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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 11 - Thursday, July 13: Tarbes-Val d'Aran/Pla-de-Beret (Spain), 206 km

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

Live report

Live coverage starts: 11:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST

Five minutes before
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
(Click for larger image)

22:45 CEST   
More mountains on the menu, including a new stage finish atop Pla-de-Beret in Spain. This long, hard stage will show just who the real contenders are for the win in the 93rd Tour de France. With one beyond-category and four first category climbs on the program, there is no margin for error on the second and hardest stage across the Pyrenees. Will an Euskaltel-Euskadi rider try to show off in front of their fervent Basque supporters by attacking on the final 13.5km ascent up to the Spanish ski station of Pla-de-Beret? Don't bet against it!

11:10 CEST   
Although yesterday was the first official mountain stage, today's 206.5 kilometre race to Pla de Beret is where the first major climbing shakeup will begin. It's a nasty day in the saddle, to say the least; after 76 kilometres of racing the riders will crest the top of the hors categorie Col du Tourmalet, a 2,115 metre monster. It is 18.4 km long and averages 7.7 percent.

11:15 CEST   
Then, at km 106, the 1,489 metre Col d'Aspin will be crossed (12.3 km at 5.2 percent), followed 31 km later by the Col de Peyresourde (1,569 m, 9.5 km at 7.1 percent). The Col du Portillon is next, the summit lying 162 kilometres after the start (1,320 m, 7.9 km at 8.4 percent), then the final shootout will come on the 1,860 metre Pla-de-Beret. This is 13.5 kilometres long and averages 5.4 percent.

Each of these climbs is a first category ascent, with the Tourmalet the only HC mountain today. However don't be fooled by that; this is going to be very painful for each and every one of the riders. Today may not show who will win this Tour, but it will certainly expose those who will lose it. The list of GC contenders may well be down to single figures tonight.

11:23 CEST   
Former white jersey wearer Benoît Vaugrenard (FDJ) sparked an attack two kilometres after the drop of the flag today, taking five riders with him. They were Jens Voigt (CSC), Sylvain Calzati (AG2R), Christophe Le Mevel (Credit Agricole), Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) and Philippe Gilbert (FDJ).

They were chased by four others, namely José Luis Rubiera (Discovery Channel), Koos Moerenhout (Phonak), Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d’Epargne – Illes Balears) and Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom). Garcia Acosta and Geslin, the bronze medallist in last year’s world championships, succeed in getting across.

However the eight were recaptured by the peloton soon afterwards.

11:28 CEST    11km/195.5km to go
The peloton is together at the moment, but the speed is very fast for now. Masochists will be trying to get clear at this early point, in the hope of a) TV time for their sponsors, b) the hunt for KOM and sprint points, and c) the hope that one or two of them may stay clear until the end.

Will today see another big break by Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen, as was the case last year? The 2005 KOM winner showed good form yesterday and will be keen to start building up mountains points for this year's campaign.

11:31 CEST   
Generally in the last few years the KOM jersey has been won in this fashion, the rider concerned building a chunk of points via a long distance attack. In a move to balance things out, the Tour organisers introduced double points for the final climb on each mountain stage, providing they are above a certain level of difficulty.

11:35 CEST    17km/189.5km to go
Things are all together for now. Race leader Cyril Dessel was given a special jersey this morning to reflect his leadership of both the general classification and the King of the Mountains ranking. However he will wear a regular maillot jaune during the actual stage. As per the usual rules, the second placed rider in the KOM ranking will wear the polka dot jersey. This goes to the other longtime breakaway rider yesterday, stage winner Juan Miguel Mercado.

11:36 CEST   
Twenty riders went clear on the approach to the first sprint at Arcizac-ez-Angles (17.5km). These were recaptured with 1 km to go, but maillot vert leader Robbie McEwen then surged clear in search of the points.

11:38 CEST   
Generally McEwen elects not to go for these intermediate sprints as he feels it blunts his speed in the final gallop to the line at the end of the stage. However he certainly ain't going to be going for the win today, so there is no harm in grabbing a few points when he can.

The double green jersey winner is also known to be concerned about Oscar Freire. The Spanish triple world champion is a much better climber and so he has a chance of picking up points over the Australian in these tougher stages.

11:39 CEST   
McEwen was successful in his plan, taking the 6 points and 6 bonus seconds up for grabs. In a nice move, his team-mate Geert Steegmans took second, preventing McEwen's main rivals from doing so. Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) was third.

11:44 CEST   
Some readers have been wondering what has happened to Levi Leipheimer's Tour campaign. He slipped back yesterday in the mountains, although he was able to regain contact with the other GC contenders before the end.

Leipheimer hasn't confirmed what is wrong but there have been reports that he was ill before the long time trial a few days ago. Furthermore, he said after yesterday's stage that he hadn't eaten enough and got the hunger knock. He certainly was looking good early on in the stage, sitting close to the front of the peloton on the climbs, but will have been very disappointed to get dropped on the Col de Marie Blanque.

11:47 CEST   
Leipheimer was very impressive in last month's Dauphine Libéré, but like Iban Mayo two years ago, that hot June form didn't translate into Tour success.

Mayo was another who was in trouble yesterday, the Euskaltel rider getting dropped and losing 24 minute and 24 seconds by the finish. He has been very disappointing for the past two seasons, although he did win a stage in the Dauphine this year.

11:49 CEST    26km/180.5km to go
A break of 16 riders went clear, the move sparked off by Stuart O’Grady (CSC) and Egoi Martinez (Discovery Channel) at the 19km mark. However these were recaptured 6 km later.

11:54 CEST   
CN reporter Anthony Tan is today meteorologist and reports that the weather is a sizzling 31 degrees and humid. There is little wind and average crowds. We presume he is referring to their size of the latter, rather than their appearance.

11:57 CEST    31.5km/175km to go
Iker Camano (Euskaltel) and David De la Fuente (Saunier Duval) have gone clear. The first of these is from the Basque country and so he (like the rest of the team) will be motivated to try to win today.

12:00 CEST   
Kjell Eirik has contacted us to say that Norwegian TV said yesterday that that Leipheimer suffered from diarrhoea the night before the time trial. Furthermore, it was reported that Mayo is having knee problems.

Thanks for that...

Of course, if Leipheimer has been having stomach problems that will have affected his intake of food, causing his glycogen levels to be depleted prior to the start of the mountains. Hopefully he can recover and do something later in the Tour.

12:06 CEST    40km/166.5km to go
Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) attacked and joined up with the two leaders. At the scary-named town of Boo (36.5 km), the four were 1'05 clear. This advantage continued to build, and they are now 2'20 ahead of the peloton.

12:11 CEST   
CN's Hedwig Kröner spoke to T-Mobile manager Olaf Ludwig at today's start. She mentioned that he had said that the team didn't feel obliged to chase down breaks, but rode at the front all day anyway.

"Yes, but did we defend the jersey? No..." he replied.

He added that he isn't worried by the time gap to Dessel. "I think it is small enough. We tried to oblige the other teams to ride, too, but they decided not to. So we just limited the time difference. And we did try to have somebody in the break - the group that left was the first one where we unfortunately weren't represented."

12:13 CEST    45km/161.5km to go
The leaders continue to pull away from the peloton. The gap is 4'44 now.

12:20 CEST   
Camano is best placed of the four who are clear. He started today 51st, 10 minutes and 9 seconds off the race lead.

Wegmann is 91th, 17'02 back, while Flecha is 123rd, 30'07 in arrears. And Fuente is 157th overall, 42'25 down.

12:22 CEST    50km/156.5km to go
Dessel's AG2R team lead the peloton to limit the break's lead. The four are working well together for now and are 6'23 ahead of the peloton.

The leaders covered 45.9 kilometres in the first hour of racing.

12:25 CEST   
Cyclingnews report Hedwig also spoke to Mikel Astarloza this morning. She pointed out that he was 25th in the overall standings, but the AG2R rider said that he wasn't thinking about his own GC position. "For today I have another job. We will try defend the jersey, and afterwards I have to be in a good position to help Christophe Moreau. We hope that he will make it to the podium this year."

12:28 CEST   
AG2R continue to lead the peloton and don't look too worried by the break. They are passing through some beautiful countryside at the moment, flanked by lush vegetation and steep hillsides.

France is seemingly the most-visited country in the world and the view from our Hindenburg V-1 blimp shows why.

12:32 CEST    57.2km/149.3km to go
The leaders are now on the slopes of the Col du Tourmalet. They are working well together and are cheered on by enthusiastic crowds. They are 7'57 ahead now.

AG2R continue to lead, while the Phonak team are also close to the front. They are protecting Floyd Landis from the wind. The US rider is the best placed of the GC contenders and today will show what his climbing form is like.

12:35 CEST   
Another big contender Cadel Evans is expecting a very active stage. "Almost everything is going to happen for GC today," he said at the start. He said he'd choose his tactics out on the road. "It depends what the other guys do. Today is one of the biggest days of the Tour... I feel okay. We'll see when we get on the climbs, when it starts to really get hard. That's when you know whether you're really going strong."

12:37 CEST    59km/147.5km to go
Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is currently sitting at the back of the peloton, getting some food in. He seemed to be riding quite strongly yesterday. Andreas Klöden is almost certainly the team's GC rider now, the German having finished second overall two years ago.

AG2R are wearing the yellow race numbers of best team.

8'11 for the break.

12:41 CEST   
Narcis Abio has got in touch to give some details about the finish, clarifying the region that Pla de Beret is in.

"It is part of Catalunya or, being more accurate, it is in Val d'Aran, a little region inside Catalunya. They speak their own language, the arančs. It is different from catalan (spoken in Catalunya), basque (spoken in Pays Basque) and spanish.

Anyway the Euskaltel riders will have many supporters there, because the proximity, and they'll be very motivated."

Thanks for that.

12:43 CEST   
Samuel Plouhinec (Agritubel) is slipping back from the peloton on these early slopes of the climb. He's looking pretty fatigued.

12:46 CEST    61km/145.5km to go
The four leaders continue to work well. The gap has come down slightly to 7'52.

Steven de Jongh (Quick.Step) goes back to his team car for a drink. He gets a can of fizzy stuff, plus two seconds of 'assisted' speed.

12:49 CEST   
Stage 8 winner Sylvain Calzati leads the peloton now, doing his turn in the AG2R train.

De Jongh's drink didn't help; he's now losing contact with the climb. Patrice Halgand (CA) also looks rough, as does his team-mate Thor Hushovd.

Sandy Casar (Bouygues Telecom) is at the back of the peloton but moves up. Iban Mayo is pedaling a nice low gear but looks like he may be in trouble too. He's certainly very far back. Meanwhile, 7'22 ahead, his team-mate takes a turn.

12:50 CEST    63km/143.5km to go
The riders are all sharing the workload in the break. Apart from Flecha, who misses a turn. Wegmann leads now and look strong.

12:52 CEST   
Mayo has been dropped. Is this adios for the Euskaltel rider?

12:57 CEST   
Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) talked to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé before the start.

"There’s gonna be someone who will try it on the last climb. T-Mobile probably will set a hard pace to take the jersey back. I’d be surprised if for instance Landis takes the jersey. The winner will be a good rider, but not a rider who’s a favourite to win the Tour de France. It will be someone who’s a bit down on GC. Another option might be that Discovery or T-Mobile set a blistering pace at the last climb. Landis doesn’t have a very strong team behind him. For that reason, I don’t think they will want to take it, knowing that Alpe d’Huez and other hard stages are still to follow."

13:04 CEST   
Iban Mayo is now over a minute back and looks like he may pull out of the race. He's been talking with his team car and all indications are that he will pack.

13:11 CEST   
Giovanni Lombardi (CSC) has stopped, pulling out of the Tour. Meanwhile Mayo continues but slips back out of the cavalcade. He gestures with irritation at the TV camera following him, exchanging some words.

Further up the road, AG2R remain on the front. Phonak and T-Mobile are near the head of the peloton, with Landis and Klöden side by side.

Rubiera (Discovery Channel) has been dropped. Alexandre Moos (Phonak) has also let go of the bunch. Hushovd is suffering near the back of the race, as is Stephane Auge (Cofidis) and Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R). They are all off the back of the cavalcade.

13:15 CEST   
The four leaders are five kilometres from the top of the Tourmalet. Camano has been doing the least work but now winds up the pace.

There are quite a few riders off the back. However the bunch still contains over 100 riders.

Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) is one of those in difficulty. To quote Freddy M., another one bites the dust..

13:21 CEST   
Milan San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato (Quick.Step) is also one of those losing ground.

AG2R remain at the front and so far have collectively been very strong today. Landis is close to the front, although he seems to only have one team-mate with him.

The leaders are 2.8 km from the top of the climb.

13:23 CEST   
Flecha grits his teeth and hangs on. He doesn't like this climb much.

Tom Boonen is off the back now. So too Paolo Savoldelli!

13:29 CEST    73km/133.5km to go
French champion Florent Brard is just ahead of Savoldelli. Egoi Martinez, Benjamin Noval, Slava Ekimov and Jose Rujano are all dropped next, but can just cling on to the back of the peloton. Zabriskie is also in trouble. The AG2R riders are setting a serious tempo, bringing the break back to 5'00.

13:31 CEST   
The leaders are nearing the top of the climb and are being cheered on by enthusiastic supporters. Flecha is hanging on but looking rough.

13:33 CEST   
De La Fuente puts in an impressive burst just before the top and is joined by Wegmann. However the Saunier Duval rider is quicker, cresting the summit ahead.

Wegmann goes wide on a bend and gets a small slide going; his heartbeat probably jumped up somewhat but he stayed upright.

13:37 CEST   
Moncoutié is the latest team leader to be in trouble. Rujano doesn't look happy either. His climbing has been disappointing thus far.

Rasmussen jumps away but is shadowed by Voeckler, who is going a lot better than yesterday. The first day in the mountains can be tough on the legs.

Rasmussen sprints but Voeckler comes by, 3'44 down. It looked like Rasmussen moved over on Voeckler, but the Frenchman gives a little elbow flick, then gestures angrily once he gets by.

Gonchar has been dropped. Noval and Christophe Rinero (the 1998 King of the Mountains) are with him.

13:39 CEST   
Voeckler has left Rasmussen on the descent; the Dane may have elected to wait for the bunch. The Frenchman is in an aero tuck and will get down this mountain as fast as he can, trying to catch those ahead.

13:43 CEST   
AG2R continue to lead on the descent. They've been very strong today.

Next up is the Col d'Aspin, which caps out at km 106.

Rujano and Rinero are together, getting as aero as possible as they try to chase those up front.

Up front, Flecha got back up to the other two but for now, Camano hasn't got back up to them.

13:45 CEST   
Wegmann drives it on the descent, then Flecha comes through for a very short turn. De La Fuente then takes the front.

Voeckler is using every inch of the road as he tries to get across. He is currently 4'01 back.

13:47 CEST   
Moncoutié gets back to the peloton on the descent.

13:55 CEST   
Many of those who were dropped on the climb get back on to the peloton, which is on the valley floor. Voeckler is on the next climb, the Col d'Aspin, and looks determined in his chase of the four leaders.

Camano got back up to the other three so the quartet has regrouped. Flecha actually looked the weakest on the Tourmalet but was first back to Wegmann and De La Fuente.

Flecha signals for water. It's important to keep as hydrated as possible on a hot day like this. An Aquarel motorbike comes up and he gets a drink bottle from that.

13:55 CEST   
De La Fuente and Camano lead, then Flecha and Wegmann come through. The climb is not too steep here; in fact, the road is rolling.

13:58 CEST    96.1km/110.4km to go
The peloton are 5'43 back now. Dessel looks very relaxed, while Gerrans leads. His jersey is wide open in an effort to keep him as cool as possible.

Team leader Christophe Moreau sits behind Dessel, showing the true hierarchy in the team. Landis is in turn behind him and also looking relaxed.

14:05 CEST   
Voeckler continues to chase but is still 2'55 back.

Gerrans is riding strongly at the front of the peloton, while at the back of the bunch riders are once again sliding out the back.

14:07 CEST    101km/105.5km to go
Moreau drops back to the team car for a chat and a bottle. He doesn't seem to be in any difficulty.

14:13 CEST   
Moreau is already back up on Dessel's wheel...by Jove, that was quick..! He must be feeling good.

Special mention to Saul Raisin, by the way. The Credit Agricole rider is making a great recovery thus far from his injuries and was told this week by his neurosurgeon that he had no objection to him returning to racing. So providing the body is willing and able, he could get back to the pro peloton.

Saul is still rebuilding strength, particularly in his left hand side which was affected by the brain trauma. However he told CN earlier this week that his strength is coming back. He's been doing three and four hour spins on the home trainer (not an easy thing!) so that is a reflection of his determination. We wish him the best of luck.

A full feature on Saul will appear soon on Cyclingnews.

14:14 CEST   
Voeckler is now 1'50 back, while the maillot jaune group are 4'52 in arrears. AG2R continue to lead.

Meanwhile Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) has a problem. He dropped his chain but is moving again. Team-mate Anthony Geslin was dropped but came up to him, giving him a helpful push before dropping back once more.

14:17 CEST   
So Voeckler seems to be closing the gap quite well.

More riders are going out the back, including David Millar (Saunier Duval), Erik Zabel (Milram), Ińaki Isasi (Euskaltel) and Garate (Quick.Step).

14:18 CEST   
AG2R have been unexpectedly strong so far today, leading the peloton for many, many kilometres.

Up front, the four leaders are 800 metres from the top of the climb. They are still together, with Flecha looking much stronger than he did on the Tourmalet. This is an easier climb, so that helps...

14:18 CEST   
Voeckler is now just 1'20 back...good going for the former French champion.

14:20 CEST   
Wegmann jumps for the top. Flecha goes after him, but is passed by De La Fuente. However the Gerolsteiner rider is clearly the strongest, crossing the line a second or two clear of his Saunier Duval rival.

De La Fuente looks back to see where the others are. They will wait; it's waaaaay too soon to ditch the other two.

14:24 CEST   
Michael Boogerd now comes to the front, followed by his team-mate Rasmussen. The latter will be keen to get more KOM points here.

The two Rabobank riders are drawing clear of the rest and are next over the top. There didn't seem to be much of a challenge from the other guys in the field.

14:25 CEST   
Voeckler continues in no man's land, rocketing down the descent as he tries to get closer to the leading quartet. He's as low as possible on the bike, his mouth almost resting on his stem.

14:27 CEST   
So far this stage has been a war of attrition rather than one of all-out attacks. Even so, several big names have already been in difficulty, including Simoni, Savoldelli and Mayo. As we get closer to the finish it will be interesting to see what happens when the GC guys start firing...should be very, very exciting...

14:31 CEST    115.5km/91km to go
The peloton are now only 3'43 behind the leaders.

14:35 CEST    118.5km/88km to go
The leaders are now going through the feedzone. Flecha was looking a little rough there, so he will be happy to get some food and fluids.

14:36 CEST    119.5km/87km to go
Voeckler seems to be drawing ever closer. He can probably see them on the straighter sections of road.

14:39 CEST   
Yes, Voeckler is now 57 seconds back...so he's gradually getting there.

Meanwhile, Zabel and Isasi rejoin the bunch as they pass through the feed zone. Simon Gerrans is leading the AG2R train but has time to grab some grub. Calzati does likewise, but will soon get back to his work.

14:42 CEST    122.5km/84km to go
Flecha is certainly looking under pressure. He dropped back to the team car for a chat and had to grit his teeth to get back up again. In contrast, the others look more relaxed.

Jerome Pineau is getting some attention from the race doctor. Meanwhile, Rasmussen chases back on - not sure why he was off the back, but he may have been talking to his directeur sportif. He certainly looks strong as he chances back on.

14:47 CEST    125.5km/81km to go
Voeckler continues his chase and is now just 37 seconds back. He should make it. The peloton have relaxed a little and are 3'55 in arrears. They know that things will heat up on the final climb; the question is if Dessel can retain enough of his lead to hold on to yellow.

Landis and Evans are just behind the AG2R train, both looking relaxed. They should be in the shakeup today.

14:49 CEST    127.5km/79km to go
Flecha is certainly under pressure, sitting at the back and visibly digging in when the pace goes up.

The riders are now 10 kilometres from the summit of the Peyresourde.

14:52 CEST   
Several riders have been enquiring about the reported scrap between Rogers and Gonchar yesterday. If you re-read the live report, you'll see clearly that this was actually a reader's none-to-serious speculation of what could happen... Don't take this too seriously!

14:54 CEST   
Gerrans is on the front once more as the peloton hits the climb. He showed good form in the Tour de Suisse and is doing a great job today.

Meanwhile Gonchar is at the back of the peloton, looking rough.

Ooops...Mercado had to stop...not sure if it was a puncture or if he dropped his chain. He has three team-mates to help him back. He's wearing the KOM jersey today but Dessel is actually top in that competition.

14:56 CEST    129km/77.5km to go
Up front, Wegmann leads the break. De La Fuente is next, then Flecha and Camano. Voeckler is nearly there and riding smoothly. Good performance by the 2004 race leader.

14:58 CEST    129.9km/76.6km to go
Bang! Camano cracks and slips backwards. The other three continue on. Voeckler will catch him soon. He's looking good, very composed.

14:59 CEST   
Several readers have been wondering where George Hincapie and various other GC contenders are at present. The main bunch is still quite large so we think most of the main guys are there. When the big guns start firing a little closer to the finish we'll have a better idea as to who is strong today.

Flecha is also in difficulty, losing a bit of ground to Wegmann and De La Fuente.

15:00 CEST   
Voeckler catches Camano and goes straight by. Not as much as a hola, que tal? from him ; )

15:02 CEST   
Gonchar is gooooone. Zabel also dropped, as are riders such as Thomas Lövkvist (FDJ) and Anthony Charteau (CA). Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) slips back too.

15:05 CEST   
Voeckler seems to be climbing with his eyes closed, at times. Just three or four seconds, then peepers open to have a look. Probably helps with concentration or something.

15:08 CEST    132.5km/74km to go
The Frenchman seems to be slipping back, actually...he's over a minute back of the two leaders.

Jens Voigt has been dropped, along with Mazzoleni (T-Mobile).

Klöden is near the front, puffing a bit but looking focused. Boogerd is there too. AG2R are still impressive.

The peloton is perhaps 40 riders now...thinning out.

15:09 CEST   
Next big name to be dropped: Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas)

15:11 CEST   
Klöden is huffing and puffing but looking okay...he seems pretty strong, remaining a couple of bike lengths behind the first riders in the bunch but ready if anything goes.

Voeckler looks stuffed, now... He seems to have realised that the bird has flown, so to speak.

15:12 CEST   
Another big name is kaput...Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) heads south.

Popovych is also struggling...zut alors

15:14 CEST   
Considering all the big names going out the back, AG2R are really doing a great ride today. This has been a good Tour so far for the French, and those on French teams..

15:14 CEST   
The two leaders are now just 1 km from the summit.

15:18 CEST   
Popeye (ie Popovych) is about 10 metres off the back of the bunch. There is probably 30 - 40 riders left there. Hincapie is thought to be still there, although there hasn't been a sign of him just yet. He may be keeping his powder dry for later.

De La Fuente puts in a huuuuuuuge attack for the mountains points. It will be interesting to see if he waits around after the top or if he keeps going. Considering the effort he made and the gap he opened, he may decide to floor it from here. If not, it was a waste of effort because he didn't really need to get the points by quite such a large margin :)

15:20 CEST   
Boogerd carries team-mate Rasmussen away once more, as they did on the last climb. They have picked up Voeckler, who is weaving all over the place. He's dropped and goes back to the AG2R-led bunch.

15:21 CEST   
Rasmussen takes over from Boogerd and takes the points at the top. They were 3'04 behind the two leaders.

Voeckler is near the back of the bunch, looking disappointed. He put in a good effort but it didn't pay off this time.

15:22 CEST    141km/65.5km to go
De La Fuente presses on alone. He's going for it...

15:25 CEST   
An interesting message from reader Dan Kane:

"I work as a personal trainer at the Conestoga Valley Community Center which is located about 3 minutes away from the High School that Floyd Landis graduated from. His former gym teacher just came in to exercise and commented, how about that Floyd! Apparently he taught Floyd in high school
and said they constantly tried to get Floyd to come out for the various sports teams as he showed athletic prowess. Floyd would politely respond, "No sir, I have to go ride my bike"! Even then he knew cycling was his way out of there and on to stardom.

Go Floyd!!"

15:27 CEST   
AG2R are still on the front of the peloton. Dessel's been looking good so far; it will be interesting to see how he gets on towards the end of the stage.

Wegmann has got back up to De La Fuente, so there are two leaders once more. They are 5 km from the second sprint of the day.

15:28 CEST    147.5km/59km to go
So Rasmussen has picked up some useful KOM points today. He hasn't been challenged too much by some of the other riders in the peloton; one problem with the mountains competition is that it certainly isn't contested as fiercely as the points classification. He's looking strong all right, but it would be nice to see some other riders give it a go...

15:31 CEST   
French newspapers are taking to call this the Tour of Anarchy...it's certainly a very interesting, unpredictable race. The question many are wondering is if this is partly to do with Operacion Puerto, or are there other reasons? Your answers on a postcard to WADA...

15:36 CEST   
Wegmann and De La Fuente are passing through Luchon, about to contest the sprint. There is just over 50 km to go today. De Le Fuente gets it...

Three AG2R riders lead the yellow jersey, who is in turn followed by Christophe Moreau. Landis is also up there, as is Klöden. The peloton is quite large (we estimate perhaps 50 riders) so many of the GC guys should be there.

Jose Angel Gomez and his Saunier Duval team-mate Ruben Lobato are sitting at the back of the peloton. They give a thumbs up to the TV moto.

15:38 CEST   
De La Fuente is certainly frisky... He drops Wegmann soon after the start of the Col du Portillon, opening up a big gap, and presses on alone once more.

15:42 CEST   
Voeckler has been dropped from the yellow jersey group.

And now T-Mobile come to the front....Sinkewitz and Kessler, with Rogers and Klöden there too... This is heating up...

Evans is on Klöden's wheel, Boogerd, Landis, Moreau...

15:43 CEST   
Many riders are being dropped now...this is getting interesting. Karpets, Mercado, Popovych also gooooooooooone

15:44 CEST   
Landis looks pretty composed for now.

The yellow jersey is being dropped!!

15:49 CEST   
Simoni has also gone...there are now just 18 riders left in the peloton, including Cunego, Landis, Klöden, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Moreau, Rogers...there are more there, including a Discovery rider. Is it Hincapie or Azevedo?

Fothen is also there, although he's under pressure. Simoni is a little further up the line, along with Ivan Parra (Cofidis) and Menchov (Rabobank).

15:50 CEST   
Hincapie is in the yellow jersey group...ouch....

15:51 CEST    158.5km/48km to go
Bear with us...we will try to work out who is left up there...

Wegmann is being caught by the Kessler-led peloton... De La Fuente is still ahead, riding strongly

15:54 CEST   
Cunego is dropped now... Hincapie seems to have been dropped by the jersey group. In the Landis group, Kessler has just blown up.

15:55 CEST   
Rogers leads, with Rasmussen and Boogerd on his wheel... Landis is about eighth in line. Parra (Cofidis) is off the back of this group. Simoni is losing contact. Leipheimer is still there, so he has made a good recovery.

15:57 CEST    160.5km/46km to go
De La Fuente is giving it everything to stay clear. He is 1500 metres from the top of the Portillon.

Boogerd and Rasmussen now take to the front. Leipheimer, Landis and Klöden are next. Evans is still there, Moreau, Zubeldia , Menchov, Sastre.

15:58 CEST   
The front group has about 18 riders in it. De La Fuente is doing a great ride, meanwhile; he is still well clear.

16:03 CEST   
As the peloton crosses the top of the climb, these are the riders in the front group:

Jose Azevedo (Discovery), Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck (CSC), Michael Rogers, Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile), Christophe Moreau (AG2R), Michael Boogerd, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Georg Totschnig, Levi Leipheimer, Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Cadel Evans (Davitamon Lotto), Floyd Landis (Phonak), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel), Ivan Parra (Cofidis), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval).

16:05 CEST   
The yellow jersey group crosses the summit of the climb 3'40 behind De La Fuente

16:10 CEST   
Cadel Evans is now leading Moreau and the rest of the chase group on the descent. Boogerd is third in line as they snake around these bends.

The Hincapie group was 5'00 behind De La Fuente at the top of the last climb.

Carlos Sastre (CSC) had a mishap...we think it was a crash. He's back up and running (well, rolling) so seems to be okay.

16:11 CEST   
After the summit, De La Fuente is the clear leader of the KOM classification. He has 80 points, with Wegmann on 61 and overnight leader Dessel on 54.

16:14 CEST    173.5km/33km to go
There is a major stall by the chasing group as they start heading up again. Cunego has chased back on and goes straight by, being joined by a Caisse d'Epargne rider. It is David Arroyo. They've opened up a considerable lead, as the others have started looking around.

Rogers and Rasmussen are at the front of their group. They are eating and talking...major stall going on.

16:18 CEST    174.5km/32km to go
Rasmussen is now riding hard at the front. Menchov comes up, with Landis on his wheel. He's looking pretty relaxed for now.

Popovych is with the groupe maillot jaune, as is Mercado.

Rasmussen is really driving this...presumably he is helping Menchov, even though this will impact his chances of taking KOM points at the finish.

Zubeldia is there, Moreau (and his tongue), Klöden, Schleck..still about 18 in this chasing group

16:20 CEST   
De La Fuente is 51 seconds clear of the two chasers, Cunego and Arroyo, with the Landis group 2'03 down and the yellow jersey group 3'04" back.

16:21 CEST    176.5km/30km to go
Rasmussen continues to drive it, his hands draped over the bars in a pseudo TT position. (Gotta love those invisible bars)

16:21 CEST   
The two chasers are now just 34" back...

16:22 CEST   
Azevedo gets a bottle from the team car and then rejoins the big chasing group. So he's still up there with the GC candidates.

16:23 CEST    177.5km/29km to go
De La Fuente is looking back...looks like he was thinking about waiting for the two chasers, but presses on. They are just 22" back now, with the Landis group 1'31 down.

16:27 CEST   
De La Fuente has been caught, so there are three leaders one minute clear of the GC group.

16:29 CEST   
To confirm...Menchov is still up there, along with his team-mates Rasmussen and Boogerd.

The full list of the chasers:

Jose Azevedo (Discovery), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck (Team CSC), Andreas Klöden, Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Christophe Moreau (AG2R-Prevoyance), Levi Leipheimer, Marcus Fothen, Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), Denis Menchov , Michael Boogerd, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), Floyd Landis (Phonak)

16:31 CEST   
The three leaders are now just 24 seconds ahead. It looks like they are waiting as they pass under the 25 km to go banner.

Correction - it looks like there may be a couple more riders in the second group. Bear with us and we will add to them.

16:32 CEST   
The three leaders have been caught, so they clearly waited.

16:33 CEST   
Methinks this race is going to go KA-BOOM on the final climb of Pla de Beret...

16:34 CEST   
We have a report from some of our crew, who have driven up the final climb. There are fewer people than usual in the mountains, because it's not a weekend, but this was a deliberate move on the part of the organisers. This weekend's stages are both non-mountainous, you will note.

The last 3 km of the climb are basically flat or downhill, but there is a head/crosswind coming from the left, which is blowing down a few barriers.

16:35 CEST   
Jason from Ohio was in touch with this contribution:

"In the latest update, you mentioned that Moreau's tongue is also in the GC group. Where is his tongue on the overall standings? Might the tongue have a shot at the GC, as it tends to beat Moreau over the finish line?"

We are not sure, but we reckon the Frenchman can lick anyone.. (groan)

16:39 CEST    188.5km/18km to go
The front group passes under the 20 k to go banner, with Rasmussen doing a great ride to lead this group. Boogerd is next, then Simoni and Menchov.

By the way, reports are that Mayo packed earlier.

The yellow jersey is just 1'28 back. He started the day 4'45 ahead of Landis, so he may hang on tonight. It all depends on how that final climb goes.

16:40 CEST   
Sastre was able to get back up after his mishap earlier. Meanwhile, Cunego's burst has come back to haunt him - he's been dropped.

16:41 CEST   
De La Fuente has blown a gasket...that last climb is going to hurt. Well done on a good ride anyway.

The jersey group are 1'40 back.

16:44 CEST   
The front group comprises 18 riders:

Floyd Landis (Phonak), Jose Azevedo (Discovery), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck (Team CSC), Andreas Klöden, Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Christophe Moreau (AG2R-Prevoyance), Levi Leipheimer, Marcus Fothen, Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), Denis Menchov , Michael Boogerd, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne), Ivan Parra (Cofidis), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel)

16:46 CEST   
Stephen writes in with this:

"Interesting little observation: Having an "L" in your name if you're an American riding the Tour seems to help your GC prospects:

Greg "L"emond
"L"ance Armstrong
"L"evi "L"eipheimer
F"l"oyd "L"andis

Just a thought.

Thanks for the excellent coverage by the way - am reading discreetly at my desk while pretending to work on large spread sheets..."

Merci Stephen, but don't get fired!

16:50 CEST    193.7km/12.8km to go
Rasmussen continues to do his epic, driving it hard towards the finish.

De La Fuente has been caught by the yellow jersey group. Cunego has already been reeled in by them. Popovych is there, but no sign of Hincapie.

16:50 CEST   
Boogerd takes over at the front, as Rasmussen drifts off the back of the group. He's blown.

16:53 CEST   
Totschnig looks very rough...

The front group has exploded! Boogerd is driving it, while riders such as Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel), Frank Schleck (Team CSC), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne), Jose Azevedo (Discovery), Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval), Marcus Fothen, Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) are all gooone.

16:55 CEST   
Parra has also gone.

Boogerd, famously once described as having "a mouth full of teeth", drives it onwards, ever onwards. He's motoring today.

Moreau is gone... there are only seven riders in the front group now. They are: Floyd Landis (Phonak - the best placed on GC at 4'45), Carlos Sastre, Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Denis Menchov, Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto). Klöden is in trouble.

16:58 CEST   
Landis may end up with yellow, but one concern is that his Phonak team have been looking weak so far in the mountains.

Evans looks to be under pressure, going by his body language. Landis looks very relaxed.. Leipheimer too. Sastre is grimacing.

Further back down the mountain, Mercado attacked but Dessel led the others back up to him.

16:59 CEST   
The yellow jersey is at 3 minutes...if he loses more than 4'45 to Landis, he reverts to the standard blue kit of AG2R.

17:01 CEST   
Boogerd still drives it. His gnashers are becoming more obvious with the effort, while the medal around his neck swings back and forth at an ever increasing rate. He's given his all..

Klöden is dropped. Menchov attacks, but a very smooth looking Landis is straight on him. Sastre, Evans and Leipheimer are also there.

Leipheimer goes! Very impressive...

17:03 CEST   
The others come back to him, though...five riders left. Sastre, Leipheimer, Landis, Evans, Menchov...

Landis is reluctant to come to the front. Evans is beckoning the others to come through...they need to keep taking time from Klöden.

17:03 CEST   
Evans leads, then Landis...he looks very strong....

17:05 CEST   
Landis drives, then pulls over. Menchov doesn't want to work. Landis goes back to the front. For now, he seems the strongest, but he's reluctant to do too much.

17:07 CEST   
There is a chance that Landis doesn't want the jersey just yet...perhaps he would prefer to wait a few days.

Evans drives it once more. Sastre is under pressure but stays there. Further back, Klöden is chasing Boogerd.

It's Evans and Landis at the front, Menchov, Leipheimer and Sastre sitting on.

17:08 CEST    201.5km/5km to go
Landis is driving it now. Leipheimer looks to be under a bit of pressure. Evans is digging in, but sitting second.

17:09 CEST    202km/4km to go
Landis is doing most of the work, with Menchov now on his wheel. The American looks back, asking the others to ride.

17:10 CEST   
Dessel digs in, trying to salvage his jersey.

The Landis group is now at 4 km to go.

17:10 CEST    202.5km/4km to go
Still five leaders, Landis doing it all...

17:11 CEST   
Menchov comes through now. Klöden is 32 seconds back, with Boogerd still ahead of him.

Leipheimer zips up his jersey. Is he cold, or is that a show of confidence on his part?

17:12 CEST   
Moreau is riding hard, trying to limit his losses. The crowd are lapping it up (sorry)

17:14 CEST    203.5km/3km to go
Landis still doing it all. The climb flattens out with about 2 km to go...

The crowd are nuts here...loads of Basque fans in orange

Leipheimer attacks!

17:14 CEST   
Landis and Menchov get up to him, while Evans and Sastre are dropped.

Menchov goes....Landis bridges, and then attacks himself...

Sastre has dropped Evans

17:15 CEST    204.5km/2km to go
Menchov and Landis are together, with Leipheimer a couple of metres back. He's back now.

The climb is flattening off now.

17:15 CEST   
They are going under the 2 km to go banner now. Menchov took the points at the summit of the climb.

17:16 CEST   
Landis drives it, while Menchov tightens his shoes... Looks like a sprint between these three riders...

17:17 CEST   
Leipheimer won't work, so he is probably favourite in the gallop. Landis is driving it, flicking his elbow to try to get the others to come through.

17:17 CEST   
It's Landis, all the time... Leipheimer now comes to the front...

17:17 CEST   
Menchov leads with 200 metres to go....

Menchov! He gets it, just ahead of Leipheimer and Landis.

17:18 CEST   
Evans takes fourth, 23 seconds back, with Sastre on his wheel. Boogerd comes in 1'03 down...

17:19 CEST   
Next home: Zubeldia, Schleck and Klöden, 1'32 back.

So where is the yellow jersey? He's giving it loads... really trying hard.

17:20 CEST   
Moreau is home now, 2'29 back.

Landis will have got an eight second bonus for third, so Dessel needs to finish within 4'37 of the Phonak rider...

17:21 CEST   
Totschnig, Fothen, Rogers and Parra come in, 3'04 down.

The yellow jersey has just now gone under the kite, so it's looking like he's lost it...

17:22 CEST   
Here comes Dessel....he is just going to miss out.. .

17:23 CEST   
Ouch....he misses by approximately eight seconds. So if Landis hadn't got that bonus, Dessel may have hung on.. He rode very well, though, fighting every inch of the way. Chapeau.

17:24 CEST   
So Landis will take the first yellow jersey of his career. He is eight seconds ahead of Dessel, with Menchov 1'01 down.

Popovych finishes 6'24 down... C'est fini pour lui...

17:29 CEST   
Menchov led into the final corner, leaving Leipheimer only about 150 metres to get by. The Russian was too strong, though, taking his first ever Tour stage win.

Landis looks very, very happy with yellow... "I said from the beginning this was our goal," he told the TV interviewers. "This is a long way from the end, though."

17:38 CEST   
One of our readers, Jerome, adds this:

"Since 1976, only 4 TdF winners have NOT had an "L" in their name: Pantani, Roche, Thevenet, and Riis. Stephen could be on to something..."

So that's it from the second mountain stage of this year's Tour de France. Menchov and Landis are clearly very happy with how things went, but Leipheimer will be smiling also after his recovery. And although Evans and Sastre lost time, they should be in the scrap over the next few days.

The AG2R team will rue missing out on defending yellow, but they fought hard. Had Landis not got that bonus at the end, Dessel may have hung on. Still, a good show by them.

17:40 CEST   
Make sure to surf on over later on for a full stage report, results plus photos. Adios from Spain!


1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                           6.06.25
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                            
3 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                                     
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                         0.17
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                  
6 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                            1.04
7 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                   1.31
8 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                  
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                                 
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                  2.29
General classification after stage 11
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                             49.18.07
2 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                        0.08
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                              1.01
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                         1.17
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                              1.52
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile                             2.29
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile                             3.22
8 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel                       3.33
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance                   3.44
10 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner                         4.17

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