94th Tour de France - ProT
France, July 7-29, 2007
Results & report
Stage 16 - Wednesday, July 25: Orthez - Gourette - Col d’Aubisque, 218.5km
Live commentary by Shane Stokes and Bjorn Haake
Complete live report
Live coverage starts: 10:45 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST
Bonjour (although many may not agree we have a good day today) and welcome
back to our Cyclingnews live coverage of what could be the decisive stage
in this year's Grande Boucle. The final big mountain stage is upon us,
running from Orthez to the Col d'Aubisque. Not only is it 218 kilometres long,
but besides the final HC climb it features the Port de Larrau (HC), then dives
into Spain for the Alto Laza (cat 3), back into France over the inaugural La
Pierre St. Martin (cat 1), the Col de Marie-Blanque (cat 1) and then the final
climb to the Aubisque (HC)
The départ fictif (neutral
start) was expected for 10:40, but all the French teams along with the German
squads have vowed to do a sit-in protest at the start, similar to what we have
seen in 1998. So the start may get delayed.
The riders have now got moving after
that protest took place. They have left the start area and are moving toward
the end of the neutralised section.
Today is quite possibly the toughest
stage of this year's Tour de France. At 218.5 kilometres it is the third longest
and it has a total of five categorised climbs.
Their locations on
the route are as follows:
Km 79, Port de Larrau, hors catégorie
(14.7 kilometres at an average of 8.1%)
Km 93, Alto Laza, category 3 (3.5
kilometres at 6.8%)
Km 131, Col de la Pierre-Saint-Martin, category 1 (14.2
kilometres at 5.2%)
Km 180.5, Col de Marie-Blanque, category 1 (9.3 kilometres
Km 218.5, Col d'Aubisque, hors catégorie (16.6 kilometres at 7%)
So as you can see, there is plenty of scope for a big shakeup.
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) and
Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) are the two top riders in the race and
unless today brings a major surprise, it's likely that one or other of them
will be in the yellow jersey this evening.
Contador was certainly
a bit stronger than Rasmussen on Monday's final climb, and so he will be hoping
to get some time back today. He is likely to be quicker in the final time trial
and so even if he doesn't get the jersey, he'd be happy to reduce his deficit
to a minute or so.
Rasmussen knows he just needs to hold on today.
If he can stay with Contador until the end of the stage, that should be enough.
Of course, you never know...!
11:07 CEST 3km/215.5km to go
The peloton is all
together at the moment.
The riders face a very lumpy start
to the stage, with non-categorised but very rolling terrain on the run-up to
the first bonus sprint. That comes at Mauleon-Licharre, 36 kilometres into the
After that, they riders move on to
the first of two feed zones at Tardets-Sorholus (km 48.5). The second comes
62.5 kilometres from the end of the stage, in Arette.
The peloton then climbs the first
category Col du Marie Blanque and drops down to the second sprint at Laruns.
This is just before the start of the final climb, so it's unlikely that the
green jersey contenders will be still in the mix for those bonus points.
11:28 CEST 18km/200.5km to go
There are currently
four riders clear: Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne),
Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Saunier Duval-Prodir's 1998 king of the
mountains Christophe Rinero.
Augé was the catalyst, attacking eight
kilometres after the start and then being joined by the other three.
One of those trying for a win today
is Iban Mayo. He's not going to win a TT and he's unlikely to take a flat stage,
so he knows this is his last chance. He impressed greatly on the second Alpine
stage but since then his form has dropped. However if he has the legs, he promises
to go up the road early on.
“I´m aware that tomorrow´s stage is
my last chance in this Tour. I came here to take a stage win, and I´ll go all
out for it, although we know that most riders want to grab victory here. Michael
Rasmussen and Alberto Contador are a little above the rest, so we´ll have to
form part of the breakaway early in the stage.
"I really want to
get away from the feeling of disappointment that has been staying with me since
Sunday, at the mountaintop finish of Plateau de Beille. The team worked hard
for me that day and I want to dedicate a triumph to them.”
11:36 CEST 24km/194.5km to go
The leading quartet
are now 5'20 ahead.
11:49 CEST 33km/185.5km to go
The gap continues
to rise. The peloton is content for these riders to move ahead, knowing that
the tough parcours will make it very difficult for a break to stay clear until
the finish at the top of the Col d'Aubisque.
The four leaders are
now 8'50" ahead.
The entire Astana team pulled out
of the race yesterday, removing Andreas Klöden (5th), Andrey Kashechkin (8th)
and Alexandre Vinokourov (23rd) from the general classification.
It was 'invited' to leave by the race organisers following Alexandre Vinokourov's
positive doping test.
Astana had been leading the team classification,
but now Discovery Channel take over there.
Yesterday's news will have come as
a big shock to many fans of the sport. Some teams are also losing patience and
several protested at the start this morning, as mentioned earlier.
The French and German teams stayed at the start for a minute or so to protest
at doping in the sport. Others such as Discovery Channel, Euskaltel, Lampre,
Caisse d'Epargne and Predictor Lotto didn't feel the same way and left. Michael
Rasmussen also left with these.
Strangely, T-Mobile and CSC also
moved off, even though they have strong anti-doping programmes. Hmm, what about
12:10 CEST 47.5km/171km to go
There was some
booing from the crowd. We don't know if that was for those who left, or those
Meanwhile, the four leaders are working well together
and are 7'23" ahead now.
The race moves towards the mountains.
It's a beautiful sunny day and the field is rolling along quite quickly. The
Barloworld team of Juan Mauricio Soler are on the front. They realise that Soler's
best chance of taking the mountains jersey is probably to try to get clear early
on today. They will hope that Michael Rasmussen gets tied up in the GC battle
with Alberto Contador, and has to prioritise the yellow jersey over the mountains
Tomorrow's stage has one third category climb and
five fourth-category ascents, but Soler ideally needs to strike today if he
wants to win the competition. He's currently just two points behind Rasmussen.
12:25 CEST 58.5km/160km to go
The leaders have
The road starts is going uphill as they head towards the
hors catégorie Port de Larrau.
Yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen clips
out of the pedals and stops. It looked like he was going for a toilet break,
but he's actually stopped beside some camper vans. Stomach problems or mechanical
troubles? We've no idea.
The leaders are Stéphane Augé (Cofidis),
Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) and
Christophe Rinero (Saunier Duval-Prodir), and appear to be working well together.
Rinero won the earlier intermediate sprint at Mauléon-Licharre. Augé and Verdugo
As we mentioned, Christophe Rinero won the KOM classification
back in 1998. Now 33, that was the highlight of his career.
Vicente Garcia leads, then Rinero
takes over. They are riding alongside a river now and the road is slightly uphill.
By the way, we understand that it
was the strike-breakers who were booed earlier, not the strikers. When they
rolled off their gesture was applauded by the crowd.
12:40 CEST 65.5km/153km to go
The leaders are
on the climb now, while behind the peloton is still being lined out by the Barloworld
team. It's 8'55" back, though, so there is a lot of work to be done yet.
12:43 CEST 66.5km/152km to go
really driving this along; they want the KOM points. For now the gap remains
nearly nine minutes.
Alexandre Vinokourov has protested
his innocence to L'Equipe, claiming he never doped. He's come up with a bizarre
explanation as to why he failed the test, which was reported to have shown red
blood cells from two different people:
'I think it's a mistake in
part due to my crash. I have spoken to the team doctors who had a hypothesis
that there was an enormous amount of blood in my thighs, which could have led
to my positive test.'
He also claimed that un-named people within
the sport have been victimising the team, saying that there is a lot of jealousy
about Astana. Hmmm..
The peloton split on the lower slopes
under the pressure of the Barloworld team's driving. Juan Mauricio Soler, second
in the KOM competition but wearing the jersey as the leader Michael Rasmussen
is in the yellow jersey, was in the first group. The Rabobank team were trying
to close it down.
12:51 CEST 68.5km/150km to go
However Soler has
jumped away and has been joined by two other riders. This is good for his KOM
The other two are Carlos Sastre (CSC)! and Amets Txurruka
Behind, many riders are heading south. Tom Boonen and
his green jersey are in a second group.
Wow..that's big news. Sastre is a
GC contender, starting the day 5th overall, 6'46" back.
That's a lot of time to bring back,
of course, but his move will put the pressure on behind.
are 9.5 km from the top.
12:57 CEST 69.5km/149km to go
With the gap from
the break to the yellow jersey of Michael Rasmussen - still in the peloton -
at 7 minutes, things are breaking up.
Sergio Paulinho (Discovery
Channel) has jumped away and is now being joined by his team-mate Yaroslav Popovych,
Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval), David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) and Carlos Barredo
(Quick.Step - Innergetic).
Txurruka has been dropped by the Popo
group, which is closing up to the Sastre group.
Sastre is on the front, driving it,
with Soler on the wheel. Mayo jumped across, leaving Popo and Paulinho!
13:00 CEST 71.1km/147.4km to go
So Mayo has done
what he said and gone with an early move. Sastre is gambling everything on a
The four leaders are 6'30" ahead of Rasmussen,
with the others in-between.
Many riders are going out the back
of the peloton, including Pieter Weening. He's one of Rabobank's strong climbers,
so that's a blow to Rasmussen.
Sastre is out of the saddle, driving
the pace. Soler and Mayo are just sitting on. Sastre is one of the friendliest
riders in the peloton, by the way.
They are 5'06" behind the leaders,
and just over a minute ahead of the Rasmussen peloton.
is under pressure today. The T-Mobile rider is off the back of the peloton but
is chasing to get back on now. George Hincapie is also off the back in this
group, which also includes Kirchen's team-mate Linus Gerdemann.
13:04 CEST 72.5km/146km to go
on the front of his group, getting no help from the other two.
leaders have approximately 7 kilometres to go until the top.
The Sastre group is now 5'15 back,
with the Rasmussen group at 5'53". So Sastre isn't really pulling away.
Kirchen is really suffering. He started
the day 7th overall after the withdrawal of Klöden and Kashechkin.
Other riders being dropped are David
Millar (Saunier Duval - Prodir) and Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel). The
peloton is down to perhaps 30 riders now. Rabobank continue to lead there.
Sastre is (still) doing all the work.
He's grimacing as he climbs this mountain, which is 14.7 kilometres in length,
1573 metres in altitude and averages 8.1%.
Rasmussen is being shadowed by Contador.
Cadel Evans is a little further back. Jens Voigt is still there, working hard.
David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) is being dropped.
With just over
5 kilometres to go to the top, Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)and Christophe Rinero
(Saunier Duval-Prodir) were briefly dropped by Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
and José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne. However they've got back on.
It really is a beautiful day here,
and the scenery is amazing.
Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) has been
dropped by the peloton.
The two French riders in the break are being
dropped once again. The Sastre group is now 3'45" back, while the peloton is
13:15 CEST 74.5km/144km to go
Now it's Michael
Albasini's turn to crack from the peloton. The Liquigas rider is slipping back.
So too Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis).
Rasmussen has three team-mates
left in the peloton, with Thomas Dekker on the front now.
Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne)
heads south.. He doesn't have his Tour de Suisse-winning form.
Rasmussen group has 25 riders or so. No attacks in the past few kilometres..only
those going off the back!
13:17 CEST 76.5km/142km to go
on the front. All three chasers are out of the saddle on a steeper section.
Now Dario Cioni (Predictor Lotto)
cracks. Voigt, too. He's maybe 20 metres off the back of that group, but will
try to get back on after the summit. If Sastre is caught he may need Voigt's
Verdugo and Garcia Acosta are 1.6
kilometres from the top. Verdugo leads for now.
13:22 CEST 78.5km/140km to go
The riders are
being cheered by a yodeling spectator..well, it is the mountains after all.
Dekker, Flecha and Boogerd lead Rasmussen, Contador and the rest. Thomas Voeckler
(Bouygues Telecom) is up there too..he's on a good day.
Soler and Mayo are 3'31 behind the leaders. The Rasmussen group is 4'37" back.
Augé and Rinero are working hard
but they are losing time.
Soler now takes over as they near
the top. Mayo has still not taken a single turn.
The leaders now
sprint for the summit; Garcia Acosta gets it ahead of Verdugo.
13:25 CEST 79.3km/139.2km to go
group are 4'27" back.
He's sitting fourth in line, but
will most likely go for the points to try to limit Soler's gain.
Soler is doing all the work. Mayo is under pressure.
Soler winds it up as they near the
prime line. He goes over the top, 3'06" behind the two leaders. We presume the
two French riders are still ahead and so he'll have got the points for fifth.
- Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne)
- Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Christophe Rinero (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
- Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Mauricio
Soler (Barloworld) at 3.14
- Peloton at 4.29
Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Rinero and Augé were third and fourth
on the climb. Rasmussen got seventh, leading the peloton over, but that means
he lost five points to Soler. Soler now leads the KOM by three points.
The leaders, the two chasing groups
and the peloton (or what is left of it) are on the descent now.
Sastre, Soler and Mayo continue to
Rinero and Augé are 1'10" behind
the two leaders. Then Soler, Sastre and Mayo are at 2'40".
Sastre is really pushing along here.
It's all or nothing today; if he doesn't get a big enough buffer before the
final climb, he'll likely fall back in the general classification tonight.
The Sastre group goes over the top
of the third category Alto Laza 2'33 back. Soler gets the points.
13:51 CEST 94.5km/124km to go
On the descent,
that group catches Rinero and Augé, so there are five chasing two. Meanwhile
the yellow jersey group is 5'40" behind the two leaders.
Contador has had a puncture on the
14:01 CEST 104.5km/114km to go
The two leaders
are in Isaba and will start to climb gradually towards the first category La
Pierre-St Martin Pass.
Behind, Rinero leads the chasers. The plan
may well have been for him to go up the road early and then help out Mayo once
he got across.
The chasers are now 1'20" back. The
two leaders are 5'40" ahead of the Rasmussen group. So it looks like the chasers
should join up.
14:05 CEST 108.5km/110km to go
The two leaders
are waiting for the others, using this time to soft-pedal.
14:08 CEST 109.5km/109km to go
It's come together.
So now the leading group has seven riders: Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
and José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) have been joined by Carlos
Sastre (Team CSC), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis),
Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) and Christophe Rinero (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
This is very good for Soler, as if he tops the climbs first, there are plenty
of other guys to absorb the remaining points He could be on his way to winning
the mountains classification today, depending on how things go.
Rasmussen doesn't want to give away the KOM jersey, but he has to choose which
one is more important.
We suggest that is a no brainer;
Newsflash: Word from our ground-crew
is that - unfortunately - another positive doping test is about to be announced.
Please standby for more details.
Please go to our home page for details
of this story. No name as yet, but we expect that shortly.
14:13 CEST 113.5km/105km to go
Rabobank is on
the front in full force, guiding its leader Rasmussen in the valley. Kirchen
and Gerdemann are at the back of the field. All the main contenders like Evans,
Contador, Leipheimer are also here.
These positive tests are hard to
stomach, we know, but with each one more pressure is put on teams and riders
to change. It's going to take some time...
Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
Cycling already does far more testing
than other sports. So it's not a case of saying that cycling is x times worse
than y based on the test results. Many sports simply don't have complete testing,
so there is no way of knowing what the rate is out there.
Golf's Gary Player made the news
last week when he said he knew for a fact that growth hormones and steroids
were being used. Presumably to increase the long game, of course. Pro golf has
no testing whatsoever at the moment.
14:21 CEST 117.5km/101km to go
Back to the racing,
and the leaders are on the next climb.
The gap is down to 3'49".
Augé slips back.
14:22 CEST 118.5km/100km to go
Sastre is leading
it, with Mayo next in line. Rabobank are chasing behind. They have four support
riders there now, with Rasmussen sitting behind.
The gap is 3'52".
The race goes through Spain right
now. We are in the province of Navarra, home province of Miguel Indurain (he's
from Villava). We haven't spotted him yet, though he once said he enjoys watching
the race from the side of the road better than form a team car. But in this
part there aren't many spectators - it's pretty much uninhabited, except for
the occasional bears and cyclists.
Hopefully not together!
Ok, here you can read
up on the latest leaked doping case from this year's Tour.
Soler is now on Sastre's wheel. They
still have 11.5 kilometres to go to the top. If Rabobank bring them back before
the top that would enable Rasmussen to get the points. But using up his riders
like that could cost them later on.
There are some orange-clad spectators
here, Basques cheering Mayo on to what they hope will be a stage win.
14:30 CEST 120.5km/98km to go
The Rabo guys are
putting a good rhythm. Leipheimer is close to the front, as is Evans, who has
still a few team-mates as well. He praised Horner yesterday. The group trails
by 4'11" right now.
We understand that Alexandre Vinokourov's
A sample has been tested from stage 15 to Loudenvielle Le Louron, the second
stage he won. This test has also shown the presence of a second person's red
blood cells; in other words, a blood transfusion.
Providing both tests were done correctly,
it would have been impossible to have a positive first test and a negative second
test, as the rider could simply not remove those third-party red blood cells
once they were in his system.
Once again, we must wait for B samples
to confirm his guilt, but it's not looking good.
14:33 CEST 122km/96.5km to go
The yellow jersey
group is losing riders now. Leif Hoste for example, so Evans has one guy less.
Also Kim Kirchen is having trouble, while Thomas Dekker is setting the pace
French bulls are big
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
There is a spot with an incredible
number of Basque out here on the climb. They are all dressed in orange jersey
and wave the red-green-white Basque flag.
But mostly we are still in an uninhabited
area where the riders are only accompanied by cows, bulls and sheep.
14:41 CEST 125.1km/93.4km to go
The leaders are
4'20 ahead. Augé was dropped several kilometres ago.
Speaking to Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé
this morning, Belgian Tom Boonen heralded Cadel Evans as a clean rider. He was
expressing his doubts about Rasmussen.
Evans was pleased to hear
that. "There are not many prices and accolades for doing your job correctly,
the prices and accolades are for the winner. I'm proud of the fact that someone
like Tom said that about me. I am very happy to hear that."
While we were reporting matters doping,
it appears that Rinero was also dropped a little earlier on the climb. The five
leaders are 1’35" ahead of Augé and a further 20" ahead of Rinero.
14:49 CEST 129.5km/89km to go
The five leaders
are less than 2km from the top of the Pierre St. Martin pass.
The top of the climb will also mark
the re-entrance into France. Both are EU, so no passports required. The mountains
are spectacular. Definitely worth to come back form some hiking. Some of the
spectators are out with their camper and certainly will relax in the mountains
once the race is past.
14:54 CEST 131km/87.5km to go
The leaders hit
the top and nobody contests it, so Soler gets the highest points, with Sastre
14:56 CEST 133km/85.5km to go
The front group
is at a stretch of road that goes underneath a bridge, then does a sweeping
circle and continues on top of the bridge. The main group is 1 km from the top
now. The lead has increased again, it's now 4'49"
Augé goes over the top, 3'56" behind
the front group.
Rinero goes over at 4'11". He can
see Augé ahead of him.
Jens Voigt attacks out of the front
group and is getting some mountain points. Rinero has caught up with Augé and
the two are chatting away, waiting now for the yellow jersey group.
Ballan has crashed! Just before a
very sharp left hand turn.
15:01 CEST 137.5km/81km to go
He looks a bit
shaken, but has remounted and is on his way. It happened not too far after the
15:03 CEST 140km/78.5km to go
The order of the
top of the climb again in its entirety is Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Carlos
Sastre (Team CSC), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), José Vicente Garcia (Caisse
d'Epargne), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Christophe
Rinero (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Jens Voigt (Team CSC)
Jens Voigt has also crashed and is
now trying to catch up. Not an easy descent right at the top, there were a few
really sharp turns that were almost 180 degrees.
And there is some accelerations on
the front as well, in the descent. Sastre is dropping back a bit, as he is not
too comfortable with the downhill. Mayo and another rider are slightly ahead.
15:08 CEST 143.5km/75km to go
is trying to bring back Kim Kirchen to the maillot jaune group on the downhill.
Kirchen is not feeling too hot today.
But the group has now Zabel and Jens
Voigt, who was joined by the others following his crash.
Arvesen and Gusev are also in this
group. The front 5 are all together again, but Sastre really needs to have a
word with Savoldelli about descending.
We are still waiting to hear the
identity of the positive test at the Tour...we should have news shortly about
15:11 CEST 148.5km/70km to go
Zabel doesn't want
to end up in
the autobus today. Hm.
Rinero and Augé are still descending
slightly ahead of the group with the favourites. That group is now five minutes
behind the leaders, so they can't even pull back time on the descent. Maybe
in the flat part. We'll see how it goes on the next climb of the Marie-Blanque
15:14 CEST 150.5km/68km to go
Gusev and Voigt
should also talk to Savoldelli. They are are getting gapped by the T-Mobilers
We are back in France, and the area
is still very remote. And very pretty, with a forest cover on the side of the
road. The feed zone is coming up in a few kilometres. Rinero and Augé are still
pedalling ahead of the main group by a good 30 seconds. But they are not going
all out, now that the descend is finished.
Hey, now there is a nice unpaved
trail going up to the right for some mountain biking. There is a reward of a
nice view on top. Hiking would do as well.
15:20 CEST 155.5km/63km to go
There are two feed
zones today. They are *almost* connected with country road D918 - but not quite,
so the riders had to do that extra stunt in Spain. Not that the Spanish riders
If the positive tests weren't enough
of a headache, there were also two small explosions along the route of the Tour
today. It was before the race passed. Apparently the Basque group ETA is claiming
The front group is in Arrette, where
the feed is located. Now it's time to look out for the seigneur with the musettes.
Jens Voigt (Team CSC) is back to
the med's car and is getting some treatment following his crash. The group has
made it back to the yellow jersey group, so Kirchen is back. Levi flats!
Levi's change was very quick and
we reckon he'll be back in the bunch in no time. One team-mate has dropped back
to pace him back into the caravan.
15:25 CEST 158km/60.5km to go
The five guys in
front had no trouble getting their musettes. Garcia Acosta is sorting it out
right now, where Sastre still has the bag hanging around his shoulders, but
is pedalling through.
The lead group is hitting another
small descent and Garcia Acosta is still sorting things out. They have a lot
of food at Caisse. The main bunch is now coming through the feed zone, still
led by Dekker. He has had a hard day to. The lead is just over five minutes.
15:30 CEST 161.5km/57km to go
The Rabo guys grab
the musettes, except for Dekker, who is determined. Levi is back, hanging at
the back of the field. he is filling up his back pockets with the goodies as
well. The Lampre bags look nice, they will make a good souvenir. Ballan has
one of them and will throw it to the spectators later. Ballan is dropping back
to his team car, maybe for some treatment after his crash
Still no word on the identity of
that rider who tested positive for artificial testosterone on stage 11. We have
heard a rumour it was one of the random tests rather than the stage winner (Robert
Hunter) or the yellow jersey (Michael Rasmussen) but that's just a rumour. We
will bring you more information as soon as it is released. However it's not
running later than the stipulated announcement time, so we don't know if it
will come soon or later on today.
Mayo in the break is at the team
car and gets a couple of bottles to wash the food down. It is very hot today,
so it's vital to drink lots.
If Mayo is to win a stage, this is
the one to get as the race headed over the border. It's the closest he'll get
to a home win, after all.
15:34 CEST 164.5km/54km to go
The flow in the
break is a little disrupted right now as various guys go back to the team car.
The lead goes down below the 5 minute mark. But once they get it all sorted
out they probably go back into a tight pace line again. Now it's Verdugo turn
at the Euskaltel car
As the field goes through Issor,
with 20km to the top of the Col de Marie-Blanque, we don't know the whereabouts
of Rinero and Augé, but assume they are now in the main group with yellow jersey
Rasmussen. It's still driven by the Rabo guys, and especially Dekker, and the
lead is now down to 4'30"
- José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi),
Carlos Sastre (Team CSC), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Mauricio Soler
- Group maillot jaune at 4.31
- Peloton with Boonen at 16.00
Dekker is really pulling hard on
the front. He's having an intense first Tour de France, in several senses of
15:40 CEST 168.5km/50km to go
Kirchen and Gerdemann
are hanging on the back of the field, recovering after their chase back down
the mountain earlier.
15:41 CEST 170.5km/48km to go
The lead is now
down to 4 minutes, as the group is getting closer to the beginning of the climb
of the Col de Marie-Blanque. The steeper parts are around 11%. Mayo takes a
15:43 CEST 171.5km/47km to go
The climb is about
9 kilometres long. The lead group is going through Escot, which is the town
where the climb starts.
15:46 CEST 172.5km/46km to go
The field is still
in the valley riding next to the river, the Gave d'Aspe. Thomas Dekker will
have his work done pretty soon, though
The lead group is in the climb and
they have about 7.5 km to go to the top. The Rabos hit the climb now. Dekker
looks laboured, but he is still giving it everything for the team. The lead
is down to the under 3 and 1/2 minutes.
The group is strung out, with Rasmussen
sitting in fourth. Dekker is done and drops back. That was a hard day in the
office. He goes to the team car and makes up for the missed feed zone.
The leaders pass a farm and the locals
have taken a timeout from their field work and cheer on the riders. Linus Gerdemann
drops back. He opens a can and says 'Prost' to the camera. For him it was also
a hard day, having to bring Kirchen back at the last descent.
15:52 CEST 175.5km/43km to go
The five up front
pass the 5 km to go sign - but just to the summit, there is still over 40km
to go to the finish, including the final climb to the Aubisque
The road winds its way around on
the left hand side of the mountain. Azana of Euskaltel is dropped from the main
group, along with Perez.
15:55 CEST 176.5km/42km to go
(Bouygues Telecom) and Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux) are hanging at the
back of the field. But how long can they hang on? The leaders have only 4 more
km to the top and the rows of spectators is getting tighter.
15:56 CEST 177km/41.5km to go
Egoi Martínez (Discovery
Channel) is dropping back, Discovery is losing one domestique right here. And
Garcia Acosta can't follow then pace of the leaders anymore, either!
It's shell time. Next to go are Christophe
Rinero (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), who were part of
the original break.
15:58 CEST 177.5km/41km to go
Boogerd is in second
position, looking down to see if he's got another gear. Nope. But the gap is
down to three minutes! The Rabo work is paying off.
16:00 CEST 178km/40.5km to go
About 2.5 km for
the leaders and Garcia Acosta trails by 22 seconds. If he can keep it there
may be he can catch up on the downhill.
16:02 CEST 178.5km/40km to go
Contador is right
on Rasmussen's wheel. Leipheimer behind him and then Evans. The real battle
has not begun yet. Gusev of Discovery is getting dropped, though.
And Kirchen is dropped again! He
just doesn't have it today. He may be dropping pout of the top 10 again. Valjavec
and Chavanel are also having trouble
16:05 CEST 179km/39.5km to go
Astarloza is also
dropped, there will be a major shake-up in the top 10 tonight! The top 4 are
having an advantage of 2'43 going into the last 1.5 km of the climb.
Verdugo has now also p[problems following
the strong pace set by Sastre.
16:07 CEST 179.5km/39km to go
Well, Verdugo pushes
a large gear and slowly claws himself back to the front group. Mayo is sitting
on for the moment.
And the devil is back! We haven't
seen him much this Tour, but he is now running along side the Rabo train. Verdugo
is still hanging about 20 metres back.
Patrice Halgand is still in the front
group, but is struggling. But only 1 more km to the top. Evans has Horner still.
Rabo has Rasmussen, Menchov and Boogerd, Disco Popo, Leipheimer and Contador.
16:11 CEST 180.5km/38km to go
The front is hitting
the top, where many spectators line the road with polka-dot hats. It's Soler
in front of Sastre, Mayo and Verdugo
Halgand is getting shelled, as is
At the top of the climb Rasmussen
takes the points from his group, ahead of Contador and Menchov.
Unlike the previous climb, the main field scaled this mountain a minute faster
than the break.
16:15 CEST 184.1km/34.4km to go
back on to the peloton on the descent.
The gap is 2'04", so it's
Boogerd drops back on the descent;
probably looking for the team car.
Garcia Acosta is 1'25" behind
The leading four are three Spaniards and a Colombian.
There are many caravans and camper vans along this section of the route, the
plateau de Marie-Blanque.
The peloton is really quite small
at this point. Popovych goes back for bottles, then makes his way back up through
the cars. Luckily his team car is second in line so not far to go.
Garcia Acosta has now been caught
by the main bunch. It is now 1'43" back.
KOM update: Soler has now 182 points,
with Rasmussen in second, 156 points. The stage winner will get 40 points. The
difference is 26 points, so assuming Soler doesn't get any points (first ten
get points), then Rasmussen has to finish at least in fourth place in order
to get the jersey back.
The riders are heading towards the
final major climb of this year's Tour de France. This will be crucial to the
overall standings: if Michael Rasmussen holds Alberto Contador (or puts time
into him), then he will have moved a big step forward to winning. However if
the Spaniard can reduce his overnight gap to a minute or so, then his expected
faster time trial could be enough. The stakes are very high.
16:29 CEST 195.9km/22.6km to go
The break is
hanging on for dear life... It is now just 1'06" clear.
And now a Caisse d'Epargne rider
goes to the front...maybe Valverde feels good and fancies his chances today.
Rasmussen is being shadowed by Contador,
as he has been all day.
Caisse are driving it. Ah, Valverde
started the day 9th overall, 2'17" behind Kim Kirchen. The T-Mobile rider is
now behind the peloton, so they are trying to get him further up in the general
Kirchen has been feeling rough all day.
The riders are on the false flat
before the final climb...it's all going to happen soon...
Sastre continues to lead...he has
made a huge effort today. It's going to be hard for him now, though, as the
other contenders will start this climb much fresher.
The lead group hits the sprint, but
obviously they don't contest it. Sastre is ahead of Soler and Mayo. But it's
the last thing they are thinking about, with the lead shrinking rapidly like
snow in the hot sun.
Soler is also pushing it. He gobbled
up some good KOM points today, but don't forget that there should be double
points on the last climb.
Rabobank are back on front on the
climb, the final hors catégorie of this year's Tour de France.
Roche took his first Tour de France stage win on this climb 22 years ago. We
will soon have a big feature on his superb 1987 season on this site.
Verdugo has been caught on the climb.
He's almost stopped, but doesn't look too shattered. He's looking around quite
Sastre attacks! Soler goes after
him while Mayo is straining to do so...he's inching his way back up but this
He goes past Soler, who has blown.
16:43 CEST 204.8km/13.7km to go
has cracked...that will hurt his KOM chances due to the double points on the
Sastre pushes it but Mayo finally gets back up. The
yellow jersey group is 48" back, with Soler in between.
Soler is 10" back, 40" ahead of the
yellow jersey group.
Valverde and Pereiro are at the back
of the group. There are 14 riders here. Schleck, Chris Horner and the main contenders
Mayo sits on; he's had a lot of practice
Photo ©: Sirotti
It's steep here at Eaux Bonnes, 7%.
Rabobank continue to lead. They are 48" back. Horner is right at the back of
Menchov has blown a gasket.
Sastre attacks! Impressive acceleration..
16:48 CEST 207.3km/11.2km to go
no team-mates left...Popovych leads from Contador, with Rasmussen on his wheel..
They are 36" behind Sastre. Mayo got back up to him.
Soler is about to be caught...great
effort today. Will it be enough?
Zubeldia has been dropped. Boogerd
also went a while back.
Leipheimer attacked first
Photo ©: Sirotti
Soler is caught. Popovych is driving
Schleck hangs on at the back, last
wheel. Pereiro and Valverde are there, Evans, Soler, Leipheimer, Rasmussen,
Contador and Popovych.
Sastre and Mayo are just 22" ahead
now. Mayo is out of the saddle, Sastre is in his. They have 10 kilometres to
Schleck, Pereiro and Valverde have been dropped!
Schleck leads the other two. Popovych
still leads up front.
Five left; three Discovery riders,
Rasmussen and Evans. Soler has also been dropped.
Sastre and Mayo have been caught...
Rasmussen goes after him. He's very
isolated now. Ah, Popovych is gone. So it's four up front.
Sastre and Mayo have both been dropped,
so there are four up front. Leipheimer leads.
Brave effort by Sastre today. Evans
is at the back of this group for now. He's out of the saddle, as are Contador
These are the first four riders in
the general classification.
Leipheimer is setting a steady pace
at the front; surely this suits Rasmussen, given that it's what he had his team-mates
doing until they cracked?
Now he goes...Rasmussen covers it,
so the four are still together heading into a tunnel.
Contador has gone! And Rasmussen
He attacked just when they were coming
out of the tunnel.
However, instead of trying to go with him, Rasmussen
just ups his pace gradually and brings him back.
The four are still together...they
all look stuffed. Nobody has any real zip at this point. Rasmussen leads, with
Contador and Evans on his wheel.
Leipheimer has attacked! He gets
a gap. Rasmussen brings him back again. Evans is at the back.
Photo ©: Sirotti
Sastre is 24" down, with the Valverde
group 1'02" back.
Mayo is caught by the Valverde/Schleck/Pereiro
16:59 CEST 211.3km/7.2km to go
to lead. Evans at the back of the group.
Rasmussen won't mind Leipheimer leading.
Ah, Contador goes again!
He has a slight gap but Rasmussen
is just a few lengths behind.
Contador is trying but he doesn't
have the same fire as two days ago.
Leipheimer blows.... Evans is
still there. So the first three overall are together..showdown...
Rasmussen goes! Evans is dropped.
He's trying to limit the losses but it's hard..
Rasmussen and Contador are side by
side...Evans comes back...
17:03 CEST 212.4km/6.1km to go
now, looking more confident. Contador is running out of time...
Evans and Leipheimer
Photo ©: Sirotti
Sastre is now 1'00" back, 23" ahead
of the Valverde group.
17:04 CEST 212.6km/5.9km to go
once more! But Rasmussen goes straight after him. He's not trying to stick tight
to his wheel today...he's letting Contador get a gap, then coming back more
- Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Alberto Contador
- Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
- Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) at 0.42
- Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Oscar Pereiro
and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) at
- Peloton with Boonen at ?
Rasmussen gets him back and returns
to the front. Evans was caught by Leipheimer, who started the day 1'25" behind
him in the GC.
Interesting...first and second overall
are up front, then third and fourth together. The fifth placed rider, Carlos
Sastre, is running fifth on this climb..
Rasmussen seems quite a bit stronger
than two days ago.
Leipheimer has dropped Evans...he's fighting
to hold onto his podium place..
17:06 CEST 213.5km/5km to go
The two leaders
go under the 5km to go banner.. Rasmussen leads.
Leipheimer is coming
Rasmussen looks very focussed. He
will be encouraged by what has happened thus far. He would have been worried
about what Contador could do today but things have worked out well each time
the Spaniard attacked.
Soler is attacking out of the Valverde
group in pursuit of some more mountain points. The Colombian hasn't given up
hope yet on getting the maillot a pois to Paris!
Evans is perhaps 5" behind the front
three. He's fighting his bike. If he manages to finish with Contador, he has
a chance of taking second overall in Paris..
He started the day 1'37" behind the
Leipheimer attacked, probably to distance Evans again.
His move was marked by the other two. Rasmussen waves the TV cameras away...the
motorbikes were quite close.
Evans is coming back!
Evans is showing great guts here...he's
really trying to get back to them.
Leipheimer gets some encouragement
from a fan - a little too much for the American. He turns his head and tells
him to stop, which he politely does,
For a guy who has been away all day,
Sastre is riding very well; he's still holding off the Valverde group.
Evans is perhaps 5" back now...he's not getting back to them, but he's keeping
them in his sights.
Leipheimer is on the front, riding
as much for a possible third place as he is for Contador.
17:12 CEST 215.2km/3.3km to go
Evans is in and
out of the saddle, trying to get every bit of energy out.
Soler is coming up to Sastre. What
courage from the Barloworld rider!
17:12 CEST 215.5km/3km to go
The three leaders
go under the next banner...time is running out for Contador.
Even if Contador goes now and breaks
Rasmussen, he won't get much time...
Soler drops Sastre as well. He looks
set for a fifth place and retaining the polka dot. Awesome!
Rasmussen again waves to the motorbikes.
He was complaining the other day that when Contador got a gap, he was being
aided by the bikes. Not sure if that was the case, but he claimed that afterwards.
Leipheimer grabs some water and dunks
it over his head. He's still in front.
Evans is now losing time, it looks
Soler is riding very strongly now...he's
going to end the day in the KOM jersey, methinks...
Contador sits on Rasmussen's wheel.
Even if he wanted to go, he'd find it hard with the spectators here..they are
all over the road.
They are behind the barriers now..this
gives a clearer road.
Soler passes the 2km sign at 1'04
back. He's well ahead of Sastre now.
Rasmussen will be happy with Leipheimer's
riding at the front...this actually helps him a lot.
he waves at the motorbikes. He seems obsessed about that..
Evans is now 18" back...can he reduce
Pereiro and Valverde pass the 2km
sign at 1'46.
17:19 CEST 217.5km/1km to go
Under the banner,
Rasmussen accelerates. Contador goes with him, Levi is slipping back. This will
Wow! Rasmussen took off just after the banner! Contador
Evans passes the 1km sign, at 0'22
He's got a very big gap, very quickly...Leipheimer
is leading Contador again.
He'd be a controversial winner, but
it looks like Michael Rasmussen could take the stage today, the time bonus and
add to his lead..
Contador looks far different from
the rider of two days ago.
Rasmussen comes home for his second stage
win.. It sounds like he is being booed by some of the crowd. He won't care.
He zips up his jersey and comes across
the line. Leipheimer has left Contador..wow... That doesn't make any sense,
given that he takes the second time bonus..
So that harms Contador's chance of
winning the race.
Rasmussen therefore adds to his lead
today...that's the best outcome he could have wished for. He was in trouble
two days ago but has recovered well.
It's beautiful weather here at the
top of the climb...sunny, clear skies.
Soler takes fifth, it seems,
so he will hold the KOM jersey tonight.
It will be interesting to see Contador's
reaction to that. Was it team orders for Leipheimer to go ahead at the end?
Overall, Contador is now 3'10" back. Evans is 5'03" down and Leipheimer is 5'59"
back. Sastre holds fifth and Zubeldia is sixth.
The time bonuses
today for first to third are 20", 12" and 8".
Evans limited his losses. Depending
on how the TT goes, he has a chance of second place overall. It will be tough,
though; providing there's no change to the overall between now and Saturday,
Evans will start the time trial 1'53" behind Contador.
He beat him
by 1'04" in the Albi TT, although that was hillier then Saturday's will be.
Rasmussen is being whistled by some
in the crowd; they are not happy.
"I haven’t won the Tour today but
I have moved a step closer," said Rasmussen. "Everybody knows what happened
in St. Etienne two years ago so that just proves nothing is certain."
That completes our coverage for the
final mountain stage of this year's race. Tomorrow's stage has six climbs but
they are much smaller; one third cat and five fourth cat hills. Will Michael
Rasmussen try to take back the KOM jersey, or will he be happy with the one
he has? Will Discovery try to force a move clear with Contador in it? Come back
tomorrow to find out. Before then, we'll have full results, an extensive report
and the latest news from the Tour a little later on. Thanks for reading.
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 6.23.21 (34.20 km/h)
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel 0.25
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.35
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto 0.43
5 Mauricio Soler (Col) Barloworld 1.25
6 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 1.52
7 Juan José Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 1.54
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 2.12
9 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 2.27
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel 3.10
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto 5.03
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel 5.59
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 9.12
6 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 9.39
7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 13.28
8 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile 14.46
9 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 16.00
10 Mauricio Soler (Col) Barloworld 16.41
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