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It was at 12.43 local time that the bunch started from Serre-Chevalier, with only one rider not signing on today: Roy Sentjes from Milram. That makes 161 riders still left in the race.
The bunch immediatley started to climb the Col du Lautaret (Cat. 2, 15.5 km at 4 percent gradient), and several breakaway attempts were countered until a big group emerged half way up the mountain. From this group, four riders again jumped away: Pasamontes, Champion, Pinot and Capecchi, while the rest got caught by the bunch.
Capecchi was the first rider to cross the summit in the front group, with the bunch 40 seconds adrift. The lead group's fifth rider, Pasamontes, bridged up to them in the descent.
But the descent off the Lautaret is long, and the breakaway never gained more time on the bunch. To the contrary, as the chasers came closer, two riders set out to bridge up: Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Grega Bole (Lampre), with Kristjan Koren (Liquigas) also sandwiched in between the two groups now.
Koren has been caught. The five leaders are still being chased by Tankink and Bole, the winner of stage one a few days ago. They are at 30 seconds now, with the peloton 1'20" behind.
Tankink and Bole have made it to the front. We have seven riders in the lead group now: Eros Capecchi (Fotoon), Luis Pasamontes (Caisse d'Epargne), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Dimitri Champion (AG2R), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Bram Tankink (Rabobank) and Grega Bole (Lampre).
The bunch has let them go. The brekaway's advantage currently is 3'15".
The riders have passed Bourg d'Oisans, the start village up to L'Alpe d'Huez, tomorrow's summit finish. Soon, they will pass the feed zone where their team assistants are already waiting for them.
It has been quite a fast start today, with 46.5 kilometres raced in the first hour, including a 14km-climb!
Today's stage profile may not be ideally suited for the GC candidates. Overall leader Brajkovic should be able to hang on to his yellow jersey, as the summit of the second and last climb of today, the ascent up to Chamrousse (Cat. HC, 17.5km at 7.5 percent gradient) is still 31 kilometres away from the finish in the valley. So even if there are any successful attacks, his team should be able to catch them in the descent.
Still, the Chamrousse climb will certainly be used to test the legs of the various favourites. Like yesterday, Brajkovic will still fear an attack of Alberto Contador (Astana) or Tejay Van Garderen (HTC). David Millar, who limited his losses in Risoul yesterday, could also use the opportunity to recover some lost time. With his time trialling skills, this could actually be a good idea given the stage profile...
The breakaway is gaining ground, now riding 4'55" in front of the peloton. They are motivated!
Unfortunately, it has started to rain on the Dauphiné. It's still warm, about 24° Celsius, but a light drizzle is coming down on the riders.
A part from that, nothing new. The bunch is taking it easy, but they are still keeping the break at around 4'30" on the long leash.
Approaching Vizille and its famous chateau now. This is the biggest and most prestigious castle of the Dauphiné region.
The gap is shrinking for the first time, now 4'10". No wonder, as the riders prepare to tackle the Chamrousse climb, starting in only a few clicks in Vaulnaveys-le-Bas.
At the intermediate sprint in Vaulnaveys-le-Bas, Martinez takes the points in front of Pasamontes and Champion.
Champion, Dimitri: with a name like that, the 2009 French champion was born to race... The 26-year-old signed with AG2R La Mondiale after winning the French championship last year for Bretagne-Schuller.
The race is still fast, with 46.5 kilometres covered also in the second hour.
They are starting to climb again now, up to Chamrousse.
Mickaël Delage (Omega) and Christophe Kern (Cofidis) have attacked out of the bunch as the gap to the leaders only amounts to 2'20" now.
Christophe Moreau (Caisse), Andre Steensen (Saxo Bank) and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Garmin) have joined Delage and Kern.
In front, Tankink cannot hold the pace, he gets dropped.
Martinez, Capecchi and Pinot now lead the race, as Pasamontes, Champion and Bole also suffer.
RadioShack leads the chasing peloton as expected.
Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Christophe Moreau (Caisse), Fredrik Kessiakoff (Garmin), Blel Kadri (AG2R) and Daniel Navarro (Astana) are riding 1'30" behind the leaders, with the bunch 2'35" adrift.
It has nevertheless stopped raining, so the roads will hopefully be dry later on in the descent. Chris Horner (RadioShack) has opened his jersey as air humidity should be high.
The bunch has lost a lot of riders as the climb is long and hard. There are about 45 riders left.
The leading trio keeps on digging deep. Everythign will depend on their lead at the summit. If the small chase group around Moreau can bridge up to them, they'd have more horsepower as well in the finale.
Navarro is on a roll now, out to score the stage solo. He bridged up to the leading trio and immediately passed them...
Two kilometres left to go until the summit. Lelay (AG2r) and Rolland (Bouygues) have just attacked out of the bunch, now 3'26" behind the leader. Pinot and Capecchi are also still sandwiched in somewhere, while Navarro in front doesn't seem to suffer.
Navarro passes the 500m-mark. He looks good but all of his chasers are within 2 minutes of him, with the bunch at 3'33".
No attacks between the overall favourites as they pass the summit line in Chamrousse. Capecchi and Pinot chase Navarro at 50 seconds in the descent, as the bunch is 3'50" behind. several riders are still in between though.
´This is the order of riders at the summit:
-Daniel Navarro (Astana)
- Eros Capecchi (Fotoon), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) at 50"
- Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) at 1'45"
- Christophe Moreau (Caisse), Dimitri Champion (AG2R) at 2'25"
- Blel Kadri (AG2R) at 3'15"
- Christophe Kern (Cofidis)
- Fredrik Kessiakoff (Garmin)
- Peloton at 3'50"
Navarro is diving down the fast descent to Grenoble. Capecchi and Pinot are now at 35 seconds. The peloton seems happy for him and the other riders in the break to take the glory today.
Chris Horner (RadioShack) is leading the peloton on the descent, protecting Brajkovic's race lead.
Navarro has finished the most difficult part of the descent. now it will be a pursuit match all the way to the line between him and Pinot and Capecchi.
Navarro is chasing his first ever win as a professional. Can he hang on?
Navarro is still clear. He can probably make it.
Navarro has his mouth wide open s he fights to keep his speed high.
Dernier Km for Navarro. He's fighting his bike but he should make it.
Navarro held on for his first professional win - what a surprise that this strong mountain domestique has never won a race! Capecchi out-sprinted Pinot for second 33 seconds back, while in the third group Dimitri Champion (AG2R) got the better of Martinez and Moreau.
GC stays the same, although Riblon moved himself into 7th overall with his finish today in 10th place. Brajkovic still in yellow, while Geraint Thomas is in the green and Capecchi took the mountains jersey.
Thanks for reading! Tune in tomorrow for the penultimate stage.