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By Paul Fletcher

1620: Cadel Evans continues to wear yellow.

The 606 comments crashed through the 100 barrier today, so thanks very much for all your witty banter, advice and predictions. I'm making no promises, but I'm hopeful tomorrow's clockwatch will update faster than Cav's wheels turn during a sprint finish.

1618: Just to let you know what happened in Cav's wake. Sebastian Chavanel came second, followed by Gert Steegmans, Erik Zabel and Oscar Freire.

1616: "Great win for Cav, with lots to spare.

"He's such a terrific story in this Tour, and a history-making third stage win means we can all be ever so proud of the Manx sprinter."
Im_partial TDF Tops on 606

1613: Cavendish, I'm sure you know, becomes the first Briton to win three stages of the Tour in the same year.

1609: "Great result, well done Cav!! Right... I'm off to the bookies, he's got to be sports personality of the year, especially if he does anything in the Olympics!"
mape_ventura on 606

1605: Cav almost blew it by taking his hands off the handlebars too early. He wins by just less than a bike length. Chavanel finishes second.

1604: Another sprint finish, another brilliant exhibition by Mark Cavendish, who just blasts his way to the line. Amazing scenes.

1602: Team Columbia at the front. Milram take it up. All happening as we pass under the red kite.

1601: The breakaway has been reeled in. Sprint/spring finish time. What odds on Cavendish?

1600: A furious pace in the peloton. Cadel Evans is marking Frank Schleck for all he is worth.

1556: Less than 10km to go. We are firmly on the run-in to Narbonne. Apparently there have been a few problems with this clockwatch updating, for which I can only apologise.

1551: "I too expect those three riders to be caught, and if that tailwind mentioned earlier is still going strong, it should be in good time for the sprinter's teams to set up a wild and woolly finish. My money is still on Hushovd."
Im_partial TDF Tops on 606

That wind is indeed strong, though I have seen some quotes from Hushovd's team manager saying that the rider isn't in great shape today. I don't know how true that is but maybe it is not his day.

1550: Under 15 km left, 40 km winds and a lead of less than 30 seconds for Dumoulin, Gerard and Oroz.

1546: "This sounds like a race around Richmond Park is needed, from star and garter right round to ham gate gate then swing through ham and petersham, up the hors category col de nightingale et voila. Say 8 laps? 20-30 riders? Televised on bbc 1?"
Steve, stuck in a freezing office, via text on 81111

Perhaps two laps with a feed zone at the cafe near the golf course?

1545: "Nightingale Lane in Richmond? Piece of cake, flat as a pancake. Well, compared with where I come from (South Wales, try the Bwlch, or the climb over Ocherwyth to Machen. 1 in 4 all the way for 1/2 mile, on gravel). Or up the Blorenge."
krautbeckerfan on 606

If that is the case then I won't be heading to your part of the world on my bike anytime soon.

1543: The teams that are driving the peloton are Liquigas, Caisse d'Epargne, Milram and Columbia. The breakaway trio have less than 20km to go and a lead of 42 seconds.

1543: The result of the day's second intermediate sprint are as follows:

1. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 6pts

2. Arnaud Gerard (FDJ) 4pts

3. Juan Jose Oroz (EUS) 2pts

1541: Don't forget you can now listen to commentary from BBC Radio 5 Live's Peter Slater, who is with Graham Jones.

Cannot play media. Sorry, this media is not available in your territory.

Live: Tour de France enhanced commentary

1533: The three riders at the front are attacking each other as their lead moves in excess of one minute. They then settle down to try to combine their efforts. My money is still on a sprint finish.

1530: The peloton has been assisted by a tailwind through the last few kilometres. Expect speeds in excess of 50 km per hour as they reel in the breakaway over the closing 30 km.

1527: With regard to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, plenty of people have now mentioned it, so for all of you, well done.

"Do we need a nightingale lane sprint challenge?"
Jobless via text on 8111

More likely to be a 'spring' finish than a sprint, if you see what I mean.

1522: The breakaway is just above the 30-second mark now. There is no chance of it staying away - and a third man, Juan Jose Oroz, has now joined it.

1520: "The secret to Nightingale Lane is not to look up at the brow of the hill (it is the one up from Ham to Star and Garter isn't it?) and concentrate on keeping an even pace while not going too hard on the steeper bits."
BBC 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

Spot on. I went up it the other day. I am usually blowing in a big way at the top. You think you're more or less there and then turn a corner. Nasty.

1518: (See 1315) "What about the 1949 film A boy, A girl & A bike. Starring our ladies of the day, Honor Blackman, Diana Dors to name just two?"
Anonymous via text on 81111

1512: Check you lot out. I meant, of course, to write sprint finish at 1501, but many thanks for pointing out the error of my ways. The seasons are all over the place these days aren't they?

1502: "Losing weight and then 3-6 months of aerobic base training will enable you to laugh in the face of Nightingale Lane."
Cen via text on 8111

Might just buy that bike with an engine (See 1451)!

1501: The lead of the breakaway duo is now 1 min 15 secs but the peloton looks pretty relaxed with matters. There is 48 km to go and we are surely heading for a sprint finish.

1500: (See 1315) "My friend's dad plays a French cyclist in 'The Longest Day'."
BigManOnCampus on 606

Brilliant. You are unofficially winning. Not that there is a prize.

1454: Perhaps worth mentioning with regard to bikes in film, that American Flyers has been mentioned several times. For such a supposedly poor film a lot of people are bringing it up.

1451: (See 1440) "Paul the secret to climbing a long hill without feeling like collapsing halfway up is to use a bike that's fitted with an engine. I know just how you feel though, as local cycling territory for me is on the edge of the West Pennine moors."
jabe1961 on 606

Very droll. I'll bear that in mind the next time I'm struggling up Nightingale Lane in Richmond.

1447: Energised after emptying the contents of their food bags, the main bunch are now reeling in the two breakaway riders. The lead is now just above 30 seconds.

1444: "Not many people know that Postman Pat used to pump out the klicks on a carbon framed speed machine with a top spec groupset."
Anonymous via text on 81111

Is that because it is not true?

1440: "The significance of the wind is that can really whip along the valleys on these transition stages across southern France. The difference it makes to be on the lee or windward side of the peloton is enormous in terms of the energy it takes to ride in the wind. In the lee of the bunch can save you 40% of energy required normally so on a windy day that could be anything up to 80% difference.

"Put it this way: find yourself in the wind and it is murderous, like trying to go uphill in treacle with the brakes on. Out of it, you can be sat having an iced bun and a cuppa."
BBC 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

Great info, much appreciated. Now, what is the secret to climbing a long hill without feeling as though I am going to collapse half-way up?

1430: A crash the back of the peloton involving Jimmy Engoulvent, though he seems to be OK save for cuts and grazes. The winds are making conditions tricky for the peloton, which slowed noticeably after passing through the feed station. I would too.

1424: "Surely a mention for Belleville Rendevous?"
Anonymous via text on 81111

Great shout. I acquired that film for free on DVD when it was given away with a weekend newspaper. Very much enjoyed it.

1423: There is a smidgeon above 70 km left in the stage. Gerard and Dumoulin are 1 min 30 secs ahead of the peloton.

1421: I'm no expert on the significance of the wind, except that it makes me angry in a big way when it is blowing in my face on my cycle home. Unless I am mistaken, though, expect a tailwind at the finish today.

1416: (See 1315) "Surely someone has mentioned Pee Wee Herman's bike by now... "
Nathan_the_Red on 606

People have mentioned this. I know nothing about it but hope I'm not falling into some kind of trap.

1412: The peloton is passing through the feed zone in Maury. Alejandro Valverde is back with the main bunch after suffering a puncture. He seemed to be cheekily making the most of the slipstream provided by a team car as he caught them up. We might hear some more about that, although I imagine there is quite a lot to keep the organisers busy at the moment.

1410: "Freire seems to be in great form for this year's Tour - he looks like really wanting that green jersey come Paris."
Im_partial TDF Tops on 606

Lots of talk as well about Robbie McEwen on 606. The sight of the feisty Aussie hoovering up a couple of stages in the first week of the Tour used to be an annual recurrence but we really haven't seen all that much of him so far this year.

1405: Oscar Freire seems pretty intent on winning the green jersey this year. He beat Thor Hushovd to third in the intermediate sprint in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet.

1. Arnaud Gerard (FDJ) 6pts

2. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 4pts

3. Oscar Freire (RAB) 2pts

Freire leads the overall green jersey standings from Kim Kirchen and Hushovd.

1405: The breakaway is being reeled in, with the Credit Agricole team driving on the peloton. The two-man group now has a lead of just 1 min 22 secs.

1400: By the way, you might say that Barloworld are having a bit of a mare.

Baden Cooke crashed early in today's stage and has now become the fifth rider from the team to withdraw from the race.

Felix Cardenas and Italian Paolo Longo withdrew on Wednesday. Mauricio Soler pulled out earlier in the Tour and as for Moises Duenas...

1356: (See 1315) "Hmmm....bikes in about Salvador Dali's 'Un Chen Andalou' odd a film with a bike in as you will ever see."
mikeb66 on 606

And F1Hornet adds that the aforementioned film was the inspiration for the brilliant Pixies song 'Debaser'. Today is proving to be a real education.

1350: Worth bearing in mind that the wind is quite strong, 40 km per hour and likely to increase as the riders cycle towards the coast. It is also likely to be a cross-wind. Echelon time?

1347: (See 1315) "The sight of bandy legged James Coburn pedalling his way to freedom in The Great Escape never fails to raise a smile."
Andy, bored of Leics, via text on 81111

1343: Just the one climb today, the 514 metre Col du Camperie. Six points available and they were shared as follows:

1. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 3pts

2. Arnaurd Gerard (FDJ) 2pts

3. Sebastian Lang (GST) 1pt

1340: "Jules et Jim by Francois Truffaut. Wish You Were Here. Taxi 3. Bicycle Thief and its satire Icicle Thieves.

"There's a huge list here:

"You don't want to know how many I've watched."
BBC 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606

To be fair Alex, you've taken the sting out of the film game there.

1332: The latest on the two-man breakaway. French duo Arnaud Gerard (Francaise des Jeux) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) now have a lead of 4 min 25 secs after 55 km.

1330: Bikes in film chat? He loves a theme for the day does Andy Nicolson.

"Didn't Jackie Chan once use a bicycle as a prop for some of his fight scenes in a film..? Grand prize of fake typed cash to the giver of the film title!"
tootsie323 on 606

For films with bikes in, what about The Great Escape, when James Coburn's character cycles his way to freedom?
jabe1961 on 606

"E.T - How good were their bikes in that film! Forget the bikes used in the Tour; in E.T those bikes flew!

"Miss Gulch in The Wizard of Oz morphing into the witch...I used to have nightmares about that film!"
steviep1 on 606

1325: Many thanks to Andy for a sterling job. Now, who think s Cavendish will win today?

By Andy Nicolson

1322: That's my mini-stint over; Paul Fletcher - Fletch to his mates - is now in the saddle...

1320: The two escapees have stretched their lead to 1min 25secs as they start the only categorised climb of the day, the fourth-cat Col du Camperie.

1315: The 606 irrelevance is off and running. Today it's films that feature bikes, though not it a central way. F1Hornet gives us Donnie Darko, while TheGSgirl chips in:

"The Donnie Darko bunnyman still scares the life out of me.

La vita bella has Roberto Benigni riding around on a bicycle quite a bit."
TheGSgirl on 606

1313: "Bunch sprint today, those teams with contenders for the green jersey or a stage win should try to control things. I can't see a breakaway happening on the downhill sections."
F1Hornet on 606

1310: French duo Arnaud Gerard (Francaise des Jeux) and Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) have broken away after 40km, establishing a 30-second breakaway.

1303: Plenty of attacks but no successful breakaways yet. 31km gone, 134km to go.

1255: Barloworld take another hit: Baden Cooke has crashed and abandoned.

The South African team, though registered in the UK, are down to four riders, and the Tour's down to 158.

1252: Just so you're warned in advance, I've got to go to an exciting BBC meeting at 2pm - or 1400 in this format - so this is going to be something of a tandem act today.

My colleague Paul Fletcher is currently pulling on his lycra in readiness to take over around half past one. Or 1330.

1248: Onto the cycling for a while...

"A break will probably win today but if it is a bunch sprint, Cavendish has got a great chance."
kuzfan on 606

1247: Good spot on 606:

"You say Saunier Duval hasnt started and then say de la Fuente has the King of the Mountains jersey. Impossible if he didnt start."
SportingNonsense on 606

That 1222 should have read Sebastian Lang is now top of the King of the Mountains classification... apologies!

1240: Ricco had trouble finding a team in 2005 after failing several haematocrit tests, but undertook detailed tests to prove he has a naturally high haematocrit level.

He races with an International Cycling Union (UCI) certificate to prove his haematocrit is in excess of the 50% level used by the testers.

But the testing at this year's Tour is being carried out by the French anti-doping agency, who may not be liaising with the UCI.

1235: Saunier-Duval have confirmed that they have withdrawn from the race.

Which is an interesting development in the light of the positive tests in the Liquigas and then Barloworld teams, both of whom were very quick to claim that the tests were matters isolated to the individuals, and both of whom have stayed in the Tour.

1222: The riders are rolling out of Lavelanet, amidst big crowds as ever.

No Saunier Duval riders have started - it looks like they've withdrawn.

Ricco's transgression means that David De La Fuente is now top of the King of the Mountains classification and Vincenzo Nibali leads the Young Rider competition.

1214: "He's taken his obsession with Marco Pantani that little bit too far. Has to be the end for Saunier Duval after Mayo last year, do we wait with bated breath on the result of Piepoli's test after Hautacam? David Miller will be feeling vindicated right now.

It is a great shame that a rider who looked like a potential great has deceived so many people and done something so stupid. How did he get away with it during the Giro?"
Clarke_one_nil on 606

1210: Ricco's positive test came after the stage 4 individual time trial in Cholet.

And there was me getting all excited about the prospect of Mark Cavendish winning today's stage.

1205 BST: Welcome aboard for another day at the Tour.

Unfortunately, it's another day, another positive test; this time it's Riccardo Ricco who's been on the EPO.

"The Cobra" was given a venomous reception by booing spectators, as police took him off the Saunier Duval team bus this morning.

So much for a new, anti-doping generation.

see also
Tour de France stage 12 photos
17 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Stage 11 as it happened
16 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Ricco wins as Kirchen takes lead
10 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2008 preview
02 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cycling on the BBC
11 Jul 08 |  Cycling

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