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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 main move of the day came when Chavanel attacked at around 80km steadily putting time on the

Stage 19 Finish, Roy & Chavanel

Stage 19 Finish, Roy & Chavanel

peloton. He was nearly reeled him back in when Jeremy Roy jumped from the field adding juice to the break at just the right time. The duo was able to put five minutes on the peloton with steady pace lining. The majority probably didn’t want to over do it coming into the time trial tomorrow.

The field did get busy chasing eventually trying to keep it contained to some degree. They were able to drop the gap to near four minutes. At that point Chavanel and Roy put on the burner on bringing the gap back over 5 minutes with about 28km to go. From then on the advantage decayed steadily to the line but was enough to permit a little goofing around in the final kilometer.

Coming into the sprint Roy was following Chavanel and wouldn’t come through. Chavanel slowed, put it in a big gear and eyeballed Roy in anticipation of the move. He smartly hugged the left barrier allowing only one direction of attack. Roy jumped at 200m but didn’t have the juice to get by Chavanel.

Stage 19 Bunch Sprint

Stage 19 Bunch Sprint

The field eventually resigned themselves to crumb scrapping starting from third place. The sprint wound up nicely with teams for Zabel, Hushovd, Ciolek, Duque and Freire jockeying for position. In the end Ciolek had the better line and hit the gas in another fine finish for Team Columbia.  Zabel was there but unable to get by. Freire got boxed out. The others finished top ten.

There was no change to the GC resulting from today’s stage. The final GC test is set for tomorrow in the form of a 53km time trial.  Speculation was thick today from the commentators during the race. They think that while Cadel has the edge, Sastre’s performance is less predictable.  The Yellow jersey can do strange things.  Most are betting on Cadel.  He is my bet as well.  Menchov has a good chance for a podium spot while Vande Velde has his work cut out to oust Cadel, Schleck or Menchov from the three top spots.  Good bet he finishes the day in 4th or 5th on GC.

Stage 19 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/cjp6a

Stage 19 Race Reports
Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/5tjd35
Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5aj26x
Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6gd5ke
Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/6blrlc

Stage 19 Results:
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis, 3.37.09 (45.73 km/h)
2 Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des Jeux, st.
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Columbia, 1.13
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram, st.
5 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner, st.
6 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, st.
7 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas, st.
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole, st.
9 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner, st.
10 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin Chipotle – H30, st.

Overall Results:
1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 82.54.36
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24

Burghardt and Barredo gave the fans a treat to close stage 18 today. After cat and mouse for 20km the two employed

Stage 18 Winner - Burghardt of Team Columbia

Stage 18 Winner - Burghardt of Team Columbia

track tactics to setup for the final 500 meters. Burghardt overpowered a very disappointed Barredo from the forward position to get the win. Team Columbia has had a stellar Tour to date with 5 wins, holder at times of the Green, White and Yellow Jersey on top of becoming the poster child for dope free racing. I mean this is a Tour they can write home about.

Barredo escaped the peloton at about the 70km. Soon after, Burghardt and Feillu escaped as well though Burghardt later dropped Feillu bridging to Barredo on the decent of the col de Parmenie. Astarloza and Le Mevel escaped about then and tried to bridge to the leaders catching up with Feillu by 85km. The peloton was seven or eight minutes back at that point though the lead grew as high as ten minutes before CSC fired up the big engines. Burghardt and Barredo held of the chasers to contest the sprint. Feillu, Le Mevel and Astarloza came in a little more than three minutes later. The peloton with a small leading group sprinted in a little less than four minutes later.

There was no real action in the GC as the key riders marked each other closely. The only real shift was that Cunego wrecked at 28km cracking his chin. Three of his teammates fell back to support him though he still lost nearly 13 minutes to the peloton. Cunego has really struggled this tour without much to show for it. I’m afraid too much expectation was placed on him.

Stage 18 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/56q2cn

Stage 18 Race Reports:

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/69lm2e

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5nfl37

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6ksbmj

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/6qr2jq

Stage 18 Results:

1 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Team Columbia, 4.30.21 (43.61 km/h)
2 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step, st.
3 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel, 3.33
4 Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Crédit Agricole, st.
5 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 3.35
6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 6.39
7 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, st.
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas, st.
9 Leif Hoste (Bel) Silence – Lotto, st.
10 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.

Overall Team Standings:

1 Team CSC Saxo Bank, 237.42.06
2 AG2R-La Mondiale, 9.27
3 Rabobank, 1.01.17
4 Euskaltel – Euskadi, 1.07.57
5 Caisse d’Epargne, 1.11.56
6 Silence – Lotto, 1.13.29
7 Lampre, 1.18.16
8 Team Columbia, 1.23.09
9 Credit Agricole, 1.25.27
10 Gerolsteiner, 1.29.14

Overall Standings:

1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 79.16.14
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24

Sastre patiently waited for his chance to shine and then delivered on L’Alpe d’Huez. The CSC

Stage 17 Winner - Carlos Sastre

Stage 17 Winner - Carlos Sastre

strategy appears to have been to fake the GC contenders into following Frank Schleck then hit em with a blistering Sastre acceleration. Make no mistake, Sastre attacked the yellow jersey group. He wasn’t trying to pace Frank. He was clearly going for the win and unless he broke ranks, he had the blessing of the team to do it. The decider may have been Sastre’s better potential in the time trials. Either way, it was a masterful team play which leveraged a hand of aces this team possesses. Cadel was happy to have the little help he had and did well to limit the damage.

The riders come out of the Alps tomorrow in Stage 18. While there are a few climbs including a Cat 2 climb toward the end, it is unlikely that the GC guys will contest. Stage 19 heads into the flat lands leaving little chance for a GC shakeup. It is more likely that the Tour will be decided on the Stage 20 time trial. So the lingering question is..was it enough?

Stage 4 results offer a glimpse of the time trial potential for Cadel and Carlos. Cadel placed third in the time trial, 27 seconds off the winning time. Sastre finished at 28th about 1:39 back for a gap of 1:12. The Stage 20 time trial is rolling but also longer at 53km versus the relatively flat 29.5km TT of stage 4. Simple math suggests a relative gap of 2:09. As Cadel is 1:34 behind on GC after today’s stage, it is a good bet that Cadel is within striking range. There are plenty of other variables you could consider when handicapping the Stage 20. I’ll leave that to those who are inclined. Suffice to say it will be a dog fight.

Stage 4 Elevation Profile

Stage 4 Elevation Profile

Stage 2 Elevation Profile

Stage 2 Elevation Profile

Sastre will have three days to enjoy the armor of the yellow and convince himself that he is more than even he thought, a time trial guy. The team dynamic is strong in CSC. Many sacrifices were made to put him in position. Carlos will be riding beyond himself with that in mind on Saturday.

Stage 17 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/cjp6a

Stage 17 Race Reports

Bike Radar: http://tinyurl.com/57rez3

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/6qxj8f

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/55lsfw

Versus: http://preview.tinyurl.com/57fuls

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/5g5bmf

Stage 17 Results:

1 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Saxo Bank, 6.07.58 (34.32 km/h)
2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 2.03
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 2.13
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
6 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 2.15
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, st.
9 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30
10 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, st.

Overall Standings:

1 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 74.39.03
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.24
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 1.33
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 1.34
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 2.39
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.41
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 5.35
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 5.52
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.10
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 8.24

A brilliant performance by Andy Schleck of team CSC up the final climb of the

Stage 16 - Scheck, Kohl & Menchov

Stage 16 - Scheck, Kohl & Menchov

day helped keep brother Frank in Yellow today on Stage 16. Menchov and Vandevelde were on the negative side as each lost time on GC. Menchov was dropped on the final decent, Vandevelde on the climb prior. Vandevelde had a spill on the high part of the decent as he raced to make up ground. Unfortunately he ended up losing over two and a half minutes to Frank. Menchov held his losses to 35 seconds. Cadel, Sastre and Kohl put in excellent performances today retaining their positions on the GC. The GC guys finished about a minute and half behind several shattered breakaway groups.

Stage 16 Winner Cyril Dessel followed by Sandy Casar

Stage 16 Winner Cyril Dessel followed by Sandy Casar

As for the action up front, Dumoulin, Rosseler, Le Mevel, Schumacher and Voeckler escaped the peloton at 40km. A second chase formed behind them of 20 riders including Freire, Hincapie and Pate. Schumacher broke free of the original 5 at 60km holding out till 130km when he was finally absorbed by the first chase. The second chase grew over that time to 29 riders including Dessel, picked up the leftovers of the Schumacher group. Eight of those got a gap and picked up Schumacher. That group included Hincapie, Sivtsov, Arroyo, Portal, Popovych, Augustyn, Valjavec and Casar. Augustyn bolted for the summit of the final mountain and got it but missed a turn on the decent and slid down the mountain without his bike. The remaining Eight split into two groups, the first of which included Popovych, Dessel, Arroyo and Casar. Arroyo made the first move but was countered by Dessel at the line.

The stage is set for a fabulous showdown on L’Alpe-d’Huez. For Schleck, Sastre and Kohl it is probably their last chance to put time on Cadel before the time trial on Saturday If Cadel can hang on tomorrow, only a major mistake by him or an inspired performance by possibly Menchov could keep him from rising to Yellow.  The other contenders are just not competitive with Cadel on the Time Trial and baring riding beyond themselves are unlikely to hold him off. The dark horse is Valverde or Vandevelde who could through caution to the wind and reap reward, though the chance of that is slim at this point.

Stage 17 Elevation Profile

Stage 17 Elevation Profile

Stage 16 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/5zgqqf

Stage 16 Race Reports:

Yahoo Sports: http://tinyurl.com/5jmesz

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/5h5bu6

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/6zupde

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/5udqjd

Stage 16 Results:

1 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, 4.31.27 (34.70 km/h)
2 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux, st.
3 David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, st.
4 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence – Lotto, 0.03
5 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia, 0.24
6 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne, st.
7 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, st.
8 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 1.03
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 1.28
10 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, st.
11 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
12 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
13 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, st.
14 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre, st.
15 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
16 Johann Tschopp (Swi) Bouygues Telecom, st.
17 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 1.32
18 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Columbia, st.
19 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 2.03
20 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Lampre, st.
21 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, st.
22 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram, 2.36
23 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Crédit Agricole, st.
24 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 3.21
25 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas, 4.04
26 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b
H30, st.
27 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, 4.13
28 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, st.
29 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis – Le Crédit par Téléphone, st.
30 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.27

Overall Standings:

1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 68.30.16
2 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 0.07
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 0.08
4 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 0.49
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 1.13
6 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 3.15
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 3.23
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 4.11
9 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 4.38
10 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale, 5.23

Stage 15 Winner - Gerrans

Stage 15 Winner - Gerrans

The riders faced a rather unpleasant start to the stage 15 with rain, cold and possible snow on the climbs. Four riders escaped the peloton at 15km including Martinez, Pate and Arrieta followed by Gerrans who bridged up a few minutes later. The grouped worked exceptionally well retaining a substantial lead most of the way to the finish. The break had a 12 minutes lead at the base of the final climb which was whittled down to about 4 minutes after the GC guys came in. Arrieta fell off as the break neared the final kilometers. Gerrans craftily accelerated to the line ahead of Martinez and a fading Pate to take the win.

The slippery roads and sharp descents caused many to go down and including the previous Tour

Stage 15 Oscar Pereiro Hits the Deck

Stage 15 Oscar Pereiro Hits the Deck

winner Oscar Pereiro. He lost his line on a hairpin and flipped over a guardrail launching down an embankment to the switchback below. He was originally thought to have broken a femur but it was determined that it was his shoulder bone. As it is, he is out of the Tour. There were other crashes including a massive pavement hugger on both sides of a roundabout at about 50k to go taking down several of the GC contenders.

The real fireworks came as CSC led a blistering attack up the Prato Nevoso led by Andy Schleck of CSC-Saxo Bank. The remainder of the peloton blistered away leaving the Evans, Menchov, Vande Velde, Bernhard Kohl, Valverde, Sastre, Frank Schleck and Andy Schleck, Kreuziger and Sánchez. Menchov attacked this group though he fell allowing the group to regain position. Kohl, Menchov and Sastre eventually escaped with Valverde bridging to get on with a few km left. Menchov fell off the back as the break approached the line. As Cadel and Frank approached the line 30 seconds back, Frank dashed to the line to take the last few seconds to take yellow. It was a very exciting finish

Cavendish bid farewell to the Tour before race start as was widely predicted. He would likely have been competitive at the finish in Paris though the beating of three mountain stages and a time trial might have done him in anyway. The price to play on the final day was just too steep literally. I think prioritizing Beijing was an obvious good choice. He will be missed.

Stage 15 Video Recap: http://tinyurl.com/55bbse

Stage 15 Race Reports:

Cycling News: http://tinyurl.com/5g4ssp

Velonews: http://tinyurl.com/56hzza

Versus: http://tinyurl.com/6puz9z

Stage 15 Results:

1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Crédit Agricole, 4.50.44 (37.77 km/h)
2 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 0.03
3 Danny Pate (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 0.10
4 José Luis Arrieta Lujambio (Spa) AG2R La Mondiale, 0.55
5 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 4.03
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, st.
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 4.12
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 4.23
9 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 4.41
10 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 4.43
11 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas, 4.46
12 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 4.50
13 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, st.
14 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 4.58
15 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 5.34

Overall Standings:

1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 63.57.21
2 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner, 0.07
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto, 0.08
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank, 0.38
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30, 0.39
6 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank, 0.49
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia, 2.48
8 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale, 3.36
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne, 4.11
10 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi, 4.34

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