Welcome to live coverage of stage eleven of the Tour de France, a lumpy run from Lannemezan to Foix. The race is heading east, moving close to the borders with Spain and Andorra, and today's stage should be perfect for breakaway riders to give it a shot.
The riders should feel a little fresher after yesterday's rest day. As a result, expect plenty of attacks. It will be interesting to see if CSC-Saxo Bank try anything today...Frank Schleck is just one second off the race lead of Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), so the team might ride aggressively and see if they can break things up.
In addition to the finish itself, there are five points along today's route which will be of interest to ambitious riders. They are the three climbs, namely:
Km 49.5 : Col de Larrieu, cat.3 (5,4 kilometres at 3.8 %)
Km 110 : Col de Portel, cat.1 (12.6 kilometres at 6.8 %)
Km 145 : Col Del Bouich, cat.3 (5.2 kilometres at 3.8 %)
and the two intermediate sprints, at:
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (km 19.5) and Prat-Bonrepaux (km 69)
The riders rolled out today at 12.35 and a thirteen-man group tried to go clear soon afterwards. However these were all recaptured before the first sprint, which was taken by Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) ahead of Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and points leader Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
Three kilometres after the sprint, in other words 22.5 kilometres into the stage, a group of 15 riders went clear. The bunch brought them back but one of those present, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), clipped away before the juncture and continued on alone.
Then 28 kilometres after the start, a group of approximately 20 riders caught Voeckler. These were all however reeled in soon afterwards.
40km remaining from 167.5km
Eleven riders clipped away a few clicks ago. CSC's Norwegian champ Kurt Asle Arvesen and Germany's road title holder Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) were the catalysts.
Unfortunately for the sport, the past 24 hours have been difficult ones. First off, the collapse of the ProTour puts a big question mark over the administration of cycling. A lot of things need to be clarified at this point; are the teams and Grand Tour organisers considering going in a completely new direction, or will the riders remain part of the UCI? If so, will they be liable to sanction?
It's a period of great uncertainty - and potentially, chaos - in terms of the political side of things.
If that wasn't enough, Barloworld's Moises Due
If both B samples confirm the findings, it will be a big blow for cycling. Riders simply have to understand that it's time for change. Otherwise, teams, sponsors and the sport itself will suffer greatly.
Cyclingnews has another jersey give away. After the many entries of last week, today you have the chance to win a Garmin Chipotle - H30 jersey. And it is signed by the entire Tour team!
Rules are as last time. You have to guess the top three (in order) of today's stage. Entries have to be received when the first rider hits the 20 kilometres to go marker. To make it easier on sifting through the emails, please specify your 1-2-3 in the subject line.
Email to the commentator inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two others recently bridged across, namely Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Pierrick F
Botcharov took the four points for first place on the Col de Larrieu, with F
60km remaining from 167.5km
The break has certainly been moving it on this warm, sunny day in France. It covered 47.5 kilometres in the first hour of racing, and has continued to work hard since.
Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) has been chasing and has caught and passed Steegmans. The Spaniard is just over a minute back, with Steegmans losing time and the peloton almost six minutes behind now. This seems to be the break of the day.
Yesterday's rest day in Pau was not just marked by press conferences by Tour teams. Tinkoff Credit Systems was there and it announced a name change and considerable increase in budget for next season.
Renamed Katusha for 2009, the team will be funded by a new foundation called the Russian Global Cycling Project, which will itself be funded by its main sponsors Gazprom, Itera and Rostechnologii. They have agreed an eight year deal, paying
Regarding the Garmin jersey contest: Please send email to: email@example.com (and remember, put your 1-2-3 picks in the subject line).
Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) has dropped out of the race with a broken collarbone.
75km remaining from 167.5km
The leading group went through the bonus sprint at Prat-Bonrepaux several kilometres ago. Pozzato took first there, ahead of Velo and Moerenhout.
80km remaining from 167.5km
Correction: It's Marco Velo (Milram) rather than Pieter Weening (Rabobank) who is in this break.
The break is nearly at the feed zone. The peloton is almost nine minutes back, and so those in this move must be feeling that they have a chance. There's a good representation of teams too, so that will improve their chances.
Cadel Evans' Silence Lotto team is at the front of the peloton, but something bizarre is happening. They have been riding to limit the break's time gains, but someone has let the wheel go and the peloton sits up. The riders at the front are gesturing backwards, as if to say 'hey! What the heck are you playing at?'
82km remaining from 167.5km
Some return to normality has taken place; the rest of the bunch latches onto the back of the Silence-Lotto riders, who are riding tempo now.
Cadel Evans has a yellow jersey and matching shorts, which has become much more regular nowadays. His left arm and leg still bear the signs of his big crash three days ago.
92km remaining from 167.5km
The peloton is really letting this break go; the leaders are now 13'56 clear.
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The break is on the foothills of today's category one climb, that of the Col de Portel. The break is rolling through nicely, content in the knowledge that with a lead of 14'29, one of them will take the stage. Who will it be?
James from Iowa sends a message in regarding the earlier commentary:
"Why do you say 'big blow' with Beltr
Pozzato leads the break on the climb. He's got to be one of the favourites for the victory. He's one of the riders rumoured to be joining the new Russian super-team we mentioned earlier. The management said that it would abide by UCI rules preventing teams from disclosing their new signings before September first, but it's possible that confirmation of any such move could come before then.
The peloton is certainly taking things easy today. Following yesterday's rest day, those in the bunch have decided a second one is in order. Of course, it's still tough riding any Tour stage, but the relaxed pace will certainly be easier on the system than some of the manic racing we saw in the first week.
Pozzato is clearly feeling good, and continues to do most of the work on the climb. Further back, Vaugrenard is quick happy to sit at the rear of the break.
The riders are passing through a very picturesque wooded section, which offers some welcome shade.
Cadel Evans reflected on the difference of riding in yellow. "It's a bit busy," referring to the media attention. Yellow or not, dealing with a jersey is tough these days for the Aussie. He told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow that it didn't feel any special to put on yellow in the morning. Instead, "It hurt."
Evans proceeded to undo his zip and exposed his shoulder to show the patched wound, which was obviously still tender. And is there a special buzz when pinning on the number in the morning? "It will if it's in Paris."
Signing on this morning, he was feeling stiff and sore still. "But if I'm good enough to get up the Hautacam, I should be fine." Evans went straight to the Aussie fans and signed flags and memorabilia.
Moinard isn't happy with the pace and decides to take a flyer..
103.5km remaining from 167.5km
He rounds the hairpin bends here, looking back occasionally. The others in the break are not too worried, though, knowing that if they ride tempo they will haul him back.
Pozzato continues to lead. He's actually been on the front for most of this climb. And, as before, Vaugrenard sits down the back.
The gap to the leader is 20 seconds, with the peloton now 15'15 back.
Penny in Atlanta sent in two questions:
Whatever happened to Christophe Moreau?
Moinard keeps plugging away. Several kilometres behind him, Caisse d'Epargne rider Oscar Pereiro attacks alone. We are not sure of the reason for that; he's not going to close this gap by himself. Perhaps Alejandro Valverde wants to take back some of the time he lost, and will bridge across later? It's going to be difficult to sneak away from the Silence - Lotto led peloton.
106.5km remaining from 167.5km
Moinard is cheered on by spectators as he climbs towards the summit. He's got approximately four kilometres to go, and has opened up a lead of 1'22 over the others in the break.
110.5km remaining from 167.5km
Moinard goes over the top of the climb and continues to plug away, wishing to further increase his lead on the descent. He's in and out of the saddle, accelerating back up to speed after the slower corners.
Behind, the break has split and several riders have gone ahead.
The CSC team now move to the front of the peloton, seeking to limit the gains of Oscar Pereiro.
Fofonov and F
Mike from Minneapolis writes in to ask the following:
You mentioned a few days ago that Ricc
Robbie McEwen revealed the game plan to Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow for the day. "We'll be setting the pace in the front, but Cadel is leading by only one second and there are a few riders still capable of winning this Tour. So we won't be burying ourselves. We'd be happy for a break to get up the road with no contenders and let them get a bit of time and then it's up to others if they want to try to bring it back. It's really about trying to keep things under control, keep Cadel safe, make sure we keep an eye on his closest rivals and saving energy."
Pereiro started the day 17th overall, 6.01 back. He lost much of that time when he waited for Alejandro Valverde, a tactic that some questioned after the stage.
CSC want to make sure he doesn't pick up a few minutes and thus ride back into a dangerous position. The fewer riders they have to watch, the better.
It's interesting that it's CSC rather than Silence Lotto which is doing the work.
The order over the top of the Col de Portel was:
1, Moinard, 15 pts
2, Fofonov, 13 (at 1'50)
120.8km remaining from 167.5km
The peloton is still on the climb, while Moinard has been descending for several minutes. Pereiro is still clear and appears to be climbing well.
Pereiro grabs some Coke on the climb (not the Tom Boonen variety) and knocks it back.
Further details emerge about Moisés Dueñas. Team Barloworld manager Claudio Corti and team doctor Massimiliano Mantovani accompanied the rider to the police station.
The team management announced that it received the results of the search carried out in the rider's room. The team stated that some banned medicines had been found in the room that were absolutely not supplied or prescribed by the team doctor.
"I've asked the French police to fully investigate the case so that we can fully understand the seriousness of what Moises Dueñas has done," Corti said.
"We're absolutely stunned by what is happening and by the behaviour of one of our riders. He seems to have secretly used banned substances, hiding everything from everybody else in the team."
"It's terribly disheartening but because the team is not involved in what has happened, we hope that the whole truth can rapidly emerge so that we can take the necessary action and that Dueñas can fully accept responsibility for what he has done."
Team Barloworld suspended Dueñas immediately after being informed of his positive test and he did not start the 11th stage of the Tour de France.
127.9km remaining from 167.5km
We believe that Alexandre Botcharov is best-placed of the riders in the break, starting the day 20'47" back in 35th place overall.
He's now 16'26" ahead of the yellow jersey group, so he's not quite the virtual leader as yet.
Another Barloworld rider has pulled out of the race: Felix C
141.5km remaining from 167.5km
Moinard continues to plug away at the front, while behind the others all try to get him back. He's doing well, holding onto his gap for now.
Further back, Pereiro also continues his own individual time trial.
142.5km remaining from 167.5km
Let's give an update of the time gaps:
Moinard passes under the 25km to go sign with a lead of 1'30 over his former breakaway companions. Pereiro is 15'02 back while the peloton is 16'26 in arrears.
Moinard is gradually coming back, so, although he's still got a decent lead.
Moinard now crosses the third category Col Del Bouich, then taking a sticky bottle or two from the team car.
His gap is now 1'21.
Ballan and Arvesen were second and third on the climb. The ascent saw a chunk of Moinard's lead nibbled away; he's now 1'04 clear.
Pozzato drives the chase behind, sensing that they will get him back. Ballan also buries himself.
Moinard passes the 20km to go sign. This concludes our online guessing game for the Garmin shirt. We will announce the winner later today, after the stage (obviously).
Thanks for playing! Once again you guys have smoked our Inbox!
149.5km remaining from 167.5km
Velo was fourth over the top and received one more point for the KOM jersey. Well, one point is better than none.