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95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

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Stage 11 - Wednesday, July 16: Lannemezan - Foix, 167.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Shane Stokes

Despite still being in the region of the high mountains (Lannemezan is in the Haute-Pyrénées department, and Foix is the capital of Ariège) this stage features very little serious climbing: the only serious obstacle of the day being the first category Col de Portal. Consequently, the course has breakaway written all over it and will suit strong riders who have lost enough time over the preceding two mountain stages for the contenders' teams to let them go.

Both towns have hosted the Tour before in the past, but only as start towns. Lannemezan has been there three times before between 1999 and 2004, the last one of those being Lance Armstrong's second victory on the Plateau de Beille where he narrowly beat Ivan Basso to the line.

Foix has previously hosted two stage starts: in 2001 and 2007. Last year's stage to Loudenvielle-Le Louron saw a battle between overall contenders Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) on the Col du Peyresourde. In front of them though, Alexander Vinokourov was rebuilding his Tour – after his first week crash – with a storming solo victory. It later became clear exactly where Vino was getting his energy though, and the stage victory has subsequently been awarded to Kim Kirchen (then T-Mobile, now High Road).

12:59 CEST   
Welcome to live coverage of stage eleven of the Tour de France, a lumpy run from Lannemezan to Foix. The race is heading east, moving close to the borders with Spain and Andorra, and today's stage should be perfect for breakaway riders to give it a shot.

The riders should feel a little fresher after yesterday's rest day. As a result, expect plenty of attacks. It will be interesting to see if CSC-Saxo Bank try anything today...Frank Schleck is just one second off the race lead of Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), so the team might ride aggressively and see if they can break things up.

13:06 CEST   
In addition to the finish itself, there are five points along today's route which will be of interest to ambitious riders. They are the three climbs, namely:

Km 49.5 : Col de Larrieu, cat.3 (5,4 kilometres at 3.8 %)
Km 110 : Col de Portel, cat.1 (12.6 kilometres at 6.8 %)
Km 145 : Col Del Bouich, cat.3 (5.2 kilometres at 3.8 %)

and the two intermediate sprints, at:

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (km 19.5) and Prat-Bonrepaux (km 69)

13:11 CEST   
The riders rolled out today at 12.35 and a thirteen-man group tried to go clear soon afterwards. However these were all recaptured before the first sprint, which was taken by Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) ahead of Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and points leader Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

13:23 CEST   
Three kilometres after the sprint, in other words 22.5 kilometres into the stage, a group of 15 riders went clear. The bunch brought them back but one of those present, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), clipped away before the juncture and continued on alone.

Then 28 kilometres after the start, a group of approximately 20 riders caught Voeckler. These were all however reeled in soon afterwards.

13:32 CEST    40km/127.5km to go
Eleven riders clipped away a few clicks ago. CSC's Norwegian champ Kurt Asle Arvesen and Germany's road title holder Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) were the catalysts.

13:37 CEST   
Unfortunately for the sport, the past 24 hours have been difficult ones. First off, the collapse of the ProTour puts a big question mark over the administration of cycling. A lot of things need to be clarified at this point; are the teams and Grand Tour organisers considering going in a completely new direction, or will the riders remain part of the UCI? If so, will they be liable to sanction?

It's a period of great uncertainty - and potentially, chaos - in terms of the political side of things.

If that wasn't enough, Barloworld's Moises Dueñas Nevado has been thrown out of the race due to a positive A-sample test for EPO. That makes it the second-such occurrence in the Tour, with fellow Spaniard Manuel Beltrán (Liquigas) also been shown the exit for the same reason.

13:38 CEST   
If both B samples confirm the findings, it will be a big blow for cycling. Riders simply have to understand that it's time for change. Otherwise, teams, sponsors and the sport itself will suffer greatly.

13:48 CEST   
Cyclingnews has another jersey give away. After the many entries of last week, today you have the chance to win a Garmin Chipotle - H30 jersey. And it is signed by the entire Tour team!

Rules are as last time. You have to guess the top three (in order) of today's stage. Entries have to be received when the first rider hits the 20 kilometres to go marker. To make it easier on sifting through the emails, please specify your 1-2-3 in the subject line.
Email to the commentator inbox: commentator@cyclingnews.com

13:50 CEST   
Two others recently bridged across, namely Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom). They have joined the other eleven: Kurt Asle Arvesen (CSC - Saxo Bank), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Alexandre Botcharov and Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step), Martin Elmiger (Ag2r La Mondiale), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Koos Moerenhout and Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Benoit Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) and Amaël Moinard (Cofidis).

14:02 CEST   
Botcharov took the four points for first place on the Col de Larrieu, with Fédrigo, Ballan and Moinard taking three, two and one respectively. Steegmans was dropped.

14:03 CEST    60km/107.5km to go
The break has certainly been moving it on this warm, sunny day in France. It covered 47.5 kilometres in the first hour of racing, and has continued to work hard since.

14:11 CEST   
Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) has been chasing and has caught and passed Steegmans. The Spaniard is just over a minute back, with Steegmans losing time and the peloton almost six minutes behind now. This seems to be the break of the day.

14:20 CEST   
Yesterday's rest day in Pau was not just marked by press conferences by Tour teams. Tinkoff Credit Systems was there and it announced a name change and considerable increase in budget for next season.

Renamed Katusha for 2009, the team will be funded by a new foundation called the Russian Global Cycling Project, which will itself be funded by its main sponsors Gazprom, Itera and Rostechnologii. They have agreed an eight year deal, paying €30 million budget per annum, of which over half will go to the professional team. The remainder of the money will be used to fund other aspects of Russian cycling, from the grassroots level to recruiting initiatives in schools to the new Tour of Sochi.

The significance of this to the Tour de France is that the team has stated that the race is a big goal for 2009. They want to both ride it and, if possible, try to win it. With that in mind, the team is talking to a number of top riders, amongst them potential Tour winners. Cadel Evans is rumoured to be one of those on the wish list, although nothing has been confirmed as yet.

14:21 CEST   
Regarding the Garmin jersey contest: Please send email to: commentator@cyclingnews.com (and remember, put your 1-2-3 picks in the subject line).

Good luck!

14:22 CEST   
Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) has dropped out of the race with a broken collarbone.

14:24 CEST    75km/92.5km to go
The leading group went through the bonus sprint at Prat-Bonrepaux several kilometres ago. Pozzato took first there, ahead of Velo and Moerenhout.

14:32 CEST    80km/87.5km to go
Correction: It's Marco Velo (Milram) rather than Pieter Weening (Rabobank) who is in this break.

The break is nearly at the feed zone. The peloton is almost nine minutes back, and so those in this move must be feeling that they have a chance. There's a good representation of teams too, so that will improve their chances.

14:44 CEST   
Cadel Evans' Silence Lotto team is at the front of the peloton, but something bizarre is happening. They have been riding to limit the break's time gains, but someone has let the wheel go and the peloton sits up. The riders at the front are gesturing backwards, as if to say 'hey! What the heck are you playing at?'

14:46 CEST    82km/85.5km to go
Some return to normality has taken place; the rest of the bunch latches onto the back of the Silence-Lotto riders, who are riding tempo now.

Cadel Evans has a yellow jersey and matching shorts, which has become much more regular nowadays. His left arm and leg still bear the signs of his big crash three days ago.

14:50 CEST    92km/75.5km to go
The peloton is really letting this break go; the leaders are now 13'56 clear.

14:57 CEST    97.5km/70km to go
The break is on the foothills of today's category one climb, that of the Col de Portel. The break is rolling through nicely, content in the knowledge that with a lead of 14'29, one of them will take the stage. Who will it be?

15:02 CEST   
James from Iowa sends a message in regarding the earlier commentary:

"Why do you say 'big blow' with Beltrán and Nevado' s positive A-samples? Dopers are getting caught, awareness is at all-time high and fewer doping positives are occurring. Looks to me like the system is working, not suffering. The sky isn't falling in Pro Cycling, my friends, in fact, the clouds are lifting and skies are more blue than ever before.

"Let's be positive about the positives. The sport is correcting itself and I
feel it should be acknowledged."

Good point, James. To clarify, our disappointment is not that riders are being caught, but that some are still taking risks and carrying on in this way. After a tough few years, many were hoping that the message would finally get through.

15:04 CEST   
Pozzato leads the break on the climb. He's got to be one of the favourites for the victory. He's one of the riders rumoured to be joining the new Russian super-team we mentioned earlier. The management said that it would abide by UCI rules preventing teams from disclosing their new signings before September first, but it's possible that confirmation of any such move could come before then.

15:06 CEST   
The peloton is certainly taking things easy today. Following yesterday's rest day, those in the bunch have decided a second one is in order. Of course, it's still tough riding any Tour stage, but the relaxed pace will certainly be easier on the system than some of the manic racing we saw in the first week.

15:09 CEST   
Pozzato is clearly feeling good, and continues to do most of the work on the climb. Further back, Vaugrenard is quick happy to sit at the rear of the break.

The riders are passing through a very picturesque wooded section, which offers some welcome shade.

15:12 CEST   
Cadel Evans reflected on the difference of riding in yellow. "It's a bit busy," referring to the media attention. Yellow or not, dealing with a jersey is tough these days for the Aussie. He told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow that it didn't feel any special to put on yellow in the morning. Instead, "It hurt."

Evans proceeded to undo his zip and exposed his shoulder to show the patched wound, which was obviously still tender. And is there a special buzz when pinning on the number in the morning? "It will if it's in Paris."

Signing on this morning, he was feeling stiff and sore still. "But if I'm good enough to get up the Hautacam, I should be fine." Evans went straight to the Aussie fans and signed flags and memorabilia.

15:12 CEST   
Moinard isn't happy with the pace and decides to take a flyer..

15:14 CEST    103.5km/64km to go
He rounds the hairpin bends here, looking back occasionally. The others in the break are not too worried, though, knowing that if they ride tempo they will haul him back.

Pozzato continues to lead. He's actually been on the front for most of this climb. And, as before, Vaugrenard sits down the back.

The gap to the leader is 20 seconds, with the peloton now 15'15 back.

15:19 CEST   
Penny in Atlanta sent in two questions:

Whatever happened to Christophe Moreau?

Beltrán's A sample was tested and reported quickly. Why are the results of the B sample taking so long?

Moreau's departure from the race was certainly unexpected and has led to some speculation as to the reasons behind it. Even his own team-mates were stunned that he pulled out. As of now, we are not aware of any official reason.

As regards the second question, the B sample analysis often takes longer. One reason is that the rider can request that he and a lawyer are present. We'll report on the results of that analysis as soon as it is available.

15:23 CEST   
Moinard keeps plugging away. Several kilometres behind him, Caisse d'Epargne rider Oscar Pereiro attacks alone. We are not sure of the reason for that; he's not going to close this gap by himself. Perhaps Alejandro Valverde wants to take back some of the time he lost, and will bridge across later? It's going to be difficult to sneak away from the Silence - Lotto led peloton.

15:24 CEST    106.5km/61km to go
Moinard is cheered on by spectators as he climbs towards the summit. He's got approximately four kilometres to go, and has opened up a lead of 1'22 over the others in the break.

15:34 CEST    110.5km/57km to go
Moinard goes over the top of the climb and continues to plug away, wishing to further increase his lead on the descent. He's in and out of the saddle, accelerating back up to speed after the slower corners.

Behind, the break has split and several riders have gone ahead.

15:36 CEST   
The CSC team now move to the front of the peloton, seeking to limit the gains of Oscar Pereiro.

Fofonov and Fédrigo were next over the top of the climb, with Moinard taking the top points.

15:39 CEST   
Mike from Minneapolis writes in to ask the following:

You mentioned a few days ago that Riccò was one of the more unpopular riders in the peloton? Why's that?

Well, Riccò has made quite a few enemies in his young career. One reason is his comment in the past, referring to other riders as 'vegetables'. He's generally perceived as someone who doesn't worry too much about what others think, and therefore he doesn't hold back in his opinions.

15:41 CEST   
Robbie McEwen revealed the game plan to Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow for the day. "We'll be setting the pace in the front, but Cadel is leading by only one second and there are a few riders still capable of winning this Tour. So we won't be burying ourselves. We'd be happy for a break to get up the road with no contenders and let them get a bit of time and then it's up to others if they want to try to bring it back. It's really about trying to keep things under control, keep Cadel safe, make sure we keep an eye on his closest rivals and saving energy."

15:43 CEST   
Pereiro started the day 17th overall, 6.01 back. He lost much of that time when he waited for Alejandro Valverde, a tactic that some questioned after the stage.

CSC want to make sure he doesn't pick up a few minutes and thus ride back into a dangerous position. The fewer riders they have to watch, the better.

It's interesting that it's CSC rather than Silence Lotto which is doing the work.

15:45 CEST   
The order over the top of the Col de Portel was:

1, Moinard, 15 pts
2, Fofonov, 13 (at 1'50)
3, Fédrigo, 11
4, Ballan, 9
5, Wegmann, 8
6, Vaugrenard, 7
7, Arvesen, 6
8, Pozzato, 5

15:45 CEST    120.8km/46.7km to go
The peloton is still on the climb, while Moinard has been descending for several minutes. Pereiro is still clear and appears to be climbing well.

15:48 CEST   
Pereiro grabs some Coke on the climb (not the Tom Boonen variety) and knocks it back.

15:48 CEST   
Further details emerge about Moisés Dueñas. Team Barloworld manager Claudio Corti and team doctor Massimiliano Mantovani accompanied the rider to the police station.

The team management announced that it received the results of the search carried out in the rider's room. The team stated that some banned medicines had been found in the room that were absolutely not supplied or prescribed by the team doctor.

"I've asked the French police to fully investigate the case so that we can fully understand the seriousness of what Moises Dueñas has done," Corti said.

"We're absolutely stunned by what is happening and by the behaviour of one of our riders. He seems to have secretly used banned substances, hiding everything from everybody else in the team."

"It's terribly disheartening but because the team is not involved in what has happened, we hope that the whole truth can rapidly emerge so that we can take the necessary action and that Dueñas can fully accept responsibility for what he has done."

Team Barloworld suspended Dueñas immediately after being informed of his positive test and he did not start the 11th stage of the Tour de France.

15:52 CEST    127.9km/39.6km to go
We believe that Alexandre Botcharov is best-placed of the riders in the break, starting the day 20'47" back in 35th place overall.

He's now 16'26" ahead of the yellow jersey group, so he's not quite the virtual leader as yet.

16:06 CEST   
Another Barloworld rider has pulled out of the race: Felix Cárdenas has stopped.

16:11 CEST    141.5km/26km to go
Moinard continues to plug away at the front, while behind the others all try to get him back. He's doing well, holding onto his gap for now.

Further back, Pereiro also continues his own individual time trial.

16:15 CEST    142.5km/25km to go
Let's give an update of the time gaps:

Moinard passes under the 25km to go sign with a lead of 1'30 over his former breakaway companions. Pereiro is 15'02 back while the peloton is 16'26 in arrears.

Moinard is gradually coming back, so, although he's still got a decent lead.

16:16 CEST   
Moinard now crosses the third category Col Del Bouich, then taking a sticky bottle or two from the team car.

His gap is now 1'21.

16:18 CEST   
Ballan and Arvesen were second and third on the climb. The ascent saw a chunk of Moinard's lead nibbled away; he's now 1'04 clear.

Pozzato drives the chase behind, sensing that they will get him back. Ballan also buries himself.

16:21 CEST   
Moinard passes the 20km to go sign. This concludes our online guessing game for the Garmin shirt. We will announce the winner later today, after the stage (obviously).

Thanks for playing! Once again you guys have smoked our Inbox!

16:22 CEST    149.5km/18km to go
Velo was fourth over the top and received one more point for the KOM jersey. Well, one point is better than none.

Current race situation

  • Amaël Moinard (Cofidis)
  • Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom), Kurt Asle Arvesen (CSC - Saxo Bank), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Alexandre Botcharov and Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole), Martin Elmiger (Ag2r La Mondiale), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank), Marco Velo (Milram) and Benoit Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) at 0.36
  • Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) at 15.01
  • Peloton at 16.04

16:28 CEST   
Ballan attack as they start the descent. The others are on him now. Moinard remains out front, pushing hard in a bid to stay away. He's taking these corners as quickly as possible but it may not be enough.

16:29 CEST    154km/13.5km to go
He has just 17 seconds now. Pereiro is 15'14 back while the peloton is 15'53 back.

Pereiro starts to look back, realising he's likely to be caught.

16:32 CEST   
Pereiro sits up... Strange move (the attack, not the surrender).

16:33 CEST   
Silence-Lotto and Garmin are towards the front of the peloton.

Moinard continues to push hard, sprinting out of the saddle whenever his legs will allow him. He's within sight of his pursuers but has just over seven kilometres to go.

16:34 CEST   
He's gasping, drinking, driving the pedals. They are getting ever-closer, though.. .

16:35 CEST   
He's courageous, we'll give him that. The group behind is almost close enough to see what sprocket he's in, but he keeps on trying.

16:36 CEST    161.9km/5.6km to go
He's hurtling through the streets of a small town, getting plenty of encouragement as he drives the pedals round. The gap appears to have opened up slightly...

16:36 CEST   
Wegmann comes to the front, then one of the two Credit Agricole riders. They each want this stage...

16:37 CEST   
Moinard is under the 5km to go banner. He's just six seconds clear now...

16:37 CEST   
It's nervous times in the chase group now. There are some strong riders here and each are watching the other. This could help Moinard...

16:38 CEST   
Elmiger goes! He is being chased by Arvesen and the two catch Moinard...

16:38 CEST   
They continue on as the Cofidis rider cracks. Two leaders with less than four clicks to go...

Evans' first day in yellow
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

16:39 CEST   
The others in the break are all looking at each other...this will suit Elmiger and Arvesen...

16:40 CEST   
Moinard is at the back of the chase group now, dying a thousand deaths.

One rider is coming across to the leaders...

16:40 CEST    165.5km/2km to go
It's Ballan...

16:41 CEST   
Arvesen attacks...Elmiger brings him back. There's a lot of stalling now, this could be dangerous...

16:41 CEST   
Ballan is surely going to go...

16:42 CEST   
They are under the kite.. Arvesen went again, Ballan got him back. Now Moerenhout gets across...four together...

16:42 CEST   
Ballan tries but his move is covered...

16:42 CEST   
Arvesen leads out the sprint...

Here comes Ballan..

16:43 CEST   
Elmiger moved up as well - he, Ballan and Arvesen were in a line across the road. The CSC rider thinks he got it, raising his hand. We will see...

16:44 CEST   
The rest of the break came in a few seconds later, with Moinard dropping off the back.

It looks like Arvesen did get it, by the smallest of margins over Elmiger. The Ag2r rider was coming at him all the way up the finishing straight, but Arvesen had just enough to hold him off. Ballan was third with Moerenhout fourth.

16:45 CEST   
Botcharov and Fédrigo were fifth and sixth, finishing ahead of Pozzato, Vaugrenard, Wegmann and Velo.

16:45 CEST   
The peloton is, of course, still several kilometres back.

16:47 CEST   
Fofonov and Moinard took eleventh and twelfth.

16:52 CEST   
The Silence Lotto team plug away at the front of the peloton, lining out the main bunch. Evans is sitting towards the front, keeping out of trouble. So too Christian Vande Velde.

16:57 CEST   
Yaroslav Popovych pushes the pace, then swings over. He's had a somewhat quiet Tour, appearing quite some way off the form which won him a stage in the race two years ago, and saw him finish eighth last year.

16:59 CEST   
The peloton comes in, with Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) beating Erik Zabel (Milram) to the line. Points leader Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia) were up there but couldn't challenge the Norwegian.

16:59 CEST   
The photo finish shows that Arvesen won by perhaps two centimetres...

18:01 CEST   
Ok, the finish photo has been evaluated. Arvesen won by a tyre's width. Our contest was equally close.

The lucky winner hails from the Netherlands, E.W. Sterrenburg. CONGRATULATIONS.

Thanks for joining our live coverage today and see you again tomorrow for stage 12. Also, stay tuned for another jersey contest in the upcoming days.

Au revoir!

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