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The BMC Teammachine of the American GC hopeful
Hyper-aggressive position for the sprint lead-out
How much air pressure pros use at the Tour de France
National theme bike for Tour's lone Japanese rider
Welcome to our live coverage of stage 11 from the 2012 Tour de France. Today may look relatively short on paper, being 'just' 148km, but the Alpine stage that runs from Albertville to La Toussuire contains two massive HC climbs and a category one climb to the finish line.
We're about ten minutes from the start of the stage, which gets underway at 1:20pm local time...
The home crowd will be hopeful of another French victory following Thomas Voeckler's win in yesterday's 10th stage. You can read a full report and watch video highlights here, but here's the top ten:
TOP TEN FINISHERS - STAGE 10
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar 4:46:26
2 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:00:03
3 Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:07
4 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:23
5 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:00:30
6 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:02:44
7 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
9 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
10 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:02:52
Bradley Wiggins remains at the top of the overall GC and maintained the gap between him and his main rivals.
TOP TEN GC AFTER STAGE 10
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 43:59:02
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:53
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:02:07
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:23
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:03:02
6 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:03:19
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:04:23
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:04:48
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:29
10 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:05:31
And we're off and running on stage eleven...
And we have an early breakaway. Waiting for the details but it looks like about a dozen riders.
Today's two HC climbs both rise past the 2,000m mark. The first one, the Col de la Madeleine, comes after 40km. The second one, the Col de la Croix de Fer, comes at the 95km point.
Hearing that there are 28 riders in the early break. One man who is definitely there is Andriy Grivko, who was also part of yesterday's break.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is also there. Just waiting on confirmation of official numbers and names as it settles down...
And the peloton have now caught the 30-odd breakaway riders. We're back to one massive group.
Sorry - conflicting information filtering through there. The leading 31 are actually still clear and they've built a lead of over 50 seconds.
We can see Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in this escape group. Dan Martin and Alexander Vinokourov are there too.
And the leaders are already at the foot of the first HC climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine. There's some big ramps on this. A supreme early test of their mettle this afternoon.
The gap between the leading 31 and the peloton is now 35 seconds. We're expecting exact confirmation of them imminently...
We finally have official confirmation of the breakaway riders: Dumoulin (COF); Hoogerland (VCD);Paolini (KAT); Hutarovich (FDJ); Gesink and Kruiswijk (RAB); Karpets (MOV); Sorensen and Sorensen (STB); Grivko, Iglinskiy, Kieserlovski and Vinokourov (AST); De Weert and Pineau (OPQ); Albasini (OGE); De Kort, Gretsch and Huguet (ARG); Burghardt, Cumming, Gilbert (BMC); Popovych (RNT); Malacarne (EUC); Perez (EUS); Bole (LAM); Koren (LIQ); Martin (GRS); Cherel and Riblon (ALM).
There are fractures already appearing in this lead group, however. The peloton is only 20 seconds behind them. Sky are at the front of the chasing pelton, led by Boasson Hagen.
And we now have a separate lead group of seven riders. And mountains classification leader Thomas Voeckler has already fallen off the back of the main peloton after yesterday's heroics.
Valverde (Movistar) and Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) have joined them to make a leading group of nine. The other seven are Chris Anker Sorensen, Koren, Vinokourov, Kiserlovski, Riblon, Martin and Hoogerland. They are over 30 seconds ahead of the main peloton.
Horner brought five others with him to the front: Malacarne (EUC), Kadri (ALM), Basso (LIQ), P. Velits (OPQ) and Weening (OGE)
Rolland, Kern and Feillu have also successfully bridged the gap to the leaders...
We now have a group of 21 leaders and the race looks to have settled down a bit. they have a 20-second lead on four chasers who are Moinard (BMC), Marzano (LAM), Ten Dam (RAB) and Leipheimer (OPQ). The main peloton is over a minute further back.
It's very early days in the stage but this leading group is huge and also contains some crack climbers - the likes of Martin, Rolland, Hoogerland and Kessiakoff to name but a few. It's not hard to envisage the winner coming from this lot, even at this early stage.
So the big news before the start today was the withdrawal of RadioShack-Nissan's Fabian Cancellara. He's returned home to support his wife ahead of the birth of their second child. Read what he had to say right here.
And Leipheimer's group have joined the leaders. We now have a lead group of 26.
And the leaders are now about 5km from the summit of this first HC climb. Gap is 1:42 to the peloton.
ABANDONMENT: Hearing that Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) has abandoned...
The highest-placed rider in the GC in this breakaway is Scarponi. He was in 15th place this morning, 7:14 behind Wiggins.
And two more riders have joined the leading group: Bouet (AG2R-LaMondiale) and Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
So that's a whopping 28 riders in this lead group. They're not getting away from the peloton very quickly though. Sky are really pushing the pace back down the road to keep them in touch. As a result, plenty of riders are falling off the back. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) is the latest man to drop off.
It's Boasson Hagen who has been doing a lot of the work for Sky at the front. How long can he keep up this pace?
Closing in on the summit now. Scramble for points will start. Kessiakoff is eyeing the polka dot jersey again with Voeckler struggling today.
Velits and Kessiakoff are tussling for the 25 points here. And Velits takes them. Kessiakoff takes 20 points for second and is now the new leader of the KOM standings. Full results to come when we get confirmation.
The peloton are now approaching the top of the first climb...
100km to go. We're roughly a third into the race, distance-wise. Riders are descending fast. Gap is now almost up to two minutes.
Three minutes, not two...
Full results of the Col de la Madeleine climb:
1. Peter Velits (OPQ) 25pts
2. Kessiakoff (AST) 20pts
3. Kern (EUC) 16pts
4. Sorensen (STB) 14pts
5. Scarponi LAM) 12pts
6. Rolland (EUC) 10pts - 20"
7. Feillu (SAU) 8pts
8. Kiryienka (MOV) 6pts
9. Vinokourov (AST) 4pts
10. Valverde (MOV) 2pts
Velits and Kessiakoff attacked the other leaders on that descent and have opened up a gap quite quickly.
Liquigas riders Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss have broken away from the main peloton and have formed a second chase group. Sagan is a skilled descender but not really sure what his tactics are here. There's an intermediate sprint coming up but surely he is too far back to get into the points? Or is he?
Boasson Hagen still there at the front of the peloton. He's been there almost permanently over the last 30km.
And Kessiakoff and Velits have been caught by the first chasing pack. But it appears that pack is now minus Leipheimer and Vinokourov.
Sagan and Oss have given up their attempts to catch the leaders and have come back to the main peloton.
And the leaders are now at the intermediate sprint point...
And we now have a small breakaway off the front of the main escape group: Rolland (EUC), Kessiakoff (AST), Velits (OPQ), Trofimov (KAT), Kiryienka (MOV), Valverde (MOV), and Scarponi (LAM)
And we're now on to the next HC climb - the brutal Col de la Croix de Fer. It's a gruelling 23km to the summit, which stands at 2067m.
OFFICIAL RESULTS - INTERMEDIATE SPRINT
1. Kessiakoff (AST) 20pts
2. Velits (OPQ) 17pts
3. Kern (EUC) 15pts
4. Scarponi (LAM) 13pts
5. Valverde (MOV) 11pts
6. Kiserlovski (AST) 10pts
7. Rolland (EUC) 9pts
8. Trofimov (KAT) 8pts
9. Basso (LIQ) 7pts
10. Kadri (ALM) 6pts
11. Horner (RNT) 5pts
12. Sorensen (STB) 4pts
13. Martin (GRS) 3pts
14. Riblon (ALM) 2pts
15. Feillu (SAU) 1pt
Bouet, Izagirre and Koren have been dropped by the first chase group and are now back with the main peloton again.
Looks like Boasson Hagen's exploits at the front of the peloton have taken their toll - he's dropped off the back
And the leaders have been caught again by the first chase group. We have a leading group of 22 riders now.
And Scarponi, Vinokourov, Marzano and Moinard have almost immediately been dropped as that lead group came together
Leipheimer is the next rider to feel the pinch and has dropped away. Kern and Rolland are really forcing the pace up front as they tackle this monster climb.
And Basso and Valverde are the next to crack...
ABANDONMENT: Hearing that Mark Renshaw is the latest rider to quit on this stage...
Gap between these leaders and the main peloton is over four minutes now...
Trofimov, Sorensen and Weening have also now been dropped by the leaders. This climb and the pace of the Europcar riders up front is really taking its toll...
But Trofimov and Sorensen have rallied and are back in touch with the leaders now, who are a group of 11.
There are actually 12 of them: Horner, Kern, Rolland, Martin, Kadri, Trofimov, Ten Dam, Kiryienka, Sorensen, Kessiakoff, Kisierlovski and Velits
ABANDONMENT: Not a good day for Rabobank. Bauke Mollema is the next one of their ranks to abandon
Cadel Evans has attacked from the peloton here and has pulled away from them. How will his main rival Wiggins respond?
Handing over to Susan now for a few minutes while I take a break...
Susan here, just as we hit the steepest part of the climb.
Sky driving steadily in chase of Evans.
The Evans group is now 3:22 back from the front, with the Wiggins group another 17 seconds or so back. There are 10 to 12 riders in the latter group.
Klöden has dropped out of the Wiggins group. And Evans is not really getting away.
Evans has now caught Vinokourov.
Wiggins still has three teammates at his side. Up front, Van Garderen has outpaced his captain Evans.
Schleck and Zubeldia, both RadioShack, are now together chasing the Wiggins group.
Europcar continues to drive the leading group.
The Evans group is now very close to being caught by the Wiggins group.
Situation is a bit difficult at the moment, there are so many small groups on the road, with things changing constantly.
Mick Rogers pulls the Wiggins group up this fierce climb.
That's it, the Wiggins group has caught Evans now.
13 riders in the Wiggins group.
Kern has dropped back from the lead group.
Now Horner takes his turn at the head of the lead group. They Wiggins group is 2:50 back.
The WIggins group also contains Froome, Rogers, Porte, Evans, van Garderen, Basso, Nibali, Pinot, van den Broeck, and Brajkovic.
Only five riders in the lead group now: Horner, Kisierlovski, Kessiakoff, Rolland, Martin, Ten Dam, and Kiryienka.
Huge crowds here as the leaders approach the mountaintop.
Still three km for the leaders to the official top of the climb.
It is almost hard to see the road, there are so many fans here.
Dan Martin has re-joined the lead group, giving us six there.
And Cobo has joined the Wiggins group.
The first one to cross the mountaintop here will win a 5000 Euro bonus.
Zubeldia has also caught the Wiggins group.
We are above the tree line here.
One of the Astana riders prepares for the approaching descent, stuffing a newspaper in the front of his jersey.
Rolland attacks to try and catch the mountain points and bonus!
It was neck and neck with Kessiakoff.
It looks as if the Swede was first over the top. The two are now together in teh lead on teh descent.
Nibali lets the team car helper fill his jersey pocket with snacks, and gets a bit of oil on his bike as well.
The Wiggins group crosses over the top with a gap of about 2:10.
There is much discussion between Kessiakoff and Rolland. And there is still no official word as to who won the moutain ranking.
This is a long descent. And has its shares of sharp turns and steep fall offs and just generally makes us very nervous.
Chris Anker Sorensen has caught Ten Dam and another rider, and the three take the descent together.
The gap from the front to the Wiggins group is holding steady at just over the two minute mark.
MIck Rogers misses a curve, but comes through safely. He was lucky.
The Wiggins group catches Kern.
It looks like the lead group is coming back together again.
The descent is 14.3km long, but then it goes directly up the next climb, the category 2 Col du Mollard.
And that one is then directly followed by a climb up to the finish atop the category 1 La Toussuire.
Rolland has been declared the winner of the last mountain ranking, ahead of Kessiakoff.
Velits has re-joined the lead group and now attacks out of it. He is joined by Sorensen and then Horner, plus Keissiakoff.
No, not Kessiakoff in the lead. The gruop is falling apart again, and in fact in the lead we now seem to have Rolland and Kiserlovski.
Horner had to pull over to the side, apparently with a mechanical.
Kiserlovski and Rolland in the lead, ahead of Velits and Sorensen. Wiggins group at 2:28.
There is 11 seconds between the first two two-man groups.
The gap is creeping up, now at 2:32.
Sorensen pulls away from Velits, and Kiryienka catches the Dane.
Wiggins still has three teammates with him.
And here is Mark back again!
Thanks Susan. Hi everyone.
VIDEO: While I was at lunch we've sorted a video of the finish. We drove up the final climb of today's stage in the Cyclingnews car this morning and filmed every single twist and turn. Footage is at 1500% speed. Really worth a look, even if we do say so ourselves. Watch it right here.
Here are full details of the Wiggins group:
Bradley Wiggins, Christopher Froome, Richie Porte and Michael Rogers (Sky Procycling), Cadel Evans and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol Team), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat), Alexandr Vinokourov and Janez Brajkovic (Astana Pro Team), Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Movistar Team), Frank Schleck, Andreas Klöden and Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (RadioShack-Nissan), Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Christophe Kern (Team Europcar), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun), Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale)
And the leaders are over the penultimate climb. Results as follows:
1. Rolland (EUC) 5pts
2. Kiserlovksi (AST) 3pts
3. Kiryienka (MOV) 2pts
4. Sorensen (STB) 1pt
And they're on to the next technical and fast descent. Then there's another climb straight after...
Road surface is a bit of a mixed bag here - some fresh tarmac, some old tarmac, plenty of cracks and loose stones too. Not ideal as the pace quickens down the slopes.
CRASH: Rolland undercooks a left-hand turn there and hits the deck. He's quickly back on his feet and on his bike though.
Rolland trying to catch Kiserlovski and Kiryienka after his crash. Sorensen has him in his sights now though. 25km to go. Final climb is only 6km away now.
Rolland has caught the leading duo
Almost all the major GC players are in the Wiggins group back down the road. Menchov is the only exception and he has fallen off the back. This final climb could see a shakeup in the standings.
These leaders are all strong climbers. A lead of almost four minutes might be enough for one of them to land the stage win. It's going to be tight though.
And here we go. The leaders have started their final climb. A full 18km of category one. They will be bracing themselves for pain after what has come before...
Check out @cyclingthealps preview of stage 11 from Albertville to La Toussuire. Explore the route on a Google Map, with a Google Earth Tour or cycle it virtually! Watch profiles, Street View tours, detailed Google Earth tours and a lot more of each climb. Visit the website right here.
Rolland and Kiserlovski have attacked immediately on this climb. Bold move with 17km of it left to go...
And the yellow jersey group are now approaching the foot of the final climb. Stand by for some drama over the next few minutes...
And Michael Rogers has cried enough after riding selflessly on the front of the Wiggins group for what seems like an eternity. Porte and Froome are there for the yellow jersey holder now.
With Porte and Froome there it makes things difficult for the other big names to attack. But there is still a long way to go.
At the front, Rolland and Kiserlovski have been rejoined by Sorensen and Velits now.
Gap is now almost down to three minutes between the leaders and the yellow jersey group...
This gap is now coming down quite quickly. Suddenly it's at 2:51. Porte seems to be lifting the pace but it's still looking a tall order for them to catch the four leaders...
CORRECTION: It is, of course, Kiryienka and not Velits who is part of this leading quartet...
Janez Brajkovic (Astana) attacks from the yellow jersey group...
And almost at the same time, Rolland attacks on the front. Kiserlovski goes with him and they have almost immediately opened up a ten second gap on the other two...
Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) counter the attack of Brajkovic and have already reached him
And now it's the turn of Nibali (Liquigas) as he attacks from the pack. Will Froome and Porte let him get away?
And Kiserlovski has cracked. Rolland is left all alone up front. Can he emulate last year's win on the Alpe d'Huez?
Amazing work here by Froome. He is dragging the main yellow jersey pack back to Nibali
And Nibali attacks again. Is this psychological warfare? He just had a long look at Wiggins
Nibali is about 70m clear of the Wiggins group. Froome and Wiggins don't seem to be worried. Evans and Van Garderen are there with them.
And Froome has had enough. He's dropped. Wiggins leads his small group as he goes in pursuit of Nibali without any help from his team.
And Froome has caught them up again. Must have been having a breather.
Nibali has caught Pinot and Van Den Broeck. He's got a 23 second lead on the Wiggins group.
Rolland is looking like a good bet to hang on up at the front now
Evans looks like he's in trouble here...
Van Garderen has dropped back to help his struggling teammate. Puts his own position as leading young rider in jeopardy with Pinot up the road...
Froome seems to have found more strength from somewhere. Him and Wiggins have really turned the screw. They have left Schleck and Evans for dead and are closing on Nibali.
Just 4km to go now for Pierre Rolland. Stage win looks in the bag.
And sensationally Wiggins has been dropped by Froome. Temporarily. Team orders have seen him slow down...
Wiggins and Froome have caught Nibali and Van Den Broeck. Rolland looking comfortable.
Pinot has been caught by the yellow jersey group. Evans is now over a minute behind them and his position on the podium is under threat.
Looking like two stages in a row for Europcar...
Final kilometre now for our leader
Brilliant performance from the Frenchman. He could now be in the top ten in the GC
Rolland wins in 4:43:57
Wiggins and Nibali cross the line together in fourth and fifth
Bad day for Evans, who finishes 2:23 (unofficial) behind the winner and looks like he might be out of the top three in the GC...
He finishes alongside Van Garderen and Schleck
Really deserved victory for Rolland. He was up in the breaks almost from the start and survived a crash on one of the descents. His attack with 11km to go on the final climb proved decisive.
Hearing confirmation that Evans is indeed down to fourth in the overall general classification. Froome and Nibali in second and third behind Wiggins.
Let's not forget that it was a 1-2 for France today. It's been a great couple of days for the host nation.
Selfless performance of the day? Van Garderen aiding his floundering teammate Evans through the last few kilometres. The American was looking much the stronger and had to sit with Evans while his rival for the white jersey, Pinot, was up the road.
TOP TEN FINISHERS - STAGE 11
1 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 4:43:54
2 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:00:55
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
4 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:00:57
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
7 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank 0:01:08
8 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:01:58
9 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team 0:02:13
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:02:23
TOP 10 IN THE GC AFTER STAGE 11
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 48:43:53
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:02:05
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:23
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:03:19
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:04:48
6 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:06:15
7 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:06:57
8 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:07:30
9 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:08:31
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:08:51
That's all from stage 11. Another great day for France and also for Europcar, who win their second consecutive stage. Rolland was a deserving winner with a display of power, stamina and courage after being up near the front for almost the whole day.
It was also another memorable day for Team Sky, who now occupy the first two spots in the overall general classification thanks to the performances of yellow jersey holder Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
We'll have a full report, results, highlights and photos from the stage right here as we get them.
And join us again tomorrow for live coverage of stage 12.