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Tour de France 2010: Stage 16


Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 16 of the Tour de France. Four of the biggest names in Tour history await the peloton on the road to Pau today: the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. It promises to be an epic day of racing as the Tour celebrates 100 years in the Pyrenees with this evocative stage.

199km remaining from 199km

Alessandro Petacchi is still here in his green jersey, although he may well find himself at the centre of some considerable controversy. La Gazzetta dello Sport has revealed that he was informed that he was placed under formal investigation for alleged doping before the Tour.

The climbing starts from the gun today. The bunch is still in the neutral zone and already on the lower slopes of the Col du Peyresourde. As soon as the flag drops it's 11km up to the top of this 1st category climb, with an average gradient of 7.4%. If the legs are tired this morning, it could be a long, long day in the saddle.

199km remaining from 199km

Immediately Remy di Gregorio (FDJ) and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) go on the attack at the bottom of the Peyresourde. Meanwhile Robbie McEwen is already off the back of the bunch. The Australian has been riding a very brave Tour de France, so often ploughing a lone furrow.

Di Gregorio and Zabriskie have been brought to heel, and now it's Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Eros Capecchi (Footon-Servetto) setting the pace on the front.

197km remaining from 199km

197km remaining from 199km

Meanwhile Basso's teammate Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) is in the lead group. He'll be looking to salvage a stage win from a relatively disappointing Tour. This is a strong group, if they can get a gap, they could go the distance.

195km remaining from 199km

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has managed to bridge across and Ryder Hesjedak (Garmin) is also looking to close the gap. The group continues to grow, which might well make it harder to stay away.

Ivan Basso is in all sorts of difficulty at the back of the bunch. He's trailing off the back of the rapidly-shrinking Contador peloton.

The two Liquigas men are setting the pace on the front of the lead group now, trying to put daylight between themselves and the main bunch. 4.5km to the top of the Peyresourde and 30 seconds is the lead. Astana stringing out the bunch behind.

192km remaining from 199km

Sandy Casar (FDJ) has attacked from the bunch. This is precisely the kind of stage that would suit the Frenchman's characteristics as he can ship the punishment of repeatedly climbing and then finish quickly, so it's no surprise that he wants to get across to the lead group.

The Astana-led "peloton" is thinning out dramatically. The pace is already high and the mighty Peyresourde is wreaking havoc on the Tour de France. World Champion Cadel Evans has now been dropped by Contador's group.

190km remaining from 199km

Interesting to see Nicolas Roche up here. The Irish rider was very annoyed with his teammate Jean Gadret yesterday. It seems that Gadret refused to give Roche a wheel when he punctured on the last climb and added insult to mechanical injury by attacking as Roche was chasing back on. Even more interesting is that Gadret is now trying to bridge to the leaders...

189km remaining from 199km

Attack from Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto)! The Belgian climber has been looking in fantastic form throughout the Tour to date and he's almost across to the lead group already. No reaction from the main group. Meanwhile, Nicolas Roche is dropped by the leaders.

188km remaining from 199km

183km remaining from 199km

Contador seems very isolated. Only two Astana riders with him, while Vinokourov is up the road. The only consolation for him is that Andy Schleck is even worse off, there doesn't seem to be another Saxo Bank man in sight. Denis Menchov is sitting in the wheels in their group, observing intently.

179km remaining from 199km

177km remaining from 199km

Rabobank are now helping on the front of the Contador group to try and reel the breakaway back in.

The breakaway is in Arreau in the valley at the foot of the Col d'Aspin. This is just about the only flat section in the opening 50km of the stage, and the peloton will try and use that to its advantage to close things down.

Van den Broeck has been absorbed by the Contador group. It was nonetheless an interesting show of force by the Belgian on the Peyresourde. As soon as he is caught, Omega Pharma now come to the front to aid the chase.

Vinokourov and Sastre are menacing presences in the lead group at the foot of the Col d'Aspin, though neither man has contributed much to the pace-setting.

170km remaining from 199km

Alexander Vinokourov is looking very comfortable in the breakaway group. If they get reeled in he might well try and jump away himself. Rabobank are chasing on the front of the Contador group, and the gap is 23 seconds.

166km remaining from 199km

Garate finally pulls over and Mario Aerts takes up the chase for Van den Broeck. Contador and Astana seem to be getting a bit of a free ride in defence of the yellow jersey here. Getting Vinokourov up the road has helped in that regard.

164km remaining from 199km

Mario Aerts' pace on the front of the Contador group is really stretching things out. The Belgian has been having a fantastic Tour.

163km remaining from 199km

5km to the top of the Aspin for the lead group. Carlos Sastre is tapping out a steady rhythm on the front. Lance Armstrong hasn't contributed much to the pace-setting although he seems reasonably comfortable at this point.

Aerts' pace-making is causing serious damage. Samuel Sanchez in particular is in danger of slipping off the podium if he doesn't recover soon. He's lost 25 seconds to Menchov and Van den Broeck already.

160km remaining from 199km

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) is at the back of the yellow jersey group. The Italian struggled earlier in the Tour, but seems to have found his legs in the past week. If it all comes together on the run in to Pau this afternoon, he could be a real threat.

Sastre is riding wonderfully on the front, while Matthew Lloyd is at the head of the yellow jersey group trying to bring it all back together for Van den Broeck. The gap is still hovering between 20 and 25 seconds.

Roman Kreuziger takes over the pace-making once again in the lead group. The Czech has had a quiet Tour to date but has been hugely impressive so far today.

157km remaining from 199km

157km remaining from 199km

Sandy Casar was second over the top. The yellow jersey group crossed the summit 26 seconds behind.

Casar goes to the front and is really hurtling down the descent. He knows this is a chance to open out the gap again.

The yellow jersey contains Alberto Contador (Astana), Daniel Navarro (Astana), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Thomas Lofkvist (Sky), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jurgen Van De Walle (QuickStep), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox), Christophe Moreau (Cofidis) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

Casar has opened out a lead of 10 seconds over his fellow escapees on the descent. He may well be planning a lone raid on the Tourmalet, our next climb. Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego has just about made it up to the breakaway group. If the plucky Italian doesn't win a stage at this year's Tour, it certainly would be for lack of trying. He may no longer be the same rider who won the 2004 Giro d'Italia but he has still contributed richly to the spectacle at this year's Tour.

149km remaining from 199km

Neither Contador nor his Astana teammates have looked especially comfortable so far today, so they'll be glad that Omega Pharma have come to the front and done the job of patrolling the peloton for them.

Robert Gesink punctures on the descent and is chasing hard to get back on.

Sandy Casar turns left onto the Col du Tourmalet, one of the sacred sites of the Tour de France. 17.1km of climbing at 7.3% are ahead of him.

143km remaining from 199km

143km remaining from 199km

First Pierrick Fedrigo and now Lance Armstrong have jumped and tried to get across to Casar.

It was a good move from Armstrong, he's managed to bridge up to Casar and the yellow jersey group didn't seem concerned about chasing him.

140km remaining from 199km

Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) have broken off the front of the yellow jersey group to try and bridge to Casar and Armstrong.

139km remaining from 199km

The chase group has caught and passed Casar, who seems to have paid a price for his generous efforts on the opening climbs and in the valley before the Tourmalet.

Cunego accelerates and takes Fedrigo with him. This duo is now chasing Lance Armstrong and distancing Van de Walle, Moreau and Casar. Omega Pharma are still on the front of the yellow jersey group but the pace has relaxed considerably.

138km remaining from 199km

Cunego and Fedrigo exchange some flamboyant gesticulations. It seems that Cunego is not happy that the Frenchman is doing his share of the pacesetting. In any case, they're almost up to Armstrong.

Alberto Contador has dropped back to his team car and is having mobile adjustments made to his bike. Vinokourov is there with him. And no, Andy Schleck has not attacked...

Contador is immediately back up to his group. Meanwhile Cunego is laying down the pace in the front group.

136km remaining from 199km

Meanwhile Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are speaking in the yellow jersey group. It's not clear if the hatchet has been buried.

An indication of how much the pace has slackened in the yellow jersey group is that Thor Hushovd has jumped clear of it. On the Tourmalet. The man's desire for this green jersey knows no bound, remarkable stuff.

Speaking of the green jersey, Alessandro Petacchi has been in the news this morning, as he is under formal investigation for the possession of doping products. The Lampre man had this to say on the matter at the start this morning.

134km remaining from 199km

Anthony Charteau has attacked the yellow jersey group in pursuit of the leaders. He is passing through the iconic tunnels about 7km from the top of the Tourmalet. He may not be the best climber in the peloton, but he's nonetheless doing his polka dot jersey proud.

Carlos Barredo is doing a lot of the work at the front of the lead group now. Sandy Casar also seems to have recovered a little and is contributing again to the break's progress.

The Tourmalet really is spectacular. It's easy to see why Octave Lapize famously called the Tour organisers "assassins" for sending the 1910 peloton into this inhospitable terrain.

Coming through La Mongie, Casar comes to the front again. He really looks like he's suffering, but he's hanging in there. Armstrong and Cunego have slipped down to the back of the line, but each man seems relatively comfortable.

131km remaining from 199km

Moreau's former Festina teammate Richard Virenque led the Tour over the summit here twice, in 1994 and 1995. Each day he went on to win the stage. In 1995, his victory was overshadowed by the tragic death of Fabio Casartelli on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet earlier in the stage. 

130km remaining from 199km

Ignatus Konovalovas (Cervelo) has managed to latch on to the back of the lead group, he made an almighty effort on the slopes of the Tourmalet.

The Col du Tourmalet is the site of two special primes this year. The first man over the top every year receives the special Souvenir Jacques Goddet. And this year, seeing as the Tourmalet is also the highest point in the race, the leader at the summit will also take the Prix Henri Desgrange.

Hushovd is struggling a little at the back of the Contador group, but he has teammate Carlos Sastre back to help him.

A kilometre to the summit of the Tourmalet for the leaders. The crowds are out in force to celebrate 100 years of the Tour in the Pyrenees, and they'll be even bigger on Thursday when the stage finishes up here.

As expected, Christophe Moreau jumps for the primes atop the Tourmalet.

127km remaining from 199km

Charteau is reaching the top of the Tourmalet now in the King of the Mountains jersey. He grabs a newspaper and stuffs it down his jersey as the descent starts immediately. In the immortal words of Robert Millar "it's like a hump-backed bridge up there." Charteau has a little over two minutes to make up on the way down.

Contador and Schleck cross the summit of the Tourmalet and the cameras pan out to show us the majesty of the mountainside. Recent generations haven't always been the most responsible keepers of the Tour's flame, but it's reassuring to think that riders come and go, but the Tourmalet and its neighbours like the Aspin and the Aubisque will always be here. Here's to the next one hundred years...

We can also report that Iban Mayoz (Footon-Servetto) has abandoned the Tour as a result of his crash yesterday.

Rabobank's Bram Tankink is also out of the Tour with a bronchial infection. He did not start today's stage. He finished in the gruppetto on Monday, over 28 minutes down, saying he felt as if his "lungs were on fire.”

119km remaining from 199km

115km remaining from 199km

The 1964 Tour saw an intense duel between Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidour, but on this very stage, it was another rider who stole the show. Federico Bahamontes attacked with Julio Jimenez on the Peyresourde, and the two led over the Aspin and Tourmalet, before Bahamontes danced away on the Aubisque to take a wonderful stage win in Pau and even threaten Anquetil and Poulidor's dominace of proceedings. For a brief moment this morning, it looked as though Jurgen Van den Broeck had a similar exploit in mind.

It seems as though a temporary truce has been called in the yellow jersey group, they're certainly taking no risks on the descent of the Tourmalet.

Paolo Tiralongo and Daniel Navaro are on the front for Astanta keeping things controlled. The Contador group has very much swelled since the panic of this morning. Samuel Sanchez is among those who managed to get back on.

103km remaining from 199km

Robert Gesink is another man who had his problems this morning, but he's safely in this large group, along with teammate Denis Menchov.

Another indelible exploit from Tour history that took place on these very roads was Eddy Merckx riding like, well, Eddy Merckx en route to Mourenx in 1969. Already leading the Tour, Merckx attacked near the summit of the Tourmalet and led an elite group of chasers by eight minutes by the time he got to the top of the Aubisque. On the following 70km to Mourenx, he held his advantage to seal his first Tour victory with a truly great performance.

97km remaining from 199km

The next climb on the menu is the Col d'Aubisque. It's 29.9km of climbing from this approach, as the riders first climb the Col du Soulor and after a brief descent come across to attack the top of the Aubisque. The average gradient of 4.2% doesn't even begin to suggest the true difficulty of this hors categorie climb.

92km remaining from 199km

The lead group comes through the town of Argeles-Gazost at the foot of the Soulor/Aubisque. It's another famous name in the Tour's long relationship with the Pyrenees.

90km remaining from 199km

Let's remind ourselves of the names in this lead group: Lance Armstrong (RadioShack), Christopher Horner (RadioShack), Sandy Casar (FdJ), Carlos Barredo (QuickStep), Jurgen Van De Walle (QuickStep), Pierrick Fedrigo ( Bbox), Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne), Ruben Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Ignatus Konovalovas (Cervelo).

87km remaining from 199km

The break is on one of the shallower sections of the Aubisque and the pace is accordingly quite high. Nobody appears to be obviously suffering just yet, but it would be a surprise if they're all together by the top.

The last time the Tour came to the Col d'Aubisque the stage finished at the summit. Michael Rasmussen won the stage in yellow ahead of Alberto Contador, but the Dane was withdrawn from the race that same evening by his Rabobank team as pressure mounted in the wake of his missed doping tests in the lead up to that year's race.

In 1985, Ireland's Stephen Roche won the stage to the top of the Aubisque. It was a split stage that day, and on the 52km leg to the summit of the Aubisque, Roche reeled in the great Luis Herrera and soloed to a special win that set him up for a podium finish in Paris.

81km remaining from 199km

79km remaining from 199km

Astana are controlling things on the front of the yellow jersey group, but there doesn't seem to be any hint of an attack on Contador's lead this afternoon.

Interesting to contrast Christophe Moreau and Lance Armstrong on this climb. Both men are riding their final Tours de France. Moreau can't stay off the front of the group, he seems desperate to enjoy what could be his last time off the front on a major pass like this. Armstrong, by contrast, has spent a lot of time at the back of the break. He may well have the last laugh in Pau mind.

And as soon as we mention the fact that Armstrong hadn't been seen on the front since the Tourmalet, the Texan goes to the head of the group and does a turn. He may not be the hammer today, but he's not quite the nail either.

For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day: How many times has Pau been the finishing city in a stage of the Tour (including 2010)?
For a hint, click

75km remaining from 199km

Finally an attack out of the lead group. Carlos Barredo and Lance Armstrong jump clear. Plaza, Cunego and Fedrigo try to get back on terms.

Armstrong's attack has distanced his teammate Horner. Casar is also stuggling.

Armstrong is setting the pace on the front now, with Barredo, Fedrigo and Plaza on his wheel. Cunego is just about staying in contact. There are still 12.5 km to the top of the Col d'Aubisque.

73km remaining from 199km

Barredo skips clear of the lead group of five and Armstrong didn't seem able to close the gap.

Fedrigo jumps across easily and Plaza moves up also. Meanwhile, Armstrong and Cunego are languishing behind.

A hallmark of Armstrong this year and last has been his inability to cope with sharp changes of rhythm. He's kept his head however, and has ridden his way back up to Plaza, Barredo and Fedrigo with Cunego on his wheel.

Barredo goes again. Fedrigo is straight across this time. Armstrong is chasing hard and copes better with this acceleration.

The five are back together again. It's interesting that the two major Tour winners in the group, Armstrong and Cunego, are the two who have difficulty dealing with the sudden changes in pace. Who'd have thought we'd ever have been writing that in 2004?

72km remaining from 199km

Again Barredo attack! And once again Fedrigo is first across. Armstrong is next, and then Plaza and Cunego make it up.

Barredo and Fedrigo went again just over the crest of the Col du Soulor, but it will all come back together on this plateau before across to the high point of the Col d'Aubisque. The road shoulders spectacularly around the mountainside before reaching the Aubisque proper. There's still some serious climbing to come.

69km remaining from 199km

67km remaining from 199km

That brief descent allowed the lead group to come back together. The road is kicking back up for the last 5km to the summit however, so they surely won't be together for much longer.

65km remaining from 199km

64km remaining from 199km

2km to the top of the Aubisque for the men in front now. Moreau is back at the head of affairs, he's desperate to claim the summit of this storied mountain.

Casar and Konovalovas have been dislodged from the lead group again on these final ramps of the Aubisque.They'll have their work cut out to get back on over the other side.

62km remaining from 199km

Damiano Cunego suffered the effects of Barredo's accelerations earlier in the climb, but he seems to have recovered well.

61km remaining from 199km

60km remaining from 199km

In the race for the King of the Mountains, Anthony Charteau will hold on to his polka dots tonight with 143 points, but Moreau is closing fast on 128. Meanwhile, Damiano Cunego has moved up to 3rd in that classification on 99 points.

Detente in the yellow jersey group. After the high drama of the Peyresourde, it seems as though a truce has been called and the race will be decided on Thursday's stage to the top of the Col du Tourmalet and the final time trial.

Another reminder for those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day: How many times has Pau been the finishing city in a stage of the Tour (including 2010)?

48km remaining from 199km

He has! What a remarkable ride from Casar. Race radio said he was 1:30 down at the summit, although one would wonder if the gap was a little smaller than that. In any case, Casar had to battle hard to get back on and if he can recover in the next few kilometres he will have a serious say in the outcome of today's stage.

44km remaining from 199km

Barredo has 20 seconds over the Armstrong-Casar-Cunego group.

42km remaining from 199km

38km remaining from 199km

35km remaining from 199km

The chase group trails by 43 seconds at the sprint sign, but they seem to have found some semblance of organisation now so that gap should begin to come in a little.

Mario Aerts is back on the front of the yellow jersey group. He has spent a lot of time in the wind today in the service of Jurgen Van den Broeck. Van den Broeck looked very strong on the Peyresourde this morning, it will be intriguing to see what he does on the Tourmalet on Thursday.

30km remaining from 199km

Barredo still has an advantage of 45 seconds. The chase group needs everyone to contribute to get that gap pegged back.

After a frenzied start to the stage, Alberto Contador has had a relatively relaxed day. It looks like Schleck will be staking everything on the Tourmalet.

26km remaining from 199km

Our colleagues at Procycling were critical of Damiano Cunego for sitting in on the break on stage 9, but the Italian has more than done his fair share on the front today. He's been very aggressive in the Tour this year in the quest for an elusive stage victory.

22km remaining from 199km

20km remaining from 199km

Back in the main peloton, David Zabriskie is on the front for Garmin-Transitions. Meanwhile, Sandy Casar and Pierrick Fedrigo are pushing things on in pursuit of Barredo.

17km remaining from 199km

16km remaining from 199km

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Barredo has opened out the gap slightly again, but he will surely be caught before we get in to Pau as Casar surges to the front of the chasers again.

10km remaining from 199km

9km remaining from 199km

All the way back in  the peloton, Zabriskie had been riding on the front in defence of Ryder Hesjedal's 10th place, which is under threat from Plaza and Horner. Omega Pharma are back in front now. Astana haven't had to work as hard as they might have expected in defence of Contador's yellow jersey.

7km remaining from 199km

Horner goes to the front. If Armstrong wants this stage he'll have to do some work himself.

5km remaining from 199km

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3km remaining from 199km

Moreau goes to the front and slashes six seconds off Barredo's lead.

2km remaining from 199km

2km remaining from 199km

Barredo is finally cracking, the gap is dwindling

1km remaining from 199km

Van de Walle tries to attack but is blocked by Horner.

Moreau leads out the sprint.

It's Fedrigo who goes first

And Fedrigo gets it in the sprint!

Fedrigo was looking in flying form all day long, and that was a dominant sprint win. The magnificent Casar managed to close in for second place, while Ruben Plaza faded to finish third. Damiano Cunego left his effort too late and could only finish 4th. He seemed to be marking Casar.

Armstrong could only finish sixth. He took the long way around in the sprint and he faded very early. He just didn't have the legs for a fast finish like that.

That's Pierrick Fedrigo's third stage win in a Tour de France. He took wins last year and in 2006. It's also Bbox-Bouygues Telecom's second stage in as many days and France's sixth stage win in this Tour. The last time they won this many stages in the Tour was in 1997. A different era, three of those winners were from the Festina team...

Sandy Casar has finished second yet again in a Tour de France stage. At least he already secured a win this year already on stage 9. He fought very hard to get back on to contest the finish today.

The bunch is into the final straight now. Thor Hushovd will look to take out the sprint for the green jersey points on offer here.

Hushovd takes the sprint and takes the seven points on offer. He is now in the green jersey by five points from Alessandro Petacchi. The bunch came in at 6:46.

Provisional stage result:

Provisional overall standings:

Pierrick Fedrigo is clearly and rightly delighted with his day's work today. We didn't see as much of him as we'd have expected earlier in the race, but after going on the attack all day on Saturday he showed that he had the legs to go the distance.

Carlos Barredo was heartbroken at the finish, but he put up a great fight.

Thanks for joining us for today's stage over some of the hallowed ground of the Tour de France. We saw a lively start, a thrilling finish and a more than worthy stage winner. Tomorrow is the second rest day of the Tour at Pau, but we'll be back with our live coverage on Thursday for the crucial stage back into the heart of the Pyrenees to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet.

Provisional stage result:

1 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 5:31:43
2 Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux
3 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini
5 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack
7 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne
9 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick Step 0:00:28
10 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team 0:06:45

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