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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 11 of the Tour de France. The 167.5km stage snakes from Blaye-les-Mines to Lavaur.
Rain is again falling at the start, meaning the riders have waited until the last minute to sign on and gather at the start line.
We already have one confirmed onn-starter after Ag2r-La Mondiale said that John Gadret has quit the Tour.
He won a stage and finished fourth overall in the Giro d'Italia but had been struggling for several days at the Tour and has pulled out with fatigue.
The riders are now approaching the depart reel, when the flag will be dropped and the action begins.
The rain has eased slightly but it more rain is expected later.
The stage follows an S shape but spends most fo the day in the stunnig Tarn region of southern France near Toulouse.
The stage rolls through the countryside all day, with only one Cat 3 and one Cat 4 climb. New French hero Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) should have little problem keeping the polka-dot jersety for another day, despite his injuries from the stage nine car accident.
The intermediate sprint is in Gaillac after 85km. We can no doubt expect some sprinting action there as the battle for the green points jersey continues.
With the Pyrenees beginning on Thursday with stage 12 to the summit finish on Luz Ardiden, the sprinters will be keen to enjoy one last day in the spotlight. The fast and straight finish also makes itperfect for high-speed lead out trains.
Will we see win number three for Cavendish? Or number two for his nemisis Andre Greipel. Perhaps Tyler Farrar will also be back to his best and take another win.
After 5km the peloton is still together but riders are looking to get in the attack of the day.
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The early attacks are comnig thick and fast but nothnig is sticking at the moment.
Nine riders have a slight gap but Team sky seem to have missed it and so are leading the chase.
We now have six riders off the front who are trying hard to open a gap.
The six are Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Tristan Valentin (Cofidis) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun).
The six already have a gap of 1:30 and seem to be getting away from the peloton. None of them are a threat overall and so Thomas Voeckler of Europcar team will be happy to let them go clear, knowing his yellow jersey is safe.
The gap is now over three minutes. It looks like we have the break of the day.
Yet again there was little action before the peloton let the break open a big gap.
The six attackers are about to start the the Cote de Tonnac, the first of the two small climbs during the 167.5km stage.
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Yesterday's question was: Who was the Lanterne Rouge in last year's Tour?
The answer is Adriano Malori of Lampre, who is in the race again this year.
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The gap is growing despite the early climb. The six now lead by 4:15.
Lars Boom was the first over the Cat 3 climb but with Johnny Hoogerland leading the competition by five points, his lead polka-dot jersey is not under threat today.
The debate about crashes in this year's Tour de France continues today with further analysis on the numbers here.
Mark Cavendish's HTC-highroad team is showing their intention of targetting victory today by working on the front to keep the break in check. However the gap is now 4:20.
Lars Bak and Danny Pate are doing the work for HTC. They're helping Europcar set the 'tempo' pace, so the break does not gain too much time.
The skies are still grey and heavy but the rain appears to be easing. However the wind is expected to pick up later and cause problems at the finish.
It is dark and damp out on the roads as the peloton rolls through the forest.
Transfer talk:Visconti set to leave Farnese Vini for Qstep or Movistar. Guardini and Gatto staying with Scinto, who wants to sign Pozzato.
@stephenfarrand Wed, 13th Jul 2011 13:18:20
Susan stepping in for a few minutes here.
Pablo Urtusan of Euskaltel punctures.
After a bit of sun and warmth, the riders are all bundled up in long sleeves and rain jackets again today.
Yesterday's stage win by Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was the 60th ever by a German. The last one was in 2009 by Heinrich Haussler, who coincidentally, is no longer a German citizen.
We have a large gap in the peloton, looks about half and half. No doubt they will all come back together again, but we are not sure how it came to pass.
The gap was probably due to the wet descent. No one really wants to take any chances. We have seen enough nasty situations already in the Tour this year.
David Arroyo of Movistar punctured and is now working his way back up to the field.
The gap between the two halves of the peloton is getting smaller.
Things are drying up a bit, and the lead group even has a bit of sunshine.
Sebastian Lang of Omega Pharma-Lotto is the next to have mechanical problems. The German just announced that he will retire the end of this season.
The peloton is back together, strung out in a long line.
Danny Pate is back on the front now, dragging the peloton along.
The breakaways are working smoothly but the gap is falling.
Tommy Voeckler is busy eating something as the riders cover 70km of the stage. The peloton has just passed the feed zone.
All the overall contenders are staying out of trouble today, saving their legs for Thursday's first big mountain stage to Luz Ardiden.
The 211km stage includes the Col du Tourmalet and then the 13.3km (7.4%) climb to the finish.
It is also the first real mountain stage of the race and so some one could suffer the change in racing.
David Loosli (Lampre-ISD) has a crevasion (flat) but does not seem worried as he rolls along behind the team car.
The big question for today is: who will be in green at the end of the stage? Gilbert, Rojas or Cavendish? #tdf
@janeaubrey Wed, 13th Jul 2011 13:56:52
Our Australia editor Jane Aubrey has hit the nail on the head. Will today's finish change who wears the green jersey. What do you think?
Petacchi is also moving back up to the peloton. It seems he might have been the puncture victim. Petacchi has admitted to not being as fast or as sharp as 2010 when he won two stages and the green jersey. It seems age is finally catching up with Ale Jet.
The roads are now dry for the break as fields of sunflowers come into view. This can only be the Tour de France.
Voeckler is eating again, without taking his hands off the bars. He just seems to suck in the energy bars like a stork eating fish.
Here comes the intermediate sprint. Will some one in the break have a go for the points and cash prize?
Delage (FDJ) was first over the line but there was some debate amongst the riders. ono duobt they will share the primes between them as is tradition.
HTC are riding for Cavendish but Gilbert also wants points.
That was fast.
Cavendish got on Greipel's wheel and then surged past to take it ahead of Rojas.
But where was Gilbert? He lost the wheels and was gapped before the sprint. A bit of a mess-up by Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Gilbert's lead has been cut further now and so the green jersey is up for grabs at the finish.
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The peloton is slowly eating into the gap of the breakaway after eating away at their lunch after the feed zone.
Other iders are now moving to the front to help the chase.
Ryder Hesjedal is now on the front as more Garmin-Cervelo riders move to the front to help with the chase.
The rain is returning as the peloton rolls along on the country roads. Garmin and HTC seem to be getting ready for the possible side winds. This could get exciting.
The gap is now down to three minutes.
The breakaway riders seem to believe thwey can stay away and are still working hard.
Today has been a fast stage so far and can surely only get faster beofre the finish. The riders covered the second hour at 47 km/h and are likely to finish the stage with a 45km/h average.
Ouch. The peloton is lined out making it difficult for teams to feed.
The break is now 50km from the finish.
Danny Pate has taken his peak out from under his helmet. It's time to get serious and up the pace.
Up front Jimmy Engoulvent is on the front, tucked over his bike on a slight descent. He's a big sprinter but is going it everything now as the saide winds kick in.
Eurosport is talking to Saxo Bank DS Brad McGee. Rather than be pessimistic after Cnotador's crashes, he's optimistic saying that apart from a few cuts and bruises, all the riders are feeling good and are healthy.
McGee describes Contador's knee problem as 'not perfect' but said it is an 'injury' and so they are doing everything they can to treat him.
A huge dark cloud is gatheirng over the race and threatening more rain. Riders are moving up before the road turns left and perhaps hit by strong side winds.
This could get very exciting very soon.
The breakaway riders are getting soaked again by a rain shower. Some riders have pointed out they have had six consecutive days of rain.
The break is on a classic French country road with trees covwering the road. But it is not protecting them from the heavy rain.
Roman Feillu punctured but had a wheekl chsange and is now chasing back on and trying to get back to the front. He could be an outside for the sprint at the finish.
The gap is now down to below two minutes as the final Cat 4 climb approaches.
Vladimir Isiachev (Katusha) has been dropped by the peloton. The way he fell out of the back indicates just how fast the racing is now.
Recent stage winner Rui Costa (Movistar) has flatted but quickly gets a wheel and a push and is away in pursuit.
BMC and Leopard Trek are now on the front of the peloton. No doubt looking after their team leaders for the descent and cross winds
Hesjedal is back on the front. He's 15 minutes down overall and so will no doubt be working for Christian Vande Velde in the mountains.
Over the top of the climb, the break has just a 1:30 lead.
Boom is giving it big licks on the front of the break.
Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) is doing a turn on the front. The little Australian does not offer much shelter for the riders behind him but his presence on the front indicates Team Sky will be going for the sprint today.
The question is with Edvald Boasson Hagen or Ben Swift.
The corn fields are divided by chateau, country houses and fields of sunflowers. But the riders have little chance to enjoy the views.
There are huge crowds along the stage as the road kicks up slightly. The six guys up front fully deserve their cheers and they haven't given up yet.
The race passes through Puylaurens and begins a slight descent.
It is time for the final act of the stage.
The descent is wet, while behind Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) has flatted.
Boom is still blasting along on the front, getting some vital help fromn Grivko. They're taking on the peloton and the gap is still 1:15.
HTC has been working all day chasing the break but will they have enough to lead out the sprint?
The break is fighting a headwind now and that will make it difficult for them to stay away.
Behind, Lampre move to the front, looking after Petacchi, while BMC protect Cadel Evans.
Liking the jersey changes of Sky and Garmin. We can actually tell them apart now!
@Mattbrammeier85 Wed, 13th Jul 2011 15:37:20
The speed is close to 70km/h and it;s poutring with rain on the race and at the finish in Lavaur. This could be nasty.
HTC is giving it everything but the gap is still 40 seconds.
Lars Bak has now sat up. He's been working for most of the day to help the chase.
The gap is 35 seconds but the peloton can also see them.
Tejay Van Garderen takes a turn on the front for HTC but BMC are also at the front.
HTC has seven riders in their line, including last man Cavendish. Everybody seems happy to let them lead out the sprint.
Quinziato is on the front for BMC, with Cancellara also up to look after the Schlecks for Leopard Trek.
Goss has also sat up now after working in the chase.
Everybody is suffering out there.
Goss was ill yesterday and so HTC has also needed to reshuffle the lead out train order.
Grivko is giving a go but the gap is just 20 seconds now.
Flecha is dropped and still suffering after his crash.
HTC seem to have eased off the pace, with Lampre and Leopard Trek on the front. Are HTC playing games ansd saving one last efofrt for the finish? We'll find out very, very, soon.
Boom attacks alone! Boom!
Boom is tucked over the bars and has a gap but surely he can't stay away.
The rest of the break has been swept up. Can Boom stay away with three km to go?
HTC has four riders on the front as Boom fades and sits up. Time for a sprint finish.
Garmin has taken over and HTC seem happy to let me lead it out.
Millar is on the front, Thomas is looking after Boason Hagen for Sky.
Cav is still there. He could emerge and go for it.
Thomas opens the sprint but Cav is there.
Thomas opens the sprint but Cav is there.
Renshaw then took over and gave Cavendsih a perfect lead out. The Briton weent early but held it all the way to the line.
Cavendish stopped to watch the sprint replay on television and could see how he beat Andre Greipel and Tyler Farrar.
Thanks to his win, Cavendish also takes the green points jersey.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad 3:46:07
2 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
3 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
4 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
6 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
7 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
8 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
9 Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team
10 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) retains the race lead and yellow jersey.
Phew! that was a high-speed finish but Cavendish made sure he got his jump and sprint just right to win number three this year.
It was Cavendish's 18th win at the Tour de France.
According to our quick calculations, Cavendish has 251points, 16 ahead of Rojas who has 235. Gilbert is third on 231.
Only an act of God was going to prevent Cav winning that one - for all sorts of reasons. NIce to be in green heading for the Mountains. #TDF
@gallagherbren Wed, 13th Jul 2011 16:12:58
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
2 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
4 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
5 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
6 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad
7 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
8 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek
That ends our live coverage for today. Mark Cavendish is on the podium collecting the kisses and the green jersey. Everyone else is already thinknig of Thursday's first mountain stage to Luz Ardiden.
Check out Cyclingnews for a full stage report, photo galleries and interviews.
Once again Cyclingnews and Easton Cycling have teamed up for a contest during the Tour. We have some great prizes line up for you, ranging from a signed BMC team jersey to the grand prize, a complete BMC Teammachine SLR0. For more, just click here. http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/win-a-bmc-teammachine-or-easton-schwag-during-the-cyclingnews-tour-de-france-trivia-challenge
All you have to do is answer one trivia question and you are automatically entered. And you get 21 chances, one per stage!
Here is today's trivia question in the Easton/Cyclingnews Tour de France Trivia Challenge:
Which year had the fewest ever finishers?
If you need a hint, click here. http://guy-sports.com/funny/tour_de_france_trivia.htm
You are entered for the random drawing for prizes by filling in your answer here. http://easton.cyclingnews.com/ ) Good luck!