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Tour de France 2011: Stage 14

Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 14 of the Tour de France from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille. 

Bonjour and welcome to today's live coverage. This is the third stage in the Pyrenees and should be a great day of racing.

The riders have left the start line in Saint-Gaudens but are still in the neutralsied section of the stage.

Here we go as Christian Prudhomme drops the start flag.

And immediately riders attack. Ouch.

We have 171 riders in action today. Everyone of the finishers from yesterday started this third stage in the Pyrenees.

Attack. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) has had a dig, while behind Cadel Evans (BMC) is amongst the team cars after stopping briefly. 

Evans stopped to change his bike.

The riders are on a long straight valley road and we from the Cyclingnews blimp, we can see the peloton lined out as they chase the early attacks.

Jesn Voigt (Leopard Trek) and David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) are also in the move that is going clear.

161km remaining from 168km

Europcar is trying to control the peloton.

There are 19 riders chasing Chavanel and they have close to a minute now.

Other riders are chasing too but are struggling to get across to the move.

This would be a big breakaway group. There are no GC contenders in there but this move could shape the race today.

Several teams have riders in the move to act as support for their team leaders later in the stage. There are several valley sections and a key 20km flat section before the final climb to Plateau de Beille.

Having a rider like Jens Voigt up there could be vital for the Schleck brothers if they are to distance some of their GC rivals who may have been dropped on the Col d'Agnes and the Port de Lers climbs. 

As you may know, this is only the fifth time a Tour de France stage has finished at Plateau de Beille. 

And the stage winner has always gone on to win the Tour de France in Paris.

The break now has 2:45 and the peloton seems to have let them go. The huge number of riders is going to give an extra twist to the stage.

152km remaining from 168km

Europcar is on the front riding tempo but has also sneaked a rider into the break.

The riders are already on the lower slopes of the Col de Porte-d'Aspet. It was on this side of the climb that Fabio Casertelli died after crashing while descending in the 1995 Tour de France. The exact anniversary of his death is Monday, July 18.

We will shortly have all the names of the riders in the breakaway in our special Situation section on the right of the live page.

149km remaining from 168km

Also in the move are Sandy Casar and two of his FDJ teammates. He is the best placed overall, 21st at 8:47. He could move closer to yellow or even take the stage today if he performs well.

The 20 breakaways have just apssed the white marble Casartelli monument.

23km remaining from 168km

The gap to the peloton is now 4:30, as the five chasers try to close the gap and join the move before it is too late.

FDJ are setting the pace at the head of the break. They want this move to stick.

145km remaining from 168km

The five are struggling to get across.

Returning the expected showdown on Plateau de Beille, the four previous winners are: Marco Pantani (1998),  Lance Armstrong (2002 and 2004) and Alberto Contador (2007).

26km remaining from 168km

The five chasers are splitting but their attempt to catch the break looks doomed.

142km remaining from 168km

FDJ still driving hard in the break. This is going to hurt them all.

In the peloton the GC contenders are stilling pretty.

The break crosses the summit of the Col de Portet d'Aspet, with Delage taking the 5 points for FDJ. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) was second.

141km remaining from 168km

The peloton crosses the summit of the Cat 2 climb 5:00 behind.

33km remaining from 168km

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) was struggling at the back of the peloton. He's facing a tough day in the saddle today.

133km remaining from 168km

The descent is testing and twisty.

The break is approaching the sprint but Jens Voigt is notgoing for it. He's prefered to get a new bottle to stay hydrated.

Multi-tasker Bauke Mollema takes a call of nature while descending at quite a speed. Chapeau.

@saddleblaze Sat, 16th Jul 2011 12:04:33

Delage just edged David Millar in the sprint, taking the 1500 Euro prize money.

121km remaining from 168km

The gap is now touvching six minutes, as the four chasers catch the break, giving us 24 riders up front.

lets not forget its stage winner Greipel's birthday today...lets hope he has a nice day ;-)

@BriSmithy Sat, 16th Jul 2011 12:21:21

It is also Miguel Indurain's birthday today. He is 47.

118km remaining from 168km

The riders are following the valley river as they approach the Col de la Core.

The finish at Plateau de Beille is expected to see the GC contenders go on the attack. We could see the Schleck brothers take turns to attack again, while Cadel Evans could also try and gain time on Alberto Contador. Evans spoke after yesterday's stage here. 

Everyone is trying to work out just how good or bad Alberto Contador is feeling. He is clearly not at his best -his heavy legs and tired expression shows that in the finale of the stages. His team manager Bjarne Riis is convinced Contador just needs a good day to get his Tour de France back on track and reduce his two minute deficit.

112km remaining from 168km

The gap is now steady at six minutes.

This climb is 14.1km long but has a steady gradient of 5.7%.

111km remaining from 168km

The Europcar team is riding on the front, with five riders leading Thomas Voeckler and his yellow jersey.

Andy Schleck is at the back of the peloton but will quickly move up with help from Maxime Monfort.

There is a distinct feeling of tension in the air. It feels like a storm is brewing, that the GC contenders will face off on the climb to Plateau de Beille.

On television Jonathan Vaughters has confirmed that Garmin-Cervelo will be riding for Tom Danielson today to protect his overall classification.

JV picked Voigt and Gerdemann as the strongest riders in the break. However FDJ is leading the move, working for Sandy Casar.

JV says he thinks Danielson will have a good day.

Danielson is currently tenth overall, at 4:35.

Philippe Gilbert has changed his bike but is quickly back into the peloton.

108km remaining from 168km

After the Col de la Core, the riders will reach the feed zone in Seix.

The break is one kilometre from the summit of the climb now.

Cavendish is near the back of the bunch, digging deep to hang on. He will also fight on the descent to close any gap. Cavendish will be watched closely today after the accusation from Rojas that the HTC sprinter had taken a tow from a car.

Delage has jumped away up front, chasing the points at the summit of the Col de la Core.  

63km remaining from 168km

Delage is leading down the descent. Behind Cavendish has been dropped by the bunch. Eisel covers in him cold water to try and get him going again.

Cavendish is spinning a low gear and so will be trying to limit his losses. 

68km remaining from 168km

The team cars are moving past Cavendish. He is losing more time. 

100km remaining from 168km

The break is splittling on the descent

The peloton is now over the top of the climb and Cavendish has quickly recaught them.

Millar has nowe joined Casar and El Fares up front. He's joining in with the work too. 

89km remaining from 168km

The front trio leads the peloton by seven minutes.

Phew! The Europcar riders almost went off on a sharp corner. The first rider pulled his foot out, causing panic behind.

It's time for the feed zone in the town of Seix.

The peloton is lined out but will soon pick up there musette.

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@Cyclingnewsfeed Sat, 16th Jul 2011 13:26:04

The peloton is picking up lunch but not easing off in the chase of the breakaways.

85km remaining from 168km

Hopefully we won't see any crashes in the feed zone.

Are you following the Cyclingnews/Easton Cylcing trivia contest during the Tour?

 

Of course you are!

Yesterday's question was: Who was the oldest rider ever to compete in a Tour de France?

The answer: Henri Paret at age 50 in 1904.

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81km remaining from 168km

Cadel Evans has been back to the BMC team car again. But he's got two teammates to pace back up. No worries for the on-form Australian

79km remaining from 168km

The trio up front are now on the short Col de Latrape.

Behind them the other riders have awoken and some are trying to get across to Millar, Casar and El Fares.

Some riders are being dropped from the big breakaway group.

Sandy Casar (FDJ) is now the virtual race leader after his lead touched nine minutes. He started the stage 8:47 behind Thomas Voeckler.  

He is unlikely to take the yellow at the end of the stage but it is still an aggressive ride by the little Frenchman.

Leopard Trek have noticed that the Europcar team is struggling to contorl the race. Like a big brother, they have stepped in taken over the chase.

Stuart O'Grady is on the front and spitting riders out of the back.

Up front, Millar has his jersey open as he climbs with Casar and El Fares.

Jeremy Roy is wearing the polka-dot jersey but is suffering behind. He has been dropped by the Leopard Trek lead peloton.

74km remaining from 168km

Casar lead over the top of the Col de Latrape.

Riders are slipping out of the back in small groups. They will have to join forces to create the gruppetto and ride together to finish inside the time limit.

Thor Hushovd is also gapped on the climb after his huge effort to win yesterday's stage.

Millar is leading down the descent. He bumped round a hairpin but accelerates quickly.

68km remaining from 168km

After the descent the breakaway trio pass through Aulus les Bain. The next climb is the Col d'Agnes, a Cat 1 climb: 10.0km at 8.2%. That will hurt.

Riblon has caught the Millar trio, meaning we have a quartet at the front of the race.

Riblon has caught the Millar trio, meaning we have a quartet at the front of the race.

Riblon won the stage to Ax-3 Domaines last year. He's a big guy but can climb pretty well.

David Millar was looking good in the move but has now been dropped as the gradient kicks in. This is a tough climb.

Leopard Trek are all over the front of the peloton, upping the pace to set up the Schlecks. 

Millar has lost contact with Riblon, Casar and El Fares but he doesn't seem to have cracked, just slowly losing time on French trio.

@inrng Sat, 16th Jul 2011 14:11:13

65km remaining from 168km

This climb is splitting the chasers as the distance also begins to bite.

Millar is falling back and shakes his head as Egot Silin (Katusha) moves clear and persues the breakaway.  

Silin is closing the gap but Voigt and others are closing too. 

The four look back as there is a regrouping of 12 or so riders up front. 

The speed is slow on the climb because the gradient is so steep. The early and middle sections are especially tough. 

Ouch! The road switches up the side of the mountain. It is spectacular to see but most be very painful to ride.  

Stuart O'Grady is still on the front, setting the pace. He's got Fabian Cancellara just behind him as Leopard Trek continue to set the pace and control the race.

Gerdemann gets on back on the break and gets some encouragment from Jens Voigt in German. The two could paly akey role later in the stage for the Schlecks.   

The Col d'Agnes reaches an altitude of 1570 metres, only 200 lower than the summit finish at Plateau de Beille.

60km remaining from 168km

Gilbert has been popped from the peloton. The Leopard Trek pace is relentless and painful.

60km remaining from 168km

Voigt and Gerdemann lea the break but the latter is suffering and his head is rocking.

The break is close to the summit of the Col d'Agnes.

Here goes Charteau but Chavanel pips him to the line and takes the climber's points.

57km remaining from 168km

Incredibly O'Grady is still working on the front.

Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is leading the 11 riders down the descent, as the peloton is close to the summit. There are only 40 or so riders in the peloton, as david Arroyo (Movistar) struggles slightly.

Voeckler grabs a newspaper at the summit and puts it under his yellow jersey. It's old style but it works. And no rider wants to get a chill on the descent.   

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Crash! Larens ten Dam (Rabobank) went off the road and then went over the handlebars. He went down hard and cut his nose but does not seem seriously hurt.

51km remaining from 168km

ten Dam is back on his bike and chasing. He's going to suffer in the last 50km of the stage.

Contador is tucked in the peloton, on Ivan Basso's wheel, with Cadel Evans just behind him. 

Tom Danielson is there too, protected by Christian Vande Velde.

Up front, Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is first over the top of the Port des Lers. He now faces a long descent to the foot of Plateau de Beille.

48km remaining from 168km

Chavanel takes second place on the climb, as the peloton is at 5:20. Leopard Trek has five riders on the front.

Chute! Voigt has gone off the road.

He is okay and landed on the grass. He went off on a tight corner. He is lucky it could be a lot worse for the tough German.

Voigt is back riding but taking things a lot slower now.. He'll probably wait for the peloton now and join in the work with his teammates.

There are 50 or so riders in the peloton now.

Ouch. Voigt crashes again. His wheel locked up and he went down on his right side.

He is not happy and shouts something at the television camera to leave him alone.

38km remaining from 168km

Leopard Trek are leading on the descent too. The Schlecks will surely blow open the race on the climb to the finish.

Despite the earlier crashes, the peloton is hurtling down the mountain at top speed. Riders in the break up ahead are on flatter ground and taking time to drop back to the team cars for advice.

Gorka Izigirre has 50 seconds on the chase group of 10 riders now, with Jens Voigt stuck between the second group on the road and the 9-rider group containing David Millar.

Jens Voigt is on his way back to the Leopard Trek-led peloton, but five minutes ahead there are three groups: up front, it's still Gorka Izagirre with nearly a minute on the chase group including Linus Gerdemann, David Millar, Marco Marcato et al.  We have an attack of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) from the chasing group, but he's getting no help from Marcato.

David Millar now gives it a go. The group is much too big to work together smoothly.

He's got Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Bauke Mollema (Rabobank Cycling Team), Julien El Fares (Cofidis) in pursuit and Marcato with Millar - but once more they cannot get any cooperation.

25km remaining from 168km

The attacks are coming one after the other in the break. nobody wants to let anyone else get away before the staert of the climb.

Ah, @millarmind such a joy to watch you tell the pain, 'I'd like some more, sir.' #MillarTime #TdF

@Ride_Argyle Sat, 16th Jul 2011 15:18:42

Samuel Sanchez changes his bike, not the best time with the bunch going full gas along the valley.

@inrng Sat, 16th Jul 2011 15:18:30

Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is still out front but the others are hunting him down.

However the big question is what will happen behind.

The Bsque rider has sat up and is wating for the others. Chavanel now gives it a go. 

25km remaining from 168km

The gap is just 3:20 to the peloton. Leopard Trek want the stage win as well as to put pressure on their GC rivals.

Cancellara is on the front, tucked in an aero position. Leopard Trek are bullying the race yet again. Can the Schlecks finisg it off? We will find out very soon.

Contador is also tucked over the bars, sitting on the back of the Leopard Trek train.

20km remaining from 168km

The breakaway is just 20km from the finish. just four kilometres from the start of the climb.

Thomas Voeckler is fighting to hold a wheel. We will soon find out if he can keep the yellow jersey. He has a 1:49 lead on Frank Schleck. Will it be enough? 

The start of the climb is very tough, riders turn off the main road, pass by a few buildings, and then bang, a 10% ramp.

@inrng Sat, 16th Jul 2011 15:27:55

The peloton is blasting to the foot of the climb. The race will soon explode on the steep lower slopes.

There are huge crowds as the riders pass through the village at the start of the climb. Here we go!

There are huge crowds as the riders pass through the village at the start of the climb. Here we go!

The remains of the break are just behind him.

The climb of Plateau de Beille is a beast. It is 15.8km long and clmibs at an average of 7.9%.

Several sections are at over 10%.

Cancellara has swung off as the peloton hits the climb. Monfort is noe on the front setting the tempo, ahead of Voigt.

riders are falling out of the back: Hincapie and Tony Martin too. There could be huge gaps today.

Robert Gesink (Rabobank) has been dropped too.

Sandy Casar (FDJ) is going for the stage win but he's only got two minutes on the peloton.

Voigt is doing his last turn on the front as al lthe GC contenders sit behind him.

Basso is there, Evans too.

Andy Schleck looks good, as does Peter Velits (HTC-Highroad). 

There are only 20 or so riders in the peloton. But Voeckler is still there.

But Nicolas Roche is suffering at the back.

13km remaining from 168km

The gap is just 1:50 from Casar to the peloton. Most of the other riders who were in the break have been caught.

Contador is dancing on the pedals but we will soon see how good he really is.

13km remaining from 168km

Christian Vande Velde is there helping Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo)

Danielson is third in line after Voigt sat up. BMC is now setting the tempo on the front.  

Vande Velde is also on the front.

The American is putting down the hurt but Voeckler is still there.

Andy Schleck is sat on Contador's wheel. With Frank not far away. However they now have no teammates with them.

11km remaining from 168km

Casar has a 1:30 lead. That will surely melt when the attacks come behind.

Contador is riding quite far back in the group and he does not look super strong.

Vande Velde is riding hard on the front.

Here we go!

Andy Schleck attacks and Contador goes with him.

Also there are Evans, Basso, Cunego, Frank Schleck and Voeckler. Now they're looking at each other. 

Danielson is distanced but is trying to get back on.

10km remaining from 168km

Casar has a 1:20 lead now.

Now Andy goes again!

Jelle Vanenert (Omega Pharma) goes with him but Evans and the others come across the gap.

Sanchez is still there, Basos, Cunego too. So is Uran (Sky).

There are 10 riders in the group as Andy Schleck goes again.

Evans is trying to close the gap and drags the others up to Schleck and Voeckler.

Contador is rocking on his bike. 

Basso is on the front, trying to ride at a steady tmepo.

8km remaining from 168km

Casar has just 50 seconds now.

Frank Schleck hits the front now, with Evans on his wheel, Andy Schleck is at the back. Is he getting ready to launch another dig?

Voeckler is fghting to defend his yellow jersey and is getting some egreat help from teammate Pierre Rolland.

Contador is next to last in the 12-rider group.

Danielson is fighting his way back to the group. That is a gutsy ride.

The Schlecks are talking tactics. And goes again!

But Contador dances across to him, dragging up the others. 

But Basso is struggling.

6km remaining from 168km

Casar has just 20 seconds, while Vanenert surges clear. He is not a threat overall and so they might let him go.

Andy Schleck keeps trying attacks but they're short-lived and not very effective.

Vanenert has blasted past Casar and now has 15 seconds.

There is still 6km to go. That is a lot of hard climbing.

The leaders have also caught Casar, as Basso ups the tempo and Cunego goes out of the back.

This is a battle of last man standing. Uran is now slipping out of the back.

5km remaining from 168km

Vanendert has a lead of 18 seconds.

Sanchez zig zags over the road but now Basso hits the front again.

Vanenert looks good and now has 25 seconds.

Basso has upped the tempo and lined out the front group. Voeckler is on his wheel.

Contador is watching both of the Schlecks. Today Andy looks far stronger than Frank. 

Andy is on the front but Vanenert has 30 seconds and is looking good for the stage win. 

On this flatter section, Sanchez goes but Voeckler chases, as does Schleck. But Sanchez goes again. 

This a real fight, a 15-round bout. 

3km remaining from 168km

Vanendert now leads by 39 seconds but Sanchez is in the middle.

There are 9 riders in the chase group, the yellow jersey group.

Contador has again ridden a defensive race, chasing down Andy Schleck but letting the others control each other. 

Basso has a gap but Andy Schleck refuses to chase him. Voeckler goes across as does Evans and Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale). 

Evans is on the front and the gaps are opening. Frank Schleck is suffering but gets onto the move. 

There are six riders in the GC group but they cannot stop Vanendert winning the stage. 

He is inside the final km, with Sanchez at 20 seconds. 

1km remaining from 168km

The six go under the 1km banner. Andy Schleck is on the front the pace is steady, all six seem tired. None of them are far stronger than the others. This could be a close Tour de France all the way to the Grenoble time trial.

Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) takes the stage victory and celebrates with his arm in the air.

Sanchez is second at 22 seconds but may take the climber's jersey.

Andy Schleck attacks in the finale and finishes 45 seconds down but only gained two seconds on Evans and the others.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was there with him and so still leads the Tour and keeps the yellow jersey.

Here comes Danielson. He lost 2:00 to Vanendert but will move up overall. That's a great ride by the American.

Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) was impressive too and will also move up overall. 

He may also be the best young rider and so pull on the white jersey.

Voeckler still has 1:49 on Frank Schleck, with Cadel Evans (BMC) third at 2:06.

Provisional stage result:

1 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:21
3 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:46
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
5 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard
7 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
8 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
9 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar

Provisional GC:

1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
2 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:49
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:02:06
4 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:15
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:16
6 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:03:44
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:04:00
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:04:01
9 Thomas Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:05:46
10 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:06:18

Well that was an aggressive but finaslly balanced mountain stage. 

Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was a deserved winner but behind him it is still too early to understand who can go on to win the Tour de France. All the big names and possible even Thomas Voeckler could even win. We will know more in the Alps next week.  

We're about to wrap up our live coverage of today's stage. We'll back on Sunday for stage 15 to Montpellier, a stage for the sprinters. 

We'll have full results, a race report, photo galleries, videos and rider interviews very soon on Cyclingnews.

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