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Tour de France 2008

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By Paul Fletcher

1626: Well, that's it from me. Hope that you have enjoyed the coverage. On Saturday the Tour takes us from Figeac to Toulouse over 172.5km as we move towards the Pyrenees. Andy Nicolson will be in control of the clockwatch. They don't call him safe hands for nothing. In fact, they don't call him safe hands at all but he does know his cycling.

1621: "Damiano Cunego has shown us very little thus far, unfortunately.

"I don't know if it's him or his team, but he keeps getting caught out in these splits. Not saying that will happen in the Pyrenees, but he's got to be more attentive."
Im_partial - TDF tops on 606

1618: As mentioned, the stage win is the second for Caisse d'Epargne, coming after Alejandro Valverde's on the opening day of the race.

1616: Kim Kirchen finished the stage in fourth and retains the yellow jersey, while David De La Fuente took the polka dot jersey.

1611: Luis-Leon Sanchez holds on to win the stage. The Spanish rider registers the second stage win of the tour for Caisse d'Epargne.

1610: A sizeable group is pursuing Sanchez. Don't look behind you.

1608: The stage win is looking a very real possibility for the Caisse d'Epargne rider, he is now 37 seconds clear.

1607: Just over 3km left and Luis Sanchez of Caisse d'Epargne breaks off the front.

1606: The group of four have been swallowed up by a large pursuing pack of riders including Evans, Valverde, Sastre, Kirchen - most of the big hitters.

1604: The results of the final climb:

1 De La Fuente 4pts
2 Sanchez 3pts
3 Pereiro 2pts
4 Piepoli 1pt

1601: The likes of Hushovd and Zabel were in the peloton at the start of the final climb and perhaps thinking of a sprint finish but Schumacher's break has put paid to their ambitions as the group is splitting. De La Fuente is caught.

1600: Stefan Schumacher has a go off the front of the peloton, Oscar Freire follows. All manner of riders then set off in pursuit.

Up the road De La Fuente breaks away to cross the top of the final climb first and take the King of the Mountains jersey.

1557: The result of the third intermediate sprint is as follows:

1 Josep Jufre 6pts
2 Vincenzi Nibali 4pts
3 David De La Fuente 2pts

1554: A group of 25 riders behind the peloton include the likes of Stuart O'Grady and George Hincapie. The lead four have 12km to hold out but just a lead of 42 seconds. Not looking good for them.

1552: I wonder if Millar is wondering how today might have developed had he not suffered a puncture when part of an earlier breakaway group.

1547: The lead group have less than a minute's advantage with just 17.7km remaining. The Basque team of Euskaltel - Euskadi have moved to the front of the peloton.

1544: Astarloza's attempt to reach the lead group ends as the peloton swallows him up. The lead group are 1 minute 9 secs clear.

1542: The peloton has grown in size. Might we yet see a sprint finish? There is one climb left - the 1.7km category three Saint-Jean-de-Donne.

1540: "Cadel Evans is capable of winning a stage but tends to ride quite conservatively. But when we see him reach the mountains we might see him push home his superiority. It is good to see a man who might win overall triumph in a couple of stages."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Graham Jones

1536: The lead group are 44 seconds clear of Astarloza and 1 min 23 secs ahead of the peloton.

1534: Just over 30km left. The lead group is down to three, with De La Fuente losing touch on the descent. Hold the front page - De La Fuente has rejoined them.

1530: A very dangerous descent, dry, wet, dry, wet, and Johan van Summeren skids and kisses dirt. Thankfully, he seems OK and gets back on his bike.

"There is a real technique to descending and most of the riders at this level are pretty competent at it."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Graham Jones

1528: Cancellara, Hincapie and McEwen were dropped from the peloton on the climb but Cancellara has rejoined them on the descent.

1525: The chat after the Puy Mary:

1 David De La Fuente 10pts
2 Josep Jufre 9pts
3 Luis Sanchez 8pts
4 Vincenzo Nibali 7pts
2 Mikel Astarloza 6pts
3 Kanstantin Siutsuo 5pts

1521: The riders really are into the clouds. Very foggy. The group of four have gone over the Puy Mary 45 seconds ahead of Astarloza and 1 min 14 seconds ahead of the peloton.

1516: The lead four are approaching the top of the Puy Mary. The clouds have closed in and the sunglasses most of the riders are sporting look a touch superfluous.

1513: Euskaltel - Euskadi rider Mikel Astarloza is trying to cross the gap - and having a good dig at doing so.

1510: "Here's a bold prediction: Ricco or Piepoli will attack over the Puy Mary which is why they've sent De La Fuente and Jufre up the road, likewise why Luis Leon Sanchez is there for Valverde.

"Given the way the weather closes fast in the Massif Central it could be a wet and scary descent in a bunch, less so in a small break. I got savaged by wet and hail last time I was riding in the area followed by wind and sun.

"If Kirchen is to maintain the GC, Columbia are going to have to work hard today."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

1508: The riders look like they are suffering after a hard stage so far with not much food taken on board judging by the speed they blasted through the feed station. Less than 50km left for most of the riders, perhaps a shade more for Chavanel, who is nine minutes behind the lead group.

1506: The lead of four are heading up Puy Mary, which is 1,588m high. Nibali, 28th in the GC, is the best placed in the breakaway group, 3 mins 1 second behind Kirchen.

1501: The riders are on the big climb of the day, category two Puy Mary.

1500: Another one bites the dust - AG2R's John Gadret.

1455: Results from the climb up the Col d'Entremont:

1 David De La Fuente 10pts
2 Josep Jufre 9pts
3 Luis Sanchez 8pts
4 Vincenzo Nibali 7pts
2 Christophe Le Mevel 6pts
3 Kanstantin Siutsuo 5pts

1454: Big news - Christophe Moreau has abandoned.

1450: The lead group of four now have an advantage of one minute 25 seconds. Columbia are working hard on the front of the peloton.

1445: The riders are approaching the top of the category two Col d'Entremont. Sylvain Chavanel is in a group more than five minutes behind the main bunch.

The lead group comprises four riders - Sanchez, Jufre, David De La Fuente and Vincenzo Nibali. They lead Christophe Le Mevel by 30 seconds and the peloton by 47 seconds.

1442: "With regard to the posting about Millar taking stages. I would not be at all surprised to see him win today, stretched his legs earlier, go on son, my cup is half full today!"
cesspit on 606

1436: Attack. Response. Attack. Response. About 10 riders have gone off the front of the peloton in pursuit of Jufre and Sanchez. Riders are disappearing out the back on what has turned into quite a brutal day. Don't they know what lies in store over the next week?

1434: There are 65km left. The escape bunch has been caught, though how much that has taken out of the Lampre team remains to be seen. Luis-Leon Sanchez and Josep Jufre have now gone off the front.

1431: Harsh. They all bust through the feed station and hardly any have time to grab some badly needed grub, gel what have you. I would not be happy at that turn of events.

1428: Damiano Cunego's Lampre team are driving the peloton are great speed to try to close the gap. The gap is now 20 seconds.

1425: (See 1400) "Well, I'd say it will be won in the mountains - likely the Alps, and lost in the TT. As is often the case.

"I'm still tipping Evans for GC supremacy, but Valverde is looking good in this first week, so if he keeps his head, who knows. Evans prefers the Pyrenees to the Alps, I think, so if Valverde can triumph in the Alps, it could all come down to that final TT. Evans would get my vote in that.

"But don't count out Menchov, Kirchen, Sastre and Pereiro."
Im_partial - TDF tops on 606

1422: To answer Im-partial - TDF tops on 606 - I'm pretty sure some big names have been caught out by the break, including Damiano Cunego and Stefan Schumacher. Cunego and his team are really trying to close the gap. Not much time at the feed station today.

1420: To confirm, there are 25 riders in the lead group. Their advantage is now 33 seconds. Christophe Moreau is way down the road.

Lilian Jegou smashed very nastily into a tree a few minutes ago. A broken wrist, apparently, and the end of his Tour.

1416: Apparently there has been a call from a member of the general public for me to take over the cricket clockwatch because current incumbent Jonathan Stevenson has referred to himself as Stevo. But I, Fletch, would never do that with such an exciting stage unfolding.

1413: Millar on a new bike. He just doesn't get the breaks (more of a spoken pun).

The results of the second sprint are:

1 Oscar Freire 6pts
2 Kim Kirchen 4pts
3 Volodymir Gustov 2pts

The gap now between the lead bunch of 30 or so riders and the main pack - 50 seconds.

1411: (See 1400) "This tour is light on time trial riders and therefore open for a mountain specialist to take the spoils in Paris.

"Valverde looks like he has a good team around him this year, so he's my tip.

"Cadel Evans is very much in the running, taking a few seconds here and there, but I think he will crack in the very high mountains."
jmb on 606

There is no doubting Evans is a good rider but he is far too defensive for me, constantly tracking the opposition. Bust clear, man, and put some hurt into people. Get me out of my seat.

1407: The lead bunch are 40 seconds clear and include both Kirchen and Evans, first and second in the GC. The split is a legacy of the fallout from the earlier crash and the wind is making it difficult for those left behind to catch up.

1403: Lots to update you about. The lead group has been caught. It is very windy and the CSC team are driving the peloton, or should I say the new lead bunch since the riders are spread all over the road.

Oh, and Mauro Facci of the Quickstep team has become the fifth rider to retire.

1401: Less then 100km to go and a crash splits the peloton, which is really moving. That said, Millar punctures but manages to rejoin the lead group. The six riders out front lead by 15 seconds.

1400: I'll be honest with you. I haven't got a clue who is going to win the Tour this year. Just about all of my favourite riders are not in this year's race for the most obvious of reasons. So, who is in with a massive shout and where will this year's Tour be won and lost.

Get involved.

1355: "One part of the Tour is of course the cultural exposure it offers to the regions, towns and villages hosting the stages.

"Today's destination of Aurillac is/was the umbrella capital of France and was famous for its lace and leather goods, both of which industries have now disappeared. Goes without saying that the area is great for cheese (where in France isn't?) with Bleu D'Auvergne, Fourme D'Ambert and Cantal notable ones from the region as well as St Nectaire which yesterday's route skirted by."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

1347: The riders have now passed through the 54km mark. The breakaway group has a lead of 30 seconds. Columbia are leading the chase. Why? Millar, part of the lead group, is fifth in the GC and Columbia's team leader is yellow jersey holder Kirchen.

1341: Benoit Vaugrenard joined the lead group of five but did not finish in the top three who claimed KOM points.

1 Jens Voight 3pts
2 Ronny Scholz 2pts
3 David Millar 1pt

1340: News from the front. David Millar, Xavier Florencio, Ronny Scholz, Carlos Barredo and Jens Voight have broken away and are heading towards the second climb of the day, the category four Cote de Villedieu.

1335: There seems to be a definite theme on 606 that might just tickle your fancy. Basically, take a rider's name and incorporate it into a song title.

For example, BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray has come up with Everyday Piepoli by Sly and The Family Stone. Any more of that and there will be a riot goin' on.

1333: The results of the first intermediate sprint are as follows:

1 Robbie Hunter 6pts
2 Robbie McEwen 4pts
3 Thor Hushovd 2pts

1330: There are three sprints today, with the first almost upon us. Kim Kirchen finished stage six leading the points standings.

1 Kim Kirchen 97pts
2 Thor Hushovd 88pts
3 Oscar Freire 85pts
4 Erik Zabel 72pts

1323: The_Torres_Bounce asks on 606 why Millar has given up on the yellow jersey (See 1242). After Thursday's stage the Garmin Chipotle rider said this of his plans to win stages: "That's what I'll do now, just sit in the 'gruppetto' and just go stage-picking."

1320: Break over. It never quite managed to reach 30 seconds and Gutierrez, Quinziato, Arrieta, Pineau and Gerard are back in the peloton.

1315: "Both Moreau and Voeckler went backwards pretty quickly up to Super Besse I noticed. Moreau finished 40 seconds down, Voeckler considerably more.

"Now that Ricco has bagged his stage win perhaps Saunier Duval will let Piepoli do what he is really good at and claim that KOM jersey as he is the most obvious candidate to do so if his team let him."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

1305: Some good chat on 606 as to whether Mark Cavendish has a chance of winning today's stage. The tricky series of climbs through the stage won't really suit the Manxman and will probably rule him out of the running.

Or to put it another way:

"How can anyone look at the day's profile and think that Cavendish can win today?"
SportingNonsense on 606

1302: Four riders have gone off the front and are trying to put some time between themselves and the peloton.

1257: "The Auvergnat climbs are tougher than the route map suggests and certainly more so than the riders are making them look (writes a fat lumper who couldn't climb his way out of a paddling pool).

"So which of the French riders will be allowed up the road or are the serious contenders for the King of the Mountains going to show today for the points? Kreuziger of Liquigas has been tipped by some as a potential winner and now Soler is out, the contenders list looks a little less predictable. His Barloworld teammate Cardenas might be given the chance to go on the attack."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

1252: Another attempted breakaway, this time from approximately 15 riders, comes to nothing. It has been a quick start to the stage with the peloton unwilling to entertain riders bursting off the front.

1247: Just to put you in the picture on the standings with regard to the polka dot jersey, the top four places at the end of stage six are as follows:

1 Sylvain Chavanel 27pts
2 Thomas Voeckler 27pts
3 Riccardo Ricco 20pts
4 Alejandro Valverde 18pts

1242: The results after the first climb are as follows:

1 David Millar 4pts
2 Sandy Casar 3pts
3 David Moncoutie 2pts
4 Bram Tankirk 1pt

Millar said after the stage on Thursday that he had given up on taking the yellow jersey but is looking for stage wins.

1240: The riders are on the first climb of the day, the category three Cote de Fraisse. Christophe Moreau and Will Frischkorn mounted an early breakaway but were quickly reeled in by the peloton.

1233: "I reckon this still might come down to a sprint and I'm going to go with Mark Cavandish or Thor Hushovd."
secretFootieFan on 606

1225: Lets just have a little look at the standings to give us an idea of what might happen today.

The overall standings looks like this:

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg/Team Columbia) 24 hours, 30 minutes, 41 seconds
2. Cadel Evans (Australia/Silence-Lotto) +6
3. Stefan Schumacher (Germany/Gerolsteiner) +16
4. Christian Vande Velde (USA/Garmin-Chipotle) +44
5. David Millar (Britain/Garmin-Chipotle) +47
6. Thomas Lovkvist (Swden/Team Columbia) +54
7. Denis Menchov (Russia/Rabobank) +1:03.
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Caisse d'Epargne) +1:12.
9. Stijn Devolder (Belgium/Quickstep) +1:21.
10. Oscar Pereiro (Spain/Caisse d'Epargne) +1:21.

Heavily fancied riders such as Evans and Valverde will be keeping an interested eye on proceedings with the race moving into the Pyrenees over the weekend.

1220 BST: The peloton rolls out of Brioude as stage seven of this year's Tour gets under way.

The stage is 159km long and takes the riders through the Massif Central before the finish in Aurillac.

Three sprints, two category two climbs, two category three and one category four lie in store. I'll be keeping an eye out for what happens on the challenging Puy Mary. Just 7.8km long but with a steep finish, it starts at the 117km mark.

see also
Ricco wins as Kirchen takes lead
10 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Stage six as it happened
10 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France stage six photos
10 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Hushovd sprints to Tour success
06 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Valverde triumphs in Tour opener
05 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2008 preview
02 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cycling on the BBC
30 Jun 08 |  Cycling

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