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Hello and welcome to today's coverage live from the Tour de France. The rest day is behind us and it's time to race again, on the menu a 163km stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Gap.
The road rises steadily all the way until the main difficulty of the day, the 2nd-category Col de Manse. At almost 10km, this climb is long enough to split the lead group. The drop from it into the finish takes in the Rochette descent where Joseba Beloki memorably came to grief in 2003.
No scorching roads today like back in 2003, although the rain has at least stopped at the start - we had a huge downpour earlier today.
The big question for the riders is how are their legs after the rest day. Days off might sound like fine idea but it can play havoc with the body's systems and if they bunch hit the climb at full gas there could be a few key players struggling.
Sylwester Szmyd says...:
"Day after the second rest day and by now you've got teams desperate to get something, so the early part will be super-aggressive. I guarantee the first two hours will be all-out war. You just know it will take ages for the break to stick."
We're about 10 minutes away from the official start.
As for the climb today, it's not too troubling. It's 9.5km long with an average gradient of 5.3 per cent. There are a couple of trickier sections of between 6-9 per cent but the road is smooth and nice and wide.
The descent might be more of a challenge though as it's narrow and very fast. Not similar to Mende in too many ways but it could be an opportunity for a GC rider to test Voeckler's position.
We're hearing reports that the dry spell is over - has been for some time - and that there's rain and heavy winds. There's some talk of the stage being cancelled. Surely not?
We're hearing on French radio that an ASO employee has been found dead in Gap and an investigation has been launched. We'll bring you more details as soon as we can.
The race has now officially started and the riders are off, Prudhomme signalling the start of the action. Conditions seem to have improved some what.
Stage 16 of the Tour de France has started! It's sunny and almost warm at 24°C.
@inrng Tue, 19th Jul 2011 12:15:27
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Here's where we stand on GC heading into today's stage:
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 65:24:34
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 0:02:15
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:16
6 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:44
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:00
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:01
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:05:46
10 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:06:18
As we thought, there's a lot of attacks off the bunch so far and the bunch are racing hard. Plenty of teams will see today as a great opportunity to put someone in the break and there are plenty of squads that haven't won a stage yet. With the mountains, a TT and a sprint stage into Paris, this - and the stage that finishes in Italy - could be their only chance.
6km raced and no break yet but the attacks keep coming.
In the race for green, Cav has a healthy lead over Rojas and Gilbert but today he might lose out slightly.
The intermediate sprint comes at 117km but that secondary climb could see him dropped and both Rojas and Gilbert are better climbers than him.
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad 319 pts
2 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team 282
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 248
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo 192
5 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto 170
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 159
7 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 141
8 Mickaël Delage (Fra) FDJ 122
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 105
10 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 96
15km and it's still all together.
And it's Cav's men who are on the front chasing down a group of four riders as we speak.
The breaks have typically been made quite early in this year's race but today it's taking a bit more time. The last move was neutralized but we have a rider from Sky off the front. Still a very fast pace being set. HTC can't keep it together all the way until the first sprint though, so they'll have to let something go. It all depends on the make up and size of the break.
In some ways a big group off the front helps Cav but it does reduce the chance of Goss talking the win.
Over 55kph at the moment, so they're rocketing along.
15km done and the race is averaging 55km/h as riders try to get away but half the peloton wants to be in the move that goes clear today.
@inrng Tue, 19th Jul 2011 12:29:56
Over 25km of racing and the fast pace is stopping any meaningful move from getting a gap. We could have this situation for some time as there's a strong tailwind out there.
Greipel and Roy have both been active off the front in the last few moments.
A move of 8 to 10 riders then try their luck not they're brought back as well. The pace still high.
Well, I'll put Voeckler in for the attack today
@gerardvroomen Tue, 19th Jul 2011 12:50:57
We have a leader, it's Dries Devenyns. He's got a small gap, perhaps 100 meters or so.
The Quick Step rider has 8 seconds on the bunch.
So who is your pick for today? Goss, Gilbert, perhaps Cav (he's climbed a second cat climb to win stage before) or perhaps one of the GC riders will have a pop and hold on for the win?
Still just an 8 second lead for
Caught. Flecha then tries his luck but he's been caught too so we're all back together.
Millar tries his luck this time and the Garmin-Cervelo rider has a gap of 15 seconds. He's been on the attack a few times.
Garmin did try and put him in the move with Voeckler the day the Frenchman took yellow but Millar crashed.
The bunch haven't let Millar get too much room though and they're lined out. A few riders are trying to come across to Millar, Chavanel included. They formed part of the break into Barcelona in 2009.
Gorgeous scenes from the CN blimp today as the bunch race through a valley with the sun out. Millar has been joined by a number of riders now, Chavanel and Tony Martin, Bole, Flecha, Zubeldia and a handful of other riders.
One man who many think can win today - Gilbert - hangs at the back of the bunch, taking things easy.
Meanwhile the Millar group is splitting and reforming again, while the bunch are keeping the pace high. We could have this situation all the way until the feed at 81km.
As soon as Millar and co are caught there's another attack. No dice though, it's chased down immediately.
Duque has hit the deck. He's sitting up but that looked like another bad one.
The Cofidis man is on his feet and waiting for a new front wheel.
Meanwhile another small group of around 5 riders jumps off the front but just like before they're only given a very short advantage.
It may be easier if we say who isn't trying to get in the break today #tdf
@janeaubrey Tue, 19th Jul 2011 13:28:29
Geipel has a flat, gets a new wheel and starts chasing. It's going to be tough, but he'll do it.
The bunch still racing hard as Vande Velde has a go but is brought back.
It's hard terrain from here on in though as the road begins to kick up slightly. It's going to make the race increasingly difficult for the sprinters and those with bad legs from the rest day.
FDJ fire a rider up the road but the move is pounced on straight away and we're all back together again.
One rider has a pretty good gap. Westra. He's got around 150 meters.
The problem is that more riders are trying to join him and they're being chased by the bunch. I dare say it will all come back together in the next few minutes.
Hesjedal is trying to catch Westra but he's got a rider from FDJ on his wheel, and more and more riders are coming across.
We might have a move now. It's big so we'll start gathering names now.
Over a dozen riders in this move, as Hushovd has a puncture.
Roche is up there too!
It wouldn't be a TDF break without him, Hoogerland is up there as well. Two Sky riders are also present. Behind them the bunch is still active and more riders are trying to come over. We're adding more riders as we can.
12 men in total in the move. Three men trying to chase up. Duque is still off the back of the bunch.
Roman Kreuziger there too.
They're coming to the feed station and although the harmony isn't great at the moment, this could be the break of the day. It's a powerful one.
Roman and Ryder have a slight gap on the others and they'll have to ease up slightly and wait for the others.
Sky are chasing hard even though they have two men in the move. Not sure what the plan is there. Perhaps they're looking to get Boasson Hagen up there for the sprint?
Hoogerland isn't happy with the work done by the others and throws his hands in their air. That's not a great sign at this year stage. Ah Sky are chasing because of Jeannesson. That makes sense, he's a real threat in the battle for white, with Uran leading. I wasnt aware that the FDJ rider was up there.
Poor old Duque, he's still back in the cars chasing.
Less than 75 to go.
Wet road now and Duque finally makes contact with the bunch again. The rain starting up.
Sky are in fact splitting the bunch.
Hushovd and Rojas both up there in that mini split.
The leaders have 13 seconds on the Sky lead bunch.
Hushovd is powering the chase group along. He's seen the opportunity and latched onto the Sky group. It's just 11 seconds but that could be enough. The question is whether any of the GC guys are in this move.
The rain seems to have cleared up for now. Half the chase group has sat up but still some riders persisting with the move. There are riders all over the road. The intermediate sprint is less than 20km to go.
Well, those dry conditions didn't last too long. Wet roads again.
The pace seems to have eased in the bunch and new break has formed from the remnants of the previous moves. We'll brings you the names as they come into us.
The leaders have 50 seconds but the bunch is starting to react.
There were five chases but they've been caught. The bunch has lined out and the gap to the leaders is down to 45 seconds. We've seen some great racing today, the bunch hasn't let up for a single km.
AG2R dont have a man up there and they're chasing. Liquigas also moving up to the front of the peloton as well.
Europcar has also moved up.
Norwegian double team time?
@nyvelocity Tue, 19th Jul 2011 14:16:36
The break will survive for a good while yet. Cav is at the front of the bunch and has sat up. The gap is now close to 2 minutes. It's taken over 100km to establish.
The gap now 2:48 and we're 10km from the first sprint of the day.
Hagen is on the front taking a turn but takes the opportunity to look around and watch his rivals for the day. The climb shouldn't be too much trouble for him so if he can get over the top his main rival will be Hushovd for the sprint. Hushovd has a teammate in Hesjedal with him and he could certainly come into play. A stage win for the Canadian would really rescue his Tour de France.
The gap is continuing to rise, it's now at 5:07
Close to 6 minutes now. Time to pick a winner from this group.
Hushovd and Hesjedal have a quick word at the back of the group and the Norwegian passes his teammate a bottle. The world champ is riding so well it's hard to tell who will work for who on the last climb.
Hushovd didnt go for the points in the intermediate sprint. That's interesting. He won a stage in the mountains and today could be another chance for him.
Back in the bunch and Voeckler is back with his team car picking up a jacket.
The bunch or rather AG2R are doing the work on the front of the bunch. The gap around 6 minutes.
Okay, they've missed the break but AG2R dont really have to work. The French team.... ah they're French. Voeckler is French. Enough said.
Voeckler stops to let a bit of air out of his tyres ahead of the tricky descent.
@inrng Tue, 19th Jul 2011 14:43:28
The break are working well and the gap isn't coming down. the climb of the day is still some way off and Europcar have now moved up to the front of the bunch.
Some of the harmony seems lost in the break as team cars move up, talk to riders, and then slip back again. They're still over 6 minutes clear though.
Ten Dam is back with the medical car receiving treatment to his face. The weather will have affected the dressing around his wounds. He's a tough nut, and he's hanging in there.
AG2R are still on the front, holding the gap to the break at 6:14
More rain coming down and AG2R are increasing the pace, a few GC leaders positioning themselves for this final climb. The gap still 6:16 and we're going to see fireworks on the final climb, certainly from within the break and possible in the bunch.
The leaders are starting to watch each other more and there have been a couple of little digs off the front.
Cervelo the only team with two men. Will Ryder attack or will be just try and keep it together for Hushovd?
Ignatiev attacks for the second time and had a small gap.
The Russian grits his teeth through the rainy conditions, in the saddle and churning a big gear. Katusha has had a poor race so far. This could turn it all around though.
Ignatiev has around 15 seconds but he's being chased, we're on the slopes of the climb.
Perez and Dries are chasing. The weather is so poor now. Dries attacks Perez!
Marcato is the first rider dropped from the break, Ryder is doing the work on the front.
The bunch hit the climb and BMC turn on the heat.
Perez has been caught by the break.
Up ahead Ignatiev takes a corner on the climb, getting out the saddle for just a brief moment.
Hesjedal doing all the work on the front, Hushovd on his wheel. I think we know the Garmin tactics for today.
BMC are working hard on the front. It's been such a tough day out there today with the pace and the weather. We could see attacks from the GC guys.
Ryder has gone too hard and has to wait for the others but Dries has been brought back, just Ignatiev left now.
Hesjedal has taken off and is about to catch the Katusha rider. Job done and the Russian sits on. Behind them Roy does a turn but they all look to be watching each other. Smart moves from Garmin.
Back in the bunch and Liquigas bring Basso to the front. The Schlecks are hovering too.
The Garmin man calls Ignatiev through but he doesn't help.
And Contador has attack and he's alone!
Cancellara on the front but Contador is gone.
Cancellara isnt a man you want chasing. he has Schleck A and Evans with him and Voeckler. incredible scenes as Ryder is now alone and Hagen attacks from his group.
Frank Schleck is there with Contador, Sanchez too.
Voeckler took his time but made it to the Contador group. Nice riding.
Andy is trying to get them to work because Basso has missed the split.
Garmin are working for Danielson behind.
And it's back together in the peloton. That's a shame that was fun.
Saxo attack again but it's not Contador. The Saxo rider is caught but the pace is high. Surely Contador will go again before the top of the climb.
Hesjedal is 1km from the summit. He's on his own, still with a gap.
The Canadian is a great climber but it's all going to be about the descent. Contador attacks!
Voeckler is awake to this one and goes with him, A Schleck too.
Contador vs Evans.
Frank on Evans's wheel.
Contador goes again! Voeckler is losing ground.
Voeckler is cracking. and Andy Schleck is dropped too.
Contador, Evans, Sanchez are away, Evans does a turn too. What a final to the stage.
These three have a substantial gap, Andy SChleck leads the chase behind.
Evans takes control. Is today the day he wins the Tour?
Up the road and Ryder is about to be caught by Hagen and Hushovd.
No time gaps but the danger trio of Contador, Evans and Sanchez have a good gap.
Such a dangerous down hill section now. Ryder is distanced straight away.
And Contador goes again. Evans fighting to get up to his wheel. Frank Schleck working behind now.
Voeckler is with them. Basso, Cunego too.
Evans and Sanchez catch Contador but the Saxo man continues to set the pace. Rest days can do wonders for your recovery.
Evans takes over as the danger trio start to work together. Having Sanchez will help. He'll do the work on the descent.
Ryder H has caught the Norwegians and attacks. Garmin trying to work over EBH here. Battles taking place all over the road.
The Contador group go over the top. Still no time gap but I'd estimate it's around 30 seconds.
Evans is leading on the descent, then Contador and Sanchez.
Frank Schleck is at the back of the chase group. He doesnt like this one bit. Great riding from Cadel. He's really stepping up.
33 seconds between Contador and Schleck group.
Voeckler attacks but up ahead Hushovd attacks from the leading trio. But Hagen isn't a push over and he attacks, Hushovd chases.
Up ahead an FDJ rider crashes.
Crazy descent, this is a circus.
@inrng Tue, 19th Jul 2011 15:42:49
Bad day for Andy and Frank Schleck, who couldn't keep up with Contador, Evans and Sanchez today. #tdf
@JulietMacur Tue, 19th Jul 2011 15:42:59
around 40 seconds, and Evans and Contador are dropping Sanchez.
The leading trio are all looking at each other. they have 1km to go.
Ryder leading out. He should open it up.
They need Hagen at the front.
Easier said than done. Never seen Ryder lead it out and Hushovd goes, and he's going to take the win. What a win! Another win for the world champion, Hagen second, Ryder, and then Martin in 4th. Good chase from him.
Very good ride from Martin.
Now the battle for yellow and Evans is clear of Contador and Sanchez.
Almost a minute between Evans and Voeckler's group. Evans is well ahead, maybe 100 meters.
Great riding from Evans, Contador has to close the door and Sanchez is helping him. 2km to go but Evans has a huge gap.
Andy and Frank leading the chase behind but Voeckler is even ahead of them.
Evans, jaw locked, is really putting everything on the line today. He;'s closing in on the yellow jersey.
Driving to the line but Contador and Sanchez aren't giving up, the gap closing slightly.
The two Spaniards working well together.
Evans finishes 4 seconds up. Gilbert and Rojas and Gilbert come over the line soon after the Contador group. Frank Schleck is there but Andy loses more time, Basso too. Andy about to come to the line. Bad day for the two brothers.
Cav is on his own but coming to the line. Great ride from him.
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
3 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo
4 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad
5 Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus) Katusha Team
6 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
7 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
8 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ
9 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 69:00:56
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:45
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:03:03
5 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:26
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:03:42
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:49
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:01
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:06:04
Contador and Evans put in almost a minute to Andy Schleck. Voeckler lost a few seconds but keeps his lead.
The big winner, apart from Hushovd, is Evans. Contador and Sanchez also doing well.
Voeckler rode well. He didn't panic, he rode at his pace and keeps his lead. Contador blew the race apart though on that climb and it wasn't even that hard. Andy and Frank will face some hard questions at the finish.
What an interesting introduction to the final week of the Tour. Things will really be interesting now!
Thanks for reading along with us and be sure to join us again tomorrow. Will Voeckler manage to hold on to yellow? Will we see more surprise moves? Who will be the big winner and the big loser?
We shall see....