedaling a very big gear and looking a bit rough. Dessel and Mercado are a bit more fluid, at least in terms of cadence. Landaluze is trying hard, though, motivated by the thoughts of going for the stage win.

16:19 CEST   
Jens Voigt is going out of the back of the bunch, while up front Landaluze is 20 seconds behind Dessel and Mercado.

16:23 CEST    147km/43.5km to go
The GC riders are moving closer to the front. Landis, Moreau and Popovych are looking eager. The peloton is thinning out, but no-one has thrown down the gauntlet just yet.

A lot of very tired riders are going out the back...ouch...

16:24 CEST   
The leaders are 600 metres from the top. Behind, the Kessler-led bunch catches Sprick.

Kessler's undershirt has large holes cut in it, presumably to improve ventilation. He looks like he has been savaged by a tiger, though...

16:26 CEST   
The crowds are getting quite a bit thicker here near the top...loads of camper vans and clapping fans. Dessel get the points over the summit, with Mercado about a second behind. Landaluze is 26" further back but may get on if he does a good descent.

16:30 CEST    150.5km/40km to go
Rinero comes over 1'03" back, with Moreni just behind him.

Many riders are under pressure at the back of the bunch, including the mountains leader Pineau, Commesso and Zabel. Voeckler is even further back. Zabriskie is also grimacing and losing time.

At the front of the peloton, Rasmussen, Kessler, Popovych and Moreau are all prominent and ready if the hammer goes down.

16:30 CEST   
Gonchar is now being dropped by the Kessler-led group. Ok, I guess he's not their GC guy...

16:32 CEST   
Laura Weislo has sent us her idea of how things might be, in a parallel universe. We'd certainly like to see this race : )

16:08 CEST 143.5km/47km to go - So far, T-Mobile have been doing all of the
work. Simoni has just punctured but got a new back wheel from one of his
team-mates. He's chasing now and has a team-mate waiting for him. At the front
Mick Rogers does a hard turn and Gonchar grabs his jersey and the two exchange
heated words! Meanwhile Hincapie tries a dig at the front.

16:22 CEST 153.5km/42km to go - The issue between Gonchar and Rogers has
grown to a full on slapping fight on the bike. Gonchar swings like a girl while
the Aussie lands blow after telling blow. Meanwhile Landis has attacked.

16:33 CEST   
Rasmussen attacks! He opens up an immediate gap on the peloton, while white jersey Marcus Fothen and Levi Leipheimer go out the back...ow..

16:36 CEST   
Cunego is also in big trouble. This is The Day Many Dreams Died, methinks...

Gonchar has got back on to the back of the peloton. Rasmussen reaches the summit 8'42" behind and will pick up some useful points. His form seems to have improved nicely since the Tour de Suisse.

Sinkewitz leads the peloton over, 9'20" back. So the stage win will go to one of those up front.

16:38 CEST    158.5km/32km to go
Benoît Paepegaey from Paris gets in touch to answer our Portuguese reader's question:

"I don't think we can expect much of Marie Blanque. None of the GC-riders have enough interest in attacking, when they will be for sure brought back by a strong T-Mobile Team after the summit.

Although I'm sure this Tour is not going to look like the previous ones, an attack today would probably be pointless. So...let's wait another day to learn more. Mayo already seems to have lost a lot, that's already an interesting news. And for today, we'll just see T-Mobile testing the others.

And hopefully, Dessel will be in yellow tonight!"

Thanks for that...

16:38 CEST   
Simon Gerrans (AG2R) spoke his thoughts to us this morning. "I'm feeling pretty good - I dunno if it's a stage for me. It's the first stage in the mountains so it's a bit of an unknown for everybody. For GC, I don't think we'll see the winner today but we'll see who won't win...

"There will definitely be a breakaway, and we'll be keeping an eye on that. Whether it will go through to the finish is another thing."

16:39 CEST   
An addition to our parallel universe Tour, as reported by Joseph Mayo:

16:24 CEST

WADA chief Dick Pound reports that Laura Weislo's water supply is being tested for hallucinogenics as we speak.


16:41 CEST    161.2km/29.3km to go
Landaluze is chasing on his ownsome, looking kinda lonely... He's trying hard but one against two is tough. Still, he's just ten seconds adrift now...it's possible..

16:44 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer rejoins the peloton, so he should get to the finish in the same time as the other GC guys. He's had a very tough few days, though, with his Dauphiné Libéré-winning form clearly having deserted him in this race. That will be a big disappointment to the Gerolsteiner rider, who was tipped as one of the possible winners of the 2006 Tour.

16:46 CEST    165.5km/25km to go
Landaluze has the other two in sight and is driving hard, rolling a big gear and trying to get every last Watt out. It looks like he will make it across now. The gap is 7" and falling.

Dessel took over from Mercado at the front and opened up a slight gap, so he may be stronger at this point.

Rinero is the next rider on the road, 1'10" back.

16:48 CEST   
Mercado and Dessel go under the 25 k to go banner. Landaluze is pulling all sorts of faces now, looking like he's entered the Basque Impersonate a Troll contest. Hard going out there, particularly at this crucial stage of the race.

16:53 CEST    170.5km/20km to go
Guerini is driving it behind, with Sinkewitz and Moreau next in line. They are 9'27 back, so there will be a change in the yellow jersey tonight. Dessel was 3'50" back this morning, lying in 28th place, while Mercado was 66th at 6'32". So the Frenchman is looking good for race leadership.

Despite the loss of Mancebo prior to the start, AG2R are having a great Tour thus far. The French team have already taken a stage win and nabbing yellow would confirm their worth as a ProTour team. They got their licence last autumn.

16:56 CEST   
Gonchar is now back on the front and is alongside Guerini. It looks like he may come up and do some turns (or, alternatively, he may be asking why the others were riding so hard earlier!)

16:58 CEST    175km/15.5km to go
Landaluze has cracked and slipped back to 36 seconds behind the two leaders. Meanwhile the peloton has just gone under 25 kilometres to go, so they are quite a bit back.

The two leaders are driving it. Dessel knows he'll take yellow, barring any disasters, while Mercado should be looking good for the stage win. Generally riders will share the spoils in a situation like this.

Landaluze still looks committed, and while he has slipped back, seems to be pedaling more smoothly now.

17:03 CEST    179.5km/11km to go
The peloton is quite large now, with Kessler, Sinkewitz, Rogers, Gonchar and Klöden all visible at or near the front.

The AG2R team are sitting right behind the T-Mobile guys. They aren't hampering the chase, but they are passively stopping other teams from getting involved. T-Mobile won't be too concerned, as they will probably be happy to hand over yellow and thus have an easier ride tomorrow.

17:05 CEST   
Dessel also has the mountains jersey, so if the team are happy with that haul, Mercado may have been told he can have the stage. The two are talking a lot, though, and Mercado shook his head, so maybe we will have a full-on sprint after all.

Mayo is in the autobus group, along with Boonen and McEwen. So his Tour dreams are in shreds.

17:08 CEST   
The T-Mobile led peloton are still over 9 minutes back, so the two leaders are riding very strongly. Dessel is very committed, trying to get every last second. Guerini is leading the chase right now, with Sinkewitz and the fading yellow jersey of Gonchar next in line.

Karpets, Klöden and Rujano are towards the rear of the Gonchar bunch, so most of the big names seem to be there now.

17:10 CEST    184.5km/6km to go
Dessel is doing the biggest share of the work now, it seems. The discussion they had may have been based around Mercado 'declining' to do more. Of course, Dessel has to ride in order to maximise his GC advantage over the others.

17:11 CEST   
Logically, the fact that Dessel is doing all of the work now suggests that they didn't reach an agreement between them a few kilometres ago. Had Dessel said 'you can have the stage if you work,' they'd both be equally committed.

Gonchar is driving the peloton now, so Klöden is the T-Mobile chief as of today, clearly.

17:14 CEST   
Stéphane Auge (Cofidis) has been hi-fiving the crowd. He is from the area..

Mercado has done nothing for the past few kilometres. That's what happens when you can't come to an agreement!!

17:15 CEST   
Some of our readers are wondering where the GC riders such as Landis and Hincapie are. As far as we can tell, most if not all of the big guns are in the peloton, which is probably about 60 riders strong.

17:15 CEST    188.5km/2km to go
The leaders are now getting close to the line. Dessel looks back, trying to make sure he isn't caught unawares. So he's going to go for it with whatever he has left...

17:16 CEST   
Mercado sits tight on his wheel, waiting for his moment. They are about to go under the kite...

17:16 CEST   
As they enter the final kilometre, Landaluze is a minute back and then the next chase group 2'25" down. So no danger of anyone coming up from behind.

17:17 CEST   
Dessel is watching Mercado closely. The two are almost side by side, pedaling quite slowly with 500 metres to go...

17:17 CEST   
They are getting close to the line... any moment now

17:18 CEST   
Dessel jumped at 250 metres to go but Mercado comes right by him. Dessel keeps fighting, though, and almost gets him at the line...that was quite close, considering the work Dessel did...

17:19 CEST   
After Freire's win yesterday, that is the second successive Spanish success.

Landaluze crosses the line 55" back, taking third. He'll be disappointed, given that he nearly got across to the two leaders.

17:21 CEST   
Rinero and Moreni come in for fourth and fifth. Moreni sat on but then came through to nab the placing, 2'24" back.

Gonchar is now driving the peloton along. The team are clearly concerned about giving Dessel and Mercado too much time, but it's likely to be over seven minutes by the finish. If not more..

17:24 CEST   
Commesso now leads as Lampre take over. They will want to get some points for Bennati, who clearly made the split. Freire should also be there, somewhere..

17:24 CEST   
The peloton are inside the final kilometre now. Nice wide roads heading towards the line.

Zabel is also there. No sign of Freire, though..

17:26 CEST   
Garzelli is also sprinting...

Bennati, Zabel and Garzelli are next home, leading in the main bunch.

Isasi and Vasseur took sixth and seventh, by the way, staying clear to the line.

17:27 CEST   
Agritubel were a wild entry to the Tour (the only one, after Comunidad Valenciana got the boot), so they have earned their place today. Although Dessel didn't get the stage, he will be very content with yellow and the mountains jersey; that's a nice day's work.

17:36 CEST   
Mercado is quite a handy rider, having won a stage back in 2004. He was 37th then and 36th one year earlier.

Dessel's Tour history is a bit more modest, the Frenchman having finished 113th in 2002. However he won the Tour Méditerranéen this year and was 18th in Paris-Nice, so he's pretty solid. He'll try to hang on to yellow over the next few days, but his efforts today may make defending the race lead tomorrow a tough task.

Neither rider is likely to figure in the final shakeup, though.

17:46 CEST   
That completes our coverage from today's tenth stage of the Tour de France. While today was the first stage in the high mountains, many of the big guns kept their powder dry, although there were a few GC riders who showed a worrying lack of form.

Tomorrow is quite a bit tougher though and so the gloves will certainly be off; surf on over for coverage from what should be a very interesting day's racing.


1 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel                    4.49.10
2 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                            
3 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                   0.56
4 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Cofidis                             2.24
5 Christophe Rinero (Fra) Saunier Duval                     2.25
6 Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                       5.03
7 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Quick-Step-Innergetic                5.35
8 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                     7.23
9 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram                                       
10 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas                          
General classification after stage 10
1 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                    43.07.05
2 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel                       2.34
3 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile                            3.45
4 Cristian Moreni (Ita) Cofidis                             3.51
5 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                 4.45
6 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                             4.53
7 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                   5.22
8 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile                           5.30
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                             5.35
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears    5.37


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