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Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 17:14 UK

Stage 17 as it happened

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By Chris Bevan

1700: Well, it has been yet another thrilling stage in the Alps but, as predicted, overall victory in this year's Tour de France will all come down to Saturday's time trial.

New maillot jaune Carlos Sastre has a one minute and 34 second lead over Cadel Evans after his impressive victory on l'Alpe d'Huez.

Will it be enough? Evans took one minute and 16 seconds off Sastre in the first time trial of this year's Tour over a 29.5km course in Cholet...On Saturday, he will have the 53km from Cerilly to Saint-Amand-Montrond to claw back the time he lost today.

Can he do it? It looks likely but it will be fun finding out, and this amazing Tour could even have other surprises in store for us before then. Thanks for your banter, hope you enjoyed today, and see you on Thursday.

1656: "Carlos Sastre has one minute and 34seconds on Cadel Evans. It is almost certainly not enough. It is going to be SO close."
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1653: CSC's tactics were to get Carlos Sastre up the road and leave Cadel Evans to worry about Frank Schleck. The Australian was left to do all the work himself once it was clear Sastre was going to finish clear and he had to work hard to limit the damage. The end result is that Frank Schleck's hopes of overall victory are all but finished but Sastre, Evans and maybe even Denis Menchov are in with a shout. We shall see...

1651: So, did you expect that? Carlos Sastre is in yellow and the winner of this year's Tour will surely come down to whether Cadel Evans can make up the time he has lost to the Spaniard today in Saturday's time trial. I wouldn't like to predict that one...

1650: Frank Schleck comes home two seconds ahead of Cadel Evans - not surprisingly Evans looks exhausted.

1649: Christian Vandevelde followed Denis Menchov on that break and has got away from the Russian. Sam Sanchez and Andy Schleck are battling it out for second place in this stage though....Schleck is on the Spaniard's tail.

1647: Carlos Sastre crosses the finish line on the most prestigious mountain stage of the Tour...now we wait to see how much time he has made on Cadel Evans...

1645: Sam Sanchez launches himself out of the maillot jaune group. Andy Schleck and Denis Menchov follow him.

1644: "I might have been a little premature with my conclusion - Carlos Sastre may eek out a big enough gap to really worry Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck. Nice little turn of events, hope this gap gets bigger!"
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1641: Carlos Sastre is out of his saddle now and still working hard with under 2km to go. The gap is two minutes and 19 seconds now despite all this work from Cadel Evans, who knows the Spaniard is no mug when it comes to time trialling.

1640: That gap from Carlos Sastre to the group of contenders is two minutes and 13 seconds with 2.9km to go.

1639: It's absolute chaos on the slopes of l'Alpe d'Huez - hundreds of fans running across the road just inches away from the riders, who have got the narrowest of tunnels between them to negotiate.

Cadel Evans seems to have realied that Carlos Sastre is opening up a bit of a gap and he takes to the front of the group of favourites. The Australian is looking strong too.

1637: All the other contenders - maillot jaune Frank Schleck, Bernhard Kohl, Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov - are marking each other in the second group. No-one is attacking anymore, apart from Vladimir Efimkin, who just cannot help himself.

1635: Less than 5km to go to the summit of l'Alpe d'Huez and Carlos Sastre is one minute and 57 seconds clear at the front now. Cadel Evans has let him go, and is probably thinking he can make up any time lost here in Saturday's time trial.

1633: "Chris - you asked us at 11.30am-ish if this Tour would be won by the smallest gap since Lemond's eight seconds in 1989. I said wait until 4.30pm - the time is nigh and I think Cadel Evans has this one and, with the time trial to come, his victory is going to be comfortable."
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It is certainly looking good for Evans at the moment, unless Carlos Sastre has got something special up his sleeve.

1631: Carlos Sastre is now one minute and 30 seconds clear. How much can Cadel Evans allow that gap to grow?

1629: Carlos Sastre, who was 49 seconds down on maillot jaune Frank Schleck at the start of today's stage, is one minute and 17 seconds clear at the front now. If that stays the same he will be in yellow tonight.

Menchov, somehow, has rejoined the group containing the Schlecks, Kohl and Evans. Phew.

1628: Vladimir Efimkin has just tried to escape for the third time but, again, Andy Schleck covers. Christian Vandevelde is leading this group at the moment.

1627: Wow. I thought Denis Menchov was finished but he is actually closing the gap on the maillot jaune group.

1625: Carlos Sastre is 8.3km from the summit now and he has opened up a 55 second lead. There are still attacks being launched down the road behind him though - the latest sees Andy Schleck try to get clear but Christian Vandevelde quickly closes him down.

1623: Evans has recovered and is back on Frank Schleck's wheel but he is not looking too clever. How many of these attacks can he survive?

1622: Is this the decisive move? The Schleck brothers and Christian Vandevelde break away and suddenly open up a gap. Cadel Evans and Bernhard Kohl struggle to react.

1621: Frank Schleck is taking the race to Cadel Evans at the moment but the Australian is sticking with him so far.

1620: Carlos Sastre is 30 seconds clear of the five-man group containing the Schleck brothers, Christian Vandevelde, Vladimir Efimkin and Cadel Evans. Christopher Froome and Denis Menchov are another 14 seconds back.

1618: Another attack by Vladimir Efimkin, another reaction by Andy Schleck. Christian Vandevelde is up at the front too. Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck are also in this group of five riders but Menchov is off the back.

1617: Denis Menchov still struggling and he is being left trailing with 11km to go. Bernhard Kohl is leading the maillot jaune group, closely followed by Andy Schleck.

1616: Frank Schleck is the next to go...this time Cadel Evans reacts. Carlos Sastre is still 22 seconds clear at the front by the way. CSC's tactics mean they have got a rider up the road.

1614: Vladimir Efimkin is the next rider to attack, but he is quickly reeled in by Andy Schleck and Bernhard Kohl.

1613: Frank Schleck, Bernhard Kohl, Cadel Evans are all hanging in there under pressure from this early attack by Carlos Sastre but Denis Menchov looks in real trouble already and he is gradually being dropped.

1610: Carlos Sastre is turning up the gas and he has just passed Jerome Pineau. Sastre is on his own now but he is being slowly reeled in by Cadel Evans' team-mate Mario Aerts.

1609: The maillot jaune goup have hit the first ramp of l'Alpe d'Huez. It's steep. Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov are the first men to make their move and they have opened up a bit of a gap.

1608: "Feel I must step in and say a good word for Cadel Evans. He has stayed with his competitors, he's worn the MJ for several days, and he may wear it again come Saturday evening. Good man."
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1604: L'Alpe d'Huez is 13.8km long, with 21 switchbacks taking you up to the 1,850m summit. The record for an ascent stands at 37 minutes and 35 seconds, set by the late lamented Marco Pantani. Sounds easy, doesn't it? It isn't.

1601: Not much happening at the moment - like most of us, the riders are gearing themselves up for the start of l'Alpe d'Huez. CSC are back on the front of that yellow-jersey peloton, however, with Kurt-Asle Arvesen leading the way.

1559: A few suggestions via text on 81111 for pubs that are showing cycling which, depending where you are, will either be useful (if you live in London or Paris) or completely useless (anywhere else). All of them come heartily recommended, however.

O'Neil in Paris from Pete
The Dean Swift in SE1 from Davetar
Italia Uno cafe, Charlotte Street in London from TW

1554: Right then...10km until we reach the bottom of l'Alpe d'Huez.

1552: "This is brewing to be one of the great climbs in tour history or it is going to be a complete bore! I just hope that it is the former and someone manages to get the dull Cadel Evans off their wheel and make him do a bit of work himself! GO CSC!"
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1545: Five CSC riders are in that maillot jaune group with Frank Schleck - Fabian Cancellera, Jens Voight, Andy Schleck, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Carlos Sastre.

Jerome Pineau has caught Peter Velits, who has been out in front since the 3km mark - 177km ago. We have 30km to go - most of it uphill - and they are one minute and 49 seconds clear.

1542: "We are on the Alp waiting for the riders. Its sunny and hot. The crowd is buzzing. Let battle commence! Go CSC."
Anon, on l'Alpe d'Huez via text on 81111

Lucky old Anon! Enjoy...

1538: Alejandro Valverde is still in that maillot jaune group by the way. So is Christian Vandevelde, Sam Sanchez, Tadej Valjavec, Vladimir Efimkin and Damiano Cunego. With Andy Schleck here too, we have most of the top-15 overall all together.

1536: A quick update for you as the riders come down into the valley from the Croix de Fer and begin their approach along the flat to l'Alpe d'Huez.

Peter Velits is still out in front, about a minute clear now, but the real action is going to take place in the 40-strong maillot jaune group that is hot on his tail.

All the general classification contenders are present and correct despite a huge effort by the CSC team on the slopes of Croix de Fer that left the field strung out - so Frank Schleck, Bernhard Kohl, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov are all in there.

Evans has a couple of team-mates still with him but he can expect another sustained attack by the CSC crew on Huez. Can he stay with them, or will Schleck and Sastre, or even Kohl or Menchov, gain some time ahead of Saturday's time trial? It is going to be some finish as we wait to find out...

1532: "(Re 1525) What pub is showing the tour? I'd love to believe there is one but given our football-centric boozers I can't see it."
AP, not in a pub, via text on 81111

1530: More and more riders are rejoining the maillot jaune group on this descent. Fabian Cancellara looks happy to be one of them, and he is bolstering the CSC presence once again.

1529: "Bernhard Kohl seems to be the man to watch. Face for radio and legs for mountains!"
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1528: A couple of riders - none of the main contenders - are attacking from the front of the yellow jersey peloton as we descend from the Croix de Fer. Jerome Pineau is the latest to have a go.

1526: "Well CSC, it's down to the Alpe d'Huez. Unless you've got a masterful plan to break Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov and Bernhard Kohl, I'm not sure that these tactics are going to pay off."
Im_partial - TDF tops on 606
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1525: "We are going to sneek out of our meeting to go to the pub and watch the show down on Huez."
Andew in London via text on 81111

1520: A few riders have come back into the yellow jersey peloton, including Silence-Lotto's Johan Van Summeren.

"Cadel Evans has got two with him today by the looks of things, great work from them to be there when it matters. Have CSC under-estimated Lotto's reserves?"
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606
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1519: Hundreds of spectators are packing the side of the roads as Velits goes over the crest of the Croix de Fer and he deservedly gets a rousing reception. With 55km to go, he holds a one minute and 10 seconds gap over the yellow jersey peloton, but that is dropping all the time.

1516: Peter Velits is about to get to the top of the Croix de Fer - I bet he will be glad to see the back of that. He has got a descent of about 20km and about 10km flat before he reaches the foot of Huez. Not much time to get his breath back.

1514: "What time is today's stage expected to finish? I wont get home from work till 4.30!"
Sonny Holmes via text on 81111

Sonny, you might just be alright for the finish but try to get home earlier if you want to make sure of seeing all the action on l'Alpe d'Huez.

1510: Just to make it clear, all the big-hitters are still in this maillot jaune group. Frank Schleck, Bernhard Kohl, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov are all at the front end of it too. Let's not forget there are two other CSC riders - Andy Schleck and Kurt-Asle Arvesen - present too.

1508: Sorry, it's Mario Aerts, and not Dario Cioni, who is Cadel Evans' only team-mate in this yellow jersey group. They are one minute and 27 seconds behind Peter Velits and will be catching him sooner, rather than later.

1507: "Poor old Cadel Evans - the doom-mongers have got him both ways. If he can't stay with the maillot jaune group he's been 'broken'. If he can, he won't have enough left for the big time-trial on Saturday. I reckon he can, and he will; giant barbie on the Champs Elysees on Sunday!"
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1504: Cancellara and Voight have just fallen away. Looks like they have done their bit.

Dario Cioni is the only other Silence-Lotto rider left with Cadel Evans. That group is down to about 15 riders and they have just gobbled up Stefan Schumacher.

1501: Fabian Cancellera, Jens Voight, Andy Schleck, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck are the CSC riders in the yellow jersey group.

Cadel Evans has just lost another team-mate - Johan Van Summeren - and they are dropping like flies now.

1500: "My own question is whether or not Fabian Cancellara will end up squeezing Carlos Sastre as well who seemed to struggle in the Massif Central to hold his wheel.

Lotto look to have managed to get up a couple of men up there to help Cadel Evans which makes a change but can they hold on over the top which is still a few km to go?"
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1457: Out at the front, Peter Velits has dropped Stefan Schumacher so he is out on his own now. More and more riders are being dropped by the maillot jaune group too - that is down to 30 riders as they enter the final few km of the Croix de Fer.

1451: Still six CSC riders in the yellow jersey peloton, and still Fabian Cancellara at the front. They are still motoring too - they have just passed Ruben Perez and are now just three minutes behind the leading duo of Stefan Schumacher and Peter Velits.

1448: "(Re 1435) CSC are definitely waiting for the l'Alpe d'Huez, at the moment it's purely mind games. What must Evans be thinking looking around at how strong Frank Schleck and Carlos Sastre's support is?

"On the steepest slopes your mind is as important as your body."
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1445: The maillot jaune peloton is now down to 40 riders, including all the movers and shakers - Frank Schleck, Bernhard Kohl, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov.

Remy Di Gregorio, who was dropped by the leading riders on the way down from the Col du Telegraphe, has just been gobbled up by that pack and is heading out the back. Quickly.

1442: The bad news for Cadel Evans is that another of his Silence-Lotto team-mates, Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, has been dropped by the peloton.

The Australian is going to get even more isolated as CSC continue to string this one out. More and more riders are being strung out now - Fabian Cancellara is still leading the peloton, who are four minutes behind Schu and Velits.

1438: "(CSC team manager) Bjarne Riis looked downbeat last night. I think he knows they left it too late to break Cadel Evans."
Kiwi via text on 81111

1435: So are CSC playing this one right? Should they attack before the top of the Croix de Fer, or wait for l'Alpe d'Huez? At the moment it is more a war of attrition...

1429: The road up the Croix de Fer is getting steeper and steeper but it is still Fabian Cancellara leading the way at the front of the peloton. Six of his CSC team-mates, including the Schleck brothers and Carlos Sastre, are alongside him.

Off the front, Ruben Perez has slipped about 20 seconds behind Stefan Schumacher and Peter Velits. The gap from the escapees to the pack is about five minutes now.

1427: Ah ha! That's our first sighting of David Millar for a while. Not good news for the Scot though, he looks hot and tired, is being gradually dropped by the peloton and he is going to face a difficult day. Save something for Saturday's time trial please Dave...

1422: That gap is still coming down as the peloton up the pace - six minutes now.

1420: "If Cadel Evans does manage to stay with Frank Schleck today, how much is he going to have left for the time trial?"
Anon via text on 81111

1417: A few riders are dropping out of the back of the peloton - one of them is Jeremy Roy, who I mistakenly thought was in the early breakaway. Stuart O'Grady has dropped back through the field - his work is done - and Fabian Cancellara takes the strain in his place.

1411: It's still Stuart O'Grady at the front of the peloton, surrounded by more of his CSC team-mates. They are around seven minutes behind the trio of escapees.

1409: "Winning is not boring! Cadel Evans will stay in touch and will slaughter allcomers in the time trial. The Tour is about much more than mountains."
David in Bristol, via text on 81111

1406: Right, things are about to get tasty. The leaders are approaching the base of the Col de la Croix de Fer, which is 29km long and 2,067m high. Will CSC start to up the ante on its slopes? We shall see...

Some of you were asking about Remy di Gregorio. He got dropped by the leaders on the descent of the Col du Telegraphe.

1359: That gap from Stefan Schumacher, Ruben Perez and Peter Velits to the peloton has grown - up to seven minutes and 17 seconds.

1353: The gap from the front three to the peloton is up to six minutes now. That might grow a bit too while the pack take in their food.

1351: "Can't wait to see how this pans out today. I think Cadel Evans will crack today and blow the race wide open. Shame Mark Cavendish has left I was praying he' d make to Paris and win his fifth stage."
Allan from Ashford in Kent, via text on 81111

1349: The peloton are heading for the feedzone, looking to get some fuel in the tank ahead of the Croix de Fer and l'Alpe d'Huez. They are going to need it too.

1342: Stuart O'Grady of CSC is leading the peloton down this descent, giving directions to his team-mates when a corner looks tight. Most of them do.

1336: Remy di Gregorio has been dropped by the first breakaway group, which is now down to three. Stefan Schumacher, Ruben Perez and Peter Velits are now four minutes and seven seconds clear.

1334: "Here comes the first selection on the Col Du Telegraphe by the looks of things although I can't see it breaking apart on the descent to the Croix De Fer.

"I think we can hazard a guess that when Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt are the first two men in the line then the action is about to kick off properly."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606
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1330: George Hincapie is trying to rejoin the peloton. He has ripped his shorts and got some cuts and bruises apparently. He looks alright though.

1327:"Carlos Sastre and the Schlecks (Frank and Andy) should attack on the Croix de Fer today. Forget your team tactics and everything else, neither of them will win if they can't put Cadel Evans & Denis Menchov into their red zone a few times.

"But I don't really mind how it ends, so long as they all suffer like huskies along the way!"
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1325: The second group have just been gobbled up by the peloton - still led by the CSC team - and the main pack are now three minutes and twenty seconds behind the four leaders.

1320: Thomas Voeckler has been joined by Amets Txurruka, Carlos Barredo and Vincenzo Nibali to form a second group.

George Hincapie has had a fall by the way, but he has rejoined the race and is not badly hurt.

1315:"My new favourite rider is John-Lee Augustyn, hope he descends better in this new break!"
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Augustyn is back in the peloton as he comes down the Galibier - hopefully it will be safer for him that way!

1312: The gap between the front four - Stefan Schumacher, Remy Di Gregorio, Peter Velits and Ruben Perez - and the peloton is down to under four minutes now...it was almost six minutes halfway up the Galibier.

1310: Another Columbia rider, Hansen's team-mate Bernhard Eisel also came off at the start of the descent from Galibier. No harm done though...

The second group, which did contain Bernhard Kohl, is back with the peloton apart from Thomas Voeckler, who is trying to bridge the gap to the leaders.

1308: A few more tumbles to report - poor Ruben Perez lost the road as he took evasive action to avoid Remy Di Gregorio. And Australia's Adam Hansen also came off too. Both riders are back on their bikes, however, and Perez has caught up with the other three riders at the front.

1305: John-Lee Augustyn, who you might remember was first over Col de la Bonette-Resteford before taking a nasty tumble on his way down, is also in that second group of riders with Bernhard Kohl. Kohl took the 12 points for being the fifth man over the summit by the way.

1300: A few little splits in the peloton as they approach the summit. Bernhard Kohl is still clear, in a group of four riders with his Gerolsteiner team-mate Fabian Wegmann, Amets Txurruka, and Thomas Voeckler.

1259: Stefan Schumacher is the first man over the top of the Galibier and picks up the 20 points in the King of the Mountains section.

Bernhard Kohl breaks away from the pack to try to get himself some points, and is briefly caught on the hop by Thomas Voeckler, who is third in the mountains category at the moment. They soon reel him in though.

1255: A tiny bit of movement off the front of the peloton sees Bernhard Kohl (second overall and King of the Mountains leader) and a group of about a dozen riders open up a slight gap but it doesn't appear to be a serious bid to escape.

1254:"I know I get out of breath going over a speed bump and shouldn't criticise, but Cadel Evans is a boring wheel sucker I hope somebody blows him off the slopes of l'Alp D'Huez into oblivion never to be seen again."
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1250: The four riders off the front are about 3km away from the summit of the Galibier and have a lead of five minutes and 39 seconds. The peloton are still all together too.

1248: "This is where the trial begins. The contenders need to be near the front in the event that CSC decide to attack.

"I just can't see them doing it when the amount of time they need can be taken on l'Alpe d'Huez if they really want to push it there. Now they'll just be trying to take the edge off the opposition's freshness today."
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1244: I've just spotted a Scotland flag being waved on the slopes of the Galibier...hopefully that will give some encouragement to David Millar, wherever he is in the peloton. He just needs to survive today really, I'm sure he will be determined to put on a good showing in Saturday's time trial though.

1238: Just a reminder that (in the UK only) you can now listen to live commentary of the end of this stage from BBC Radio 5 Live's Peter Slater right here on this website. If you have any questions for Peter, post them on 606 (using the link at the top of the text commentary) or text in on 81111.

1231: CSC are still setting a decent pace at the front of the peloton but we have not lost anyone off the back yet. That will happen later, I'm sure...

1224: "I think people are forgetting the sheer amount of time that riders can lose on the mountains.

"Cadel Evans lost time on pretty much every mountain stage last year and by comparison didn't make nearly as much up in the time trials. He only finished second last year because Levi Leipheimer was penalised 10 seconds. CSC must be licking their lips."
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1218: Almost 65km into the stage and the sun is still shining. That gap from the front four to the peloton is coming down slightly and is hovering around the five minutes and 40 seconds mark.

1210: "I am still backing Cadel Evans, and agree that if he's still healthy and happy that he'll ride at his own pace and limit any losses, sticking as much as possible with Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck and Denis Menchov."
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1207: Those front four riders - Stefan Schumacher, Remy Di Gregorio, Peter Velits and Ruben Perez - are on their way up the Galibier. Just the 20.9km to pedal up the 2,645m to the summit. They are about five minutes and 45 seconds ahead.

1159: "Oooh, early show on the tempo from CSC. 40km in and they're raising the pace to keep the attacks under control? Seems a bit nervous to me."
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606
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1154: "(Re 1143) If Cadel Evans stays with Frank Schleck then the tour will be won by minutes, if he cracks then it could be the first tour in memory which will require a stage win in Paris!"
FatBoyW on 606
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1152: "(Re 1143) Ask us again at 4.30pm!!!!"
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1150: We are about 50km into this 210.5km stage and Schu's group of four riders are now four minutes and 47 seconds clear of the peloton. They are approaching the first serious climb of the day - the Galibier.

1143: With only 73 seconds separating the top five riders - Frank Schleck, Bernhard Kohl, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov - there is talk this is the tightest Tour in history. Do you think the eventual winning margin will be smaller than the eight seconds that gave Greg LeMond victory over Laurent Fignon (and his ponytail!) in 1989?

1139: "Don't discount Denis Menchov after yesterday. He's a faster time trial rider than his General Classification rivals, except Cadel Evans. Denis needs a flawless ride today though."
E via text on 81111

A good point about Denis...a real shame he lost so much time on the descent of the Col de la Bonette-Resteford but he is not out of it yet.

1135: Those CSC riders are still controlling things at the front of the peloton, in the same way they were for much of yesterday. They don't seem too bothered about the quartet of escapees, however, as they are now four minutes clear.

1133: "I thought Andy Schleck looked the best in the yellow jersey bunch yesterday, I think in a couple of years he will be a big contender for the win.

"As for today, my mouth is already watering at the prospect! I am starting to think that Cadel Evans can do enough to limit his losses and win the race in the time trial."
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1128: First over the top of the Cote de Saint-Marguerite was Stefan Schumacher and the peloton reached the summit two minutes and 25 seconds later.

Schu was in a group of five yesterday before going it alone for a couple of hours and the way he is leading from the front, it looks as though he has something similar in mind today.

1123: "Can see Frank Schleck and Bernhard Kohl really going for it today, Cadel Evans has got to keep them in touching distance. The outcome of the Tour will be a lot clearer by the end of the stage."
Jack, in London via text on 81111

1115: "What a day yesterday! A truly amazing descent from the Col de la Bonette-Resteford. The man who's in yellow tonight after such a gruelling day will be the Tour winner. CSC are looking very strong."
Barry Gale, via text on 81111

A brave statement from Barry. As discussed below, if Cadel Evans is still within a few seconds of yellow going into Saturday's time trial, he will fancy his chances. Let battle commence!

That gap to the four escapees is over two minutes now by the way.

1111: Those front four riders - Stefan Schumacher, Remy Di Gregorio, Peter Velits and Ruben Perez are about one minute and 20 seconds clear.

Maillot Jaune Frank Schleck has just stopped at the side of the road for a 'call of nature'.

1105: "This is the day that will determine yellow , I hope CSC have a good day and Frank Schleck can put a few minutes into Cadel Evans - it will need a lead of three or four minutes at least. They have the team to do it but do they have the legs?"
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1059: Stefan Schumacher - he of the brave solo break yesterday - has joined those three riders off the front. With about 20km gone, they are about 20 seconds clear of the peloton at the moment, with more riders trying to get across and join them.

It's a beautiful day in the Alps by the way. I don't think the riders will appreciate the sun too much though - it looks like it's going to be an absolute scorcher.

1054: "It's maybe an exaggeration to say the Tour starts here, but today is fascinating. Make no mistake, CSC have to attack, attack again, attack some more and attack one last time to have a chance of taking time off of Cadel Evans."
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1049: Sorry, it's actually Remy Di Gregorio of FDJ in this breakaway, not Jeremy Roy.

1048: The riders rolled out of the neutral zone a few minutes ago and there has already been a breakaway of three riders - Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Peter Velits (MRM) and Ruben Perez (Euskatel).

1045: Today's 17th stage is a 210.5km hike that starts in Embrun and ends at the top of the legendary L'Alpe-d'Huez.

Things are still wide open in the race for overall victory and this stage will have a big say in who triumphs in Paris on Sunday.

Maillot Jaune Frank Schleck simply has to gain more time on Cadel Evans ahead of Saturday's time trial but there are plenty of other riders still in with a shout.

Bernhard Kohl and Schleck's CSC team-mate Carlos Sastre are still handily placed, while Denis Menchov and Christian Vandevelde cannot be ruled out either despite losing time yesterday.

1042 BST: Morning all. Well, we're still in the mountains for one more day - and what a day it promises to be.

see also
Schleck takes yellow from Evans
20 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cavendish out of Tour de France
20 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2008 preview
02 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cycling on the BBC
11 Jul 08 |  Cycling


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