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Tour de France 2011: Stage 7

Stage 7 of the Tour de France, 218km from Le Mans to Châteauroux.

Today’s flat stage brings the peloton into the Indre département, and the recent rules of Tour stages in this neck of the woods are quite simple – 180 riders race for 200km and at the end Mark Cavendish wins a bunch sprint.

The Manxman took his first Tour stage in Châteauroux in 2008 and followed up with a win in nearby Issoudun a year later. Can he make it an Indre hat-trick today?

215km remaining from 215km

All 194 riders who finished yesterday have all started from Le Mans this morning.

215km remaining from 215km

All 194 riders who finished yesterday have started from Le Mans this morning.

A trio of riders forge ahead inside the opening kilometre of the stage. Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) and the FDJ duo of Gianni Meersman and Mickael Delage.

No sooner are they up the road than Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) bridges across to make a four-man break.

214km remaining from 215km

In spite of the presence of two FDJ riders in this break, there's been no reaction from the peloton. After 3km the quartet already had 1:10 in hand, and that grew to 2:15 a kilometre later.

212km remaining from 215km

Puncture for Talabardon, who instigated the break. He gets a quick change and he's chasing back on about 15 seconds behind his companions. The peloton is still rather disinterested, and the gap is out to 3:40 to the front men.

It's been a rough couple of days for Quick Step. No fewer than six of their number hit the deck on stage five, where Tom Boonen had to battle against the time limit in the company of Addy Engels. Yesterday, it was French champion Sylvain Chavanel's turn to suffer, as he came home 12 minutes down nursing a shoulder injury. Both Chavanel and Boonen are still in the race, however, and hoping for an upturn in their fortunes.

208km remaining from 215km

Talabardon has made it back up to the breakaway, and 10km into the stage, the quartet have a 5-minute lead.

198km remaining from 215km

It certainly looks as though this break is going to provide the morning's entertainment on the road to Chateauroux. The quarter have 6 minutes over the peloton as they approach le Grand-Lucé.

 

FDJ have been hugely aggressive in this Tour so far, and it's no shock to see them represented in today's break. The only surprise is that it doesn't feature the hyperactive Jeremy Roy. The Frenchman has been Jacky Durand-esque in his efforts so far in this Tour.

Roy's teammates Delage and Meersman are in the break today, of course. Delage was already up the road on stage 3 to Redon, but this is Meersman's first significant foray off the front in what is his debut Tour de France.

Meersman's fellow countryman and former teammate Philippe Gilbert is wearing the green jersey today, although he has a lead of just one point over Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and he says that team orders mean that he will lose his jersey this afternoon. Andre Greipel hasn't had the happiest of times at Omega Pharma-Lotto to date, and the Tour has continued in that vein. On Wednesday's stage to Cap Frehel, the team worked for Gilbert in the sprint, but it looks as though he will get his chance to contest the sprints today.

The day's intermediate sprint comes a mere 25.5km from the finish at Chateauroux, so it will be fascinating to see just how many of the sprinters contest it. Indeed, no less a figure than Freddy Maertens reckons that Greipel should step aside to allow Gilbert to have a crack off picking up the 20 points on offer at Buzancais. "If I was Phil, I would play my card first on the intermediate sprint 25.5km before Chateauroux," Maertens said. "Some of the top sprinters may skip this sprint to concentrate fully on the finish."

190km remaining from 215km

Back in the here and now, and the four leaders have 6:35 in hand on the peloton after 28km of racing.

Yannick Talabardon must have endured a brief moment of panic when it looked as though he had punctured out of the breakaway after just 4km, but he's contributing smoothly to their efforts now.

Talabardon turned thirty on Wednesday but this is the first Tour de France of his career. After turning pro with BigMat-Auber in 2002, he hit the big time with Credit Agricole in 2005. When Roger Legeay's team folded at the end of 2008, however, Talaborden was forced to step down from ProTour level and found a spot on Bessons Chaussures, which has since developed into Saur-Sojasun.

Talabardon does have some Grand Tour experience. While places for Credit Agricole's Tour team were always at a premium, he completed the Giro d'Italia in 2005 and 2006, and the Vuelta a Espana in 2007 and 2008.

180km remaining from 215km

The break has covered a brisk but hardly leg-wilting 37.9km in the first hour of racing. It's cloudy at the moment, with a threat of rain, although conditions are warm and dry at the finish in Chateauroux.

Gianni Meersman is the best-placed rider overall in today's break. He began the day 3:22 down on Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) in 56th place, but in this era of radio earpieces and finely-drilled lead-out trains, the Belgian is hardly likely to retain that kind of advantage in Chateauroux.

It will be interesting to see who takes responsibility for the pursuit this afternoon. For Garmin-Cervelo, David Zabriskie and Ramunas Navardauskus have done a lot of work all week in defence of Thor Hushovd's yellow jersey, but the team has been careful not to devote too much energy to controlling the race. Omega Pharma-Lotto have been very active in support of Philippe Gilbert all week, but can they muster up the same kind of enthusiasm for an Andre Greipel sprint?

In theory, Sky should be keen, with both the in-form Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift at their disposal, but the British squad may also be looking to spare their manpower to support of Bradley Wiggins in week two. After taking a stage win yesterday, Sky may also feel that their opening week is already a success.

Of course, HTC-Highroad have the stage's outstanding favourite in Mark Cavendish, and they will contribute but they certainly won't want to do all of the work. Lampre-ISD and Alessandro Petacchi are still searching for a stage win, so perhaps today the men in pink and blue might become HTC's allies of circumstances and look to ensure a bunch finish in Chateauroux.

172km remaining from 215km

For now, it's Garmin-Cervelo keeping tabs on affairs at the head of the peloton, but at this early stage there is no urgency in their pursuit. The escapees have 7:20 over the peloton as they pass through Ponce-sur-le-Loir.

The Loir and Loire rivers are not to be confused, even though, rather confusingly, we cross them both in the space of 60km today.

The race is currently following the contours of the Loir, a tributary of the Sarthe. At the 104km mark, however, the peloton will cross the rather bigger Loire (with an "e") at Chaumont-sur-Loire.

At that point in the stage, we will be in the heart of Paris-Tours country. The autumn classic crosses the Loire in the spectacular shadow of the Château at Amboise before the rapid final 25km run-in to the finish, whereas today the peloton will still have over 100km to go when they traverse the mighty river at Chaumont-sur-Loire.

155km remaining from 215km

Garmin-Cervelo are controlling affairs at the front of the peloton, and while Hushovd's teammates certainly aren't putting the hammer down, they are doing just enough to keep the break at a manageable distance. 6:40 the gap.

With no hills on the agenda today, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) will enjoy a trouble-free day in the polka dot jersey. The Dutchman will have his work cut out tomorrow, however, with two category 4 climbs, the second category Col de la Croix and then the final climb to Super-Besse Sancy (Cat. 3).

Delage and Meersman's  teammate Arthur Vichot was a fine 6th in Lisieux on Thursday. Our own Pierre Carrey caught up with the young Frenchman after the finish, and Vichot talked about being a puncheur and having an Australian fan club.

142km remaining from 215km

A light wind is coming from the right hand side of the road, and the break is sensibly lined up in echelon formation. Garmin-Cervelo are still controlling things in the peloton, but have allowed the break's gap to sneak up again towards the eight -minute mark.

Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad) is up at the front of the peloton to help out with Garmin-Cervelo's marshalling of the stage. While Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel's roles in the Mark Cavendish train have been well-documented, Bak is one of the unsung heroes of his HTC guard. The Dane spends huge sections of a stage on the front, gauging his effort to match the pace of the break in front, and tactically it can be a delicate operation.

The peloton is riding over some very exposed and flat roads on today's stage. There's scarcely a ripple here in the Loire valley, which doubtless exaggerates the effects of the wind.

Puncture for Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), but the Belgian shouldn't have any problems in chasing back on at this early stage in the day.

135km remaining from 215km

Mark Cavendish is looking comfortable in the peloton, surrounded by a phalanx of HTC-Highroad teammates.

David Zabriskie and Ramunas Navardauskus are still setting the pace for Garmin-Cervelo, but for now they're happy simply to keep matching the efforts of the break in front.

133km remaining from 215km

A nice moment for Jeremy Roy (FDJ). Born in nearby Tour, the popular Frenchman was given a bon de sortie by the peloton to ride ahead and greet his family before rejoining the rear of the bunch. The pace is still very sedate in the peloton.

Pablo Urtasun is wearing a bandage from a fall earlier in the week on his upper right arm, but is showing no ill-effects here. The 31-year-old Tour debutante is still contributing well to this breakaway.

127km remaining from 215km

The sidewind seems to be beginning to pick up a little, and the roads are exposed and quite narrow in this section of the stage. The overall contenders won't want to get caught on the wrong foot here.

Talarbardon is riding his heart out at the front of this breakaway. The Frenchman has spent so long waiting for his Tour debut, and he's certainly determined to make the most of it.

124km remaining from 215km

After lengthy consultations with Wilfried Peeters, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) rolls to a halt at the side of the road and abandons the Tour de France.

The team car door yawns open and Boonen climbs in. He's been struggling with the after-effects of his crash on stage 5, and he's had to give best to his injuries on an anonymous road outside Herbault. The Belgian has always had a complicated relationship with the Tour, and hasn't finished the race since he won the green jersey way back in 2007.

119km remaining from 215km

The heavy skies are finally beginning to break a little, and the rain is falling steadily on the four escapees up front.

Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar are locked in conversation towards the front of the peloton. So far, Garmin-Cervelo's sprint duo have reached a most harmonious understanding on this Tour de France, with Farrar fighting it out in the pure fastmen's finishes and Hushovd focusing on the uphill sprints. Today's stage should see Hushovd leading out Farrar, although the Norwegian will be loathe to let this Tour go by without grabbing a stage win of his own.

110km remaining from 215km

The pace is still quite relaxed in the peloton, and a number of riders are taking advantage of a wooded area to pull over for a natural break.

Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) is lurking with intent towards the front end of the peloton. 2nd on stage 3 and 4th yesterday, the Frenchman is still hunting that elusive first Tour stage win to complement his lone day in the yellow jersey from 2008.

106km remaining from 215km

The anticipated rainfall hasn't quite materialised. After a light drizzle, the sun is trying to poke its way through the clouds once again as HTC-Highroad lead the peloton in pursuit of the four leaders.

The four breakaways ride across the Loire past a skyline dominated by the Chateau de Chaumont. Crossing the Loire marks something of a symbolic end to the opening week. After today, the roads should become lumpier and the temperatures should rise accordingly as the race heads south towards the Massif Central and the Pyrenees. For now, however, it's grey skies and flat roads all the way to Chateauroux...

104km remaining from 215km

The four up front ride through the feed zone with 5:27 in hand over the peloton.

After a sidewind for much of the morning, the race is now turning into a gentle headwind, and that might make things a little more complicated for the leading quartet. They averaged 35.5kph for the third hour of racing, to give them an overall average of 37.5kph since the race got underway in Le Mans a little over three hours ago.

Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) shows off his polka dot jersey at the front of the peloton on the short drag up towards the feeding zone.

100km remaining from 215km

The bunch is safely through the feed, with Ramunas Navardauskas back on the front. Behind him, Lars Bak talks Danny Pate through HTC-Highroad's tactics for the final 100km or so of racing.

94km remaining from 215km

The headwind is taking its toll on the efforts of the break. They quartet have seen almost a minute come off their advantage since the feed.

There is growing anticipation about tomorrow's intermediate mountain stage to Super-Besse, and ahead of the Tour's first major rendezvous, Robert Millar took a look back at the first week of the race in his exclusive Cyclingnews blog, which you can read here.

The game of cat and mouse between the peloton and the break is beginning in earnest now. HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervelo have pegged the break's advantage down to four minutes, but they certainly don't want to catch them at this early stage.

91km remaining from 215km

A quick glance at the speedometer shows that the four escapees are grinding away at barely 30kph on a stretch of exposed road.

The irrepressible pairing of David Zabriskie and Ramunas Navardauskas are tapping out a steady rhythm at the front end of the peloton. With so many objectives, Jonathan Vaughters had a real selection headache for this Tour, and he was forced to leave out the in-form Irish talent Dan Martin, but his quota of rouleurs and fast men have more than done their bit so far. Vaughters could scarcely have scripted a better opening week from his charges. But from tomorrow, it will be up to Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal and Tom Danielson to fly the flag as the climbing begins.

87km remaining from 215km

Another river crossing the leading quartet, as they zip across the Cher, a tributary of the Loire, at Faverolles-sur-Cher.

Swiss champion Fabian Cancellara is back with the team car in lengthy consultation with Kim Andersen. One would imagine that Leopard Trek's primary tactic today is to keep the brothers Schleck out of trouble and out of the wind before tomorrow's anticipated first major shuffle of the general classification.

Rigoberto Uran (Sky) tangles with Yury Trofimov (Katusha) at the rear of the peloton, but he's unscathed and quickly back on his bike.

Once again Cyclingnews and Easton Cycling have teamed up for a competition during the Tour. We have some great prizes line up for you, ranging from a signed BMC team jersey to the grand prize, a complete BMC Teammachine SLR0. For more, just click here.

All you have to do is answer one trivia question and you are automatically entered. And you get 21 chances, one per stage!

Here is today's trivia question in the Easton/Cyclingnews Tour de France Trivia Challenge: Today's finishing stage - Chataroux - was the host to what current sprinter's first Tour de France stage win in 2008?

Need a hint? Look here.

You are entered for the random drawing for prizes by filling in your answer here. Good luck!
 

Once again Cyclingnews and Easton Cycling have teamed up for a competition during the Tour. We have some great prizes line up for you, ranging from a signed BMC team jersey to the grand prize, a complete BMC Teammachine SLR0. For more, just click here.

All you have to do is answer one trivia question and you are automatically entered. And you get 21 chances, one per stage!

Here is today's trivia question in the Easton/Cyclingnews Tour de France Trivia Challenge: Today's finishing stage - Chatearoux - was the host to what current sprinter's first Tour de France stage win in 2008?

Need a hint? Look here.

You are entered for the random drawing for prizes by filling in your answer here. Good luck!
 

Once again Cyclingnews and Easton Cycling have teamed up for a competition during the Tour. We have some great prizes line up for you, ranging from a signed BMC team jersey to the grand prize, a complete BMC Teammachine SLR0. For more, just click here.

All you have to do is answer one trivia question and you are automatically entered. And you get 21 chances, one per stage!

Here is today's trivia question in the Easton/Cyclingnews Tour de France Trivia Challenge: Today's finishing stage - Chatearoux - was the host to what current sprinter's first Tour de France stage win in 2008?

Need a hint? Look here.

You are entered for the random drawing for prizes by filling in your answer here. Good luck!
 

Yesterday we asked you to tell us the distance of stage 5 of the 2008 Tour de France between Cholet and Chateauroux, and the correct answer was 232km.

78km remaining from 215km

Andy Schleck is sitting near the rear of the peloton with Jakob Fuglsang and Joost Posthuma. The Luxembourger's morale will have a taken a blow from his failure to follow Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans et al on the Mur-de-Bretagne on Tuesday, but he is still 1:30 clear of Alberto Contador overall.

Schleck's erratic form was something of a conundrum in the run-up to this Tour, not least at the Tour de Suisse, and the opening week has not given any firm answers as to his current level. While Mur-de-Bretagne was not a good day at the office for Schleck, it's worth recalling that he also conceded ground to Contador on a similarly punchy climb at Mende last year, even if finishing behind Thor Hushovd on a climb will not have pleased him. Schleck will expect considerable improvement on the longer climb to Super-Besse on Saturday.

74km remaining from 215km

Zabriskie is continuing his lengthy stint of pace-setting at the front of the peloton, and keeping the four breakaways tabbed at 4:20 or so.

A number of riders are forced to unclip at the rear of the peloton, as the riders run out of room on a narrow stretch of road, but mercifully there were no fallers. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) was forced to stop, but he's quickly back in the fold.

71km remaining from 215km

Interesting to see a number of riders with GC aspirations sticking close to the front end of the peloton. Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) are clearly detecting a little nervousness further back the bunch and are looking to stay out of trouble.

146km remaining from 215km

Urtasun leads the break up a nasty false flat on the approach to Orbigny. After almost 150km of toil, these little drags are starting to take their toll on the leading quartet, they look considerably more ragged than they did an hour ago.

Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) punctures in the main peloton and gives chase alone. Lars Bak has taken over on the front, and the pace is just beginning to ratchet up a notch.

66km remaining from 215km

Thor Hushovd chases back on in the company of Ryder Hesjedal. It's not clear what kind of mechanical mishap befell the Norwegian, but the yellow jersey is certainly not flustered as he latches back on to the peloton.

Talabardon is sitting at the back of the break now, and showing the slightest signs that he might be paying for his earlier efforts. Their advantage is fluctuating either side of the four-minute mark, with HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervelo taking care not to clip too much off that lead too soon.

France Television's on-screen graphics tell us that HTC-Highroad have contributed 61% of the chase effort in the last 10km, with Garmin-Cervelo doing the rest.

61km remaining from 215km

Delage tries to inject a bit of pace into the break, but in spite of his enthusiasm, their lead is now clicking down ineluctably towards the three-minute mark.

57km remaining from 215km

HTC-Highroad are lifting the pace now in the peloton, and the break's lead is melting accordingly. The leading four have just 2:25 in hand now, and with the sprinters' teams beginning to crank into action, there is a grim sense of inevitability about their fate.

55km remaining from 215km

The FDJ duo of Meersman and Delage are doing their level best to prolong their day off the front, but there has been a palpable rise in the pace back in the main bunch over the last 10km.

Andy Schleck sits on yellow jersey Thor Hushovd's wheel, and he has Stuart O'Grady riding shotgun with him. Leopard Trek have assigned O'Grady to keep him out of trouble in the Tour's opening week, while Fabian Cancellara is on the Frank Schleck beat.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) drifted up to the front of the peloton for a look and just as quickly he sank back into the peloton. The canny Italian has been basing his efforts around those of Mark Cavendish and his HTC-Highroad train so far in this Tour. It'll be worth keeping an eye out to see if he settles himself on the Manxman's rear wheel in the closing kilometre today.

50km remaining from 215km

Lars Bak churns away metronomically at the head of the main field, and with 50km still to race, the peloton have just 2:30 to make up on the four men still up the road.

48km remaining from 215km

A crash in the main peloton. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) needs a bike change and is chasing back on. Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) and Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack) were also among the fallers and that trio is chasing back on with some very generous help from a RadioShack team car.

Kreuziger and Popovych are all but tethered to the rear bumper of that RadioShack car, but so far the commissaires haven't come on the scene to tell them off.

Meanwhile, Gerald Ciolek (Quick Step) pulled over to shed himself of a layer of clothing, and now he chases back on. In the wake of Tom Boonen's abandon, the German must be readying himself to have a crack off the bunch sprint in Chateauroux. In his early days at T-Mobile, Ciolek was seen as being on a level pegging with Mark Cavendish, but his progress has stalled considerably since then.

44km remaining from 215km

Kreuziger and Popovych are in the cavalcade of cars behind the peloton desperately trying to get back on. The pair are now locked on to the back of the Sky car.

The unfortunate Gallopin is up there too, although he needed another bike change. His teammate Romain Zingle has dropped back to help him out.

HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervelo are playing a canny game here. They've allowed the escapees to build their lead back up to a shade under 3 minutes with a little over 40km to race.

Urtasun and his companions in the break have rediscovered a little bit of their earlier vim as they speed through a long, tree-lined section of road. They were struggling with the wind earlier, but they have a tailwind at their backs over the next 10km or so.

39km remaining from 215km

Another crash in the peloton. Bradley Wiggins is down and seems to be suffering from a shoulder injury. He's being examined by the doctor and it's not looking good for the Briton.

Wiggins is on his feet, but is moving very gingerly, and he is clutching his left elbow. It looks as though his Tour de France is over.

Chris Horner was also one of the riders down in that incident, although he seemed to be getting back on his bike.

Wiggins sits in the ditch on the side of the road, with a sad look of resignation. A gaggle of Sky riders including Edvald Boasson Hagen had waited, but they've since set off without their leader. Remi Pauriol (FDJ) is also down, and seated at the roadside.

That crash split the peloton, and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) are among the riders caught behind.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) also went down in the Wiggins crash, but he is chasing back on to the rear of the peloton in the Vinokourov-Leipheimer group.

Bradley Wiggins has climbed into an ambulance and abandoned the Tour de France. It's not clear if he injured his collarbone, his wrist or his elbow (or all three), but in any case, Wiggins' Tour challenge is over.

31km remaining from 215km

Chris Horner is on his bike, and riding alongside the race doctor's car getting attention. The extent of his injuries are not clear.

Twenty seconds is the official gap for the Vinokourov-Leipheimer group although it appears to be a little bigger. In any case, there appear to be a number of chase groups scattered behind the main peloton, which is down to just 60 riders or so.

28km remaining from 215km

Vinokourov is making it back on to the peloton as part of a small group, but it appears that Leipheimer is in a larger group a little further behind. This could be a frantic chase for the RadioShack man.

Even though the day's intermediate sprint is approaching, HTC-Highroad's pace is not quite flat out, and there's scope for the dropped riders to get back on. Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Coppel have managed to get back on, and the front of the peloton is gradually swelling.

25km remaining from 215km

At the intermediate sprint, Delage comes across ahead of his teammate Meersman, Talabardon and Urtasun. HTC-Highroad are leading out the sprint for 5th a little over a minute behind.

Cavendish grabs the 11 points ahead of Jose Joaquin Rojas and Mark Renshaw, while green jersey Philippe Gilbert is next across the line. That means that Rojas moves ahead of Gilbert and into the green jersey on the road.

Leopard Trek are driving the pace at the front of the bunch after the intermediate sprint. They want to put some time into Leipheimer et al behind, especially as the bunch will have to negotiate a testing crosswind in the final 25km.

20km remaining from 215km

20km to go for the breakaway, but they have just 30 seconds over the head of the peloton, which of course includes yellow jersey Thor Hushovd, Mark Cavendish, Alessandro Petacchi, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck and Frank Schleck.

Levi Leipheimer, Ryder Hesjedal, Tyler Farrar and Geraint Thomas are among the riders in the second peloton that is trying to make it back across. With crosswinds buffeting the peloton, the riders are fanned across the road.

16km remaining from 215km

Delage makes a burst at the front of the break and then remonstrates with Urtasun for not matching his effort. They still have 27 seconds in hand, but their collaboration is gone to pot.

Gianni Meersman takes a flyer down the left hand gutter, but Urtasun moves to shut him down. Meanwhile, the HTC-led peloton is closing to within breathing distance.

14km remaining from 215km

Radio Tour tells us that there is a gap of 1:20 between the two main fragments of the peloton.

Meerman has one last throw of the dice with 13km to go after his erstwhile companions are caught, but he too desists. After 206km in the lead, the breakaway is over.

10km remaining from 215km

HTC-Highroad are now drilling at the front of the peloton, and Cavendish's lead-out train are dragging the race along at a fair rate of knots.

Sky are doing their best to drag the second peloton back up, but it's surely just a question of limiting their losses between now and Chateauroux. Leipheimer and Horner are also in this large group, 1:40 down on the front of the peloton.

9km remaining from 215km

The pace is searing now on the run-in to Chateauroux. Ivan Basso and his Liquigas-Cannondale team are safely up in the yellow jersey group.

7km remaining from 215km

HTC-Highroad are mastering the crosswind here, and the pace is high enough to discourage any potential attackers.

Disastrous day for Leipheimer. The American has punctured out of the chasing group.

5km remaining from 215km

That puncture came shy of the final 3km, of course, so he is going to lose more time between now and Chateauroux. We have no definite news of Andreas Kloden, but we understand that he is in the front group, as is Robert Gesink.

3km remaining from 215km

Andre Greipel is tucked on Gilbert's wheel, as HTC-Highroad lead the peloton through the technical run-in to Chateauroux.

3km remaining from 215km

As expected, Alessandro Petacchi has the box seat, right on Mark Cavendish's wheel. Will HTC try to shake him off?

3km remaining from 215km

It looks as though Hushovd will contest the sprint for Garmin-Cervelo, as Farrar appears to be absent from the front group.

2km remaining from 215km

Bernie Eisel swings over, and Tony Martin leads into the very lengthy finishing straight.

1km remaining from 215km

Gilbert looks around for Greipel.

1km remaining from 215km

Martin leads under the red kite. It's all set up for Cavendish as Goss takes over.

0km remaining from 215km

Renshaw opens the sprint for Cavendish, with Petacchi on his wheel.

Cavendish sprints on the right hand side of the road, Greipel goes down the left.

Cavendish gets it from Alessandro Petacchi, who was sneaking up on his inside.

Greipel takes third, with Romain Feillu coming home in fourth.

Another perfectly-timed sprint from Cavendish. On first glimpse it looked quite close, but the replay shows that Greipel was tying up in the final 100 metres and Petacchi was only ever racing for second place, although he does seem to be finding his sprinting legs.

The second group comes across the line 3:09 down. Ryder Hesjedal, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bauke Mollema and Chris Horner were among them. The Wiggins crash wreaked havoc on the peloton.

Greipel had to launch his sprint from a long, long way back there, and he might have been left with too much to do.

Thor Hushovd retains the overall lead, but further down, a number of riders have conceded some hefty chunks of time today.

Result:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
3 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
6 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo

Levi Leipheimer made it back up to the second peloton, but conceded 3:06 to the other overall contenders.

He fared better than his teammate Chris Horner, however. Horner has just crossed the line 12:41 down on Cavendish. In the wake of Janez Brajkovic's abandon, there's no doubting that Andreas Kloden is the leader of RadioShack's push for the general classification.

Result:

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad 5:38:53
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
3 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
6 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
8 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
9 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
 

Overall:

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo 22:50:34
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:04
4 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:08
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:00:10
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:12
7 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
8 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:00:13
9 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:20
 

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of a dramatic day's racing at the Tour de France. We'll be back tomorrow for more from the road to Super-Besse Sancy, but before that we'll have all the results, reports and pictures from Chateauroux. We'll also have more on Bradley Wiggins' abandon and Chris Horner's injuries, as well as all the news from the main contenders as they prepare for the race's first intermediate mountain stage.

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