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606: DEBATE
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By Pranav Soneji

1622: Thanks to all of you for your contributions over the course of stage 19, some great posts to keep me entertained, hopefully I've returned the favour. However, it's all about tomorrow's time-trial at Cérilly. My money is on Sastre. Chris Whyatt will be your guide tomorrow. Adieu.

1618: "Nice result for Chavanel there - how many times had he been out front in this Tour? I've lost count. Ciolek got third? Those Columbia riders have a lot of speed. Good old Zabel in 4th - he's a big lion."
Im_partial - TDF tops on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1609: Chavanel is in tears - go on son, let it all out, the public will love it. He becomes the second Cofidis rider to win a stage on the 2008 Tour. Team Columbia's Gerald Ciolek pips German compatriot Erik Zabel at the line to take third with a time of one minute 13 seconds behind Chavanel, while Gerolsteiner's Heinrich Haussler takes fifth, with Leonardo Duque of Cofidis in sixth.

1607: Jeremy Roy makes his move about 800m out but Chavanel is in control, peering over his right shoulder and the Cofidis rider is utterly jubilant as he crosses the finishing line. He thoroughly deserved that.

1606: The finish is a long, flat run-in - we're inside the final kilometre.

1603: The gap is down to two minutes 17 seconds with four kilometres to go, so it's game over for the chasing group, we have 2.3km to go. Chavanel has also bagged the most aggressive rider award for the 19th stage.

1559: Nine kilometres to go, so it looks certain France will be celebrating a stage win once again. But who has the faster legs in the final metres? The 5 Live team say Roy doesn't exactly have great sprinting pedigree, so they're tipping Chavanel to cross the line first. The Cofidis rider deserves a stage win after all the breakaways he has been involved in over the past few weeks.

1552: The Milram team are working hard to give their sprinter Erik Zabel a decent run at the finish line, along with Quick step, who have Gert Steegmans in their ranks. However, the peloton looks to have bunched up again, which looks as if, like on Thursday, the teams have given up the chase. The gap has contracted to three minutes.

1545: The leading duo cross the second sprint point at Commentry at the 143.5km mark. The points go thus:

1. Jeremy Roy (FDJ) 6 points
2. Sylvain Chavanel (COF) 4 points
3. Gianpaolo Cheula (BAR) - 3:25 seconds

Looks like Roy and Chavanel may have done enough to see this through to the finish, although that is a bit of a churlish statement which could bite me horribly in the backside in the next 20 minutes or so...

1541: With 20km to go, the gap closes to three minutes 30 seconds. The 5 Live team are lamenting the absence of Mark Cavendish, who could have added a fifth stage win had he not retired in the final 200m of the 19th stage.

1532: Apologies for the cyber silence, I had to run and warm up my lunch as I was running on empty. However, the headlines are pretty much the same. The breakaway duo of Sylvain Chavanel and Jeremy Roy have a four minutes 24 seconds lead over the peloton with 30km to go. Apologies to Im_partial - TDF tops on 606, whose comment at 1510 I wrongly attributed to FatboyW.

1525: "Its going to be tight for the catch today, the 10k to get 1 minute rule of thumb suggests a very close run thing. The green jersey appears to be done and dusted as long as Freire is anywhere near the front when they arrive at the finish, tomorrow is null for that comp and then there is only the final stage left, which again he should be in the top 10 for and that will be it."
Jmb on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1515: There doesn't seem to be too much movement from the main sprint contenders' teams, who seem to be ambling along without too much intent. Meanwhile, Juan Antonio Flecha, Gert Steegmans and former maillot jaune wearer Romain Feillu are almost three minutes behind the peloton.

1510: Fatboy (see 1452), I reckon it might go to one of the sprinters who hasn't had a win yet. If Robbie is knackered, then perhaps not him, but what about Ciolek (Columbia), Feillu (Agri) or Fischer (Leaky)? They've been close on occasion, but nothing yet. Sentiment on Zabel, but I don't suppose his 38-yr old legs are quick enough.
"I reckon Hushovd is still suffering from his ailments, his results have been average for him."
Im_partial - TDF tops on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1502: The peloton is four minutes behind Roy and Chavanel at the 116km point. The big guns are obviously saving all energies and endeavours for the big day in the time-trial tomorrow, or are they? Surely no-one is going to attack in the closing stages, are they?

1452: "Dull today - so who's going to win the gallop and who can nick the green from Friere? For the romantics out there how about Cadel attacking on the final pimple of the tour!!!!"
FatBoyW on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1446: Sylvain Chavanel takes the points after crossing the sprint checkpoint at Chanetelle first. The points go thus:

1. Sylvain Chavenel (COF) 6 points
2. Jeremy Roy (FDJ) 4 points
3. Erik Zabel (MRM) 2 points

1444: The peloton is grinding down its deficit on the breakaway French duo, with the Liquigas team heading the pack. The gap is now four minutes 20 seconds.

1438: Chavanel and Roy head to the first sprint point at 102.5km in Chanetelle.

1434: Jeremy Roy gets a well-earned drink from the Francaise de Jeux car before making way for the Cofidis lot to do the same for Chavanel. The pair now have a five minute lead over the rest with 67km to go before the finishing line at Montluçon.

1427: Chavanel and Roy now have a lead of four minutes after crossing the 85km stage, with the yellow jersey of Carlos Sastre four minutes and 27 seconds behind the French duo.

1422: The French breakaway duo have seriously stepped on the gas in the last five kilometres - Chavenel and Roy now have a two minute 44-second lead over the rest.

1417: The ever-courageous Chavanel, along with Roy, have opened up a 45-second gap over the peloton at the 84km stage as the lunch bags are dangled by faithful team personnel on the side of the road.

1415: "Sylvain Chavanel has probably spent as much, if not more, time than Schumacher pointlessly wearing himself out in breaks, chases and getting air time for his sponsors. As for Schumi, I can't get past the fact that his odd-shaped head makes his crash hat look like a spoon being balanced on a boiled egg. The rumour is that Red Bull are sizing up taking over the title sponsorship on the Gerolsteiner team next year but maybe Schumi wants some of that Russian love."
Alex 5 Live on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1412: Chavanel is joined by compatriot Jeremy Roy of the Francaise de Jeux team and the pair have a 20-second lead over the rest.

1406: The leading quartet have been usurped and Cofidis' Sylvain Chavanel has attacked and taken the lead with a four-second lead over the chasing pack. He's got 75km to go if he wants to see this stage through, but don't be surprised if we see a few more attacks - and it looks like Liquigas will be the team to do that.

1357: How about a moment of reflection for Stefan Schumacher? Has anyone made more breaks during the tour than the German? And not forgetting his impressive efforts in the first individual time-trial in Cholet. He's definitely putting himself on the window as his contract with Gerolsteiner is set to expire very soon.

1354: The leading four of Egoi Martinez (Eus), Alessandro Ballan (Lam), Stefan Schumacher (Gst) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Btl) head into Vichy, the former capital of France during the Nazi occupation between 1940-44. The peloton is goes into single file through the narrow streets.

1345: "Carlos Baredo seems to going for the world record 'water bottles stuffed down your shirt'."
TheGSgirl on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1340: Liquigas and Caisse d'Epargne are intent on hauling the gap between the peloton and the breakaway quartet. The two teams have cut the deficit to 40 seconds.

1338: A quick update on the weather in central France. It's a warm 25 degrees but there is a slight chance of some rain during the day, according to French weather bods.

1335: "I'm not sure what's been the most inept piece of riding so far this Tour, any nominations. I'm tempting to throw up Cavendish getting knocked off by a football for the sheer absurdity of it all. That's of course in the absence of people running into dogs which was last year's best entertainment."
Alex 5 Live on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1330: Yapo, hang your head in shame. "Lancing Queen" by Abba (via TEXT 81111). I think I just heard 50,000 heads simultaneously smash their keyboards.

1325: The leading quartet gain another 10 seconds on the rest as they reach the 40km mark.

1321: The tour songs (see 1148) are flying in thick and fast. "How about that famous American folk song - 'This (Floyd) Landis your land' by Woody Guthrie" says smiler_inc on 606, while Paul in Manchester via TEXT 8111 goes a little off subject (previous Tour cyclists) with "Are you Cunego my way?" by Lenny Kravitz.

I have "Trompe (Greg) Le Monde" by the Pixies, which I'm secretly quite proud as it embodies my hardcore indie roots. The album also has my all-time favourite Pixies song "Motorway to Roswell" on it too. If you're struggling for some new music and have never discovered the Pixies, two words - DO IT! Get involved with more songs via 606 or TEXT 81111.

1314: The leading quartet stretch their lead to just over a minute.

1309: The Credit Agricole team head the peloton. Quickstep's Gert Steegmans attempts to break free, but is quickly usurped by the majority.

1304: Stefan Schumacher takes the first points on offer at the top of La Criox-du-Sud - the points go thus:
1. Stefan Schumacher (GST) 4 points
2. Pierrick Fedrigo (BTL) 3 points
3. Alessandro Ballan (LAM) 2 points
4. Egoi Martinez (EUS) - 1 point

1300: "Should be the most dull day of the tour thus far I imagine. Not looking good for Sastre given the "hills" on the time trial are mere pimples, not likely to sap Evans noticeably, and the trial distance is almost 2x the distance than previous TTs where Sastre has lost time to Evans. C'est la vie, I suppose we'd say..."
Pete Harris on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1253: Four riders have broken free of the pack, they are Egoi Martinez (Eus), Alessandro Ballan (Lam), Stefan Schumacher (Gst) and Pierrick Fedrigo (Btl). The quartet have opened up a 30-second lead over the peloton. Schumacher is a former race leader, whose crash 100m before the end of stage six at Superbesse saw the end of his brief yellow jersey spell.

1247: The peloton heads for the category three climb at La Criox-du-Sud, which starts at 11km and goes on for 6.5km. It's still all bunched up right now.

1244: What have I started? "Hinault Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross suggests Damiano (not Cunego) in Manchester via TEXT 81111 (see 1148 comment).

1242: Quite a bit of bustling in the first few kilometres, but no-one has made a successful attempt to break away, put the pace is pretty fast.

1235: Apologies to all you texters, who inundated me with the Dancing Naked Indurain (you know who you all are), while David D via TEXT 81111 has come up with "Lord, won't you buy me a Merckxedes Benz' by Janis Joplin. This is my kind of inane chat. If you tuned in for incisive, in-depth Tour de France coverage, that will come once we get some serious action on the roads to Montluçon. I hope...

1231: To business - the flag has been waved and the stage has started.

1230: My new favourite - Dancing Naked Indurain - Blue Pear (see entry at 1148) from toffeestevo, the 606er who started this whole shebang off. That is the standard to beat people.

1215: The riders must contend a category three climb at La Criox-du-Sud at 17.5km, before a slightly less demanding category four climb at Cote de la Croix-Rouge at 42km.

1210: "Money Merckx The World Go Round. Well it works for me if I say it in Brendan Foster's accent. "
Alex 5 Live on 606
Your thoughts on the action

I'm truly gutted I didn't think of that. Schoolboy error from Soneji, like not checking your chair before you sit down, only to discover a drawing pin strategically placed in the middle of the seat. Happens to me everyday.

1205: "Montlucon is of course significant in Tour terms as the hometown of 1956 winner Roger Walkoviak, a rider who you can view whichever way fits your preferred slant. He's a surprise winner in the absence of the man most expected to ride and win (Anquetil), a one-time winner and a winner without a stage victory.

"It's quite fitting that this year's Tour should pass through his hometown, given the way things have panned out thus far."
Alex 5 Live on 606
Your thoughts on the action

1200: Some fresh-in news - pre-race title contender Damiano Cunego has withdrawn from the Tour following his crash during Thursday's stage between Bourg d'Oisans and St Etienne. The Italian, who rides for the Lampre team, suffered a badly grazed chin after a collision with Philippe Gilbert and Alexandre Botcharov 33km into the 18th stage. After languishing at the back of the peloton with his team-mates rallying around him, Cunego was taken to hospital in St Etienne for further treatment before announcing his withdrawal from the race.

1148: A few weeks ago, during the first few stages of the Tour, a few 606ers came up with the ingenious idea of sticking riders' names in various songs and toffeesteveo has just come up with "Baby its (Bernard) Kohl outside" by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews in honour of the Gerolsteiner rider. However, with a potentially not-so-exciting day today, can anyone come up with songs with riders from the past to pass along the time? I'm desperately trying to think of a song with something that remotely sounds like Merckx...

1132: Apologies for the slight time lapse between posts, I had to run and get my breakfast so I had enough brain food to keep you all entertained throughout the day. The race will start at 1230 BST, so plenty of time to get your thoughts in on 606 or via the wonderful world of text messages.

1109: "I expect the big guns to do absolutely nothing today. Mainly because they won't want to (fairly sure the only objective Lotto and CSC have right now is 'get our man to the finish line safely'). But also because the baroudeurs won't let them. Lots of teams that haven't won yet will see today as their last chance.

"Steegmans for instance promises he will attack today (in the tour diary he keeps for the newspaper I work at)."
TheGSgirl on 606 Your thoughts on the action

1055 BST: Hmmm, intriguing. We could be set for a low-key day in the saddle today with the key 53km time-trial on Saturday, a stage which many observers believe will settle the finishing places on the podium in Paris.

However, the riders still have to negotiate the relatively climb-free 165.5km route from Roanne to Montluçon, to the joy of green jersey wearer Oscar Freire and his sprinting buddies.

Points are on offer at Chanetelle at 102.5km and Commentry at 143.5km



see also
Sastre takes over as Tour leader
23 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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