94th Tour de France - ProT
France, July 7-29, 2007
Results & report
Stage 18 - Friday, July 27: Cahors - Angoulême, 211km
Live commentary by Laura Weislo and Bjorn Haake
Complete live report
Live coverage starts: 12:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:45 CEST
Bonjour to the Cyclingnews coverage of the 18th stage, which is the
last one suited for a breakaway, one day before the final time trial. Today
the riders will cover 211 kilometres, bringing them from Cahors to Angoulême.
The race will start out with a few cat 4 rises, but after the feed zone it is
very flat and the sprinters will try to keep it together in the finale. It depends
of course how their legs are and maybe a break will succeed in the end. Today
marks the first day that race leader Alberto Contador gets to wear yellow.
12:53 CEST 15km/196km to go
Several attacks were
unsuccessful so far. Now, in the côte de Salvezou, the first difficulty of the
day, Sandy Casar and Jérôme Pineau, are slightly ahead
Frederik Willems (Liquigas) joins
the duo and sprints past them on the top of the climb to get the points, ahead
of Pineau and Casar.
But now the escape is already over,
which gives us time to reflect why on earth Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
is wearing the white jersey, being in third place. Ok, so Contador leads the
kid's classification, but is required to wear yellow. That leaves Soler, but
he is required to wear the polka dot jersey of the best climber. Which leaves
third placed Txurruka, who is 45 minutes behind in white.
The start in today's race was in
Cahors, which is where Frenchman Jacky Durand celebrated an emotional win in
1994. A stage win is great but a French winner is even better!
Boogerd tries an attack to save the
Tour for Rabobank. There is a group of four in front now.
13:09 CEST 23km/188km to go
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank),
Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom), Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and Sandy Casar
(Française Des Jeux) have now succeeded to break clear and are less than 1km
from the top.
Axel Merckx is in hot pursuit, but
the order over the top is Laurent Lefèvre, Boogerd and Casar.
And another dog becomes famous for
causing an accident. This time the victims are Frederik Willems and Sandy Casar,
which leaves two guys at the front.
The crash wasn't too bad, but Willems
has been caught by the field. Axel Merckx, who rides his last Tour, is 1'30"
behind. The peloton is 4'00" behind
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
13:23 CEST 35km/176km to go
We are approaching
the third climb of the day. The two leaders are now well clear of the peloton,
which is at 4'45". The riders just entered the department of the Dordogne. It
is an incredibly pretty area, and a canoe tour on the river Dordogne is an absolute
13:30 CEST 39km/172km to go
Then two riders in
front waited for Casar, who was delayed by the crash, and Merckx. With the lead
sky rocketed to over seven minutes it looks like we have the situation of the
day. The remaining question will be if the sprinters have the desire and will
to bring it back before the day's end.
- Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom), Axel Merckx (T=Mobile), Sandy Casar
(Française Des Jeux) and Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom)
- Peloton at 7.20
The attacks helped the average speed
in the first hour, as 42.6km were covered after 60 minutes of racing.
Cadel Evans at today's start
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
The Dordogne will be crossed in a
couple of kilometres. In the mean time Cadel Evans still believes he can win
the Tour, but admits it will be a hard fight. The Aussie is 1'53" behind Contador
in the overall. The flatter course should suit Evans, though. But of course
we know what a yellow jersey can do for motivation. Contador has the advantage
of starting last, 3 minutes behind Evans. But if the Predictor-Lotto captain
has a good day, there will be no disadvantage, May the best man win! We are
looking forward to an exciting day tomorrow.
13:56 CEST 59km/152km to go
The quartet up front
passes the Dordogne and head on. They have covered almost 60km. The field is
now 9 minutes behind and still get o cross the river which the department is
The front group is about 6 kilometres
before the first of two sprints today. But it is unlikely they will contest
it. A break like this often shares the work and the prizes equally, at least
that early in the race. It may be a different story for the second sprint, located
19km before the finish. That could already be a setup for one of the guys not
too confident in their sprinting capabilities.
14:07 CEST 66km/145km to go
So the break that
got clear contains Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux),
Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom) and Axel Merckx (T-Mobile). Boogerd will
be hoping to save the day for the Dutch, who had a rough couple of days, thanks
to a Dane.
Cyclingnews’ Brecht Decaluwé spoke
with Dirk Demol this morning, directeur sportif with the Discovery Channel team.
He was replying to a comment made by Ag2r Prévoyance boss Vincent Lavenu in
a French newspaper today, in which Lavenu said that he didn’t trust maillot
jaune Alberto Contador.
Demol hit back by saying, “you should
ask him how it is possible that his riders were flying last year and doing nothing
this year?” Ouch..
Demol said that he has confidence in Contador
for tomorrow’s time trial, “but of course everybody is getting tired.”
Axel Merckx is looking for glory
in his last season as a professional, relocating to his wife's home country
of Canada. Boogerd also is at the end of his professional cycling career. Wouldn't
that be a great showdown?
Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Some readers have asked how it's
possible that a few riders have negative points. No, they didn't ride across
the line backwards, but riders get small fines all the time, which can include
monetary measures, added time to the overall or subtracted points. Well, and
if you don't have a point already you end up with a negative account... Leipheimer
btw got a 10 second time penalty when he had a flat tyre and got a little more
than a push from the team car to get back to the group. He also was fined 50
Brecht Decaluwé also spoke to Contador’s
team-mate Levi Leipheimer. He was asked if he thought that Contador could win
overall. “We will see it day by day,” he said. “We have to get though this day
first. Many things can happen. But I think that Contador should get it tomorrow.”
What about himself – did he think it was possible for him to move from third
to first overall in the TT, winning the Tour?
“I am too far behind
Contador so we will support him,” he answered. “But as regards moving into second,
we will see.”
In the mean time there is a note
on German TV channel ZDF that states that the Tour de France is cancelled, and
a summary of the 18 stage will follow at 5:50pm. We guess what they really mean
is that its broadcast is cancelled as the riders are clearly rolling, more than
70 kilometres already...
We also had a reader tell us that
he overheard some cycling experts talking about one prominent rider in the Tour.
His name: Gerold Steiner. He is from Germany and 100% liquid. Doping tests are
rather easy to do, but Mr. Steiner has difficulty with the blood tests, being
made 100% out of mineral water. It's probably for that reason we haven't seen
much of him this year. On a more serious note the team Gerolsteiner, and especially
its manager, Hans-Michael Holczer, is very outspoken against doping.
The weather today is very nice, about
25 degrees centigrade. No wonder the peloton takes it easy and lets the break
get away. The time gap is now 12 minutes.
Church along the race route
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
In our coverage we mentioned the
inevitable French church occasionally and our reporter on the ground, Gregor
Brown, took on the task of providing you with a picture. Here is one of the
duller ones. It must be nice living in France, always knowing what time it is,
without even trying.
Proving there is no change today,
Carlos Sastre (CSC) will start the time trial just 27 seconds ahead of Haimar
Zubeldia (Euskaltel – Euskadi). He told Cyclingnews’ Gregor Brown that he was
not too worried, saying that he expects to do a better time trial than the Basque
rider and thus hold onto his fourth place overall. “I have known him a long
time and I am confident,” he said.
Sylvain Chavanel, one of the Cofidis
riders who was removed from the Tour following the withdrawal
of the team, said today that in his team there "is no organized doping.
I'll be on the Champs-Elysées Sunday and the anti-doping fight has my
full support." His brother Sébastien is still in the race as he races
for Française des Jeux and wouldn't be nice if the sprinter could win
Sunday in front of his brother in the stands.
14:41 CEST 89km/122km to go
The peloton passes
Le Bugue 13 minutes after the race leader. The spectators are out in full force
on this sunny Friday.
Stage two winner Gert Steegmans (Quick.Step
– Innergetic) said this morning that he didn’t expect there to be a bunch sprint
today. He said that the team would not work for one in chasing any breaks, and
that the riders’ priority was to work for Tom Boonen, keeping him out of trouble.
He added that he was happy with his Tour, but now was looking forward to returning
Oops, a young spectator, holding
a few balloons is all excited to see the Tour arrive. However she then lets
go of the balloons. She quickly recaptures them and continues cheering. Phew.
Discovery is leading the peloton,
but are just keeping things rolling along. They are riding through the Périgord
Noir. It is an amazingly pretty area. The field is now hitting Journiac, and
are still almost a quarter of an hour behind the break.
The field is in the feed zone. Paolo
Bossoni (Lampre-Fondital) grabs his musette, the sleeves all rolled up as it
is nice and warm.
Gregor Brown also spoke to Matteo
Tosatto, who was in the break yesterday and finally placed sixth. He said that
the attacking by Voigt blew his legs. He said if he felt okay today he might
try once again.
It's lunchtime for the peloton, and
the break gets a few more minutes as the Discovery Channel team on front sits
up to sift through their feed bags. It's up to 14'11 at the moment.
Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner) has grabbed
his bag, but the feeds are often on slight uphills, to slow things down. The
pace is not fast, but requires some concentration by the riders. The spectators
have lined both sides of the road. The feed zone is a good place to watch the
riders go by and even grab a souvenir - or some food
We've had a few e-mails from fans
who are simply horrified at the appearance of David Millar's skin. He's a ghastly
white, being slathered in zinc oxide to protect his skin from the sun in an
attempt to ease his rash. People are suggesting all sorts of oils and creams
he could use...
Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux)
Photo ©: Sirotti
15:00 CEST 102km/109km to go
Poor Sandy Casar
is riding along in the break with his shorts ripped open and a fist-sized raspberry
wound on his buttocks is visible. I wonder if our fans have any herbal remedies
for road rash?
Discovery Channel is still patrolling
the front of the race, but aren't concerned about the quartet up front at the
moment. However, they won't let the move get much more time since Boogerd was
only 27'50 down on Contador at the start today. The others are much farther
down on GC.
15:05 CEST 105km/106km to go
The spectators have
a mammoth on display. The Périgord has been scene of a few discoveries of older
Over in Italy, Quick.Step-Innergetic's
Italian champion Giovanni Visconti has taken stage 2a of the Brixa Tour. He
surprised the sprinters with a late attack and soloed to victory in his new
white, red and green jersey. "Things just couldn’t have gone better, winning
a stage wearing this jersey is just amazing, a dream that is coming true. I
am extremely happy for myself and my team," Visconti said after the race.
German champ Fabian Wegmann flatted
a few moments ago, but he is already back in the field again. He was really
hoping to be in the break today, but there are only four lucky ones, pedalling
a quarter of an hour ahead of the main bunch.
15:08 CEST 107.5km/103.5km to go
now pan back to the rear end of the peloton, and who do we see but Thomas Voeckler.
He gets the tailgunner's award of the Tour as he has probably spent more time
at the back than any other rider. He gives his tired legs a little shake.
The riders up front still have more than 14 minutes on the peloton. The guys
in the main bunch are out of the saddle going up a small rise. The leaders up
ahead are passing by a field of lazing bovines - the cows look up, chewing their
cud, and then lower their heads back down to nap.
Discovery Channel are all lined up
at the front wearing bright, neon yellow backnumbers signifying they are at
the top of the team standings. They're being directed now by a fan holding two
flags - she's doing a bit of semaphore, we think...
The peloton passes La Douze. The
few stone houses and the old church is on the rider's left.
15:14 CEST 111.5km/99.5km to go
There still is
no decisive chase going on in the peloton, and the break holds 14'20 on the
Disco-led field. Alberto Contador seems to have warmed to the yellow jersey
today, and gives a smile and wave to the cameras.
Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux)
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
15:16 CEST 113km/98km to go
If Boogerd's group
can hold this gap to the finish, the Rabobank man would be inside the top ten
on GC tonight. However, they've got a long, long way to go and the sprinters'
teams will probably have other ideas of how they want the finish to go down.
Sandy Casar signed autographs before
signing in for the race. His look was very concentrated - he must have been
already thinking of trying something.
Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom)
revealed before the race that his team will try from the start to be in a break.
True to their word it was first Jérôme Pineau who gave it a go, but when that
break was caught, Laurent Lefèvre took off and he is now part of the break of
The Germans Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner)
and Markus Burghardt are chatting to each other - likely in German, but probably
not revealing any strategies to each other.
With the forest on their right and
the open fields on their left, the peloton moves on, with spectators waiting
on the few intersections that they pass. The front group goes through a round
about, with a big globe on display.
The leaders have built up more than
15 minutes now, and have been able to focus on extending their lead without
any climbs or sprint bonuses distracting them for many kilometres. Let's recap
the action on all the climbs and the intermediate sprint that went on in the
early part of the stage. The last obstacle was the final climb of the day.
Côte de Saint-Cyprien (Category 4) - km 70.5
1. Michael Boogerd 3
2. Sandy Casar 2
3. Laurent Lefèvre 1
- km 66
1. Axel Merckx
2. Laurent Lefèvre
3. Michael Boogerd
Côte de Saint-Martial-de-Nabirat (Category 4) - 39.5 km
1. Laurent Lefèvre
2. Michael Boogerd 2
3. Sandy Casar 1
Côte de Lavercantière
(Category 4) - 24 km
1. Laurent Lefèvre 3
2. Michael Boogerd 2
3. Sandy Casar 1
Côte de Salvezou (Category 4) - 15 km
2. Jerome Pineau 2
3. Sandy Casar 1
We are close to Perigueux, the capital
of the Dordogne department. Many churches and older structures, such as the
"Tour de Vésone, make this a nice destination for tourists.
Lefèvre hasn't managed to move up
from 5th place in the mountains classification despite taking those seven points
today. He's still seven behind Cadel Evans, but he does get some cold, hard
cash for each sprint taken.
The château barrière
is next to the railroad tracks in Perigueux. It is more ruins than château,
but still, it has a nice look to it. Those sights that the riders pass are really
an integral part of the Tour.
15:35 CEST 126km/85km to go
With the break ballooning
to 15'37", Boogerd is now threatening the 8th place position of Yaroslav Popovych!
But Discovery still has two riders placed higher up in Leipheimer and our yellow
jersey Contador - so who will take up the chase?
Will the sprinters teams give Boogerd
a consolation prize today and let this break stay clear until the end? The poor
guy was mighty
grumpy about the situation with Rasmussen and the abandon of Menchov. It's
understandable, because he could have had a higher placing in the overall if
he hadn't been playing super-domestique for those two.
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
15:43 CEST 131km/80km to go
Boogerd is coming
to the end of a quite successful career - his best ever Tour was when he placed
5th overall in 1998, but he's cracked the top ten once before in 2001 and has
won two stages. The gap is still going out - at 16'05 now with Discovery doing
all the work.
The peloton is just now hitting Perigueux.
They also ride at a rather leisurely pace of 35 to 38 km/h as they go through
downtown and enjoy the cathedrals of this old town.
15:48 CEST 134km/77km to go
The peloton is looking
mightily sluggish, and the breakaway riders don't even have to breathe too hard
to extend their advantage to 16'16. This happens quite frequently in these final
stages of the Tour, especially when the minor jersey competitions aren't too
tight. Everyone's tired, their morale is a bit low after recent events, and
who feels like chasing?
Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) said before
the race that after almost three weeks, fatigue has settled in. No kidding.
He said that even a good night's sleep is harder to come by, but at least it's
the same for everyone. He is already looking forward to Sunday, to the "belle
Boogerd is now threatening the position
of T-Mobile's Kim Kirchen, and with another minute or so he'll be overtaking
Alejandro Valverde in the standings - if this break holds its advantage. 16'23
now - the peloton is more than 10km behind them!
The break would need a whole lot
more time to come close to moving Boogerd ahead of Euskaltel's Haimar Zubeldia
or CSC's Carlos Sastre, so now it's up to T-Mobile, Barloworld and Caisse d'Epargne
to decide if they want to fight for the top ten or not! The breakaway is still
working smoothly together, but their gap has stabilised at around 16'23. It's
not going out as quickly as it has been.
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
The planned retirement and move to
Canada of Axel Merckx may take a detour to south of the Canadian border, as
the likeable Belgian apparently has an offer to start as a directeur sportif
15:54 CEST 139km/72km to go
The peloton is having
to negotiate a series of roundabouts, and the constant switches and turns has
strung out the bunch into a long, thin line. The gap is still going out a bit
- 16'34 now - so the single file line isn't an indication that they've started
15:59 CEST 141km/70km to go
Many of the riders
are seen wearing necklaces in the Tour - they've got their jerseys zipped open
so the jewelry dangles and bobs with their pedaling. Yesterday's winner Daniele
Bennati is deeply religious, and wears a rosary.
The other riders sport a variety
of gold chains, silver chains with charms - often things that they consider
to be good luck and never leave their necks.
16:03 CEST 144km/67km to go
With 67 km to go
and a gap that is approaching 17 minutes at this point, it really doesn't look
as if this break is going to come back today. The GC riders are saving their
legs for the final showdown in tomorrow's time trial, so they don't want to
put any effort into hauling this back. With 66.6km to go the break gets their
17 minutes. Not coming back at all!
16:04 CEST 145km/66km to go
Boogerd is getting
a bit of attention from a medic on the motorbike. It appears as if he's been
bit by a bug on his belly - he gets some cream put on and then goes back to
work in the break.
We pass the Château Levec.
The now private residence is dressed in Tour colours. They even have some hay
balls out that have features cyclist's schemes. The banner in one of the windows
has drawings of the yellow, white and green jersey.
Casar is still sporting that road
rash from his run-in with the dog earlier in the stage, but continues to pull
just like the rest of the quartet up front. His wound will be drying up now
and starting to pull with the skin and get quite uncomfortable. Riders these
days like to keep their wounds moist - with the advent of wet-healing methods,
road rash heals up much quicker than when it's left to dry and scab over, and
it is much less painful.
- Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom), Axel Merckx (T-Mobile), Michael Boogerd
(Rabobank) and Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux)
- Peloton at 17.03
Axel Merckx is the tallest rider
in the break today. He's also the second retiree up front - both he and Boogerd
are stopping at the end of the year, and both will be keen to top off their
careers with a stage win.
16:13 CEST 150km/61km to go
Oh look - a farmer
has spelled out 'vive le tour' in rolls of straw in his field. The fans are
staying with the Tour this year - there has been quite a lot of support for
the riders left in the race. The doping scandals have gotten to the point that
the riders are actually getting sympathy instead of jeers.
The fields to the left have been
harvested off, but a few hay bales were left in place to greet the riders: "Vive
le Tour", the strategically placed hay bales read.
Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC)
Photo ©: AFP
Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) is all
thinking about tomorrow. He hopes that "he can do a third thing." After his
two stage wins he is motivated to win the second long time trial, after the
first one was a disaster and crashing in the rain. Cancellara revealed that
"I will try to hide today and save my energies." It's all for tomorrow, as he
is seen stuffing a coke into his pocket. It's supposedly good for recovery.
Merckx has got to be one of the tallest
riders in the peloton - he's 1.91m tall according to his T-Mobile team's website
- that's 6'3" or so! He's got a bit of a disadvantage in the draft of his shorter
breakaway companions, but his position on the bike is quite low and aerodynamic.
16:19 CEST 153km/58km to go
Surely the gap cannot
continue to go out, but it is hovering at 17'15 at the moment. Predictor-Lotto
is shadowing the Discovery Channel team, but still not lending any assistance
to the chase.
Up ahead, Boogerd pulls through, his lucky charm necklace
dangling low and bouncing off of his bare chest. He, Casar, Lefèvre and Merckx
are still cooperating well.
Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues)
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
Christian Guiberteau, directeur sportif
of Bouygues Telecom, admits that yesterday wasn't so good for his team, missing
the break. That is why they tried so hard today. From the comfort of his team
car, he did say he wasn't too confident about a sprint, as "Laurent isn't the
fastest." Hopefully it will work out some other way, then.
Now the Disco boys have a bit of
a time out - and the gap goes back out to the leaders as the boys up front take
a chance to answer the call of nature. If this continues, Boogerd could well
be in 6th overall tonight.
The riders pas the Abbey St Pierre
de Brotone. It has a beautiful location, back against the forest, but connected
to downtown via a bridge over the canal on the other side. This area also has
some caves that are worth visiting. One of the Abbey's residents is waving a
16:30 CEST 160km/51km to go
17'30 now for the
leaders as the Disco boys seem rather unconcerned. They're getting some fresh
bottles up front thanks to the domestiques, and now CSC's Christian Vande Velde
comes up to have a chat with the Disco boys.
The Tour seems to have risen out
of yesterday's funk caused by a rapid succession of doping issues. Riders who
seemed grim in Pau are now back to chatting, joking, and laughing. Predictor-Lotto's
American Chris Horner has been a great barometer of the mood in the peloton,
and summed it up last night saying, "[Cheating] has been around since the beginning
of times and I mean not only since cycling times. It's people," Horner said,
"not just in sport but everywhere. You just have to deal with it and get through
the bad moments.
16:35 CEST 164km/47km to go
The breakaway is
working considerably harder than the older gentleman who is watching from behind
his fishing pole near a small pond. They zoom past this peaceful scene in a
bright flash of magenta, orange, blue and white.
Iñigo Cuesta is actually the CSC
rider having a chat up front with Discovery's Spanish riders. He's chatting
with the young race leader now, and they've got plenty of breath to chat as
the pace is still relaxed.
A 5 metre high straw man is looking
at the break from the left hand side of the road, while some spectators have
climbed into the front loader of a tractor and are watching the race from the
same height as the straw man.
16:41 CEST 167km/44km to go
to power along at the front of the break, but they're all working well together,
still. Merckx's bike says Giant, and indeed it is - not just the brand but the
The four will most likely continue to work together for the
next 20 kilometres or so, but the fireworks should start inside the final 20km
as Boogerd, Lefèvre and Merckx will want to get rid of Casar who is the best
sprinter in the move.
Le château de Mareuil is right
on the race route. It looks like the last tenants moved out a while ago. No,
wait, there is a car parked. Well, time to fix that stone wall in the back yard.
Otherwise the place seems in decent condition and the gardener is a doing a
16:46 CEST 171km/40km to go
Casar has already
demonstrated his sprinting abilities from a break when he took second in Marseille
on stage ten. He made up quite a bit of ground, but started from too far back
and couldn't overtake Vasseur who had launched a powerful attack inside the
Today's finish, however, is uphill
in the final 500m, and this is the type of finish that Michael Boogerd will
be salivating over. He loves the uphill sprint, as it reminds him of his home
town event, the Amstel Gold Race.
Cancellara also talked about the
chances in regards to the overall. He thought it was going to be tough for Cadel
Evans, even though he has done a great time trial in Albi. His take is that
Cadel has more pressure as not too many people know Contador yet. Even though
he has yellow, he is young and "not too many look at him." Cancellara was expecting
a beautiful battle for the overall, where "Contador will have to do the ride
of his life," said the Swiss time trial specialist with a smile.
Or maybe Boogerd doesn't want to
be reminded of the Amstel Gold race, since he's had a string of second places
there. But he did succeed once - in 1999 when he beat one Lance Armstrong to
Speaking of Armstrong, Merckx first
turned pro and was on the Motorola team with the Texan back in 1993. He moved
over to Telekom the next year in 1994, which was the year that Michael Boogerd
turned pro with Rabobank. Boogerd has stayed loyal to the Dutch team for his
16:55 CEST 176km/35km to go
The peloton has managed
to pull back a few seconds thanks to the work of Egoi Martinez, Vladimir Gusev
and Benjamin Noval. It seems that Hincapie and Popovych are exempt from chasing
- and are saving their energy for the TT tomorrow.
16:57 CEST 178km/33km to go
The lead four are
still working together, but now Boogerd draws alongside and sizes up his competition.
Casar has been doing slightly more work than the other three - 29% of the pulls,
while the two soon to be retirees have been only doing 23%.
16:59 CEST 179km/32km to go
Casar is now looking
back for the race doctor - his ripped up shorts showing why he needs help. He
crashed early on, and is now getting some ointment on his right elbow which
is swollen and covered in cuts.
17:02 CEST 180km/31km to go
The leaders will
get one minor chance for glory at the final intermediate sprint with 19km to
go, then it will be a very fast run-in to Angoulême before the leaders hit the
tough uphill finish.
The leader's gap is starting to come
down now thanks to the help of the teams who are being threatened by the presence
of Michael Boogerd in this breakaway. It's down to 15'24 already.
17:08 CEST 184km/27km to go
Euskaltel is starting
to chase in order to protect the position of Mikel Astarloza - the break wasn't
close to threatening Zubeldia at all, so they must feel that Astarloza can hold
that top ten position.
Today's stage hasn't been much more
than a recovery ride for the peloton once that break went clear, though the
early kilometres were quite quick before the four were given a long leash. But
the chase is on for sure now, and the gap is down to 14'40 thanks to Euskaltel-Euskadi's
The intermediate sprints not only
pay points for the green jersey competition and bonus seconds for the overall
classification, but also good cold hard cash. First across the line will get
800 euro (that's 1097.86 USD or 1245.08 Australian dollars). The second guy
is 450 euro richer and the third will get 300. One of the guys in the break
will get about 0 euro for 4th place, which is 0 dollars both in Australia and
the US. But the riders usually don't keep the money anyway. Everything goes
in one pot, then it gets divided evenly by the team. If you think that is unfair
to somebody like Contador - well, the way for the top guys to make money is
in the post race crits. Those start on Monday - so no break for some of the
racers after the Tour!
17:11 CEST 186km/25km to go
The leaders are under
the 25km to go banner, and heading up a small incline - they're looking quite
a bit slower than the peloton which is absolutely flying along now and eating
into the gap like a voracious wild animal.
Boogerd flats - how untimely, a little
more than 5km before the sprint. But the change is quick and he is on his way.
17:13 CEST 187.4km/23.6km to go
The front group
waits for him and he quickly joins them again, right after the 5km banner, that
shows the distance to the sprint.
17:14 CEST 188km/23km to go
Boogerd got back
to the group very quickly, and the four are back to working together. Still
no attacks, but they're all watching each other quite closely now.
17:16 CEST 189km/22km to go
There's a little
bump for the breakaway here, just a few kilometres before the last intermediate
sprint, and Boogerd is showing the effort of the grade.
Discovery and Predictor-Lotto have
taken a back seat to the entirety of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team. The boys in
orange have whittled the gap down to 12'40 now, but shouldn't threaten to catch
our four men before the finish.
17:19 CEST 191km/20km to go
20 km to go for our
four leaders, and now Boogerd has been shut out of the top ten by the Basque
team's efforts. The sprint is coming up, but they're not having anything to
do with it. Lefèvre pulls through, followed by Merckx, Casar and then Boogerd.
17:20 CEST 192km/19km to go
Casar just happens
to be on the front as the break passes the line, but it wasn't a sprint at all.
17:21 CEST 193km/18km to go
Casar, Merckx and
Boogerd get the points and cash bonuses in that last sprint - with poor Lefèvre
getting shut out of the money. But he's still in with a good chance at a bigger
bonus for a top stage finish.
The cash for sprints equals the ones
for the HC climbs. For 1st category, it is 650, 400 and 150 euro, for 2nd it's
500 and 250 for the top 2 and the third and fourth category climb only pay for
the first guy over the top. 300 (cat3) and 200 euro. So the sprinters get as
much as the top guys over the HC climb. Sprinters work just as hard as the mountain
17:25 CEST 195km/16km to go
Of the four in the
break, Merckx could very well be the freshest rider. Casar crashed hard early
on, Lefèvre has been killing himself for KOM points during most of this Tour,
Boogerd has had to do a hard week of work for the now absent Rasmussen... so
we could see the tall, blond T-Mobile man raising his arms at today's finish.
17:26 CEST 196km/15km to go
Merckx's last win
was in 2005 when he won a stage of the Dauphine. But for now, all four riders
are continuing to work together without any games.
17:28 CEST 197km/14km to go
The gap is now down
to just over 11 minutes - so our breakaway is certainly safe from being caught
- Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom), Axel Merckx (T-Mobile), Michael Boogerd
(Rabobank) and Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux)
- Peloton at 10.55
17:30 CEST 198.5km/12.5km to go
sitting behind the teams of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Discovery and Predictor. They'll
be hoping to get some points for Hunter today, who is 22 points behind Boonen
in the points classification. The peloton passes the 20km to go banner just
under 11 minutes behind the leaders.
17:32 CEST 201km/10km to go
All of the riders
in the break are out of the saddle on this little rise. Then they go down a
bit, but the road goes up again. Constant change.
Boogerd sets the first attack, just
a few hundred metres after they pass the 10km to go sign!
17:33 CEST 201km/10km to go
The leaders will
face an elevation gain of a whole 24 metres in the final kilometre of the race
today - this information brought to you by a reader, Burkni Helgason.
Lefèvre brings him back. Boogerd
doesn't want to sprint against the others.
17:34 CEST 203km/8km to go
Boogerd was quickly
marked, and the four settle down again. Lefèvre is on the front looking around.
Although Casar may likely not do
too well in the sprint. He looks like he's suffering from his injuries when
he had the encounter with the dog earlier.
The leaders pass through a gigantic
roundabout, and Boogerd is on the front - but then he pulls off to keep an eye
on things from the back.
This part of the course is predominantly
downhill now, and Merckx lends his weight to the pacemaking - finding it easier
with gravity's assistance.
17:36 CEST 204km/7km to go
The peloton is a good
8km behind and there is no chance of them threatening our leaders now. It's
poker time up front - who will play the first card?
17:37 CEST 205km/6km to go
Boogerd is keeping
a close eye on everyone, while Merckx has a relaxed cadence and is looking quite
Lefèvre attacks! The Frenchman gets
a gap and Boogerd is forced to chase!
Merckx patiently waits, and pulls
off to the left... he won't close the last few metres.
17:39 CEST 206km/5km to go
Boogerd has to close
the gap! He nails back the final few metres and Merckx is still in there and
Casar on the back.
17:39 CEST 206.5km/4.5km to go
Now we all look
around at each other - who is next? Casar on the front looking back, and he
takes the hard right then pulls off.
Casar dangles off the back, looking
like he's getting ready to try and surprise them.
17:40 CEST 207km/4km to go
It's very twitchy
up front - Merckx sits up to go back to watch Boogerd.
The roads are going up and down now,
and Merckx is forced back to the front and now Boogerd goes!
17:41 CEST 207.5km/3.5km to go
Lefèvre was right
on Boogerd, and quickly closes the gap down and they all sit up again. Casar
Now Merckx goes! Lefèvre is on it,
but doesn't put a huge effort as Axel sits up.
Now Casar goes and he gets a big
gap! He took off on one side of a divider and the others just watch.
Casar has a big gap and now Boogerd
is forced to chase - he's not closing it down quickly though
Lefèvre takes Merckx off the wheel
and now Boogerd goes again to try to get to Casar.
Casar is motoring and Boogerd can't
get rid of the other two.
17:43 CEST 209.3km/1.7km to go
It's a desperate
situation for the other three now with Casar having about 5 seconds only...
17:43 CEST 210km/1km to go
Merckx is rocking
and rolling now, hoping Lefèvre closes the gap to Boogerd who has gotten close
They're all together now
Merckx is looming large at the back
of our four, and goes around Lefèvre to get on Boogerd's wheel.
Casar continues setting pace, and
Boogerd sets a gap to his wheel.
Casar keeps powering and opens up
It's uphill and Merckx tries to get
around, but he can't do it!
Sandy Casar takes the stage ahead
of Merckx and Lefèvre!
Boogerd rolls in defeated!
The game playing was the nail in
the coffin of the plans of Boogerd, and Casar just persisted at the front, kept
powering away on the uphill rise and Merckx just could NOT get ahead of the
The peloton still has to come in,
and is now led by Lampre and Quick.Step... but Casar is already celebrating
his fabulous win. He was second twice in this Tour, and now he's on the stage
Boonen has his entire team on the
front now, and is a green dot at the bottom of the blue exclamation point. Barloworld
is sitting right behind with Hunter.
It will be a few minutes before the
peloton arrives, and Casar will have time to get cleaned up and receive his
bouquet and podium girl kisses before we see the sprint for 5th.
Casar said it was a long stage. He
got motivated by others to continue after the crash. In the end he saw a gap
and gave it his all. Well done!
The Quick.Step led peloton is still
leading six minutes behind the finishers now with a two kilometres to go.
Casar looked pretty beat, no wonder.
The peloton is still lead by Quick.Step Innergetic.
They've got a bit of a shuffle from
that roundabout, but now Boonen is 5th wheel with Hunter coming up as the last
Barloworld rider in the front.
Boonen, Zabel, Hunter and Bennati
are queued up behind the blue train.
Boonen still has three guys riding
for him, less than 2km to go.
Zabel has Boonen's wheel, and Steegmans
is the last man for Boonen. He takes over and Dean is up there now.
Chavanel is coming up on the right
but Boonen is powering away.
Boonen gets it ahead of Hunter -
and Boonen has just about wrapped up that green jersey.
Cadel Evans was right up front keeping
safe for the time trial show-down with Contador and Leipheimer tomorrow. It's
going to be a big day for the GC men tomorrow and it will certainly one of the
most exciting time trials since Armstrong was just seconds clear on the GC back
Let's hope the weather holds out
and we can have a true test of these men's abilities on Saturday, but for now
we'll say goodbye and thanks for reading as always!
Before we say goodbye for good, Evans
was mighty attentive and there was a small gap in the field on the run-in. He
took 14th and three seconds on Contador's group.
1 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française Des Jeux
2 Axel Merckx (Bel) T-Mobile 0.01
3 Laurent Lefèvre (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
4 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 8.34
6 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
8 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis
9 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) T-Mobile
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto 1.50
Back to top