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Bonjour! and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage onze (11) of the Tour de France, from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau.
Today's stage begin's in Vatan, located within the arrondissement of Issoudun. Charmingly, the town's name translates in English to 'Go Away'. The clever locals clearly have a sense of humour, marketing their town with a brilliant motto: Vatan...you'll be back!
The peloton will journey 192km to Saint-Fargeau. Today's finish will be the closest the Tour de France will get to Paris until the final stage on July 26. But there's plenty of racing to occur before then.
Yesterday, Mark Cavendish took his third stage win of this year's Tour de France. If you missed it, check out highlights of stage ten (and all the stages so far) by clicking here to view Cyclingnews' Tour de France video highlights.
171 riders took the start this morning. Norway's Kurt Asle Arvesen left the race yesterday after suffering what turned out to be a double fracture of his collarbone in a crash on Tuesday's stage 10.
Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam) and Fumiyuki Beppu (Skil-Shimano) launched the first attack of today's stage as the white flag was brought in. The two were pulled back into the peloton after the peloton had covered seven kilometres.
Skil-Shimano's team manager, Ewan Spekelbrink, told Cyclingnews that his team will continue to attack, as they have done throughout this year's Tour. "We will try to be active, yes. As long as there is energy in the legs, we will try to be active, for sure."
Yaroslav Popovych is receiving assistance from Astana mechanics as the peloton remain together. They are moving quickly today; with the assistance of a tailwind they have covered over 14kilometres on today's stage already.
The team's have their radio's back today. Jens Voigt told Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson that he had enjoyed the experiment but the ever entertaining German was happy to leave it at that: an experiment.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) has crashed.
Quick Step's Sebastian Roessler also came down in the crash. The affected riders are back up and racing.
Race technical director, Jean-Francois Pexcheux, has just briefly neutralized the race to allow riders to pass an obstruction on the route. They are back to racing conditions now.
Rosseler (Quick Step), who was just involved in a crash, turns 28 today. Nothing like a little bit of road rash to celebrate!
Cavendish's win yesterday moved him to within 6 points of Thor Hushovd's points lead. Erik Zabel told Cyclingnews yesterday that the green jersey was not the main priority for the Columbia-HTC sprinter. We're approaching the first sprint point so we'll wait and see whether Cavendish is keen for a new shirt at stage end.
The top five in the green jersey standings, at the start of stage 11, are:
1 Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) on 147 points
2 Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) on 141
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) on 97
4 Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) on 81
5 Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) on 80
Van Summeren (Silence Lotto) and Marcin Sapa (Lampre-NGC) have attacked
The two leaders have broken away from the bunch, that has split into two after a second crash in the bunch involving. The front half of the peloton appears to be waiting for the second group.
Meanwhile Van Summeren and Sapa have pushed on with their advantage, quickly building a 1:45 second lead.
The results of the first sprint point were:
1. Johan Van Summeren (Silence-Lotto)
2. Marcin Sapa (Lampre-NCG)
3. Lloyd Mondory (AG2R La Mondiale)
There have been a few trips to the race doctor after this morning's crashes, but nothing serious reported and all riders who came down are back in the main group.
Van Summeren collected 6 points at the first sprint, Sapa took 4 and Mondory picked up 2 for his efforts. We can't see Cervelo massing at the front, so I think it's safe to say that Hushovd is not to concerned about the three pinching his lovely green coat.
Keen observers of the Tour de France will know who Van Summeren is. The Belgian has been joined on the attack by Polish rider Marcin Sapa.
Looks like the peloton is going to let Van Summeren and Sapa be today's sacrificial lambs as the duo's advantage extends to 4:15 after 41kms covered. The leaders have averaged a pretty snappy 47km/h in today's stage.
The race jury announced this morning that the fifteen second deficit that had opened in the final kilometres of yesterday's stage ten had been made void. Bradley Wiggins and Levi Leipheimer had found themselves caught in that second bunch so the decision will be a welcome relief to those two riders. Following the announcement the top ten on general classification remains the same as it did at the end of stage nine:
1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 34:24:21
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:00:06
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:00:08
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0:00:39
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:00:46
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:00:54
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTC 0:01:00
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:01:24
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:49
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:01:54
The leaders are making their way down the first of the two category 4 climbs on today's stage. Van Summeren led Sapa over the crest of the Cote d'Allogny. The second climb of the Cote de Perreuse falls 42km from the finish of today's stage. A long day looks likely for the breakaway and it could be that the two boys up front head up that one alone too.
The race has covered almost 50km in the first hour! Go on my sons!
Current mountains classification leader, Egoi Martinez, led the peloton over the first climb. The 1 point gained by the Spaniard gives him a 20 point lead over Cristopher Kern of Cofidis in that competition.
The standings in the race for the polka dot jersey at the start of today's stage were as follows:
1 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi on 78 points
2 Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne on 59 points
3 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas on 55 points
4 Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel on 49 points
5 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom on 49 points
6 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale on 46 points
7 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux on 43 points
8 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi on 38 points
9 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale on 35 points
10 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale on 34 points
There'll be no doubt in the peloton about who's out front at the moment. The riders have all got their radios back for todays stage. The pace of the race today indicates that the peloton may be making up for the relative 'go slow' of yesterday. The 'voice of cycling' Commentator, Phil Liggett, told Cyclingnews that he was disappointed with the way stage ten was raced.
Columbia-HTC and the team of race leader, Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R La Mondiale are keeping the gap to the breakaway in check as they lead the peloton towards the second sprint point at Saint-Ceols.
The gap has dropped to the breakaway but they still have a 3:43 advantage over the peloton after 68km of racing. Van Summeren and Sapa escaped the bunch after 24km.
If Mark Cavendish can win today in Saint-Fargeau he will equal Barry Hoban's record of eight Tour de France stage wins. While Barry spread his wins across the period of 1967 and 1975, Cavendish will have equalled the feat in the space of two years.
He's travelled a little bit under the radar (insofar as the rainbow stripes can) at this year's Tour de France, but World Champion Alessandro Ballan told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown that he is approaching top form.
The long thin line of the peloton is snaking its way across beautiful French fields as columbia and AG2R continue to control the advantage of the breakaway. The advantage held by Van Summeren and Sapa has dropped to 3:10.
Talk in the last few days has focussed on the tough final week in the Alps, but there is another, slightly flatter stage that could shake up the GC: the stage 18 individual time trial in Annecy. Cyclingnews' James Huang and a good look at the Giant time trial bikes used by Rabobank, that will shortly be available to the public.
Two riders will be unlikely to survive on a day like today and particularly with Columbia-HTC controlling the leader's advantage so closely. Mind you, stranger things have happened at Le Tour.
Any surprises that you can aticipate? Let everyone know in the Cyclingnews forum.
Lance Armstrong is being paced back into the peloton by teammates. Its unclear why he was off the back of the race. It could be that he had taken the opportunity to take a 'nature break' as there doesn't seem to be any urgency from the Astana boys.
The pace today has been super fast. The breakaway are doing long turns as they pass the 100km to go mark. The gap is 3:34.
Yaroslav Popovych (Astana) receives some assistance from the team car. He smiles and waves as he makes his way back to the peloton. Hi Popo!
The leaders are making their way through the feed zone at Saint-Bouize
Both Van Summeren and Sapa look comfortable as they collect their lunch
Columbia-HTC continue to control the front of the bunch and control the gap to the leaders. AG2R are visible at the front but it's Cavendish's team mates who are doing the lion's share of the work.
The leaders pass through the final intermediate sprint point in Suilly-La-Tour. Van Summeren leads Sapa through as they continue to trade long turns on the front.
AG2R's Cyril Dessel took third place at the sprint point as he led the peloton through. The pace is up as the peloton stretches out, but none of the riders look to be in particular difficulty. David Moncoutie patrols his normal position at the tail of the field.
The two leaders are ticking away comfortably. They know that in a situation like this that there is no point wasting energy trying to push their lead back out. Currently the gap is 2:48.
Columbia-HTC and the other sprinters teams for that matter will be happy with the current gap, the concerted effort to drag the leaders back won't beging for another 30km's or so.
I must apologise for an error on my behalf: I mentioned earlier that if Mark Cavendish win's today he'll equal Barry Hoban's record of eight Tour de France stage wins - that's the British record folks.
The outright record for stage wins is in fact held by 'The Cannibal', Eddy Merckx who amassed an incredible 34 stage wins. Merckx also holds record for days in the yellow jersey, 111: that's over three months in yellow for the great man!
Thank you Bob for pointing out the slip and thank you for joining us as you burn the midnight oil!
Van Summeren and Sapa have made an odd couple on their day out in the French countryside today. Cycling fans will be familiar with the tall, skinny figure of 28-year-old Van Summeren, but by contrast 33-year-old Sapa is of the stockier ilk.
Garmin-Slipstream have sent a rider to the front now to establish their presence at the front of the bunch. They'll be hoping to deliver their man, Tyler Farrar, to the line and break Cavendish's run in the sprints.
BBox Bouygues Telecom sprinter, Said Haddou, receives some mechanical assistance from the team car. French telecommunications company, Bouygyes Telecom, announced today that it would extend its sponsorship of the team until the end of 2010.
There's movement at the station, so to speak, as Garmin-Slipstream and Rabobank join in at the front of the bunch. the gap has dropped below the 2 minute mark
Ryder Hedjesdal (Garmin-Slipstream) crashes!
It was an awkward looking crash, it looked like he was reacting to a slow down in the bunch, he pulled his foot and as his handlebars turned sharply he was thrown over the handlebars. He's up and riding though
Hedjedal is writing a Blog for Cyclingnews throughout this year's Tour de France. He spoke in his latest entry about life on a rest day at the Tour.
Van Summeren and Sapa are on the climb of the Cot de Perreuse. The look on Van Summeren's face says he's not overly enjoying the cat 4 climb
There's a big crowd as the two leaders approach the top of the climb.
Sapa's turn to roll over in front at teh top of the climb. The two pick up pace quickly as they slip down the other side of the hill.
In the peloton, the spotty figure of Egoi Martinez (Euskatel-Euskadi) is nearing the front.
Franco Pellizotti and a Liquigas teammate spring out of the bunch as Pellizotti rolls over the top of the climb third. Martinez seems happy to let the curly-haired Pelliotti take the 1 point on offer.
The Cote de Perreuse seems to have lit the fuse for the real chase to begin in earnest. The leaders have a gap of 1:52 with 38km to go to the finish in Saint Fargeau
The two leaders are going like the clappers as they continue the painful task of keeping the peloton at bay.
Bernard Eisel is one of the two Columbia-HTC riders at the front of the bunch, they look as though everything is under control. In his book Boy Racer, Mark Cavendish describes the ongoing feud between himself and Eisel as to who is the better looking individual.
Van Summeren is doing long pulls in the breakaway. AG2R are still visibly involved in the chase behind, which would indicate that the peloton knows just how long the leaders will be allowed to stay out in front.
Dave Zabriske (Garmin-Slipstream) has been at the front of the peloton for some time now. It seems the helmet-mounted radio has been swapped, the new one is red. Christian Vande Velde poked fun at the ongoing radio debate in a conversation with Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson yesterday.
The Lampre-NGC comes up to pass on directives to Marcin Sapa in the breakaway. He and Johan Van Summeren have a lead of 1:16 with 29km to go.
All may not be totally under control in the Peloton. Bernard Eisel is making hand signals that would indicate a level of uncertainty about the time gap to the leaders.
The peloton are unlikely to panic when the time gap does come through. With 25km to go they are 1:11 behind Van Summeren and Sapa
The gap has just dropped below a minute as the peloton pass the 25km to go banner.
Columbia-HTC are still pulling on the front of the bunch but they are being assisted by the orange and blue colours of both Rabobank and Garmin-Slipstream. The latters' Tyler Farrar told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown today that he feels good ahead of this afternoon's finish
The leaders go under the 20km to go banner clinging desperatly to a perilous 0:47 lead
The arrowhead of the peloton is rocketing along a straight section of road, they can't see the leaders but they'll be able to see the convoy of vehicles following them
Rabobank, Columbia-HTC, Garmin-Slipstream are still at the front of the bunch. Fabien Cancellara is visible there too in the Swiss national champion's jersey.
Van Summeren and Sapa drive onwards. Sapa looks back but corners block any view of the peloton.
Saxo Bank are prominent at the front of the bunch, but it's likely that they're there to keep Andy Schleck out of trouble in the finale
The leaders pass the lucky (depending on your point of view) 13km to go mark.
Sapa grits his teeth as he comes through to do a turn
The leaders take a left hand bend as they press up a small rise before the 10km to go banner.
The bunch comes through the corner not far behind
The false flat up to the 10km banner causes the peloton to pan out across the road
The bunch have got a clear view of Sapa and Van Summeren now
Not long now folks! Two train's emerge from the bunch one from Columbia-HTC and one from Milram.
The peloton are slow roasting the break letting them dangle 0:13 away with 7km to go
They're almost upon them. To quote the Matrix "That's the sound of inevitability"
To their credit the two leaders are still working as the bunch comes within 100m
The break ends at the 5km to go mark
It's down to the sprinters to get themselves sorted now, Columbia-HTC take their usual position, the long yellow line leading the peloton into the outskirts of Saint Fargeau
3km to go, Kim Kirchen is conducting the Columbia-HTC train.
Kirchen pulls off as Milram try to muscle their way into the lead out
Hayden Roulston is there for Hushovd. This is a very straight run in with 2km to go
There's consternation in the lead out as Milram take over the lead out
Under the red kite, Cavendish is third wheel
Hincapie lets Cavendish go
Cavendish just gets there ahead of Farrar
Cavendish takes his eighth Tour de France stage win, equalling Barry Hoban's British record
Cavendish is likely to have inherited the green jersey too
Thank you for joining us for Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage eleven of the Tour de France. It was another impressive demonstration as Mark Cavendish took his fourth stage win of this year's Tour de France in an uphill sprint in Saint Fargeau.
Join us again tomorrow for the 211.5km stage 12 from Tonnerre to Vittel.
See you then!