Cadel Evans has held onto his third place in the general classification but he lost 6’27" to Vinokourov and 1’37" to Contador and Rasmussen.
The top 10after 15 stage is:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - 2,750.4km in 69h52’14" (39.359km/h)
2. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC at 2’23"
3. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 4’00"
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC at 5’25"
5. Andreas Kloden (GER) AST at 5’34"
6. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC at 6’46"
7. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) EUS at 7’27"
8. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST at 7’54"
9. Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO at 8’24"
10. Mikel Astarloza (EUS) at 9’21"
The riders in the yellow and white jerseys have finished the 15th stage 5’32" behind Vinokourov. There’ll be another batch of changes to the top order of the general classification with Evans yet to arrive at the finish...
Alexandre Vinokourov was on the attack from the moment the flag was dropped to signal the start of racing in stage 15. He insisted on being part of The Escape group today and was rewarded with another stage win.
The top five in stage 15 is:
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST - 196.0km 5h34’28" (35.16km/h)
2. Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO at 51"
3. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) EUS at 51"
4. Juan Jose Cobo (SDV) at 58"
5. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP) QSI at 2’14"
With 4km to go, Evans is 55" behind Rasmussen and Contador.
While the stage has been decided the battle for time in the general classification continues behind. Vinokourov saluted the crowds in Loudenvielle as Rasmussen, Hincapie and Contador passed under the 4km to go banner.
Vinokourov has won his second stage in three days. It’s his fifth in the Tour de France and comes a day after he collapsed on the climb before the final ascent of stage 14. He even looks pleased with himself...!
Hincapie is a phenomenal descender and he’s now setting the pace for Contador and Rasmussen about five minutes behind the rider who is in the final kilometer of the stage, Mr Vinokourov.
Vinokourov is in the final 2km of the 196km stage. There is a slight rise but it will be taxing after the long descent. But that won’t scare this Kazakh warrior... nothing does! He is about 30" ahead of his nearest rival, Zubeldia and destined to win the stage.
Vinokourov is about a kilometer ahead of Zubeldia, Cobo and Kirchen. It was in Loudenvielle that he got closest to the yellow jersey back in the 2003 Tour. He is going to win the stage and has just been voted the most aggressive rider of the day.
Hincapie waited for Contador at the top of the Peyresourde. Evans has just reached the summit about 35" behind Rasmussen. Along with the Australia are Kashechkin, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Valverde, Sastre, Kloden...
The surge by Contador came at the 3km to climb sign. It was powerful and yet Rasmussen was able to respond. Without a moment’s reprieve, however, Contador is now fighting past traffic and trying to put time into the yellow jersey... They are 5’27" behind Vinokourov at the summit.
Contador is now racing for gains against Rasmmussen. The Chicken is fighting but he was almost fried by the Spaniard.
The two climbing specialist are fighting for time gains on this category-one ascent. They are said to be 1km from the summit and there’s no sign of Evans behind.
Contador has attacked the yellow jersey but, like yesterday, Rasmussen has been able to respond. These two are now putting time into Evans et al...
1. Vinokourov (AST) 30pts
2. Zubeldia (EUS) 26pts - 30"
3. Kirchen (TMO) 22pts
4. Cobo (SDV) 18pts - at 40"...
Vino is parting the crowds that are spilling onto the road at the top of the final ascent. He is now at the top and ready to descend to what seems like becoming his fifth stage victory in the Tour.
Menchov has dropped out of the yellow jersey’s peloton that now contains: Rasmussen, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Evans, Horner, Kloden, Kashechkin, Leipheimer, Contador... but Horner has just been dropped.
Vinokourov began his move 6km from the top of the final climb. He know leads by:
30" - Zubeldia
35" - Cobo
Next in the stage are: Arroyo and Garate.
The top of the Col de Peyresourde is 11.5km from the finish in Loudenvielle. Vinokourov has won at the base of a big mountain in the past, that was when he last contested the Tour (in 2005) when he won in Briancon after cresting the Col du Galibier along with Santiago Botero...
Following his attack on the final ascent, Vinokourov appears destined to win the stage. His nearest rivals - Zubeldia and Cobo - are 21" behind and he has 13.5km to go.
Vinokourov collapsed a day after winning the time trial and lost 28’50" but the Astana rider doesn’t understand the notion of defeat. He is now racing to the top of the Col de Peyresourde on his own. He’s not afraid of pain, his rivals, the wind or the prospect of a rapid descent on his own.
It was in 2003 that he attacked Armstrong on this same climb and finished the stage just 15" behind the American in the general classification.
Popovych has just been caught by the yellow jersey’s group that now includes 11-12 riders including: Rasmussen, Menchov, Boogerd, Evans, Horner, Contador, Popoyvch, Mayo, Kloden, Kashechkin...
Cobo has attacked the lead group. He was followed by Vino and Zubeldia. With 15km to go Vino has gone on ahead by himself.
Mayo and Soler are the latest to be dropped from the yellow jersey’s peloton.
The leading quintet are 5km from the top of the final climb. Kirchen looks like he’ll be the first to drop. He’s been hovering on and off the back of the pack that includes: Cobo, Vino, Zubeldia and Arroyo.
Vinokourov has attacked the lead group again. He has 6km to climb but has been reeled in again by Cobo, Arroyo, Zubeldia and... eventually Kirchen. The T-Mobile rider has just taken a drink from his team car and been scolded by the race commissaire. "Feeding has finished!"
Popovych has attacked the yellow jersey’s peloton. He has quickly opened a good lead. There has been scant reaction from the three Rabobank riders at the head of the elite pack. At the front is Menchov, followed by Boogerd and Rasmussen.
Moreau and Karpets have just rejoined the yellow jesey’s peloton at the 20km to go mark. They were 7’16" behind Vinokourov, Cobo, Zubeldia, Arroyo.
Vinokourov has gone past Kirchen and Arroyo. He tried to drop the two stage leaders by riding up the right side of the road but the T-Mobile and Caisse d’Epargne riders were savvy to his move and quickly jumped on the wheel of the Astana captain. Cobo is fighting his way back to this trio.
Kirchen and Arroyo are now being chased down by Cobo, Garate, Zubeldia and Vinokourov who are now attacking each other early on the ascent of the Col de Peyresourde.
Vinokourov, Cobo and Garate have just sped past Tschopp. They have been joined by Zubeldia with about 19km to go.
Vinokourov, Cobo and Garate have just sped past Tschopp. They have been joined by Zubeldia with about 19km to go.
Menchov had been in the escape today but he has just returned to the yellow jersey’s peloton.
Just before the 20km to go banner, Tschopp was dropped by Arroyo and Kirchen. The peloton was 5km behind, passing under the 25km to go banner, 6’50" behind the two stage leaders.
Kirchen, Arroyo and Tschopp are currently on the early slopes of the Col de Peyresourde. The next group in the stage is: Turpin, Zubeldia, Garate, Vinokourov, and Cobo.
The yellow jersey’s peloton is: Rasmussen, Boogerd, Contador, Popovych, Leipheimer, Evans, Horner, Mayo, Soler, Kloden, Kashechkin, Sastre, Schleck, Astarloza and Valverde. There could be one or two more who have joined on the descent from the Port de Bales
The wind at the top of the Col de Peyresourde is very strong. Was howling last night but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the big crowd of campers amased there. Reports are that it hasn’t eased and that the riders are going to have to contend with a strong headwind on the mountain that peaks 11.5km from the end of stage 15.
Boogerd, Rasmussen, Contador, Leipheimer, Soler, Evans, Mayo, Popovych and Horner are riding together on the descent. Close behind are Kloden and Kashechkin.
Tschopp, Arroyo and Kirchen are working together at the front of the stage. They are 40" ahead of Vinokourov’s group.
Boogerd has led Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Contador, Kloden, Valverde, Evans, Schleck, Sastre and Popovych over the top of the Port de Bales, 6’45" behind Kirchen.
The yellow jersey is yet to reach the summit of the Port de Bales. They are riding in the mist at the moment with visibility not too good. Popovych is fighting back to the Rasmussen group before the top of the fourth ascent. Boogerd continues to lead while, about seven minutes ahead, are Kirchen, Tschop and Arroyo who are descending from the clouds.
T-Mobile’s Kim Kirchen has claimed first place points at the top of the Port de Bales. The situation at the summit is:
1. Kirchen (TMO) 20pts
2. Arroyo (GCE) 18pts
3. Tschopp (BTL) 16pts
4. Garate (QSI) 14pts - at 45"
5. Zubeldia (EUS) 12pts
6. Cobo (SDV) 10pts
7. Vinokourov (AST) 8pts
8. Menchov (RAB) 7pts
9. Turpin (A2R) 6pts
10. Kohl (GST) 5pts - at 1’35"
Kirchen has ridden away from Tschopp at the top of the Port de Bales. He has about 100m to climb and then the rapid 18km descent begins...
One of the Astana riders who was in the escape group, Daniel Navarro, stopped his effort in the lead and is now riding alongside Kloden in the yellow jersey’s peloton.
Kirchen and Tschopp are in the mist at the top of the Port de Bales. They have 1km to climb and lead Arroyo by 11".
With Kashechkin caught, the yellow jersey’s group is composed of:
Rasmussen, Boogerd, Soler, Evans, Horner, Sastre, Schleck, Kloden, Kashechkin, Contador, Leipheimer, Mayo... they are 7’10" behind the stage leader.
The latest victim of the pace being set by Boogerd is Goubert. The former Dutch champion is tapping out the tempo for Rasmussen’s group which is about to catch Kashechkin.
Kirchen has caught and past Tschopp. The T-Mobile rider began the stage in 14th place overall, 13’16" behind Rasmussen. Tschopp is fighting to rejoin the Luxembourger...
The yellow jersey’s group is now 5km from the summit and is composed of: Rasmussen, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych, Mayo, Sastre, Schleck, Evans, Horner, Soler and perhaps four or five others. They are 6’35" behind Tschopp who has just been caught by Kirchen.
The stage is currently led by Johann Tschopp (BTL). Just behind him is Kim Kirchen (TMO)... these two are 30" ahead of the Vinokourov group.
Vinokourov has attacked the group that’s in pursuit of Tschopp. He has been reeled in by Cobo, Arroyo, Zubeldia, Menchov and Turpin... Garate is also fighting his way back. They are 35" behind Tschopp.
The Predictor-Lotto team is down to seven riders. Fred Rodriguez is the latest rider to abandon the Tour. There are now 160 riders in the Tour de France.
Karpets has just lost contact with Rasmussen’s group.
Kashechkin was 7’25" behind Tschopp with 7km to climb. The yellow jersey’s group was at 7’40".
Of the selection named in the previous flash, two have since been dropped. Gadret and Astarloza have just lost contact.
Karpets, Valverde, Sastre, Schleck, Evans, Horner, Boogerd, Rasmussen, Gadret, Goubert, Astarloza, Txurruka, Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych, Kloden, Mayo and Soler are all the riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton.
The stage leader, Johann Tschopp (BTL) has 5km to go to the top of the fourth climb.
Tschopp’s advantage over Kashechkin is 7’35" and 7’55" over the peloton.
Vinokourov’s group has just been attacked by Landaluze. They were 30" behind Tschopp who has been leading the stage since about 14km to climb on the Port de Bales.
Boogerd continues to lead the yellow jersey. Also present in this rapidly thinning group are: Rasmussen, Contador, Popovych, Leipheimer, Evans, Mayo, Kloden, Valverde, Soler, Sastre... Astarloza and a few more but we await confirmation of the mix.
Pereiro and Moreau are the latest victims of the pace being pounded out by Boogerd at the head of the peloton. Others include Gutierrez, Colom, Savoldelli... Siutsou, Fedrigo, Chavanel...
Kashechkin is 7’40" behind stage leader, Tschopp who is now 20" ahead of Vino’s chase group.
Boogerd and Rasmussen are leading the peloton. We don’t have a time check for Kashechkin but can report that Kloden and Popovych are tucked in behind the Rabobank pair.
The attacks in the peloton have begun. The first to surge is Andrey Kashechkin of the Astana team. He is seventh overall after 14 stages, 6’58" behind Rasmussen.
Moments after Vinokourov caught the lead group, Johann Tschopp has attacked. He now leads seven: Landaluze, Arroyo, Cobo, Menchov, Kohl, Perez... etc.
Ivanov has exploded from the effort of chasing down the five stage leaders. His team leader, Vinokourov has caught up with the Landaluze group.
Arroyo, Menchov, Kohl, Tschopp and Landaluze are now just 10" ahead of Vinokourov, Ivanov, Cobo and Perez.
Ivanov was in the leading group but he has returned to the chase group and is currently setting the tempo for Vinokourov.
This is the first time that the Port de Bales has been part of the Tour’s itinerary. Until last year there wasn’t a road for the descent of this 1,775m high pass. A stage of the Route du Sud was contested on the climb that the peloton’s currently on last year - that was a 28.1km time trial and the top three were: Przemyslaw Niemiec, Sandy Casar, and Gustav Larsson.
Vinokourov and his cohorts are 40" behind the six stage leader. Arroyo is setting the pace at the front of the race.
Weening, De Groot and Niermann are three Rabobank riders who have finished their pacesetting duties at the head of the peloton that is now 8’30" behind Kohl, Landaluze, Tschoppo, Ivanov, Arroyo and Menchov.
Vinokourov’s group of 19 is now 50" behind Kohl, Landaluze, Tschoppo, Ivanov, Arroyo and Menchov.
Menchov has caught up with the five stage leaders. The composition of the lead group is: Kohl, Landaluze, Tschoppo, Ivanov and Arroyo... and the winner of stage 11 last year, Denis Menchov.
Vinokourov’s group was 50" behind at the last check. Menchov is now just 10" behind Kohl, Landaluze, Tschoppo, Ivanov and Arroyo.
The peloton is 8’20" behind as it starts the ascent of the Port de Bales. There are seven Rabobank riders at the front of the pack.
Menchov is in between the leading five and the 19 remnants of the big escape group. The Russian Rabobank rider is 30" shy of Kohl et al.
Kohl, Landaluze, Tschoppo, Ivanov and Arroyo are currently 1’05" ahead of Vinokourov’s group. The peloton is at 8’20". When Kohl comes to the front, he increases the tempo considerably but all others in the lead group are doing strong turns of pace.
The peloton is at the 138km mark with a deficit to the five stage leaders of 8’10". This was the same margin that the bunch was at when it passed the site of the 2nd intermediate sprint (at 127km).
Kohl, Landaluze, Tschoppo, Ivanov and Arroyo lead the 20 other escapees by 50". Vinokourov’s group is now also on the 4th climb.
The peloton is led by seven Rabobank riders. Behind them is a posse of Discovery Channel riders.
Landaluze’s quintet has begun the ascent of the Port de Bales.
Arroyo, Landaluze, Tschopp, Kohl, and Ivanov are now leading the following riders by 40": Kirchen, Arvesen, Vande Velde, Menchov, Turpin, Zubeldia, Perez, Bennati, Vila, Halgand, Hincapie, Lefevre, Albasini, Vaugrenard, Garate, Knees, Vinokourov, Navarro and Cobo.
The peloton is at 8’00".
Arroyo (GCE), Landaluze (EUS), Kohl (GST), Tschopp (BTL - not Lefevre as reported in the previous flash) and Ivanov (AST) are 20" ahead of the 20 other escapees.
Landaluze has split the lead group with an acceleration. Along with the Euskaltel rider at the head of the stage are: Arroyo (GCE), Kohl (GST), Ivanov (AST) and Lefevre (BTL).
There has been no reaction from the 20 others who were part of the 25-man escape group which formed at the 40km mark.
The fourth climb of the day is a ’hors categorie’ ascent. It’s 19.2km long with an average gradient of 7.0 percent. The steepest sections are at the 12th and 16th kilometer mark when the gradient is 10 percent.
The peloton has arrived at the site of the 2nd sprint. Its deficit to the 25 escapees at the 114km mark is 8’10".
Bennati and Arvesen had a faux-sprint at the head of the escape group. The points in Marignac were won by:
1. Daniele Bennati (LAM) 6pts/6"
2. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) 4pts/4"
3. Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) 2pts/2"
Landaluze is leading the escapees to the site of the 2nd intermediate sprint. This is in Marignac at the 127km mark.
Arroyo, Kirchen, Arvesen, Vande Velde, Menchov, Turpin, Zubeldia, Landaluze, Perez, Bennati, Vila, Kohl, Halgand, Hincapie, Lefevre, Tschopp, Albasini, Vaugrenard, Garate, Knees, Vinokourov, Ivanov, Navarro and Cobo are the riders in the lead of the 15th stage. They have been together since the 40km mark.
The maximum gain so far is 9’25" at the base of the Portet d’Aspet ascent.
The peloton has arrived at the top of the 3rd climb (at the 114km mark). It was 7’30" behind the escapees at the base of the Col de Mente; at the top it was 8’30" behind.
There are 43.5km between the 3rd and 4th summit. Laurent Lefevre has gone to the front of the escape group and is setting a rapid pace on the descent of the Col de Mente.
With 1km to climb on the Col de Mente, the peloton is 8’20" behind. They have lost 50" to the 25 escapees on the third ascent of the stage.
The first place points for the Col de Mente were taken by Juan Manuel Garate (QSI). The full list of points winners is:
1. Juan Manuel Garate (QSI) 15
2. Laurent Lefevre (BTL) 13pts
3. Patrice Halgand (C.A) 11pts
4. Daniel Bennati (LAMP 9pts
5. Bernhard Kohl (GST) 8pts
6. Juan Jose Cobo (SDV) 7pts
7. Haimar Zubeldia (EUS) 6pts
8. Christian Knees (MRM) 5pts
Cancellara is up near the head of the peloton for the moment but it looks like the Rabobankers have decided to up the tempo a little... and the Discovery Channel squad is making sure they’ll have any more covered with three men right behind the orange and blue squad.
The peloton is led by six Rabobank riders and is now 8’25" behind.
The pace of the lead group is currently being set by the Italian sprinter with Lampre, Daniele Bennati. He is 1km from the summit of the Col de Mente.
The lead group appears content to work together. There have been no attacks yet on the third climb of the 15th stage. The advantage of Vinokourov’s group has grown to 8’05" at the last check. It was 7’30" at the base of the Col de Mente.
With 5km to climb, the peloton is 8’05" behind the 25-man escape group. Pieter Weening is at the head of the pack.
The bunch is still led by Rabobank riders. Tucked in behind are Astana (on the left) and Caisse d’Epargne on the right. This group is 7’45" at the 109.5km mark. Iglinski has rejoined the peloton after his crash.
Arroy’s rear derailleur has been fixed and he’s exchanged the spare bike for his original one at about the 86km mark.
The last time check for the peloton was taken at the 7km to climb sign. The deficit of the bunch was 7’30".
The last time the Col de Mente was part of the Tour’s itinerary was in stage 15 of the 2005 race. The points two years ago were won by:
1. Erik Dekker (NED) RAB
2. Karsten Kroon (NED) RAB
3. Michael Boogerd (NED) RAB
4. Oscar Pereiro (ESP) PHO
5. Pietro Caucchioli (ITA) C.A
6. Oscar Sevilla (ESP) TMO
7. Allan Davis (AUS) LSW
8. Rubens Bertogliati (SUI) SDV
Erik Dekker, the Rabobank rider who competed in the Tour for the last time in 2006 - before crashing out near his native Holland - and then promptly took up a position as directeur sportif, was the last man to claim first-place points on the Col de Mente. That was back in 2005.
Today is the 17th time that the cat-1 ascent has been part of the Tour’s itinerary.
Arroyo (GCE), Kirchen (TMO) Arvesen and Vande Velde (CSC), Menchov (RAB), Turpin (A2R), Zubeldia, Landaluze and Perez (EUS), Bennati and Vila (LAM), Kohl (GST), Halgand (C.A), Hincapie (DSC), Lefevre and Tschopp (BTL), Albasini (LIQ), Vaugrenard (FDJ), Garate (QSI), Knees (MRM), Vinokourov, Ivanov and Navarro (AST) and Cobo (SDV) are 7km from the summit of the Col de Mente.
The third climb of the 15th stage is 7km long with an average gradient of 8.1 percent.
The peloton is being led by five Rabobank riders as they go past the Casartelli memorial. It is 8’30" behind the escapees.
Iglinski (AST) has crashed in the peloton. He was back on his bike briefly but he’s now on the right side of the road and getting a new bike from Faustino Munoz, the Astana team’s mechanic.
After his bike change, Arroyo has rejoined the lead group which is now on the ascent of the Col du Mente.
Hincapie has accelerated at the front of a group that was lagging behind his former fugitives. Ivanov had gained an advantage but he’s now on the left side of the road and answer nature’s call.
Flecha led the peloton over the top of the Portet d’Aspet 7’50" behind Lefevre and the 25-man escape group.
Arroyo is racing to rejoin the lead group at the same time that Ivanov is taking a few extra risks on the descent and gaining a small lead over the 23 others...
Arroyo has been in the escape group but he’s had problems with his rear derailleur on the descent. He went past the monument to Casartelli and then pulled over to the right of the road to take a spare Pinarello bike from his Caisse d’Epargne team car.
There are six Rabobank riders at the head of the peloton with 1km to climb.
The points at the the top of the Portet d’Aspet climb were won by:
1. Laurent Lefevre (BTL) 10pts
2. Patrice Halgand (C.A) 9pts
3. Juan Manuel Garate (QSI) 8pts
4. Serguei Ivanov (AST) 7pts
5. Ruben Perez (EUS) 6pts
We await confirmation of the sixth rider at the summit.
Garate is leading Ivanov at the front of the escape group but, just before the summit Lefevre (BTL) jumped ahead to claim first-place points at the top of the Portet d’Aspet.
Thor Hushovd is the first rider to be dropped by the peloton on the 2nd climb. The pack is 9’15" behind the 25 leaders who now have just 1km to climb before reaching the top of the Portet d’Aspet.
At the foot of the Portet d’Aspet climb, the peloton was 9’20" behind the 25 escapees.
Of the 25 riders at the front of the stage, the best ranked in the race for the polka-dot jersey is Laurent Lefevre who began the day in 6th place in the climbing classification with 55 points.
Kness and Ivanov are the last two to set the pace for the lead group which is tapping out a steady tempo at the moment. Vinokourov is coming near the front and although few would dispute that he’ll be one to attack his escape companions later in the day, right now he’s content to roll through along with the others. They are 9’10" ahead of the peloton.
The leaders are 5km from the top of the Portet d’Aspet. It’s on the descent of this col that Fabio Casartelli crashed during the 1995 Tour. There is a monument to the 1992 Olympic road race champion who died as a result of the injuries he sustained and the peloton will pass it at the 102.5km mark of the 15th stage this year.
The 25 escapees are about to begin the ascent of the Portet d’Aspet. This is a 5.7km long climb with an average gradient of 6.9 percent. They are 8’50" ahead of the peloton; this is the maximum gain so far today. The summit of the second climb is at the 98.5km mark.
The 25 men in the lead of the stage represent 17 teams. They are:
David Arroyo (ESP) GCE
Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (NOR) CSC
Christian Vande Velde (USA) CSC
Dens Menchov (RUS) RAB
Ludovic Turpin (FRA) A2R
Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) EUS
Inigo Landaluze (ESP) EUS
Ruben Perez (ESP) EUS
Daniele Bennati (ITA) LAM
Patxi Vila (ESP) LAM
Bernhard Kohl (AUT) GST
Patrice Halgand (FRA) C.A
George Hincapie (USA) DSC
Laurent Lefevre (FRA) BTL
Johann Tschopp (SUI) BTL
Michael Albasini (SUI) LIQ
Benoit Vaugrenard (FRA) FDJ
Juan Manuel Garate (ESP) QSI
Christian Knees (GER) MRM
Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST
Serguei Ivanov (RUS) AST
Daniel Navarro (ESP) AST
Juan Jose Cobo (ESP) SDV
At the feedzone (85.5km) the peloton was 8’30" behind.
Of the 25 men in the lead of the 15th stage, four have previously won a stage of the Tour de France. Denis Menchov (RAB) won at Pla-de-Beret in stage 11 last year. George Hincapie (DSC) won at St-Lary Soulon in stage 16 of the 2005 Tour. Patrice Halgand (C.A) won stage 10 of the 2002 Tour in Pau and Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) won his most recent stage in Albi in the time trial of stage 13 this year. The Kazakh has also won in Gap (stage nine in 2003) and twice in 2005 (stage 11 to Briancon and the stage to Paris).
The second hour has seen the escapees really speeding along. The average speed was 45.7km/h; while the first two hours combined was done at an average of 41.6km/h.
The 25 who joined forces at the 40km mark are now 8’05" ahead of the peloton that continues to be led by the Rabobank team.
At the 74km mark, the peloton is 7’00" behind. The maximum gain of the 25 escapees so far today is 7’35" at 68km.
The 25 stage leaders are in Moulis at the 72km mark. They are 7’35" ahead of the bunch that’s just arrived at the site of the intermediate sprint, in Saint-Girons.
One of the Cofidis riders who tried to be part of the escape that formed in the first hour of the stage, was Rik Verbrugghe. The Belgian celebrates his 31st birthday today.
At the sprint in Saint-Girons, the points were won by:
1. Daniele Bennati (LAM) 6pts/6"
2. Sergui Ivanov (AST) 4pts/4"
3. Bernhard Kohl (GST) 2pts/2"
The Rabobank team has one representative - Denis Menchov - in the leading 25. His colleagues are now at the head of the peloton and trying to limit the loss to Menchov’s group which is 6’20" ahead.
With the peloton at the 59km mark it was 6’00" behind the 25.
Arroyo (GCE), Kirchen (TMO) Arvesen and Vande Velde (CSC), Menchov (RAB), Turpin (A2R), Zubeldia, Landaluze and Perez (EUS), Bennati and Vila (LAM), Kohl (GST), Halgand (C.A), Hincapie (DSC), Lefevre and Tschopp (BTL), Albasini (LIQ), Vaugrenard (FDJ), Garate (QSI), Knees (MRM), Vinokourov, Ivanov and Navarro (AST) and Cobo (SDV) are less than 5km from the site of the first sprint.
The points for the green jersey are on offer in Saint-Girons (at the 68km mark).
The split of the lead group didn’t last long. The last time check for Vinokourov’s escape has the 25 about 5’30" ahead of the peloton.
The pace of the escape has cause the group of 25 at the front to split. Zubeldia is in the second group.
Arroyo (GCE), Kirchen (TMO) Arvesen and Vande Velde (CSC), Menchov (RAB), Turpin (A2R), Zubeldia, Landaluze and Perez (EUS), Bennati and Vila (LAM), Kohl (GST), Halgand (C.A), Hincapie (DSC), Lefevre and Tschopp (BTL), Albasini (LIQ), Vaugrenard (FDJ), Garate (QSI), Knees (MRM), Vinokourov, Ivanov and Navarro (AST) and Cobo (SDV) are in the front of the stage. The latest time check has the 4’30" ahead of the peloton.
Tschopp and Kohl have been caught by the counter-attacking group of 23 at the 55km mark.
Of the 25 riders ahead of the peloton, the best-placed in GC is Haimar Zubeldia who began the stage ranked 13th overall, 12’15" behind Rasmussen.
The peloton is content to allow the escape to gain some momentum. There are a number of men opting to answer the call of nature at the side of the road.
The stage is led by Kohl and Tschopp, then comes Vinokourov’s group at 20" and the peloton is at 3’30" at the 49km mark.
There are 23 riders in a counter-attack. They are 25" behind the two stage leaders. The riders involved are:
Vinokourov, Ivanov and Navarro (AST), Garate (QSI), Portal and Arroyo (GCE), Arseven and Vande Velde(CSC), Cobo (SDV), Albasini (LIQ), Lefevre (BTL), Zubeldia, Landaluze and Perez (EUS), Kirchen (TMO), Menchov (RAB), Bennati and Vila (LAM), Halgand (C.A), Hincapie (DSC), Vaugrenard (FDJ), Knees (MRM) and Turpin (A2R).
There is a group of about 20 riders in pursuit of Tschopp and Kohl. The deficit for this posse that includes Menchov and Vinokourov is 25" at the 45km mark. The peloton is at 55".
With Le Mevel’s retirement, there are now just 161 riders still in the Tour.
After his crash on the descent of the Col de Port, Christophe Le Mevel (C.A) has abandoned the race. He is on his way to hospital after his front wheel slid out from under him. The early reports are that he has a broken left collarbone but that’s not yet confirmed.
At the 42km mark, the peloton is 15" behind Bernhard Kohl (GST) and Johann Tschopp (BTL).
Two riders are on the attack. It’s Kohl (GST) and Tschopp (BTL) who were part of the move that led over the first summit. They are 17" ahead of the peloton.
Dessel (A2R) has retired from his third Tour de France. There are now 162 riders in the race.
Two riders have crashed in the peloton. Le Mevel went down and was thumped into by Isasi (EUS)>
At the 38km mark, the peloton has caught up with the 11-man escape group.
The peloton is now just 7" behind the escapees. The average speed for the first hour is 37.5km/h.
Verdugo, Garate, Tschopp, Arroyo, Menchov, Gadret, Goubert, Kohl, Beltran, Vinokourov and Cobo had a lead of 15" at the 33km mark.
Verdugo (EUS), Garate (QSI) and Tschopp (BTL) have been caught by: Arroyo (GCE), Menchov (RAB), Gadret and Goubert (A2R), Kohl (GST), Beltran (LIQ), Vinokourov (AST) and Cobo (SDV) are still 25" ahead of the peloton.
Savoldelli may have his team leader in the lead group but he is now setting a rapid pace on the descent.
The points at the top of the Port pass (at the 27.5km mark) were won by:
1. Garate (QSI) 10pts
2. Tschopp (BTL) 9pts
3. Verdugo (EUS) 8pts
4. Cobo (SDV) 7pts
5. Vinokourov (AST) 6pts
6. Goubert (A2R) 5pts
The peloton was 25" at the top.
Verdugo (EUS), Garate (QSI) and Tschopp (BTL) have been caught by: Arroyo (GCE), Menchov (RAB), Gadret and Goubert (A2R), Kohl (GST), Beltran (LIQ), Vinokourov (AST) and Cobo (SDV) are 20" ahead of the peloton with 1km to climb.
There are now three men in the lead: Garate (QSI), Tschopp (BTL) and Verdugo. Then comes the Vinokourov group and the peloton is at 20".
Verdugo leads by 12". Next up is: Arroyo, Menchov, Gadret, Goubert, Kohl, Tschopp, Beltran, Garate, Vinokourov and Cobo. The peloton is at 30".
Vinokourov is attacking the peloton again. And, contrary to the previous report, Verdugo remains ahead of the chase group but the 11 are closing in on the Euskaltel rider quickly now.
Gadret, Kohl, Mayo, Navarro, Valjavec, Arroyo, Voigt, Menchov, Le Mevel, Tschopp, Beltran are about to catch Verdugo.
Hincapie is now trying to bridge to the counter-attack group that is 15" behind Verdugo and 30" ahead of the peloton. Those checks were taken at the 24km mark.
Gadret, Kohl, Mayo, Navarro, Valjavec, Arroyo, Voigt, Menchov, Le Mevel, Tschopp, Beltran are the riders now in pursuit of Verdugo.
Verdugo has dropped Kohl at the 22.5km mark. There are a few others with a slight lead on the peloton but it looks like a generic regrouping happening with about 5km to climb.
Verdugo and Kohl are leading two counter-attackers - Gadret and Mayo - at the 22km mark.
Vinokourov’s move has been caught by six others. Verdugo is now moving ahead and, on his wheel, is Kohl (GST).
Vino, Verdugo and Voeckler are 12" ahead of the peloton that is led by two Rabobank riders at the mid-way point of the first ascent.
The col du Port is 11.4km long with an average gradient of 5.3 percent. Its summit is at the 27.5km mark. Vinokourov and Verdugo has been joined by a Bouygues Telecom rider, Voeckler.
Vinokourov is calling for Verdugo to come through for a turn of pace but the Euskaltel rider is shaking his head, ’No!’ The advantage of this pair is about 15" on a group of eight and about 20 on the peloton that’s lead by Boogerd and Rasmussen (RAB).
The peloton was closing in on the four escapees but that has only prompted Vinokourov to attack again. He’s at the 20km mark and has Verdugo on his wheel.
Rik Verbrugghe is now attempting to bridge the gap to the four leaders. He has been joined by three others.
The peloton is 10" behind the four escapees at the 18km mark.
Moreau and Valverde have dropped out of the lead group. The four in the lead by 10" are: Vinokourov, Pereiro, Verdugo and Menchov.
The six leaders were not working well together so Vinokourov decided to attack. He has been joined by Verdugo.
Valverde is leading the five others at the front of the stage.
The escape group contains a rider in the top 10 overall, Alejandro Valverde (GCE). The peloton is reacting quickly to the move that also includes Pereiro, Menchov, Vinokourov, Verdugo and Vinokourov.
Menchov, Moreau, Pereiro and Verdugo have been caught by Valverde and Vinokourov at the base of the first climb of the stage. They have 12km to go before reaching the top of the Col de Port and are 12" ahead of the peloton.
The best of the escape group that’s now at the 14.5km mark is Oscar Pereiro (GCE) who began the day ranked 11th overall, 11’01" behind Rasmussen.
Verdugo (EUS) has been joined by Pereiro (GCE), Moreau (A2R) and Menchov (RAB) are 10" ahead of the peloton.
Delage (FDJ) and Mercado (AGR) are the latest two to be dropped by the peloton.
Dario Cioni is meant to be one of Cadel Evans’ key team-mates for the climbing stages but the Italian has been dropped early today. Another rider to lose touch with the peloton is Dessel (A2R).
Gorka Verdugo (EUS) is now on his own at the front of the stage. Moreau (A2R) is leading the chase of the Basque rider.
The escape has been caught but Chavanel is again trying to break free. He has been joined by Schumacher and a Liquigas rider at the head of affairs. Hoste is the tail-light of the peloton which is reacting to every move early today.
Garate, Moreni, Cobo, Portal, Garcia-Acosta, Hincapie, Paulinho, Charteau, Valjavec, Schumacher, Vande Velde, Voigt, Chavanel are some of the riders in the lead of the stage. The peloton is reacting with a rapid chase and there’s one long line of riders in the main bunch. The speed his high at the start of the 15th stage and it appears that the escape has been rendered void thanks to the fast pursuit by the Rabobank and Barloworld teams.
Schumacher (GST), Valjavec (LAM), De La Fuente (SDV), Chavanel (COF), Voigt and Vande Velde (CSC), Hincapie and Paulinho (DSC), Portal (GCE) et al are being chased by riders from Barloworld and Rabobank.
At the 7.5km mark they were 8" ahead of the peloton.
Schumacher (GST), Valjavec (LAM), De La Fuente (SDV), Chavanel (COF), Voigt and Vande Velde (CSC), Hincapie (DSC), Portal (GCE) are some of the riders in the lead of the stage. They are 15" ahead but we await confirmation of the others involved.
Two other riders in the lead group are David De La Fuente (SDV) and Tadej Valjavec (LAM). The peloton is still intent on trying to catch the escape. The names will come in a following newsflash. They are at the 3km mark now.
There are 13 riders with a small advantage over the peloton. Chavanel continues to push the pace and we await confirmation of the others involved but the peloton is responding and, after 2km of racing, the escape has a lead of about 100m on a fast-moving bunch.
Moments after the flag was waved to signal the start of stage 15, Chavanel (COF) attacked. He has been joined at the front by Willems (LIQ). They had a lead of 10" on the peloton but three others have joined these to escapees.
The official start of the 15th stage was at 11.28am. There are 163 riders still in the race. The overnight retirees are Filippo Pozzato (LIQ) and Philippe Gilbert (FDJ).
The winner of the 13th stage, Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) had a miserable day in the Pyrenees yesterday. He lost contact with the yellow jersey’s peloton with 7km to climb on the penultimate ascent and tried to minimize his losses. He then crashed on the final climb when he ran into a spectator.
Alberto Contador leads the youth classification by 9’08" after 14 stages. The Spanish Discovery Channel rider increased his advantage over Soler (BAR) with his victory in the stage to Plateau de Beille when he finished 37" ahead of the Colombian. In third place in the category open to riders born after 1 January 1982 is another Barloworld recruit, Kanstantsin Siutsou who is 20’30" behind Contador.
There has been no change to the top order of the points classification since the stage to Castres three days ago. Tom Boonen (QSI) has 195pts, Robert Hunter (BAR) has 175pts and Erik Zabel (MRM) 174.
“It’s our objective for Soler to go for the polka-dot jersey," said the directuer sportif of the Barloworld team, Claudio Corti earlier today. "We have to be mindful of attacks from other teams. We’ll have to watch what happens during the race but we have our plans mapped out for how Mauricio can make up the deficit of two points to Rasmussen... but I don’t want to give away our tactics before the start.”
Mauricio Soler is wearing the polka-dot jersey for the sixth day in succession. He is yet to lead the mountains classification but he’s been in the spotted top because the overall leader is also at the top of the points tally in the climbers’ category. Michael Rasmussen’s advantage over the Colombian Barloworld rider has been reduced to just two. The Dane leads with 142pts, Soler has 140pts and third place is currently held by Yaroslav Popovych (DSC) with 104pts.
Once again there was a shake up to the top order of the general classification yesterday. The stage winner at Plateau de Beille, Alberto Contador (DSC), moved up from third to second overall. He now trails Michael Rasmussen (RAB) by 2’23” while Cadel Evans (PRL) dropped from second to third after finishing seventh in the first stage in the Pyrenees. The Australian is 3’04” behind the Danish rider who has worn the yellow jersey since winning the stage to Tignes on the second Sunday of the Tour.
The two riders to drop out of the top 10 after the 14th stage were Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) who was ninth but finished 81st at Plateau de Beille (28’50” behind Contador and Rasmussen) and Kirchen (TMO) who was 10th but is now ranked 14th.
The 196km 15th stage from Foix to Loudenvielle includes five climbs:
- The cat-2 Col de Port (at 27.5km)
- The cat-2 Portet d’Aspet (99.5km)
- The cat-1 Col du Mente (114km)
- The ‘hors categorie’ Port de Bales
- The cat-1 Col du Peyresourde (184.5km)
The intermediate sprints are in Saint-Girons (at 68km) and Marignac (127km).
The riders are clicking into their pedals and rolling away from the line in Foix. In about 10 minutes time the flag will fall to signal the start of racing in this tough stage in the Pyrenees.
The 15th stage of the 2007 Tour de France goes from Foix in the Ariege department to Loudenvielle in Haute-Pyrenees. The peloton is currently assembled at the site of the ’depart fictif’ and they are expected to start rolling at 11.15am. There is a 5.4km neutral zone before the riders reach the site of the official start. This is expected to be at 11.25am.
The sun is shining in Foix but conditions are the finish could make things interesting; it’s been very windy in Loudenvielle early today and while the wind has eased in the last hour, rain has been falling. The forecast is for a maximum temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius by the time the peloton reaches the finish.
Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.