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Stage 16 Winner Mikel Astarloza

Stage 16 Winner Mikel Astarloza

It was a great stage win for Astarloza today escaping in the final kilometers from a 4 man group later forming into a 7 man group.  The highlight of the stage however was Lance Armstrong bridging to the Yellow jersey group on the final climb after being spit out the back moments before.  The gap had grown to nearly a minute between the Schleck brothers led break and the Peloton containing Vande Velde, Cadel and Sastre.  He looked like the Lance of old just powering to the group of seven leaders including Contador, Wiggins, Kloden, Frank and Andy.  While Sastre and Vande Velde were later able to bridge, Cadel could not, losing nearly 3 minutes to the GC contenders.  Zibriskie did an excellent turn on a completely bonkers 30km decent to lock in the Evans gap for Wiggins.  The stage was way more exciting than originally expected.  Nice to see Lance on top form and Astana in general looking more like a team.

Stage 16 Map

Stage 16 Map

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Stage 16 Profile

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Stage 15 Results

1           Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi           4:14:20
2          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:00:06
3          Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
4          Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
5          Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence – Lotto
6          Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
7          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          0:00:11
8          Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9          Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel          0:00:59
10          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
11          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
12          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
13          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
14          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
15          Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne
16          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
17          Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux
18          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
19          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
20          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
21          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC
22          Laurent Lefevre (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
23          Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
24          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
25          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
26          Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
27          David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:14
28          Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank          0:03:16
29          José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
30          Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:03:55
31          Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
32          Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
33          Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
34          Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram
35          Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
36          Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
37          David Loosli (Swi) Lampre – NGC
38          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
39          Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
40          Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre – NGC
41          Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana
42          Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
43          Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Team Katusha
44          Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des Jeux
45          Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
46          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto
47          Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) Astana
48          Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
49          Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test Team
50          Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram

Overall Standings

1           Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana           67:33:15
2          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:01:37
3          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:46
4          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:02:17
5          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:26
6          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:02:51
7          Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:03:09
8          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:03:25
9          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team          0:03:52
10          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:03:59
11          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:04:38
12          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:04:40
13          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:05:05
14          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:05:26
15          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:05:40
16          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha          0:05:56
17          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:07:23
18          Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:08:23
19          Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          0:09:14
20          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          0:10:00

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Stage 15 Winner Alberto Contador

Stage 15 Winner Alberto Contador

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Stage 15 Results

1           Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana           5:03:58
2          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:00:43
3          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:01:03
4          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:01:06
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
6          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo TestTeam
7          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:01:26
8          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:01:29
9          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:01:35
10          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:01:55
11          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:02:06
12          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:02:13
13          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
14          Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC          0:02:23
15          Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:02:32
16          Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:02:33
17          Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence – Lotto
18          Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram          0:02:36
19          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
20          José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Cervelo TestTeam
21          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:02:41
22          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
23          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux
24          Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:02:52
25          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          0:03:14

Green Jersey Standings

1           Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo TestTeam           218           pts
2          Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC          200
3          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          126
4          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram          122
5          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          110

Polka Dot Jersey Standings

1           Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas           109           pts
2          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          101
3          Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom          65
4          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          64
5          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          63
6          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          56
7          Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step          56
8          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          52
9          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
10          Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo TestTeam          45

Overall Standings

1           Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana           63:17:56
2          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:01:37
3          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:46
4          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:02:17
5          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:26
6          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:02:30
7          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:02:51
8          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:03:07
9          Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux          0:03:09
10          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:03:25
11          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo TestTeam          0:03:52
12          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:03:59
13          George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia – HTC          0:04:05
14          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:04:27
15          Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC          0:04:38
16          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:04:40
17          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:05:05
18          Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:05:27
19          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:05:37
20          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha          0:05:56

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An emotional Heinrich Haussler does a brilliant performance to take Stage 13 for team Cervelo.  He powered up the last two climbs to distance himself from his nearest rival, a surging Txurruka, by over four minutes.

Stage 13 Winner - Heinrich Haussler

Stage 13 Winner - Heinrich Haussler

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Stage 13 Results

1           Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team           4:56:26
2          Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:04:11
3          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          0:06:13
4          Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step          0:06:31
5          Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram          0:06:43
6          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
7          Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale
8          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
9          George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia – HTC
10          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
11          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
12          Thierry Huppond (Fra) Skil-Shimano
13          Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank
14          Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram
15          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
16          Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank
17          Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
18          Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step
19          David Loosli (Swi) Lampre – NGC
20          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana

Green Jersey Standings

1           Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team           205           pts
2          Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC          200
3          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          116
4          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          110
5          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram          100
6          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank          97
7          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          81
8          Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          74
9          Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          64
10          Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step          57

Polka Dot Jersey Standings

1           Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas           98           pts
2          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          95
3          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          64
4          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          59
5          Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step          53
6          Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom          49
7          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
8          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          46
9          Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test Team          45
10          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux          43

White Jersey Standings

1           Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC           53:31:30
2          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:00:49
3          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:00:54
4          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:01:40
5          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          0:02:56

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale           53:30:30
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:00:08
4          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
5          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:00:54
6          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:01:00
7          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
8          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:01:49
9          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:01:54
10          Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:02:16

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With two surges, Sörensen escapes first the break then from his partner in crime Calzati to take the win in Vittel.

The race started slowly today with a few break attempts but nothing sticking.  Unusually, the full sprint points were still up for grabs for the first intermediate sprint.   Cavendish took the first sprint over Hushovd in the dash for the line.  By successfully contesting the first intermediate sprint at 32km, Cavendish clearly confirmed his intent to go for Green.  As a consequence he also is agreeing to do 6 mountain stages and a TT.  For a sprinter it is not something to signup for lightly.

  • Cavendish – 6 points,
  • Hushovd – 4 points
  • Casar – 2 points

A break formed at 75km included Lefevre, Calzati and Pellizotti, as well as Markus Fothen, Pauriol and Martinez.  Chasing to get on were Avermaet, Sörensen, Freire, Mevel and Ignatiev.  Of the chasers, only Sörensen cleared the gap to joint the break at 83km and so there were seven.  A group this size and strength certainly had a chance to hold off the peloton.  The rest of the sprint points were rendered moot as the break would eat them up.  On the other hand, the Pellizotti/Martinez KOM battle came front and center.

The gap held steady grew steadily too as much as 4:16.  At the Grands-Bois climb (2.3km at 5%) it’s Pellizotti followed by Martinez. Just 6.5 km later, Pellizotti topped Morlaix climb (2.1km at 4.2%) ahead of Martinez again. Martinez lead over Pellizotti was still 18 points.  On the final climb of the day, Bourmont climb (0.8km at 11.1%), It was Pellizotti again over Martinez.  The points were Pellizotti 71 to Martinez at 88.

With 40km of flat remaining, the sprint teams were likely thinking they should rope this group in to take the stage.  With a 3:30 gap and seven strong riders in the front their work was cut out.  The gap actually grew to 3:50 over the next 20km answering the question of a chase.  Someone in the break was going to take the stage.

At the 20km mark it was the 2006 stage winner, Calzati, who jumped with the veteran Sörensen following close behind.  The lead pair had 20 seconds quickly and 5 minutes on the peloton which was resigned to roll in behind the breaks.  At 15km the gap of the two over the 5 man chase was a tenuous 18 seconds. Sörensen is burying himself to hold on to a diminishing lead in to the 5km banner.  It was then that he decided to jump on Calzati quickly kicking the gap back up to 23 seconds! The fight was out of the chase and Sörensen walked away with the stage.

The chase came in 48 seconds later with Lefevre and Pellizotti, taking 2nd and 3rd respectively.  The peloton rolled in a comfortable 6 minutes back with Cavendish taking the top of the few remaining sprint points extending his lead over Hushovd a bit further.

On the daily podium today, Sörensen was heard humming a tune as he stepped up on the top spot.  It was later discovered to be an American classic…

There was no change to the GC today.  Leipheimer and Klöden hit the deck on the run in to the finish.  It didn’t look like there was any damage of consequence.  In that they were within the 3km safe zone, neither would lose time at the finish.

Pellizotti continues to demonstrate strength, which doesn’t bode well to Martinez. The Polka Dot Jersey competition is shaping up to be a highly contested prize.

Tomorrow brings the first of a string of mountain stages that calumniate with the Stage 20 climb up the Ventoux.  With so much ahead, this year’s race won’t be decided anytime soon.

Stage 12 Map

Stage 12 Map

Stage 12 Profile

Stage 12 Profile

Stage 12 Results

1           Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank                    4:52:24
2          Laurent Lefevre (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom          0:00:48
3          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
4          Marcus Fothen (Ger) Team Milram
5          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
6          Sylvain Calzati (Fra) Agritubel
7          Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:01:33
8          Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC          0:05:58
9          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
10          Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre – NGC
11          Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre – NGC
12          Steven de Jongh (Ned) Quick Step
13          Cyril Lemoine (Fra) Skil-Shimano
14          Nikolai Troussov (Rus) Team Katusha
15          Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Astana
16          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
17          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
18          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
19          Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française des Jeux
20          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne

Green Jersey Standings

1           Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC           200           pts
2          Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team                   190
3          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          116
4          Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream                   110
5          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram                            100
6          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                   97
7          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas                            81
8          Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale                   74
9          Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          64
10          Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank                   55

Overall Results

1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 48:27:21
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:06
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:00:08
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0:00:39
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream 0:00:46
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:00:54
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC 0:01:00
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 0:01:24
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:49
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:01:54

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Sanchez showed he had the best form of a breakaway group of four in the 8th stage today.  In the final kilometer, he first closed the final 5-second gap to the escaped Efimkin then clipped Casar at the line for the win.  It was a great performance on a dynamic but uneventful stage.

Luis León Sánchez Nips Sandy Casar at the Line to Take Stage 8

Luis León Sánchez Nips Sandy Casar at the Line to Take Stage 8

Today’s stage had a category 1 climb right out of the gate.  There was a great deal of churn as riders attempted to break on the challenging climb.  The peloton split into groups as Astana tried to stabilize the pace.  Sandy Casar got the KOM points followed by Kern and Martinez on the climb.  The rest followed in a string.  Casar maintained the lead over the summit followed by a chase including Cadel Evans, Zabriskie, Egoi Martinez, Efimkin, Kern, and La Mondiale at 53 seconds back.  The peloton was a further 2:10 back.  All this was occurring at 17km into the race.

On the decent Hincapie, Hushovd, Fletcha and Cancellara joined the chase though they couldn’t put time on Casar initially.  Eventually Casar is reeled in.  The break now had 1:35 on the Yellow jersey bunch.  It seems the battle for KOM and Green jersey points was providing the motivation for the composition of the break both for and against the titles.  Astana was controlling the peloton as expected.  They had it down to 45, not giving Cadel much latitude.

At 113km to go mark the pressure of the looming peloton forced a bailout by some and a capitulation to the capture by others.  The remaining break included Fletcha, Casar, Hushovd, Hincapie, Efimkin, and Cancellara with a 20 second gap.  Hushovd took the intermediate sprint making him the Green jersey on the road.  There were many changes as riders tried to bridge the relatively small gap.  Sanchez, Ignatiev, Astarloza and Rosseler joined on at that point while Cadel dropped off.  Hushovd took top points on the second sprint line to tighten his grip on green.  The break had 1:30 at the 86km to go mark.

On the second climb of the day at 72km to go, it was Hincapie, Cancellara, Sanchez, Ignatiev, Efimkin, Flecha, Astarloza, Casar and Rosseler who was falling off but caught back on descending.  The Yellow jersey group were at 2:57, still climbing.

Andy Schleck upped the pace on the accent up the final climb of the day up the Col d’Agnès at 55km. The added pressure forced split in the peloton.  Notably the Yellow jersey fell behind the split.  It was a yeoman’s effort by the veteran Stephane Goubert to help Rinaldo Nocentini (GC leader) bridge back to the lead chase group prior to the summit.  He had lost more than two minutes prior.  That would have been it for Rinaldo had he not bridged.  Schleck’s brought the gap to the break down to 2:40 by the summit.

Several riders fell out of the breakaway leaving only Efimkin, Astarloza, Sanchez and Casar while the others fell back.  At 46km to go, Efimkin jumped halfway up the climb dropping Astarloza, Sanchez and Casar.  Astarloza and Sanchez fought back only to be dropped again by a resurgent Efimkin.  Casar fell off the pace trying to conserve energy the rest of the way up.  Efimkin was caught 2km prior to the summit and resolved to stay with the break.  Casar crested the summit shortly after and caught back on the break a few km down the mountain with a fabulous decent.

Just after cresting the Col d’Agnès with 40km to go Columbia’s Hincapie accelerated away from the chasing peloton.  He bombed the decent trying to bridge to the four in the lead break.  He knocked the gap to 1:10 before the break riders started working together to extend the lead again to over 2 minutes.  Hincapie started looking back after that giving up and waiting for the peloton to absorb him back in.  The peloton was just under 3 minutes back at 25km when the Astana lead pack finally reeled him in.

The peloton whittled away the lead slowly but surely.  At 15km the gap was reduced 40 seconds to 2:30. Nocentini’s AG2R squad assumed the lead at this point to protect the jersey on the run in to the finish.  The gap dropped below 2 minutes at the 7.5km mark

At the 4.5, Astarloza leaped but was quickly marked.  Seconds later AG2R’s Efimkin did a brilliant jump holding on to about 500 meters.  It was Sanchez who turned on the afterburners to close the gap with Casar and Astarloza close in.  Casar starts the sprint but Sanchez is just two strong and swings by in the last 50 to take the stage.  The peloton cut the gap to 1:50 by the end with no significant changes in the order.

Tomorrow’s stage presents the Col d’Aspin (12km at 6.6 percent) and the Col du Tourmalet (17km at 7.5 percent) both notoriously difficult climbs.  The tour organization strangely placed the climbs smack in the middle of the stage, which will limit any damage done by an enterprising rider of breakaway.  I expect there will be a few GC contenders who will have to give it a go.  In previous years Discovery would send up a sentinel who could fall back for support.  This year, politics may prevent all be a few nonthreatening teammates from the task.  Still it is a possibility.   My guess would be Popovych who made a similar attempt on stage 16 of the Giro this year.  He was caught on the mountain top finish by Sastre with just 2.5km to go after giving it all he had.  I think he would enjoy the green light to give it another shot.

As for the Astana drama, both Lance and Alberto were conciliatory in their morning interviews.  Apparently “it’s all good”.  Bruyneel, in an effort to build trust I suppose has offered that both riders will have an opportunity to challenge for the Yellow, So much for Leipy and Klöden’s ambitions.  Article by Martin Rodgers describing the goings on.

Stage 9 Profile

Stage 8 Profile

Stage 9 Map

Stage 8 Map

Stage 8 Recap

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Stage 8 Results

1           Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne           4:31:50
2          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux
3          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
4          Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale          0:00:03
5          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:01:54
6          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7          Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram
8          Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
9          Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des Jeux
10          Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom

Polka Dot Jersey Standings

1           Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne           59           pts
2          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          54
3          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          49
4          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
5          Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux          43
6          Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          38
7          Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale          35
8          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          34
9          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          32
10          Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          26

Green Jersey Standings

1           Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team           117           pts
2          Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC          106
3          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram          66
4          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          65
5          Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank          55

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale           30:18:16
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:00:08
4          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana          0:00:39
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
6          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:00:54
7          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:01:00
8          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
9          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:01:49
10          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:01:54

Allez915

Brice Feillu steps out of his brothers shadow today to bring the honor of a stage win to his family and team.  Feillu was part of a nine-man

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

break that whittled down on the mountain top finish in Arcalis.  Initially looking weak, Feillu surprised all by jumping halfway up the above category climb.  He held on to take the stage.  The rest of the break straggled in behind him.  Contador fired the third shot in the battle for Astana preeminence (the first being the time trial – expected & second Lance’s crosswind attack – on the margins).  He took it upon himself to attack rather than cover attackers in the most blatant self-serving move to date.  Outside of the politics, it was a brilliant move.  He clearly has the legs to challenge the best.

As it happened:  At about 45km a stable break formed to include Gutierrez, Martinez, Riblon, Nocentini, Kuschynski, Kern, Pineau, Feillu and Frohlinger.  The highest placing of the group was Nocentini at 3:13.  As such none were considered a threat by the GC contenders and were allowed to go up the road in the name of stabilizing the peloton.  The group extended their lead to more than 12 minutes over the next 140km.

The peloton largely stuck together with Astana taking the helm as if they held Yellow.  Saxo’s absence from the front was telling relative to their expectations of Cancellara.  With 25km to go, Astana started to turn up the dial as Paulinho, Popovych and Zubeldia set a blistering pace.  As they fell off one by one, the pressure ratcheted up but the gap had not fallen enough to clear all of the break riders from the GC standings.  The GC chase group, including all the favorites, continued to grab back time rapidly but was running out of real estate.  Ahead in the break, Feillu jumped at 5.5km fracturing the group in the process.  The GC chase heavy still with Astana riders stuck together until the Cadel took a shot.  He was marked rapidly but seconds later Contador took off.  Contador in his trademark acceleration pealed off the front leaving the chase in the dust.  He grew the lead steadily to the line putting distance all the favorites including his coleader, Lance.

Contador came close but did not gain enough time to garner the yellow.  The GC did shake up a little as the break rider, Nocentini, held enough of a gap to put himself in yellow.  Contador leaps Lance with Leipheimer and Wiggins rounding out the top 5.

When interviewed, Armstrong, Leipheimer and even the director Johan Bruyneel said that Contador was off script.  He was expected to work with the team as a group and prepare to cover the moves of the GC threats.  Contador’s was rather guarded in his after race interview.  He said he was testing his legs and was hopeful to put some distance on his competitors.  As if heeding Hinault’s words in commentary this morning, he effectively threw the gauntlet down.

Other Riders in the GC group look very good.  Though none has truly played their hand. Cadel Evans jump at the 2km mark showed excellent form though a straining chase group including Andy & Frank Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Lance Armstrong, Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre, Vladimir Karpets and Christian Vande Velde were able to marked him. Team Garmin continues to looks strong with a strong performance by Wiggins and Vande Velde.  I think this group was content to shake out their legs in readiness for the next two mountain stages.  There is as they say, a long way to go.

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

I’d love to be a fly on the wall on the Astana team bus tonight.  Things will probably get heated.  The individual and team expectation seem to be at odds.  Compounding the problem are matters of trust.  I wonder if Contador thinks the director favors Lance and as such is holding him back.  When riders are expected to sacrifice for the team, resentments are bound to follow especially when rolls are not defined. This seems like Lemond/Hinault all over again i.e. the senior statesman vs. the talent.  Were Contador to have earned the Yellow Jersey, Lance and the other riders’ options would be limited.  They would be expected to fall in line and support their rider.  As it is, the riders will feel less encumbered by prescribed strategy especially in the face of Contador’s defection from the team.  It will be interesting to see what face is put on this in the morning.

Now the final matter for today, what the heck is up with Boonen?  He can’t seem to catch a break in the last three days.

  • Stage 5 – two flats
  • Stage 6 – wreck
  • Stage 7 – another wreck
  • Not a single sprint point to date.

I’m throwing all the mojo I can muster at Booney to overcome his poor fortune and get in the mix.

Stage Profile

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Recap

Bicycle Magazine
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
ESPN
Velonews
Yahoo Sports

Stage 7 Video

Velonews

Stage 7 Results

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           6:11:31
2          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:00:05
3          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:00:25
4          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:00:26
5          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:00:45
6          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          0:01:05
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:32
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:03:14
9          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:03:26
10          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:47
11          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
12          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
14          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
15          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
16          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC
17          Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
18          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
19          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
20          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream

Polka Dot Jersey Overall

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           49            pts
2          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
3          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          46
4          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          43
5          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          34
6          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          32
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          23
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          20
9          Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas          17
10          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          15

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale           25:44:32
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:00:08
4          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana          0:00:39
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
6          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:00:54
7          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:01:00
8          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
9          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:01:49
10          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:01:54
11          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:10
12          Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC          0:02:21
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:25
14          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:02:40
15          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team          0:02:52
16          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:02:54
17          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          0:03:03
18          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:07
19          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:03:10
20          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:03:16

Allez915

Cavendish utilized his team to perfection winning his second stage in as many days.  The real news was a crosswind induced break that led to an irreparable split in the field that shook up the GC standings.

It was another hot stage today in southern France.  The 196km Marseille to Le Grande Motte route was rolling on the first half and dead flat on the later half.  Strong crosswinds were expected on the flats which have the potential to force echelon formations and possibly induce breaks in the peloton.

Stage 3 Winner, Mark Cavendish

Stage 3 Winner, Mark Cavendish

A single break got away from the gun which included Moreno, Bouet, De Kort and Domoulin.  They held a lead over much of the stage with a gap of as much as 11 minutes.  The peloton was content to pedal at a comfortable pace, seemingly not worried about the break.  About halfway through the stage Saxo Bank, Rabobank then Columbia moved to the front in sequence to do the work of reeling in the escapees.  The lead steadily fell over the next 70km.  As the Columbia led peloton approached the break, the pace and cross winds, fractured the field.  Almost all of the Columbia team made the front group of 29 as well as Cancellara, Cavendish, Martin and Hushovd.  Three Astana riders made it including Armstrong, Zubeldia and Popo. Many contenders were in the chase group including Contador, Evans, Sastre, Leipheimer, the Schlecks and several of the sprinters. The gap hovered between 20 to 40 seconds into the final kilometers.  Even with strong chase effort the lead group held on to the line taking 40+ seconds out of the chase.

Cavendish was well positioned for the sprint with a single rider left on lead out.  Hushovd was on his wheel but didn’t have enough to get by.  Another great win for Cav.  Cancellara made a nice effort to snag 6th.  The GC changed considerably with Armstrong and Martin moving up and Contador, Kloden, Evans and Leipheimer moving down.

I’ll be very interested in reviewing the video and race reports today.  It seems Armstrong was urging his team on in the lead group even though his team lead, Contador, got caught in the chase group.  Hopefully an interviewer will extract an explanation.  Regardless, Lance has situated himself to possibly take the Yellow Jersey tomorrow with a high probability win tomorrow in the TTT.  That of course would have him protected as leader till the mountain top finish in Arcalis on Stage 7.  All bets are off at that point.

P.S. After reading and viewing interviews and commentary, It seems to me that Lance thought under the conditions that it was wise to stay up front in case a split developed.  Contador had been near the split but missed by a hair.  At that point, Lance mostly hung on to the Columbia freight train and ended up with a windfall.  Lance was unapologetic mind you but seemed to have a proper perspective of the time gain relative to the weeks ahead in the context of team politics.  Contador didn’t seem concerned in the least.

Stage 3 Race Reports

ESPN (best of the reports)
Velonews
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
Yahoo Sports
Cycling Weekly (Lances Motives…Not to Top Contador)

Stage 3 Video

Versus Race Recap
Versus Post Race Recap

Stage 3 Results

1. Mark Cavendish Team Columbia – Htc in 5:01:24
2. Thor Hushovd Cervelo Test Team
3. Cyril Lemoine Skil-Shimano at 00:00
4. Samuel Dumoulin Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne at s.t.
5. Jérôme Pineau Quick Step at s.t.
6. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank at s.t.
7. Fabian Wegmann Team Milram at s.t.
8. Fumiyuki Beppu Skil-Shimano at s.t.
9. Maxime Bouet Agritubel at s.t.
10. Linus Gerdemann Team Milram at s.t.

GC Standings

1. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank in 9:50:58
2. Tony Martin Team Columbia – Htc in 9:51:31
3. Lance Armstrong Astana in 9:51:38 at 00:40
4. Alberto Contador Astana in 9:51:57 at 00:59
5. Bradley Wiggins Garmin – Slipstream in 9:51:58 at 01:00
6. Andréas KlÖden Astana in 9:52:01 at 01:03
7. Linus Gerdemann Team Milram in 9:52:01 at 01:03
8. Cadel Evans Silence – Lotto in 9:52:02 at 01:04
9. Maxime Monfort Team Columbia – Htc in 9:52:08 at 01:10
10. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 9:52:09 at 01:11
11. Michael Rogers Team Columbia – Htc in 9:52:11 at 01:13
12. Roman Kreuziger Liquigas in 9:52:11 at 01:13
13. George Hincapie Team Columbia – Htc in 9:52:15 at 01:17
14. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas in 9:52:16 at 01:18
15. Gustav Larsson Team Saxo Bank in 9:52:20 at 01:22
16. Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel – Euskadi in 9:52:23 at 01:25
17. David Zabriskie Garmin – Slipstream in 9:52:26 at 01:28
18. David Millar Garmin – Slipstream in 9:52:27 at 01:29
19. Jérôme Pineau Quick Step in 9:52:29 at 01:31
20. Haimar Zubeldia Astana in 9:52:29 at 01:31

Allez915

There is nothing more beautiful in cycling than a well executed team sprint. All the energy, chaos, danger and shear force of will to simply cross the line first is fascinating. Team Columbia’s and its sprinter extraordinaire Mark Cavendish has perfected the art. Today’s stage was a brilliant example of art in motion.

Here is a time saving recap from Versus Link

Stage 2 Race Reports
Cycling News
Velonews
Cycling Weekly
Bicycling Magazine
Yahoo Sports
Cycling Weekly (Team Columbia Must Step Up)

Stage 2 Photos

Stage 2 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 4:30:02
2 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream
3 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
5 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
6 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
7 William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Koen de Kort (Ned) Skil-Shimano
10 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale

Allez915

The 15km time trial in Monaco exposed the field in this year’s tour.  As Phil Liggett predicted, Fabian Cancellara took the podium.  Considering his win at the Tour de Suisse this year beating out Martin, KlÖden and Cunego, the rest of

Contador Pounds the Field

Contador Pounds the Field

the field will be keeping an eye on him.  Great performance but the spots below reveal the GC potential on the non-specialists.  Contador solidified his position as Astana team lead with a blistering performance today.   Only Cancellara had the guns to keep him at bay.  Lance put in a solid performance but for the second time this year appears to be fetching bottles for his ridiculously strong team.  Astana has 4 riders in the top 10 for the love of god. Joining Contador in the top ten were KlÖden, Leipheimer and Lance.

Cadel Evans had a great performance today besting Leipheimer to take 5th.  He looks to be on form and likely able to stick with the leaders on the tough stuff.  Unfortunately his GC hopes are a tough road considering the poor performance of his team.  Not only will Lotto probably take a beating on Tuesday’s TTT but he is unlikely to have much support as the grade steepens.  While Cadel is very strong in the mountains, in the past he has been unable to attack in a way that will help him reclaim the time required to find a podium spot.

Sastre 21st and Menchov 53rd each gave up a minute or more to leader.  Sastre had a great Giro showing best of the bunch form on the mountains.  This field is stronger still.  While Levi and Lance maintained their relative placing in the field of racers from the Giro to the Tour, this trio appears to have faded from top form.  Sastre in particular has shown an ability to bury himself on a time trial when necessary.  This day it was not to be.  He has some ground to make up.  His team didn’t fair to well either today.  The stage is set for widening the gap on the TTT.   What is up with Menchov?  I find it hard to understand his lack of form.  He has some ground to make up and probably more still on Tuesday.

The Stage 4 team time trial set for Tuesday should prove out that Astana is the cream of the field. Team Garmin and Team Columbia looked very strong today and aught to be able to elevate the team riders as a whole in the TTT as well.  I for one can’t wait.  There will likely be a stack of green and yellow riders at the top of the GC on Wednesday morning.  Many of the American riders should have a great showing.

Stage 1 Race Reports

Stage 1 Video

Stage 1 Results

1. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank in 19:32
2. Alberto Contador Astana in 19:50
3. Bradley Wiggins Garmin – Slipstream in 19:51 at 00:19
4. Andréas KlÖden Astana in 19:54 at 00:22
5. Cadel Evans Silence – Lotto in 19:55 at 00:23
6. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 20:02 at 00:30
7. Roman Kreuziger Liquigas in 20:04 at 00:32
8. Tony Martin Team Columbia – Htc in 20:05 at 00:33
9. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas in 20:09 at 00:37
10. Lance Armstrong Astana in 20:12 at 00:40
11. Gustav Larsson Team Saxo Bank in 20:13 at 00:41
12. Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel – Euskadi in 20:16 at 00:44
13. David Zabriskie Garmin – Slipstream in 20:19 at 00:47
14. David Millar Garmin – Slipstream in 20:20 at 00:48
15. Jérôme Coppel Francaise Des Jejuna in 20:23 at 00:51
16. Sylvain Chavanel Quick Step in 20:28 at 00:56
17. Christian Vande Velde Garmin – Slipstream in 20:29 at 00:57
18. Andy Schleck Team Saxo Bank in 20:32 at 01:00
19. Linus Gerdemann Team Milram in 20:35 at 01:03
20. Rémi Pauriol Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne in 20:37 at 01:05
21. Carlos Sastre Cervelo Test Team in 20:38 at 01:06
22. Vladimir Karpets Team Katusha in 20:39 at 01:07
23. Alessandro Ballan Lampre – N.g.c in 20:42 at 01:10
24. Maxime Monfort Team Columbia – Htc in 20:42 at 01:10
25. Broeck Jurgen Van Den Silence – Lotto in 20:43 at 01:11

Allez915

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