Rasmussen has increased his advantage over all others by winning the 16th stage. The order of the top five hasn’t changed after the stage to the Col d’Aubisque but the time differences have. The new top five scenario is as follows:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB
2. Albert Contador (ESP) DSC - at 3’10"
3. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL - at 5’03"
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC - at 5’59"
5. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC - at 9’12"
For the second time this year, a rider in the yellow jersey has won a stage. The top five of stage 16 from Orthez to the Col d’Aubisque is:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - 218.5km in 6h23’21"
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC at 26"
3. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC at 35"
4. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 43"
5. Mauricio Soler (COL) BAR at 1’25"
After having to endure a grilling at the press conference on the rest day, Michael Rasmussen has responded in a winning way. He has won the stage 24" ahead of Leipheimer with Contador in third and Evans about to cross the line in fourth place.
Rasmussen is about to claim his second stage victory this year. He is less than 500m from the finish and has a lead of 20" over Contador and Leipheimer.
Rasmussen is now racing clear of the two Discovery Channel riders and appears destined to win his second stage of the 2007 Tour de France, his first victory in the yellow jersey.
The final 1,500m of the stage have crowd control barricades on the side of the road. Still Rasmussen is shooing the photographers away. He hasn’t yet realized that wearing the yellow jersey means accepting the attention it generates. Even when there are no crowds to bother him he’s upset about having cameras focused on him...
At the 2km to go mark, Soler is 1’05" behind Rasmussen’s trio.
Rasmussen, Leipheimer and Contador are less than 2km from the end of the stage. They are 18" ahead of Evans. Leipheimer has been leading since he caught up with the yellow and white jerseys around the 4.5km to go mark.
Rasmussen appears more concerned with the cameramen than his rivals for the stage. He has been waving his arms for the motorbikes ahead of his trio to get clear. Leipheimer has been setting the tempo and it’s fast enough to maintain the advantage of 15" over Evans in fourth place.
The battle for fifth place is on. Soler has just caught up with Sastre.
There are still three men able to win the stage. It seems sure that Contador, Rasmussen and Leipheimer will be able to hold off Evans who is 15" behind with 3km to go.
At the 4km to go mark, Sastre is 1’05" behind Rasmussen, Contador and Leipheimer.
Rasmussen has pushed Leipheimer into the lead at the 4km to go mark. There are two Discovery Channel riders and one Rabobanker with a lead of about 30 meters on the Predictor-Lotto Australian...
Evans is out of the saddle and striving to catch the leading trio. Just 10 seconds separates Rasmussen, Contador and Leipheimer from Evans.
Rasmussen is insisting that the photographers motorcycles go ahead as they are blocking the road.
Leipheimer has caught up with Rasmussen and Contador. They have about 4.5km to go and have a lead of 15" on Evans.
Rasmussen has fought hard to catch Contador. The men in the yellow and white jerseys have a lead of 13" on Evans and Leipheimer.
Contador is attacking again. Neither Rasmussen nor Evans can follow. Now Leipheimer has caught up with Evans.
Evans has raise from the saddle and is now on terms with Rasmussen and Contador.
Contador is now racing ahead with Rasmussen. The two at the top of the general classification have dropped Evans with their latest bout of attacking...
The attacking action up front has rendered the rest of the race out of contention for the stage win. Sastre is now 30" behind the leading trio (Evans, Rasmussen and Contador) while Valverde et al are at 1’00".
Contador looked at Evans and decided it was time to fly. The Spaniard has built a lead of about 30 meters on the Dane, Aussie and American.
Carlos Sastre will attend the podium protocol this afternoon to collect his prize as the most aggressive rider of the stage. He’s well out of contention for the stage win but he tried to push his way up the general classification with an escape that started before the first of five mountains today.
Leipheimer has hit out again. He is being reeled in by Rasmussen, followed by Contador and Evans. Once he’s caught, we can expect to see Contador go again... Discovery Channel have the power of numbers and their throwing one-two punches at their rivals.
The attack by Contador has been pulled back. Now the yellow jersey is at the front of this elite quartet.
Contador is now leading the stage with an advantage of about 40 meters over Rasmussen, Evans and Leipheimer.
As the go in and out of tunnels, we can see that Leipheimer has been attacking the lead group. It was the catalyst for Contador to attack.
It’s clear that Leipheimer is not racing for personal glory. His turn of pace has disposed all but three riders. He is now tapping out a rapid tempo ahead of Rasmussen, Contador and Evans.
The stage is now being led by Leipheimer, Rasmussen, Contador and Evans... the four riders at the top of the general classification.
Leipheimer has attacked the yellow jersey’s group. It signals the end of Popovych (with 9.5km to go). They have caught and passed Sastre and Mayo.
The only riders with the yellow jersey are: Popovych - who is doing all the damage with 10km to go - Leipheimer, Contador, Evans and Rasmusen.
Valverde, Pereiro and Schleck have just lost contact with the yellow jersey’s group.
Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych, Soler, Valverde, Pereiro, Arroyo, Schleck and Evans are the riders left in the yellow jersey’s peloton. Popovych is setting the pace at the moment. He’s followed by Contador and Rasmussen. They are less than 30" behind Sastre and Mayo who have less than 10km to go.
Sastre and Mayo are still together but the majority of the work is done by the CSC leader. They are 35" ahead of the yellow jersey’s group which has just caught up wtih Soler.
It’s only a matter of moments before Contador is due to launch an attack. The Discovery Channel team has taken charge of the yellow jersey’s peloton and Rasmussen is tucked in behind the rider in the white jersey...
Sastre has attacked again but Mayo has fought his way back into the lead.
Menchov and Horner are now gone from the yellow jersey’s group.
Rasmussen (RAB), Menchov (RAB), Boogerd (RAB), Leipheimer (DSC), Contador (DSC), Popovych (DSC), Valverde (GCE), Pereiro (GCE), Arroyo (GCE), Zubeldia (EUS), Cobo (SDV), Schleck (CSC), Horner (PRL) and Evans (PRL) are the riders now in pursuit of Soler... then Sastre and Mayo.
The leading pair are 20" ahead of Soler and 40" ahead of the yellow jersey’s group.
Sastre is increasing his advantage on the yellow jersey’s pack again. He and Mayo are now 55" ahead of the group that’s being led by Menchov, Boogerd and Rasmussen.
Soler is out of the lead group and now trails Sastre and Mayo by 10". The group with the yellow jersey is at 55".
Soler is not able to match Sastre’s effort. He has been dropped from the lead group but Mayo has been able to reel in the CSC leader.
Sastre has attacked with 14.5km to go. Soler is on his wheel and now Mayo is fighting his way back to the lead of the stage.
The leaders are 15km from the finish of stage 16. Soler is insisting with his effort and his pace is matched by Sastre and Mayo. Verdugo has been caught and past by the yellow jersey’s group which also includes Vila (LAM).
Rasmussen, Menchov, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych, Valverde, Pereiro, Arroyo, Zubeldia, Cobo, Schleck, Horner and Evans are the men who are now in pursuit of four riders... Soler, Sastre and Mayo (who have a slight lead over Verdugo).
Sastre, Verdugo, Soler and Mayo are 45" ahead of the yellow jersey’s group which is now being led by Menchov, Boogerd and Rasmussen. Garcia-Acosta has dropped out of this pack.
The points for the sprint in Laruns were won by:
1. Sastre (CSC) 6pts/6"
2. Soler (BAR) 4pts/4"
3. Mayo (SDV) 2pts/2"
Garcia-Acosta has dropped back to the yellow jersey’s group and is now setting the pace for the group on the approach to the final climb. In this elite pack are: Rasmussen, Menchov, Boogerd, Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych, Valverde, Pereiro, Arroyo, Zubeldia, Cobo, Schleck, Horner and Evans. With 20km to go, they are 52" behind Sastre, Mayo, Soler and Verdugo.
The yellow jersey’s group is 1’05" behind Sastre’s group at the 195km mark.
With 25km to go, the yellow jersey’s peloton was 1’25" behind Sastre’s quintet.
The Col d’Aubisque has a long history with the Tour de France. The 1,709m high pass was part of the first stage in the high mountains in 1910. This will be the 68th time that the race has included the col on the itinerary. It is a 16.6km long ascent with an average gradient of 7.0 percent. The steepest section is the eighth kilometer which has a gradient of 10 percent.
The lead group is down to four men: Sastre, Verdugo, Soler and Mayo. They are 25km from the end of the 16th stage.
On the descent the advantage of the leading quintet has dropped to 1’35". The escapees are about 5km from the sprint in Laurus (at the 200km mark).
The yellow jersey’s group is now at the 168km mark. It is 2’00" behind a group of five: Sastre, Soler, Mayo, Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta.
1. Mauricio Soler (BAR) 15pts
2. Sastre (CSC) 13pts
3. Mayo (SDV) 11pts
4. Verdugo (EUS) 9pts
5. Garcia-Acosta (GCE) 8pts – at 1’25”
6. Rasmussen (RAB) 7pts - at 2’25"
7. Contador (DSC) 6pts
8. Menchov (RAB) 5pts
The pace being set by Menchov is too much for Popovych and Arroyo. These two have dropped out of the yellow jersey’s peloton.
1. Mauricio Soler (BAR) 15pts
2. Sastre (CSC) 13pts
3. Mayo (SDV) 11pts
4. Verdugo (EUS) 9pts...
Soler has gone to the front of the lead group for the first time in a while. The pace has been set by Sastre for most of the stage but now the Colombian in the escape is chasing points for the polka-dot jersey.
Periero, Arroyo and Valverde (GCE), Schleck (CSC), Evans and Horner (PRL), Menchov, Boogerd and Rasmussen (RAB), Zubeldia (EUS), Halgand (C.A), Leipheimer, Contador and Popovych (DSC) and Cobo (SDV) are 1km from the summit. They are 2’25" behind Sastre, Soler and Mayo.
Periero, Arroyo, Valverde, Schleck, Evans, Horner, Menchov, Boogerd, Rasmussen, Zubeldia, Halgand, Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych and Cobo.
There are now three in the lead of the stage: Sastre continues to set the pace (as he’s done for most of the stage!) and behind him is Soler and Mayo. Verdugo has just lost contact with his escape companions 1.2km from the summit.
There are four Caisse d’Epargne riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton. This group is 2’45" behind Mayo, Sastre, Verdugo and Soler.
The riders in the yellow jersey’s group include: Menchov, Boogerd, Rasmussen (RAB), Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych (DSC), Evans, Horner (PRL), Cobo (SDV)... there are 20 men in this group.
Kirchen, Gutierrez, Beltran, Chavanel are the riders dropped recently.
Hincapie, Gusev, Arrieta are some of the riders dropping out of the yellow jersey’s peloton recently.
Auge and Rinero have been dropped 3.5km from the top of the 4th climb. They were part of the escape group that attacked at the 8km mark and are now being joing by numerous riders who are unable to match the pace being thumped out by Menchov (RAB). The peloton is 3km from the summit and 3’00" behind Soler’s group.
The peloton’s deficit to Sastre, Soler, Mayo, Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta with 5km to climb to the top of the Col de Marie-Blanque is 3’10".
Garcia-Acosta is losing contact with leaders...
The second category-one ascent of the 16th stage is 9.3km long with an average gradient of 7.4 percent. The steepest sections are kilometers seven and eight which is pitched at 11.5 percent. The summit is at the 180.5km and is 1,035m above sea level.
The peloton is 3’15" behind the five escapees who are now 5km from the top of the Col de Marie-Blanque.
After putting all his energy into a chase that brought the escape back from 5’00" to 3’20", Thomas Dekker (RAB) has peeled off from the front of the peloton. His work is done and now it’s time for Menchov and Boogerd to lead Rasmussen up the Col de Marie-Blanque.
On Friday 13 May 2005, Cadel Evans was doing a reconnaissance of the route for what was to be his first Tour de France. After cresting the Col d’Aubisque, he was descending to Pau when his front wheel hit a patch of gravel and slid out from under him. He crashed and fractured his collarbone. It was the same bone that he broke three times the year before.
This year, the Australian hopes that the severe gradient of the final ascent in stage 16 will allow him to make up the 4’00” deficit to Rasmussen. “It’s hard for me to attack Contador and Rasmussen,” said Evans yesterday, “but the climb suits me and I want to harness the frustration I had at the end of the 15th stage and put my anger to good use…”
The Rabobank chase is taking effect. The peloton is now 3’40" behind Sastre’s group.
One of the few times that Cadel Evans has truly gone on the attack during the Tour de France was in 2005 when he made his debut in the race. It was in the 16th stage, when the itinerary included both the Col de Marie-Blanque and the Col d’Aubisque. He was part of a small escape group that included Philippe Gilbert and Jorg Ludewig. After cresting the first of these two cols with his escape companions, the Australian picked up the pace and led over the Aubisque.
He was caught on the descent by Oscar Pereiro who, at the top, ran off the road (while feeding himself an energy bar) but saved himself from a nasty crash (with the energy bar still in his mouth).
The Spaniard won the stage two days after finishing second to George Hincape at St-Lary Soulon, but Evans set the pace for a quartet of escapees that reformed on the road to Pau. Evans moved into the top 10 of general classification for the first time and dedicated his move to Amy Gillett, a former member of the Australian national team who died the day before after being struck by a motorist while training in Germany.
There are still four Rabobank riders - including Rasmussen - at the front of the peloton. At the 162km mark, their group is 4’30" behind the five escapees.
Sastre, Garcia-Acosta, Verdugo, Soler and Mayo are at the 162km mark. They are 5’10" ahead of the peloton.
Leipheimer has just punctured his rear tire. As his Discovery Channel team mechanic was getting out of the car to give him a new wheel he went tumbling down into the grass at the side of the road. Nonetheless, it was a fast change and Hincapie has come back with another team-mate to help the rider in fourth overall get back to the peloton.
The peloton is 4’50" behind at the 150km mark. Rinero and Auge have been caught which means that only Sastre, Garcia-Acosta, Verdugo, Soler and Mayo are ahead of the peloton.
After his crash, Ballan has caught up with the peloton that is currently five minutes behind the five escapees. In between are Rinero and Auge.
While Mayo, Garcia-Acosta, Verdugo and Soler are attacking the descent, Sastre is being a little cautious. A small gap has opened up between the best-placed of the escape group and the others but it’s nothing dire and the CSC rider should be able to close it when cruchtime comes.
At the 138km mark, the Auge and Rinero were riding together again. They were 4’30" behind Sastre’s quintet. The peloton was 5’00" behind.
After his crash, Ballan has remounted the bike and is riding again.
Alessandro Ballan has crashed at the start of the descent of the Col de la Pierre St-Martin. He is standing again and having his bike fixed by the Lampre team’s mechanics.
1. Mauricio Soler (BAR) 15pts
2. Carlos Sastre (CSC) 13pts
3. Gorka Verdugo (EUS) 11pts
4. Vincente Garcia-Acosta (GCE) 9pts
5. Iban Mayo (SDV) 8pts
6. Stephane Auge (COF) 7pts - at 3’55"
7. Christophe Rinero (SDV) 6pts - at 4’10"
8. Jens Voigt (CSC) 5pts - at 4’50"
The peloton was over the top at 4’55".
Stephane Auge (COF) has reached the top of the third climb 3’55" behind Soler.
By claiming 12 points at the first climb and 15 points at the third, Mauricio Soler (BAR) is now ahead of Rasmussen in the mountains classification. There are double points on offer for the final ascent today so the Rabobank rider could yet reclaim the lead and hang on to the polka-dot jersey.
The leading five riders have reached the top of the third climb. The points were won by:
1. Mauricio Soler (BAR) 15pts
2. Carlos Sastre (CSC) 13pts
3. Gorka Verdugo (EUS) 11pts
4. Vincente Garcia-Acosta (GCE) 9pts
5. Iban Mayo (SDV) 8pts...
Mayo, Sastre, Soler, Garcia-Acosta and Verdugo are now 1km from the top of the Pierre St-Martin climb. There are three former stage winners in this quintet: Mayo (who won at Alpe d’Huez in 2003), Sastre (who won at Ax-3-Domaines a day after Mayo’s victory) and Garcia-Acosta (who won on 14 July 2000 in Draguignan).
Dekker has led the yellow jersey’s group to the 5km to climb sign, 4’45" behind Sastre’s group. Rinero was at 3’00" at the same mark and Auge was at 2’45".
Auge is 2’25" behind the five stage leaders while Rinero is at 2’40". The peloton continues to be led by Thomas Dekker of the Rabobank team which has an obvious approach for team work for the mountain stages: Flecha leads on the flats, De Groot and Niermann help at the base of the early climbs then Dekker takes charge. Behind him is Menchov and then Boogerd who, if all goes to plan, blasts up the final ascent to launch Rasmussen into the attacking fray.
Right now, the pacesetting of Dekker isn’t closing in on Sastre’s group which is still 4’25" ahead of the yellow jersey’s peloton.
Garcia-Acosta, Soler, Verdugo, Mayo and Sastre lead Auge by 1’35", Rinero by 1’55" and the peloton by 4’15".
The yellow jersey’s peloton is thinning out again. The latest to lose contact include Kirchen and Gerdemann (TMO).
"Discovery has the keys to ignite this stage," said Gallopin of the CSC team who has Sastre in the leading quintet, 4’15" ahead of the peloton. "If they attack early, they can make Rasmussen suffer and create big changes to the general classification by the end of the day..."
Allain Gallopin has just offered some thoughts on the escape today that includes Carlos Sastre. With a lead on the ploton of 4’10" at the last check, he’s pushed his way from fifth overall at the start of the stage to virtual third. "He cannot respond to Contador’s attacks," said the directeur sportif of CSC, "so he has taken a chance today.
"It’s worth trying to attack early and risk losing five place in favor of a podium in Paris..."
Dekker, Menchov, Boogerd and Rasmussen are the men at the head of the peloton at the base of the Col de la Pierre St-Martin. Their group is 4’10" behind Sastre’s group.
With 14km to climb, the peloton is 3’55" behind Mayo, Sastre, Garcia-Acosta, Soler and Verdugo.
The other Frenchman ahead of the peloton was Stephane Auge (COF). He was the rider to instigate today’s escape but he has been dropped by Sastre, Mayo, Soler, Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta at the start of the Col de la Pierre St-Martin.
Rinero has been leading the escape to the base of the Col de la Pierre St-Martin. With 14km to go, the Frenchman swung over and let the six other escapees go on without him. They are 3’50" ahead of the peloton.
The pace of the chase is really picking up now. The Rabobank-led peloton is now 4’00" behind Sastre, Mayo, Verdugo, Garcia-Acosta, Soler, Auge and Rinero.
Sastre, Soler, Mayo, Rinero, Auge, Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta have a lead of 4’20" at the last check. There has been a general regrouping in the peloton and Flecha is the man currently setting the tempo for the yellow jersey’s group.
The five-man counter-attack group - Sastre, Soler, Mayo, Rinero and Auge - has caught Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta at the 110km mark.
At the moment the advantage of Sastre is sufficient to put him into third in the general classification. His quintet is 1’05" behind Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta while the yellow jersey’s peloton is at 5’40".
The average speed for the third hour of racing is 33.8km/h. The averagefor the first three hours is 34.8km/h.
Paulinho has towed Contador back to the peloton. Exactly what the issue was, we’re not sure, but we can report that there is now a banana in the rear pocket of the white jersey...
On the descent of the Alto Laza, Contador has pulled to the right of the road. He is being serviced by his Discovery Channel team car. He is being waited for by a couple of his team-mates.
The peloton was led to the top of the Alto Laza, 5’40" behind Garcia-Acosta.
Rinero and Auge have been caught by Sastre, Soler and Mayo on the descent of the Alto Laza.
The points at the top of the Alto Laza (93km) were won by:
1. Vincente Garcia-Acosta (GCE) 4pts
2. Gorka Verdugo (EUS) 3pts
3. Stephane Auge (COF) 2pts - at 2’00"
4. Christophe Rinero (SDV) 1pt - at 2’10"
Sastre, Mayo and Soler were 2’35" behind.
With one kilometer to climb to the second summit, Garcia-Acosta (GCE) and Verdugo (EUS) had a lead of 1’30" over Rinero (SDV) and Auge.
Mayo (SDV), Sastre (CSC) and Soler are at 2’35".
Matthieu Sprick of the Bouygues Telecom team has abandoned. There are now 150 riders in the Tour de France.
The two Spanish stage leaders have 1km to go before reaching the top of the 2nd climb.
Soler, Sastre and Mayo are 2’40" behind Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta at the start of the second climb. The yellow jersey’s peloton is 4km from the top of the Alto Laza (which peaks at 93) and has a deficit of 5’15" to the stage leaders.
Garcia-Acosta and Verdugo lead Rinero and Auge by 1’10" around the 90km mark.
The Rasmussen peloton included 28 riders at the top of the Port de Larrau. They were 1’30" behind Sastre, Soler and Mayo at the 79km mark. Sastre began the stage 2’46" behind Evans (who was part of the yellow jersey’s group).
The points at the top of the Port de Larrau were won by:
1. Garcia-Acosta (GCE) 20pts
2. Verdugo (EUS) 18pts
3. Rinero (SDV) 16pts – at 55”
4. Auge (COF) 14pts - 1’05”
5. Soler (BAR) 12pts – at 3’05”
6. Sastre (CSC) 10pts
7. Mayo (SDV) 8pts
8. Rasmussen (RAB) 7pts – at 4’35”
9. Dekker (RAB) 6pts
10. Contador (DSC) 5pts
At the top of the Port de Larrau, Soler has led Sastre and Mayo over the line, 3’06" behind Verdguo and Garcia-Acosta.
Rasmussen’s group is about 35" behind Sastre’s group with 1km to climb.
Sastre has been doing the most of the work of the three chasers who are now 1km from the summit of the Port de Larrau at the same time that Garcia-Acosta takes first-place points at the top ahead of Verdugo.
Dekker, Menchov, Boogerd, Rasmussen, Contador, Leipheimer, Zubeldia, Voeckler, Beltran, Cobo, Evans, Horner, Goubert, Pereiro, Valverde, Halgand, Voigt, Isasi, Txurruka, Astarloza… are some of the riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton.
Dekker continues to lead this pack that is now 4’25" behind Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta.
Soler, Sastre and Mayo are 3’30" behind the escapees. Paulinho is at 4’15". Popovych is at 4’30" and the yellow jersey’s group is a 4’45" at the 75km mark.
The yellow jersey’s peloton includes four Rabobank riders: Dekker, Boogerd, Menchov and Rasmussen. Others in this group of about 25 men include: Contador and Leipheimer (DSC), Evans and Horner (PRL), Voeckler (BTL), Valverde and Pereiro (GCE), Txurruka (EUS), Voigt (CSC)...
Auge and Rinero are unable to match the pace of Garcia-Acosta and Verdugo at the front of the stage. The two Spaniards are now in the lead with 4.5km to climb.
The stage leaders are now 5km from the summit of the Port de Larrau. They are 3’45" ahead of Mayo, Sastre and Soler and 5’05" ahead of the yellow jersey’s group.
The latest time check has Sastre, Soler and Mayo 4’00" behind Verdugo, Auge, Rinero and Garcia-Acosta who continue to lead the stage. Paulinho is at 4’30"; Popovych is at 4’40" and the yellow jersey’s peloton is at 5’30".
The directeur sportif of Cadel Evans’ Predictor-Lotto team, Hendrik Redant doesn’t seem stressed about the attack of Sastre who is currently about 50" ahead of the rider ranked third overall at the start of the day. "Cadel is still fighting for a podium place in Paris," said Redant, "that was our objective for him from the start of the Tour. There’s no panic at the moment with Sastre’s attack. We’ll let Rabobank control the chase. There’s a long way yet to go today."
Evans is expected to be named the winner of the 13th stage (after Vinokourov’s positive test) and the Australian was adament about his chances of attacking today. "I don’t think that Rasmussen and Contador - or their team-mates - will let me just go ahead at the start of the stage. If I attack it’ll have to be a good one and the best place to do that is late in the race."
The rider who was in seventh overall at the start of the day, Kim Kirchen (TMO) is one of the riders to be dropped by the yellow jersey’s peloton that still includes the rest of the top 10 overall.
Mayo, Sastre and Soler and now 5’15" behind Verdugo, Garcia-Acosta, Auge and Rinero. Txurruka is at 5’30" and the yellow jersey’s peloton is at 5’50".
Arroyo’s attack didn’t last long. He has already been reeled in by the peloton that continues to be led by the Rabobank team which is setting a pace that’s fast enough to spit the sprinters out the back.
Mayo has bridged the gap to Soler and Sastre. This trio is now just ahead of Paulinho and Popovych.
Sastre and Soler have dropped Txurruka who is now riding with Paulinho, Popovych and Mayo.
Thomas Dekker is currently setting the pace for the peloton. Tucked in behind him are four Rabobank colleagues including Rasmussen who is being shadowed by Contador and Evans.
Sastre, Soler and Txurruka are said to be 39" ahead of the peloton already. In pursuit of this trio is Paulinho (DSC) followed by Popovych (DSC), Barredo (QSI) and Arroyo (GCE).
Sastre is making a bid to rise up the rankings early in the 16th stage. He began the day in fifth overall, 6’46" behind Rasmussen and he’s now prompting a reaction from the peloton with his solid move ahead of Soler.
Carlos Sastre (CSC) has bridged the gap to Soler as has Txurruka is also on the attack.
Soler has decided it’s time to dance. Clad in the polka-dot jersey, the Colombian has dropped the rest of the peloton wiht a solid surge.
Cardenas is now leading Soler on the climb. Right behind these two Barloworld riders are Popovych (DSC) and Beltran (LIQ). The peloton has split to pieces early on the steep ascent.
The Barloworld team has led the peloton to the base of the first climb today. The leaders of the general classification are tucked in behind the Barlo-boys and, with 14.5km to go to the summit, the bunch is 8’55" behind the escapees.
Rinero is currently setting the pace of the escape group. Behind him is Verdugo, Auge and Garcia-Acosta. None of them are bold enough to try attacking with such a long road ahead of them. The same applies for the peloton which is now almost at the foot of the Port de Larrau with a deficit of 8’55" to the futigives... this is the maximum advantage of the escape so far today.
Auge, Verdugo, Rinero and Garcia-Acosta have begun the ascent of the Port de Larrau. They are 8’56" ahead of the peloton.
Of the four riders in the lead of stage 16, the best-placed in the general classification before today is Gorka Verdugo (EUS) who was ranked 67th, 1h41’56" behind Rasmussen.
The peloton is now 8’45" behind Auge (COF), Verdugo (EUS), Rinero (SDV) and Garcia-Acosta (GCE). The maximum gain until now was 8’50" at the 30km mark. Barloworld continues to set the tempo for the main pack and, right behind the red-clad squad, are riders from Caisse d’Epargne and Rabobank while T-Mobile is also sending riders to the head of the peloton on the approach to the Port de Larrau.
Today is the second time that the Tour de France has raced over the ‘hors categorie’ Port de Larrau. The first visit to this 1,573m high pass was in 1996. Richard Virenque claimed first place points at the summit 11 years ago. The eight riders who crested the climb first also represented the top eight in the general classification at the finish of the Tour that year. They were: Riis, Ullrich, Virenque, Dufaux, Luttenberger, Leblanc, Ugrumov and Escartin. The stage concluded in Pamplona, Spain and those eight riders had a lead on the next riders of eight minutes. The winner that day was Laurent Dufaux.
The Port de Larrau is a 14.7km long ascent with an average gradient of 8.1 percent. The steepest sections are at the second and eighth kilometers where it is a 11.5 percent gradient. The summit is at the 79km mark.
The escapees - Auge (COF), Verdugo (EUS), Rinero (SDV) and Garcia-Acosta (GCE) - have just left Licq at the 55km mark.
There are two feedzones in today’s long, mountainous stage. At the first one (in Tarderets-Sorholus (48.5km), the peloton was 7’45" behind the four escapees.
The second feedzone is in Arette (at the 156km mark).
Rinero, Verdugo, Auge and Garcia-Acosta’s maximum gain so far was 8’50" at the 30km mark. That’s when the Barloworld squad came to the front of the peloton and increased the tempo. The bunch is now 7’30" behind at the 46km mark.
The points for the sprint in Mauleon-Licharre (at 36km) were won by:
1. Christophe Rinero (SDV) 6pts/6"
2. Stephane Auge (COF) 4pts/4"
3. Gorka Verdugo (EUS) 2pts/2"
The average speed for the first hour in stage 16 is 40.4km/h.
Riders from the Barloworld team are currently at the head of the peloton in front of a number of Rabobank riders. The signal from Race Radio is still absent so information from the race is vague early in the 16th stage. The latest time check has the four escapees 7’25" ahead of the bunch.
The 16th stage visits Spain for 52km. The summit of the first mountain (the Port de Larrau) is right on the border while the return to France is near the peak of the third ascent, the Col de la Pierre St-Martin at the 131km mark.
The 151 riders remaining in the 2007 Tour de France represent 26 countries.
The breakdown is:
34 – Spain. Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (AGR) abandoned during stage one after a crash; Xabier Zandio (GCE) abandoned during stage four because of injuries sustained in a crash in stage one. Oscar Freire (RAB) and Rubens Lobato (SDV) didn’t start stage seven. Igor Anton (EUS) abandoned during stage 11. Francisco Ventoso (SDV) didn’t start the 14th stage. Antonio Colom and Daniel Navarro (AST) were part of the exodus of their team on the second rest day.
29 – France. Remy Di Gregorio (FDJ) didn’t start stage five after fracturing his elbow in a fall early in stage four. Geoffroy Lequartre (COF) didn’t start stage six after being caught up in a crash in stage five. Romain Feillu (AGR) abandoned during stage eight. Cedric Herve (AGR) finished outside the time limit in stage eight. Sylvain Calzati (A2R) abandoned during stage 11. Cyril Dessel (A2R) abandoned on the first climb of stage 14 and Christophe Le Mevel (C.A) crashed and broke his right collarbone on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet.
17 – Germany. Patrick Sinkewitz (TMO) didn’t start stage nine. Andreas Kloden (AST) didn’t start the 16th stage.
14 – Italy. Enrico Degano (BAR) abandoned during stage seven. Danilo Napolitano (LAM) finished outside the time limit in stage eight. Alberto Ongarato (MRM) crashed at the stage of stage 12 and abandoned shortly afterwards. Filippo Pozatto (LIQ) did not start the 15th stage.
12 – Belgium. Philippe Gilbert (FDJ) did not start the 15th stage.
7 – The Netherlands
5 –USA. Dave Zabriskie (CSC) finished outside the time limit in stage 11. Russia had six starters but Serguei Ivanov left with his Astana colleagues on the second rest day.
4 – Great Britain. Mark Cavendish (TMO) abandoned during stage eight. Switzerland had five starters but Gregory Rast (AST) did not start stage 16.
3 – Austria.
2 – Belarus, Luxembourg, Norway, Ukraine, Australia and Colombia. Brett Lancaster (MRM) abandoned during the fifth stage. Michael Rogers (TMO) abandoned during stage eight after crashing and dislocating his right shoulder. Stuart O’Grady (CSC) abandoned during stage eight after crashing and breaking five ribs, dislocating his AC joint and sustaining numerous other injuries. Robbie McEwen (PRL) finished outside the time limit in stage eight. Ivan Parra (COF) abandoned during stage eight.
1 – South Africa, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden
Lithuania had one representative but Thomas Vaitkus didn’t start stage three because of a broken thumb sustained in a crash at the end of stage two. Kazakhstan started the race with four riders but three – Vinokourov, Kashechkin and Iglinski – departed the Tour on the second rest day.
The peloton is at the 27km mark and appears completely uninterested in chasing the four escapees who are now 8’25" ahead. Rinero, Auge, Verdugo and Garcia-Acosta began their move at the 8km mark.
After the withdrawal of the Astana team there are now 151 riders remaining in the 94th Tour. Of the original line-up of 21 squads, only two have their full contingent of nine riders: Gerolsteiner and Quickstep. The German squad is yet to win a stage this year while the Belgian-registered squad has already celebrate four stage victories - two for Tom Boonen, one for Gert Steegmans and one for Cedric Vasseur.
There’s little interest from the peloton in chasing the four escapees who are 5’20" ahead at the moment the bunch reached the 20km mark.
The American who is ranked fourth in the general classification, Levi Leipheimer (DSC) has just called for his team car. His squad has two men in the top four overall, with the young Spaniard, Contador, in second place with a lead over the American of 2’02".
Verdugo (EUS), Auge (COF), Garcia-Acosta (GCE) and Rinero (SDV) are now 4’20" ahead of the peloton which is in Susmiou.
The four escapees have pushed their advantage over the peloton up to 3’25" at the 19km mark.
Race Radio is starting to crackle into action. There are currently three riders on the attack. The escape started at the 8km mark with Stephane Auge (COF) instigating the move. He was chased down by three others - Vincente Garcia-Acosta (GCE), Gorka Verdugo (EUS) and Christophe Rinero (SDV) - and caught at the 9km mark.
The peloton has just arrived at the 15km mark and it is 2’00" behind the leading quartet.
Alberto Contador has already won a stage this year but the young Spaniard who is making his Tour debut this year is considered one of the favorites for today’s tough 218.5km test. The Discovery Channel rider wears the white jersey as leader of the youth classification. His advantage over Mauricio Soler (BAR) is 12’37" while, in third place, is another Barloworld recruit Kantstantin Siutsou, 30’35" behind.
There has been no change to the top order of the points classification since Tom Boonen’s victory in the stage to Castres. The Belgian leads Robert Hunter (BAR) by 195pts to 175; in third is Erik Zabel (MRM) who is one point behind the South African.
After 15 stages, the Astana squad was in the lead of the team classification. This is no longer the case after the events of recent days. Discovery Channel is now wearing race numbers with a yellow background (instead of the usual white) to denote its place in front of the team rankings.
The length of the race (218.5km) is hindering the reception of Radio Tour at the start of the stage from Orthez to the Col d’Aubisque. The last news broadcast was that there were no early attacks and that the peloton was at the 3km mark.
Apologies for the lack of information relating to the actual action today but the circumstances of this unique stage in the Pyrenees is making the transfer of details a little difficult at the moment.
Rasmussen also leads the mountains classification. He has 142 points, two more than the winner in Briancon, Mauricio Soler (BAR). In third place in the race for the polka-dot jersey is Yaroslav Popovych (DSC) with 104pts.
The leader of the 2007 Tour de France after 15 stages is Michael Rasmussen (RAB). The Danish rider held a press conference in Pau at 2.00pm on the rest day where he explained the circumstances surrounding some missed random doping controls and his team manager, Theo De Rooy, insisted that the rider has the full support of the Rabobank squad and the sponsors.
Rasmussen’s advantage over the rider in second place overall, Spaniard Alberto Contador (DSC) is 2’23”. In third place is Australian Cadel Evans (PRL) who is four minutes behind.
The peloton is all together at the 3km mark. There have been no early escape attempts in the 16th stage.
The official start time of the 16th stage was 10.58am. There are 151 riders still in the race. The Astana team forfeited has its place in the race at the request of the organizers following the positive doping control of Alexandre Vinokourov for a homogulous blood transfusion on the day of his time trial “win” in Albi.
The two intermediate sprints for the 16th stage are in Mauleon-Licharre (36km) and Laruns (200km). The second one is just 18.5km from the finish and effectively signals the start of the ascent to the Col d’Aubisque which is 16.6km long and has an average gradient of 7.0 percent.
There are five climbs on today’s itinerary: the ‘hors categorie’ ascent of the Port de Larrau (at 79km), the cat-3 Alto Laza (at 93km), the cat-1 Col de la Pierre St-Martin (at 131km), the cat-1 Col de Marie-Blanque (at 180.5km) and the final ascent to the Col d’Aubisque.
The peloton is currently in the neutral zone. The riders began rolling to the start later than scheduled but we can expect the 16th stage to start any moment now. The six teams in the race, as well as Gerolsteiner, voiced some concerns prior to leaving the ’depart fictif’ in Orthez but details of what was said are vague.
The 16th stage was meant to begin at 10.40am. Race radio has, however, been silent early today. The peloton is not yet rolling in the neutral zone. We’ll report on the events in Orthez shortly.
The stage that is widely considered the toughest of the 94th edition of the Tour de France, from Orthez to the Col’Aubisque, is scheduled to start at 10.40am. After a most intriguing rest day, we can report that the sun is shining on the race again. The itinerary for the 218.5km stage includes five climbs including the ’hors categorie’ mountain top finish.
There is a 2.9km neutral zone before riders reach the site of the official start. Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.