Cadel Evans finished 28th in the sprint and will retain the overall lead after 14 stages of the 2008 Tour de France.
The top 10 after a very exciting finale in the 14th stage is:
1. Oscar Freire (ESP) RAB - 4h16’08" (46.102km/h)
2. Leonardo Duque (COL) COF
3. Erik Zabel (GER) MRM
4. Julian Dean (NZL) TSL
5. Steven De Jongh (NED) QST
6. Alessandro Ballan (ITA) LAM
7. Ruben Perez (ESP) EUS
8. Jerome Pineau (FRA) BTL
9. Matteo Tosatto (ITA) QT
10. Tor Hushovd (NOR) C.A)
Freire has given Rabobank its first stage win in the 2008 Tour. He celebrated in green by beating Duque and Zabel to the line in Digne-les-Bains.
Oscar Freire has finally picked up the stage win he wanted so much. Not bad at all for a guy who insists he wasn’t in the peak condition only yesterday.
Burghardt is leading Zabel in the last kilometer of the 14th stage. We’ll wait for the sprint and post the winner in a matter of moments.
Chavanel will have to try another day. The peloton is now setting up a sprint and Valverde is following an Euskaltel rider who attacked at the 1,500m to go mark.
Chavanel’s advantage over the peloton is just five seconds. There are riders from Milram and Columbia trying to spoil his party and it seems that they will (again!).
With 3km to go Chavanel is still in the lead. He was caught at this mark in yesterday’s stage but this time he appears to have a better advantage.
Chavanel is still in the lead of the stage. Could this be the day that his attacking antics pay off? He’s tried and tried and tried and tried... etc. But never yet has he won a stage of the Tour. His advantage is 10".
Sylvain Chavanel has a lead of 10" with 5km to go in the stage. The Columbia team is now driving the peloton. Cavendish has been dropped but they stated earlier today that Ciolek will be their ace today.
Sylvain Chavanel has attacked the peloton with 6km to go. He has a lead of about 100m and is trying his luck again just as he did yesterday.
The judges have voted Gutierrez the most aggressive rider in the 14th stage. He was caught on the final climb.
The points for the final climb were won by:
1. Kreuziger (LIQ) 3pts
2. Kohl (GST) 2pts
3. Andy Schleck (CSC) 1pt
The peloton is being led by Pereiro. We believe Gutierrez has been caught although we haven’t seen any images of his capture.
Near the top of the climb, Evans has come through with a fast turn to limit his losses to the attacking riders that include Valverde.
Cavendish won’t get his hat-trick. He has been dropped by the peloton on the final climb.
The attack by Barredo is rendered void by the Liquigas team.
Barredo has attacked the peloton on the final climb. He has caught Tirralongo and just passed under the 10km mark.
Voeckler has been caught and passed by a rider from Lampre, Tirralongo.
Gutierrez is on the final ascent. There has been attack from Voeckler at the head of the peloton... ah, so that’s what the Bougyues Boys have been planning!
Gutierrez is insisting with his effort. He leads by 20" and has been on the attack since the 5km mark today. He was 7th in the time trial at the world championships last year and is currently resisting the chase. With 12km to go he clearly believes he’s still got a chance of winning the stage if he can get over the Col de L’Orne with a good gap.
The peloton passed under the 15km to go sign 26" behind Gutierrez.
The stage leader is 15km from the finish which means the final ascent begins in about 2km.
Gutierrez was 22nd overall in the 2007 Tour de France. He has been the national time trial champion of Spain and he’s currently tucked into an aero position trying to hold of the pack that’s 35" behind him with about 15.5km to go.
It seems Bouygues believes they’ve now got a sprinter in their midst. They have been sharing the work with Liquigas and Milram for much of the stage and their effort is dropping the advantage of Gutierrez who is now 40" ahead with about 17km to go.
Sandy Casar and Bram Tankink have just been caught by the peloton.
Gutierrez is less than 20km from the line. He is 48" ahead of the bunch.
In 1999 Jose Ivan Gutierrez was the junior world champion in the time trial. He beat the future triple senior world champion, Michael Rogers by just two seconds to win his rainbow jersey.
Gutierrez is stomping on his pedals, rising from the saddle to ensure he stays on top ofhis gears. He is 33" ahead of Casar and Tankink and 52" ahead of the peloton.
With a deficit of 50" to the stage leader, Bonnet has sat up and has just been caught by the peloton which continues to be led by Liquigas and Milram riders.
With 24km to go, Gutierrez led Casar and Tankink by 20", Bonnet by 35" and the peloton by 1’05".
Gutierrez has a lead of 1’00" on the peloton which is at the 26km mark.
With 25km to go, the Caisse d’Epargne rider leads Casar and Tankink by 15". We have not received a time gap to Mr Bonnet.
With 27km to go, Gutierrez is committed to holding off the peloton. He has a lead of 10" on Casar and Tankink. Bonnet is no longer part of the equation at the front of the stage.
Gutierrez has opened up a gap of about 100m on Casar and Tankink. Bonnet has been dropped by the acceleration.
Gutierrez is the first from the lead group to attack. He launched his bid 28km from the finish.
The col de l’Orne is the final ascent of the 14th stage. It is a 734m high pass that peaks at the 185km mark (ie. 9.5km from the finish). The road rises for 2.4km at an average gradient of 4.9 percent.
The directeur sportif of Team Columbia, Brian Holm, explained to LeTour.fr recently that he didn’t understand the need to reel in the escapees too quickly but he wanted to ensure that capture was achieved before the L’Orne climb. "After that it’s going to be a really fast race to the finish. We’ve had the wind at the back most of the day but on the descent it’s going to get very hectic."
The final descent is about 5km long - dropping from 734m to 600m - and then it’s rather flat for the finale.
The peloton got as close as 1’05" to the Casar quartet. With 33km to go, the four leaders have increased their tempo. Sharing the work evenly, they have pushed their advantage up to 1’35".
Casar’s group is 37km from the finish. Their advantage is 1’10". Given the heat of today’s stage, last reported to be over 35 degrees Celsius, it’s hard to imagine any of the leading quartet considering an attack. Given the close proximity of the peloton, however, it might be the catalyst Casar, Gutierrez, Tankink or Bonnet to try an escape. They have been on the attack since the 5km mark... so must be getting tired.
At the 154km mark, the peloton is just 1’10" behind Casar’s quartet.
The pacesetting duties at the head of the peloton has been shared by three teams. In the last 10 minutes, France Television has calculated that Liquigas as been the most enthusiastic team in the chase. The Italian team has had riders at the front for 45 percent of the time.
The peloton has three teams swapping off at the front. It is at the 151km mark and Bouygyes Telecom, Liquigas and Milram is doing the work; reeling in the escapees who are now just 1’20" ahead.
The Milram team is pushing the pace of the pack now. They are 1’45" behind as the leaders reach the 43km to go mark.
1. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (GCE) 6pts
2. William Bonnet (C.A) 4pts
3. Bram Tankink (RAB) 2pts
sandy Casar, William Bonnet, Bram Tankink and Jose Ivan Gutierrez are about to contest the sprint at Oraisons. They are less than 50km from the finish with a lead of 2’30".
The average speed for the third hour in stage 14 is 42.5km/h. The average for the first three hours combined is 46.1km/h.
The AG2R La Mondial team is aiming to protect the position of Vladimir Efimkin who is ranked 8th in the general classification after 13 stages. â€śToday there was a need to be especially attentive of the escapes,â€ť said team director Vincent Lavenu. â€śBut the situation is rather stable now. Maybe we can have a look at the final climb and see what can be done there.
â€śIf there is a big explosion on that rise, it can be dangerous for Vladimir. Anyway, it is primarily tomorrow that weâ€™re going to concern ourselves with. Now he has to position himself as a leader because he no longer has a chance to let him go on the attack.
â€śGiven what I saw on the climb to Hautacam, he should be confident. If tomorrow evening he gains some time on his rivals, it will be a very good sign. Anyway, Vladimir is a quiet guy who does not panic in these situations and he is beginning to show his experience. Last year he wore the leaderâ€™s jersey at the Vuelta before collapsing at the end. Thereâ€™s still plenty for him to learn.â€ť
With a favorable wind blowing them to the finish, the riders in the peloton have picked up the pace and the bunch is strung out in single-file. Liquigas and Bouygues Telecom riders are at the front and the advantage of the four leaders has dropped to 2’30".
The peloton is now 65km from the finish. They have eased the pace of the chase and are now hovering behind Casar, Gutierrez, Tankink and Bonnet by 2’40".
â€śWe have done a lot of work already in this Tour,â€ť said the directeur sportif of the Columbia team, Brian Holm when contacted by LeTour.fr recently. â€śI think itâ€™s only fair that we share the responsibility of chasing the escapes with other teams. Right now we have Liquigas and Milram at the front of the peloton but I think itâ€™s obvious that weâ€™ll be able to bring back the four attackers. I donâ€™t understand why the teams of other sprinters want to catch them so soon.
â€śIf they escapes comes back then weâ€™ll see fireworks with attacks near the finish. Thereâ€™s no reason to catch them this far from the finish. The timing has to be right.
â€śOf course, we realize that itâ€™s important to bring the move back before the last category-four climb because after that itâ€™s going to be really fast to the finish.â€ť
What about the chance of a hat-trick of victories from Cavendish, does Holm think thatâ€™s possible. â€śHeâ€™s been very good so far and heâ€™s definitely quick,â€ť said the Dane but he has options. â€śWe have a very rider in Gerald Ciolek as well and if Mark doesnâ€™t think heâ€™s up to it today we could see something from Gerald.â€ť
The points for the first category-four climb of stage 14 were won by:
1. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (GCE) 3pts
2. Bram Tankink (RAB) 2pts
3. Sandy Casar (FDJ) 1pt
The four escapees - Casar, Gutierrez, Tankink and Bonnet - are about to reach the summit of the first climb today. They have been working well together since moving into the lead of the stage around the 61km mark. The Cote de Mane is at the 128.5km mark of the 14th stage.
A few minutes ahead, Bernhard Eisel, the Austrian with the Columbia team went to have a chat with the Liquigas riders who have been setting the pace of the chase. Since then, the advantage of the four leaders has remained roughly around three minutes...
The peloton has been controlled by riders from the Milram and Liquigas teams of late. The latest deficit for the bunch to the four escapees is 3’00". The leaders have about 80km to go in this 194.5km stage.
Of the four riders who are 3’30" ahead of the peloton at the 107km mark, only Sandy Casar has previously won a stage of the Tour de France. He was the best of a five-man break that escaped in stage 18 last year on the road to Angouleme a day before the final time trial.
He suffered a crash earlier in the day when he hit a dog but remounted and rejoined Michael Boogerd, Frederick Willems, Axel Merckx and Laurent Lefevre in the escape that gained a maximum advantage of 17’20". This was over 60km from the finish and their winning margin on the peloton was reduced to 8’34".
In stage 12, Sebastien Chavanel of the FDJ team finished second to Mark Cavendish. Yesterday he was 10th in the stage but only after his brother Sylvain tried to escape with 8km to go in the 13th stage. The elder sibling was caught 3km from the finish in Nimes. Today, the survey on LeTour.fr relates to the French brothers.
Of the two Chavanel brothers in the 2008 Tour de France, which has the best chance of winning the 14th stage?
Let us know your thoughts: click on the link on the Tour’s official website.
At the last check, the Casar quartet was 4’45" ahead of the peloton.
At the 5km mark, Stijn Devolder (QST) attacked and prompted the first escape of the day. He was followed by 20 others: Oâ€™Grady (CSC), Oroz and Txurruka (EUS), Garcia-Acosta and Gutierrez (GCE), Eisel (COL), Quinziato (LIQ), Bono (LAM), Bonnet (C.A), (ALM), Haussler (GST), Gonzalo Ramirez and Lelay (AGR), Tankink (RAB), Sprick and Voeckler (BTL), Velo (MRM), Casar and Sebastian Chavanel (FDJ), Frischkorn (GAR).
They reached a maximum gain of 1â€™00â€ť at the 30km mark.
After Devolder won the first intermediate sprint the front group started attacking each other and at 41km four succeeded in breaking free. Devolder and 16 others returned to the peloton but then started lighting up the action again.
Cofidis and Silence-Lotto chased until the 50km mark when Devolderâ€™s group was caught. Then Quickstep insisted on chasing down the escape.
At 60km with Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet had a lead of 30â€ť but then a truce was called and all the counter-attacks ceased. At the 64km mark, the advantage blew out to three minutes.
The maximum advantage of Casar’s group was 6’50" at the 85km mark. They peloton is now near the 95km mark and 5’05" behind.
The Silence-Lotto teams cooperation with Cofidis to reduce the gains of the 21-man escape group early today. They then took over after the 61km mark when the four-man escape group - Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet - were allowed to gain their advantage without much of a fight.
The four escapees gained a maximum advantage of about 6’40" recently but with the work of Liquigas riders who are ahead of Columbia and Milram workers, the deficit has dropped to 5’30".
The average speed for the second hour of racing in stage 14 is 45.2km/h. The average for the first two hours is 47.8km/h.
The peloton is now being led by the Liquigas team andis 6’20" behind Casar’s quartet.
What about the chance of reeling them in for a third successive bunch sprint in the transitional stages; does Silence-Lottoâ€™s directeur sportif Hendrik Redant see that as an option? â€śIf the sprintersâ€™ teams want to have a chance of winning again, they will have to chase the escapees. I donâ€™t care about that; if they want to win they know what theyâ€™ve got to do.â€ť
Robbie McEwen finished second yesterday but Redant told LeTour.fr that he is realistic about who his protected rider is; itâ€™s Cadel Evans, and the Silence-Lotto sprinter, McEwen, is free to look after himself. â€śCavendish is very strong,â€ť said Redant, â€śyou saw that he took a gap quickly in the sprint in Nimes yesterday. Heâ€™s very impressive! Itâ€™s up to Robbie to be in a good wheel and see how he goes. Cavendish has got a very strong sprint, and heâ€™s very straight. Itâ€™s great to watch him ride.â€ť
The main concern for the Belgian DS today is the effect of the heat. â€śItâ€™s really hot today we have 35.5km degrees right now and itâ€™s only getting warmer. Those sorts of conditions can take a toll on your organs,â€ť concluded Redant.
There are six riders from the Silence-Lotto team at the head of the peloton. The yellow jersey is nestled a little further back and is currently riding alongside Robbie McEwen in the pack that is 6’25" behind Casar, Tankink, Bonnet and Gutierrez.
â€śDevolder is still over 13 minutes behind Cadel so that wasnâ€™t the main reason that we were at the head of the peloton,â€ť said Hendrik Redant of the Silence-Lotto team when contacted by LeTour.fr recent. â€śYou just canâ€™t leave a group of 21 to get their own way and gain a lot of time. Once we saw that Cofidis was involved in the chase we thought it was a good time to cooperate a little but we left them to do the really hard work. Itâ€™s much better to have just four guys in the lead. Itâ€™s easier to control and they donâ€™t have the strength of numbers.â€ť
Wegmann has quickly remounted his bike and is now in pursuit of the peloton that’s 5’50" behind Casar’s quartet.
Wegmann has crashed on the right of the road. He is waiting for the Gerolsteiner team car to arrive on the scene.
There are now 157 riders in the Tour de France. Nicolas Jalabert of the Agritubel team has quit at the feedzone.
The peloton has arrived in the feedzone at the 80.5km mark. It is 4’15" behind Casar’s quartet.
The peloton is at the 78km mark with a deficit of 4’10" on the four escapees: Sandy Casar (FDJ), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (GCE), Bram Tankink (RAB) and William Bonnet (C.A).
Until today, the fastest first hour of racing in the 2008 Tour covered 51km. That was on the day to Foix in stage 11. Today the presence of Stijn Devolder in the move of 21 prompted a reaction from the Silence-Lotto squad while Cofidis also contributed to the chase because it was one of three teams (Barloworld and Silence-Lotto included) that didn’t have a representative in the move.
The average speed for the first hour today was 52.5km/h.
Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet are now 3’50" ahead of the peloton that has just reached the 70km mark. The best placed of the leading quartet is Casar who began the stage in 24th position overall, 13’00" behind Cadel Evans.
The peloton has just reached the 67km mark. It is 3’35" behind Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet.
The peloton is now three minutes behind Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet.
At the 62km mark, the peloton is 45" behind Casar (FDJ), Tankink (RAB), Bonnet (C.A) and Gutierrez (GCE). Watch the lead grow! The yellow jersey has pulled over to answer that ever-present call of nature that starts shouting when the attacking actions goes on for as long as it did today. Many other riders have also agreed it’s time to take a toilet break.
Could it be time for the hopefuls in the peloton to concede? The counter-attacks have ceased and it seems we can wait for the advantage of Casar’s group to grow.
The peloton has reeled in the counter-attacking riders. There are NOW JUST FOUR in the lead of the 14th stage. Bravo Casar, Tankink, Bonnet and Gutierrez! You’ve done well. Now, will you be given the green light to build on your advantage at the 59km mark?
Nope! There are now many more attacking riders doing sorties from the bunch which is just 25" behind.
Casar, Bonnet, Gutierrez and Tankink are still in the lead of the stage. They are 20" ahead of the counter-attacking group and 27" ahead of the peloton.
Contrary to the previous flash, the seven counter-attackers have been caught by four others rather than the seven catching the four stage leaders. Apologies for any confusion caused.
Oroz, Quinziato, Riblon, Haussler, Lelay, Sprick and Voeckler have caught Casar, Tankink, Bonnet and Gutierrez at the 56km mark. They lead the peloton by 30".
The Quickstep team is desperate to animate the 14th stage. The team is at the head of the peloton now, around the 54km mark, with a deficit of just 20" to the four stage leaders. Stuck in the middle are seven counter-attackers.
The average speed for the first hour today is the fastest of the 95th Tour so far: 52.5km/h.
The four - Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet - lead the seven - Oroz, Quinziato, Riblon, Haussler, Lelay, Sprick and Voeckler - by 10" and the peloton by 30".
The Quickstep team is now at the front of the bunch.
Oroz, Quinziato, Riblon, Haussler, Lelay, Sprick and Voeckler are now the only riders in pursuit of Casar’s quartet. They are 15" behind while the peloton is at 30".
Casar, Tankink, Gutierrez and Bonnet lead Oroz, Quinziato, Riblon, Haussler, Lelay, Sprick and Voeckler by 18" and McEwen, Burghardt and De Jongh by 30" and the peloton by 40".
Oroz, Quinziato, Riblon, Haussler, Lelay, Sprick and Voeckler won’t give in. They have not yet been caught by the peloton. They 20" behind Casar’s quartet and 10" ahead of the bunch that continues to be led by Cofidis.
The four leaders - Tankink (RAB), Bonnet (C.A), Gutierrez (GCE) and Casar (FDJ) - are the only riders in the lead of the peloton at the 45km mark.
Devolder and the rest of the escape group - with the exception of Casar, Tankink, Bonnet and Gutierrez - are sitting up and waiting for the peloton.
O’Grady, Garcia-Acosta, Frischkorn, Velo, Gonzalo Ramirez have been reeled in by the peloton at the 42km mark.
Casar’s quartet still has a slight lead on the remnants of the escape group which is now 30" ahead of the peloton.
Gutierrez, Bonnet, Tankink and Casar are the riders who have now escaped the escape group.
The lead group has started to attack each other. There are four or five riders dropping out of the escape.
The rider who instigated the move at the 5km mark today was Stijn Devolder. The former Belgian champion is ranked 26th after 13 stages, 13’51" behind Cadel Evans.
The chase is taking effect. At the 38km mark, the advantage of the 21 is down to 35".
Of the 21 riders in the lead of the 14th stage, only three have previously won a stage of the Tour de France.
Stuart O’Grady won in Grenoble in 1998, the TTT (while with Credit Agricole) in 2001 and in Chartres in 2004.
Vincente Garcia-Acosta won in Draguignan in 2000.
And Sandy Casar won in Angouleme at the end of last year’s race.
The points at the first intermediate sprint in stage 14 were won by:
1. Stijn Devolder (QST) 6pts
2. Will Frischkorn (GAR) 4pts
3. Bernhard Eisel (COL) 2pts
The advantage has dropped slightly (to 45") as both the Cofidis and Silence-Lotto teams lead the peloton’s pursuit of the 21 escapees.
The 21 escapees aren’t being given a free ride today. They are still just 50" ahead of the peloton as they pass through the town of Mas-Blanc-des-Alpilles at the 31km mark. The first intermediate sprint of the stage is at 37km.
This is the first time this year that an escape group has formed without a rider from the Cofidis team. The French squad has been the most attacking squad by far. L’Equipe has kept a tally of the kilometers each rider has been in an escape group. The Cofidis team easily leads; it has had riders on the attack for 1,403km before today. The individuals involved were: Brard: 374km. Dumoulin: 330km. Sylvain Chavanel: 328km. Auge: 157km. Moinard: 128km. Duque: 86km.
Today’s escape group of 21 doesn’t have a rider from Cofidis but it is not being allowed to gain too much leeway early in stage 14. The 21 escapees are just 50" ahead of the peloton.
â€śWe focused on avoiding crashes and getting through as easy as possible,â€ť said Kim Anderson, the directeur sportif of CSC-Saxo Bank after the 13th stage. â€śWe were ready to go along if any big breaks were initiated, but only two riders got away almost straight off and no one in the peloton did anything to stop them so we all knew what type of stage we were in for.
â€śThe only difference from yesterday was the heat â€“ it was extremely hot out there today. It would suit us just fine if we could keep this kind of weather all the way to Paris."
The deficit of the peloton at the 19.5km mark is 1’05".
Of the 21 in the lead of the 14th stage, the highest ranked in the general classification after 13 stages is Sandy Casar. The FDJ rider started the day in 24th place overall, 13’00" behind Cadel Evans.
Oâ€™Grady (AUS) - CSC
Oroz (ESP) and Txurruka (ESP) - Euskaltel
Garcia-Acosta (ESP) and Gutierrez (ESP) - Caisse d’Epargne
Eisel (AUT)- Columbia
Quinziato (ITA) - Liquigas
Bono (ITA) - Lampre
Bonnet (FRA) - Credit Agricole
Devolder (BEL) - Quickstep
Riblon (FRA) - AG2R La Mondiale
Haussler (GER) - Gerolsteiner
Gonzalo Ramirez (ESP) and Lelay (FRA) - Agritubel
Tankink (NED) - Rabobank
Sprick (FRA) and Voeckler (FRA) - Bouygues Telecom
Velo (ITA) - Milram
Casar (FRA) and Sebastian Chavanel (FRA) - Francaise des Jeux
Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle
They are now 1’00" ahead of the peloton.
At the 13.5km mark, the peloton is 50" behind the 21 escapees.
The escape group is now 45" ahead of the peloton. Cofidis has come to the front of the main pack and was endeavouring to chase down the escape that began at the 5km mark.
At the 5km mark, Stijn Devolder instigated the first successful escape of stage 14. The riders involved are: O’Grady (CSC), Oroz and Txurruka (EUS), Garcia-Acosta and Gutierrez (GCE), Eisel (COL), Quinziato (LIQ), Bono (LAM), Bonnet (C.A), Devolder (QST), Riblon (ALM), Haussler (GST), Gonzalo Ramirez and Lelay (AGR), Tankink (RAB), Sprick and Voeckler (BTL), Velo (MRM), Casar and Sebastian Chavanel (FDJ), Frischkorn (GAR).
The teams not represented are: Silence-Lotto, Barloworld and Cofidis.
There are riders from 21 teams at the front of the stage. We await confirmation of the names of those involved in the first successful escape of the 14th stage. Stay tuned...!
Vincenzo Nibali is at the top of the youth classification after 13 stages. He is ranked 10th overall but leads the category open to riders born after 1 January 1983. His advantage over Maxime Montfort (COF) is 2â€™49â€ť. The Belgian is 18th overall. Third place in the race for the white jersey is the winner of the Tour de Suisse this June, Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) who is 2â€™53â€ť behind his Liquigas team-mate.
The former leader of the youth classification, Andy Schleck (CSC), is ranked fifth 4â€™27â€ť behind Nibali.
The bunch is still all together at the 4km mark. As per usual, the pace at the start is very fast and there have been a number of little digs by riders hoping to establish an escape but none have yet been successful.
The Gerolsteiner team has two riders at the top of the mountains classification after 13 stages. Sebastian Lang will wear the polka-dot jersey for a second successive day. He added two points to his collection yesterday by finishing third at two of the category-four climbs on the stage from Narbonne to Nimes. His Austrian team-mate, the rider in fourth overall Bernhard Kohl, is second in the climbersâ€™ category with 57 points, just three shy of Lang.
Frank Schleck gained his 32 of his 46 points when he finished third at Hautacam to end the stage just one second shy of Cadel Evans in the general classification. The Luxembourger is third in the mountains classification, 15 points ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (GCE), the winner in Aurrilac and a rider who must be chomping at the bit for the finish of todayâ€™s stage: he is one of the most courageous on the descents and the finish in Digne-les-Bains comes just 9.5km after the final rise of the stage, the col de lâ€™Orme.
The official start of the 14th stage from Nimes to Digne-les-Bains was at 12.22pm. There are 158 riders still in the race. Aside from the formalities, the first announcement over Radio Tour this morning has been for a puncture for Yaroslav Popovych (SIL).
â€śNow I have to start paying closer attention to Cavendish,â€ť said Oscar Freire, the Spaniard who wears the green jersey again today. He is growing frustrated as he is yet to win a stage this year. â€śIf we arrive in Digne-les-Bains with another sprint, he can win again. Also in Paris, itâ€™s perfect for him. Weâ€™ll see, the green jersey is not mine yet.â€ť
The Rabobanker has a tally of 184 points in the sprintersâ€™ category while two stage winners from the 95th edition hold down second and third â€“ Mark Cavendish (COL) and Thor Hushovd (C.A) with the same number of points: 156.
â€śI have to get some points for the finish. If I lose one day, you can lose everything,â€ť said Freire after finishing fifth in the sprint in Nimes yesterday.
Erik Zabel (MRM) is ranked fourth with 141 points and the former overall leader, Kim Kirchen (COL) holds down fifth place with 138 points.
Today is the fourth day that Cadel Evans has been in the lead of the Tour de France. Although he has finished eighth, fourth and second overall in his first three attempts at the race and won a stage last year, the Australian had NEVER been to the podium until Paris last year when he accepted the accolades for finishing as the runner-up in the 94th edition.
Then, at Hautacam, he got his second chance when he was presented with the yellow jersey as race leader. His advantage over the next-best rider, Frank Schleck (CSC) has been one second ever since that 10th stage. The top five of general classification has not changed at all in the last three days. With third place still held down by Christian Vande Velde (GAR) at 38 seconds, fourth is Bernhard Kohl (GST) at 46 seconds and fifth Denis Menchov (RAB) at 57 seconds.
There are two intermediate sprints in the 14th stage â€“ the first in Saint-Remy-de-Provence (at 37km), the second in Oraison (145km) â€“ and two categorized climbs on an undulating course. The ascents are both ranked category-four: the cote de Maine (at 128.5km) and the col de Lâ€™Orme (9.5km from the finish).
Christian Prudhomme has just announced over the airwaves of Radio Tour that the peloton has just started rolling. It is in the neutral zone now and a vast crowd has turned out on the third Saturday of the 95th Tour de France.
The 194.5km stage from Nimes to Digne-les-Bains is due to begin at 12.15pm. The sun is shining and the conditions at the start of the 14th stage of the 2008 Tour de France are hot with temperature in the air of 30 degrees Celsius and 42 degrees at road level. There is a 3.8km neutral zone before the riders arrive at the site of the official start.
The race traverses four departments of France on the eve of its visit to Italy. The start is in Gard, then the peloton rides trhough Bouches-du-Rhone, Vaucluse and arrives at the finish in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.