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Tour de France 2008



606: DEBATE

Stage 17: Pau to Castelsarrasin (188.5km)

LATEST ACTION AS IT HAPPENS (ALL TIMES BST)

By Andy Nicolson

1614:Cat and mouse... Fothen goes... but Bennati's with him and takes the win easily in the end.

1612: The pace is high now at the 1km mark and Fothen shoots off the front. They're all back together, knowing that they've got to find a way to drop Bennati, who looks very cool.

1611: The four are weaving around the road, sizing each other up. as they approach the last 2km.

1610: Elmiger, Voigt, Bennati and Fothen are going to fight out the win amongst themselves. Bennati is the dangerman, sprint-wise and so Voigt attempts, unsuccessfully, to catapult himself off.

1600: Millar's about 30 seconds off the pace of the Voigt foursome. Meanwhile, back in the peloton, Discovery are still controlling the pace so it's looking increasingly like this year's Tour will be decided on Saturday in the final time trial.

1555: Voigt tries again and is followed by Bonnati, Fothen and Elmiger. Millar and Tosatto look like they've gone out the back, unable to match the German's pace.

Ho hum. Looks like it's not going to be Millar time after all.

1550: The break is on the climb and Millar has given it a little dig, then Voigt has a go. Next Fothen tries his hand, but nobody seems able to break free.

1540: The break is inside 25km. If anything is going to happen, attack-wise, it will probably start in the next 10km.

Voigt has punctured and is having to time-trial his way back to the break - this could suit Millar if the German burns up energy.

1530: The break is inside 35km - Millar and Voigt are going to have to do something soon if the are to beat the sprinters in this group. Perhaps they've got the fourth-category climb at 169.5km in mind?

1525: Lowlandbrit and enjoy_the_ride on 606 have figured out who will wear the youth classification's white jersey tomorrow, assuming Contador takes yellow today.

Let's just say the rider concerned initially caught the eye with his name rather than his form...

1520: A colleague has done some digging on Millar's 'condition' and has found a thread on the bicycling.com forums that suggests it's "chronic solar (and possibly colinergic) urticaria". Or hives, to you and I.

People with this condition experience itching, redness and hives on areas of skin exposed to sunlight, apparently.

Cheers, Fletch.

1515: "I'd like Millar to win, but I can't see him doing it if this group gets to the line as it is."
Lowlandbrit on 606

1510: Cadel Evans is looking a grumpy chops; he's just thrown some of the contents of his tin of cola at a motorcycle photographer.

1505: The Discovery team are controlling the peloton, protecting Alberto Contador, but the gap keeps growing towards eight minutes as the break reaches 50km to go.

1500: Millar's plastered with sun-block, presumably to protect his earlier skin rash from the sun, but it looks like it's having the unwanted side effect of heating him up.

1450: DeGuzman on 606 has nailed his colours to the mast - almost: "The winner will be one of the escapees. The issue now is how to get rid of Bennatti."

1445: As the gap grows to 5'37", the riders in the break will be starting to deliberate on their tactics - certainly people like Millar won't cut it in a sprint hence will have to attack if they're to seek the stage win.

1425: The gap has stretched to over three minutes - hardly enough for the break to stay away with 80km to go, but there doesn't appear to be any sign of the peloton wanting to pull them back.

The main field are passing a typically French view of sunflower fields and some of the riders are taking the opportunity to water the verges.

1400: Denis Menchov, looking seriously fed up, has got off his bike and abandoned. Having given their all for Michael Rasmussen, it's understandable that the remaining Rabobank riders feel that there's little point continuing.

Meanwhile, the Caisse d'Epargne team are doing all the work at the front of the peloton but don't seem to be eating into the gap, which is now up to 2'30". Maybe when they've had their snap they'll push the pace.

1345: The break is now up to 1'50" at the Cote de Theux where the points were won by:
1. David Millar 3 points
2. Daniele Righi 2 points
3. Markus Fothen 1 point

1330: And another, the Cote de Ste-Dode-aux-Croix... Points went to:
1. David Millar 3 points
2. Daniel Righi 2 points
3. Daniele Bennati 1 point

1325: Another climb - the Cote de Mielan - crested, and the points were won by:
1. Markus Fothen 3 points
2. Matteo Tosatto 2 points
3. Martin Elmiger 1 point

The escapees have inched their lead up to 1'40".

1315: The break are over the second climb but the gap is now down to 1'30". The points for the climb were won by:
1. Markus Fothen 3 points
2. Matteo Tosatto 2 points
3. Martin Elmiger 1 point

1300: The points for the first sprint, after 44.5km, mark were won by:
1. Manuel Quinziato 6 points/6"
2. David Millar 4 points/4"
3. Martin Elmiger 2 points/2"

1255: What a surprise! Three French teams are all at the head of the peloton - Francaise des Jeux, Credit Agricole and Bouygues Telecom.

1250: I have a feeling that Millar is going to try to get the win today. I've said as much before and been proved wrong, but could this be the day I get it right?

1240: The break is over the first climb, the Cote de Balieix.

The points were won by:
1. Matteo Tosatto 4 points
2. Jens Voigt 3 points
3. Markus Fothen 2 points
4. Daniel Righi 1 point

1235: The break is now 1'20" ahead of the peloton, which is being lead by Cadel Evans' Predictor-Lotto team, perhaps looking for bonus seconds at the first sprint.

1215: A group of riders have broken away and established a 40-second gap. They are Elmiger, Bennati, Righi, Fothen, Quinziato, Tosatto and Millar.

1206: They're off and riding at a good lick. Three riders tried an early break but were quickly pulled back.

1150: The riders roll out into the neutral zone in Pau on a hot day with light winds. All of those interviewed at the start were of one voice, summarised by former race leader Fabian Cancellara: "It's like a war we have to fight against these people."

Let's hope that the rest of today is all about racing.

1130: Before the start today, Tour director Christian Prudhomme was defiant in the wake of the latest doping story to hit the race: "Rasmussen's exit is the best thing that can happen to the Tour.

"The race will start without him and the yellow jersey will be given out after the stage."

He continued: "We believe the general classification is much better now than it was. The majority of the riders are not cheating. And things are changing.

"Ten years ago [during the 1998 Festina scandal] the riders sat down to protest against drugs tests. Now, they're protesting against the cheats."


After the withdrawal of former Tour leader Michael Rasmussen, the race resumes without a yellow jersey.

The Dane, 33, has been at the centre of controversy since it was revealed he missed out-of-competition drugs tests.

And his team, Rabobank, who learned he lied to them about his whereabouts in June, will continue the race without him.

Rasmussen looked odds-on to win the Tour after taking Wednesday's stage and increasing his lead over second-placed rider Alberto Contador.

Now, Contador, Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer will begin a three-way battle for the overall lead on the relatively flat, 188.5km stage from Pau to Castelsarrasin.

SEE ALSO
Rasmussen 'broken' by Tour exit
26 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Where now for cycling?
26 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Stage 16 as it happened
25 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Rasmussen powers to mountain win
25 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Vinokourov takes Pyrenean stage
23 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Contador climbs into contention
22 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Vinokourov dominates time-trial
21 Jul 07 |  Cycling


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