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Tour de France 2009: Stage 17

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Good morning and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of what is considered the Queen Stage of this year's Tour de France, a five mountain monster running 169.5 kilometres from Bourg Saint Maurice to Le Grand Bornand. Short but savage is the theme, with four category one climbs and one cat two ascent creating a crocodile teeth parcours, and certain to cause shakeups in the general classification.

The riders are in the neutralised section - now they start! Mark Cavendish was right up front by the race director's car - he knows a tough day is in store.

For those of you following yesterday's coverage, there was a frightening crash with Jens Voigt at the top of the day's final descent. The Saxo Bank rider lost control of his bike (most likely after hitting a bump) and was hurled to the ground, sliding along on his face. Fortunately it looked a little worse than it turned out; Jens fractured the bone below his eye and suffered cuts to his face and right side, but is expected to make a full recovery. We wish him the best.

The riders are not waiting around...several are trying to get clear on this first climb, the 1968 metre Cormet de Roselend. The race started on an uphill - indeed, you'd be hard pushed to find a flat road on today's stage.

David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) and Linus Gerdemann (Milram) are away. Gerdemann has had a Tour to forget, but is hoping to get something out of it.

Meanwhile there was a crash at the back of the peloton, wtih several riders momentarily delayed. As it was going uphill we don't expect any serious injuries.

165km remaining from 169km

There's a whole lotta jumping around at the moment, as riders try to get something established.

Meanwhile Laurent Lefevre (BBox Bougues Telecom) is off the back, most likely due to that crash.

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) is ahead, with three riders further back and chasing. Like yesterday, riders will be hoping to go up the road early on and build enough of a lead to hold off the inevitable fireworks behind.

163km remaining from 169km

To clarify, Gerdemann and Arroyo were caugh prior to Chavanel's pushing clear.

The latter has 12km to go until the summit.

Cadel Evans is at the back of the peloton and struggling. He's clearly not right in this year's Tour; he said after yesterday's stage that he was going to get medical checks done.

Like many riders who have been going well in the Dauphine over the years, he hasn't kept the same form in the Tour.

We hope that Cadel can work out what the problem is and get back to strong form this season; if so, he's got the Vuelta and world championships to aim for.

Behind, Astana has decided that it doesn't like all the jumping around and is setting a brisk pace. Paulinho and Popovych are on the front.

Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) was off the front in a small group but the peloton have caught them.

157km remaining from 169km

A group of riders is clear, including – surprisingly – Denis Menchov (Rabobank). He’s been utterly anonymous thus far in this race.

The ten man leading group is: Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Dave Zabriskie (Garmin Slipstream), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence Lotto), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel Euskadi), Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Remi Pauriol (Cofidis), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).
 

156km remaining from 169km

The ten leaders are now 1'15 ahead. The weather looks dodgy...riders are putting on gillets as they head up this mountain. The skies are considerably darker too.

Laurens ten Dam (Rabobank) was down the back but makes his way back up. Meanwhile David MIllar (Garmin Slipstream) drifts backwards...we are not sure if he is in difficulty or waiting for the team car...probably the latter.

There is a chasing group 35 seconds behind the leaders...bear with us.

Maxime Monfort (Columbia HTC), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre NGC) and Pierre Rolland (BBox Bouygues Telecom) are the chasers.

Astana continue to lead the group behind, with several Garmin riders right behind them.

Lance Armstrong started the day 1.37 back and, with a mainly flat 40.5 kilometre time trial coming up tomorrow, he is within striking distance of Alberto Contador. He's ruled out going for the Tour win, though. www.cyclingnews.com/news/lance-armstrong-rules-out-tour-de-france-win

Alberto Contador may be aiming to take a little more time out of all the GC riders today, though, just to make sure he has a comfortable advantage going into the TT.

Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi) has attacked from the bunch and is trying to get across to the chase group. He was in contention for the mountains classification but Pellizotti has a big lead now.

Here's the standings as of this morning:

1, Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) 159 pts
2, Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel - Euskadi) 101
3, Pierrick Fedrigo (BBOX Bouygues Telecom) 97
 

152km remaining from 169km

Gerdemann (Milram) tried to get clear of the peloton but he just doesn't have the gas to stay away. He's not riding as well as he should in this year's race.

Up front, the break is nearing the top of the climb. Pellizotti will aim to add to his total. He's looking good for the overall KOM win at this point.

'Spotty' Pellizotti adds to his points, with Casar and Chavanel next over.

Behind, Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Thor Hushovd (!) jump clear of the peloton on the climb. They are over the top now.

Evans is at the back of the bunch, but having a rough day.

This descent looks very slippery - the riders are taking care heading down it. It's raining fairly hard now.

Good going - Hushovd and Voeckler have made it up to the front group. Hushovd is motivated by the thoughts of taking more points for the green jersey competition...there are two bonus sprints today, at Praz sur Arly (km 75.5) and Cluses (km 126).

The gap is 1'15". That's really impressive - the two tore across to the group.

There are now 22 riders up front, with Hushovd, Voeckler, Hincapie, Martinez and others having got across in recent kilometres. Here's the list of names:

Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Dave Zabriskie (Garmin Slipstream), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence Lotto), Ruben Perez, Egoi Martinez, Amets Txurruka, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Remi Pauriol and Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Maxime Monfort (Columbia HTC), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre NGC), Pierre Rolland, Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team), Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r La Mondiale), George Hincapie (Columbia HTC), Linus Gerdeman (Milram).

They are 2'20 ahead of the peloton, and rolling down a wet descent. The sun has come out, though...

130km remaining from 169km

Hushovd will aim to get over this next climb with the leaders, then go for the bonus sprint.

Hushovd doesn't trust his climbing abilities enough and has gone ahead of the others. He wants to get a head start on this climb, the category one Cold des Saisies.

Behind, Alberto Contador struggles momentarily to take off his race jacket. Kloden comes alongside and offers to help, but the Spaniard gets it sorted.

125km remaining from 169km

Hushovd is over 11km from the summit, and is 2'55 ahead of the Contador peloton. That group is quite big.

Here's an idea of today's climbs. Hushovd is alone on the second of these.

Km 18.0 - Cormet de Roselend (Category 1) 18.1 km at 5.7 %
Km 56.0 - Col des Saisies (Category 1) 15.1 km at 6 %
Km 111.5 - Côte d'Araches (Category 2) 6.3 km at 7 %
Km 140.5 - Col de Romme (Category 1) 8.8 km at 8.9 %
Km 154.5 - Col de la Colombière (Category 1) 7.5 km at 8.5 %
 

Contador has dropped right back and is looking for his team car...He's got a bike problem.. Ah, rear wheel...slow change too.

He's now on his way back up...the group should wait, as he's the race leader.

The race leader rejoins the group now, taking off his jersey at the back of the peloton.

Hushovd pushes onwards, getting plenty of cheers from a (surprised) crowd.

His Cervelo has green on it, as do his Zipp wheels.. He's gone with white and black shorts, though...

Stuart O'Grady and Fabian Cancellara are now leading the main bunch. Meanwhile the group behind Hushovd continue onwards up the climb.

Chavanel is now jumping away from this group. Hushovd is heading downhill, but it's just a temporary respite on this climb.

Chavanel has been joined by Kern, Pellizotti and Martinez. They are 1'50" behind Hushovd, who is 5'47" ahead of the Saxo Bank-led peloton.

O'Grady's rear wheel is sending a splume of water into the faces of his team-mates....it's a grim day out there, folks.

119km remaining from 169km

Still Saxo Bank on the front, trying to turn the screw a little. It's not flat out, by any means, but they want to put pressure on Astana and the other teams.

117km remaining from 169km

This was the points classification this morning. Hushovd will add 12 points to his total if he gets today's two sprints....that should really make things look good for his maillot vert ambitions.

Meanwhile his closest rival Mark Cavendish (Columbia HTC) is drifting backwards on the climb. Hushovd has underlined that this classification isn't won only in bunch finishes.


1, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) 218 pts
2, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - HTC) 200
3, Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Caisse d'Epargne) 126

The day's second intermediate sprint comes at km 126, after the descent of the second category Cote d'Arches.

The group behind is split, with Pellizotti plus several others ahead.

Up front, Hushovd signals for his team car. He grabs a bottle, which is not particularly sticky.

Tony Martin is at the back of the peloton. He might be waiting for another team-mate, perhaps...not sure..

Yes, he and Rogers appear to be with Kim Kirchen, who might be in difficulty. He had said yesterday that he thought he was coming back into form. www.cyclingnews.com/news/resurgent-kirchen-rides-back-into-form

115km remaining from 169km

Hushovd goes over the top of the climb. The group behind appears to be more or less back together, although it ruptures temporarily when Pellizotti sprints for the KOM points ahead of Kern and Martinez.

O'Grady is in the group with Kirchen, Rogers and Martin. He's really suffering today.

Cancellara clipped a spectator's flag...he seems fine, but was pretty annoyed. Some spectators really need to think of the riders...grrrr....

101km remaining from 169km

Hushovd remains ahead, alone, with the chasing group together and O'Grady/Cancellara at the front of the peloton. All are descending now.

Here's the current situation:


Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team)

Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Dave Zabriskie (Garmin Slipstream), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence Lotto), Ruben Perez, Egoi Martinez, Amets Txurruka, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Remi Pauriol and Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Maxime Monfort (Columbia HTC), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre NGC), Pierre Rolland, Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r La Mondiale), George Hincapie (Columbia HTC), Linus Gerdeman (Milram) at 1.05

Peloton at 5.01.
 

This descent is fun! There's loads of switchbacks near the bottom, so Hushovd is arcing right and left in quick succession. Could be hairy in the bunch, though.

Hushovd now takes maxiumum points at that intermediate sprint. He's 5'27 ahead of the bunch, and doesn't appear under any pressure. He'll push onwards, grab some scoff in the feed zone and then aim to get over the next climb and take the points in the valley.

Hushovd gestures to the TV cameras, holding the green jersey and appearing to say 'this is mine'. He may well be aiming to build a substantial points lead before Paris, so nobody can say Cavendish' disqualification won him the competition.

Sandy Casar started today 5'40" back, so that's quite possibly one reason why Saxo Bank are riding. That, and putting Astana under pressure.

The group is 1'31" back from Hushovd, while the peloton is 5'42" behind.

Hushovd really is going well in this Tour; there's not many sprinters who would attack on a mountain stage, let alone one as tough as this...

86km remaining from 169km

Woah! Hushovd overcooked a bend and nearly did a Frank Schleck Tour de Suisse 2008 - one more second and he'd have been up and over the barricade. He locked it up, went into the grass and quickly got back onto the road without too much delay.  Then, he made a gesture as if to say it was no big thing!

The Tour de France is certainly far from over, and there is no guarantee that Contador will keep this yellow jersey today or even on Sunday in Paris. Saxo Bank appears to be intent on doing something today, and are controlling the front of the peloton with Cancellara and O'Grady.

Up front, Hushovd is hurtling down the descent like a madman hoping to stay clear for the second sprint bonus of the day. We will dare to say the chasers behind won't be too concerned to catch him.

Crash! That same corner where Hushovd nearly went off road claimed a few riders from the chase group. Txurruka went down,  but is getting a new bike. Looked as if Menchov hit the deck, too.

The directors in the team cars will be aware of the wrecks ahead and will be telling their riders to be careful on that bend. Fortunately, the apex of the turn has an earthen berm which would stop any rider from plummeting down into the valley below.

The sun is coming out and drying up the roads... but that hasn't helped Menchov at all since he hit a paint strip in a turn in town and crashed again! Poor Denis, he's having the roughest Tour of his life. Definitely a huge contrast from the Giro... well, except of course for that crash in the final time trial.

Hushovd has one category two climb ahead of him, the Araches, before he can put his descending skills to good use toward the second sprint bonus of the day in Cluses. That crash in the chasing group will give the Cervelo rider an advantage of few seconds.

99km remaining from 169km

Indeed, Hushovd's lead has gone out to two minutes now. Menchov came through his crash OK and is up and chasing back onto to the group.

Poor Amets Txurruka, the unfortunate victim of that slippery bend, is back in the main peloton and will be getting some attention for road rash on his arm we think. He's going backward rapidly.

The view ahead of the break as they head through the feed zone is one of pure, unadulterated Alpine beauty. Jagged, rocky peaks loom ahead...

Behind, Carlos Sastre is back at the team car getting some lube sprayed on his chain.

Menchov had a bit of help getting back up to the group...the mechanic held onto his bike and 'inspected' his brakes while the car zoomed along. After about 30 seconds of that he swung away. Shortly afterwards, he picked the wrong line around some traffic furniture and had to hop (at high speed) up onto a traffic island...looked risky. Anyway, he's back up in the group, fine expect for a dirty jersey. He's got a bit of blood on his left leg but nothing major.

64km remaining from 169km

Hushovd is 6'04" clear and is climbing the Cote d'Araches. We don't expect him to win the stage, but he has a good chance of taking the next intermediate sprint points. The chasing group is two minutes back now.

O'Grady remains on the front of the bunch. Cancellara took over a while ago but now it's Stuey.

Menchov had to stop for a wheel change...he'll hope the remainder of the stage is less complicated, in terms of crashes and mechanical issues.

Hincapie has been having problems with his bike...he stopped and got a new machine after the mechanic was unable to fix the problem on his initial machine. It looks like the derailleur was bent...seemed scuffed too.

The peloton is on the climb and several riders, including Evans, have gone out the back.

Astana are now on the front, pulling the group along.

Hushovd is just over 2km from the top of the climb. His shades are lifted above his eyes, and he's in and out of the saddle to coax his big frame along. He's definitely not the rider the spectators expected to see leading the race today - he's doing a very good job.

Behind, the chase group is 1'38" back.

Contador looks good....will he put on another demonstration today? He needs to increase his buffer on riders such as Wiggins and Armstrong before the TT, even if he should be stronger than both on the Ventoux.

58km remaining from 169km

There's 14 downhill kilometres from the summit of this climb until the intermediate sprint in Cluses. Hushovd can then relax and cruise to the finish. Although cruise is probably not the right word when you've got two category one climbs and weigh over 80 kg...

Hushovd is very near the top now. His lead is falling all the time, but he reaches the KOM line and won't lose much time on the descent.

 

Now Pellizotti goes over, leading Martinez and Kern. They are 1'09 back.

---------

Situation:

Thor Hushovd (Cervélo Test Team)

Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas), Dave Zabriskie (Garmin Slipstream), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Silence Lotto), Ruben Perez, Egoi Martinez, Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel Euskadi), Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne), Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Remi Pauriol and Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Maxime Monfort (Columbia HTC), Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre NGC), Pierre Rolland, Thomas Voeckler (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r La Mondiale), George Hincapie (Columbia HTC), Linus Gerdeman (Milram) at 1.09

Peloton at 3.26
 

56km remaining from 169km

The peloton now summits, 3'10" back. Irish champion Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) is at the back and suffering after a long day up the road yesterday, but he hangs on. He was fourth yesterday but dropped his chain right before the sprint...otherwise he would have been a good bet to have taken his second runner-up slot in his first Tour.

He'd love to get a stage win in the race but it's going to be hard now; he won't win the TT, and would need a big lead going onto the Ventoux. That leaves Friday's stage as his best chance...of course, it will depend on how his legs are that morning.

Contador and Armstrong are riding close together in the peloton. Apparently yesterday was the first time the two of them had spoken to each other during a stage of this year's Tour...he had downplayed the friction between himself and Armstrong earlier in the race, but the non-communication suggests that this was not the case.

Incredibly, the battered and bruised Denis Menchov has made it back up to the breakaway. The Giro winner might like to know his nearest competitior in that race, Danilo Di Luca, has been declared positive for CERA by the UCI. Di Luca tested positive twice - before the Cinque Terre time trial and before the Mt. Vesuvio stage.

125km remaining from 169km

The gap is falling, falling, falling. Hushovd is maintaining a minute lead to the chasing group, but the yellow jersey bunch is closing in - now 2'42.

42km remaining from 169km

Hushovd is shaking out his mighty quads which must be screaming after the load he's put on them in the mountains today. He's passed through the final sprint bonus of the day and his Cervelo team car comes along side to tell him he can go back to the bunch now... the gap to the chasers is down to 58 seconds.

Second across the line from the first chase was Kern (Cofidis) ahead of Voeckler (Bbox). The peloton behind is still being led by the Saxo Bank boys who will look to attack the Astana leaders Contador and Armstrong on the difficult mountains ahead.

40km remaining from 169km

Hushovd doesn't seem interested at all in trying to tackle the final climbs at his previous pace. He's soft pedaling, letting the group come up to him. He's only 27 seconds ahead now.

39km remaining from 169km

The French president, Nikolas Sarkozy is in the race caravan today. He'll be surely treated to the best the Tour de France has to offer on the climbs up ahead. The Romme and Colombiere will be the site of a huge battle for the GC between Astana, Saxo Bank and the Garmin-Slipstream boys.

Hushovd has been caught by a rider who took a flier from the groupu. It's Carlos Barredo of Quick Step. He comes by Hushovd and taps him on his mighty hip to tell him to get on the wheel. The size difference between these two riders is striking - and kind of funny, too.

Hushovd doesn't want to have anything to do with Barredo's pace. He sits up, the Spaniard goes on and maintains his gap over the big chase group. The bunch behind is closing in quickly  - just 1'34 now.

Attack! Carlos Sastre has gone on the base of the Romme, he's marked by an Agritubel rider.

Sastre is pedaling an angry pace, fueled by the snub of the press and the ASO which did not give the defending champion his proper due in the race programme. Saxo Bank is still at the front setting pace - no counters yet.

The Saxo Bank chase is not letting Sastre get any distance. They're closing in, and catching remnants of the breakaway. Sastre isn't giving up yet though!

Hushovd is gritting his teeth as he's passed by the very determined Carlos Sasttre. Hushovd goes backward quickly as the attacks begin to fly.

Hmm...it looks like Andy Schleck has been dropped...let's confirm that... looked like the white jersey was back there..

The riders' faces are raw emotion now - Sastre huffing and puffing with his face a smiling grimace, the faces behind him are determined, strained. All of these expressions will be captured in our wonderful photo galleries. You can see some examples here.

Sastre goes again...he's with Voeckler now... Sastre is giving his all. He's not getting far, though..

 

Correction - Frank and Andy Schleck are still here, along with Armstrong, Contador, Wiggins, Vande Velde and Kloden. They've caught Sastre.

Sastre is being dropped and is wtih Pellizotti. Frank Schleck attacked and Armstrong went him; then Andy went, and was covered by Contador. Armstrong was dropped momentarily but got back on, as did Wiggins.

Van den Broeck is ahead, alone, but the others are coming up to him. They are just 17" back.

Most of the break has been caught. Frank Schleck leads behind, with Contador on his wheel. Andy was suffering, but had a break. Now he goes! Contador covers it, but the others have been dropped. Kloden gets up to them. Three together...

34km remaining from 169km

Andy Schleck attacks again. Contador jumps on his wheel as does Kloden.

Armstrong is back with Wiggins, then Frank Schleck went. Wiggins couldn't respond...

Frank Schleck goes now. Wiggins looks to be marking Armstrong.

The yellow jersey group now numbers five riders: Contador, Kloden, Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck and Van Den Broek

Wiggins is now leading the chase, with Armstrong on his wheel. Up front, Andy Schleck stalled to get his brother back on. He's riding again now, with Frank, Contador, Kloden, Van Den Broeck also there.

Behind, Wiggins has been joined by Vande Velde, so that will help him.

Van Den Broeck has been dropped...four up front... Wiggins, Vande Velde, Armstrong, Rigoberto Uran and Nibali are about ten seconds back.

Wiggins and Armstrong have slipped back to a group with Nibali, Uran. Now Zabriskie and Vande Velde have joined to help Wiggins pull back the gap, it looks about 9 seconds at the moment.

KOM Pellizotti has dropped off the Sastre, Barredo group

Kloden is grimacing...Frank looks strong, Andy under pressure. They need to keep going...even if they haven't distanced Contador and Kloden, they are putting time into the others. The Armstrong/Wiggins group is 25" back.

Uran has now dropped out of the Armstrong/Wiggins group

The four leaders are 25" ahead now, with Sastre 1'13" back. Frank looks strong...

It's raining now...that descent will be hairy..

Vande Velde is chasing for Wiggins..

Contador looks focussed, not under pressure. The other three are grimmacing... Kloden is looking better now than before.

Andy Schleck continues to lead the front group

The chase group, at 40", is Vande Velde, Wiggins, Armstrong, Nibali and Van Den Broecke.

Sastre is with Pellizotti. Andy Schleck leads up front...Frank has gone to the back of that quartet. Is he under pressure, or will he jump?

30km remaining from 169km

Vande Velde is doing a good job of pacing Wiggins' group as Andy Schleck still leads up front

30km remaining from 169km

There is a short descent, and then the last climb of the day... We hope there are no crashes...

Armstrong sits behind the two Garmin riders...they are now 55" back, with Sastre now at 1'51".

Armstrong attacked....Wiggins goes with him....

Wiggins sits on Armstrong...he looks comfortable now... He goes to the front. Nibali is clawing his way back to them.

Nibali fights his way back to Armstrong and Wiggins

29km remaining from 169km

Wiggins is a pursuit rider, and used to measuring out his effort. He seems to be calculating, not going too deep. Don't forget there is one more climb to go..

The Schlecks are now riding to gain time on the others.. Contador looks composed and, at a guess, will attack on the final climb. But the Schlecks are doing the right thing in persisting. Contador only has one team-mate left - Kloden.

Vande Velde got up to his team-mate Wiggins, Armstrong and Nibali. He's back on the front of that group, pushing hard. They are 1'07" back as they near the summit.

They are there now...Nibali attacks! He gets a gap before the descent.

One climb to come now: the Col de la Colombiere

The four are descending now... Kloden nearly hits Frank Schleck's wheel... He stays upright.

Sastre stops with a puncture...

26km remaining from 169km

Frank Schleck led his brother, Contador and Kloden over the top of the climb, so the points went in that order.

Andy Schleck is pushing it on the descent. He wants to maintain the gap to those behind, so that they can continue to gain on the next climb.

Armstrong is hanging back slightly on the descent. The surfaces are not great.

Further down, the roads seem more dry.. That's good...the images of Jens Voigt's unfortunate crash are still fresh on the mind.

Nibali has thundered off on the descent... The two Garmin riders lead Armstrong down.

Up front, the four leaders are on the Col de la Columbiere... Andy S. leads, with Contador on his wheel.

Contador talks to Kloden, who shakes his head. The hunch is that the maillot jaune will attack on this climb...we'll see soon.

The chasers catch Nibali...so four against four again.

Vande Velde is doing great work for Wiggins...completely selfless... He's recovered very well from his crash in the Giro...not quite at the level of last year, but that's completely understandable...

21km remaining from 169km

The gap between the two groups is 1'19"... The third group on the road has 3'17".

22km remaining from 169km

Big crowds on the Colombiere, the roads are drying out after earlier rain

Frank Schleck leads...he looks stronger than his brother today, at least in terms of grimmaces (or lack of them). Now Frank takes over. The gap is 1'20"...

Contador is out of the saddle a lot...Kloden is seated beside him.

20km remaining from 169km

Twenty kilometres to go...four against four...  Five kilometres of climbing left, then 15km downhill to the finish...

The Schlecks are looking back at the Astana riders...Frank takes over as they pass the 5km to the summit sign.

Vande Velde is doing a great ride, matching the pace of the two Schleck brothers.

19km remaining from 169km

Andy Schleck takes over from brother Frank at the front of the leading group

Andy Schleck looks down at the pedals, willing himself onwards. They will have hoped to have dropped the yellow jersey, but haven't done that as yet. They've got to keep pushing on...no easing back at this point.

Chavanel has been dropped by the chase group.

Contador talks to Kloden...he moves up onto Andy Schleck's wheel... He's going to go soon, methinks...

17km remaining from 169km

Vande Velde has blown...he's gone, finally.. Great ride, though. Wiggins leads from Armstrong and Nibali.

Andy Schleck remains on the front.. They are 1'37" ahead of the Wiggins group, so the gap is going up.

Wiggins is doing all the riding here.

Frank Schleck is sitting on Contador's wheel...he looks comfortable, perhaps he's waiting for the Spaniard to have a go...

Contador goes! He's clear....

Kloden gets dropped... Andy Schleck chases with Frank on his wheel. Contador looks back, sees Kloden has cracked and he waits. He might be scared of being isolated with descent still to come...

16km remaining from 169km

16.4 km to go in stage 17

16km remaining from 169km

The two Schlecks take over, content to put time into Kloden. Now Contador goes alongside Andy S. to dissuade the chase....Andy isn't worried at all and keeps going. They are doing the right thing....Contador has no team-mates now..

1 kilometre to the summit of the Colombiere

Andy S. leads, gritting his teeth. Kloden is 24 seconds back now....

Looks like Contador is suffering now...his head is dropping... hard to tell..

15km remaining from 169km

Andy Schleck grits his teeth as he drives for the summit

Kloden is now 35" back, while the Wiggins/Armstrong group is now 2'14" down...they are sliding back...

15km remaining from 169km

This climb is really steep....they are grinding their way upward, metre by metre.

Contador keeps looking back all the time... Kloden is gone, 45" back...hard to see him returning...

14km remaining from 169km

Kloden rolls under the 15km to go banner

Contador hasn't tried since that jump. Hard to know if he's suffering or saving energy for tomorrow's TT.

They are getting close to the top, then have a high speed descent towards the finish. The two brothers will take turns attacking him on the way down, no doubt.

Kloden is now just over a minute back, while the Wiggins group is 2'32" down. They are reeling him in...

Armstrong has attacked Wiggins...Nibali is chasing...

Armstrong is chasing now and will try to join up with Kloden. The German is really suffering now as he goes over the summit. He's 1'14" back here...

2.17 back to Armstrong from Kloden

The three leaders are on the descent now...

Armstrong goes over the top, 2'06" behind... He's still a minute behind Kloden, and not sure if he'll take that back on the descent.

Contador is talking to the two Schlecks...no idea what was discussed. Anyone lip read?

10km remaining from 169km

Armstrong is chasing hard...Kloden is losing time to the leading trio.

They are under the 10km to go banner...

10km remaining from 169km

10km to go for Brothers Schleck....and Contador

Contador is just sitting on, not contributing. Ideally one of the Schlecks should let the wheel go and force him to close it. Do that a few times and they will be able to attack him.

Kloden chases alone, but he's losing time all the time. Andy Schleck and his brother are working...Contador was sitting second wheel for a while, but waved the others through.

Armstrong is 2'14" back with 10km to go. He's going to catch Kloden, who is 1'45" behind. The two of them will work together.

Nibali catches Armstrong... great riding...

Now there's 27" between Kloden and Nibali/Armstrong...

Contador is losing a little ground on some of the corners, but it's not much.. He's having no problems keeping in contact.

5km remaining from 169km

Nibali will help Armstrong are not too far from Kloden now

5km remaining from 169km

5km to go..... Still motoring downhill, with plenty of sweeping curves to be negotiated.

Now Frank Schleck manoevres Contador into second position, but that doesn't last long...the yellow jersey wants to mark both of them.

Nibali looks annoyed, Armstrong not doing enough work. He gestures with his hands.

Now Frank Schleck manoevres Contador into second position, but that doesn't last long...the yellow jersey wants to mark both of them.

Nibali looks annoyed, Armstrong not doing enough work. He gestures with his hands.

3km remaining from 169km

3km for Kloden now

3km remaining from 169km

Three kilometres to go! Who will win? 

Andy is doing most of the work....They need to keep gaining time, but also think of the sprint.

2km remaining from 169km

Two kilometres to go.....

2km remaining from 169km

Four km's to go for Armstrong and Nibali

Kloden is still alone, 2'04" back. Armstrong and Nibali are 2'16" behind...no idea where Wiggins is, in terms of time

1km remaining from 169km

One kilometre to go...under the banner.....

The red kit approaches

Andy Schleck on the front, Frank second....they should let the wheel go, frankly, force Contador to close it.

Here we go....

Frank Schleck gets it! Contador second, Andy third...

Not sure if Contador tried to sprint...he grimaced, looked like he dug in...so I guess so.

Armstrong and Nibali caught Kloden....they are racing in towards the finish..

They have dropped Kloden... Nibali leads it out.... Armstrong sits on, doesn't go for it. 2'17 for those two, Kloden at 2'24...

We are waiting for Wiggins...

Wiggins finishes, 3'09" back... So he didn't lose a massive amount of time..

This was the GC yesterday....it'll be changed today, needless to say...

1, Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) 67 hours 33 mins 15 secs
2, Lance Armstrong (Astana) at 1 min 37 secs
3, Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) at 1 min 46 secs
4, Andreas Klöden (Astana) at 2 mins 17 secs
5, Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) at 2 mins 26 secs
6, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 2 mins 51 secs
 

Andreas Kloden was 43" ahead of Wiggins, so he moves ahead of him in GC. The new GC is coming up soon...

Provisional results: 

1. Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank)
2. Alberto Contador (Astana)
3. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
5. Lance Armstrong (Astana)
6. Andreas Kloden (Astana)
7. Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream)

Andy Schleck is now second overall, 2'26" back, while his brother Frank is third overall. He's 3'25 down.

Armstrong (@3'55), Kloden (4'44) and Wiggins (4'53) are fourth, fifth and sixth overall prior to the time trial. All three are expected to beat the Schlecks, so there could well be another reshuffling..

Here's more details about the stage result: 

1 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 4:53:54
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:02:18
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:02:27
7 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:03:07
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel 0:04:09
9 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
10 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 0:06:10
11 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux
12 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia - HTC 0:06:12
13 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
14 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
15 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
16 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence - Lotto
17 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux
18 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
19 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:15
20 José Luis Arrieta Lujambio (Spa) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:19

General classification:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 72:27:09
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:02:26
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:03:25
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:03:55
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:04:44
6 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:04:53
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:05:09
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:08:08
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux 0:09:19

Vive le Tour!

Stage 17 results and report click here

We'll leave it there for now - complete results will be in shortly, then a longer report later on. Tomorrow's the time trial, and another very decisive day... Should be pretty interesting, to say the least!

Thanks for reading... Come back tomorrow for more live coverage from this great race.

Situation

Stage 17 complete

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