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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 16 of the Tour de France. Four of the biggest names in Tour history await the peloton on the road to Pau today: the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. It promises to be an epic day of racing as the Tour celebrates 100 years in the Pyrenees with this evocative stage.
The peloton is in the neutral zone, rolling out of Bagneres-de-Luchon. All the talk overnight has of course been about the already infamous Contador-Schleck incident. Contador is near the front in yellow, while Schleck is at the back of the bunch, back in the white jersey.
Alessandro Petacchi is still here in his green jersey, although he may well find himself at the centre of some considerable controversy. La Gazzetta dello Sport has revealed that he was informed that he was placed under formal investigation for alleged doping before the Tour.
The climbing starts from the gun today. The bunch is still in the neutral zone and already on the lower slopes of the Col du Peyresourde. As soon as the flag drops it's 11km up to the top of this 1st category climb, with an average gradient of 7.4%. If the legs are tired this morning, it could be a long, long day in the saddle.
The flag drops and the race is on. The attacks will come early today.
Immediately Remy di Gregorio (FDJ) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) go on the attack at the bottom of the Peyresourde. Meanwhile Robbie McEwen is already off the back of the bunch. The Australian has been riding a very brave Tour de France, so often ploughing a lone furrow.
Di Gregorio and Zabriskie have been brought to heel, and now it's Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Eros Capecchi (Footon-Servetto) setting the pace on the front.
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is up there too, and it looks as though Lance Armstrong might fancy slipping into a break today as he moves up towards the front.
A group of eight has now gone off the front with around 10 seconds of an advantage. Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) and Lance Armstrong are both in there. Meanwhile Ivan Basso is struggling at the back of the bunch. He hasn't been able to transfer his Giro form to the Tour.
Meanwhile Basso's teammate Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) is in the lead group. He'll be looking to salvage a stage win from a relatively disappointing Tour. This is a strong group, if they can get a gap, they could go the distance.
Eleven riders in the group at the moment, with 20 seconds over the yellow jersey peloton. Among them are Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Lance Armstrong (RadioShack), Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas), Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Caisse d'Epargne), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep) and Nicolas Roche (AG2R).
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has managed to bridge across and Ryder Hesjedak (Garmin) is also looking to close the gap. The group continues to grow, which might well make it harder to stay away.
Ivan Basso is in all sorts of difficulty at the back of the bunch. He's trailing off the back of the rapidly-shrinking Contador peloton.
The two Liquigas men are setting the pace on the front of the lead group now, trying to put daylight between themselves and the main bunch. 4.5km to the top of the Peyresourde and 30 seconds is the lead. Astana stringing out the bunch behind.
It's a very solid group on the front, a lot of men with a decent climbing pedrigree up here: Lance Armstrong (RadioShack), Christopher Horner (RadioShack), Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas), Nicolas Roche (AG2R), Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Kanstantsin Siutsou (HTC-Columbia), Steve Morabito (BMC), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep), Rui da Costa (Caisse d'Epargne), Jose Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Amael Moinard (Cofidis), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel) and Eros Capecchi (Footon-Servetto).
Sandy Casar (FDJ) has attacked from the bunch. This is precisely the kind of stage that would suit the Frenchman's characteristics as he can ship the punishment of repeatedly climbing and then finish quickly, so it's no surprise that he wants to get across to the lead group.
The Astana-led "peloton" is thinning out dramatically. The pace is already high and the mighty Peyresourde is wreaking havoc on the Tour de France. World Champion Cadel Evans has now been dropped by Contador's group.
Anthony Charteau (Bbox) is trying to get across to the leaders, he wants to get some more points towards his polka dot jersey.
Interesting to see Nicolas Roche up here. The Irish rider was very annoyed with his teammate Jean Gadret yesterday. It seems that Gadret refused to give Roche a wheel when he punctured on the last climb and added insult to mechanical injury by attacking as Roche was chasing back on. Even more interesting is that Gadret is now trying to bridge to the leaders...
Szmyd and Kreuziger are pushing the pace on the front now as the break approaches the summit of the Peyresourde. Meanwhile, Charteau and Casar have made it up to the breakway, which now has 40 seconds over Contador's group.
Attack from Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto)! The Belgian climber has been looking in fantastic form throughout the Tour to date and he's almost across to the lead group already. No reaction from the main group. Meanwhile, Nicolas Roche is dropped by the leaders.
Szmyd led over the top of the Peyresourde. Vinokourov is in the lead group policing things for Contador, while Van den Broeck is chasing hard to make it across as they descend the Peyresourde.
Van den Broeck has 20 seconds over the Contador group. Astana can't afford to let him up the road, he's only 3:39 down overall and is climbing very strongly indeed this July.
Contador seems very isolated. Only two Astana riders with him, while Vinokourov is up the road. The only consolation for him is that Andy Schleck is even worse off, there doesn't seem to be another Saxo Bank man in sight. Denis Menchov is sitting in the wheels in their group, observing intently.
Sandy Casar is in full flight at the front of the lead group. They're working well and have stretched out a lead of over a minute. Meanwhile Van den Broeck is 35 seconds down and trying to close the gap. He's not the quickest descender.
It's a group of strongmen on the front here, if they work together over the next climb of the Aspin anything is possible. No wonder Van den Broeck is desperate to get across to them.
Rabobank are now helping on the front of the Contador group to try and reel the breakaway back in.
The breakaway is in Arreau in the valley at the foot of the Col d'Aspin. This is just about the only flat section in the opening 50km of the stage, and the peloton will try and use that to its advantage to close things down.
Van den Broeck has been absorbed by the Contador group. It was nonetheless an interesting show of force by the Belgian on the Peyresourde. As soon as he is caught, Omega Pharma now come to the front to aid the chase.
Vinokourov and Sastre are menacing presences in the lead group at the foot of the Col d'Aspin, though neither man has contributed much to the pace-setting.
Szmyd and Kreuziger are pushing the pace once again at the front as we start the climb of the Aspin. It's another 1st category climb, 12.3km long with an average gradient of 6.3%.
Alexander Vinokourov is looking very comfortable in the breakaway group. If they get reeled in he might well try and jump away himself. Rabobank are chasing on the front of the Contador group, and the gap is 23 seconds.
Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) has led the Contador-Schleck group since the foot of the Aspin in the service of Denis Mechov.
Garate finally pulls over and Mario Aerts takes up the chase for Van den Broeck. Contador and Astana seem to be getting a bit of a free ride in defence of the yellow jersey here. Getting Vinokourov up the road has helped in that regard.
Carlos Sastre has gone to the front of the lead group now. Meanwhile Szmyd, who was doing so much of the pace setting has peeled off and been swallowed up by the Contador. Sastre has lifted the pace very noticeably.
Mario Aerts' pace on the front of the Contador group is really stretching things out. The Belgian has been having a fantastic Tour.
Aerts' pace is now causing problems for Samuel Sanchez and Robet Gesinck, and they have been dropped from the yellow jersey group. Aerts leads Van de Broeck, Navarro, Contador, Schleck and Menchov.
5km to the top of the Aspin for the lead group. Carlos Sastre is tapping out a steady rhythm on the front. Lance Armstrong hasn't contributed much to the pace-setting although he seems reasonably comfortable at this point.
Aerts' pace-making is causing serious damage. Samuel Sanchez in particular is in danger of slipping off the podium if he doesn't recover soon. He's lost 25 seconds to Menchov and Van den Broeck already.
Sastre and Kreuziger are riding at a decent tempo on the front, and the yellow jersey group behind is struggling to close the 22 second gap.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) is at the back of the yellow jersey group. The Italian struggled earlier in the Tour, but seems to have found his legs in the past week. If it all comes together on the run in to Pau this afternoon, he could be a real threat.
Sastre is riding wonderfully on the front, while Matthew Lloyd is at the head of the yellow jersey group trying to bring it all back together for Van den Broeck. The gap is still hovering between 20 and 25 seconds.
Roman Kreuziger takes over the pace-making once again in the lead group. The Czech has had a quiet Tour to date but has been hugely impressive so far today.
Attack from Cunego! Bizarre time to attack from Cunego, hard to know why he's trying to bridge the gap between the yellow jersey group and the leaders at this stage in the day. There's long, long way way to Pau, almost one hundred miles.
Anthony Charteau leads over the top of the Col d'Aspin and makes another downpayment on the King of the Mountains title.
Sandy Casar was second over the top. The yellow jersey group crossed the summit 26 seconds behind.
Casar goes to the front and is really hurtling down the descent. He knows this is a chance to open out the gap again.
The yellow jersey contains Alberto Contador (Astana), Daniel Navarro (Astana), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Thomas Lofkvist (Sky), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jurgen Van De Walle (QuickStep), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox), Christophe Moreau (Cofidis) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
Casar has opened out a lead of 10 seconds over his fellow escapees on the descent. He may well be planning a lone raid on the Tourmalet, our next climb. Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego has just about made it up to the breakaway group. If the plucky Italian doesn't win a stage at this year's Tour, it certainly would be for lack of trying. He may no longer be the same rider who won the 2004 Giro d'Italia but he has still contributed richly to the spectacle at this year's Tour.
Casar has a lead of 40 seconds over the yellow jersey group. He's really put his head down on the descent and is probably banking on the groups behind merging and slowing. It's a typically brave bid from Casar. With a stage win already under his belt at this Tour, he has nothing to lose.
Neither Contador nor his Astana teammates have looked especially comfortable so far today, so they'll be glad that Omega Pharma have come to the front and done the job of patrolling the peloton for them.
Robert Gesink punctures on the descent and is chasing hard to get back on.
Sandy Casar turns left onto the Col du Tourmalet, one of the sacred sites of the Tour de France. 17.1km of climbing at 7.3% are ahead of him.
The Tourmalet is a giant of a mountain, climbing to an altitude of 2115m. It's been scene to some of the greatest moments in the history of this race. You can read about some of them here.
The yellow jersey group and the Armstrong-Sastre-Kreuziger-Vinokourov group have merged at the foot of the Tourmalet.
First Pierrick Fedrigo and now Lance Armstrong have jumped and tried to get across to Casar.
It was a good move from Armstrong, he's managed to bridge up to Casar and the yellow jersey group didn't seem concerned about chasing him.
Armstrong gets across and sits on Casar's wheel. Meanwhile Luis Leon Sanchez tries to chase behind. Caisse d'Epargne and RadioShack are of course very much in contention for the team classification.
Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) have broken off the front of the yellow jersey group to try and bridge to Casar and Armstrong.
Armstrong gets out of the saddle and drops Casar. He has about ten bike lengths on the Frenchman and a lead of 1:15 over the yellow jersey group. The four chasers are closing in on Casar.
The chase group has caught and passed Casar, who seems to have paid a price for his generous efforts on the opening climbs and in the valley before the Tourmalet.
Cunego accelerates and takes Fedrigo with him. This duo is now chasing Lance Armstrong and distancing Van de Walle, Moreau and Casar. Omega Pharma are still on the front of the yellow jersey group but the pace has relaxed considerably.
10.5km to the top of the Tourmalet for Lance Armstrong. His jersey is fully unzipped and he certainly isn't pedalling with the facility of old. He is opening out his advantage over the yellow jersey group, but it seems as though Cunego and Fredrigo will close the gap.
Cunego and Fedrigo exchange some flamboyant gesticulations. It seems that Cunego is not happy that the Frenchman is doing his share of the pacesetting. In any case, they're almost up to Armstrong.
Alberto Contador has dropped back to his team car and is having mobile adjustments made to his bike. Vinokourov is there with him. And no, Andy Schleck has not attacked...
Contador is immediately back up to his group. Meanwhile Cunego is laying down the pace in the front group.
Moreau, Van de Walle and Casar have made it back up to the front, so it's now a group of six ahead with a lead of 3 minutes over the yellow jersey group.
Meanwhile Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are speaking in the yellow jersey group. It's not clear if the hatchet has been buried.
An indication of how much the pace has slackened in the yellow jersey group is that Thor Hushovd has jumped clear of it. On the Tourmalet. The man's desire for this green jersey knows no bound, remarkable stuff.
Speaking of the green jersey, Alessandro Petacchi has been in the news this morning, as he is under formal investigation for the possession of doping products. The Lampre man had this to say on the matter at the start this morning.
"It’s not my stuff. It wasn’t found at my house. I don’t know why I’m being accused of using. If it was found at my house I wouldn’t have started today or the Tour.
On the 28th of July I’m going to see the judge who has asked me to explain things. I don’t know what he wants to ask me. I’m sorry about it all. I’m just here to do my job.
I hope I’m not sent home. I’ve suffered a lot, won two stages and fought for the green jersey. I’m sorry for my team and my teammates. I’m just trying to do my job but there always seems to be something. I want to finish the Tour de France and I cant let it get to me. I’m old enough to be able to separate the two things and carry on racing."
Meanwhile, the six in front have now become nine. Christopher Horner (RadioShack), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep) and Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne) have joined Armstrong, Cunego, Casar and co. at the head of the race.
Anthony Charteau has attacked the yellow jersey group in pursuit of the leaders. He is passing through the iconic tunnels about 7km from the top of the Tourmalet. He may not be the best climber in the peloton, but he's nonetheless doing his polka dot jersey proud.
Carlos Barredo is doing a lot of the work at the front of the lead group now. Sandy Casar also seems to have recovered a little and is contributing again to the break's progress.
The Tourmalet really is spectacular. It's easy to see why Octave Lapize famously called the Tour organisers "assassins" for sending the 1910 peloton into this inhospitable terrain.
Coming through La Mongie, Casar comes to the front again. He really looks like he's suffering, but he's hanging in there. Armstrong and Cunego have slipped down to the back of the line, but each man seems relatively comfortable.
Christophe Moreau is on the front now. This is his last Tour de France, and he dearly would love to lead the race over the Tourmalet.
Moreau's former Festina teammate Richard Virenque led the Tour over the summit here twice, in 1994 and 1995. Each day he went on to win the stage. In 1995, his victory was overshadowed by the tragic death of Fabio Casartelli on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet earlier in the stage.
Anthony Charteau won't make it across before the top of the Tourmalet, but he will be trying to get up to the leaders on the descent. He's still over two minutes down mind.
Ignatus Konovalovas (Cervelo) has managed to latch on to the back of the lead group, he made an almighty effort on the slopes of the Tourmalet.
The Col du Tourmalet is the site of two special primes this year. The first man over the top every year receives the special Souvenir Jacques Goddet. And this year, seeing as the Tourmalet is also the highest point in the race, the leader at the summit will also take the Prix Henri Desgrange.
Hushovd is struggling a little at the back of the Contador group, but he has teammate Carlos Sastre back to help him.
A kilometre to the summit of the Tourmalet for the leaders. The crowds are out in force to celebrate 100 years of the Tour in the Pyrenees, and they'll be even bigger on Thursday when the stage finishes up here.
As expected, Christophe Moreau jumps for the primes atop the Tourmalet.
Moreau leads Fedrigo and Cunego over the top of the Tourmalet. Moreau will be pleased to have claimed the Tourmalet in his final Tour, and he might also be thinking of putting himself back in to contention for the polka dot jersey.
Charteau is reaching the top of the Tourmalet now in the King of the Mountains jersey. He grabs a newspaper and stuffs it down his jersey as the descent starts immediately. In the immortal words of Robert Millar "it's like a hump-backed bridge up there." Charteau has a little over two minutes to make up on the way down.
Contador and Schleck cross the summit of the Tourmalet and the cameras pan out to show us the majesty of the mountainside. Recent generations haven't always been the most responsible keepers of the Tour's flame, but it's reassuring to think that riders come and go, but the Tourmalet and its neighbours like the Aspin and the Aubisque will always be here. Here's to the next one hundred years...
We can also report that Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto) has abandoned the Tour as a result of his crash yesterday.
Rabobank's Bram Tankink is also out of the Tour with a bronchial infection. He did not start today's stage. He finished in the gruppetto on Monday, over 28 minutes down, saying he felt as if his "lungs were on fire.”
Charteau is 2:52 down as he hurtles down the Tourmalet in pursuit of the leaders. He surely won't make up that ground.
The yellow jersey group are taking no chances on the way down the Tourmalet. The nature of today's stage, with a 60km sweep from the top of the final climb of the Col d'Aubisque to the finish in Pau means that there may not be any more fireworks out of that group, but anything is possible in this Tour. It's been an intense battle between Contador and Schleck. Perhaps not as spectacular as some of the other duels in Tour history, but gripping nonetheless. They seem to be very evenly matched on the climbs in this year's Tour.
The 1964 Tour saw an intense duel between Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidour, but on this very stage, it was another rider who stole the show. Federico Bahamontes attacked with Julio Jimenez on the Peyresourde, and the two led over the Aspin and Tourmalet, before Bahamontes danced away on the Aubisque to take a wonderful stage win in Pau and even threaten Anquetil and Poulidor's dominace of proceedings. For a brief moment this morning, it looked as though Jurgen Van den Broeck had a similar exploit in mind.
It seems as though a temporary truce has been called in the yellow jersey group, they're certainly taking no risks on the descent of the Tourmalet.
Paolo Tiralongo and Daniel Navaro are on the front for Astanta keeping things controlled. The Contador group has very much swelled since the panic of this morning. Samuel Sanchez is among those who managed to get back on.
At the front, Fedrigo and the ubiquitous Casar are setting the pace. Meanwhile, Charteau's bold bid to bridge the gap has come to nothing and he is about to be swept up by the main peloton containing Contador, Schleck and Sanchez.
Robert Gesink is another man who had his problems this morning, but he's safely in this large group, along with teammate Denis Menchov.
Another indelible exploit from Tour history that took place on these very roads was Eddy Merckx riding like, well, Eddy Merckx en route to Mourenx in 1969. Already leading the Tour, Merckx attacked near the summit of the Tourmalet and led an elite group of chasers by eight minutes by the time he got to the top of the Aubisque. On the following 70km to Mourenx, he held his advantage to seal his first Tour victory with a truly great performance.
Through the feed zone at Soulom for the leaders and their lead is up to 5 minutes. The stage winner will certainly come from this group now.
The next climb on the menu is the Col d'Aubisque. It's 29.9km of climbing from this approach, as the riders first climb the Col du Soulor and after a brief descent come across to attack the top of the Aubisque. The average gradient of 4.2% doesn't even begin to suggest the true difficulty of this hors categorie climb.
The yellow jersey group comes through the feed zone while the leaders continue to stretch their advantage. It's out to six minutes now. It will be interesting to see if the breakaway begins to fragment on the slopes of the Soulor.
The lead group comes through the town of Argeles-Gazost at the foot of the Soulor/Aubisque. It's another famous name in the Tour's long relationship with the Pyrenees.
Casar and Cunego are on the front of the lead group as they start the long climb of the Col d'Aubisque.
Let's remind ourselves of the names in this lead group: Lance Armstrong (RadioShack), Christopher Horner (RadioShack), Sandy Casar (FdJ), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep), Jurgen Van De Walle (QuickStep), Pierrick Fedrigo ( Bbox), Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne), Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Ignatus Konovalovas (Cervelo).
If Armstrong wants to bow out of his professional career with a stage win this is surely his last chance. There's some real pedrigee in this group mind, so he might have his work cut out. He is helped by having a teammate with him in the break however.
There's been no sign of Ivan Basso since he was struggling on the Peyresourde this morning. Reports now appear to the suggest that the Italian has been suffering from bronchitis.
The break is on one of the shallower sections of the Aubisque and the pace is accordingly quite high. Nobody appears to be obviously suffering just yet, but it would be a surprise if they're all together by the top.
The last time the Tour came to the Col d'Aubisque the stage finished at the summit. Michael Rasmussen won the stage in yellow ahead of Alberto Contador, but the Dane was withdrawn from the race that same evening by his Rabobank team as pressure mounted in the wake of his missed doping tests in the lead up to that year's race.
In 1985, Ireland's Stephen Roche won the stage to the top of the Aubisque. It was a split stage that day, and on the 52km leg to the summit of the Aubisque, Roche reeled in the great Luis Herrera and soloed to a special win that set him up for a podium finish in Paris.
The lead of the breakaway group has stretched out to 6:30. They've worked very well together and the peloton behind has become increasingly disinterested in the pursuit.
Still another 18km to the top of the Aubisque. Even if the gradient isn't too testing right now, that statistic hints at how tough this climb really is. Armstrong is out of the saddle at the back of the lead group.
Astana are controlling things on the front of the yellow jersey group, but there doesn't seem to be any hint of an attack on Contador's lead this afternoon.
Interesting to contrast Christophe Moreau and Lance Armstrong on this climb. Both men are riding their final Tours de France. Moreau can't stay off the front of the group, he seems desperate to enjoy what could be his last time off the front on a major pass like this. Armstrong, by contrast, has spent a lot of time at the back of the break. He may well have the last laugh in Pau mind.
And as soon as we mention the fact that Armstrong hadn't been seen on the front since the Tourmalet, the Texan goes to the head of the group and does a turn. He may not be the hammer today, but he's not quite the nail either.
For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day: How many times has Pau been the finishing city in a stage of the Tour (including 2010)?
For a hint, click here.
Enter your answer in our contest page here.
Today's prize is an Easton EC90 SL Aero wheel set. Click here for information about the prize.
Paolo Tiralongo is putting in a serious shift on the front for Alberto Contador.
Finally an attack out of the lead group. Carlos Barredo and Lance Armstrong jump clear. Plaza, Cunego and Fedrigo try to get back on terms.
Armstrong's attack has distanced his teammate Horner. Casar is also stuggling.
Armstrong is setting the pace on the front now, with Barredo, Fedrigo and Plaza on his wheel. Cunego is just about staying in contact. There are still 12.5 km to the top of the Col d'Aubisque.
Armstrong's injection of pace has fractured the lead group. If he wants to win the stage, he'll want to make things as difficult as possible here.
Barredo skips clear of the lead group of five and Armstrong didn't seem able to close the gap.
Fedrigo jumps across easily and Plaza moves up also. Meanwhile, Armstrong and Cunego are languishing behind.
A hallmark of Armstrong this year and last has been his inability to cope with sharp changes of rhythm. He's kept his head however, and has ridden his way back up to Plaza, Barredo and Fedrigo with Cunego on his wheel.
Barredo goes again. Fedrigo is straight across this time. Armstrong is chasing hard and copes better with this acceleration.
The five are back together again. It's interesting that the two major Tour winners in the group, Armstrong and Cunego, are the two who have difficulty dealing with the sudden changes in pace. Who'd have thought we'd ever have been writing that in 2004?
Armstrong now goes to the front. If he can tap out a decent pace it might discourage Barredo from trying to attack again.
Again Barredo attack! And once again Fedrigo is first across. Armstrong is next, and then Plaza and Cunego make it up.
Barredo and Fedrigo went again just over the crest of the Col du Soulor, but it will all come back together on this plateau before across to the high point of the Col d'Aubisque. The road shoulders spectacularly around the mountainside before reaching the Aubisque proper. There's still some serious climbing to come.
Barredo has been the most aggressive, but Fedrigo is covering all of the attacks with great fluidity. He's marking himself out as the dangerman in this break.
Meanwhile back in the peloton, the pace is still very controlled.
That brief descent allowed the lead group to come back together. The road is kicking back up for the last 5km to the summit however, so they surely won't be together for much longer.
The main peloton is now on the plateau between the Soulor and the Aubisque, it really is a hauntingly beautiful landscape. Say what you like about cobbles in the first week or time trials being the race of truth, but this is what the Tour de France is all about.
The gap from the lead group back to the yellow jersey group is now nine minutes.
2km to the top of the Aubisque for the men in front now. Moreau is back at the head of affairs, he's desperate to claim the summit of this storied mountain.
Casar and Konovalovas have been dislodged from the lead group again on these final ramps of the Aubisque.They'll have their work cut out to get back on over the other side.
A kilometre to the top of the Aubisque for the men in front. Van de Walle leads the group. Lance Armstrong is out of the saddle at the back of the group but seems relatively comfortable.
Damiano Cunego suffered the effects of Barredo's accelerations earlier in the climb, but he seems to have recovered well.
Moreau takes the points atop the Aubisque and suddenly he is a major threat to Anthony Charteau's lead in the polka dot jersey. Fedrigo was second over the summit, he did his best to try and protect his Bbox teammate's interests, but Moreau timed his move well.
Chris Horner was 3rd across the top, and the leaders have 60km ahead of them to Pau with a nine minute advantage over the yellow jersey group
In the race for the King of the Mountains, Anthony Charteau will hold on to his polka dots tonight with 143 points, but Moreau is closing fast on 128. Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego has moved up to 3rd in that classification on 99 points.
Detente in the yellow jersey group. After the high drama of the Peyresourde, it seems as though a truce has been called and the race will be decided on Thursday's stage to the top of the Col du Tourmalet and the final time trial.
Another reminder for those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day: How many times has Pau been the finishing city in a stage of the Tour (including 2010)?
For a hint, click here.
Enter your answer in our contest page here.
Today's prize is an Easton EC90 SL Aero wheel set. Click here for information about the prize.
It will be interesting to see if Sandy Casar can get back on to this lead group. Even though he's been having another fine Tour, he looked to be feeling the effects of his efforts on the climbs earlier.
He has! What a remarkable ride from Casar. Race radio said he was 1:30 down at the summit, although one would wonder if the gap was a little smaller than that. In any case, Casar had to battle hard to get back on and if he can recover in the next few kilometres he will have a serious say in the outcome of today's stage.
Still on the way down coming through Laruns and Carlos Barredo attacks. He's been keen to get away by himself all day. He's opened a decent gap too.
Barredo has 20 seconds over the Armstrong-Casar-Cunego group.
Pierrick Fedrigo does not want this gap to grow much further. He's been looking very strong today and he is coming to the front to try and organise the chase.
Barredo has stretched his lead out to 40 seconds. Fedrigo is pulling on the front, he really is desperate to close the gap, he seems to be in great form.
Barredo powers through the sprint at Bielle. It's a do or die effort for him now.
The chase group trails by 43 seconds at the sprint sign, but they seem to have found some semblance of organisation now so that gap should begin to come in a little.
Mario Aerts is back on the front of the yellow jersey group. He has spent a lot of time in the wind today in the service of Jurgen Van den Broeck. Van den Broeck looked very strong on the Peyresourde this morning, it will be intriguing to see what he does on the Tourmalet on Thursday.
Fedrigo and Casar have done the lion's share of the work on the front of this chase group. Fedrigo was clearly flying on the Aubisque but it's remarkable that Casar is contributing so much considering how much he had to ride by himself over the top of the last climb.
Barredo still has an advantage of 45 seconds. The chase group needs everyone to contribute to get that gap pegged back.
After a frenzied start to the stage, Alberto Contador has had a relatively relaxed day. It looks like Schleck will be staking everything on the Tourmalet.
Barredo is burying himself on the front now, but the gap is finally beginning to come down slightly.
Our colleagues at Procycling were critical of Damiano Cunego for sitting in on the break on stage 9, but the Italian has more than done his fair share on the front today. He's been very aggressive in the Tour this year in the quest for an elusive stage victory.
Lance Armstrong comes to the front now, although Chris Horner has done far more work out of the RadioShack duo in this lead group.
Barredo has a 25 second advantage with 20km to go. They should peg him back now.
Back in the main peloton, David Zabriskie is on the front for Garmin-Transitions. Meanwhile, Sandy Casar and Pierrick Fedrigo are pushing things on in pursuit of Barredo.
Ruben Plaza is another man who is looking strong in this chase group. It will be interesting to see what Caisse d'Epargne's tactic will be in the finale.
Ten miles from the line, and Barredo's advantage is back to 17 seconds. Casar, Fedrigo and Plaza have done great work in the last few kilometres. Van de Walle could be a real dangerman out of this break, however. He's been able to sit on the back for the last 25km since his teammate Barredo's attack.
14 seconds the gap as Barredo approaches the final sprint of the day.
Armstrong and Horner are gone to the front of the chasers now and the pace has dropped a little.
Barredo has opened out the gap slightly again, but he will surely be caught before we get in to Pau as Casar surges to the front of the chasers again.
Barredo gets his lead back up to 20 seconds, he's taking advantage of a the slightly disjointed nature of the pursuit behind.
Barredo is gritting his teeth on the front, but he's still riding strongly. The chase group are going to have to work to make sure they bring him back in.
All the way back in the peloton, Zabriskie had been riding on the front in defence of Ryder Hesjedal's 10th place, which is under threat from Plaza and Horner. Omega Pharma are back in front now. Astana haven't had to work as hard as they might have expected in defence of Contador's yellow jersey.
Barredo is still riding very strongly. He's not going to crack, if he gets dragged back the chasers are going to have to go flat out. If there are games behind, he could stay away, although it will be difficult.
Horner goes to the front. If Armstrong wants this stage he'll have to do some work himself.
On the outskirts of Pau, and Barredo's spirits will be lifted by the fact that he is so close now. Meanwhile Gesink punctures back in the main field.
Horner is chasing on the front of the group now, but the gap doesn't seem to be coming down any more.
A brief uphill for Barredo, and that will sting the legs at this stage in the game.
Barredo is still holding his advantage at 20 seconds even though he is suffering on this long false flat.
Moreau goes to the front and slashes six seconds off Barredo's lead.
It's going to be a very tense finish. Moreau is trying to drag the group back up for Ruben Plaza.
10 seconds with 2km to go. Moreau and Horner are doing all the work now.
Barredo is finally cracking, the gap is dwindling
Right at the red kite and Barredo is caught!
Van de Walle tries to attack but is blocked by Horner.
Moreau leads out the sprint.
It's Fedrigo who goes first
And Fedrigo gets it in the sprint!
Fedrigo was looking in flying form all day long, and that was a dominant sprint win. The magnificent Casar managed to close in for second place, while Ruben Plaza faded to finish third. Damiano Cunego left his effort too late and could only finish 4th. He seemed to be marking Casar.
Armstrong could only finish sixth. He took the long way around in the sprint and he faded very early. He just didn't have the legs for a fast finish like that.
That's Pierrick Fedrigo's third stage win in a Tour de France. He took wins last year and in 2006. It's also Bbox-Bouygues Telecom's second stage in as many days and France's sixth stage win in this Tour. The last time they won this many stages in the Tour was in 1997. A different era, three of those winners were from the Festina team...
Sandy Casar has finished second yet again in a Tour de France stage. At least he already secured a win this year already on stage 9. He fought very hard to get back on to contest the finish today.
The bunch is into the final straight now. Thor Hushovd will look to take out the sprint for the green jersey points on offer here.
Hushovd takes the sprint and takes the seven points on offer. He is now in the green jersey by five points from Alessandro Petacchi. The bunch came in at 6:46.
Provisional stage result:
1 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 5:31:43
2 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux
3 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
5 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack
7 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
9 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step 0:00:28
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 0:06:45
Provisional overall standings:
1Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:08
3 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:02:00
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:13
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:39
Pierrick Fedrigo is clearly and rightly delighted with his day's work today. We didn't see as much of him as we'd have expected earlier in the race, but after going on the attack all day on Saturday he showed that he had the legs to go the distance.
Carlos Barredo was heartbroken at the finish, but he put up a great fight.
Thanks for joining us for today's stage over some of the hallowed ground of the Tour de France. We saw a lively start, a thrilling finish and a more than worthy stage winner. Tomorrow is the second rest day of the Tour at Pau, but we'll be back with our live coverage on Thursday for the crucial stage back into the heart of the Pyrenees to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet.
The full report and results as well as a selection of photography from an epic day of racing will be online soon, and there will be the usual in-depth analysis and news from the peloton on Cyclingnews to come during the rest day.