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95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

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Stage 14 - Saturday, July 19: Nîmes - Digne les Bains, 194.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Shane Stokes

Despite not being a mountainous stage – and only featuring two fourth category climbs – at the end of this stage, the Tour will arrive in the Alps. Although those two climbs are the only ones to count, the altitude rises steadily from 46 metres at the start in Nîmes to 599 metres at the finish in Digne les Bains. The route crosses Provence and the Luberon wine area between Mont Ventoux and the Côte d'Azur before finishing in the spa town in the shadow of the high mountains that divide France form its neighbour Italy.

Digne les Bains is a fairly regular host to the Tour, having been a stage town eleven times before. Last time – in 2005 – David Moncoutié took the second of his two career stage wins after attacking the break on the road from Briançon to the north.

12:46 CEST   
Welcome to stage 14 of this year's Tour, a 194.5 kilometre run from Nîmes to Digne-les-Bains which takes the riders to the foothills of the Alps. Two category four climbs come along the route, that statistic making it seem like a flat run, but the near continuous elevation gain during the stage makes a bunch sprint less than certain.

12:50 CEST   
Today's stage is more likely to see a large break go clear, due to that profile.

12:51 CEST   
There are two intermediate sprints en route to the finish, at Saint Rémy de Provence (37km) and Draison (145km), as well as those two category four climbs.

12:52 CEST   
These are:

Km 128,5: Côte de Mane (1.1 kilometres at 4.6 %)
Km 185: Col de L’Orme (2.4 km at 4.9 %)

13:01 CEST   
The skies are blue and clear today, with air temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius. It's a beautiful day for a bike race. 158 riders lined out with no non-starters.

The action so far: Just over ten minutes after the drop of the flag, a group of 21 riders got clear and built a strong lead. The group comprises Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Stuart O’Grady (CSC Saxo Bank), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel Euskadi), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel Euskadi), Vincente Garcia Acosta, Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Bernhard Eisel (Columbia), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Matteo Bono (Lampre), William Bonnet (Credit Agricole), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale), Heinrich Haussler (Gerolsteiner), Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez, David Lelay (Agritubel), Bram Tankink (Rabobank), Matthieu Sprick, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Marco Velo (Milram), Sandy Casar, Sébastien Chavanel (Française Des Jeux) and Will Frischkorn (Garmin Chipotle).

13:09 CEST   
Twenty kilometres into the stage, the gap was 1'05".

Some readers have been wondering what will happen to the KOM points earned by Riccardo Riccò. Obviously a redistribution of points could affect the overall standings for that competition.

Officially, Riccò cannot be disqualified until his B sample results are known. If they are negative, he will be cleared. However it's very rare that happens; almost always, the B sample confirms the A sample.

Even if/when that happens, there may be a further delay before the points are redistributed. As an example, Floyd Landis was not officially stripped of the 2006 title until October 2007. Of course, if the KOM title goes down to the wire and it turns out that the recalculation could change the winner, this will be very unfortunate.

13:13 CEST    41km/153.5km to go
The leaders recently fought it out for the first intermediate sprint. Devolder got it ahead of Frischkorn and Eisel.

The peloton was just 40" behind at that point. Three teams missed out on the move - Cofidis, Barloworld and Silence Lotto.

13:19 CEST   
With the peloton gradually closing in, Gutierrez, Bonnet, Tankink and Casar scooted away from the break. The others were caught.

13:21 CEST   
Apologies, to clarify: some of those who were in the break have gone back to the bunch. Right now, Oroz, Quinziato, Riblon, Haussler, Lelay, Sprick and Voeckler persist, as well as the four leaders.

13:22 CEST    50km/144.5km to go
The four leaders have a lead of 40 seconds.

13:24 CEST   
Gregor Brown spoke to two from the Barloworld team at the start, namely manager Claudio Corti and Robert Hunter.

"I don't think that it will arrive in a sprint today," said Corti. "We will try for an escape with Robert Hunter and with Giampaolo Cheula – we have only four riders! The other two riders – John-Lee Augustyn and Chris Froome – we are saving for the mountains tomorrow. Even if Augustyn is not able to win, he has the chance of making a good placing and gain experience. Those two riders will keep relaxed and out of the wind today."

Hunter confirmed this strategy. "I would like to try to get into an escape. Why not? Cavendish seems to be winning all the sprints anyway. I think today is definitely a day for an escape though. I just don't think it will come down to a bunch sprint."

13:29 CEST   
Barloworld has announced that it will withdraw its sponsorship from the team as a result of what happened at the race. Moises Dueñas Nevado gave a positive A sample for EPO.

Confirming the news, Chris Fisher, head of corporate marketing at Barloworld, said that Dueñas Nevado had caused the demise of the squad. "We consistently drive the values of our business through the team. Team Barloworld has a zero tolerance policy towards doping which has been constantly communicated to the riders – we have to act on this policy and as such we will all have to live with the long term consequences of one individual's action."

"This incident has a negative impact on Barloworld and our brand principals, which our board has a duty to protect."

13:30 CEST   
Oroz is an unusual classics man for an Euskaltel rider. Cyclingnews checked out Oroz to see what drives the man to do all the monuments in cycling.

Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is starting to become known to cycling fans, now in his second breakaway of Le Tour
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

13:31 CEST   
At the 50 kilometre point, the leaders - Casar, Gutierrez, Bonnet and Tankink - had a 15 seconds lead over the seven chasers, and a further 15 seconds over the peloton.

The chasers were caught soon afterwards, and now there's plenty of jumping around as other riders try to get across to the lead quartet.

13:34 CEST   
Correction: the seven chasers were joined by another group, not the peloton. However the main bunch soon got up to them. At Cavaillon, 56 kilometres after the start, the front quartet were approximately 25 seconds clear.

13:47 CEST    70km/124.5km to go
Once those chasers were recaptured, the peloton sat up. Gutierrez, Bonnet, Tankink and Casar have pulled clear again, and are now 3'35 ahead.

13:56 CEST    75km/119.5km to go
The peloton is 3'40 back.

Don't be surprised if teams such as CSC thrown the hammer down towards the end of today's stage. They may not wish to take the yellow jersey just yet, but putting pressure on Cadel Evans' Silence Lotto team is of interest to them. Of course, if it materialises that they can gain good time over Evans, they may opt to take the chance.

14:02 CEST   
Robert Hunter has been doing an online diary on his website, www.robbiehunter.net. He wasn't too happy earlier this week, and is likely to use even stronger words when he learns that the team sponsors are pulling out.

"This whole situation sucks," he wrote. "Some people have obviously not learned that possible jail time is a good enough reason not to dope.. how stupid are these people..

"My own team mate got caught with stuff in his bag besides going positive.. even more dumb. Once again it puts so many families at risk if the whole team closes.. My team mate was the quiet one and never really spoke to anybody so nobody can say too much about him.

"Then you get this idiot Riccò who shoots off his mouth about how good he is and he is the best and has demonstrated it many times, then after years of actually being spoken about how he risks and should not be touched with a smelly stick, he goes positive (about time).

"He needs to be punched in the nose for his arrogance. Just remember how he made so many accusations to Contador in the Giro, meanwhile he is the dirty little snake."


14:04 CEST    81km/113.5km to go
Current gap for the break: four minutes and ten seconds. They are in the feed zone.

14:09 CEST   
The fans are getting more creative here in southern France. They have built a tractor out of straw bales.

The break swings by, but doesn't look over to admire the construct. Oh well.

14:11 CEST   
As a reward for not checking out the country side, which is what the peloton currently doing, the gap has gone up to almost six minutes.

Current race situation

  • Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole), Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Peloton at 5.54

14:14 CEST    89.5km/105km to go
A fan runs along side the break. We see that often in the mountains, but on a flat stage it looks a bit funny. He can't keep up for long.

14:15 CEST   
Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) has abandoned the race.

14:16 CEST   
It looks real hot back in the bunch, with the riders clearly baking in this heat.

14:32 CEST    100km/94.5km to go
The break has a solid lead, 5'19 at present.

Gregor Brown also spoke to Matt White, directeur sportif with Garmin Chipotle:

"It is a no-brainer about today, one of those days where the Tour is not going to be won, but it could be lost. We need to stay concentrate and up front.

"There should be break that goes today. We have a couple of guys that are free to jump into the breaks, but the main thing right now is to look after Christian Vande Velde. The two that freedom to make the escapes are Martyn Maaskant and Julian Dean, the rest will be saving themselves for tomorrow's run to Prato Nevoso. Tomorrow will be a big day for Ryder Hesjedal, Trent Lowe and Davide Millar, those guys will be charged with looking after Christian.

"The last three days have been pretty uneventful. Yesterday was very windy, the first attack of the day went and those two were the ones that stayed clear. It could have been pretty easy to pull back, but...

"Now, we are just biding our time until the weekend. We have three big days with Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday."

Marcus Burghardt (Columbia) also gave his thoughts about the stage ahead. "We have to look what will happen. I want to help Mark to get into a sprint. I think it will be hard [to have a sprint] but we will try it."

Markus Burghardt (Team Columbia) wants to help get Cav into another sprint, even though it will be tough today
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

14:35 CEST   
The gap has suddenly dropped; the leaders are 4'16 ahead now.

14:45 CEST    109km/85.5km to go
Liquigas and Milram lead the peloton. The bunch wheels through a town packed with cheering fans, all enjoying the racing and the sun.

14:46 CEST   
The four leaders are now 3'20 ahead. As was the case for the past two stages, the goal now is to control the time gains of the break, then reel them in later.

14:47 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner has joined the race - welcome to the Tour, Hedi! She spoke to Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) this morning.

"The most difficult thing will be to take the right breakaway! Many riders are eager for this stage. I had some good feelings in the past two stage starts so I will try to get into the mix today. After two stages finishing in a sprint, I think we stand a good chance of seeing a breakaway go all the way. Now, everything will depend on how many riders and who will be in it. Since the beginning of the Tour, I have not succeeded in getting into an escape group, so I hope luck will come my way one of these days...

"Today's stage profile could suit me. With the climb just before the finish, it reminds me of my two victories in Catalunya and the Dauphiné. But like I said, the most difficult is to get into the break. Once that is done, then yes, maybe there is a victory to chase in Digne...

"Today, I think it will be a hard battle until the break leaves. Yesterday, it went right from the start, and the bunch sort of relaxed. Today, many riders will have some juice left and will want to escape. I think that all the teams are interested in an escape, so I think it will count 10-12 riders in the end."

14:54 CEST   
Hedwig also spoke to Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank):

"Of course today's a stage that suits me, but I also have to think of Menchov. He deserves our protection. And I think the team also thinks of tomorrow's stage - that is an important day for him, for the classification.

"But I will not lie - of course I will try today, but I will not go crazy about it. It's a nice stage, but I will continue riding like I've done these past few days: Saving energy in case Menchov needs it."

14:55 CEST    115.5km/79km to go
Vincenzo Nibali rides along near the head of the Liquigas/Milram-led peloton, clad in the white jersey of best young riders. He's having a good Tour thus far, and will aim to go well in the Alps.

14:57 CEST   
Tankink pours water over his head, trying to stay cool on this beautiful summer's day.

14:59 CEST   
Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) crashed earlier but he looks fine now. He's sitting near the back of the peloton, which is ticking along at a steady rather than stellar pace.

15:00 CEST   
Things have sped up a little now, due to a long descent. The riders are nearing the first third-category climb.

15:03 CEST   
Liquigas is doing 55% of the work, with Milram holding back a little. The teams are presumably riding for Zabel and Chicchi, hoping for a sprint.

15:10 CEST    128.3km/66.2km to go
The leaders - Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole), Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) - are nearly at the top of the climb, the Cote de Mane.

15:11 CEST   
Casar and Bonnet lead the others. Gutierrez rolls through and takes the points ahead of Tankink and Casar. The peloton is 2'46 back.

15:13 CEST   
After the top, the course descends until the second intermediate sprint of the day. After this, it drags upwards again, peaking at the category four prime line of the Col de l'Orme, then drops down slightly towards the finish.

Iván Gutiérrez took the mountain sprint in Mane
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

15:14 CEST   
Liquigas continue to lead. Up front, Bonnet hits the front as the break goes through the town of Forcalquier.

15:23 CEST    138.5km/56km to go
The four riders are all going through nicely, each doing his share of the pace-setting. They are just 2'23 ahead now, and so they can't be too optimistic at this point.

15:23 CEST   
Steven de Jongh (Quick Step) gets some attention from the doctor's car. He's smiling, so it's nothing too serious..

15:25 CEST   
Fabian Cancellara has been taking it handy today, sitting near the back of the peloton. He's number 13 in this year's Tour but, as is the custom, he's wearing the number upside-down. It's supposed to deflect the bad luck!

15:25 CEST    140.1km/54.4km to go
The leaders are five kilometres from the second bonus sprint.

15:30 CEST   
Today's turnout is impressive, as regards spectators. They are soaking up the rays.

One kilometre until the sprint.

15:32 CEST    145km/49.5km to go
The four continued rolling through as they approached the prime line. Gutierrez wants it and does a big turn on the front. The others don't argue and so the Spaniard gets the points. Bonnet then rides through to take his turn.

The gap is 2'30.

15:34 CEST   
A Bouygues Telecom rider sits at the front of the peloton, with Liquigas and Milram close by and ready to take over. They cross the prime line 2'21 after the others.

Current race situation

  • Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole), Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Peloton at 2.18

15:36 CEST   
The riders are on the fastest of the three predicted schedules, benefiting from good wind conditions.

15:38 CEST    149.5km/45km to go
The break is now less than two minute ahead; 1'55, and looking shaky. Meanwhile, Quick Step's Matteo Tosatto drops back to the team car for a chat.

15:40 CEST   
Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) also goes back to the team car.

15:42 CEST    151.5km/43km to go
Will the break stay together, or will one of them try to clip away? We'll see, as this gap keeps dropping..

15:45 CEST   
Liquigas ramps up the pace. They and Milram are sharing most of the work, although Bouygues Telecom have also been contributing.

15:49 CEST   
The route is gradually going uphill, but nothing spectacular...it's a gradual ascent.

15:52 CEST    159.5km/35km to go
The peloton has backed off slightly, realising that if the break comes back too soon, more attacks will go. The gap is now 1'20.

15:58 CEST    163.5km/31km to go
More waving, cheering, tanning spectators. The roads are a little narrower now, that'll help the break stay out of sight.

16:00 CEST   
These roads are really beautiful...tree-lined and undulating. As we mentioned yesterday, the Tour coverage is a virtual postcard of France, and adds to the tourism economy.

Liquigas does most of the pulling, hoping for Francesco Chicchi
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

16:01 CEST    165.5km/29km to go
The gap now drops below a minute: it's just 57" now.

16:04 CEST   
Gutierrez attacks! Tankink tried to cover it, but he wasn't strong enough. Gutierrez has a considerable lead now.

16:05 CEST    169.5km/25km to go
He's under the banner for 25 to go, riding all alone. He knows this is his only chance, hope the bunch eases back when it caches the other three.

16:07 CEST    171km/23.5km to go
The peloton is 1'03" back, Gutierrez' acceleration pulling him a little further ahead. Tankink and Casar are together, 21 seconds back, while Bonnet is losing time.

16:09 CEST    172.5km/22km to go
Casar and Tankink are working well together, trying both to get back up to Gutierrez (unlikely) and to stave off the bunch behind (even more unlikely).

Current race situation

  • Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne)
  • Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) and Bram Tankink (Rabobank) at 0.37
  • Peloton at 0.47

16:14 CEST    176.5km/18km to go
Tankink and Casar were caught a couple of clicks ago, so it's just Gutierrez now. The bunch pushes on, sensing a group finish.

16:15 CEST   
Gutierrez was third this year in the Spanish TT championships, having won it outright in 2007.

16:15 CEST    177km/17.5km to go
He's 40" clear. Bouygues Telecom continue the chase. For the rest of the riders in the peloton, this has been a relatively straightforward day.

16:20 CEST   
He's plugging away but the gap is dropping all the time. It doesn't look good. 22 seconds with over 13 kilometres to go.

16:23 CEST    183.3km/11.2km to go
Thomas Voeckler attacks! He jumps clear and the gap is just 9" now. Some riders at the back of the peloton are being dropped...

16:24 CEST   
Voeckler is caught by a Lampre rider..Gutierrez was caught..

16:25 CEST    184.5km/10km to go
He's caught...more attacks are going. Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) now gets clear. He's gone under the kite.

They are on the third category Col de l'Orme.

Barredo is caught. Cavendish has been dropped!

16:26 CEST   
Liquigas are driving it hard now. The bunch is stretched out. Evans is near the front.

16:27 CEST    185km/9.5km to go
Kohl is up there...a group is going clear on this climb.

16:28 CEST   
Valverde is there, now Pereiro goes...

16:29 CEST   
Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) got the points on the climb.

16:29 CEST    187.5km/7km to go
Gilbert (Française des Jeux) tries to go! But it's all together right now.

16:30 CEST   
The riders are on the descent now, so that should keep things more or less together.

16:30 CEST   
Sylvain Chavanel goes!

16:31 CEST   
He's pedaling like crazy, and has a gap...he tried yesterday too. He's persistent..

16:31 CEST    189.5km/5km to go
He has a few seconds lead going under the 5km banner...

16:32 CEST   
Four clicks to go..he's still clear, but the gap isn't very big..

16:33 CEST   
Columbia is pulling...maybe they are riding for Ciolek today...

16:34 CEST    192.3km/2.2km to go
He's about 100 metres clear..they are hauling him back.

16:34 CEST    192.7km/1.8km to go
He sits up, realising it's futile.

16:34 CEST   
More attacks..Valverde is up there, but nobody can get clear.

16:35 CEST    193.5km/1km to go
Under the kite....Freire is up there, ready for the gallop.

16:35 CEST   
Columbia on the front with Markus Burghardt..

16:35 CEST   
Now Milram wind it up, Zabel in second wheel...

16:35 CEST   
Too early again, we think...

16:35 CEST   

16:36 CEST   
Too soon...!

16:36 CEST   
Zabel was up there, fighting hard... But Freire gets it!

16:38 CEST   
That's the best way to defend the green jersey! He takes a fine win, beating

That's his fourth Tour de France stage win, we think. Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) was second, with Zabel third..

16:39 CEST   
Julian Dean (Garmin Chipotle) was fourth. Freire is perhaps the best climber amongst the sprinters, so he would have saved energy compared to the others on that tough run-in.

16:39 CEST   
O'Grady and Cavendish come in now, over 3'20 back.

16:45 CEST   
There is no change in the overall. That surely will change tomorrow. We hope you enjoyed today's stage and will see you back at Cyclingnews' live coverage tomorrow at 13:00 CEST.

A demain!

Provisional results

1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                            4.13.08 (46.102 km/h)
2 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone              
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                        
4 Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30                      
5 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quick Step                                    
6 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre                                      
7 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                        
8 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                                
9 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step

General classification after stage 14

1 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto                           59.01.55
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank                        0.01
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30        0.38
4 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                0.46
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                    0.57
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank                 1.28
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia                                 1.56
8 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale                         2.32
9 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi             3.51
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas                                 4.18

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