Stage 10: Tallard to Marseilles (229.5km)
LATEST ACTION AS IT HAPPENS (ALL TIMES BST)
1650: That's it for stage 10. Believe it or not, it's the first French stage win of the Tour. Thursday serves up a pancake flat stage from Marseille to Montpellier - surely one for the glory-starved sprint kings. A demain...
1645: And here they come. It's Chavanel who crosses first with green jersey wearer Boonen just behind him.
1643: There are still points to play for when the peloton arrives. The sprinters will wind up shortly.
1640: It seems that's the crowning moment of a career for Vasseur, who reveals that he'll be retiring after this year's Tour.
1638: I may have underplayed just how close the finish actually was. Le Tour's official website is estimating that Vasseur won by 3-5 centimetres. That's a thin tyre's length in my book.
1637: What of the peloton? Well, it's trundling along with about 10 minutes until the finish.
1635: It's Vasseur dives down the inside with 300m to go and he has the pace to hold off Casar for the win. It's a French one-two.
1634: The pace drops considerably as each rider watches the other. Who will make the decisive move?
1633: Off goes Vasseur, but he is dragged back in to the pack after considerable effort.
1631: Let the games begin. Voigt tests the water with a little sprint, but he is caught and the pace drops slightly.
1627: The only thing that can realistically deprive one of the five the stage win is if they play too many tactical games. There is bound to be a bit of "cat and mouse" as they jockey for position for a final sprint to the line. 5km to go.
1624: At the top of the final climb, Voigt, Albasini Halgand, Vasseur and Casar have a 45 second lead. One of five for the win then, barring a miracle or a calamity.
1617: Voigt is not happy with Hagland's attacks and calls for the group to work together again to ensure they stay clear. For the moment, a truce is called - 15km to go.
1613: Then there were four. Halgand kicks on again and Casar pops off the back. The Frenchman fights back, but looks weaker than the other four.
1611: "Given T-Mobile's very public anti-doping srategy, it would be a big surprise if one of their riders was deliberately doping."
dummy_half via 606
1608: Group Voigt is 30 seconds clear of group Burghardt with 20km remaining. More to the point, there are three Frenchman in that first pack of five. They are Halgand, Vasseur and Casar. Hopes must be high in Marseille of a home win.
1604: Vasseur and Voigt bridge the gap and make the lead group five-strong. The missing six members of the breakaway are starting to struggle.
1601: Just one more climb and 27km to go until the finish in Marseille. The peloton are out of it now and three riders continue to forge on just ahead of the rest of what can now be considered a successful breakaway.
1558: Halgand goes off the front and is followed by Albasini and Casar. The pace is really hotting up.
1553: They're on the penultimate climb and Voigt goes on the attack. That's stretched them.
1548: Well done to the breakaway. They look free and clear. It's one of 11 for the stage win then. But who? There are two category three climbs to finish, which could mean pandemonium as riders launch attack after attack off the front of the group.
1544: "Just a thought: the next time a German player is caught diving to win a penalty in a key game, will ARD/ZDF stop showing football?" By tlimvvo2max via 606.
1541: The gap is at 10min 47secs as the peloton pass through the quaint village of Auriol. Just under 40km left and still no sign of the breakaway group losing their nerve.
1537: "I have to say I think the move by the German TV companies would be much more effective if Sinkewitz were actually still riding in the Tour. By morganmuffle via 606."
1535: "I completely disagree with those who applaud the German TV company's (ARD/ZDF) decision to pull the plug on their coverage of the Tour because a rider is under suspicion of doping. What is this? Trial by media?"
By McTyke via 606.
1533: Pieter Weening is the Rabobank rider currently at the head of the peloton. His squad has been at the head of the bunch since the 80km mark. There are three Quickstep riders in tow but they are not taking turns at the front.
1529: They may well leave it until the final climb of the day but we may also see the breakaway leaders mix it up out front soon. We need something to liven it up, it's been a bit stale over the last 50km.
1522: Just caught my first glimpse Scotland's David Millar. It's 40-odd degrees, not a cloud in the sky, the rays beaming down and the lad's got a long-sleeve jersey on. He must have left his factor 30 back at the hotel to put himself through that.
1518: The gap is hovering around the 11min mark now with the 11 breakway riders doing enough to keep themselves in the box seat.
1514: Rasmussen indulges in some banter at the front of the pelaton with his Rabobank buddies and seems relaxed about the day's proceedings so far.
1507: There's 64km to go until we reach Marseille and the peloton are showing no desire to close the 10min 46secs gap to the breakaway group.
1503: I'd be pretty hacked off if I could no longer watch the race because one of my countrymen had been caught cheating. I take my hat off to ARD/ZDF's principled stance.
By eckinspain via 606.
1458: The results of the second sprint at the 154.5km mark:
1. Staf Scheirlinckx (COF) 6pts/6secs
2. Jens Voigt (CSC) 4pts/4secs
3. Paolo Bossoni (LAM) 2pts/2secs
1454: "Burghardt has to be odds on favourite to win. Unless he's in bad shape it will be very hard to get rid of him and he has a very decent sprint. Furthermore, it seems like he saved energy yesterday (finishing at 28'), while for example Voigt finshed at 10."
By DeGuzman via 606.
1451: Precious little entertainment out on the track at the moment. The peloton are steadily gaining ground but the breakaway group is cruising.
1448: "I see Vino seems to be struggling again, I wonder if he is not going to quit sooner rather than later. Not sure it is worth going through the pain barrier when his chances of winning are now so remote."
By JCsRedArmy via 606.
1445: The breakaway's lead is down to 10mins again as they prepare to contest the intermediate sprint in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume at the 154.5km mark.
1439: Thomas Voeckler, 56th overall, has just punctured. He had a quick wheel change and rejoins the peloton without too much drama.
1434: The battered and bruised Alexandre Vinokourov is clearly suffering. He has just called for the medical car and the Astana leader has been hovering near the rear of the peloton since the start of stage. He needs patching up on the knees and his miserable tour continues.
1429: But despite an increase in speed, the peloton look fairly relaxed and unconcerned with events up front. Rabobank head the bunch and with their man Flecha in the breakaway, they'll be content to see all the yellow jersey contenders stay close to Rasmussen.
1424: The speed of the peloton has picked up after the news that the escapees' advantage is as high as 14 minutes. But it will need a sustained response to slice that lead still fronted by Burghardt.
1420: ARD/ZDF, the German equivalent of the BBC, have stopped their Tour de France coverage in response to T-mobile's Patrick Sinkewitz providing a positive A sample with high levels of testosterone. They state that they'll resume coverage if his B sample shows otherwise.
1414: "I think there is a very, very good chance of the breakaway succeeding in staying away. No one is really of any consequence, unless something mad goes on."
By JCsRedArmy via 606
1409: "I take a German to win this stage, probably the breakaway king Voigt, but wouldn't be suprprised to see Burghardt win. He looked very impressive when he won G-W in April."
By igmeister via 606
1404: We haven't had a successful breakaway so far in this tour so it will be interesting to see if this group of chancers can hold on until the end. They 11 are: Burghardt (TMO), Voigt (CSC), Juan Antonio Flecha (RAB), Paolo Bossoni (LAM), Patrice Halgand (C.A), Staf Scheirlinckx, Michael Albasini and Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ), Sandy Casar (FD), Cedric Vasseur (QSI) and Andriy Grivko (MRM).
1400: Only one of the breakaway group is within 24min 39secs advantage of Rasmussen in the yellow jersey, and that's Voight, who is 36th overall.
1354: The searing heat is likely to peak at temperatures of a sizzling 40c today, with a slightly cooler breeze nearer the end point in Marseille. No headwind so the breakaway are able to stretch their lead.
1349: The 11 escapees reach the feedzone at the 116.5km mark with a 10min 10secs lead ahead of the peloton which is fronted by the Rabobank team.
1342: The leading group continue to pull away and show no sign of relenting. The gap now stands at just under 10 minutes and the 11 riders who make up the group are unlikely to be caught if they maintain this momentum.
1337: Points for the cote de Villedieu at the 93km mark:
1. Patrice Halgand (C.A) 3pts
2. Staf Schierlinckx (COF) 2pts
3. Jens Voigt (CSC) 1pt
1334: At this stage last year, Spaniard Oscar Pereiro was involved in a breakaway which ended with a 26-minute advantage over the peloton and despite not winning the stage, he went on to finish second overall.
1330: "One of these 11 riders should win the stage if they work together. No one in the peloton would be too scared of "doing a Pereiro" like last year.
Interestingly Voigt won that stage and Pereiro took all that time last year. Could history repeat itself? Voigt would be the logical pick to win."
By fireyLegend via 606
1320: The gap from the brekaway to the peleton is gradually increasing and now stands at over six minutes. Burghardt still leads the way but is being kept in check by Voigt.
1314: In cycling, a breakaway of 11 can be much more powerful than a solo raid. Burghardt is learning this first hand as the lead climbs steadily towards six minutes. If the riders continue to work together, taking turns at the front, they could make life very tricky for the hungry sprinters languishing in the peloton.
1309: The gap to the peloton is approaching five minutes now, but that still represents no serious threat to the main contenders because Jens Voigt is the best placed rider in the breakaway at 24 minutes down.
1306: Frenchman Vasseur delights those assembled at the first intermediate sprint by dashing over the line first.
1301: And just like that Burghardt is caught. So that solo lead lasted rather less time than it might have. Still, the German can now enjoy the company of 10 fellow cycling enthusiasts and may yet have a shot at stage victory in Marseille. The breakaway 11 are two minutes clear of the peloton, which contains the yellow jersey of Rasmussen.
1256: Not if a breakaway of 10 riders has anything to do with it. Jens Voigt, Cedric Vasseur and Sandy Casar are among those hunting down Burghardt, whose lead tumbles below a minute.
1251: As the lead creeps up towards two minutes, the news gets better for Burghardt. Many riders in the peloton pull over for a toilet break. They are in no hurry, which means our leader may be on his own for some time yet. But will he be alone on the streets of Marseille?
1246: Burghardt is no threat in the general classification at more than 90 minutes down. And the peloton is happy to let him pedal away to a one minute lead. Whether the sprinters will be happy if he continues to pull away is quite another matter. The speed merchants will feel that they deserve their chance of glory again after toiling in the Alps for days.
1242: "Like everybody else I don't expect anything significant (influencing who'll win the yellow jersey) to happen today or tomorrow. Wouldn't mind a rider proving everybody wrong and do a coup like Merckx did 30 odd years ago (also to Marseille)."
By DeGuzman via 606
1235: Marcus Burghardt - the man who cycled into a dog yesterday - is determined to have a better time of it today. The German becomes the latest man to spring off the front of the peloton. But his gap is slender.
1219: Fabian Wegmann is the only rider to take a chance at breaking away from the bunch who are now at the 50km mark but is soon caught.
1207: And so the escape ends. The move that started at 2km ends at the 37km mark.
1203: The gap created by the six escapees has been cut from 50secs to just 12secs, with the peloton gaining on the group at the 36km mark.
1142: Gerrans, Corioni, Charteau, Quinziato, Gilbert and Grivko are the six escapees being hunted down by the pack. They began their march at the 2km mark and haven't looked like being reeled in yet.
1138: The peloton is now 30secs behind the six escapees with the Rabobank team moving to the front of the chasing peloton in place of Bouygues Telecom.
1134: Five riders from the Bouygues Telecom team head the peloton that trail the six escapees at the 12.5km mark. Pineau launches off the front in a bid to catch the escapees but is soon reeled in by the bunch.
1121: An early crash sees Cobo has take a tumble. He promptly jumps back on the saddle and rejoins the peloton.
1114: Charles Wegelius remains the leading Briton back in 75th following his 41st placing in Tuesday's stage. David Millar is 99th after his 144th, Bradley Wiggins was 164th in stage nine, leaving him in 152nd while Geraint Thomas is 160th overall after placing 163rd.
1110: Stage 10 is the first of three 'transitional' stages which precede the race's first big time trial on Saturday, and with no withdrawals overnight, 171 riders roll off bound for the coast.
1104: We're still waiting for the off and I've just been informed that there will be a slight delay due to traffic congestion in Tallard. It shouldn't be any more than eight minutes and the riders have taken up their positions at the start.
1054: Remember poor old Patrik Sinkewitz? He who crashed into a spectator riding to his hotel on Sunday. His Tour goes from bad to worse as he's informed that he has been suspended by his T-Mobile team after testosterone was found in an A sample in training back in June. Not a good week for the German.
1045: After Tuesday's brutal climb over the Col du Galibier, the riders face a less punishing 229.5km trek from Tallard to the Mediterranean city of Marseille.
The breakaway artists should play their part at the halfway point of the Tour, and with the favourites needing a quiet day after three stages in the Alps, the usual fighters should lead the way through the stage's four easy climbs.
Colombia's Juan Mauricio Solar Hernandez was the surprise winner of stage nine - the last stage in the Alps.
Michael Rasmussen comfortably held on to the yellow jersey and the Dane is now favourite to win another King of the Mountains jersey.
He leads a pair of Spaniards, Alejandro Valverde by 2mins 35secs and Iban Mayo by 2mins 39secs in the overall classification.
Rasmussen's biggest threat could be Andreas Kloeden of Germany who is a better time-trialler. With two races against the clock still to come, he is well placed.
But pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov's chances of winning are fading by the day and the Astana rider needs a miraculous comeback to challenge the leaders.