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Tour de France 2012: Stage 15


It's a short stage today, only 158km, and the riders will be happy to roll into Pau for the Tour's final rest day. The only question is whether it will be a mass sprint, or will a break group will again stay away until the end?

One more stage and then a day of rest!

The field has just started rolling through the neutral zone.

Check out @cyclingthealps preview of stage 15 from Samatan to Pau. Explore the route on a Google Map, with a Google Earth Tour or cycle it virtually! Watch profiles, Street View tours, detailed Google Earth tours and a lot more of each climb.

We are happy to report that the sun is shining and the riders currently have 22°C.

The race has now officially started.

The three climbs today come between kilometers 109 and 129, so there is nearly 30km to go afterwards. They are, in order, categories 4-3-4, so we think that the sprinter really ought to be able to manage them.

We have really only just got started and the attacks are beginning. No one has been able to get away yet though.

150km remaining from 158km

149km remaining from 158km

The situation is relatively fluid at the moment, as more and more riders move up, or at least try to.

Bram Tankink of Rabobank has paid a visit to the race doctor's car.

There are now 6 riders in the lead group, but since the gap is only about 5 seconds, we won't worry about them too much yet.

The CN stage preview, complete with Chris Boardman video, can be found here.

142km remaining from 158km

No sooner did we get that group together than it appears to have fallen apart. Let's see who gets away next.

136km remaining from 158km

That was nothing. Four riders trying again, with a very minimal gap.

Sunday's stage certainly had much more drama than expected, even if it unfortunately had little to do with sport.  We won't publicly admit our true thoughts on people who strew tacks on the road at a race, but rest assured, we strongly disapprove.

Vinokourov seems determined to get away today. He is giving it another try.

There is a very high pace right now, as so many try -- and fail -- to get away.

Another group of five has built up a slight lead, and we think David Millar of Garmin-Sharp is in it. But this time we will wait a bit before we track down the names.

This group is Arashrio (Europcar), Millar (Garmin), Costa (Movistar), Grivko (Astana) and Grabsch (OPQS).

And in the middle of a city, two "fans" feel the need to jump in the middle of the road and run along with the riders. That really doesn't have to be!

117km remaining from 158km

No changes in the top five yesterday.

1     Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     64:41:16      
2     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:02:05      
3     Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:02:23      
4     Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team     0:03:19      
5     Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team     0:04:48     

Everything is still very unsettled. We don't see one team at the head of the peloton, calmly leading the chase. Instead we see a rather chaotic scene, and it seems as if nearly everyone is trying to jump and join the lead group!

Two Saxo Bank riders have taken off, in practically a two-man time trial. They are closing the gap to the leaders at a quick pace.

It is Haedo and Kroon. But the lead group still only has 10-20 seconds, and the two Saxo Banks are caught again by the field.

Boasson Hagen is beginning to look a bit put out. He wants to control things, but the other riders are just not cooperating.

A group of 15 or so is now trying to get away.

In the points ranking, it looks as if Peter Sagan (Liquigas) has a firm hold on the green jersey.

1     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     333      pts
2     André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team     236      
3     Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team     203      
4     Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling     129      
5     Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling     125     

102km remaining from 158km

Bernhard Eisel is the next Sky rider to indicate to the peloton that this is just about enough of this. Sky is ready to either let a group go, or they should all stay. But they don't want more of this constant "attack attack attack".

Three more riders have joined the five leaders, but the gap to the field is still very small.

100km remaining from 158km

Everyone is more or less back together now.

Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) still leads the mountain rankings, and with the small climbs on tap today, he can probably expect to keep the polka dots through the rest day.

1     Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team     69      pts
2     Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar     55      
3     Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank     39      
4     Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar     33      
5     Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISD     33    

The peloton rides by one of the traditional fields of sunflowers, making for lots of pretty pictures.

Another group of five has formed. It contains Vande Velde (GRS), Voeckler (EUC), Fedrigo (FDJ), Dumoulin (COF) and someone from OPQS who we can't quite catch the name of.

And this is our group of the day! The field has taken the speed down and given them their blessing.

89km remaining from 158km

Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) is still best young rider.

1     Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team     64:48:13      
2     Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat     0:01:54      
3     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:40:35      
4     Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:41:37      
5     Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     0:52:02    

And just like that the gap has jumped to 4:41. Why is the field so happy to let this group go? Because the best-ranked rider is Voeckler, who is nearly one hour down.

The gap is now approaching the six minute mark. The peloton is anticipating the rest day tomorrow, it looks like.

RadioShack-Nissan has a comfortable lead in the teams ranking.

1     RadioShack-Nissan     194:16:22      
2     Sky Procycling     0:12:38      
3     BMC Racing Team     0:17:46      
4     Astana Pro Team     0:25:19      
5     Liquigas-Cannondale     0:40:33      

Sorensen chats with his team car, perhaps asking whether he should continue with his chase.

Saxo Bank has moved to the head of the field now.

Happy Birthday to Andre Greipel of Lotto Belisol, who turns 30 today!  Will he give himself the best present of all by taking his fourth stage win this afternoon?

Sorensen catches the leaders.

Greipel is not the only one in cycling celebrating a birthday too. The great Miguel Indurain is turning 48. Feliz cumpleaños!

75km remaining from 158km

Should Greipel win again today, he would be on his way towards a record for most German wins in one Tour. He is currently tied, with three wins each, with Rudi Altig (1962, 1966), Jan Ullrich (1998) and Erik Zabel (1997, 2001). The record of five stage wins is held by Didi Thurau (1977).

71km remaining from 158km

There was massive confusion in yesterday's stage after the horrendous “tack attack”. Pierre Rolland claimed not to know that about Cadel Evans' problems, and Vincenzo Nibali wanted to make clear that Liquigas was only chasing down the Frenchman and not trying to put time in on Evans.

Once Sorensen caught up with the lead group, his team dropped out of the lead work back in the peloton. So Sky is back in its familiar place at the head of things.

162 riders finished the stage yesterday. Only seven teams still have their full number of riders: BMC, Europcar, Liquigas, Lotto, FDJ, Saxo Bank, and Orica-GreenEdge. Rabobank is the hardest hit, with five riders gone. Euskaltel, Lampre and Vacansoleil have lost four riders each.

65km remaining from 158km

Five Tours de France, and four stage wins.  Pretty darned good record. Luis Leon Sanchez  (Rabobank) is certainly happy with it.

Lotto Belisol isn't willing to concede this stage to the escape group, and is now leading the chase.

Here is a quick peek at today's three climbs:

Km 107.0 - Côte de Lahitte-Toupière, 2.1 kilometre-long climb at 5.3% - category 4

Km 123.5 - Côte de Simacourbe, 1.9 kilometre-long climb at 6.3% - category 3

Km 129.0 - Côte de Monassut-Audiracq, 1.5 kilometre-long climb at 5.4% - category 4

Vande Velde needs something from his team car. It is taking a long time to get up to him and he is getting peeved.

Bradley Wiggins of Sky is passionate about having the world believe he is riding clean. He is even willing to publish his biopassport data, against the advice of team doctors.

The lead group has rolled over the intermediate sprint, with Sorensen taking the 20 points.

The field comes to the sprint, and look, there is Liquigas, and no surprise, Sagan takes the next points. Only  7 points, we think, but still, every bit helps.

53km remaining from 158km

Sorry, Sagan was seventh over the line, so he picked up nine points.

We must say, this isn't really much of a climb.

Voeckler takes the one point available at the top of the climb.

As always, our video highlights from the previous stage.

47km remaining from 158km

The gap hs gone back up to 6:35, as Lotto has pulled out of the lead work. Perhaps Greipel said he didn't have the legs for today, or they decided the gap was too great.

Lotto Belisol seems to be a pretty easy-going team, with lots of good natured bets. But we bet (ha ha) that team manager Herman Frison won't be making any more of them. He didn't think that Greipel would win on Saturday, and had to pay up.

With the gap at 7 minutes, it looks definitely as if the chase is off. We can now start picking our winner from the leading six.

Christopher Froome may have been talking about the personal sacrifices he is forced to make by supporting Bradley Wiggins, but it is by his own choice. Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews that he tried to hire Froome for this season, but he wanted to stay with Sky.

41km remaining from 158km

And in some non-Tour-related news, Tom Boonen has joined the list of those questionable for the Olympics. He busted a rib in a crash at the Tour of Poland.

And here are the expert opinions: I am choosing Sorensen to jump and take the win in a solo. Dan picks Fedrigo.

36km remaining from 158km

The six leaders come to the top of the climb with a nine-minute gap.

Voeckler wants the 2 points here, and stays at the head of the group.

Voeckler takes the two points, with one point going to Dumoulin.

Is Peter Sagan incredible or what? And only 22 years old. He looks to have the green jersey locked up, because after all, what can he not do? 

David Millar has filled himself up with bidons, and starts distributing them to his teammates.

30km remaining from 158km

We have just received word of a further abandon, Brett Lancaster. According to Orica-GreenEdge, "He has been dealing with significant lingering pain from his crash on Saturday."

BMC probably couldn't believe their bad luck yesterday. But frankly, who could believe it?

The lead group has now crossed the final climb of the day. You will not really be surprised to learn that Voeckler took the one available point.

25km remaining from 158km

The peloton is having a nice time of it today and at this point not in the least concerned about he finish.

There are many calls for legal action against those who strewed those tacks, and we understand the police are investigating. But the Tour management thinks it unlikely they will be able to track the perpetrators down.

Out of these six in the lead group, Devenyns is the only one who hasn't won a Tour stage. Vande Velde was on a team which won the team time trial, and the other four have all claimed stage wins in their own right.

Kenny Van Hummel of Vacansoleil has also abandoned the race.

14km remaining from 158km

Lots of fans along the way again.

It is very rolling here.

Now the peloton has crossed under the 20km banner, 11:26 behind the six leaders.

And another abandon: Hutarovich of FDJ.

Mechanical for Leipheimer, who needs a new bike.

Leipheimer is now being brought back up to the peloton by two teammates.

This is the Tour's 64th visit to Pau.

The last time the Tour was here was 2010, and the stage was won by Fedrigo, out of a break.

Sorensen has attacked again, but is again unsuccessful.

7km remaining from 158km

6km remaining from 158km

The two are together in the lead.

With 5km to go, the other four try to catch up, with Voeckler leading the way. But it is a tidy gap.

The two leaders now have 15 seconds on the chasers.

Devenyns now leads the chase.

Sorensen and Devenyns take off in chase, and look like they will catch the two leaders.

Dumoulin, not Sorensen.

WE have Vande Velde and Fedrigo, ahead of  Voeckler and Sorensen, with Devenyns and Dumoulin behind them.

Fedrigo leads the way, with Vande Velde in the better position behind him.

Vande Velde tries to pull away, but is unable to get past the Frenchman.

Fedrigo first, followed by Vande Velde, and a few seconds later, it looks like Voeckler was third.

Voeckler confirmed third.

Sky continues to drive the peloton. The pace seems to have picked up. Perhaps they have finally realized that the sooner they get in, the sooner their rest day will start.

Fedrigo is 33, and this is his second Tour stage win. And as we said, his first win was two years ago right here in Pau.

Still 4km to go for the peloton.

Fedrigo has suffered from lyme disease, after being bitten by a tick. But now he is finally fully recovered.

The peloton passes under the Flamme Rouge. I'll bet that Sagan will sprint for the win of the field.

Lotto Belisol opens the sprint.

Griepel takes the "win" on his 30th birthday.

Greipel finished ahead of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Sagan.

No changes in the top ten of the GC.

Tomorrow is the rest day. On Wednesday the fun and games start up again, with two HC climbs, including the Tourmalet, and two cat. one climbs.

Here is the top ten from today's stage:

And for the GC:

Thanks for reading along. Rest up tomorrow and join us again for the final countdown of the 2012 Tour de France!

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