Stage five: Chablis to Autun (182.5 km)
LATEST ACTION AS IT HAPPENS (ALL TIMES BST)
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1634: It's not to be for Millar. He is caught by the pack in the final 500m and there is a mass sprint, Italian Filippo Pozzato just snatching it from Oscar Friere.
1634: Into the town of Autun now and Lefevre has another go, only to be joined by one David Millar. Could it really be Millar time?
1631: Popovych takes a sharp downhill bend to wide and ends up on the verge. He is followed by Cancellara, who just saves himself a vault over a garden wall. The Lampre team have taken the front now but there is a cut in pace as the lead-out men look for their leaders.
1629: Yaroslav Popovych of Discovery Channel has caught and passed Lefevre on the descent but the pack is in hot pursuit, with yellow jersey Cancellara again helping to make the running in a serious change to protocol.
1626: De la Fuente is stopped in time but Laurent Lefevre of Boutgues Telecom jumps off the front to go first over the summit. Vinokourov is dangerously close to his team car as he continues to battle up the climb.
1624: David de la Fuente is trying to take the points atop the Cote de la Croix de la Liberation, with the Rabobank boys on his tail. Vinokourov ditches his final lieutenant among the debris of riders on this final climb but he is still 55 seconds back on the leaders.
1620: First Wegman then Gilbert are swallowed up by the Rabobank squad, looking both to set Denis Menchov up for the finish and lead Michael Rasmussen over the final summit. Chavanel holds on a little longer but after 154km out front, he succumbs just before the top.
1617: The Astana pack breeze past two groups of sprinters who are struggling on the final climb. Robbie McEwen is among them, as is current King of the Mountains Stephane Auge, who would have surrendered his jersey at the end of the stage anyway. German champion Fabian Wegman has launched an audacious break with 12km left. Chavanel and Gilbert are still a handful of seconds ahead and could be boosted by his arrival.
1612: Vinokourov, currently only 50 seconds behind overall, has marshalled his Astana men in a formation like the team time trial, desperate to rejoin the pack. The gap has been cut to under the vital 45-second cut-off, which sees team cars asked to move out of the gap.
1606: CSC look a little worried now, with 20km left and the leaders 1'30" ahead. They're dragging this pack out now, looking to protect the yellow jersey of Fabian Cancellara. Liquigas making a lot of effort, too, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps they're trying to set Manuel Quinziato up for the sprint.
1602: It's race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov's turn to hit the tarmac, apparently after colliding with a following vehicle. He shakes his fists in frustration and replays show a nasty graze to the right buttock, which looks like it will be exposed for the rest of the stage. Wegelius to the front of the pack again as they pop under the 25km banner.
1556: Just one climb left today, the cat-three Cote de la Croix de la Liberation, which is less than 9km from the finish in Autun. Looks like the peloton is back together, if a little strung out. We are a little behind even the slowest predictions for the timetable, suggesting the leaders have been left out front intentionally by the pack. About 45 minutes more of racing left.
1549: Gilbert leads Chavanel through the final sprint of the day at Bibracte-Mont-Beuvray. The peloton are 1'56" behind, with Brit Charly Wegelius leading the pack. Eric Zabel has dropped off the back of the bunch, forcing the Milram to drop back, and there seems to be some fragmentation of the bunch on the descent here.
1539: Discovery riders are at the front of the peloton, probably just looking to maintain the GC positions of Vladimir Gusev (6th) and George Hincapi (4th), although some good judges have Hincapi down as a possible stage winner today. Former King of the Mountains winner Michael Rasmussen pops ahead as they crest the summit to take six points for fifth place, perhaps hinting at another challege for the mailleau a pois rouge.
1536: This feels like the first proper summit of the race, with camper vans at the side of the road and fans getting in the way. Chavanel eases ahead of Gilbert to maintain his perfect climbing record for today. They have stretched their lead to 2'15" with 47km left after ditching the deadweight.
1528: With the lead down to 1'30", the two stronger climbers Gilbert and Chavanel, have made a move, leaving Bonnet and Cheula behind. There is also a split in the bunch in the first second-category climb of this year's race. Yesterday's stage winner, Thor Hoshovd, is demonstrating that his sprinter's frame is really not built for gradients.
1516: The four leaders have started the biggest climb of the day - the 13km stretch up Cote Haut-Folin. That lead is down to 2'44" now, though. There is no way Chavanel will be allowed to finish ahead of the peloton as he is only 56 seconds behind in the general classification.
1511: The peloton is passing through Chateau-Chinon, a town of slate roofs that was once home to former president Francois Mitterand. The breakaway are already over the fourth-category Cote de Chateau-Chinon, with Chavanel taking the maximum three points and Gilbert again second.
1504: Spoke too soon. One of the Cofidis riders, Geoffrey Lequatre, looks to have caught his wheel in a feed bag and come a right cropper. The doctor is tending to him by the road side and he looks unlikely to rejoin the race now.
1502: The mass-snatch of musettes at the feeding station always makes me think of the TV ad from years ago, when the whole thing goes into rewind and the rider shouts, "Oi! What about my Cycling Weekly?" No such fun here, just taking on carbs.
1457: Astana "super domestique" Paolo Salvodelli is one of two team-mates pacing Kloden back to the peloton, who are about to slow through the feeding station, currently 3'45" back on the breakaway. Kloden takes a quick hitch with the race doctor but doesn't stay for long.
1451: There has been a spill in the middle of the peloton and Andreas Kloden ends up in a ditch, clutching his back. He gets back on his bike quite quickly but we'll have to keep an eye to see how the man second in the overall classification, just 33 seconds off Fabian Cancellara, recovers.
"Looks like a day for an opportunist rather than a sprinter or a GC rider.
Of the break, Gilbert would be my pick, although Chavanel is also useful."
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1444: It looks like the game is over for the four-man break as they head through the picturesque village of Blismes, with the lead down to 4'35" but the leaders in the peloton could choose not to close the gap completely until we are closer to the finish. If there is no group ahead, the peloton is prone to attacks, which leading teams have to work harder to cover.
1435: Chavanel leads the breakaway group over the third-category Cote de St Maurice to take four more points. The peloton, now strung out in pursuit, has cut the lead of the four-man break to just under 5'30" with 83km to go.
1428: The breakaway are sharing the honours, and the small cash prizes that go with them, with Bonnet leading Gilbert then Chavanel through the second sprint in Montreuillon with little drama.
1423: There have been a couple of mishaps on the way down, with Iban Mayo taking a tumble, forcing his Saunier Duval to muster and lead him back to the pack. Then Christophe Moreau of AG2R suffers a puncture and needs pacing back through the team cars.
1413: Currently 7'22" ahead with 95km left, the leaders have just topped ther fourth climb of the day, the fourth-category Cote de Coulon, with
Sylvain Chavanel leading Philippe Gilbert then William Bonnet over the top. Gianpaolo Cheula is the other man with them. Chavanel now holds an 11 point lead over previous holder Stephane Auge.
1405: News filters through that Aussie Brett Lancaster of the Milram team has abandoned, taking the number of riders down to 184. This could count against Milram team leader Eric Zabel, the former green jersey winner who has been towards the front of the bunch sprints so far this year without winning a stage.
1401: "Maybe a bigger breakaway than we have seen so far [will succeed] with maybe 10-12 going for it on the largest climb - which will mean 10-12 teams that won't chase."
Pastymesiter via 606
1355: The lead is tumbling down as a host of teams get together to drive the peloton on. Nine and a half minutes may sound like a lot, but that's five minutes gone in barely 20 minutes. It just shows how quickly the situation can turn around.
1345: Enough is enough. The peloton snaps into gear and begins to chase down this big lead. In no time, the margin dips back below 12 minutes. An ominous sign for the breakaway four?
1340: Sylvain Chavanel wins the second and third climbs to take the polka dot jersey further away from former owner David Millar.
1336: But what of Cheula, who last we knew, was toiling away in no-man's land between the leaders and the peloton. I have good news for Italian fans because he has just clawed his way up to Bonnet, Chavanel and Gilbert. "Chapeau" for that man.
1330: What could you do in a quarter of hour? Pop down to the shops, read a chapter of your book, drink a glass of Chablis? Well, our leading three could do any of those things right now and still resume ahead of the peloton. Their gap is 15 minutes.
1325: Cancellara's CSC team have shown no desire to defend that jersey, so the biggest thorn in the side of this breakaway might be its leading light Sylvain Chavanel. While not in the frame for a podium place in Paris, he is known as a good rider so the peloton will not want to give him too many minutes. Frenchman Chavanel, meanwhile, would like nothing better than to be in yellow on Saturday, when carnival crowds will celebrate Bastille Day.
1320: Our leaders crack the ten minute mark. They must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves right now - that's a winning platform if they can work together and stay out of trouble.
1309: As well as being the leader of the Tour on the road right now, Sylvain Chavanel is now top of the King of the Mountain standings after winning the first climb of the day. His merry band of three has nearly nine minutes on the peloton, which is putting up no fight.
1300: Right now, the sprinters are watching this stage win disappear into the distance as group Bonnet, Chavanel and Gilbert stretch their margin to seven minutes. A couple of minutes behind them and all on his own is poor Gianpaolo Cheula. He'll need to get on terms with the leaders soon or slide back to the anonymity of the pack.
1248: The gap is up to four minutes, but it's still very early.
"If CSC weren't defending yellow, this would be classic Jens Voigt territory. Hincapie has a chance if he's allowed to sit on somebody's wheel. Oscar P might have a go today, but I doubt he'll be left to it after last year. A surprise attack from Vino?"
igmeister via 606
1240: Make that almost two minutes. This is a genuine bid for freedom by the leading trio and by Gianpaolo Cheula, who is chasing after them.
1233: And the first breakaway riders of the day are... Frenchmen William Bonnet and Sylvain Chavanel and Belgian Philippe Gilbert. They have a 30 second buffer to the peloton after 23km of racing. And bear out this comment...
"I can't see Zabel being allowed to go in a break - he's actually doing too well for that. He'd take the green jersey from Boonen and if he kept finishing consistently it might take a long time to prise it off him again."
1228: "My money's on either Hincapie or Popovych to get into a breakaway today. Team Discovery will be itching to make themselves heard nice and early. After all last year, their riders proved pretty inept in the final few mountain stages."
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1223: BBC Sport cycling guru Andy Nicolson is tipping David Millar for another breakaway special. I'm not so sure he'll have enough in the tank to nail this stage, but here's hoping.
1216: They're racing by the way! 10km covered and nothing of note to report yet. Expect that breakaway before too long though.
1212: "At last - some hills! Category 3 climb with only 8km - of downhill - after the summit to the finish. Good chance should a breakaway get over first they'll hang on to the end. Zabel appears to be in form and can climb better than the other sprinters so may be a candidate for victory."
fireyLegend via 606
1204: Consider today's stage a tasty aperitif for the mountain goats of the peloton, a chance for them to stretch their legs ahead of the start of the real Tour in the Alps on Saturday. For everyone else, the burn of the eight ascents (ranging from category two to four) may serve as a a timely warning. Anyone struggling today might as well pack up and go home because it's about to get a whole lot worse.
1150: As the riders get ready to roll out at Chablis (I feel thirsty just writing the name), it's prediction time. I reckon today's stage will be won by a solo breakaway. Who will it be? One of about 180 riders. You can rule out Vinokourov, Kloden and Valverde though. Get your predictions in by text or 606.
1145: "I think T-Mobile made a mistake in leaving Hammond at home. He's been a good mentor to Mark Cavendish this year and what Cav needs is someone like Roger around to steady him a bit. He's got to hope a break doesn't stay away today as this and Friday are his last chances before they hit the mountains proper."
By BBC Radio Five Live's Alex Murray via 606
1130: The Alps are looming in the Tour de France and the riders will get a taster of the knee-trembling rigours to come in stage five.
The 182.5km route from Chablis to Autun is scattered with eight climbs and, as Tour director Jean-Francois Pescheux warned, "there is no respite".
This means it is unlikely that we'll see a pack sprinting to the line and a successful breakaway winner could even steal the overall lead from the shoulders of Fabian Cancellara, who wears yellow for the fifth day running.
World time trial champion Cancellara said: "We will have to be very cautious if we want to retain the yellow jersey."
Britain's David Millar is fourth overall and third in the King of the Mountains race behind leader Stephane Auge. Tom Boonen tops the sprint standings.