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Tour de France 2009: Stage 15


Hello cycling lovers, and welcome back to our Live coverage of the 2009 Tour de France. Today promises to be an epic stage, the second of three summit finishes at this year's Tour. We hope to see some decisive GC action on the road to Switzerland... stay tuned!

Unfortunately, the weather in Eastern France is not too good, there is a risk of some rain showers. But the sun is currently out on the finish in Verbier, so the riders are headed towards better conditions.

The battle for the polka dot jersey will continue today between Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel). The Italian has added four more points to his tally by being the first to cross today's first climb, the Côte du Rafour. He was followed by Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox) and Martinez in that order.

185km remaining from 207km

Yesterday, we were witnesses to another "fait divers" as they call it in French, when Bernard Hinault knocked an intruder off the ceremonial podium in Besancon. That was another impressive push by the man known as the "badger", also famous for his outspoken words on current racing.

The bunch is racing down the descent, all together. Bbox's Arashiro and Rabobank's Flecha punctured, and are chasing back on within the team car caravan.

There is a big chance that AG2R will be losing the yellow jersey today. Rinaldo Nocentini may not be a bad climber, but if the race unfolds as expected - as hoped - we should see some GC contenders attacking on the final climb to Verbier today. We doubt he will be able to hold their wheels once the going gets really tough.

Cyclingnews blogger Andy Schleck has also given us some insight lately. The Luxembourger is rated as a podium contender in Paris, but knows that competition is sharp: He still expects Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre to ride strongly and improve their placings, and also has a great deal of respect for Bradley Wiggins and current white jersey wearer Tony Martin.

165km remaining from 207km

The Frenchman has been denied an escape. Now, Pellizotti is again up there, hoping to consolidate his lead in the mountains classification.

A few riders have bridged up to Pellizotti now, and they have about 100 metres advance over the bunch.

159km remaining from 207km

Four rider are trying to bridge up to them: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin), Christophe Kern, Amael Moinard (both Cofidis) and Simon Spilak (Lampre). Interesting: Cofidis sends out antoher two riders to help Moncoutié. He should be motivated for today's finish in Verbier, as he has given up hope for the polkadot jersey.

The four chasers have joined the break. We have 12 riders out there; they have a 30 seconds gap.

155km remaining from 207km

Interesting to note that Van den Broeck is also out there. He could be of valuable help to his team leader Cadel Evans later on. The same goes for Cancellara, who should be working for Andy Schleck. Then again, the Swiss time trial champion has proven that he can also climb - and a victory in his home country would surely be appealing!

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), David Millar (Garmin) and Tony Martin (Columbia) have joined the escape! We now have 15 riders off the front, and a high-quality group going.

White jersey wearer Martin is currently eighth on general classification, only one minute behind Nocentini. He could be dangerous and might have a negative impact on the break...

141km remaining from 207km

137km remaining from 207km

Hesjedal now has 1.20 minutes over the peloton and 27 seconds over the chasers. Not bad at all!

The peloton is letting the break go. It is already at two minutes from Hesjedal.

Hesjedal sits up in the descent of the Côte du Prevenloup. He will have more opportunities if he waits for the others.

130km remaining from 207km

126km remaining from 207km

It's been quite a stressful first part of the stage, raced rapidly with plenty of attacks. Now, a bit of peace is reigning inside the bunch, with Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) riding next to Lance Armstrong, the two engaged in conversation.

The Australian has Andy Schleck on his wheel. It is not yet time for any GC action, but the Luxembourg champion still prefers to ride to the front of the bunch...

117km remaining from 207km

The riders are approaching the feed zone. The sun is out now, with only a few scattered clouds up in the Swiss sky. The roads are undulating, but Swiss tarmac is definitely a smooth ride.

The bunch is strong out, the pace should be picking up a bit.

At the feed point, Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R) has abandoned. The Russian crashed badly the other day, and suffered injuries to his face, shoulder and ribcage. That's a blow to the French team, which still aims at defending Nocentini's yellow jersey today.

97km remaining from 207km

Swiss champion Cancellara should be enjoying his ride today. Plenty of people on the roadside to cheer him on - who knows, the 2009 Tour de Suisse winner could even fly to a victory today. The final climb may be hard (8.8km at 7.5%), but it is not the Mont Ventoux yet, either.

'Red lantern' Kenny Van Hummel (Skil) is having difficulties as soon as the road climbs a bit. Hopefully he will be able to hold on to the autobus later on, otherwise he might end up a DNF...

The race continues to unfold under bright sunshine, although it is not very hot: only 13° Celsius, with a very light headwind. Dimitri Murayev leads out the bunch, elbows on his handlebars. It's still very rolling.

85km remaining from 207km

There are many spectators out on the first slopes of the ascent. Van Den Broeck leads the break, with Swiss champ Cancellara in third position.

The peloton is also getting ready for the mountain. Astana and Garmin riders are in the front - will the first attacks come on this climb already? It is a long way between this climb and the last one up to Verbier, though.

80km remaining from 207km

The last rider on GC, Van Hummel (Skil) has lost contact with the bunch. It will be very hard for him to finish the stage on his own...

Armstrong is still riding to the back end of the bunch, whereas all of his Astana teammates are in front. He must be certain that nothing will happen on this climb! Risky business...

76km remaining from 207km

Popovych gets some water for his team, including Armstrong, still deep inside the peloton. Nothing happens, they are taking it easy.

Moncoutié leads the break as the approach the summit. People love this!

72km remaining from 207km

Here comes the bunch.... There are plenty of motorhomes parked on the sides of the road, too. Let's see. They are 3.26 minutes back at the summit.

It's a fast descent, they are really speeding down towards the valley leading to the final climb. That's where it's going to happen, we hope!

Cancellara is off the front now... he's got maybe 200 metres over the rest of the break. We wonder - would he really try to go for it on his own? It is still 60 kilometres to the finish.

Some Liquigas riders are driviing the bunch now together with Astana. We haven't seen much of Vincenzo Nibali yet, but he is only a few seconds behind Andy Schleck in the best young rider classification.

55km remaining from 207km

Liquigas is still helping Astana in the pace making as they drive through some Swiss vineyards.

There is still a light back wind down in the valley. This will help the break, but it might still be caught before the finish as it failed to build up a sufficient advantage due to the presence of Astarloza, 18th on general classification at 3.02 minutes of the leader, AG2R's Rinaldo Nocentini.

Armstrong is back with his teammates at the front of the peloton. He took some time out earlier on the Col des Mosses and hid inside the bunch, letting his fellow Astana riders do their job alone.

40km remaining from 207km

The leader's advantage is coming down a bit now, as Astana is putting the pace on.

33km remaining from 207km

Well, this should help Astana as Liquigas is really sharing the work with them, with three riders on the front now.

Cyclingnews blogger Ryder Hesjedal, who's also in the breakaway, wrote in during the week that he had struggled on stage 13 into Colmar. He's been looking a lot better today in Switzerland!

There is a huge crowd in Martigny to greet the breakaway as they drive through the intermediate sprint.

24km remaining from 207km

21km remaining from 207km

Spilak has accelerated and created a gap to his former breakaway mates. He has 20 seconds already at the 20kms-to-go banner.

16km remaining from 207km

15km remaining from 207km

Spilak has one minute. Astarloza tries to go after him, and this makes the chasers' pace pick up.

Back in the bunch, Milram is now lending a hand in the chase with four riders lined up at the front. Linus Gerdmann is in third position.

10km remaining from 207km

Wegmann is pulling for Milram, now Saxo Bank has taken over. The pace has really picked up now.

Spilak is still pushing hard at the front.

Now Jens Voigt has taken over, burying himself. Astarloza, who was chasing Spilak alone, is back with the former breakaway.

6km remaining from 207km

Cancellara gives everything... Armstrong in third position behind Klöden.

Fränk Schleck tries something, marked by Contador. Armstrong jst behind.

Yes! Contador attacks! Andy Schleck tries to follow. The race is finally on!

Armstrong does not respond. he looks around at Fränk Schleck, Wiggins, etc. to chase.

Evans is there, too, but doesn't look like he can do any chasing. Andy Schleck is still between the Armstrong group and Contador.

4km remaining from 207km

Contador is likely to take the stage if he doesn't explode.

'Wiggo' attacks! But he's not going anywhere, marked by Fränk Schleck.

The older brother continues - he wants to bridge up to Andy.

2km remaining from 207km

Sastre and Evans attack!!! No response from Armstrong - he has to let them go.

Contador has 1 km to go inside the barriers. Andy is 42 seconds back, Fränk 57 seconds. Armstrong is 1.16 back.

Wiggins drives the chasers. Sastre has diffculties.

Contador gets out of the saddle once more as the spectators go wild. Here he comes over the line and shoots his gun!

Here comes Andy Schleck. 42 seconds down.

The Wiggins group is in the finish. Evans tries to get some seconds as Klöden also accelerates in the last 100 metres, leaving his leader behind.

Nocentini gets in 2.38 minutes behind. What a race!

Contador looks to be the man to beat at this race after what we've seen today! He takes the yellow jersey with Armstrong second, at 1.37 minutes, with Wiggins third at 1.46 minutes!

Thanks for having joined us again today. Look out for official results and the full report of the day the Astana leadership was finally decided....

Provisional results:

1 Alberto Contador (Astana)
2 Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 0.42
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), 01.02
4 Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank)
5 Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream)
6 Carlos Sastre (Cervelo)
7 Cadel Evans (Lotto)
8 Andreas Kloden (Astana)
9 Lance Armstrong (Astana)
10 Kim Kirchen (Columbia)
11 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)

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