Stage nine: Val d'Isere to Briancon (159.5km)
Start time: 1130 BST
LATEST ACTION AS IT HAPPENS (ALL TIMES BST)
1551: A smile breaks out on Soler's face. Victory is his. Valverde is second, 38 seconds adrift. Rasmussen remains in yellow.
1550: Soler is pumping his legs furiously now. He can sense victory.
1548: Popovych is not finished yet. As Soler starts to slow on the uphill finish, the Discovery rider realises the stage win is still up for grabs.
1547: Kloden is now amongst the yellow jersey group. Surely he is Astana's main man now.
1543: Contador and Popovych are caught by the yellow jersey group.
1538: 10km to go and Soler might just do it. The Colombian has dug deep into his reserves and still has a lead of 1min 15secs.
1534: Looks like Vinokourov will lose a further two minutes at least on Rasmussen.
1526: Evans appears to have given up the chase and looks as though he is waiting for the yellow jesrey group to catch him.
1521: It doesn't look as though Soler will be able to hold on. His advantrage is being cut rapidly by Contador and Popovych.
1513: Soler has a lead of 2mins 2secs.
1508: Soler hits the summit of Col du Galibier. Contador is in third place, just behind team-mate Popovych. Evans is fourth.
1458: Discovery's Alberto Contador sprints away from the yellow jersey group but is soon joined by Evans. Valverde and Rasmussen don't respond.
1453: Valverde goes again but it's looking very bad for home hope Christophe Moreau. The 2007 Dauphine Libere winner really looks in poor shape.
1450: The heat is on behind the leaders. Alejandro Valverde is looking very strong as he leads the chasing pack. Rasmussen is close behind, as is Evans, Menchov and Leipheimer. But Vinokourov appears to be struggling.
1443: Colombian Juan Soler Hernandez leads and is setting a fierce pace. After catching the leading group, the Barloworld rider wastes little time leaving them in his wake - all that is except Popovych. But Popovych eventually cracks, too, and drops back.
1433: I've been alerted to a fascinating bit of info by reallywheelie on 606. He or she has posted a link which gives you live heart rate data for three of this year's riders - Kjell Carlstrom, Peter Wrolich and Ronny Scholz. At the time of this posting, Scholz was up to 180+ beats a minute, while Carlstrom and Wrolich were down in the 130s. Take a look via the link above.
1421: Not that good as it turns out. Astarloza is joined at the front by Gusev, Popovych, Clements and Gutierrez.
1418: Astarloza is looking very good as the Col du Galabier looms large. His lead over the peloton is 3mins 5secs.
1411: Vinokourov could be in trouble. He drops back to seek advice from the medical car. Are his injuries beginning to take their toll?
1403: Millar has done his work for the moment. He drops off the front to take a well-earned break.
1353: It seems Millar won't be too popular with a lot of the riders. His pace at the head of the peloton is proving too much for many of them. But Saunier Duval team-mate Iban Mayo will be happy. The Spaniard was third in the GC, 2mins 39secs behind Rasmussen, before the stage started and he'll be hoping to reduce that advantage by the end of the day.
1348: Astarloza makes his move and quickly opens up a decent lead.
1345: The Rabobank team are working hard at the front of the peloton - and the gap to the leading sextet of Gutierrez, Astarloza, Gusev, Popovych, Clement and Vaugrenard is now under 3mins.
1330: Rasmussen will also be a fascinating case study today. The overall leader was not a pre-race favourite and would normally have looked at a stage like this as points fodder for the King of the Mountains competition. But if he is now really eyeing up a spot on the Paris podium, he may consolidate his lead and watch his rivals instead.
1326: The gap is three and a half minutes, which is respectable, but you suspect that there are lots of tactical chats going on at the moment among the top teams and riders. When to attack? Who to send off the front? Does anyone have the legs today to take significant time out of the contenders? Answers to follow...
1320: "I can't see Vino or Kloden attacking today. They'll continue to recouperate, limit their losses and wait until after the first TT to see what they need to do on the Pyrenees."
City Hobgoblin via 606
1313: It will be particularly interesting to monitor the respective performances of Astana's Vinokourov and Kloden. Vino is the team leader, but Kloden is ahead on the general classification and has already had to pace the Kazakh up a climb. One more bad day in the saddle for Vino could force Astana to change their team orders and back Kloden.
1306: The peloton slips almost three minutes behind. But everything will change on the Telegraphe and Galibier climbs. That's when Rasmussen, Vinokourov, Kloden, Valverde and the other Tour favourites will start stretching their legs again.
1258: "The finish isn't downhill. If he's fit, I think Vino will fancy his chances today, I really do."
Lowlandbrit via 606
1254: Animal-related accident! A large white dog ambles across the road, homes in on Marcus Burghardt and knocks him off his bike. Both rider and dog appear to be OK, but Burghardt's wheel is not. It folds in half and is quickly replaced.
1250: It is very unlikely to matter by the end of the day, but Spaniard Astarloza is the best placed of the "breakaway six" in the overall standings. He was five minutes and 14 seconds behind leader Rasmussen at the start of the stage.
1245: Popovych has company. The Discovery rider is caught on the descent by the chasing five, one of whom is team-mate Gusev. A minute behind them, the pace slows down in the main bunch. Everyone knows that the main business of the day - the climb of the Col de Galibier - is still to come.
Results of first sprint:
1. Yaroslav Popovych (DSC) 6pts/6secs
2. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (GCE) 4pts/4secs
3. Stef Clement (BTL) 2pts/2secs
1236: The main chase group contains five riders - Vaugrenard (FDJ), Gutierrez (GCE), Astarloza (EUS), Clement (BTL) and Gusev (DSC) - who are 1min 5secs adrift of Popovych.
1228: "This is the last chance for Vino to claw time back in case he has a bad day in the Pyrenees and ITT."
redders73 via 606
Leading points positions for first climb:
1. Yaroslav Popovych (DSC) 20pts
2. Laurent Lefevre (BTL) 18pts
3. Juan Mauricio Soler (BAR) 16pts
4. Anthony Charteau (C.A) 14pts
1217: Popovych has made the top of the Col d'Iseran and begins the fast descent.
1214: The attacks at the front of the peloton are coming thick and fast. Several riders have been dropped at the back as a result and they face a gruelling day in the saddle as they look to remain in the Tour for another day at least.
1208: A faltering Arrieta is overtaken by several riders looking to bridge the gap to Popovych.
1201: Popovych decides to go it alone at the front.
1155: Arrieta is joined in front at the 6.5km mark by Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, riding for Discovery Channel.
1154: What about the rider in yellow? Well, Rasmussen looks comfortable near the front of the peloton, which is 1min 30secs behind Arrieta.
1143: It's the first attack of the day. Spaniard Jose Luis Arrieta takes off up the Col d'Iseran to grab some good publicity for his AG2R team.
1141: At least Cavendish's exit was voluntary. Spare a thought for CSC's Stuart O'Grady and T-Mobile's Patrik Sinkewitz.
O'Grady is still in hospital following his dramatic crash on Sunday. He is nursing several fractured ribs as well as a broken shoulder blade and collarbone.
The Australian will also spend a couple of days having his lungs drained before returning home to Monaco.
Sinkewitz was ruled out of the race after colliding with a spectator riding to his hotel during Monday's rest day.
1130: The stage gets under way, with 171 riders left in the race from the 189 who began 11 days ago in London.
1125: There are four Britons still in the race after Mark Cavendish's withdrawal on Sunday. David Millar is best-placed in 88th, 41mins 58secs off the lead. Then comes Charly Wegelius (104th), Bradley Wiggins (151st) and Geraint Thomas (160th).
Millar has apparently been suffering from a skin allergy on his arms and legs caused by the heat. Today's cooler conditions should help the Scot.
1110: After Monday's rest day, the riders should be a little fresher for the 159.5km-stage from Val d'Isere to Briancon.
And they'll need to be. Stage nine promises to be another severe test of their credentials.
Not only will they climb to the highest point of this year's race, the Col de l'Iseran at 2,770m, they face the category-one Col du Telegraphe and out-of-category Col du Galibier.
Denmark's Michael Rasmussen wears the yellow jersey after his stage-eight victory on Sunday. The Rabobank rider leads by 43 seconds from T-Mobile's Linus Gerdemann.
But Australian Cadel Evans could emerge as one of the Dane's main challengers.
Following the disqualification of his compatriot Robbie McEwen, the Predictor-Lotto team have pledged to do all they can to lift Evans into yellow.
Evans is currently in sixth place, 2mins 53secs behind Rasmussen.
More importantly, he is 53 seconds ahead of Andreas Kloden, and 2mins 30secs ahead of Kloden's Astana team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov, the pre-race favourite.