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Bonjour! Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 13 of the Tour de France from Vittel to Colmar.
Today's stage will take the riders over a hilly 200km course and they venture ever closer to the Alps.
The big news of the day is that Astana's Levi Leipheimer has withdrawn from the Tour after suffering a broken wrist in a crash towards the end of stage 12, yesterday.
There have been forcasts of decidedly average weather today in the region that the stage is journeying through.
The first attack of the day was launched by Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) and Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) shortly after the end of the neutral zone. The two were joined 3km later by five riders - Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Reuben Perez (Euskatel-Euskadi), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d'Epargne). The seven leaders currently have a 25" lead over the peloton.
The profile of today's route is likely to mimic the heart rate graphs of many of the riders at day's end. There are five categorised climbs on today's stage, including cat 1 climbs of the Col du Platzerwasel and the Col du Firstplan:
46km - Cote de Xertigny (Cat 3)
105km - Col de la Schlucht (Cat 2)
138.5 - Col du Platzerwasel (Cat 1 - 8.7km @ 7.6%)
165.5 - Col du Bannstein (Cat 3)
179.5 - Col du Firstplan (Cat 1 - 8.4km @ 5.4%)
Many will remember the 2005 Tour's journey throught this region, when Peter Weening won by the narrowest of margins over a magenta clad Andreas Klöden in Gérardmer. The duo's attack came on the Col de la Schlucht after T-Mobile did a good job of isolating a yellow clad Lance Armstrong on on the climb.
Today's stage has the potential to be a dangerous day for those in the race for overall. Astana team director, Johan Bruyneel, spoke to Cyclingnews this morning and said he expects other teams to attack in the wake of Leipheimer's withdrawal.
166 riders started the stage today. While Levi Leipheimer is the highest profile departure of the race so far, Milram's Peter Wrolich was another rider not to start this morning. The Austrian is suffering from intestinal upset.
A risky segue, but there was mention of the brown knicks being sported by AG2R La Mondiale being sported at this year's Tour in the Cyclingnews forum. Part of an interesting discussion between members assessing the French team's race so far.
It's certainly a good day for gathering points for the mountains classification, if one is so inclined. Egoi Martinez (Euskatel-Euskadi) currently leads the competition with 88 points. Next best placed is Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti, who Martinez aknowledged yesterday as a "tough" rival for the spotty tunic. Yesterday, both riders made it into the breakaway with Pellizotti closing the gap to Martinez; the Italian has 71 points in the competition. Frenchman Cristophe Kern (Cofidis) is a further 12 points behind Pellizotti, with 59 points.
The breakaway's gap is not increasing too rapidly as a number of teams have missed out on the break. Liquigas, Lampre-NGC, Katusha and Cofidis have all been visible at the front of the bunch as the gap continues to hover around the 45 second mark.
One of today's early breakaways, Jens Voigt, is familiar face when it comes to long range attacks at the Tour. Yesterday, his team took a stage win on stage 12 as Nicki Sorensen claimed his first Tour de France stage win in Vittel.
The rain is falling on the race at the moment as the leaders approach the first sprint point at Xertigny. There are three sprints dotted through the course today:
Sprint 1 - at Xertigny (after 43.5km)
Sprint 2 - at Gérardmer (after 88.5km)
Sprint 3 - at Luttenbach (after 124km)
One wouldn't expect too much change in the points classification in today's stage. Mark Cavendish continues to lead the current standings:
Points classification top 10 after stage 12
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - HTC 200 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 190
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 116
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 110
5 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram 100
6 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 97
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 81
8 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 74
9 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 64
0 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 55
Moreau won the first sprint prime of the day. That will net Agritubel a little pocket money. Haussler and Chavanel took second and third, respectively.
The peloton has clearly decided that the leaders have had enough time out in front. The gap has dropped to just 0:15 as the race makes it's way up the Cat 4 Cote de Xertigny.
The gap is extending back out after the climb. Juan Manuel Garate crested first, followed by Rueben Perez (Caisse d'Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and Christophe Moreau (Agritubel)
David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) launched an attack from the peloton just after the top of the Cote de Xertigny, but was drawn back to the peloton, who are now 0:22 behind the seven leaders.
The breakaway have been yo-yo-ing with the peloton since they attacked after 3km of today's stage. It was another fast start, in the first hour the race covered over 47km!
Opinion on how important today's stage will be in the race for overall has been mixed. Giro winner, Denis Menchov, told Cyclingnews yesterday that he doesn't expect it too shake things up too much.
Haussler, Perez and Chavanel obviously feel that the peloton was too close for comfort. The trio have quickly built a 10 second lead over the rest of the breakaway with the peloton a further 20 seconds back.
The peloton have absorbed the four remaining members of the breakaway as the leading trio have extended their lead out to 45 seconds.
As always, it's a case of the peloton being satisfied with the composition of the breakaway. It's likely that with just three riders ahead they'll be content to let Haussler, Chavanel and Perez exhaust enjoy a day out in front of the race.
Looks like the peloton has given the three leaders a green light for now. The gap has pushed out to 1:00.
The leaders have pushed 2:00 ahead of the peloton. They've covered 72km so far today.
Of the breakaways, Chavanel is the best placed in the overall classification. The Frenchman is in 45th place, 12:00 down on Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R). Perez is 102nd at 52:49 and Haussler 105th at 55:24.
The leaders advantage has turned from a yoyo to more of a balloon-type metaphor: 3:50 after 74km's covered.
Coming back to the overall classification, Leipheimer's misfortune has caused a reshuffle at the top of the GC list. There was a great show of solidarity from the peloton as Twitter was aflutter with sympathy for the Astana rider, who suffered a broken wrist in a crash on stage 12.
Following Leipheimer's withdrawal the top ten looks like this:
1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 48:27:21
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana at 0:00:06
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 0:00:08
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream at 0:00:46
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana at0:00:54
6 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTC at 0:01:00
7 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream at 0:01:24
8 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank at 0:01:49
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 0:01:54
10 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne at 0:02:16
The leaders are eight kilometres from the second sprint at Gérardmer. They now have a 6:30 lead over the peloton.
One of the Tour's big stories was put to bed yesterday. The teams are racing with team radios today after the UCI cancelled the second "experiment" that was due to occur ahead today.
The powers that be in each team will now be telling their riders that the leaders are 7:30 up the road.
The race has averaged 45km/h so far today.
Quick update onthe lanterne rouge for last place overall. Kenny Robert van Hummel of Skil-Shimano is putting in an excellent effort: he's almost 2 hours behind Rinaldo Nocentini after 12 stages. FDJ's Yauheni Hutarovich is second from last, but he'll need to drop more than 1/2 hour further back to "threaten" van Hummel.
Results at the second sprint were:
1. Reuben Perez (Euskatel-Euskadi)
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
3. Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam)
Miserable conditions for the riders today. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) grabs his raincoat from the team car.
Meanwhile, the leader's have pushed their advantage out to almost nine minutes.
I can't say I've ever seen a brown cycling rain jacket before today. I'm sure that historically speaking they have existed, but right now, there's eight of them escorting race leader, Rinaldo Nocentini, at the front of the peloton.
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) has just grabbed his raincoat and is making his way back to the peloton. Vande Velde lies in seventh place on the overall classification, moving up from eighth with Leipheimer's departure.
The Col de la Schlecht is lighting the race up right now, there's a flurry of attacks coming from the peloton.
About 15 riders have attacked from the front of the peloton, led by a Cofidis rider. Fabien Cancellara is in the group too.
Euskatel has three riders in the chasing group, Martinez is one of them.
Linus Gerdeman is in the chasing group too!
13 riders are in the chase group. Cofidis' Maxime Monfort has been driving the group.
Brice Felliu escapes ahead of the chasers, the Col de la Schlucht is once again proving a battleground.
Pellizotti and Martinez battled for the top of the Schlucht, photo finish.
Haussler, Chavanel and Perez are well on their way down the descent. They're taking it relatively cautiously in awful conditions
The UCI announced today that Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel) and Ricardo Serrano (Fuji) both tested postiive for CERA, not once but twice each. They have both been suspended pending hearings. You can read more about the news by clicking here
The peloton has pulled the chase group back towards the top of the Col de la Schlucht. There are still three leaders (Haussler, Chavanel and Perez) who have a 5:55 advantage. They had almost nine minutes at the start of the climb.
The leaders are still descending. It looks as though a Milram rider has set of in pursuit of the leaders on the descent.
Linus Gerdeman is the rider chasing solo. No one wants to take too many risks on this descent.
The situation is starting to become clearer. Gerdeman is 5:48 behind the three leaders and is 1:00 ahead of the peloton.
Gerdemann is taking some risks to close the gap to the leaders. Haussler, Chavanel and Perez are making their way through Munster at the moment.
Martinez did pip Pellizotti at the top of the climb.
The results of the Cat 2 Col de la Schlucht were:
1. Perez (Euskatel Euskadi) 10 Pts
2. Chavanel (Quick Step) 9 Pts
3. Haussler (Cervelo) 8 Pts
4. Martinez (Euskatel Euskadi) 7 Pts
5. Pellizotti (Liquigas) 6 Pts
6.Verdugo (Euskatel Euskadi) 5 Pts
Astana were the team primarily responsible for shutting down the move by the chasers on the Schucht.
Gerdemann's bid for the leaders is close to ending, he's just 15 seconds ahead of the peloton.
Meanwhile, Tom Boonen was dropped on the Climb, he's now part of a 10 man group trailing the peloton.
All of the jersey wearers are in the peloton, Nocentini - AG2R (Yellow), Cavendish - Columbia-HTC (Green), Martinez - Euskatel Euskadi (Polka dot) and Tony Martin Columbia-HTC (White)
Gerdemann never gave up he's pushed away from the peloton again, but he's not making much headway on the advantage to the leaders.
After the descent of the Schlucht there was another sprint at Luttenbach, the results were thus:
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
2. Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam)
3. Reuben Perez (Euskatel Euskadi)
The leaders have started the Cat 1 climb of the Col Du Platzerwasel. They have a 7:27 advantage over the peloton with Linus Gerdemann in between the two groups.
Astana have taken position at the front of the peloton as riders take the opportunity, between the climbs, to ferry back to their team cars for supplies.
Christophe Kern has attacked the peloton again!
He was one of the riders who attacked on the Col de la Schlucht. If at first you don't succeed...
Kern has built a slim lead over the peloton
Kern will be hoping to stay away until at least the top of the Platzerwasel, he's currently third in the mountain's classification.
Perez has been dropped from the leading group on the slopes of the Platzerwasel. Haussler looks back a couple of times and then gets out of the saddle and back to work.
Kern is reeled back in as Astana start to ride tempo on the slopes of the Platzerwasel
Chavanel and Haussler are 3.5km from the top of the climb. They look to be discussing tactics for the rest of the stage: whether or not to wait for Perez, he could be a useful ally in the final 50kms of the race.
The autobus has formed behind the peloton. Cavendish is part of the group who will keep a keen eye on the time cut for today.
Astana are gradually pulling back time on the four riders out in front of them.
Saxo Bank have come to the front of the peloton. Chris Anker Sorensen is pushing the pace for the Danish squad.
The peloton is thinning out significantly now.
Popovych looks to be finished for the day as he goes "pop" (sorry) and falls away from the leaders.
Pellizotti has moved out of the front of the yellow jersey group, but he's back in the fold now.
Haussler and Chavanel are within a kilometre of the summit of the Platzerwasel
Their advantage is coming down consistently. They have 3:54 over the yellow jersey group, being led currently by Liquigas
Armstrong has come to the front of the yellow jersey group. He takes a look at Pellizotti just as the Italian begins his sprint for the top of the climb
The polka dot jersey Martinez was dropped on the climb following the Saxo Bank's pushing of the pace. Pellizotti took fourth place at the top of the climb so he'll move much closer to Martinez in that competition
Conditions are ugly on the road today, the rain is still teeming down as the race descends the Platzerwasel
The yellow jersey group went up the Platzerwasel four minutes faster than Haussler and Chavanel
Amets Txurruka (Euskatel Euskadi) has attacked the yellow jersey group but he's quickly pulled back
Brice Feillu counters Txurruka's attack as the Euskatel rider kicks again, they've built a small lead over the yellow jersey group
The first of the early breakaways, Reuben Perez (Euskatel-Euskadi), has meanwhile been pulled back into the yellow jersey group
Gerdemann has paid for his earlier exploits quickly dropping away from the yellow jersey after being caught on the Platzerwasel
Astana are still commanding the front of the yellow jersey group. That group is down to about 25 riders.
On a dry day the smooth roads that the Tour is racing over would be condusive to high speeds. Mind you, even in today's "moist" (to put it mildly) conditions the race has averaged 39km/h so far.
Haussler and Chavanel are negotiating another small descent as Txurruka and Feillu have built a 0:40 gap
Haussler is descending much better than Chavanel in the treacherous conditions building a gap of 100m over the Frenchman
Egoi Martinez has worked his way back into the Yellow jersey group and Popovych has rejoined his teammates at the front of the race too.
None of the major favourites for overall honours appear to me missing from the yellow jersey group. Everyone is being attentive on today's risky stage.
Chavanel is leaving himself a lot of work to do at the end of the descent to pull Haussler back.
Haussler isn't waiting for Chavanel as the road levels out.
Astana have pulled their foot off the gas back in the yellow jersey group
The yellow, white and polka dot jerseys are all in the front group, which is beginning to resemble a peloton once again as riders have caught up on the descent of the Platzerwasel
Haussler and Chavanel are on the cat 3 Col du Bannstein. Chavanel is still working to reel in Haussler
Haussler is pressing on he's got 0:35 seconds on Chavanel now as the rain continues to fall. Haussler looks good on the bike as he hops in and out of the saddle. He's not mucking about he's got it in the "big dog" front chainring
Haussler has gone over the top of the Col de Bannstein, 0:45 ahead of Chavanel who takes a big swill from his bidon
Haussler is still extending his lead. Another descent and he's taking all the risks as he's just 30.5km away from what would be the biggest win of his career
Even if Chavanel can catch Haussler on the slopes of the Cat 1 Col du Firstplan, it's bound to be playing on his mind just how well the Cervelo rider is descending.
The peloton go over the top of the Bannstein 6:38 after Haussler crested the Col
Chavanel is eating, trying to force energy into his body after 160km away from the peloton on today's stage
Haussler is on the lower slopes of the Firstplan. The Col that is, he's only got one plan himself: stage win!
Chavanel is displaying an anguished look. It's always critical to eat throughout a Tour stage, but especially on a day like today where the atrocious weather is sapping a rider's energy even further.
The peloton have started the ascent of the final climb of the day. Haussler has just 4.5km to ride on the same mountain.
Haussler has less than 25km to go
Charley Wegelius attacks the peloton!
Wegelius is not gaining much room on the peloton
Haussler is in good shape 3km from the top of the Firstplan
Andy Schlek has punctured!
The Luxembourger champion changes bikes quickly. He has three teammates guiding him back to the peloton. He's back there now.
If Haussler can keep it together he's just 22km away from a Tour de France stage win
Contador is alongside his Astana teammates at the front of the peloton. The weather today has probably brought his weight up to about 63kg from 62km on the team bus this morning.
Brice Feillu has been dropped by Txurruka
Just 20.5km to go for Haussler as he goes over the top of the Col du Firstplan
Nocentini is still in yellow (beneath his fetching brown raincoat) and he's still there in the peloton
Txurruka has caught and passed Chavanel. The Basque rider is some 4:00 behind Haussler
AG2R have come to the front of the peloton, no doubt concious that Feillu is looking to pull back time in the overall classification - a matter of honour for French teams in their home Grand Tour
Haussler continues to push on sitting on the top tube as he flys down the descent. He goes under the 15km to go banner
Pellizotti shoots out of the peloton to grab a few more points at the top of the Firstplan
Haussler is back in the saddle now, negotiating a dog-leg around a roundabout. He's still got 3:43 to Txurruka
Feillu is still scrapping for every second in fourth place on the road
None of the major players in the overall have thrown caution to the win - the risks just too great in weather like this. Haussler, on the other hand, is showing that fortune favours the brave, he still looks smooth 9.5km from the line
Haussler is absolutely flying along smooth roads. He's been in the lead since the third kilometre of today's stage
Haussler rests his hands on the top of his brake hoods. He's Txurruka behind is not making any inroads
It's never over til it's over, but for Haussler the finishline is not far away
Inverell in New South Wales, Australia will be going ballistic right now as Haussler goes under the 5km to go banner
3.5km to go as Haussler drives on, as he has ever since attacking Sylvain Chavanel on the descent off the Col du Platzerwesel
Haussler strips away his armwarmers. He's just 2.5km away from the finish
Feillu is just about to pick up Sylvain Chavanel
Haussler isn't taking any risks in the final kilometres of the stage as he sweeps through the corners in Colmar
Haussler goes under the red kite now
The grin spreads across Haussler's face as he blows a kiss
Haussler looks back, no need mate, the tears flow as he crosses the line to win his first Tour de France stage win!
Txurruka of Euskatel is just making his way beneath the red kite. He'll take second.
Txurruka sprints for the line as he finishes 4:10 after Haussler crossed the line
Brice Feillu finishes the stage 6:11 as an absolutely cooked Chavanel finishes 0:19 later
The peloton finishes just seconds behind Chavanel. Thor Hushovd was there! he takes sixth place on the stage, that'll help him pull back points on Mark Cavendish in the race for green
Cavendish is yet to finish the stage, he'll be in the autobus. Hushovd might have done enough to pinch the jersey back.
There's no change to the top ten on GC, no one wanted to risk their position with weather like today
Thank you for joining us today for Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour de France's 13th stage from Vittel to Colmar.
A well deserved and well taken win by Henrich Haussler of Cervelo TestTeam today after a massive breakaway of 197km.
We look forward to seeing you again tomorrow as we provide full coverage of stage 14 from Colmar to Besancon. See you then!
Click here to view the results and report for today's stage 13.