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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 12 of the Tour de France. Today the race heads high into the Pyrenees with a 211km stage from Cugnaux to Luz Ardiden.
The riders are already in the neutralised section of the stage and riding towards the official start.
The 211km stage is flat for 130km but then there are three nasty climbs.
177 riders are left in the peloton for the stage. As expected sprinter Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) did not start due to tendinitis.
The absence of Feillu means there are 176 riders in the peloton.
Here we go! The first attack of the day is under way.
The attack by six riders includes Ruben Perez Moreno of Euskaltel-Euskadi, who was on the attack yesterday. However the peloton is not letting them get away.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is also in the move.
The six have 35 seconds but face an enormous task if they are to get away.
The six riders are: Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar), local resident Blel Kadri (Ag2r), Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky).
Radio tour is now saying the gap is growing rapidly as the peloton seems to have sat up and let them go.
The six have close to two minutes now.
Yet again it's been a fast start to the stage but the peloton has let the break go with very little resistance.
Thomas Voeckler's Europcar team is riding tempo but the gap is now 3:30.
The breakaway is probably a very clever tactical move, with teams placing riders up the road to perhaps help their team leaders later in the race.
It could mean that Thomas will be there to help Rigoberto Uran after the first climb, while Perez can help Samuel Sanchez and Kadri can help Nico Roche.
Whatever happens later in the stage it will be a hard day in the saddle for the six. They will give their all for 130km on the flat and then face three major climbs in the final 80km of the stage.
The Hourquette d'Ancizan climb is being tackled for the first time. It climbs at 7.6% for 9.9%.
The riders then face the hors catégorie Tourmalet, climbing via the La Mongie ski station. It is 17.1km at 7.3%.
The stage ends with the climb to Luz Ardiden: 13.3km at 7.4%.
Today is Bastille Day in France and a time for French celebration. However there is little chance a Frenchman will win the tough stage as the overall contenders face off for the firsttime in the mountains.
French national champion Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) has a special red, white and blue bike but has had a quiet Tour so far.
The last Frenchman to win on Bastille Day was David Moncoutie in 2005. He is riding this year but has yet to show himself in the thick of the action. Allez David!
The sextet has close to five minutes on the peloton. But they will need far more to stay away in the Pyrenees.
After several days of rain, the weather has improved today. It is cloudy at the summit finish but there should be spectacular views at the summit of the Tourmalet. Last year the stage finished at the very top but was in covered in mist. This year we should be able to see the Pic d'Aulon mountain looking down on the riders.
Are you following the Cyclingnews/Easton Cycling trivia contest during the Tour?
Of course you are.
Yesterday's question was: What was the smallest number of rides to finish a Tour?
The answer: 10 out of 69 in 1919.
Today's question will be coming up later on, be sure to see it and get a chance to win a great prize!
ON THIS DAY: In 2005 Moncoutié's win in the 12th Tour stage marked the 27th time a French rider won a stage on the French National holiday
@PaulSherwen Thu, 14th Jul 2011 11:17:45
Jérôme Coppel (Saur - Sojasun) is getting treatment from the race doctor for his knee.
The race has settled down now, with the gap staying around 5:30.
Johnny Hoogerland is still wearing the climber's polka-dot jersey but like yellow jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler, he is not expected to have at Luz Ardiden.
The sun is shining on the breakaway and the strung out peloton.
Europcar and Cofidis are on the front, neither want the break to gain too much time.
Thomas now Yellow Jersey on the road!
@Chris_Boardman Thu, 14th Jul 2011 11:41:35
With the break now leading by 6:20. Thomas is now the virtual race leader. Hopefully that will help him handle the pain while riding in the break.
The six breakaways are all working smoothly together, sharing the pain and helping each other.
The cold Pyrenees mountain atmosphere gets the blood flowing. Andrelin is pumping. I'm sure we're about to see something special. #sbstdf
@miketomalaris Thu, 14th Jul 2011 11:47:17
The black board shows the riders now have a seven-minute lead.
The peloton is rolling along as if on a fast club run. Riders are talking and eating in the sun. Their suffering will come later.
Europcar and Cofidis are still on the front in a show of French pride.
Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
They're the opening two lines of La Marseillaise, the ruosing French national anthem.
Jeremy Roy takes a bottle from his FDJ team car. He's been super aggressive during the Tour, going on the attack during several of the early stages in northern France.
Luz Ardiden holds a special place in the memory of the Tour de France. Perhaps most recently because of Lance Armstrong's crash caused by a spectator.
He went down hard, taking Iban Mayo with him but the other riders waited for him. Nearer the summit, the Texan then attacked and gained 40 seconds on main rival Jan Ullrich.
This is the first time the Tour de France has finished at Luz Ardiden since that dramatic day.
The gap is now up to 7:30.
Geraint Thomas takes his turn on the front of the break.
His fellow Britsih track rider Ed Clancy has just tweeted some encouragement.
Et voilà the break has 8 minutes.
The riders are close to the feed zone now and then 20km later it will be time for the intermediate sprint. We can expect Mark Cavendish to make a big effort to pick up the minor points behind the break and so defend his beloved green jersey.
Lots of the teams in the pltn are riding as teams, bunched together.
@mrendell Thu, 14th Jul 2011 12:38:48
Tommy Voeckler is back at the Europcar team car, talking tactics and collecting a fresh bottle.
Tommy D is doing some hand waving as if he's not happy that the gap is up to eight minutes.
Of course we mean Tommy V, V for Voeckler, the yellow jersey and happiest Frenchman on Bastille Day.
Susan here, to relieve Steve for a spell and let him grab some food.
The break group hits the feed zone with 8:28 lead. Bon Appetit!
Europcar is really doing its duties today, all of them at the head of the peloton.
Lots and lots of people on the side of the road, cheering the riders on. What a great way to spend a national holiday!
Europcar is at the head of the chase, but BMC is right behind them. Many feel that this will be Cadel Evans' day to make a serious move.
And now the field rolls through the feed zone.
The intermediate sprint is coming up soon. The top points will go to the six in front, of course, but we expect to see the usual suspects battle it out in the field for the remaining points.
Lots of coca-colas and energy gels being consumed right now in the peloton.
Ivan Basso is amongst the team cars and working his way back up.
There is actually a quite large group working its way back up, including Voeckler and Evans.
Gutierrez gets a visit from the team car and stocks up on energy gels.
The lead group now heads to the intermediate sprint.
A slight sprint for the points, with the "win" going to Roy.
Oops, we need new glasses. It was Mangel andl not Roy.
The gap has now increased all the way up to nine minutes!
The sprinters' teams are indeed getting into position for the upcoming intermediate sprint.
In fact, a Movistar rider is at the head of the field with 2km to go.
One km to go for the sprint. HTC HIghroad comes up the left side, Greipel on the right.
Nine points for Cavendish, as HTC had everything under control.
Hoogerland jumps from the peloton! We are happy to see him feeling so well.
Puncture for Remy Di Gregorio of Astana.
Cavendish has cemented his lead and built it up to 260 points. The sprinters have done their duty for the day and can now fall back and form their grupetto.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Cadel Evan's fans are out on the course.
With the sprint done, it is time for the GC battle commence.
The gap has fallen to 7:10 now.
The gap is coming down because the breakaways are now on the La Hourquette d'Ancizan climb.
BMC is also near the front of the peloton to protect Cadel Evans. Leopard Trek doing the same thing for the Schlecks.
Flat for Cancellara.
He is chasing back on but that's a nasty time to puncture.
Cancellara is now at the back of the bunch.
The pelton now hits the La Hourquette d'Ancizan, 5:50 down on the break.
Riders are being dropped already. The first to go is Russian sprinter Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha Team).
Hoogerland now attacks. He wants some more mountain points.
French champion Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) goes with him. Who else but the French national champion would attack on Bastille Day.
The peloton has let the two go.
Now Roman Kreuziger (Astana) sets off in pursuit of the duo. He lost more than five minutes yesterday and is not a major threat. but that could change with this move.
Kreuziger is actually 52 minutes down in the GC. He'll be looking for the stage victory today.
Thomas is setting the pace on the climb up front but it's too hot for Gutierrez.
Chavanel has his mouth open sucking up big gulps of air as he tries to up the pace.
The gap keeps coming down, now at 5;43, but only 4:30 to the chasing trio.
Movistar still with six riders at the head of the field.
And who is right behind them? A couple of Schlecks, for example....
Contador is of course also in this group, but not real near the front. Evans and Gilbert are there, too.
Hoogerland isn't so well off after all. He falls back from the other two.
Just to recap: We still have five riders in the lead. Gutierrez is somewhere behind them, and then come Chavanel and Kreuziger. Hoogerland is now between them and the peloton.
And somewhere back further we have a bunch of non-climbing sprinters.
Problems with Luis Leon Sanchez -- but was it him or his bike?
Chavanel and Kreuziger now have a minute and a half on the field.
A sprint for the mountain points! Mangel takes them ahead of Perez Moreno and Kadri.
Almostj a disaster! Thomas loses control of his bike, fortunately comes on to the side of the road beween the parked vehicles, falls, slide and manages to stop only inches from the cliff.....
And he goes off the road again!
He is of course backup and going but this is quite nerve-wracking!
Thomas now at the team car, and falls behind it to get some help coming back to the group.
Chavanel and Kreuziger now hit the mountaintop.
And just like that the lead group is down to four.
And now the favourites' group crosses over the top of the Tour's first major climb.
Crash on one of the first turns. five or six rides down.
Klöden was involved but is up. Voeckler also and he ran into a car.
Leopard Trek at the head of the field,keeping the tempo down.
Voeckler back up and going.
KLoden finally going again, doesn't look real good. An Euskaltel rider looks injured,
That has brought the gap back up, now at 6:02.
The two riders who may have been injured are Gadret (FdJ) and Urtasun (Euskaltel).
Peter Velits of HTC is chaning his bike. He was also involved in the crash. He is now riding back up with Klöden.
The roads seem a little damp and so very slippy.
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.
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: When was the yellow jersey introduced?
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You are entered for the random drawing for prizes by filling in your answer here. Good luck!
Voeckler has stopped to change his bike, swapping the yellow Conago for his usual team issue machine.
Kloden is also back in the bunch but his jersey is ripped on the shoulder.
Up front the break has started the Tourmalet. This is going to hurt.
Riders are feeding on the flat roads before beginning the Tourmalet. There will be no time later during thr 45 minute climb.
Kloden is being treated by the race doctor. He is being treated for an injury to his right elbow.
Europcar is back on the front but the Tourmalet will be a big shake out.
Sylvain Chavanel on "quatorze juillet" in the break! Allez les bleus!
@QuickStepTeam Thu, 14th Jul 2011 14:32:05
Our man Barry Ryan spoke to Leopard Trek team manager Brian Nygaard before the start.
He was reluctant to discuss the specifics of his team’s tactics at the start in Cugnaux this morning, but the Dane expected a tense day’s racing ahead of the final haul to Luz Ardiden.
“The favourites teams will look at one another and control the breaks. We won’t want to let any Saxo Bank or BMC riders get up the road early on,” he said.
In the finale, Nygaard suggested that the Schleck brothers might be cautious about showing their hand too soon.
“You don’t want to start an attack that’s useless, you have to see how strong the competition is,” Nygaard said. “Everybody is nervous, but that’s what we’re here for. We’ll see who’s strong. You can’t hide in the mountains. Today’s the day.”
He was perhaps bluffing. Leopard Trek are lined out on the front now.
This looks serious. Is it about to kick off? Leopard Trek look like they want to test Contador and see how good, or bad, he really is.
Cancellara is leading the line on this easier section of the Tourmalet.
Contador has already lost some teammates. But could just wait and then attack the SChlecks on the clmib to Luz Ardiden.
Chavanel has been dropped up front. His Bastille day chances look to be fading.
While behind Johnny Hoogerland has been dropped, while Peter Velits (HTC-Highroad) is catching the bunch after mechanical problems.
He changed a bike and a wheel.
Leopard Trek still have seven riders on the front of the peloton. O'Grady now doing his big turn.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) has been dropped! He's been struggling with a back problem and so waves hisa teammate Carlos Barredo to go on without him.
Jens Voigt is on the front now and that has put Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) out the back.
Although he could be dropping back to help Velits.
Kreuziger is cruising across to the breakaway.
Les Leopard vont tomber les masques : Gesink se relève quand Voigt accélère en tête du peloton. Taaramae en Blanc ce soir ?
@thomas_lequipe Thu, 14th Jul 2011 14:50:33
Surprisingly Contador is sitting in the middle of the pack. He has Porte and Navarro with him but would need to move up fast if the SChlecks attack later up the Tourmalet.
Leopard Trek has already cut the lead of the break in half. It was seven minutes atthe start but is now half that.
Roy is upping the speed but Kreuziger is going to catch them and become part of the break. He may even blast past them.
Ouch. Now Tony Martin has been dropped.
There are only 25 riders left in the front group.
Roy and Thomas are pushing on up front. But behind Christian Vande Velde is suffering.
Tom Danielson is still there for Garmin-Cervelo but this is yet another surprise.
Kreuziger is now struggling to close the gap on the breakaway. Has he done too much too soon as the altitude kicks in and makes breathing even more difficult.
Vande Velde has closed the gap on the peloton but must be suffering and there is still the hardest part of the climb to come as the riders pass through La Mongie.
Thomas is now pushing on alone. The Welshman wants the glory of reaching the Tourmalet first.
He would take the special Souvenir Jacques Goddet prize.
Leopard Trek seems to have run out of gas and had little effect on the race so far.
It's misty over the top of the tourmalet but Thomas is just three kilometes from the summit. He's actuially taking time out of Kreuziger, who is fading badly.
Roy is chasing after Thomas but lack that little bit of power to catch him. No doubt the Frenchman wants some Bastille Day glory.
Andy Schleck is at the back of the bunch.
He's got a front wheel flat.
It's been changed and he's off chasing. However Larens ten Dam (Rabobank) has accelerated off the front. Leopard Trek won't like that.
Thomas is one kilometre from the summit now. Looking as strong as ever.
Saxo Bank lit it up, with Jesus Hernandez surging clear. However Voigt has chased him down. and is no doubt bending his ear
Up front Roy has joined Thomas. Who will win the prize.
Roy has gaped Thomas in sight of the summit.
Roy gets the glory at the summit of the Tourmalet. He was 20 metres ahead of Thomas and the two are about one kilometre ahead of the peloton.
Roy is now the new leader fo the climber's jersey.
Kreuziger summits 3:05 behind Roy .
Or perhaps a little less. But he does not seem to have the legs to stay away from the peloton.
Jens Voigt leads the bunch over the top, with Gilbert and Voeckler also up there.
The select peloton is on the screaming descent of the Tourmalet. They are touching 90km/h on the descent. #Scary.
Roy is the momentary Roi des montagnes.
@mrendell Thu, 14th Jul 2011 15:25:11
The Tourmalet is conquered and has caused a selection but that is nothing compared to what we can expect on the climb to Luz Ardiden.
Contador seemed to be playing it cool and let Leopard Trek burn themselves out on the Tourmalet. He still has everal teammates with him but will surely attack on the way to the finish.
The descent of the Tourmalet is long and technical.
Thomas and Roy still have 2:30 on the chasers. Is that enough to stay away on the climb to Luz Ardiden?
Just 15km to go for the two.
Behind Philippe Gilbert has clipped off the front to start the climb with a start lead.
The two leaders have three minutes. I don't think it'll be enough but that's up to the peloton of favourites, we'll see who attacks.
@inrng Thu, 14th Jul 2011 15:35:44
I hope we're all strapped in...
@janeaubrey Thu, 14th Jul 2011 15:40:29
Are we ready for ther finale?
The gap is coming down as the peloton blast to the foot of Luz Ardiden.
As the gradient kicks in, Kloden is dropped. He crashed on the descent and was already suffering with a bad back. That virtually ends RadioShack's chances of a good GC performance this year.
Voigt is on the front again, putting more riders out of the back. Moncoutie goes out the back, Coppel too.
Evans is sat in third place and looks sharp.
Here we go. Andy Schleck is on the front now, looking around at Contador and his teammates.
Voeckler is still there too, trying to set a steady pace to defend his yellow jersey.
Sanchez is ahead of the Gilbert chase group now and could get across to Roy and Thomas. We could see a Euskaltel stage win in the Pyrenees.
It's coming down to a mano-mano fight in the chase group. Basso is still there, as is Leipheimer.
Voeckler will keep yellow tonight, n'est-ce pas?
@friebos Thu, 14th Jul 2011 15:51:01
Evans looks good, very good.
Basso has told teammate Sylvester Szymd to up the pace.
Voeckler is still there, tucked on Basso's wheel. How long can he hang on?
Sanchez has almost been forgotten but is now the favourite to win the stage.
Syzmd is hoovering up the riders up the road. As others fall out of the back, including Roche.
Sanchez has Vanendert (Omega Pharma) with him.
Andy Schleck is with Evans but Frank has slipped to the back of the front group.
Danielson is still in the GC group. He will become the Garmin-Cerverlo GC rider after today.
Roy has bene caught and dropped, as has Thomas.
There is a quiet before the storm amongst the big names, while Sanchez and Jelle Vanendert lead by a minute.
Syzmd is still working hard on the front.
Sanchez talks to the Beglian but it doesn't look like they struck a deal. Sanchez has just upped the pace.
Here we go!
Syzmd is still there but the tension is rising. Someone will surely attack soon.
Andy goes for it. But Contador is on him.
It's a Schleck 1-2. Frank goes. but Basso is chasing him. Evans is there too, as is Contador.
Now Basso surges but Andy Schleck chases him down and drags the others up to him.
Now Frank goes and Contador goes after him.
But Voeckler is still with them.
We're seeing slo-mo racing with small attacks and quick responses. The GC guys are jabbing at each other. Nobody is trying to land a knock out punch.
Pierre Rolland has worked his legs off to help Voeckler.
Frank Schleck goes again and this is more like it. There is no reply from Contador.
It is up to Voeckler or Evans to chase him if they want to stop him taking yellow.
Leaders: Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
Attacker: Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek)
Yellow jersey group: Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek), Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar), Damiano Cunego (Lampre - ISD), Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) and Thomas Danielson (Team Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:14
Frank Schleck is riding into the yellow jersey.
But it is probably too late for him to gain enough time today to get it.
Basso surges and Evans joins him.
Andy Schleck joins them as Voeckler suffers.
Evans looks strong
Schleck catches Sanchez and Vanendert but they go again.
Sanchez has a little more in his legs and now drops Vanendert.
The Basque team leader wanted a big win and gets it.
Behind Contador has been gapped by Basso, Evans and Andy Schleck.
Behind Contador has been gapped by Basso, Evans and Andy Schleck.
Voeckler hugged his teammate Rolland after the line. He was vital in him keeping the yellow jersey on Bastille Day.
1 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 6:01:15
2 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:07
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:10
4 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:30
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
6 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:00:35
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:00:43
9 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:50
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
General classification after stage 12
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
That was a thrilling first mountain stage and indicated just who has the form to challenge for overal victory.
The Schlecks, Evans and Basso all look good but Contador was clearly struggling in the final kilometre.
Contador lost 30 seconds to Frank Schleck and 13 to Andy, Evans and Basso.
Not much in pure time but surely a heavy blow for the Spaniard's moral. Suddenly his rivals know he is no longer superhuman and beatable.
Friday's stage to Lourdes is not expected to change the race but the six climbs and the mountain finish on Plateau de Beille surely will.
Premature to declare Contador's #TdF over, however.
@Bonnie_D_Ford Thu, 14th Jul 2011 16:27:34
Contador is now 2:11 behind Frank Schleck but of course will lose a lot of time in the Grenoble TT. But for sure, we have a very open Tour de France to enjoy in the next ten days.
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 51:54:44
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:06
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:17
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:16
6 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:03:22
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:00
8 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:11
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:04:35
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:57
That's about it from our live coverage today. Check out Cyclingnews for full results, photo galleries and interviews.