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Welcome back to the Tour de France's stage 13, on which the riders will make a pilgrimage from Pau to Lourdes. With one big obstacle in the way: the legendary Col d'Aubisque, before a 40km downhill run to the finish. Perfect for bold breakaways looking for redemption!
Or as BMC's Manuel Quinziato put it in his tweet this morning: "Short but intense stage! I predict a painful start with about 120 riders who want to be in the break!"
Look for good climbers and audacious attackers deep down on GC to seize today's opportunity...
Today's stage will likely take off very fast with many riders trying to escape. The day's profile is perfect for good all-rounders to make it through to the finish, as the only real climb today is located too far away from the line to see the any of the GC favourites dare to make a move.
The neutral start is due in five minutes. All riders have gathered at th eline and are ready to take off.
One rider of the bunch did not sign up for the stage today: Gert Steegmans of Quick Step. The Belgian was involved in a crash in stage five, and only found out yesterday that he actually fractured the scaphoid bone of his wrist. Steegmans is the 23rd rider to abandon the race so far.
The riders are now on their way following the race director's car through downtown Pau, cheered on by a mass of spectators. True racing will begin at 1.30pm local time!
Good news on the weather: Forecasts today predict nothing but sunshine, only a few hazy clouds, and mild temperatures reaching about 25°C in the finish town of Lourdes this afternoon.
Another non-starter this morning was Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha). He finished outside the time limit yesterday, 59'21" behind winner Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel) and is therefore excluded from the race...
There are three summits counting for KOM points today. Two small climbs will serve as appetizers before the main course:
Km 43.5 - Côte de Cuqueron - 1.5 km @ 8.1 percent - Cat.3
Km 65 - Côte de Belair - 1.0 km @ 8.4 percent - Cat 4
Km 110 - Col d'Aubisque (1,709 m) - 16.4 km @ 7.1 percent - HC
The day's intermediate sprint is located in Bielle at km 82.5.
Hard to call today's short stage - maybe Gilbert in an escape to take Green jersey points off Cavendish? Or how about a French stage-win..?
@grahamwatson10 Fri, 15th Jul 2011 12:21:37
Indeed, Gilbert could today take the green back from Cavendish if he wins the intermediate sprint as well as the stage... in theory.
"The profile of this stage reminds me of the one to Pau last year, where Pierrick Fédrigo won and Sandy Casar got second," FDJ director Thierry Bricaud told letour.fr. The French team will be looking to Casar to attack again today, as well as Arthur Vichot, both excellent descenders.
And they're off: 174 riders have started!
The first 40 kilometres are almost flat, and as expected the race is immediately on with riders looking to escape early.
Two riders got a little bit of a gap, but are now back in the bunch.
The first little hill on the parcours sees three riders a little further up the road...
They have ten seconds. Trying to identify.
The racing is so fast that the first riders have been dropped at the back of the bunch - notably Andreas Klöden (RadioShack)! The German wasn't lucky with his second crash in yesterday's stage, and apparently hasn't recovered from it yet.
The attack has grown to 7 riders, and Philippe Gilbert is one of them. But the bunch is still on their heels, with more riders trying to bridge up.
But the breakaway got caught, with the bunch riding strung out on the flat, doing 50-60km/h. What a tough start!
Stéphane Heulot, manager of Saur-Sojasun, tips Jérôme Pineau or Sylvain Chavanel for today's stage win. "To win today, you have to be a good descender but also a good rouleur, because there are 15km of flat after the descent," he told letour.fr.
Another escape was attempted but quickly annihilated by more riders trying to bridge up to it. This scenario might continue for a little while...
15 riders currently up the road, including Chavanel, who initiated the move.
Klöden still has problems with the early pace averaging 51 km/h, he is riding somewhere back in the car caravan.
Sebastian Lang of Omega Pharma-Lotto crashed. but he continues the race and is now at the back of the bunch.
Chavanel has attacked the breakaway group, as the bunch is still much too near. They only have 13 seconds.
The 15-rider group is caught. Three riders are still leading.
Klöden still hasn't reintegrated the bunch. He's currently being paced by a HTC car.
Christophe Riblon (AG2R) and Markel Irizar (RadioShack) crashed, but both got back into the saddle.
The bunch is all together again. The speed is very high and Klöden seems like he's suffering a lot, even if he's protected by a team car.
Here we go again: Chavanel is again at the front together with eight other riders. They are doing 60 km/h.
But the bunch is only 70metres behind them, more riders coming across...
That's it for Klöden. He's abandoning the race.
Three riders off the front: Niki Terpstra (Quickstep), Egor Silin (Katusha) and Anthony Delaplace (Saur). Will they make it?
RadioShack only has five riders left in the race now, after already losing Brajkovic, Horner and Popovych. Not a good year for the American team.
Lars Boom of Rabobank is now also dropped in the car caravan. They are on a small climb now with attacks still going every second.
Jelle Vandenert (Omega) sprints to take the points atop the Cat. 3 climb.
Gilbert leads a 25-rider group out now, with the bunch following 200m behind. Carlos Barredo (Rabobank) is attacking out of the Gilbert group!
Voeckler is in the first group, but the second one is catching up again.
The race is now on narrow, winding roads through the vineyards. It's extremely fast. Jérémy Roy (FDJ) now tries his luck - he's been on the attack almost every day at this Tour!
He's followed by two other riders and a small group behind, trying to decide if they should chase again or just wait for the bunch to come back.
Gilbert is in the second group counting six riders, with another group just behind about to be swallowed by the bunch, totally strung out.
Roy has been joined by three other riders, and the quartet now gives it everything to get away for good.
Rojas (Movistar) is also in the Gilbert group. He doesn"t intend to let the Belgian get more sprint points without him taking some, too.
But a new front group has formed now, with Thor Hushovd (Garmin) leading it out. They are eight riders.
Gusev is with Hushovd, as well as Petacchi.
Lars Boom already lost 5 minutes on the bunch...
Roy is also in the group, Moncoutié and Pineau. Two more riders have just made it into this group, too, including Boasson Hagen.
Could this be the break of the day?
They are tackling the foot of the next climb. The bunch is sitting up.
Meanwhile, Boom is getting off his bike, into the team car. That's it for him.
So this is our breakaway of the day:
Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Thor Hushovd (Garmin), Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) and Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad).
The bunch has decided to let them go and they already have almost 2 minutes advantage with 90 kilometres to go.
Europcar riders are controlling the pace now and everybody takes their time to eat and drink after such a fast race start.
Sorry, we forgot Vladimitr Gusev (Katusha) amongst the break. He's actually the best-placed rider on GC, 28th at 11'13" of yellow jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler.
2010 polkadot jersey winner Anthony Charteau is working for his Europcar teammate Voeckler at the front of the bunch now.
The break reaches the summit of the Côte de Belair, where Roy takes one KOM point.
The 10 escapists have more than four minutes on the bunch now.
Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) just got some treatment from the race doctor.
Mobile repairs for Samuel Sanchez and Cancellara from the team cars. It's technically not allowed under the rules... but rarely enforced.
@inrng Fri, 15th Jul 2011 13:58:22
Frenchman Roy could take over the plokadot jersey today. On HC climb Col d'Aubisque, there will be 20-16-12-8-4-2 points up for grabs.
Roy currently has 25 points, and Sanchez 40.
Roy, who completed a degree in engineering before starting a professional cycling career, also writes a daily colmumn in L'Equipe and has been in five breakaways so far in the race.
The feed zone and the intermediate sprint are coming up. There will be a few sprint points still available even after the breakaway of ten riders gets through, so we'll see if any of the green jersey contenders feel like grabbing more points.
The breakaway riders enter the feed zone. Bak gets his bag.
The race passes the "Falaise des vautours", the "cliff of the vultures", a national park. Perhaps waiting for some more DNF's to lunch on?
Voigt has gotten off his bike, he has a mechanical of sorts. Changing bikes now.
The German had a musette entagled in his front wheel. Got a bit upset - but he's now back catching up.
No sprint at the intermediate sprint for the breakaway. Neither Petacchi nor Hushovd cared, and it was Boasson Hagen, followed by Moncoutié, who passed the banner in front.
Here comes the bunch.... Rojas takes the remainder of points in front of Cavendish, who shows him his anger - but Rojas didn't deviate from his line at all.
Gilbert has dropped back to the race director Jean François Pescheux, discussing something with him. The Belgian was sprinting earlier, a bit before the intermediate sprint, before sitting up - perhaps he misjudged the distances to the hot spot sprint?
As the race hits the foot of the legendary Col d'Aubisque, the gap to the breakaway is almost six minutes.
Moncoutié will be hoping to make a good showing here today.
The Aubisque is 16.4 km long, averaging 7.1 percent. And the world champion attacks! He wants to do this on his own...
The Norwegian creates a gap. He mau not be the best climver in the group, but certainly one of its best descenders. Pineau is trying to catch up, followed by Moncoutié.
Hushovd has 17 seconds.
FDJ's Delage has counter-attacked from the peloton, with an AG2R and a Rabobank rider also setting out in chase.
With the leaders "only" at 5 minutes, more stage contenders may give it a go!
Hushovd is being closely followed by Roy at six seconds. The Frenchman is bridging up.
Roy wants to win on the HC summit to take over the polkadot jersey.
Hushovd and Roy are now teaming up in front.
Moncoutié is the next chaser with Boasson Hagen not far.
Out of the bunch, FDJ's Mickael Delage has been joined by Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) and Maxime Bouet (AG2R). They have about 20 seconds over the bunch controlled by Europcar.
The climb now really starts to get steep. Until now, it was still bearable, but now it's going to hurt.
Cavendish is being dropped and paced up the climb by Bernie Eisel.
Tyler Farrar has now also decided to drop back. Time for the gruppetto!
In a tunnel, Roy has managed to accelerate and get rid of Hushovd. The world champ is managing his efforts in the hope of a good descent later on, as Roy is going for the polkadot - and perhaps the stage win?
Cancellara, Greipel and Hoogerland are also reported out of the back by Radio Tour.
Moncoutié caught Hushovd and passed him. He's trying to bridge up to Roy now, but it's not easy.
Roy is still 20 seconds ahead of Moncoutié, with Hushovd ten seconds behind the Cofidis rider.
The gap to the peloton is not getting smaller as the breakaway riders are doing an excellent job.
Five clicks to the summit. Moncoutié is just 100 metres behind Roy but both will need to distance Hushovd further if they want to stand a chance for the stage win.
The bunch has been well reduced by this mountain, as riders are feeling the effects of ten days of hard racing and the second high mountain stage. Sky's Geraint Thomas has also been dropped.
Rabobank's Gesink is also at the back of the peloton, calling for his team car.
Roy is just unbelievable, grinding his way up the climb without easing up. Moncoutié can't catch him even if he's close behind.
Back in the bunch, yellow jersey wearer Voeckler will be happy to continue his overall lead - if all goes well like it does right now.
French champ Sylvain Chavanel now also eases his pace and drops back from the bunch.
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Roy is getting lots of cheers from the roadside spectators as he winds of the pass. Two kilometres to the summit. It's a bit chilly up here...
FDJ are riding a phenomenal Tour. Extra kudos to Marc Madiot for playing La Marseillaise on team bus before Bastille Day stage.
@friebos Fri, 15th Jul 2011 15:19:04
Roy beginning to grimace a lot now. I wonder if he's better of with Moncoutié for the descent and the long run to Pau to hold of Hushovd etc
@inrng Fri, 15th Jul 2011 15:21:35
Roy has croosed the summit and is hitting the descent, in the clouds. Moncoutié follows.
Hushovd still grinds his way up through the mist. He has to make up two minutes on Roy if he wants to contest the stage.
Roy is out of the haze and speeding down to the valley. The road is slightly slippery, though, to be handled with care.
The bunch cathces Bouet from AG2R just before the crossing the summit.
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Roy is now back on a short uphill stretch as Marc Madiot hands him a bottle. "Allez!"
Some Norwegians are encouraging Hushovd, horns on helmets. There have been some scary situations with spectators up here, who don't leave enough space for riders to pass through.
Roy will be having a hard time in the finale, as there will be a headwind all the way through the valley to Lourdes.
He's grimacing, as Moncoutié is 1.22 minutes behind, and Hushovd at 1.45.
I like how Voeckler tells everyone to take it easy on the descents, then rides away from everyone. #tdf
@craiglewis85 Fri, 15th Jul 2011 15:36:35
Voeckler is back in the string of riders winding down the mountainside, protected by his teammates. They hit the small portion of climbing now.
In between Hushovd and the bunch are still Pineau, Boasson Hagen and Bak. But we don't exactly know how much time they have on the peloton.
Hushovd is catching Moncoutié now in the descent, as Roy is now on the flat.
Hushovd and Moncoutié are exchanging a few words.
Gilbert takes off the front of the bunch! Perhaps he wants to get some points at the finish for the green jersey, as Cavendish and Rojas are dropped.
Roy is flat out and doesn't look that bad at the moment. Hushovd and Moncoutié work together.
Roy has already 200 kms of breakaway in his legs from yesterday, and he still manages to get out of the saddle to accelerate. Amazing!
But the gap is melting, now down to 1.07 according to Radio Tour.
Gilbert now passes under the 25k to go banner - on his own.
Roy must be getting the award for most combative rider today, no doubt, even if he doesn't win the stage. And he's got the polkadot.
Gilbert has one minute on the bunch now, and caught Bauke Mollema. He will definietly still score some sprint points at the finish.
Gilbert, if he gets ninth of this stage, will score seven points in the classification.
Roy only has 20 seconds left over Hushovd and Moncoutié, who still takes turns with the world champion.
Roy passes under the 10k to go banner. Hushovd and Moncoutié can see him now.
Romain Zingle from Cofidis has apparently crashed in the descent of the Aubisque, but we haven't received further information yet. Hoping everything is OK...
Ah - the gap is getting bigger again. Hushovd asks Moncoutié to work, but the Frenchman refusues, knowing that Hushovd will beat him in a sprint. 18 seconds!
Moncoutié can't be balmed. If he wants to stand any chance he has to spare his energy now. Big Thor is not amused...
There is a small hill with three kms to go, they are on it now. Hushovd attacks Moncoutié!
Hushovd cathces Roy. What a shame for the Frenchman.
Moncoutié also catches up - but Hushovd attacks again!
The world champion bited his teeth as Moncoutié passes Roy, who just cannot give anything more.
Huhsovd on a small descent in dowtown Lourdes. Roy (the king) is beaten by a world champion... who did an outstanding descent off the Aubisque to make up the time he needed.
Hushovd celebrates as he passes the line. Moncoutié follows, then Roy, who will now discover the the extent of the pain in his legs.
Roy is crying in the finish, he is very disappointed for not having won the stage. But he'll have the polkadot as a consolation prize.
Boasson Hagne Pineau, Bak and Gusev come in.
In that order.
Tjallingii and Petacchi make the finish next, followed by Gilbert and Mollema. Gilbert gets tenth.
Rojas wants to take 12th place, so there is a sprint of the bunch. Done.
The provisional top ten of the stage:
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
2 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
3 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ
4 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) HTC-Highroad
5 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
7 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team
8 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
9 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
10 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
Voeckler remains in the race overall lead.
Thanks for having followed the stage with us, join us again tomorrow for stage 14 up to Plateau de Beille, where the GC favourites will certainly put up some fireworks again.