Mark Cavendish is living up to his self-confessed claim as being "the fastest rider in the world". He’s won three stages so far in the 2008 Tour. The top 10 in stage 12 is:
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR
2. Sebastian Chavanel (FRA) FDJ
3. Gert Steegmans (BEL) QST
4. Erik Zabel (GER) MRM
5. Oscar Freire (ESP) RAB
6. Francesco Chicchi (ITA) LIQ
7. Thor Hushovd (NOR) C.A
8. Leonardo Duque (COL) COF
9. Julian Dean (NZL) TSL
10. Heinrich Hassler (GER) GST
Mark Cavendish made winning the stage look oh-so easy. He now has three in his collection.
The peloton is in the final kilometer of the stage and Hushovd has muscled his way to the front of the peloton. For a rider who isn’t feeling too well, he’s up there in the mix...
The most dominant lead-out train in the final 2km is Columbia. Cavendish has just come up the right side of the road tucked in behind a team-mate.
It’s time to pick your sprinter if you want to predict the winner of the stage. They are all present near the head of the peloton. Now that the bunch is inside the final 3km, the yellow jersey can be seen drifting back in the peloton to keep himself out of trouble as the lead-out trains form at the front of the bunch.
Liguigas, Milram and Columbia are setting up their sprinters with 4km to go in the stage.
Dumoulin has been dropped by the peloton that is now 4.5km from the finish.
Arnaud Gerard has received the most votes for the Most Aggressive Rider classification in stage 12. He was part of the escape that broke free of the peloton at the 36km mark. He was in the lead of the stage for about 122km along with Samuel Dumoulin.
Nine kilometers from the finish Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard have been swallowed up by the peloton that is now being led by Stuart O’Grady of the CSC-Saxo Bank team.
The advantage of Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard is just 10" with 10km to go in the 12th stage.
There have been a number of flat tires recently. The latest is for Thomas Lovkvist of the Columbia team.
Only 13" separates Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard from the peloton with about 11km to go in the stage. Oroz is now pushing through with a strong turn: he’s spent 38 percent of the last 10 minutes in the lead of the escape but the three are now exchanging glances at each other as they see the peloton closing in fast.
The pace of the stage has been rapid from the start. The opening hour was raced at an average of 51.0km/h. The second hour at 45.3km/h... and although we haven’t received the average for the third hour, we can report that the speed is very fast for the finale with a tailwind pushing the riders to the finish in Narbonne.
With 15km to go, the peloton is just 24" behind Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard.
The Liquigas team is tucked in behind Quickstep’s lead-out train in the final 17km. The finishing straight in Narbonne is 900m long which is the sort of finish that will suit Liquigas sprinter Francesco Chicchi should the stage end with a bunch gallop.
There are now five riders from the Quickstep team at the head of the peloton. The Belgian team has not yet won a stage of the 2008 Tour and they have picked up the pace of the chase, reducing the leading margin of Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard to 35" at the 18km to go mark.
The leading trio are less than 20km from the finish in Narbonne. They have a lead of 41".
The teams at the head of the peloton as it passed under the 25km to go banner are Liquigas, Caisse d’Epargne, Milram and Columbia. Their group is 45" behind Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard.
At the 2nd intermediate sprint of the 12th stage (26km from the finish, the points were won by:
1. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 6pts
2. Arnaud Gerard (FDJ) 4pts
3. Juan Jose Oroz (EUS) 2pts
Dumoulin, Oroz and Gerard are less than 1km from the site of the 2nd intermediate sprint.
With the peloton less than 30km from the finish, its deficit to the leading trio has grown to 1’15".
With 30km to go, Samuel Dumoulin has attacked the lead group. Oroz is leading the chase and Gerard is matching the pace. The three are back together again after a brief surge.
The leaders are 5km from the site of the 2nd intermediate sprint of the stage. Their advantage is 45".
Vansummeren of Silence-Lotto is swapping off at the front of the peloton with riders from Milram and Columbia teams. A tailwind is assisting the pace today with the bunch riding at an average of rougly 47km/h for the stage.
The latest check has Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard ahead by 35".
The latest time check has Oroz, Dumoulin and Gerard just 50" ahead of the peloton. There are riders from Milram and Columbia setting the pace of the chase.
The advantage of the leading trio as they reach the 40km to go mark, is 1’15". The silence-Lotto team has assumed position at the front of the peloton.
â€śThe roads at the moment are narrow and the course has plenty of twists and turns,â€ť said the directeur sportif of the CSC team, Scott Sunderland when contacted by LeTour.fr recently. â€śThe wind is also blowing pretty strongly so Iâ€™ve asked the guys to get up front. Weâ€™re not really too interested in chasing; weâ€™re just staying out of trouble.â€ť
Since he joined the leading pair at the 56km to go mark, Oroz has been at the front for 62 percent of the time. The two Frenchman are even with 19 percent in the wind each in the last 10 minutes.
Six days ago Juan Jose Oroz celebrated his 28th birthday. This is his fourth season as a pro and his second season as a member of the Eusklatel-Euskadi team. He was second in the cimbing classification of Tirreno-Adriatico in March this year.
Oroz lifted the advantage of the lead group from 35" to 1’05" in a matter of moments. His effort has prompted the two others to contribute to the pace. They three stage leaders are now swapping off quite evenly.
At the 116km mark, the peloton is 1’05" behind Oroz (EUS), Dumoulin (COF) and Gerard (FDJ).
Oroz is calling for Dumoulin to do a turn in the lead of the stage but the only reaction he got was a shake of the head. ’What, you want ME to work? Nup. Not now. Not yet, my friend.’
Oroz has been at the front of the stage since bridging the gap to Dumoulin and Gerard. His speed has lifted the advantage to 50" with 53km to go.
Oroz has caught the to stage leaders at the 114km mark. He raced straight to the front and was chased down by Dumoulin and Gerard. The arrival of the third rider has lifted the pace at the front of the stage. The peloton is now 45" behind.
Oroz of the Euskaltel team has high out at the 113.5km mark. He is 20" behind Dumoulin and Gerard. There was NO reaction from the peloton.
The bunch is intent on reeling in the two escapees who gained a maximum advantage of 4’20" at the 55km mark. At the 113km mark, Dumoulin and Gerard are 35" ahead.
The leaders are less than 60km from the finish. Their advantage has dropped to just 55". The teams responsible for the chase are Quickstep and Columbia. There are also riders from Silence-Lotto, Caisse d’Epargne and CSC-Saxo Bank at the head of the pack.
The leader of the points classification after 11 stages is Spaniard Oscar Freire. The Rabobank rider added two more points to his tally at the first sprint of stage 12. LeTour.fr’s survey today asks the question:
This is Oscar Freire’s third day in the lead of the points classification. Will he win the green jersey in Paris? (Be sure to let us know what you think by clicking on the link on the homepage.)
Gerard and Dumoulin have just raced through Paziols at the 105km mark. They are 1’30" ahead of the peloton.
The Credit Agricole team was at the head of the peloton momentarily around the 80km mark. Serge Beucherie, the directeur sportif, has recently explained to France Television that he’s asked his troops to cease their effort. "Thor has told me that he’s not feeling too well today," said the Frenchman. "I’m not sure of his form."
Since the feedzone the bunch has been controlled by the Columbia and Quickstep teams.
Jummy Engoulvent has torn a big hole in his knicks. He has a large graze on his left thigh and arm. He is being tended to by the race doctor after his crash at the 90km mark.
The average speed for the 2nd hour in stage 12 is 45.3km/h. The average for the first two hours is 48.2km/h.
Jimmy Engoulvent has crashed at the back of the peloton. He was run into by an Euskaltel rider. The riders involved in the incident are all standing again and appear to be not too badly injured.
Gerard (FDJ) and Dumoulin (COF) are swapping off with even turns of pace in the lead of the stage. France Television has timed their stint in the wind and, in the last 10 minutes, they are exactly even: five minutes each.
The bunch must have been hungry: it raced to the feedzone where it was 50" behind the two escapees. Now that their pockets are filled with food, there has been a truce declared and the pace of the chase has dropped significantly. The advantage of Dumoulin and Gerard has grown to 1’20".
The mother and sister of Columbia’s Australian, Adam Hansen, have sprayed his name all over the road at the 70km mark of today’s stage. They are following the race for the full three weeks in the year of Adam’s Tour debut. He and his Columbia team-mates have recently come to the front of the peloton along with riders from the Quickstep team.
The chase is on and the gain of the two escapees has dwindled to just 50" at the feedzone (85.5km).
â€śItâ€™s not up to us to ride tempo,â€ť said the directeur sportif of Silence-Lotto, Hendrik Redant when contacted by LeTour.fr recently. â€śThere are teams with sprinters here and I think itâ€™s their day to do something. If they have a sprinter, then they should do some work to limit the gains of the escape.
â€śWe are here for the yellow jersey,â€ť continued the 45-year-old. â€śAnd Cadel is the rider weâ€™re looking after. Heâ€™s getting better every day since the crash. He still has a problem with his shoulder but itâ€™s not of too much concern at the moment.â€ť
The team also has reason to raise a glass of champagne tonight as itâ€™s the 31st birthday of Leif Hoste. â€śPerhaps the teamâ€™s chef will prepare something special for dinner tonight,â€ť said Redant, â€śbut weâ€™ll leave the real celebrations until later in the month.â€ť
Valverde has returned to the peloton after his recent puncture. The bunch is now just 1’15" behind Dumoulin and Gerard.
Valverde and two other Caisse d’Epargne riders are now in pursuit of the peloton that is 1’25" behind the escape pair. We believe Valverde has had a mechanical problem recently, as has Maxime Montfort of the Cofidis squad.
The results of the intermediate sprint in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet (76km) is:
1. Arnaud Gerard (FDJ) 6pts
2. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 4pts
3. Oscar Freire (RAB) 2pts - at 1’40".
Freire has beaten Hushovd to take the two points for third place at the first intermediate sprint.
There are five riders from the Credit Agricole team at the head of the peloton that’s now traveling along at around 60km/h. With the breeze at their back, the bunch is getting a push to the site of the intermediate sprint. Tucked in behind the C.A train is Oscar Freire and Kim Kirchen, the riders in first and second place in the points classification after 11 stages.
In the last 10 minutes, France Television has calculated that Dumoulin has spent 56 percent of the time in the lead.
At the 72km mark, the peloton was 2’30" behind Gerard and Dumoulin. The leaders are 1,000m from the site of the first intermediate sprint (in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, at 76km).
There are now two riders from the Columbia team at the front of the peloton. Nestled in behind Eisel and Hincapie are riders from the Silence-Lotto team who are sharing a joke as they pedal along about 2’45" behind Dumoulin and Gerard.
Gerard and Dumoulin are not being allowed an easy ride to Narbonne. Their maximum gain was 4’20", but now a Credit Agricole rider is at the head of the peloton that has closed the gap and reduced the advantage to 2’40" at the last check.
The maximum gain of the two escapees was 4’20" at the 48km. The peloton is now at the 58km mark, 3’20" behind Gerard and Dumoulin.
Sebastian Lang of the Gerolsteiner team is the new leader of the climbing classification. He has 58 points in the race for the polka-dot jersey. The two riders who were ahead of him after 11 stages are no longer part of the Tour de France.
The only climbing points of the 12th stage were by:
1. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 3pts
2. Arnaurd Gerard (FDJ) 2pts
3. Sebastian Lang (GST) 1pt
The two stage leaders are on the Col du Camperie. Their advantage on the peloton has grown to 4’20". Dumoulin and Gerard have just one kilometer to go on the 3.1km ascent, the only categorized climb of stage 12.
Dumoulin and Gerard have pushed their advantage on the peloton up to 3’40" at the 50km mark.
The tailwind is sending the bunch to Narbonne quickly. The average speed for the first hour is 51.0km/h.
The pace has been rapid early today. The advantage of the two escapees has grown to 2’20" at te 48km mark. It looks like we’re in for a 50km/h-plus average speed for the first hour.
There are numerous riders in the peloton now opting to answer nature’s call. The advantage of Dumoulin and Gerard has grown to over two minutes. This is likely to blow out by the time we hear the next time check.
Could it be that it’s time to call off the chase? The two stage leaders have pushed their advantage back up to 1’25". And wouldn’t you know it, the Bouygues Telecom team is no longer at the head of the peloton.
The peloton is at the 42km mark in Quillan. It is 45" behind Dumoulin and Gerard who escaped the peloton at the 35km mark and gained a maximum advantage of 1’15" at the 40km mark. The Bouygues boys are up to their usual antics... leading the pursuit of a break that involves French teams, but not one of their own.
At the 40km mark, the peloton was 1’15" behind the winner of stage three, Samuel Dumoulin (COF) and his escape companion, Arnaud Gerard (FDJ).
There is just one climb during the 12th stage. This is a category-four ascent at the 57.5km mark. The Col du Camperie is 514m high and the road leading to the summit is 3.1km long with an average gradient of 3.7 percent.
The two intermediate sprints for stage 12 are in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet (at 76km) and Thezan-des-Corbieres (142.5km).
Gerard (FDJ) and Dumoulin (COF) attacked at the 36km mark. They now have a lead of 30" on the peloton. The Bouygues Telecom team are doing what is expected of them: chasing down riders from French teams.
The national champion of Estonia, Jaan Kirsipuu, celebrates his 39th birthday today.
Today is the 31st birthday for one of the riders in the Silence-Lotto team. Leif Hoste is likely to spend the day riding tempo at the head of the peloton as he plays a key role as a ’domestique’ for the reigning race leader, Cadel Evans.
Hoste is the time trial champion of Belgium.
The peloton is at the 31km mark. The news is little more than a repeat of previous flashes: plenty of attacks, none with any success... as yet.
Baden Cooke has abandoned the Tour de France. He crashed at the 16km mark, remounted but has just stepped off his bike and had his race numbers removed. There are now 158 riders in the race.
The peloton is at the 25km mark of the 168.5km stage. Still, no escapes have been able to gain much of an advantage.
Baden Cooke was the rider from Barloworld who crashed recently. He is back on his bike but has rejoined the peloton after a quick chase.
There have been a number of escapes early in stage 12 but none have been able to gain more than 30" on the peloton. At the 20km mark, it was all together again.
Radio Tour has just announced that another Barloworld rider has crashed. Yesterday two from the team abandoned after accidents in the stage to Foix. We have no information on who was involved in the recent fall.
At the 17km mark, the seven-man escape group was reeled in by the peloton.
At the 16km mark, a group of seven escapees has a slight advantage over the peloton.
The new leader of the climbing classification is Sebastian Lang of the Gerolsteiner team. The two men who were ahead of him in the race for the polka-dot jersey after 11 stages are no longer part of the Tour de France. Riccardo Ricco and David De La Fuente were part of the exodus of the Saunier Duval team this morning. The winner of stage six and nine was taken into custody this morning because the AFLD informed his team that Ricco had failed a doping control.
There was no spotted top in the peloton today.
Egoi Martinez of the Eusktaltel rider was the first to break free of the peloton at the 5km mark. He was followed by Jose Ivan Gutierrez (GCE). They were caught by seven others at 9km. They are:
Quinziato (LIQ), De Jongh (QST), Bichot (AGR), Tankink (RAB), Muller (MRM) Auge (COF), Frischkorn (TSL) but they escae was over at the 12km mark.
The escape group has grown to nine riders. The move was instigated by Martinez (EUS) who was marked by Gutierrez (GCE).
When asked if he thought the opportunity would exist to win a sprint in Narbonne for stage 12, the leader of the points classification Oscar Freire (RAB) confessed that it was unlikely. Not because he is getting weary rather as he believed an escape would stay ahead of the peloton and finish ahead of the main pack today. â€śEverybody wants to be in the break and once itâ€™s established, nobody wants to do the work in the chase.â€ť
The Spaniard has an advantage of 10 points over the former race leader Kim Kirchen (THR) and has 21 points more than the 2005 green jersey winner, Thor Hushovd (C.A).
Erik Zabel (MRM) is ranked fourth 39 points behind Freire while another former race leader, Alejandro Valverde (GCE) rounds out the top five 42 points shy of his compatriotâ€™s tally.
There are eight riders now ahead of the peloton. The escape has just arrived in the Aude department at the 9km mark.
There are four riders at the front of the 12th stage. They began their move at the 4km mark but as yet we have no confirmation of just who is involved in the break. They are less than 30" ahead of the bunch...
There is a significant change on the general classification front, with the omission of two Saunier Duval riders from the top 10. Juan Jose Cobo and Riccardo Ricco were ranked eighth and ninth overall. We await official confirmation of the status of these riders but can state that there is no polka-dot jersey in the race for stage 12.
There may have been an escape group of 12 that finished almost a quarter of an hour ahead of the yellow jerseyâ€™s peloton (that included 86 riders) but the top order didnâ€™t get a shake up. Of the riders in the break, Alexandre Botcharov (C.A) was the highest ranked before the stage to Foix. He was 35th overall, now heâ€™s in 16th position, 6â€™07â€ť behind Cadel Evans (SIL).
The Australian explained to LeTour.fr yesterday that he was much more relaxed riding in the yellow jersey than on the day that he claimed it in Hautacam. â€śWhen I got the jersey it was at the top of a big climb at the end of a long stage. My whole body was aching from the effort of the race and the crash the day before. I wasnâ€™t stressed but it was hectic at the finish in Hautacam and that was quite taxing.
â€śIn Foix I was more at ease. It was actually good to be in the race again because I didnâ€™t get much rest on the rest day. I understand that there are obligations for the leader of the Tour but I also need to be able to concentrate on doing my job. My team has been great in minimizing my obligations.â€ť
The peloton is at the 3km mark as one group. The pace is fast early in stage 12, no escapees have been able to gain any advantage.
When we have confirmation on the situation regarding the Saunier Duval-Scott team a newsflash will be posted. What we do know is that there are no riders from the squad in the race.
The official start of the 12th stage was at 1.23pm. There are 159 riders in the race. The absent riders were: Riccardo Ricco, Juan Jose Cobo, David De La Fuente, Josep Jufre Pou, Leonardo Piepoli.
The 12th stage of the 2008 Tour de France, from Lavalanet to Narbonne is scheduled to get underway at 1.20pm. This transitional stage taking the peloton from the Ariege department to Aude is 168.5km long. There is a breeze of about 20km/h blowing from the north west at the start, at the finish it’s significantly stronger and a fast race can be expected.
There is a 3.1km neutral zone before the flag will fall to signal the official start. Live coverage of the stage, including updates on who is at the sign-on, will commence shortly.