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Tour de France 2009: Stage 20


Good morning and welcome to coverage of the penultimate stage of the Tour de France. It's the big showdown, the final frenzy in this three week event; while the race will conclude tomorrow in Paris, today is the day when the GC will be settled. With high winds forecast and the hugely punishing ascent of Mont Ventoux on the menu, we are sure it's going to be a fingernail-chewing few hours ahead. So, drag up a comfortable chair and stay with us while we relay all the action!

Garmin Slipstream CEO Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews that he thinks the climatic conditions are going to play a big part. "The wind today is going to be a huge factor," he said. "It's going to make it very hard for the riders, and especially for those with aspirations of trying to attack."

Today's stage is going to be a cracker - it's a relatively short (but very tough) 167 kilometre race from Montelimar to Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence. There's a total of five climbs - three category three ascent, one cat 4 hill plus the big one, the gruelling ascent to the top of the Ventoux. Factor in those winds and there are going to be some very tired riders this evening.

Some Twitter comments are pretty interesting. "On our way second last TDF stage," wrote Cadel Evans. "It's a BIT windy. This will be interesting! Me? My legs will probably be 'bien cuit' after yesterday."

Commentator Phil Ligget added to this: "Oh Boy - the wind on top of Ventoux is gale force and the big trucks have had to go back down. 500,000 expected to stand on the slopes."

Today's stage also has two bonus sprints, at Les Piles (km 48) and at Mormoiron (km 138.5), in the shadow of the final climb. Mark Cavendish had a great win yesterday but said afterwards that he had given up thoughts of taking the green jersey this year; he is 25 points behind Hushovd in the standings. It will be interesting to see if either of them go for the points today.

1, Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) 260 pts
2, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - HTC) 235
3, Gerald Ciolek (Team Milram) 148


The Ventoux has played a huge part in Tour history and legend, and is probably the most feared climb in the race. You can read more about it here:

There were 156 riders at today’s start; two finished behind the time limit yesterday, the ever-active Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who had been one of the most aggressive riders earlier on in this Tour, and his team-mate Alan Perez Lezaun.

13 riders went clear after just three kilometres of racing. The names? Hayden Roulston (Cervélo Test Team), Juan Manuel Garate and Joost Postuma (Rabobank), Tony Martin (Team High Road), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r la Mondiale), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Anthony Geslin (Française des Jeux), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Daniele Righi (Lampre), William Bonnet (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Maxime Bouet (Agritubel), Cyril Lemoine and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano).

Three others set off in pursuit, namely Mickael Delage (Silence Lotto), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne). After ten kilometre of racing, the thirteen leaders were 45” ahead of the three chasers, and 2’10” over the peloton.

At that point the riders were on the first climb of the day, the category three Côte de Citelle. The summit comes 14km after the start of the stage.

150km remaining from 167km

The gap is now 48" to the chasers, and 1'52" to the peloton. Stand by for the order over the top of that climb...

Albert Timmer was first to the top, followed by Kuschynski, Garate and Martin.

Cyclingnews got some very interesting predictions from some people on the Tour about today's stage. Bonnie D. Ford (ESPN - USA) said that she thought that things might not be as dramatic as some suggest.

"My instinct says that it could be quite anti-climactic. I don't think anyone will try and go for a kamikaze move. People will be protecting their place within the peloton. I know Armstrong would very much like to win the stage and he'll go if he's got the legs but not if it's going to jeopardise his podium place.

Peter Cossins (Freelancer and former editor of Procycling magazine - UK) went for a rider who had a great Giro but was a non-GC contender here:

"I'm going to be different and spice it up a bit and go for Denis Menchov for tomorrow’s stage. He's won twice on the Ventoux in the Dauphiné. Wiggins won't get ahead of Armstrong but he'll be close to him. Both of them will be dropped by the leaders and Menchov, obviously."

Juliet Macur (New York Times - USA) said: "I don't want to be boring but I think Alberto will win both the stage and the yellow jersey. I'd like Bradley to win tomorrow so that it’s more exciting with Lance, but I think he'll get the final podium place."

You can read another seven tips/predictions, as well as each person's tips for top three on the stage and top three overall here:

The chasers joined up with those up front, so there are sixteen leaders. They are: Hayden Roulston (Cervélo Test Team), Juan Manuel Garate and Joost Postuma (Rabobank), Tony Martin (Team High Road), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r la Mondiale), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Anthony Geslin (Française des Jeux), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Daniele Righi (Lampre), William Bonnet (BBox Bouygues Telecom), Maxime Bouet (Agritubel), Cyril Lemoine and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano), Mickael Delage (Silence Lotto), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne).

125km remaining from 167km

The peloton is now 5'05" back... This group is pulling steadily clear.

These riders are in for a tough day in the saddle...they'll be dealing with strong winds while they try to build their advantage and then, with plenty of effort in their legs, will have to get up the climb at the end. If all goes to plan they'll have a big enough lead to hold off the climbers behind, but there's no guarantee of that.

This morning, there was a very interesting scrap shaping up for the final podium positions. Unless he crashes, has a dramatic form collapse or gets isolated by the winds, Alberto Contador looks set to win. But second and third is very much up for grabs, and those placings will be settled today. Here's the overnight GC:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 77:06:18
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:04:11
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:05:21
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:05:36
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:05:38
6 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:05:59
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:07:15
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:10:08
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux 0:12:37
10 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:12:38

As you can see, there are five riders within three minutes of Andy Schleck's second place...

Lance Armstrong is in third place but there's three other riders within 38 seconds of him; he's been fragile at times in the mountains this year, so will have to fend off those attacks.

Armstrong would of course dearly love to win on the Ventoux; he's gone close here, but not take the victory.

This gap grows and grows; it’s now seven and a half minutes.

Dumoulin took the sprint at Pilles, crossing the line ahead of Timmer and Riblon. Next up is the Col d’Ey, with the summit 65.5km after the start.

According to the Tour de France’s website, out of the 151 riders who finished the Ventoux stage in 2000, six will be riding the stage nine years later. They are Armstrong, who has placed second and third on the mountain, Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Andreas Klier (Cervélo Test Team).

Today's stage will see a chunk of mountains points being awarded, but Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) looks set to stand on the podium tomorrow in Paris. He's got a huge lead:

1 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 196 pts
2 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 135
3 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom 99
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 98
5 Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 89
6 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 86

In case you are worried that we can't count here, high up in the Hindenburg IV blimp, we realise we left out a name in our list of Ventoux riders 2000/2009. The missing rider is George Hincapie (Columbia HTC).

Spare a thought for the veteran American - he's got a suspected broken collarbone. As gruelling as the Ventoux is, you've got to consider it will be even more difficult when you can't properly pull on the bars.

The young rider classification looks set - barring any unexpected developments - to go to Andy Schleck. He won the white jersey in the 2008 Tour and also in the 2007 Giro, where he was second overall. That was his first ever Grand wonder many see him as a future winner of this race.

Here are the standings in that competition:

1 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 77:10:29
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:03:04
3 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 0:09:57
4 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:27:34
5 Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom 0:27:43
6 Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel 0:28:14

Nicolas Roche moved up to fourth yesterday - he's having a great debut Tour. He was in the big break yesterday but while he used up a lot of energy there, somehow hung onto the rapidly-thinning peloton on the final climb, then finished eighth in the sprint.

Roche isn't a pure sprinter, but more an all-rounder. He thinks that he might be able to aim for the green jersey in the future:

Here's the points totals for the green jeresy contest. We don't expect many changes to that today!

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 260 pts
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - HTC 235
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram 148
4 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 126
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 122

102km remaining from 167km

The gap is soaring at the moment - it's up to 9'04 coming to the top of the Col d'Ey.

Here's a list of today's climbs:

Km 14.0, Côte de Citelle: 5.2 km at 3.9 % - Category 3
Km 65.5, Col d'Ey: 6.7 km at 4.8 % - Category 3
Km 87.0, Col de Fontaube: 4.7 km at 4.2 % - Category 4
Km 121.5, Col des Abeilles: 7.7 km at 4 % - Category 3
Km 167.0, Mont Ventoux: 21.1 km at 7.6 % - Hors categorie

On the Ventoux, we understand that winds of 110km/h have been recorded earlier today... It's going to be very tough for the riders - the sheltered section is early on during the climb, while the last few kilometres are exposed. Tactics are going to be crucial into what is expected to be a strong headwind.

84km remaining from 167km

Okay, the Hindenburg IV has been buffeted around quite a bit, but we've got the engines working and will be closer to the action now...really wild up here..

The break pushes onwards, holding a considerable lead. It's up to 10'03 now, and everyone's riding through well.

83km remaining from 167km

It's really warm today, the peloton passing some sun-scorched sections of grass. Stuart O'Grady and Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) are leading the chase.

The riders are passing through the feed zone, grabbing bags of's like Halloween, only no scary masks (just grimaces - the pace is on).

Filippo Pozzato sits at the back of the bunch, wearing a greatly modified Italian champion's jersey when compared to the one he had on two weeks ago. The Italian federation wasn't happy with Katusha's redesign of it, insisting that it was changed. Personally, it'd be nice if the bands of colour were thicker.. Maybe it's a work in progress.

Juan Manuel Garate and Joost Postuma lead the break on the next climb, the category 4 Col de Fontaube. The Rabobank team hasn't had much to show from this year's race and we've little doubt that they were told to get up the road pronto today.

The team hauled back the big break yesterday, but Oscar Freire couldn't deliver in the final. He was only fifth in the gallop:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - HTC 3:50:35
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
3 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Milram
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - Lotto
5 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank
6 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
7 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Skil-Shimano
8 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux
10 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - Slipstream

Of interest were the next placings:

12 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
13 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:00:04
14 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream
15 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank

The gap in the 39-man bunch saw Armstrong gain four seconds on his other GC rivals. Will that prove decisive? If so, Wiggins and the other riders will regret that split.

Righi, Timmer and Garate were first riders over the cat 4 climb. The previous ascent, the Col d’Ey, went to Kuschynski ahead of Garate, Martin and Timmer.

Matthew Lloyd (Silence Lotto) sits at the back of the bunch. The Australian has had a fairly quiet race...he was injured earlier this year, crashing heavily with Frank Schleck in the Amstel Gold Race. He broke three vertebrae but has got over that...he'll hope to have a good end of season.

He's here in the race to work for Cadel Evans, but the older Aussie hasn't had a good race. He's going to aim for the Vuelta instead. There are rumours that he has been approached by Radio Shack to ride with the new US team but that's unconfirmed. Would be hard to see that happening as he wouldn't be the sole leader.

O'Grady's tearing along, lining out this bunch. They want to keep the pressure on the Astana team. Andy Schleck will undoubtedly attack today, hoping to finally crack Alberto Contador, but he's a long way back. Still, he'll want the stage win and to copperfasten his second place overall. He'll also try to help his brother Frank move to third.

68km remaining from 167km

The gap now is 9'14. The sixteen leaders are rolling through well; behind, O'Grady is trying to limit their progress.

Mikel Astarloza has had a problem - probably a mechanical - and is chasing back on wtih some team-mates. They are sitting behind a team car...not far from there to the peloton, should make it back okay.

In contrast to the lush mountain areas we've seen earlier this Tour, parts of this region are very dry and rocky... a little like Spain in places.

There's a big forest fire raging nearby. There's actually strong storms in some parts of Europe, and forest fires in Corsica, Greece and Italy. Spain too is badly affected - approximately 1,500 people were evacuated from the Mediterranean coastal resort town of Mojacar.

Hushovd has a puncture and has to stop...He's chasing back on now after getting a rear wheel change..

Leadout man Brett Lancaster (Cervelo Test Team) is waiting for him panic, they should make it fine.

The break thunders onwards....the penultimate climb is coming up, the third category Col des Abeilles (km 121.5km). After that, there's a 17km descent to the bonus sprint in Mormoiron, then very soon afterwards the final climb to the wind-blasted summit of the Ventoux.

52km remaining from 167km

Cancellara, Nicki Sorenson and another Saxo Bank rider were off the back of the peloton...looks like there was a puncture for Frank Schleck and they were chasing back on... No problem in doing so, they are back up now.

Meanwhile the break is on that climb and is 7km from the summit. Their lead is 8'49. Martin leads on the climb, then Riblon takes over.

That puncture will of course have broken up the Saxo Bank chase, giving the break the chance to increase the lead again.

The landscape is stunning here...

Problem for Christophe Le Mevel - looks like a puncture. Think a team-mate gave him a wheel to get him going as quickly as possible... He started the day the best Frenchman in ninth overall, 12'37 back.

It's been a good Tour for French teams - Thomas Voeckler, Pierrick Fédrigo (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Brice Feillu (Agritubel) won stages, while Ag2r La Mondiale lead the race for over a week thanks to its Italian rider Rinaldo Nocentini.

This gap remains pretty healthy - it's almost nine minutes with 47 kilometres to go.

Back in the peloton, O'Grady and Cancellara are first and second in line again, with the Astana team sitting a few places further back. Contador is on Armstrong's wheel.

The break is almost at the top of the Col des Abeilles; the peloton is 5km further back.

On the horizon, there's a large amount of smoke haze from the forest fire. Fortunately the Ventoux itself hasn't been affected - that would really mess things up.

Garate leads Martin and Postuma over the top of the climb. The latter appeared to be having some fun, doing a slow motion sprinter's lunge for the line.. Good to see that he's able to have a laugh out there.

Gutierrez also has a bit of fun, going past the TV moto smiling as he lunges the bike forward a few times on the descent. Overhead, a fire plane gets ready to dump some power on the out for the riders :)

The peloton is now less than 1km from the summit of the climb. O'Grady STILL leads, doing a huge amount of work today. Once he's burnt all his matches the others will take over.

Ventoux beckons on the's an unmistakable sight, with its bare, white slopes.

34km remaining from 167km

The Ventoux will start pretty soon... The break is just 34 km from the finish of the stage. The road starts going upwards after the final sprint, which is 29km from the, approximately 5km to go.

Behind, the Astana team are now chasing hard on the descent..they led the bunch over the summit of the climb.

32km remaining from 167km

The leaders are going to start the climb over six minutes clear of the bunch... will that be enough? We are not sure about that, as it's a real monster. But it'll make it exciting - anyone in the bunch and thinking of a stage win can't really afford to wait around.

7'47 for the break...they are flying... But the bunch is going even quicker, gradually whittling down the lead.

Kuschynski took that bonus sprint, ahead of Delage and Dumoulin. The climbing starts now, gradually getting steeper until the Ventoux start proper.

Astana are chasing really hard now...full gas.

27km remaining from 167km

Wow....the bunch has split... We are wondering if any of Astana's GC rivals have been dropped...I can see Garmin riders, so Wiggins should still be there. Contador is there, of course, and looks like the Schlecks are also.. bear with us...

Cancellara is driving now...the Garmins are there too, sitting back.. No indication yet if any names are missing. Hushovd, Roche and others are in the next group.

22km remaining from 167km

The riders in the second group are chasing hard to try to get back on, Roche leading them. The problem is that they are using the energy they'll need for the climb.

The break is also in an echelon, so the winds are strong in the valley... It's going to be worse on the climb..

They are 5'14" ahead now, with 22km to go..

Astana really are pushing hard...the riders are pulling at a tough place, trying to thin out this group before the climb.

The Contador group has only about 30 riders The break is now just 4'39 ahead.

20km to go for the breakaway. Garmin are also riding hard behind, showing that they too can put the pressure on.

The Roche group is now 1'05" back...that's a pity, he had a chance of getting into the top 20 in his first Tour.

Cancellara has blown now. Cavendish sits up from a group...probably the second group on the road, not certain. He smiles at the camera - no worries.

Posthuma leads the break, 18.6km from the top of the climb. They have just 3'57" now, so it's very unlikely any of those will win today.

David Millar now hits the front of the Contador group, driving the speed up again. Wiggins sits on his wheel.

Up front, Arrieta jumps...Martin goes after him.

Garate, Riblon and Martin are together now. They have a sidewind but it's just 14km/h at this point.

Will be interesting to see if this acceleration in pace behind will affect Contador. He's lighter than most of the other riders and might be more affected by the wind.

Garate goes again....he gets a gap on Martin and Arrieta. They get him back.

Millar still leads behind, Wiggins and VDV on his wheel. They have to give their all on this climb - Wiggins has a chance to be the best-ever British finisher in the Tour if he can finish higher than fourth. Robert Millar has that distinction until now.

15km remaining from 167km

Millar is getting every last bit of energy out.

The leading riders have 15.9km to go...3'24 is the gap. That's not enough.

14km remaining from 167km

The crowds are really big here....huge.. Hincapie has been dropped from the Contador group. Saxo Bank are driving it now...

Vande Velde, Karpets, Astarloza (Euskaltel), Jurgen Van Den Broucke (Silence Lotto) are with the Contador too the Schlecks, Wiggins, and about 20 others..

This is going to be absolute mayhem...the group will explode on the climb.

Chris Anker Sorensen is dropped, so too Cyril Lemoine (Skil Shimano). Karpets is also gone now...

12km remaining from 167km

Martin and Garate have slightly distanced Riblon.

Frank Schleck attacks! He's jumped...Armstrong goes with him...

12km remaining from 167km

Schleck and Armstrong have been joined by the others, but this group is really shrinking....  Now Andy Schleck jumps!

Vande Velde is gone...  The two Schlecks, Contador, Nibali, Wiggins and Armstrong are there...

Andy Schleck goes....Contador marks him...they've left the others. Armstrong is trying to get across.... he's doing it...

Andy Schleck goes again! He's got Contador on his wheel...

Kloden is too Krueziger.

Andy Schleck still leads, Contador on his wheel. Wiggins, Niballi, Armstrong, Armstrong, Frank Schleck are there...

Andy goes again! Contador is again the only one to respond.

Schleck's attacks have been followed by a regrouping each time, but what he's done is put the others into trouble.

They are back up again, but he'll jump once more...he know's he's causing problems.

Frank Schleck goes, Armstrong marks him... Contador, Wiggins and Nibali are there....and Andy Schleck, of course...

10km remaining from 167km

The leaders are just 2'15 ahead.. Kloden is coming back, so too Van den Broeck..

10 km for the leaders...

Wiggins looks good...he's just followed so far, saving his energy....

9km remaining from 167km

Krueziger is back up there, Kloden about to join.

Andy Schleck goes again! Contador is on his wheel.... Others are dropped....

8km remaining from 167km

Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, first and second overall, are clear and leaving the others behind... Van den Broeck attacks...

The Armstrong/Wiggins group are going quite slow now....they have been cracked by Schleck's acceleration.. But those fighting for third overall are all together.

Martin and Garate continue to lead. 1'46 back are Andy Schleck, Contador, and Nibali is flying up to them!! Very impressive.

This climb is savage...

Here was the GC this morning:

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 77:06:18
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:04:11
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:05:21
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:05:36
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:05:38
6 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:05:59
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:07:15
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:10:08
9 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux 0:12:37
10 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:12:38

Nibali was just 1'54 behind Armstrong this morning....He's 20 seconds further up the road now... Kloden is leading the Armstrong group.

7km remaining from 167km

The leaders now have just 1'17...7km to go. Martin is leading Garate, but is suffering...

The group behind Schleck and Contador contains Frank Schleck, Armstrong, Wiggins, Van den Broek, Bouet, Kloden and Pellizotti. Kreuziger is also there.

Andy Schleck might be holding back...looks like the urgency has gone out of this. He might be hoping his brother gets across and goes for third overall.

5km remaining from 167km

The Kloden-led group appears to be closing..they do so. Pellizotti attacks!! He's gone clear...

These crowds are absolutely huge!! Wow...

Of course, one benefit (apart from the encouragement) is that they are sheltering the riders a little from the sidewinds.

Kloden now leads the Contador group... This regrouping was strange, we guess that Andy Schleck wants to go again with Frank.

Pellizotti is already 14" ahead....


Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Tony Martin (Columbia HTC)

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) at 1.42

Alberto Contador (Astana), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence Lotto), Bradley Wiggins (Garmin), Lance Armstrong (Astana), Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) and Andreas Kloden (Astana) and Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) at 1.59

4km remaining from 167km

Pellizotti now is 33" ahead....if those behind don't respond, he will win this stage. That would be ironic as he was dropped early not the strongest today. He's taken advantage of the tactical battle behind.

Andy Schleck goes!! Frank is with him this time.....could this be it? Kloden dropped....

Now Andy Schleck leads, from Frank S., Armstrong, Contador, Wiggins... They are 1'34 behind the leaders.... Pellizotti is chasing hard.

The problem for Andy S. is that he has a 30km/h headwind now....he's going to find it hard to get rid of those on his wheel...

Nibali and Kreuziger are there....Wiggins is dropped...Nibali too....

2km remaining from 167km

Andy Schleck still leads from Frank, Armstrong, Contador (who looks very relaxed), Krueziger. Nibali and Wiggins get back up...Wiggins takes the shorter line around a gradual bend. So he's still there...

Pellizotti is still 52" back! Could Martin and Garate stay clear?

Wiggins face is full of pain...he's drifting back slightly....

Wiggins looks like he's cracked....that's a pity.. come on Bradley!

He's back up again...good ride... Seven in this Contador group... No attacks for a while...

Schleck is facing a 41km/h headwind...he's doing himself no favours by sitting at the front and towing the others along.... This is frustrating to watch, he and Contador were the strongest but have been joined by those they dropped at the bottom. The tactical play has affected the racing at this point....

Kloden is coming back.

Andy Schleck attacks again! Contador, Armstrong and Frank Schleck go with him...Wiggins is dropped once more..

Garate has dropped Martin and looks to be heading for the win...

Pellizotti is close to being caught by the others. Meanwhile Martin gets up to Garate! They are close to the top...who will get it?

Will Contador go? He's looking frisky....

Martin leads Garate...don't forget that headwind...

Pellizotti has been caught...Andy S. and Contador sige by side...

Garate goes for it! He gets the, that came up fast. Martin next.

Andy Schleck leads them around the last bend.....he's going for third place on the stage....

He gets third, with Contador on his wheel...looking very comfortable. He waves at the crowd. Armstrong is gapped but is next across the line, securing third in Paris. Frank Schleck was also there, but Wiggins lost time... He was perhaps 30 second back...

Here's the first five...

1. Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank)
2. Tony Martin (Columbia)
3. Andy Schleck (Garmin) at 0.38
4. Alberto Contador (Astana)
5. Lance Armstrong (Astana) at 0.40

Andy Schleck and Contador were by far the strongest on the climb, but the tactical battle for third meant that the younger Schleck brother eased back. Contador made no effort to attack, even though he looked very strong...

Hard luck to Wiggins, who found this climb just a bit too hard. It's regarded as one of the toughest ascents in cycling, though....and for a guy who has improved as much as he has, he can surely head away from this race with aspirations of chasing yellow in the future.

Congratulations to Garate, who rescued Rabobank's Tour. He and Martin were out front all day and even if they benefited a little from the chess match behind, they deserved to stay away...took a lot of courage to attack so early with a finish like that on the horizon.

Martin lost out as he probably led too much into the wind towards the end... He got back up to Garate but went by and kept riding. With the strong wind, it gave the former Spanish champion the chance to have a breather and prepare for the sprint.

When Andy Schleck attacked early on, he quickly realised that it was going to be impossible to drop Contador. His focus then appeared to change from going for the win to helping Frank Schleck chase third. But Frank doesn't appear to have the strength today...he lacked that little bit of ooomph to get away from Armstrong. Every time he moved, he was marked by the American.

Here's the top ten on the stage.

1 Juan Manuel Garate Cepa (Spa) Rabobank 4:39:21
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTC 0:00:03
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:38
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:00:41
6 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:43
7 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 0:00:46
8 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 0:00:56
9 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:00:58
10 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:01:03

Wiggins lost 22 seconds to Armstrong....I think that keeps him in fourth, though - a superb result. Frank Schleck should be fifth.. But bear with us a moment longer.

Here's the Wiggins equals Robert Millar as the best ever British finisher in the Tour, superb result for a rider who has never been considered a GC contender before. Kloden was overtaken by Schleck for fifth place. Le Mevel is overtaken by Kreuziger and drops one place to tenth.

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 81:46:17
2 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:04:11
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:05:24
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:06:01
5 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:06:04
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:06:42
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:07:35
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:12:04
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 0:14:16
10 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux 0:14:25

Pellizotti made a good bid for the stage win but cracked into the wind. He will take a very dominant win in the mountains classification tomorrow, though...nice result.

Andy Schleck ends the day 3'24 ahead of Nibali in the best young rider classification.

So that's the action for stage was a very good day's racing, and the action amongst the GC favourites at the bottom of the climb was dynamite. Speaking at the end of the stage, Scleck said that Contador was the strongest today and there was nothing he could do. He decided then to help Frank - that's certainly how it looked.

Cavendish and Hushovd had a bit of a laugh at the end of the stage, coming out of the autobus group and sprinting, laughing, for the line. Good to see that things have been patched up between them.

We'll leave it there for today - that's for reading! You can get a report and results here - more later, as well as all the news. Over and out from an increasingly wind-buffeted Hindenburg's picking up here, so we'd better skedaddle while we still can..



Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Tony Martin (Columbia HTC)

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) at 1.42

Alberto Contador (Astana), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence Lotto), Bradley Wiggins (Garmin), Lance Armstrong (Astana), Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) and Andreas Kloden (Astana) and Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) at 1.59

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