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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

Stage 16 Profile

Stage 16 Profile

Stage 16 Recap

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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

Allez915

How do you turn a mountain stage into a sprint stage?  Put the climbs in the middle and add a 30km decent to a 30km flat into the finish.  The result was that what was expected to be a battle in the GC leadership turned into a

Stage 9 Winner Fedrigo Takes a Sprint Finish over Pellizotti

Stage 9 Winner Fedrigo Takes a Sprint Finish over Pellizotti

typical sprint stage. Pierrick Fedrigo and Franco Pellizotti go one, two after working seamlessly for over 100km to hold off a fast chasing peloton.  The GC battle fizzled as the mountains were just too far from the finish.

Leading the race on to the base of the Tourmalet was the veteran Jens Voigt accompanied by Franco Pellizotti and Pierrick Fedrigo. The first chase group included Broeck, Astana’s Paulinho, Garate, Van Den Broeck, Ten Dam, Martinez, Txurruka, Moncoutie, the KOM on the road Egoi Martinez, and Stage 5 winner, Thomas Voeckler.  Thirty seconds back and trying to get on was Bouet who had just passed the Cofidis rider, Duque, who was going the other way.  The peloton was 4:10 back and includes the GC favorites though several riders including Cancellara and Popovych have fallen off.  The AG2R team was doing a great job leading for their yellow jersey teammate.

At 80km, Pellizotti jumped followed by Fedrigo.  Voigt was riding within himself to keep contact without blowing up.  Halfway up the climb the peloton was still a conspicuously large group.  With 8km to go to the summit it was surprising that none of the contending teams pushed the pace forcing Astana to cover.

At the summit of the HC climb, Pellizotti and Fedrigo took the double points for 1st and 2nd place.  The first chase came across at 2:50 minutes back having just picked up a struggling Jens Voigt.  Martinez took seventh padding his lead in the KOM by 16 points.  Bouet went to all the trouble to bridge up to the chase group only to fall back to the peloton after he was dropped on a steep section.  The number of RV’s and cars that lined the final km was astounding.  The peloton climbed steadily but didn’t make up much time on the climb at 4:50 back.  The placement of the mountains in the center of the stage as expected really sucked the life out of what could have been another exciting stage.  Considering tomorrows rest day, what was the point?

The first half of the Armstrong led decent was uneventful.  Columbia was given the go ahead to catch the breaks and force a sprint for the team.   At just under 5 minutes down, their work was cut out for them.  The peloton caught the chase at 40km to go narrowing the gap to 3:50. Caisse d’Epargne came to the front in support of their sprinter Rojas.  Rabobank came to the front to help salvage some glory today perhaps as Menchov has not panned out as expected.  They were attempting to set up Oscar Freire for the sprint if possible.  At 20km to go, the break was holding a tenuous lead over the peloton of 2:30 minutes.  It was still touch and go whether Pellizotti and Fedrigo could hold out.  They certainly were giving it there all.  The teams for the breakaway riders, Liquigas and Bbox, moved to the front in an attempt to disrupt chasing peloton.

With 10 km to go the gap between the break and the peloton had dropped to 1:22.  It seemed that the break would hold at this point.  Caisse was doing the lion’s share of the work to bring the break back stringing out the peloton in the process.

  • At 7km the gap was 60 seconds.
  • At 5km the gap was 44 seconds thought the peloton was bunching
  • At 4km the gap was 42 seconds Schleck flatted outside the 3km safety zone.  The whole team fell back to help.
  • At 3km the gap was 41 seconds. Voigt dragged Schleck back in no time flat
  • At 2km the gap was 39 seconds. Liquigas did a great job of disrupting the fading Caisse chase.
  • At 1km the gap was 36 seconds.  The break was going to hold.  Pellizotti no longer took a turn at the front.  Pellizotti jumped prior to the final turn at the 500 meter mark.  Bbox’s Pierrick Fedrigo tagged Pellizotti and came around to take the line.

Rabobank’s Oscar Freire took the field sprint for third.  Rojas was only able to muster sixth.  There was no change to the GC standings.

Well it looks like GC racing will be put on hold till the Stage 13 in the Alps on Friday.  Tomorrow is a rest day followed by three stages through central France.

Stage 9 Map

Stage 9 Map

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Stage 9 Profile

Stage 9 Recap

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Stage 9 Results

1           Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom           4:05:31
2          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
3          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank          0:00:34
4          Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
5          Peter Velits (Svk) Team Milram
6          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
7          Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence – Lotto
8          Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) Agritubel
9          Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre – NGC
10          Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale

Polka Dot Jersey Standings

1           Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi           78           pts
2          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          59
3          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          55
4          Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel          49
5          Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom          49

Green Jersey Standings

1           Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team           117           pts
2          Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC          106
3          Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          75
4          Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram          66
5          Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank          62

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
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

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.

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Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Profile

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Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Recap

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Stage 7 Video

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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

The highlights of the stage were an exceptionally well ridden break by David Millar followed by a blistering sprint by Thor “The Hamma” Hushovd. Besides that the stage was marked wreck after wreck on the rain slicked roads mostly on the later half of the race.

Hushovd does a picture sprint to take the win and get back into contention on the green jersey competition

Hushovd does a picture sprint to take the win and get back into contention on the green jersey competition

In early riding, Zabriskie, Hincapie, Fletcha, Millar and Freire all took a stab at a break today. At around the 50 km mark, by Millar, Auge and Chavanel. They quickly gained a minute on the field over the next 5k or so. The lead grew to its max of 3:30 by the 65km mark. The peloton learned from the previous day not to let the break get to far out either that or Millar was seen a significant enough of a threat to keep it close.

A light rain began at the 80km mark, which didn’t bode well relative to the hilly terrain ahead. Astana comes to the front to keep its riders out of trouble. Txurruka gets free and bridges to the break by the 110km mark. Just after the base of the final climb, Millar attacks his compatriots. He gets a gap the others can’t match. He had about a minute over the peloton with the mountain and decent, a flat section of about 10km and some steep rollers in the last 2km to conquer.

Millar’s lead over the peloton slips to 30 seconds but by the end of the decent is back up to over a minute. Millar is burying himself on the flats to hold on to the tenuous lead. After 10km of wrecks, and looking at each other, the peloton wakes up and accelerates. The question is will someone jump to snag a few seconds, will Millar take advantage of the indecisive peloton or will it go to an unexpected sprint?

As the peloton bears down on Millar, Columbia’s Martin is up front with Cavendish but where was his regular lead out guy, Renshaw? Millar was caught at the 1km after a supreme effort. Columbia’s Martin tried to control the pace through the final Km to set up the sprint for Cavendish to no avail. On the sprint, Pozzato went left and Freire went right with Hushovd on his wheel. Hushovd takes it at the line.

Hushovd narrowly missed taking over the Green jersey lead over Cavendish by one point. What was expected to be a Cavendish rout is shaping up to be a very competitive sprint competition.

The unexpected sprint wins the day.

All eyes are on stage 7 and the mountains near Andorra. Tomorrow is the day were we see who has got the legs and more importantly which of Astana’s leaders can assert control. I think Lance is counting on strategy and experience and maybe seniority to hold onto control where Contador has raw horsepower. Either way it goes, it will be exciting to watch. There are several riders including Cadel, Sastre, and Schleck who are in need of some seconds and minutes. They may just have to take a chance and scramble for it on what is likely a Astana dominated stage.

Climbs of the day
Km 32.0 – Côte de Sant Feliu de Guixols – 2.0 km climb to 5.4% – Category 4
Km 55.0 – Côte de Tossa de Mar – 3.8 km climb to 4.2% – Category 4
Km 98.0 – Côte de Sant Vicenc de Montalt – 3.3 km climb to 5.2% – Category 3
Km 110.0 – Collsacreu – 4.1 km climb to 5.2% – Category 3
Km 159.0 – Côte de la Conreria – 4.7 km climb to 4.5% – Category 4

Stage Profile

Stage 6 Profile

Stage 6 Profile

Stage 6 Recap
Bicycling Magazine
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
ESPN
Velonews
Yahoo Sports

Stage 6 Video
Yahoo Sports

Stage 6 Results
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 4:21:33
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas
6 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha
7 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre – NGC
8 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto
10 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank
11 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
12 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
13 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
14 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
15 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick Step
16 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC
17 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
18 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia – HTC
19 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
20 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana

Green Jersey Overall
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia – HTC 106 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 105
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram 66
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 54
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 53

Overall Results
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 19:29:22
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:19
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:00:23
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0:00:31
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream 0:00:38
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC 0:00:52
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream 0:01:16
9 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:22
10 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC 0:01:29

Allez915

Bbox’s Thomas Voeckler won the stage after a start to finish breakaway.  Voeckler was able to get a gap on his 5 other pirate friends on a round about at 5km.  He was able to hold the lead to the line to take the stage.

Voeckler takes the early break to the line with panache

Voeckler takes the early break to the line with panache

Today’s stage was a southwesterly route in the south of France.  The racers battled stiff crosswinds all day that had them on edge.  Riders were battling to get to the front to stay out of trouble.  A group of six escaped including Voeckler, Geslin, Hutarovich, Sapa, Ignatiev and Timmer at about 28km.  The break got a small gap that grew to 1.5 minutes as the peloton stopped on mass for a nature stop.  The lead steadily grew to over 8 minutes.

There were two cat 4 climbs at about the halfway point at which time Astana and Saxo began working on the gap.  Even Cancellara worked to drive the pace.  Saxo’s efforts paid off as the field split into a group of 40 followed by a chase of the remaining riders.  During this time the crosswinds were taking a toll on the lead six that exacerbated the time loss.  The lead was reduced to 40 seconds at the 30km mark.  It wasn’t looking good for the break at that point.  Saxo realized there nothing to work for in that all the top riders were in the lead chase so they let up.  That allowed the six-man break to grow the lead back to 1:40 giving them a chance to bring it home.

At about 6km out, Ignatiev started the jumps.  He tried twice without success.  At just under 5km, Voeckler made a thunderous jump and held it to the line fighting a strong headwind solo for the win.  Ignatiev held on for second as the wildly undulating peloton bore down nearly stealing the spot.  Cavendish led the charge taking third in the process.

No change in the GC.

Ignatiev digs deep to hold second as Cavendish breaths down his neck

Ignatiev digs deep to hold second as Cavendish breaths down his neck

Stage 5 Recap

Bicycling Magazine
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
ESPN
Yahoo Sports

Stage 5 Video

ESPN Video

Stage 5 Results

1. Thomas Voeckler Bbox Bouygues Telecom in 4:29:35
2. Mikhail Ignatiev Team Katusha in 4:29:42
3. Mark Cavendish Team Columbia – Htc in 4:29:42 at 00:07
4. Tyler Farrar Garmin – Slipstream in 4:29:42 at 00:07
5. Gerald Ciolek Team Milram in 4:29:42 at 00:07
6. Danilo Napolitano Team Katusha in 4:29:42 at 00:07
7. Joaquin Rojas Jose Caisse D’epargne in 4:29:42 at 00:07
8. Lloyd Mondory Ag2r-La Mondiale in 4:29:42 at 00:07
9. Oscar Freire Rabobank in 4:29:42 at 00:07
10. Thor Hushovd Cervelo Test Team in 4:29:42 at 00:07

Green Jersey Standings

1. Mark Cavendish Team Columbia – Htc 96 points
2. Thor Hushovd Cervelo Test Team 70 points
3. Tyler Farrar Garmin – Slipstream 54 points
4. Gerald Ciolek Team Milram 42 points
5. Thomas Voeckler Bbox Bouygues Telecom 41 points

Overall Standings

1. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank in 15:07:49
2. Lance Armstrong Astana
3. Alberto Contador Astana in 15:08:08 at 00:19
4. Andréas KlÖden Astana in 15:08:12 at 00:23
5. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 15:08:20 at 00:31
6. Bradley Wiggins Garmin – Slipstream in 15:08:27 at 00:38
7. Haimar Zubeldia Astana in 15:08:40 at 00:51
8. Tony Martin Team Columbia – Htc in 15:08:41 at 00:52
9. David Zabriskie Garmin – Slipstream in 15:08:55 at 01:06
10. David Millar Garmin – Slipstream in 15:08:56 at 01:07

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

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

I went in to the 2008 Tour de France wondering if I would be as invested in the race as in past years.  I find that I’ve been hedging commitment to the race for several weeks leading up to the start.  After some thought, several reasons jump to mind. 

·         There is the closure of the Discovery team and the subsequent scattering of the team members to the three winds. 

·         There is the hardheaded ASO decision to deny Astana the opportunity to race and along with it two of my favorites, Contador and Leipheimer as well as the ever fascinating director Johan Bruyneel. 

·         There is the decision of Versus to deny the cable impaired a live online video feed relegating us to the semi-live twitter like updates from the major news and team outlets.  

·         Let’s not forget the yearly sponsor and rider changes to navigate. 

 

So with all this nonsense to contend with, who could figure where I’d be three stages in?  Yes, you guessed it, as buried in it as a solo break 5K out with a 2 minute gap. 

 

The two American teams Team Columbia (High Road) and Team Garmin – Chipotle are square in the middle of it.  They have several riders including today’s 2nd place finisher Will Frischkorn and yesterday’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek who are bringing me along for the ride. 

 

I’m not sure how these teams will play out in the GC but they have clearly come to challenge individual stages.  There is a rather rebellious side to each of these teams that hint at more fun to come.  

 

The interview at the end of the stage with Frischkorn was fascinating.  Clearly still wound up from the stage finish, he recounted the story of the finishing kilometers as a series of missteps.  He just knew that he could get it right if they just rewind to 5K out and restart. He wore the disappointment of opportunity lost on his sleeve.  He is a novice to grand tour riding which was a refreshing contrast more controlled interviews of the favorites.  It was very entertaining. 

 

Tomorrow’s time trial will finally stack the players in this year’s race.  I’m hopeful George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, and David Millar will shake it up a bit finding their way into the top 10 or 15.  Either way this year is wide open, enjoyably so.

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