Welcome to live coverage of stage eleven of the Tour de France, a lumpy run from Lannemezan to Foix. The race is heading east, moving close to the borders with Spain and Andorra, and today's stage should be perfect for breakaway riders to give it a shot.
In addition to the finish itself, there are five points along today's route which will be of interest to ambitious riders. They are the three climbs, namely:
The riders rolled out today at 12.35 and a thirteen-man group tried to go clear soon afterwards. However these were all recaptured before the first sprint, which was taken by Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) ahead of Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and points leader Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
Three kilometres after the sprint, in other words 22.5 kilometres into the stage, a group of 15 riders went clear. The bunch brought them back but one of those present, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), clipped away before the juncture and continued on alone.
40km remaining from 167km
Eleven riders clipped away a few clicks ago. CSC's Norwegian champ Kurt Asle Arvesen and Germany's road title holder Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) were the catalysts.
Unfortunately for the sport, the past 24 hours have been difficult ones. First off, the collapse of the ProTour puts a big question mark over the administration of cycling. A lot of things need to be clarified at this point; are the teams and Grand Tour organisers considering going in a completely new direction, or will the riders remain part of the UCI? If so, will they be liable to sanction?
If both B samples confirm the findings, it will be a big blow for cycling. Riders simply have to understand that it's time for change. Otherwise, teams, sponsors and the sport itself will suffer greatly.
Cyclingnews has another jersey give away. After the many entries of last week, today you have the chance to win a Garmin Chipotle - H30 jersey. And it is signed by the entire Tour team!
Two others recently bridged across, namely Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Pierrick F
Botcharov took the four points for first place on the Col de Larrieu, with F
60km remaining from 167km
The break has certainly been moving it on this warm, sunny day in France. It covered 47.5 kilometres in the first hour of racing, and has continued to work hard since.
Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne) has been chasing and has caught and passed Steegmans. The Spaniard is just over a minute back, with Steegmans losing time and the peloton almost six minutes behind now. This seems to be the break of the day.
Yesterday's rest day in Pau was not just marked by press conferences by Tour teams. Tinkoff Credit Systems was there and it announced a name change and considerable increase in budget for next season.
Regarding the Garmin jersey contest: Please send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org (and remember, put your 1-2-3 picks in the subject line).
Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) has dropped out of the race with a broken collarbone.
75km remaining from 167km
The leading group went through the bonus sprint at Prat-Bonrepaux several kilometres ago. Pozzato took first there, ahead of Velo and Moerenhout.
80km remaining from 167km
Correction: It's Marco Velo (Milram) rather than Pieter Weening (Rabobank) who is in this break.
Cadel Evans' Silence Lotto team is at the front of the peloton, but something bizarre is happening. They have been riding to limit the break's time gains, but someone has let the wheel go and the peloton sits up. The riders at the front are gesturing backwards, as if to say 'hey! What the heck are you playing at?'
82km remaining from 167km
Some return to normality has taken place; the rest of the bunch latches onto the back of the Silence-Lotto riders, who are riding tempo now.
92km remaining from 167km
The peloton is really letting this break go; the leaders are now 13'56 clear.
97km remaining from 167km
The break is on the foothills of today's category one climb, that of the Col de Portel. The break is rolling through nicely, content in the knowledge that with a lead of 14'29, one of them will take the stage. Who will it be?
James from Iowa sends a message in regarding the earlier commentary:
Pozzato leads the break on the climb. He's got to be one of the favourites for the victory. He's one of the riders rumoured to be joining the new Russian super-team we mentioned earlier. The management said that it would abide by UCI rules preventing teams from disclosing their new signings before September first, but it's possible that confirmation of any such move could come before then.
The peloton is certainly taking things easy today. Following yesterday's rest day, those in the bunch have decided a second one is in order. Of course, it's still tough riding any Tour stage, but the relaxed pace will certainly be easier on the system than some of the manic racing we saw in the first week.
Pozzato is clearly feeling good, and continues to do most of the work on the climb. Further back, Vaugrenard is quick happy to sit at the rear of the break.
Cadel Evans reflected on the difference of riding in yellow. "It's a bit busy," referring to the media attention. Yellow or not, dealing with a jersey is tough these days for the Aussie. He told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow that it didn't feel any special to put on yellow in the morning. Instead, "It hurt."
Moinard isn't happy with the pace and decides to take a flyer..
103km remaining from 167km
He rounds the hairpin bends here, looking back occasionally. The others in the break are not too worried, though, knowing that if they ride tempo they will haul him back.
Penny in Atlanta sent in two questions:
Moinard keeps plugging away. Several kilometres behind him, Caisse d'Epargne rider Oscar Pereiro attacks alone. We are not sure of the reason for that; he's not going to close this gap by himself. Perhaps Alejandro Valverde wants to take back some of the time he lost, and will bridge across later? It's going to be difficult to sneak away from the Silence - Lotto led peloton.
106km remaining from 167km
Moinard is cheered on by spectators as he climbs towards the summit. He's got approximately four kilometres to go, and has opened up a lead of 1'22 over the others in the break.
110km remaining from 167km
Moinard goes over the top of the climb and continues to plug away, wishing to further increase his lead on the descent. He's in and out of the saddle, accelerating back up to speed after the slower corners.
The CSC team now move to the front of the peloton, seeking to limit the gains of Oscar Pereiro.
Mike from Minneapolis writes in to ask the following:
Robbie McEwen revealed the game plan to Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow for the day. "We'll be setting the pace in the front, but Cadel is leading by only one second and there are a few riders still capable of winning this Tour. So we won't be burying ourselves. We'd be happy for a break to get up the road with no contenders and let them get a bit of time and then it's up to others if they want to try to bring it back. It's really about trying to keep things under control, keep Cadel safe, make sure we keep an eye on his closest rivals and saving energy."
Pereiro started the day 17th overall, 6.01 back. He lost much of that time when he waited for Alejandro Valverde, a tactic that some questioned after the stage.
The order over the top of the Col de Portel was:
120km remaining from 167km
The peloton is still on the climb, while Moinard has been descending for several minutes. Pereiro is still clear and appears to be climbing well.
Pereiro grabs some Coke on the climb (not the Tom Boonen variety) and knocks it back.
Further details emerge about Moisés Dueñas. Team Barloworld manager Claudio Corti and team doctor Massimiliano Mantovani accompanied the rider to the police station.
127km remaining from 167km
We believe that Alexandre Botcharov is best-placed of the riders in the break, starting the day 20'47" back in 35th place overall.
Another Barloworld rider has pulled out of the race: Felix C
141km remaining from 167km
Moinard continues to plug away at the front, while behind the others all try to get him back. He's doing well, holding onto his gap for now.
142km remaining from 167km
Let's give an update of the time gaps:
Moinard now crosses the third category Col Del Bouich, then taking a sticky bottle or two from the team car.
Ballan and Arvesen were second and third on the climb. The ascent saw a chunk of Moinard's lead nibbled away; he's now 1'04 clear.
Moinard passes the 20km to go sign. This concludes our online guessing game for the Garmin shirt. We will announce the winner later today, after the stage (obviously).
149km remaining from 167km
Velo was fourth over the top and received one more point for the KOM jersey. Well, one point is better than none.
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