- The race 2011
- All about the race
The drama in the closing hour and a half eliminated some of the GC favorites for the 2011 Tour. The new top 10 after the crash of Wiggins et al is: 1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM 2. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 0’01" 3. Fränk Schleck (LUX) LEO at 0’04" 4. David Millar (GBR) GRM at 0’08" 5. Andreas Klöden (GER) RSH at 0’10" 6. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) LEO at 0’12" 7. Andy Schleck (LUX) LEO at 0’12" 8. Tony Martin (GER) THR at 0’13" 9. Peter Velits (SVK) THR at 0’13" 10. Robert Gesink (NED) RAB at 0’20"
Thor Hushovd finished in the front group and is assured of another day in the yellow jersey. The top 10 in the stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux is: 1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) THR - 218km in 5h38’53" 2. Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) LAM 3. André Greipel (GER) OLO 4. Romain Feillu (FRA) VCD 5. William Bonnet (FRA) FDJ 6. Thor Hushovd (NOR) GRM 7. Sébastien Turgot (FRA) EUR 8. José Joaquin Rojas (ESP) MOV 9. Sebastien Hinault (FRA) ALM 10. Jérôme Pineau (FRA) QST
The HTC team absolutely dominated the lead-out and Cavendish worked wonders with the help he got from Goss ahead of Renshaw... The winner began his sprint at the same time as Feillu and Greipel and it was pushed all the way to the line by Petacchi. His 17th win in the Tour was impressive if not as emphatic as usual. Only a bike length or two was between Cavendish and the runner-up.
Greipel had a good run to the line. Feillu was trying his hardest up the center but no one could match the speed of Cavendish who has held off a late charge from Petacchi. This is the Manxman’s 17th stage win in the Tour de France!
The lead-out specialists are doing their thing. Right on the wheel of Cavendish are Gilbert, Feillu, three Katusha riders... Sieberg is now trying to put his rider into the right position. Hushovd is also mixed up in the front as the sprint begins.
The riders have taken the final left turn and now it’s a long, straight run to the line. Eisel is ahead of the race with Velits now taking over lead-out duties ahead of Martin... there is 1.5km to go in the stage.
The HTC team is in complete command of the peloton even if Bak and Pate have dropped out of the lead group. The green jersey and Petacchi are just behind Cavendish who still has five team-mates ahead of him inside the final 3km...
Monfort is the Leopard-Trek rider now sharing the work at the front of the stage alongside the HTC team with 4km to go.
There are three Sky riders and three from Europcar at the front of the second peloton. Leipheimer has stopped to get a new wheel from the Mavic neutral spares. He was already in the second group but now he’s well behind... as the leaders race under the 5km to go banner.
Gilbert has made the front group and he has one Omega Pharma rider ahead of him just to the right of the HTC train. This group is now 2’00" ahead of the second peloton.
All nine riders from the HTC team are at the front of the peloton. They have the train going up the left of the road and Movistar are now starting to appear up the right side.
There is 1’40" between the lead peloton and the second one that includes Thomas and Boasson Hagen (SKY) as well - we would suspect - Farrar (GRM) who was also caught up in the crash that claimed Wiggins...
Apologies for the lack of coverage but the system is suffering today.
The peloton with the yellow jersey has caught three of the four escapees... but one of the FDJ riders is no conceding... not just yet. They have 12km to go in the stage and Meersman is about to be caught.
There’s little that the four escapees can do to hold off the peloton. Delage is giving it one last try and he’s attacked at the front of the stage but the bunch led by HTC has the leaders inside. The second peloton is now inside the final 15km, about 1’55" behind the stage leaders.
With 15km to go the FDJ riders in the lead of the stage are attacking. Currently Meersman is just ahead of his escape companions who are 23" ahead of the peloton led by HTC.
There are a number of GC favorites and sprint specialists caught in the second peloton. Both Leopard-Trek and HTC are at the front of the yellow jersey’s peloton that’s 1’35" ahead of the group containing Boasson Hagen et al.
There is a second peloton of about 50 riders that is 1’53" behind the leaders (ie. 1’23" between the two main packs). In the second group are riders like Mollema, Leipheimer, Boasson Hagen...
There are 30" between the yellow jersey’s peloton and the leading four.
1. Delage (FDJ) 20 pts 2. Meersman (FDJ) 17pts 3. Talabardon (SAU) 15pts 4. Urtasun (EUS) 13pts 5. Cavendish (THR) 11pts – at 1’02” 6. Rojas (MOV) 10pts 7. Renshaw (THR) 9pts 8. Gilbert (OLO) 8pts 9. Monfort (LEO) 7pts 10. Gerdemann (LEO) 6pts 11. Martin (THR) 5pts 12. F. Schleck (LEO) 4pts 13. Brughardt (BMC) 3pts 14. Gutierrez (MOV) 2pts 15. Cancellara (LEO) 1pts (Apologies for the delay in coverage but we are experiencing some technical difficulties.)
We are waiting on confirmation of the sprint result but can report the first six: 1. Delage (FDJ) 20 pts 2. Meersman (FDJ) 17pts 3. Talabardon (SAU) 15pts 4. Urtasun (EUS) 13pts 5. Cavendish (THR) 11pts – at 1’02” 6. Rojas (MOV) 10pts (Apologies for the delay in coverage but we are experiencing some technical difficulties.)
The four leaders are 1’25" ahead of the main peloton but the second group that includes Hesjedal, Flecha, Boasson Hagen, Knees, Thomas, Hoogerland, Hivert and a range of others - is at 2’33".
Riders who were caught behind in the crash - including Vinokourov (AST), Vichot (FDJ), Boasson Hagen (SKY) - are 20" behind the peloton that includes the yellow jersey.
We’ll post more on the injured riders when information comes to hand. In the meantime we can report that Garmin and HTC are still at the front of the peloton that’s 2’00" behind the leaders who are 5km away from the intermediate sprint.
Radio Tour has announced that Bradley Wiggins has abandoned the Tour. He was ranked sixth overall but he’s now in an ambulance after crashing at the 180km mark.
The ambulance is waiting for Wiggins who has not yet started to ride again after his crash.
The crash that happened around the 180km mark has completely shattered the peloton. The front group includes the yellow jersey and has around 60 riders in it. We have no time check on the splits in the bunch but will post them as soon as they are announced.
The leader of Team Sky is still not riding again. He is holding his left arm and we can’t confirm what his condition is. As soon as we’ve spoken with the race doctor we’ll post his comments.
Things don’t look good for the rider in sixth overall. He is nursing his left arm and is still not yet riding again after the crash.
Yesterday’s winner is also involved in the crash. He is waiting by to find out the state of Wiggins who is having his collarbone checked by the team manager and race doctor.
Farrar has been involved in the fall but he’s riding again.
There has been another crash and this time it’s a big one that has stopped a large percentage of the peloton. We’ll report some of the names soon but can confirm that Wiggins, Uran and many others are involved.
After his crash at the 167km mark, Kreuziger (AST) has rejoined the peloton.
The chase for the fallen riders has been made more difficult by the increase in pace of the peloton that is now riding at around 46-48km/h. Gallopin stopped again to get some mechanical attention but he’s racing again.
The escapees are 2’30" ahead of the peloton and inside the final 45km of the seventh stage.
Gallopin, Popovych, Zubeldia and Kreuziger are now riding back to the peloton. There are three - Popo, Gallopin and Kreuziger behind the RadioShack team car...
Kreuziger took some time to get a new bike but he is racing again after the recent crash. He is stranded without a team-mate and is riding and checking his wounds as he chases the peloton.
There has been a crash involving Popovych, Zubeldia, Kreuziger and Gallopin in the peloton.
When LeTour.fr asked Bart Leysen when we could expect to see any Katusha riders at the front of the peloton, he laughed and said, “On the front?! No, just in a good position. We see that Garmin and HTC are prepared to set the pace, so we’ll use that. What we want our guys to do is get Galimzyanov near the front but not in the wind until the sprint. “We don’t need to ride in the wind but we’ll follow the others until the finish.”
“I think this is a good chance for Galimzyanov to show how he is learning to do his job,” said the directeur sportif of the Katusha team Bart Leysen when contacted by LeTour.fr recently. “He’s been a bit nervous in the first few stages but he’s also been getting an education. He learns every day and in every sprint he does. He’s good and we’re going to try and set him up for a good finish today. We’re going to ask all the guys – even Karpets – to help deliver him to the line. “He knows that this is his last chance for a sprint before the first rest day and he could get a good result.”
Danny Pate is tapping out the tempo at the front of the peloton now at around 36km/h. His power output is up over 300 watts as he sits at the front of the pack that’s now 2’35" behind Meersman, Delage, Talabardon and Urtasun.
Romain Feillu has finished second in stage three and fourth in stage six this year. His team manager, Hilaire van der Schuren has just told France Televisions that the Vacansoleil sprinter has a 55 tooth large chainring on his bike today.
The poll on LeTour.fr today asks readers if they believe Mark Cavendish will win another stage of the Tour in Chateauroux. With over 3,500 votes cast, 70 per cent believe that the Manxman will claim his 17th Tour stage win today.
The speed of the peloton after four and a half hours of racing is about 33km/h. The pack is 3’35" behind the escapees.
In the last 10 minutes HTC riders have spent over six minutes at the front of the peloton. Garmin riders have been in the wind for three of the last 10 minutes.
Today’s finish line is about 100 meters earlier than what it is for the other bike races that have concluded in Chateauroux. The organizer have positioned the finish outside the house of Marcel Dussault. The Frenchman won three stages of the Tour during his career which spanned 14 years from 1947. The line is in front of 348 Avenue de la Châtre...
The escapees are now 2’55" ahead of the peloton which is at the 148km mark.
There’s one difference in today’s stage to all the other (except the TTT of stage two): Rein Taaramae (COF) has not punctured... the Estonian has had at least one flat every other day so far this year. There have, however, been a number of flat tires in stage seven and Maxime Bouet is the latest to get a new wheel from his team car.
The average speed for the fourth hour was just 33.1km/h. The average since the start is 36.4km/h.
There has been a crash near the back of the peloton. Voeckler was the last get going again and it appears that no one was badly hurt in the incident.
Sylvain Chavanel has returned to the race’s medical car to get attention. Dr Pascal Rivat offered his appraisal: “He’s going pretty well but he asked for a cold spray for his should which is given him some grief. It offered some relief but his injury is a painful one. He was brave and, after our brief consulation he rode off with a smile…”
The four leaders are sharing the workload well and now the pace of the peloton has picked up but so too the leaders who are still 4’30" ahead.
After a brief rest in the midst of the peloton, Danny Pate (THR) is back near the front. His wattage is up around 300 when he’s at the front and 200 while he’s following the wheel of his team-mate Lars Bak.
The SRM live tracker tell us that the peloton is riding at around 20km/h as it climbs a small hill at the 134km mark. It is 4’30" behind the four escapees.
The race organizers provide three time options when doing the planning for the stage. This is based on the terrain and, for the seventh stage is calculated on average speeds of 45, 43 and 41km/h. According to the slowest option, the peloton should have been in Montrichard at 3.30pm but the riders have just left this town (where Uran crashed) at 4.04pm. At the current pace, they won’t be in Chateauroux until after 6.00pm... over half-an-hour later than the schedule finish time.
After his crash Uran (SKY) has remounted his bike and is racing again along with another rider who was caught up in the incident, Zeits (AST).
The bunch has just descended town into the town of Montrichard. The hill prompted speeds of 60km/h and three BMC riders have been at the front at the same time that Uran (SKY) has crashed on a left turn in town.
The five wildcard teams in the 2011 Tour have certainly lived up to the expectations of the Tour organizers by helping to animate the early stages. Here is a summary of which riders from the wildcard teams have been in at least one escape in the first six stages:
Cofidis: Duque and Valentin.
Vacansoleil: Hoogerland and Westra.
FDJ: Roy, Delage, Meersman and Roux.
Europcar: Quemeneur, Turgot and Voeckler
Saur-Sojasun: Talabardon and Delaplace. Currently, one of the Dutchmen from Vacansoleil is leading the climbing classification (Johnny Hoogerland) thanks to his aggressive ways in stages four and six.
At the 122km mark, the peloton is 4’20" behind Meersman’s quartet.
Danny Pate (THR) has been at the front of the peloton sharing the workload of the chasing duties with Navardauskas (GRM). It’s possible to track several riders in the peloton on a site established by the manufacturers of the power meters they use. We can see that Pate has dropped behind the peloton so can assume that he’s gone to collect drinks for his team-mates. His power out put was up around 350W while he was at the front. That’s a reflection of him pushing the wind. Others who have their SRM device visible hold about 200W (when they’re in the midst of the peloton).
The leaders are 100km from Chateauroux. And the peloton has made it though the feedzone without incident.
Julian Dean has recently punctured but he’s rejoined the bunch before the feedzone. The peloton is 5’30" behind at the 114km mark.
The escapees have just retrieved their ’musettes’ at the feedzone in Chaumont-sur-Loire. This is at the 114km mark of the 218km stage. They are 5’25" ahead of the peloton.
“Today I see Cavendish and his team in perfect formation,” said the winner of the stage to Chateauroux from the 1998 Tour, Mario Cipollini. The Italian ‘Lion King’ is observing the race today and he gave a quick interview to the Jeunes Reports before the start. “I see Farrar going well and also hope for a good result from Galimzyanov. “Cavendish is probably the strong, he has all the qualities of a winner and his team is very capable. “Regarding Petacchi, I think he’s a great champion but he needs to find his condition. I hope he will try to do the sprint.”
The average for the third hour is 35.5km/h. The average since the start is 37.5km/h.
Although riders said how cold it was in the rain of stage six, today is relatively warm. That said, one of the riders in the lead of the stage - Mickael Delage (FDJ) is opting to wear arm warmers. The sun is shining again... And so will end LeTour.fr’s commentary on precipitation unless it changes dramatically before the end of the stage.
The maximum gain of the escape was 8’10" at the 75km mark. The peloton is now 5’10" behind the four started their attack in the first kilometer. The escapees are:
Gianni Meersman (FDJ)
Mickael Delage (FDJ)
Pablo Urtasun (EUS)
Yannick Talabardon (SAU)
LeTour.fr has recently asked HTC’s Kiwi recruit Hayden Roulston for his pick for today’s stage. "Cav will win," he said, "then Greipel and Farrar." The New Zealander was second to Brad Wiggins in the individual pursuit at the 2008 Olympic Games. He did the Tour with the Cervelo TestTeam in 2009. He’s the reigning national road race champion.
It’s still Garmin and HTC riders setting the pace of the peloton. Ramunas Navardauskas and Danny Pate are swapping turns and they have the escapees at 5’50". Rain is starting to fall on the Tour but it’s hardly like the torrential downpour of yesterday’s stage.
At the 90km mark, Boonen (QST) has quit the Tour. There are now six teams with eight riders.
Could this be the finish of the Tour for Tom Boonen? Yep, the winner of the green jersey in the 2007 Tour de France is going to finish the stage in the Quickstep team car.
Allan Peiper was asked by LeTour.fr earlier today about how he expects his HTC team will handle the intermediate sprint in Buzançais that comes 29.5km from the finish... Is it going good or bad for the team? “I think that’s one we’ll have to sacrifice actually because it’s so late," said Peiper. "We want to go for the win in the stage and when there are only three flat days we’ve got to make the most of that. There’s a lot of focus on uphill sprints these days as we’ve seen in the last six stages and this weekend we’ve got two uphill finishes again… so, for the real sprinters, there’s not really a lot of opportunities. The climbers seem to have the advantage this year, so on a day like today we’ve just got to go to the finish and get it in the bag for Cav without any distractions.”
The peloton continues to be led by Garmin and HTC. Near the head of the pack, Goss (HTC) is sharing a joke with Hushovd (GRM). Their group is 6’15" behind the escapees.
The two-time winner of the Tour de France won the eighth stage of the Tour de l’Avenir in Chateauroux as a 21-year-old in 1969. He turned professional the next year.
There have only been two stage finishes of the Tour in Chateauroux before today. Both times riders with the initials "MC" have won. In 1998 it was Mario Cipollini ahead of Erik Zabel and Christophe Mengin. In 2008 it was Mark Cavendish ahead of Oscar Freire and Erik Zabel.
How much leeway do you give the break, LeTour.fr asked Allan Peiper, before you put the guys on the front? “It’s going to be a pretty nervous race again," he said. "The wind is coming from the side the whole day, albeit not as strong as yesterday – 10km/h at the start and apparently it’s arounde 30km/h at the end, but the direction is likely to change through the day. It’ll possibly make for a side/tail for the run-in to the finish in Chateauroux. It will be nervous as it has been in the last few days because it’s a flat stage and because there’s wind. It depends on how many riders get away before we start to chase… Garmin seemed reluctant to really chase yesterday so I don’t know if our team should be out there too soon." Garmin has been at the front since the escape was established and HTC riders started working with the other US team about 25 minutes ago.
Goss told LeTour.fr yesterday that he was pleased with his second place but he insisted that he’s not yet finished with, but today the focus of the HTC team is all for Cavendish. “Yeah, we’ll be going for ‘Cav’ today," confirmed Peiper who has already sent his troops to the front of the pack to cooperate with Garmin. "It’s one of the three really flat stages of the whole Tour so we’ve got to maximize the possibilities as we tried to yesterday. We wanted to give Gossie the best shot he could get and we’ll do the same again for Cav again today.”
The second hour of stage seven has been raced 38.9km/h. The average since the start of the stage is 38.4km/h.
LeTour.fr spoke with Allan Peiper before the stage today and suggest that HTC’s Tasmanian recruit Matt Goss was impressive at the finish yesterday but it really looked like he was wrestling his bike compared to Edvald… “Hagen has got a really good style," responded Peiper, "and he’s got a really strong core as well so he looks really smooth. He was good yesterday and Gossie is a bit more of a brawler. You can’t do much about the way he rides: he’s stable enough in his body but it’s just when he’s doing a big effort and his style changes a little bit. Maybe you can tweak that a little bit with a conscious effort but when you’re so deep into a race and at maximum effort the style gets away anyway…”
Of the four in the lead of stage seven none have previously won a stage of the Tour de France.
Gilbert (OLO) currently leads the points classification but the team orders for him today are to work for the squad’s German sprinter André Greipel...
This is the first Tour for the French rider Yannick Talabardon. His brother, Sebastien, has also ridden the Tour de France but that was 10 years ago when he was a member of the Big-Mat Auber team (and he finished 126th overall with his best stage placing 10th in Verdun on a day that Laurent Jalabert won).
The rider who finished fourth yesterday, Romain Feillu (VCD) has finished second in the last two editions of the French Cup race that finishes in the town hosting today’s finish, the Chateauroux Classic de l’Indre. That race was won in 2009 by Jimmy Casper (who is not at the Tour this year) and in 2010 by Anthony Ravard who is also not race the Tour in 2011.
There are riders from the Garmin team at the head of the peloton (6’40" behind the escapees) but right on their wheels are riders from both HTC and Omega Pharma-Lotto. So far today the maximum gain of the escapees was 7’20" at the 46km mark. The current situation has Meersman’s quartet ahead by 6’35".
One of the two FDJ riders in the lead of stage seven is Mickael Delage. He was also on the attack in stage three but he was caught by the peloton at the 9km to go mark. The Frenchman is ranked 82nd overall after six stages, 6’14" behind Hushovd.
Pablo Urtasun is the Euskaltel rider in the escape today. He is ranked 185th out of 193 riders after six stages (26’49" behind Hushovd). The 31-year-old has done one Grand Tour before this year’s Tour - the Vuelta a España in was his first. He finished 101st overall.
The team of the yellow jersey has been at the front of the bunch for most of the day and they seem to have just lifted the tempo as the advantage has recently dropped from 7’20" to 6’55". The roads are dry and the sun is shining on the Tour again...
Meersman’s quartet is now 7’20" ahead of the peloton which has just passed the 46km mark. The race will soon leave the Sarthe department and arrive in Loir-et-Cher (at the 50km mark).
Chateauroux is the site of Mark Cavendish’s first stage win in the Tour de France. His HTC team is putting it all on the line for their sprinter today and our poll on LeTour.fr relates to this freakish sprinter from the Isle of Man. We ask: Will Mark Cavendish win again in Châteauroux? With almost 1,000 votes already in, 70 per cent believe that he will. Be sure to click the "yes" or "no" button and let us know your thoughts.
"It was a day I will remember for a long time," said the French champion Sylvain Chavanel after the stage to Lisieux. "I’m still in the race thanks to my sports directors. I even stopped during the stage, but they spurred me on by reminding me that this is The Tour! And that I’m carrying the symbol of my country on my shoulders. "I stuck it out even though the mobility in my shoulder is really limited... every time I try to stand on my pedals I’m shot through with pain. To suffer like this while riding is no walk in the park, but I also want to stay tough for all the fans who have supported me, even today along the sides of the roads."
"On some of the hard finishes and longer stages like this one, you see some of the teams get caught out," said Cadel Evans after stage six. "You never know what can happen on a finish like today. But certainly the classification is really looking good at the moment. Everyone on the team is healthy and really riding well. We can look forward to the mountains, but still have a few more days to get through safely before we get there." Given his position on GC and the fact that tomorrow’s stage finish at Super-Besse up an uphill one, Evans is widely tipped to become the third rider to take the yellow jersey in the 2011 Tour. He’s led the Tour in two previous editions, 2008 and 2010.
"This is my seventh Tour and it’s the most wet weather I have had in one day," said the 2009 world champion Cadel Evans (BMC) after the stage to Lisieux. "And to have it happen on the longest day made it even harder." He finished 12th in the sprint at the top of the hill at the end of stage six.
With the peloton at the 35km mark, it is seven minutes behind the leading quartet: Urtasun, Talabardon, Meersman and Delage.
The former team-mate of Alberto Contador, Paolo Tiralongo (AST) also celebrates a birthday today. He was born in Avola 34 years ago. Tiralongo won a stage of the recent Giro d’Italia, in Macugnaga, ahead of his former team-mate and the eventual champion of the first Grand Tour of 2011, Mr Contador.
The average speed for the opening hour of stage seven is 39.7km/h.
The Saxo Bank-SunGard team has a birthday boy in the race today. Daniel Navarro turns 28.
The virtual leader of the 2011 Tour de France 35km into stage seven is Gianni Meersman. The Belgian is making his debut in the race this year but he has contested the Vuelta a España before (2010). He finished 98th overall in the Spanish Grand Tour. If his results in June are anything to go by, the 25-year-old is in good form - with a third place in the Brussel-Ingooigem on 22 June and second in the Belgian championships four days later (two seconds behind Philippe Gilbert).
Although there are riders retrieving clothing from the team car, we can confirm that it’s not raining at the moment. There has, however, been a number of riders taking the opportunity for a toilet stop on the side of the road which explains how the four escapees have built a lead of over six minutes in the first phase of the stage.
At the 28km mark, the peloton is 6’35" behind Meersman’s quartet. That means the Belgian FDJ rider is the virtual leader of the Tour de France.
There are riders dropping behind the peloton to retrieve some clothing right now which would suggest that the threat of rain has become a reality. There were a few drops earlier today but, at the finish in Chateauroux, it’s sunny, dry and warm.
“Lampre hasn’t won yet so they might take on some responsibility but we’ll see what the day brings," concluded Yates about the Sky team’s approach to stage seven. "Garmin has been on the front for a few days now just protecting that jersey and we’ll see if they want to continue or if Lampre will ride and put someone in the break like they did yesterday. Or maybe we’ll see Omega Pharma-Lotto ride for Greipel… there are options for how it could unfold but it’ll be another nervous day with headwinds and crosswinds and the weather could do anything. “We certainly have no big plan of riding tempo and bringing back the break. We’ll just play it by ear.”
Let’s talk about the sprint today, LeTour said to Sean Yates of Sky this morning... is it one for Swift or Boasson Hagen? “We’ve not really talked about it at the moment. We’re not too occupied on the stage win after yesterday’s success. We just want to keep Brad out of trouble today but we’ll chat about that when we see how the race is unfolding. We’ve got a bit of money in the bank now – we’re in a good situation in that we’ve achieved one of our goals and it’s important to remain calm."
LeTour.fr asked Yates (SKY) earlier today if there is a temptation to allow Edvald the chance to have a crack at the green jersey or is the focus still only on the yellow jersey for Brad? “Obviously the best chance for yellow came after the TTT and that didn’t work out even though we were close. Without time bonuses it’s hard to get a change in the top order of GC in the first week unless, of course, the peloton splits somewhere. It’s achievable but tomorrow it could change but Cadel is still in front of Edvald after a week of racing.”
LeTour.fr spoke with Sean Yates of the Sky team earlier today to discuss the stage win yesterday and the form of other riders on the roster the first six days of the 2011 race. We suggested that Geraint Thomas just seems to be getting better with every stage and the British directeur sportif agreed: “Yeah, not only every stage but every race. "He’s getting a reputation as The Man when it comes to the lead-out. He’s in the right place at the right time and with his sprinter on his wheel – we’ve seen that at Paris-Nice, we’ve seen it at Tour Down Under… and he was good last year in the Tour as well.”
At the 13km mark, the peloton is 6’20" behind the Meersman/Delage/Urtasun/Talabardon escape quartet.
The mechanic of the Europcar team was using equipment outside the team car during the sixth stage and it has cost the French squad 1,000 Swiss Francs.
This was just one of the fines issued by the UCI during the stage to Lisieux.
Other fines were:
200 Swiss Francs for Omega Pharma-Lotto (because Gilbert didn’t adhere to instructions from the commissaires).
200 Swiss Francs for Leopard-Trek (because the DS Torsten Schmidt didn’t listen to instructions from the commissaires).
100 Swiss Francs each for Andriy Grivko (AST) and Alexandr Kolobnev (KAT) for public urination.
30 Swiss Francs each for Lars Bak (THR) and Vladimir Gusev (KAT) for throwing bidons.
Today the winner of the youth classification from the 1979 Tour de France, Jean-René Bernaudeau, celebrates his 55th birthday. These days he is the manager of the Europcar team which boasts the best-place of all the French riders in this year’s Tour – Cyril Gautier (19th on GC after six stages).
At the 10km mark, the escape is over five minutes ahead of the peloton.
The escape group that is 4’45" ahead of the peloton now is:
Pablo Urtasun (ESP) EUS
Mickael Delage (FRA) FDJ
Gianni Meersman (BEL) FDJ
Sebastien Talabardon (FRA) SAU
Talabardon has rejoined the escape group after his puncture.
One of the four escapees, Sebastien Talabardon (SAU) has punctured. He is being serviced by the team mechanic and is likely to rejoin the lead group which is 3’40" ahead of the peloton at the 6km mark.
Johnny Hoogerland (VCD) was sure about one thing after taking the polka-dot jersey in stage six: he’d keen the jersey for at least one day as "there are no climbs tomorrow". The Dutchman has four points in the in the climbing classification.
Of the four in the lead of the seventh stage, the best on GC after six stages is Gianni Meersman. The runner-up in the Belgian national championships on the Sunday before the Tour is from the FDJ team and he began the day ranked 56th overall, 3’22" behind Hushovd. The escape is now 2’35" ahead of the peloton.
The peloton appears content with the selection of the four who are in the lead. The advantage of the escape is likely to grow quickly now. Levi Leipheimer (RSH) has called for the team car early in the seventh stage. He was involved in a crash near the end of stage six but none of the crash victims yesterday abandoned... there are 193 riders in the race and the only one who was present yesterday but absent today is Vasil Kiryienka (MOV).
The attack began in the first kilometer and the peloton is now at the 3km mark of today’s 218km stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux.
The four riders at the front of the seventh stage are:
Urtasun Perez (EUS)
Talabardon (SAU) They are 1’10" ahead of the peloton.
The official start of the seventh stage was at 12.22pm. There are now three riders on the attack and they have a lead of five seconds on one counter-attacker. The peloton is at 30".
With Vasil Kiryienka finishing outside the time limit yesterday, there are now five teams down to eight riders. They are: Euskaltel-Euskadi, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Movistar, RadioShack and Europcar.
It’s getting a little repetitive… Yes, Geraint Thomas (SKY) is still leading the youth classification. Yes, his team-mate Edvald Boasson Hagen is ranked second – on the same time as the Welshman. Yes, Robert Gesink (RAB) is still third, just eight seconds behind the pair from Sky. And yes, Cyril Gautier (EUR) remains the best French rider in the general classification and the fourth best young rider in the 2011 Tour. That’s not likely to change today either… “I love conditions like that,” said Thomas after the wet sixth stage. “A lot of the guys complain. When it’s raining half of the peloton doesn’t want to race so that’s the advantage that we have. Obviously myself and Edvald were really up for today, we knew we could get up there because we’ve been feeling good and it’s perfect finish for us.”
Two of the riders in yesterday’s escape group of five are at the top of the climbing classification. Johnny Hoogerland has given his Vacansoleil team some podium time when he collected the polka-dot jersey in Lisieux. He has four points, one more than Anthony Roux (FDJ) and two more than the former leader Cadel Evans (BMC).
Philippe Gilbert (OLO) is still leading the points classification but only just: he has 144 points while the former wearer of the green jersey José Joaquin Rojas (MOV) has 143 points. The world champion – and leader of the Tour at the moment – Thor Hushovd (GRM) is ranked third with 112 points while the former world champion Cadel Evans (BMC) is fourth in this category with 98 points.
Thor Hushovd (GRM) continues to lead the 2011 Tour de France. His advantage of Cadel Evans (BMC) is just one second while the elder of the two Schleck brothers, Fränk (LEO) is ranked third at four seconds. British riders are well represented in the top order of the general classification after six stages with David Millar (GRM) fourth at 8”, Bradley Wiggins (SKY) sixth at 10” and Geraint Thomas (SKY) seventh at 12”.
Stage seven of the 2011 Tour de France, from Le Mans to Chateauroux is scheduled to start at 12.10pm. There is a 4.9km neutral zone before the riders reach the site of the start proper which is expected to be at around 12.20pm. There was one rider outside the time limit in stage six; Vasil Kiryienka (MOV) finished 27’55" behind the stage winner in Lisieux and therefore the Belorussian is out of the race. The temperature at the start is 18 degrees Celsius and, for the moment, it’s dry but there is cloud lingering and a threat of some rain for the stage. Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.