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Arvesen captures stage in ultra-close finish

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Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank)

Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) (Image credit: AFP)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) battles with Martin Elmiger (AG2R)

Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) battles with Martin Elmiger (AG2R) (Image credit: AFP)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) enjoys his first day in yellow.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) enjoys his first day in yellow. (Image credit: AFP)
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The group of 13 escaped after the first sprint of stage 11

The group of 13 escaped after the first sprint of stage 11 (Image credit: AFP)
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Amaël Moinard struck out on his own with 70km to go

Amaël Moinard struck out on his own with 70km to go (Image credit: AFP)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went too soon

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went too soon (Image credit: AFP)
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Fränk Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) checks the secret Garmin GPS devices.

Fränk Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) checks the secret Garmin GPS devices. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Evans' first day in yellow

Evans' first day in yellow (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) enjoyed the day in yellow.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) enjoyed the day in yellow. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) enjoys his first day in yellow.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) enjoys his first day in yellow. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) was sure he had the win, but it came down to a photo finish.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) was sure he had the win, but it came down to a photo finish. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went too soon and lost the sprint to Arvesen and Elmiger.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went too soon and lost the sprint to Arvesen and Elmiger. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) battles with Martin Elmiger (AG2R) for the stage win in Foix.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) battles with Martin Elmiger (AG2R) for the stage win in Foix. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) gets his first Tour stage win in Foix.

Norwegian champion Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) gets his first Tour stage win in Foix. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans was more composed his second time up on the yellow jersey podium.

Cadel Evans was more composed his second time up on the yellow jersey podium. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) has two guns and he fired them to win the eleventh stage.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) has two guns and he fired them to win the eleventh stage. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) receives his second yellow jersey and his second prize lion.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) receives his second yellow jersey and his second prize lion. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Amaël Moinard (Cofidis) douses himself with water as he tries to hold off the chasing group.

Amaël Moinard (Cofidis) douses himself with water as he tries to hold off the chasing group. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Amaël Moinard struck out on his own with 70km to go from the escape group of 15.

Amaël Moinard struck out on his own with 70km to go from the escape group of 15. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The group of 15 escaped after the first sprint of stage 11 and was instigated in part by stage winner Kurt-Asle Arvesen.

The group of 15 escaped after the first sprint of stage 11 and was instigated in part by stage winner Kurt-Asle Arvesen. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The sprint for stage 11 was decided by the camera with all three riders within centimetres of each other.

The sprint for stage 11 was decided by the camera with all three riders within centimetres of each other. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Arvesen think's he's got it but Elmiger was close with the bike throw.

Arvesen think's he's got it but Elmiger was close with the bike throw. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans enjoyed a relatively calm day in the yellow jersey.

Cadel Evans enjoyed a relatively calm day in the yellow jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fränk Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) gets his feed ahead of the Silence-Lotto squad.

Fränk Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) gets his feed ahead of the Silence-Lotto squad. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen nearly celebrated too soon but still won by a tyre.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen nearly celebrated too soon but still won by a tyre. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Claudio Corti (Barloworld manager) reacts to news that one of his riders was found with banned drugs.

Claudio Corti (Barloworld manager) reacts to news that one of his riders was found with banned drugs. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) rides in the break of 13 which went clear 60km into the stage.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) rides in the break of 13 which went clear 60km into the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Spring classics stars Alessandro Ballan and Filippo Pozzato found the course to their liking on stage 11.

Spring classics stars Alessandro Ballan and Filippo Pozzato found the course to their liking on stage 11. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kurt-Asle Arvesen gives the thumbs up after taking his first Tour stage.

Kurt-Asle Arvesen gives the thumbs up after taking his first Tour stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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A big smile for Arvesen as he steps onto the podium after winning stage 11 in Foix.

A big smile for Arvesen as he steps onto the podium after winning stage 11 in Foix. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) just couldn't get to speed after chasing the late attacks.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) just couldn't get to speed after chasing the late attacks. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire lost some ground in the green jersey competition to Thor Hushovd, but still leads the Norwegian by 11 points.

Oscar Freire lost some ground in the green jersey competition to Thor Hushovd, but still leads the Norwegian by 11 points. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans held the yellow jersey for the second stage.

Cadel Evans held the yellow jersey for the second stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato was mad about his hair all messy and then he lost the sprint, too.

Pozzato was mad about his hair all messy and then he lost the sprint, too. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) looked beat despite the 15 extra minutes that he and the peloton took.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) looked beat despite the 15 extra minutes that he and the peloton took. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Pozzato leads Wegmann in the break.

Pozzato leads Wegmann in the break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Amaël Moinard tried to steal the show but the break caught him in time.

Amaël Moinard tried to steal the show but the break caught him in time. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The break sped by a castle.

The break sped by a castle. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) sweats in yellow and his bleeding shoulder messed up the colour a bit.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) sweats in yellow and his bleeding shoulder messed up the colour a bit. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The race was on in southwestern France.

The race was on in southwestern France. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Evans pushes through and stays close to the front.

Evans pushes through and stays close to the front. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) had better days in the Tour than stage 11.

Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) had better days in the Tour than stage 11. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Longo Borghini got caught in some wire and eventually abandoned the race.

Longo Borghini got caught in some wire and eventually abandoned the race. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The peloton rushes by the typical straw figures in the Pyrenees.

The peloton rushes by the typical straw figures in the Pyrenees. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The bike of Cadel Evans with which he stormed into yellow.

The bike of Cadel Evans with which he stormed into yellow. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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The Silence-Lotto jersey signed by Cadel Evans. Evans will give the jersey to charities.

The Silence-Lotto jersey signed by Cadel Evans. Evans will give the jersey to charities. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)

No change in overall standings, Evans retains yellow

Norwegian national champion Kurt Asle Arvesen (CSC – Saxo Bank) sprinted to a narrow victory over Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) to take the first Tour de France stage victory of his 11-year career

"This is the biggest win in my career. I won the Under-23 World Championship and two stages at the Giro, but it can't get better than winning a stage at the Tour in the national jersey," said Arvesen. "I've been waiting for this victory since I did the Tour the first time. I was second in 2005 [in Stage 17 from Pau to Revel, he lost to Paolo Savoldelli - ed.], so this is good revenge," said Arvesen.

Bjarne Riis, the directeur sportif of Team CSC - Saxo Bank, was happy when he heard that Arvesen won the stage. "It's a super win for Kurt. And it is super for us. It was a great stage – une belle étappe!"

The three men who battled out the finale were the fastest of a 13-man break which went clear in the first hour of the 167.5 kilometre transition stage from Lannemezan to Foix. The group worked together to gain a winning margin despite Frenchman Amaël Moinard (Cofidis) escaping from the leaders with 65 kilometres to go.

The remaining dozen kept Moinard at a reasonable gap, and slowly brought him back with less than five kilometres to go, setting up an attack by Elmiger which only Arvesen and Ballan could follow. "I knew that the breakaway would be a good one," said Elmiger. "Nobody was dangerous on general classification, but I knew it will not be easy to win with Pozzato, Ballan and others good riders.

The Swiss rider nearly won the stage with a last second thrust forward, but Arvesen was awarded the stage after the referees reviewed the photo finish. "Two centimetres on the finish line – it's difficult but I wasn't in a good condition today and second is not so bad even if everybody wishes to win! In the last days I was a little bit ill, but nothing serious and I'm not 100% of my capacities yet!"

Ballan did not immediately respond to the attack of Elmiger, and paid the price for it in the sprint. "I did a lot to a lot to re-join those two. I spent too much energy, unfortunately, and also Arvesen is very fast."

Moinard was disappointed to have been caught after his 60 kilometre solo ride, but is proud of the performance of his team so far. "We were already up there in the first days of the Tour, with Stéphane [Augé] and Sylvain [Chavanel]. I have super team-mates at Cofidis."

He explained why he put in what seemed to be an ill-timed and futile bid for solo glory. "You have to attack. It is what you need to do in sports," he said, explaining why. "No Frenchman can win the Tour de France [this year]."

Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank) and Alexandre Botcharov (Crédit Agricole) got away for fourth and fifth. Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom) won the small sprint for sixth.

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), also in the escape, saw Arvesen suffering early on. "On the climb he was behind and I thought he did not have the best legs, but in the finale he put his best legs on!"

The day was relatively calm in the peloton as Arvesen and company got about business. Fränk Schleck's CSC-Saxo Bank and Evans' Silence-Lotto teams did most of the control work, letting the gap of the escapees reach 16'30" over the top of the Col de Portel at kilometre 110. The gap had closed only slightly when Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) led the group over the finish line.

Race leader Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) finished safely in the main bunch after a largely uneventful day for the general classification contenders. He thus retained his one second lead over Frank Schleck (CSC – Saxo Bank), with Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Chipotle) remaining 38 seconds back in third overall.

"Sunday was really bad," said Evans of the day he crashed hard during stage nine. During a "good" rest day yesterday, Evans saw his family, ate and recovered from his crash injuries.

"Many had doubts about Silence-Lotto. I was motivated and I am very happy now." The Australian enjoyed the day in the brightly coloured maillot jaune. "More people are shouting your name when you are in the yellow jersey. It give you a lot more recognition," said Evans.

Even Evan's bodyguard had something positive to say about his yellow-clad employer. "He is a great guy. He is too nice for professional cycling!"

The only surprise for these riders was the attack of 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), the Spaniard pulling over a minute clear but eventually being recaptured on the run in towards the finish.

How it unfolded

The action started way before the start, when it became clear that Barloworld's Moisés Dueñas had tested positive for EPO and was taken out of the race by his team. He had some questions to answer for local police, too. Team Barloworld took the start nonetheless.

The remaining 168 riders set off at 12:36, with the real start at 12:44. A small break tried to go after a dozen kilometres, but the teams held everything together for a bunch sprint at the intermediate sprint in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (km 19.5). Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) took the points ahead of Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

The ensuing chaos and jumping was used by Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) to sneak off the front by himself. Voeckler was caught by a large group at kilometre 28. Everybody was reeled in by the fast moving peloton shortly thereafter.

Then Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) attacked at kilometre 35. They were soon joined by a few other riders, making the front group 13 riders strong.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom), Kurt Asle Arvesen (CSC - Saxo Bank), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Alexandre Botcharov and Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole), Martin Elmiger (AG2R La Mondiale), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Koos Moerenhout (Rabobank), Marco Velo (Milram), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) and Amaël Moinard (Cofidis).

The group quickly gained three minutes. The top riders on top of the Col de Larrieu, after 50 kilometres, were Botcharov, Fédrigo, Ballan and Moinard.

Despite the category three climb, the break had covered 47.5 kilometres in the first hour, which is why Gert Steegmans (Quick Step) dropped out of the formation and back into the more relaxed peloton.

On the other hand, José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) was trying to bridge up from behind.

Pozzato took the sprint in Prat-Bonrepaux after 69 kilometres ahead of Velo and Moerenhout. The gap had skyrocketed to over 11 minutes. And after 92 kilometres covered it was a 14 minutes.

Silence-Lotto and Garmin were controlling the pace on the front of the peloton, but didn't use up their last ounce of energy.

With a good 100 kilometres covered, Moinard decided to take matters in his own hands and left the break. He was first over the top of the Col de Portel, a category one climb. The break followed 1'50 behind, with Fofonov, Fédrigo, Ballan, Wegmann, Vaugrenard, Arvesen and Pozzato receiving the remaining points.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) attacked the peloton in a stunning move ­ was he out for some extra training? Over the top, Pereiro was 14'35 behind Moinard and about two minutes ahead of the pack.

More bad news for Barloworld, when its rider Félix Rafael Cárdenas had to abandon the race.

Moinard had a maximum gap of more than two minutes, but over the top of the final climb of the day, the col de Bouich, he was only a good minute ahead. Ballan led the chasers over the top, ahead of Arvesen and Velo. The break realised they had to go full gas and quickly gained ground. With 17 kilometres to go the gap was merely half a minute.

Pereiro continued to pedal a minute ahead of the field, which in turn was more than a quarter of an hour behind.

Another short rise and the ensuing fast descent, but unfortunately for Moinard the gap had dropped to 22 seconds. Ballan was really driving it now, Almost passing the motor bikes on the right hand bend that marked the beginning of the descent.

Moinard was not more than a handful of seconds ahead, but the break started to play games. However, Moinard was too tired to resist and with three kilometres to go, Elmiger and Arvesen caught up with him. Moinard tried to stay in their slipstream, but was unable to do so.

The super active Ballan managed to join the leaders with two kilometres to go. Moerenhout jumped as well, and the four stayed away to make for an exciting four-up sprint. Arvesen hung on by only a couple of centimetres.

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