The final climb provided some drama. The yellow jersey couldn’t respond to the acceleration by Contador but he’s limited his losses... The top 10 in stage 12 is: 1. Rodriguez (ESP) KAT - 210.5km in 4h58’26" (42.3km/h) 2. Contador (ESP) AST at same time 3. Vinokourov (KAZ) AST at 4" 4. Van den Broeck (BEL) OLO at 10" 5. Schleck (LUX) SAX at 10" 6. Sanchez (ESP) EUS at 10" 7. Kloden (GER) RSH at 10" 8. Menchov (RUS) RAB at 10" 9. Gesink (NED) RAB at 15" 10. Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ at 15"
Andy Schleck has finished fifth in the stage and conceded only 10 seconds to Contador. The Luxembourger will wear the yellow jersey again tomorrow.
Joaquim Rodriguez has won his first Tour de France stage. Followed Contador in the final kilometer and then attacked him in the final 150 meters to take a fine victory...
Contador and Rodriguez are going to contest the sprint for stage honors. They have less than 1km to go and have a lead of 11" on Schleck, Van Den Broeck Sanchez....
The team tactics have worked perfectly for Astana. Vinokourov has been caught and passed by Contador and Rodriguez who are now 15" ahead of the yellow jersey.
Andy Schleck cannot respond to the acceleration of Contador who has just caught Vinokourov...
Rodriguez has attacked the peloton and prompted a reaction from Contador. Schleck is not able to match the acceleration of the 2007 and 2009 Tour champion...
Vinokourov looks like he has the strength to continue on alone all the way to the finish of the stage. Could it be his first "real" stage win since Gap in 2003? He has a lead of 7" on Kiryienka, 12" on Kloden, 35" on the peloton with Contador - who has just attacked!
With 3km to go, the peloton with the yellow jersey is 39" behind Vinokourov.
Vinokourov has won the ’Fighting Spirit’ award today. He has attacked Kiryienka with 3.2km to go and is now racing on to try and win the stage... he has a lead of 12" on former team-mate Andreas Kloden...
Van Den Broeck (OLO) is leading Kreuziger (LIQ) and Evans (BMC) at the head of the peloton. Right behind this trio is the yellow jersey.
Armstrong has not been able to match the pace of the peloton. The seven time Tour champion has the support of Paulinho...
Gadret (ALM) has attacked the peloton with 4km to go. The Omega Pharma team is leading the peloton.
Kiryienka and Vinokourov are in the lead with 4km to go. They are 5" ahead of Kloden, 12" ahead of the peloton and 35" ahead of the peloton.
Petacchi has come to the front to lead Cunego to the base of the final climb.
The leaders are on the final ascent. This is just 3.1km long but it is viciously steep. Already Hesjedal is having difficulty trying to hold the wheel of Kloden, Vino and Kiryienka...
The 12 riders who were part of the escape today have been caught by the peloton in Mende. The leaders are about to begin the final climb of stage 12. They have a lead of 47".
The US champion is now leading the world champion to the front of the peloton. Evans was the winner of Fleche Wallonne earlier this year. It’s worth mentioning this victory as it is a race that concludes atop a steep climb (the mur de Huy) and the Australian beat Alberto Contador who contested the Belgian race for the first time. In third place in La Fleche was Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT).
At the 10km to go sign, the peloton is led by a Lampre rider and the deficit to the four stage leaders is just 1’15".
With 10km to go, the four leaders are 35" ahead of the 12 chasers.
As the peloton makes its way down a hill, it is traveling at 85km/h. It is 1’20" behind the escapees and the speed has just claimed a few casualties... Cancellara, Cavendish, Gerdemann and a few others have been dropped just before the 10km to go mark.
The peloton is now just 1’40" behind Vinokourov, Hesjedal, Kiryienka and Kloden...
There are four teams setting the pace at the head of the peloton: Liquigas, Cervelo, Saxo Bank and Omega Pharma-Lotto. Astana is yet to take a turn at the front, but that makes sense... even though Contador is one of the favorites for the stage win, his team has Vinokourov in the lead of the stage with less than 15km to go.
The 12 chasers are 15" behind Vinokourov’s quartet. As it passes under the 20km to go sign, the peloton is at 2’05".
Tyler Farrar has just abandoned the Tour de France. There are now 176 riders left in the race.
The four leades are inside the final 20km of the 12th stage. They are 30" ahead of the 12 former escape companions and 2’25" ahead of the peloton that’s speeding along with the Liquigas team at the front...
This April, the rider who is best placed on GC of the escape group, Ryder Hesjedal, had a good Classics campaign. He was second (behind Philippe Gilbert) in the Amstel Gold Race, 10th in Fleche Wallonne and 13th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. His group of four is now 2’50" ahead of the peloton.
The Cervelo and Liquigas teams are taking the responsibility of the peloton’s pursuit of the 16 who are now inside the final 25km of the stage. An Omega Pharma-Lotto rider is in third place at the front of the bunch that is now 3’00" behind Vino’s quartet.
Casar, Aerts, Sivtsov, Santambrogio, Barredo, Charteau, Perget, Moinard, Pauriol, Verdugo, Bole and Valls Ferri are 40" behind the four stage leaders.
At the 177km mark, the peloton is 3’10" behind Vinokourov (AST), Kiryienka (GCE), Hesjedal (GRM) and Kloden (RSH).
If the stage was to stop now, Ryder Hesjedal would be ranked third on GC. He started the day in 12th place 5’42" behind Schleck. With his current advantage of 3’40" he has started to be a threat to the yellow jersey... if he can cope with the brutal final climb.
The Liquigas team is now also contributing to the chase. They advantage of the four escapees has grown to 3’40"...
The route today is a winding, undulating one but right now the wind is blowing from the left of the road as the leaders pass the 35km to go mark.
At the 169km mark, the peloton was 3’35" behind Vinokourov’s group.
Brett Lancaster has come to the front of the peloton with two Cervelo team-mates to help Saxo Bank with the pursuit of the escapees. Is this a hint that Mr Sastre is feeling good for today’s stage?
Vino’s quartet is 35" ahead of the 12 other escapees... the last official time check for the leaders on the peloton was 2’50".
The 12 remnants of the original 18-man escape are now 30" behind Kloden, Vinokourov, Kiryienka and Hesjedal.
There are now 16 riders ahead of the peloton. Hushovd and Kern were caught around the 50km to go mark.
LeTour.fr caught up with former Madison world champion Matt Gilmore yesterday to get his thoughts on former points race world champion Vasili Kiryienka after the Belorussian finished second in stage nine... "He’s got a huge motor," said the Tasmanian, "but he doesn’t always employ the best tactics. I’ve watched hours of footage of him racing and he can be impressive with his legs but he wastes his energy by not being smart..."
Aerts and Pauriol had tried to catch the four leaders but they have been caught by the 10 other escapees.
The four stage leaders are 30" ahead of 12 chasers... The second group with 45km to go in stage 12 is composed of: Casar (FDJ), Aerts (OLO), Sivtsov (THR), Santambrogio (BMC), Barredo (QST), Charteau (BTL), Perget (GCE), Moinard and Pauriol (COF), Verdugo (EUS), Bole (LAM) and Valls Ferri (FOT). Hushovd and Kern are waiting for the peloton that’s 3’15" behind Vino’s quartet.
The Astana team is lining up behind Saxo Bank who have been at the front of the peloton since the escape formed at the 58km mark.
The front group has splintered. There are four in in the lead: Kiryienka (GCE), Vinokourov (AST), Kloden (RSH) and Hesjedal (GRM). Then comes 12 others... who are 30" ahead of Kern and Hushovd. The peloton is 2’25" behind the four stage leaders.
Kern has also decided it’s not worth continuing with the escape. The front group is exploding now... and only Vinokourov, Hesjedal and Kiryienka are at the front. They have just been joined by Kloden...
Kloden has gone on the attack at the front of the stage. Hushovd is not interested in chasing - he’s got the points he wanted for the green jersey competition and he’s now waiting for the peloton.
LeTour.fr has recently caught up with Chris Boardman to get his thoughts on the events of stage 12. "I honestly don’t know who will win," said the former professional who is now a consultant for British television. "The break only has 2’10" with 50km to go... I don’t think they’ll stay away. "I just rode the final climb in the 39x23." Did that rip your legs apart? "Yes. And I only did the last three kilometers."
Thor Hushovd has just beaten Gregor Bole for six points at the second intermediate sprint. It prompted a one-fist salute by the rider who is now the virtual leader of the points classification. The results for the 2nd sprint (at the 158.5km mark) were won by: 1. Thor Hoshovd (CTT) 6pts 2. Gregor Bole (LAM) 4pts 3. Anthony Charteau (BTL) 2pts
Earlier today, we have Cedric Vasseur in the office of LeTour.fr to talk about the stage. You can see the interview on the Tour’s Facebook page later today, but the rider who was second in Mende in 2005 suggested that Hesjedal was the best of the escape group. "Normally Vinokourov would normally be a good chance but I think he’ll do a lot of work to try and gain as much time as possible for the escape..."
The last time a stage of the Tour concluded in Mende was in 2005. The stage was won by Marcos Serrano, ahead of Cedric Vasseur and Axel Merckx in the 18th stage. On that day 10 men finished ahead of the GC stars who were 11’18" behind. Cadel Evans followed Armstrong, Basso and Ullrich up the final climb but outsprinted them for 11th place. Lance was unimpressed and yelled at the Australian: "What did you do that for!" The response: "Because I’m racing you..."
Of the 18 men in the lead group, Sandy Casar (FDJ) is doing the most work at the moment. In the last 10 minutes he has spent 12 per cent of the time at the front of the escape...
When the fourth stage of the 2004 Tour du Languedoc Rousillon concluded in Mende (and Moreau was the winner), nine riders didn’t finish the stage. Cadel Evans was in the race that day, as part of the T-Mobile team, and he finished the stage but - because of mechanical issues and terrible team support - he finished outside the time limit and was eliminated from the race.
The fourth stage of the Tour du Langoedoc Roussillon was from Port du Gard to Mende. The stage finished at the top of the climb that leads to an aerodrome and the winner was Christophe Moreau. He and Viatcheslav Ekimov arrived at the finish 18" ahead of Iker Flores. Lance Armstrong used the race as preparation for the Tour de France and he finished 15th that day - 2’13" behind Moreau and in the same time as the rider in 13th, Sandy Casar (who is in the escape today).
The sixth stage of the 2003 Tour de l’Avenir was from St-Flour to Mende. The winner that day was Pierrick Fedrigo who beat Samuel Dumoulin and a leader of the climbing classification last year, Egoi Martinez.
The lead group of 18 escaped the peloton on the second climb. The riders involved are: Vinokourov (AST), Kloden (RSH), Hesjedal (GRM), Casar (FDJ), Hushovd (CTT), Aerts (OLO), Sivtsov (THR), Santambrogio (BMC), Barredo (QST), Charteau (BTL), Kiryienka and Perget (GCE), Kern, Moinard and Pauriol (COF), Verdugo (EUS), Bole (LAM) and Valls Ferri (FOT).
The Lampre team has one rider in the escape. Gregor Bole - a winner of a sprint stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in June - was prepared to take on the former leader of the points classification Thor Hushovd at the first intermediate sprint. Petacchi, in the green jersey today, vowed to honor the jersey and chase points wherever possible... but he missed being in the move that formed on the second climb. Now his Lampre team has sent one rider to the front of the bunch that’s 2’40" behind...
At the top of the fourth climb, the peloton is 2’30" behind the escapees. This is the maximum deficit so far today. There peloton is now being led by one rider from Lampre and the Saxo Bank squad.
The points for the fourth climb of stage 12 were won by: 1. Anthony Charteau (BTL) 4pts 2. Sandy Casar (FDJ) 3pts 3. Carlos Barredo (QST) 2pts 4. Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) 1pt
The average speed for the third hour of stage 12 is 40.3km/h. The average for the first three hours: 42.6km/h.
The 18 leaders are about to contest the sprint for climbing points at the top of the fourth climb today, the category-3 La Mouline ascent. The top is at the 133km mark.
The RadioShack rider in the lead of the stage is Andreas Kloden. In 2005, a year after finishing second overall in the Tour, the German was involved in a crash in the Pyrenees. He raced on for two more days but quit during the 16th stage because of a fractured arm. The next day the Tour went to Mende...
Mario Aerts is the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider in the move today. He has already been voted the winner of the ’Fighting Spirit’ award in two stages this year because of his attacking ways. He was in escapes in stages eight and 10.
The 18 escapees are now 1’40" ahead of the peloton. The maximum gain was just 2’25" (at the 70km). The peloton is now around the 122km mark.
“What is certain is that Alberto is a puncher and a climb such as the one that concludes today’s stage, with such steep gradients, suits him perfectly. And if the feelings are there, on such slopes, he will surely want to attack. Apart from Alberto and Andy, there will be other punchers who can claim a result such as Joaquin Rodriguez (KAT), or Samuel Sanchez (EUS), who has more interest in gaining time on the finale."
LeTour.fr contacted Yvon Sanquer of the Astana team before the stage to get his thoughts on what he thought might happen today. “It is not possible to take the yellow jersey with a climb that’s as short as the final one today unless, of course, there are unexpected problems for Andy Schleck. For the stage win, Alberto Contador will see what the situation is when he arrives at the climb, it will depend on the presence or absence of a breakaway.”
The first time that Alberto Contador won the Tour (2007) he also took the title of the early-season stage race, Paris-Nice. The top 10 of the fourth stage was: 1. Alberto Contador 2. Davide Rebellin at 2” 3. David Lopez Garcia at 12” 4. Cadel Evans 13” 5. Tadej Valjavec 17” 6. Fränk Schleck 28” 7. Sébastien Joly 33” 8. Levi Leipheimer 33” 9. Thomas Lövkvist 33” 10. Franco Pellizotti 40”
The HTC rider in the escape is Sivtsov. The wounds he sustained in crashes in the first week were just beginning to heal but he’s crashed again earlier today and has just had some bandaging put on his right arm. He’s also lost skin on his right shoulder...
In the stage of the 2007 edition of Paris-Nice from Maurs to Mende, two riders who are in the escape today were on the attack. Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Amael Moinard (COF) were involved in the move along with Dmitriy Muravyev – who is with the RadioShack team now – but they were unable to hold off the pursuit of the peloton. They were caught on the final climb and the stage was won by… Mr Alberto Contador.
Sivtsov is back in the lead of the stage with 17 others after his bike change.
Stuart O’Grady is at the head of the peloton along with other Saxo Bank riders. This group is 2’20" behind at the 99km mark.
Sivtsov was in the escape but he’s now trying to catch up to the 17 other breakaways after changing a bike. He’s been involved in a crash earlier...
1. Casar (FDJ) 10pts 2. Charteau (BTL) 9pts 3. Barredo (QST) 8pts 4. Bole (LAM) 7pts 5. Perget (GCE) 6pts 6. Valls Ferri (FOT) 5pts
The peloton is 2’35" behind the escapees with 1km to go before the top of the third climb. Sandy Casar has just increased the pace a little but the rest lead group is working well together ahead of the Saxo-led peloton.
Mark Cavendish is the protected sprinter of the HTC-Columbia team at the Tour but another of the sprint specialists of the US-registered teams is Andre Greipel... the German who won a stage of the Tour of Austria last week, turns 28 today.
In his second year as a professional, Alexandre Vinokourov won two stages of the GP Midi Libre stage race in June. The second of these was from Sete to Mende... and he eventually finished second overall in that race which is now defunct. (It was won by Benoit Salmon.) ’Vino’ is one of the 18 men in the lead group today.
The escapees are currently 2’25" ahead of the peloton and climbing the Suc de Monteivernoux which is 13.7km long with an average gradient of 4.4 per cent.
Vasseur explained to LeTour.fr recently that when he was in contention for the stage win in Mende during the 2005 Tour, he made an error in gear selection. He rode a 39x25 ratio on the final climb... "but I later found out that Marcos Serrano (who won the stage) used a 36x25..." It is a very steep ascent near the finish and riders will surely have considered this before the start.
The average speed for the second hour of stage 12 is 38.2km/h. The average for the first two hours is 43.8km/h. At the 86.5km mark, the peloton is 2’20" behind the 18 escapees.
LeTour.fr recently did a quick interview with Cedric Vasseur who finished second in Mende the last time a stage of the Tour concluded here (in 2005). He believes that the escape could stay away all day and that Hesjedal is the most likely from the group to take the win. (For the full interview, see the Tour de France’s official Facebook page.)
The 18 escapees are 2’00" ahead of the peloton, they represent 15 teams with Cofidis having the highest representation with three - Kern, Moinard and Pauriol.
Of the 18 men in the lead of stage 12, four have previously won at least one stage of the Tour de France. They are: Alexandre Vinokourov (a winner in Gap in 2003, and twice a stage winner in 2007 - although he would later lose them because bad blood was found in his system), Sandy Casar (who has won at the Tour in 2007, 2009 and earlier this year), and Thor Hushovd (who has won eight times at the Tour, including stage three this year).
We can only assume that the counter-attack by Kolobnev is over. He tried to bridge the gap after the second climb but appears to be have been caught before the sprint. The peloton is now 2’10" behind Vinokourov’s escape group.
With his second place at the Mariac sprint, Thor Hushovd has put himself into equal first with Petacchi in the points classification. The winner of stages one and four is in the green jersey for a second day, but the winner of stage three is in the escape today...
At the site of the intermediate sprint, the peloton is behind the 18 escapees by 1’55".
The 18 riders have contested the sprint in Mariac (at 74.5km). The points were won by: 1. Gregor Bole (LAM) 6pts 2. Thor Hushovd (CTT) 4pts 3. Kantstantsin Sivtsov (THR) 2pt
The 18 escapees are 1km from the site of the first intermediate sprint. They are 1’35" ahead of the peloton. The best-placed of the 18 in the lead group is Ryder Hesjedal (GRM) who is 12th overall after 11 stages (at 5’42"). Vinokourov is 14th, at 6’31".
At the 70km mark, the peloton is led by riders from the Saxo Bank team. It is 1’25" behind Vinokourov’s group of 18.
There is a counter-attack by Kolobnev (KAT) who is 50" behind the 18. The peloton is at 1’05".
The 18 riders in the lead are:
Kiryienka and Perget (GCE)
Kern, Moinard and Pauriol (COF)
Valls Ferri (FOT)
Of the 18 riders in the lead, we can confirm five riders: Kern (COF), Charteau (BTL), Kiryienka (GCE), Verdugo (EUS) and Vinokourov (AST). They are 40" ahead of a counter-attack by Kolobnev (KAT) and 1’00" ahead of the peloton.
The peloton is still 25" behind the 18 escapees that includes Charteau, the virtual leader of the climbing classification...
The 18 riders are now 25" ahead of the peloton. We await confirmation of the riders involved but this could take a few minutes as they are currently on the technical descent of the col de Nonieres.
Anthony Charteau has overtaken Pineau in the climbing classification. The Bbox rider has 94 points, two more than the Quickstep rider who crashed earlier today.
1. Charteau (BTL) 4pts 2. Kern (COF) 3pts 3. Kiryienka (GCE) 2pts 4. Verdugo (EUS) 1pt
At the top of the second climb the 18 escapees are 23" ahead of the peloton.
There is a group of 18 riders on the attack. We await confirmation of the names of those involved but it seems one of the aggressors is Vinokourov (AST).
Both the British road race champion Geraint Thomas, and the rider in the polka-dot jersey Jerome Pineau were caught up in a crash earlier today. They have consulted the race doctor recently but are now back in the peloton.
There was a brief attack by Sandy Casar (FDJ) but the peloton reacted quickly and the bunch is all together again.
During each day of the Tour de France, the official site conducts a survey. Today’s poll asks:
“Contador has won in Mende twice in Paris-Nice...
And he will win stage 12
He’ll take the yellow jersey
He’ll win and take yellow
Andy Schleck will win
Someone else will win What are your thoughts?
The bunch has begun the ascent of the col de Noniieres. This is a 13.7km long climb with an average gradient of 4.4km.
Cunego, Chavanel and Vaugrenard were caught by the peloton at the 50km mark.
Even though there was a 10.5km climb on the undulating course at the start of stage 12, the average speed for the opening hour is an impressively fast 49.3km/h.
Although Sylvain Chavanel has led the general classification for two days in the 2010 Tour, he is no longer a threat to the overall rankings. He is the best-placed of the three escapees, starting the day in 38th - at 25’02". Cunego is 51st overall after 11 stages, 44’52" behind Schleck, while Vaugrenard is 140th at 1h32’43".
There is a new trio of escapees that is 10" ahead of the peloton at the 43km mark. Chavanel (QST) began the move after 42km of racing. He is joined by Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Cunego (LAM).
“It’s all finished now with everyone at Garmin after some of the reports I’ve read about those guys have said," said Renshaw about his relationship with Garmin. "I’d never wish for anyone to get sent home from the Tour de France because I know how much it means to a rider, to the team and to the sponsors. From the reports of what they’ve said – that the disqualification was justified, that my actions were intentional – I think it’s pretty harsh. “I won’t speak with anyone from Garmin anymore.”
"It’s sad to say but Julian Dean’s sole objective yesterday seemed to be to come up and put me left into the barriers, causing me to brake and causing Cavendish to run underneath the wheel and brake also… it’s sad that that is the only way they can try and win races.”
“I think Cavendish will win regardless of whether he’s got one rider or five with him," Mark Renshaw told LeTour.fr earlier today. "He’s 10 times the sprinter that Tyler Farrar is. "I think Farrar is just flapping around the place, making up the numbers – I can’t see him winning a sprint. The only way they could win is if they take us out. It think that’s the attitude that Garmin has..."
Costa and Fedrigo have been caught at the 39km.
Early on the first climb two riders from the RadioShack team, Armstrong and Kloden, dropped behind the yellow jersey’s peloton. Now the US team is at the front of the peloton as it approaches the two escapees...
Costa (GCE) and Fedrigo (BTL) have just 12" on the peloton that’s now being controlled by riders from the RadioShack team.
There are now two men at the front of the 12th stage. Hesjedal is waiting for the peloton. He was ranked 12th overall at the start of the day and the peloton clearly didn’t want him being in any escape. The maximum gain of his move was 22".
At the 35km mark, the trio’s advantage is just 15".
Thomas and Pineau are back on their bikes and racing to rejoin the peloton.
The points for the opening climb were won by: 1. Fedrigo (BTL) 4pts 2. Hesjedal (GRM) 3pts 3. Costa (GCE) 2pts 4. Taaramae (COF) 1pt... The peloton was 22" behind the leading trio at the 31km mark.
There has been a crash in the peloton that involves Pineau (QST) and Thomas (SKY).
The Garmin rider in the lead of the stage is ranked 12 overall after 11 stages. Ryder Hesjedal began the stage 5’42" behind Schleck.
There is a 22" gap for the three escapees at the 28km mark.
The counter-attack is over and now Hesjedal’s trio is 20" ahead of the peloton.
The split in the bunch is void. There are now just six men ahead of the peloton:
Hesjedal (GRM), Fedrigo (BTL) and Costa (GCE) are in the lead while they are being pursued by three others, 12" behind. The peloton is at 18". Cancellara (SAX) has just been dropped by the peloton.
Hesjedal (GRM), Fedrigo (BTL) and Costa (GCE) have a lead of 12" on the peloton...
There are about 20 men in the first group of the Barthelemy climb. Present and accounted for are Schleck and Contador. If the split grows, we’ll report the others in the group...
There are two pelotons on the first climb of stage 12... Andy Schleck is in the lead group but the green jersey, Petacchi, is in the second one along with the seven-time Tour winner and the two-time runner up from the Tour, Armstrong and Kloden, respectively.
Joining Farrar in a little group that’s fallen behind the peloton is another sprinter, Robbie McEwen (KAT), as well as two former podium finishers at the Tour - Lance Armstrong and Andreas Kloden...
Tyler Farrar (GRM) has been dropped on the first climb of stage 12.
LeTour.fr spoke to Renshaw at 11.05am today and he was asked what he was doing... “At the moment I’m sitting here at a train station in Valence on my own with two suitcases waiting to get a train to go home.”
"I moved to the left to start my own sprint after Cavendish had already passed," continued Renshaw with his explanation of stage 11’s sprint. "At that stage, I looked and didn’t see anyone – obviously thinking that Farrar was coming on the right, and I moved left. Farrar was three lengths behind Cav. I never meant to impede his line. You’ll see that I moved away once I realized I might have impeded him but I don’t think that offence warrants getting kicked out of the Tour de France.”
LeTour.fr contacted Mark Renshaw this morning to get a few comments from him after his disqualification after stage 11. “It seems like everyone has analyzed the footage enough to have their own opinion," said the Australian. "In my opinion, in no way did I deserve to be disqualified from the race. “In the heat of the moment, I may have committed some things wrong. Obviously the point that I think did probably make an error of judgment was when I moved left..." (More to follow.)
The bunch is at the base of the Saint-Barthelemy-le-Plain climb. This is a category-three ascent that’s 10.7km long but has an gradient of just 3.1 per cent.
No escapes have been allowed to gain any advantage. The bunch is all together at the 18km mark.
The UCI has been examining bikes after each stage of the Tour but, in Bourg-les-Valence yesterday the governing body’s equipment wasn’t working so no frames were scanned for performance-enhancing products.
The peloton is all together at the Tournon.
Two riders have tried to escape the peloton but at the 10km mark it’s still a bunched group.
The peloton is together at the 8km of today’s stage. The speed is fast early.
There was no change to the youth classification after stage 11. Schleck continues to lead the classification open to riders born after 1 January 1985 but the white jersey is worn by young Dutchman Robert Gesink (RAB) who is 4’22” behind the Luxembourger who is in the yellow jersey again today.
Lars Boom (RAB) is the second rider to attack but he has been pulled back by the peloton at the 5km mark.
The former German champion, Fabian Wegmann (MRM) was the rider who tried to escape early today. He has been chased down by the bunch...
There has been an attack in the first kilometer. We wait to see if the rider can gain any advantage before posting the names of those involved in the early move.
There are 177 riders still in the Tour de France of 2010. Mark Renshaw (THR) was disqualified after the sprint to end stage 11 and Samuel Dumoulin (COF) did not start today, citing fatigue as his reason for quitting.
The 12th stage of the 2010 Tour de France - 210.5km from Bourg-de-Péage - began at 12.05pm.
Jérôme Pineau (QST) risks losing his lead in the climbing classification on a day which includes five categorized climbs. Points for the polka-dot jersey will be awarded in Saint-Barthelemy-le-Plain (cat-3 at 31km), col des Nonieres (cat-3 at 59km), Suc de Montivernoux (cat-2 and 96km), La Mouline (cat-3 at 133km) and the final slog up the cat-2 la Croix Neuve climb near the finish. The final ascent will have double points. Pineau leads Charteau 92pts to 90 while Moreau is third with 62pts.
Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) is back in the green jersey that he first claimed with his victory in stage two (after winning stage one). He dropped to seventh in the points classification for just one day – after stage three – but since then he’s been nipping at the heals of Thor Hushovd who has worn the green jersey since his stage win in Wallers Arenberg. Petacchi’s tally is 161 points, four more than Hushovd, while McEwen – fifth yesterday – is third with 138pts. Cavendish is fourth with 132pts.
There was no change to the top order of the general classification after stage 11. It was a day for the sprinters although three opportunists did create the obligatory escape only to be left out front to cook in the heat before being eaten up by a peloton that was hungry for a bunch sprint. Saxo Bank kept Andy Schleck out of trouble and the Luxembourger insisted he had a “easy day”, as he needed to save himself for what’s to come today. Schleck leads Contador by 41”.
There are two sprints with six, four and two points for the green jersey in stage 12. They are in Mariac (at 74.5km) and Langogne, just after the race arrives in the Lozère department (158.5km).
The temperature in Mende last night fell from around 30 degrees Celsius during the day to 14 degrees once the sun was down. But riders can expect another hot day of racing today. There is not a cloud in the sky and the heat of the last few days is back.
The peloton is assembling at the site of the ’depart fictif’, it will then make its way through a 6.8km neutral zone before the flag will be waved to signal the commencement of racing. This is expect to be at around 12.00.
The general classification stars are going to come out to play in stage 12. The final ascent of the stage from Bourg-de-Péage to Mende may be ranked category-two but it’s the steepest hill of the 2010 Tour de France. Alberto Contador has twice won a stage atop the "Montée Laurent Jalabert" - as it has become known since the Frenchman’s victory in Mende in the 1996 Tour - and he’s expected to shine again today. Andy Schleck insists that he too "likes the climb"... Live coverage will start soon.