Not a bad first day in the mountains then? We're staying in the Pyrenees tomorrow too...travelling from Andorra La Vella to St Girons - more drama? You betcha...catch you then, from around 1100 BST.
1655: TOUR DE FRANCE 2009 AFTER STAGE SEVEN:
Yellow jersey: Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita/AG2R)
Green jersey: Mark Cavendish (GB/Team Columbia)
Polka dot jersey: Brice Felliu (Fra/Agritubel)
White jersey: Tony Martin (Ger/Team Columbia)
1650: Catalunya Radio's Ernest Macia at Arcalis:
"Alberto Contador, the strongest one. Lance Armstrong, the strongest two. Nocentini gatecrashed the party, though."
Little_Panda82 on 606:
"What a ride from Wiggins! Who says Brits can't climb? (well no one - but they thought it).
Rinaldo Nocentini collects the yellow jersey from two extremely pretty girls - it's his first ever Tour too, can't be a bad feeling can it? He's also the first Italian to lead the Tour for nine years. Not a bad day's work all in all...
Definitely worth repeating the fact that Bradley Wiggins came home in the same group as Lance Armstrong - a terrific performance by the Brit, who is only 46 seconds behind Nocentini in the general classification and lies fifth overall.
1634: OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE SEVEN:
1. Rinaldo Nocentini 25hrs 44mins 32secs
2. Alberto Contador + 6secs
3. Lance Armstrong + 8
Wow! What an amazing show of strength by Alberto Contador and a real statement of intent for the rest of the Tour - that will have surprised a few of you on 606 who were not expecting much to happen today. As for Fabian Cancellara? He limped over the line, looking absolutely exhausted - still a great effort by 'Spartacus' though.
Right, let me sum up this very quickly. Brice Feillu
won the stage, Rinaldo Nocentini
is in yellow. Alberto Contador
attacked at the very end of the climb to the top of Arcalis and beat his Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong
to the line by 22 seconds, enough for him to leapfrog the seven-time champion and move second in the General Classification.
Contador powers to the finish, and as he crosses the line it is Britain's Bradley Wiggins who is leading the chasing pack behind him. Armstrong crosses the line 22 seconds behind his Astana team-mate, who moves above him in the general classification, but it is Rinaldo Nocentini
who is in yellow tonight.
This is an amazing attack by Alberto Contador, who is out of his saddle and pedalling hard, although Cadel Evans is trying to close the gap.
Brice Feillu lifts his arms in jubilation as he crosses the line to win the stage but who will win the yellow jersey? We are about to find out....
Contador has left Armstrong trailing, and the American is not trying to chase him - either that or he can't - the Texan is staying on Andy Schleck's wheel instead.
Alberto Contador attacks!
French rider Brice Feillu
has just 1km to go to reach the summit of Arcalis - he's looking good for the stage win now...
Cadel Evans attacks off the front of the peloton, followed by Armstrong and Contador. The Aussie has stretched the pack out but not done any damage, in fact he may just help put Lance in yellow.
Brice Feillu has a lead of about 20 seconds on the breakaway riders who are chasing him, with the Armstrong/Contador group five minutes further back. He wants the stage win. Let's not discount Rinaldo Nocentini, either, he is three minutes and 13 seconds behind Lance Armstrong in the general classification and still around four minutes ahead of the Texan on the road. He won't have given up on yellow yet...
pigeons in the park on 606:
"Oh Fabian! He looks like he's in so much pain. I was so hoping for him to stay in yellow. I knew it was unlikely, but still..."
1608: Brice Feillu
out on his own now at the front of the course - just over 4km left now and the rest of the breakaway group are scattered behind him. All eyes are on Armstrong and Contador at the front of the peloton now, however, because - surely - one of those two will be overall leader in about 25 minutes time? It won't be Cancellara, that is for sure. Will we see either of the Astana riders attack?
A few attacks and counter-attacks in that front eight and they are splitting now - won't help them in the long run. Armstrong
still looking strong at the front of the peloton and leading the chase himself but Contador
is right on his wheel, with Cadel Evans
also in the vicinity. Not such good news for Fabian Cancellara
, who has gone backwards through the peloton and has just been dropped - someone else will be in yellow tonight - Armstrong? Just over 5km left and the peloton is within five minutes and 10 seconds of the leaders.
1602: From Nick, from London but in Andorra, via text on 81111:
"The peloton have just passed, what an amazing spectacle, Senor Amstrong looked incredibly strong at the front."
There are riders strung out all over the slopes of Arcalis now. At the front, Aliksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), has been dropped by the lead bunch, which leaves Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse D'Epargne), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Brice Feillu (Agritubel) and Johannes Frohlinger (Milram) on their own. They are 7.2km
from the finish, and they have a lead of five minutes and 31 seconds
on the peloton, which is being led by Lance Armstrong
and his Astana team-mates.
1556: From Dave skiving in Newcastle, via text on 81111:
"Chris, is Cav in the main group? Is anyone likely to finish outside the max time and get booted off the tour?"
Don't worry about Cav - he is plodding up the hill but will make sure he gets over the line in time.
1552: BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"Even if we don't see fireworks today, we should at least see who has come to the mountains in form. Carlos Sastre (the 2008 Tour winner) seems to be sitting a long way back in the lead group compared to some of the other contenders as Astana continue to bang out the tempo on the front.
"Could the break stay away? I'm not sure they can. Seven minutes and dust isn't a lot of margin over 13kms of climb."
All the big-hitters in the General Classification are still together - no moves from Armstrong or Contador yet today, and maillot jaune Fabian Cancellara
is hanging tough with them too - he might just stay in yellow for an eighth successive day at this rate, although Rinaldo Nocentini
, who began the day three minutes and 13 seconds behind the Swiss, is still part of that breakaway group and is the Tour's virtual leader.
Right then, we are approaching the crunch of stage seven, the longest of this year's Tour. The breakaway group of nine riders (containing no contenders for the General Classification) are still together and the gap to the peloton is seven minutes and 23 seconds with 12.7km to go. By the way, Astana's Levi Leipheimer
was another of the riders involved in that Cav crash from earlier but, like the Manxman, he suffered no ill-effects - in fact he quickly motored back into the main bunch.
1540: From Catherine from Belfast, via text on 81111:
"Well worth the drive from Belfast to Andorra just to see Mark Cavendish pass within five feet of me!"
Looks like David Millar
is paying the price for his efforts yesterday. He's been dropped by the peloton and is coming home in his own little Gruppetto. Bradley Wiggins
is in the main bunch, however, and near the front too - he's been working on his climbing so will be interesting to see how he fares here.
Less than 18km
to go now and that gap is seven minutes and 48 seconds
- the climb only gets steeper from this point on but the front nine have stayed together brilliantly, and are giving themselves every chance. They have been out on their own almost since the stage started at around 1000 BST but the question is whether they have got enough left in the tank to finish this off. The entire Astana team is at the front of the peloton now, and they look stronger than ever.
1530: Catalunya Radio's Ernest Macia in Andorra:
"See you Spain! Le Tour now in Andorra, a country known for its banks, and the price of sugar, tobacco, butter and the brown goods. Nocentini is giving his all, but he is not good uphill. A boy cries when the group enters Andorra. A man next to him mutters: 'I love children, especially when they cry, for then someone takes them away'."
What's this? Mark Cavendish
is down after a crash! It doesn't look like a bad one, though, and the Manx Missile is back on his bike and doesn't seem badly hurt - no visible cuts, or rips in that green lycra anyway!
Astana, Silence-Lotto and Garmin are the teams driving the peloton forward. That gap is still coming down - all the big-hitters in the General Classification are present, Armstrong, Contador and even Fabian Cancellara, who has suffered two punctures today. The leading group are just under nine minutes
clear, with 24km
The roads in Andorra are hardly packed with spectators so far but I suppose that's down to the fact that a) there are not many people who live there and b) everyone who cares is at the top of the Arcalis at the finish line. I know I would be. The gap is coming down now folks - the front nine now just over 10 minutes clear...
There is 32km
to go now until the leaders reach the top of Arcalis and the finish line, and the gap is 11 minutes and 25 seconds
. It looks very much like the stage win is going to come from the nine riders in the breakaway. More drama could come further back down the road regarding the yellow jersey but it's also possible one of the nine escapees could be wearing it tonight - expect big changes at the top end of the General Classification in any case.
1459:From Patrick, via text on 81111:
"Chris, how come Cavendish is so far back when he has won stages and has the green jersey?"
Hi Patrick - the main reason Cav is so far back in the General Classification is because of his performance in the individual time trial in stage one. He's only going to go backwards in the mountains too because he's no climber. His stage wins get him points for the green jersey but don't necessary buy him time because they tend to come in stages where the whole of the peloton (or most of them) finish together. The exception was on Monday when Cav's team instigated a breakaway and split the main bunch before the end.
1454: Yaroslav Popovych
is taking water bottles to his Astana team-mates - only problem is that they are still at the front of the peloton, he is at the back. There is only 41km still to go now - all uphill of course - and the breakaway riders have a cushion of more than 12 minutes.
1450: From Rob in London, via text on 81111:
"Chris, after years of watching the tour every summer finally got my dad involved and after continuous questioning he's finally stumped me. When finishing a stage what are the cut-off points to decide if you get the peloton's time or not if you're just off the back? I see a lot of riders towards the back rolling over the line with splits forming."
The rule is that riders get the same time unless there is a full second between them.
And a reminder that Rinaldo Nocentini
is still our virtual maillot jaune - he started the day three minutes and 13 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (who has had two punctures).
Actually, the gap is getting bigger as the front nine approach La Seu d'Urgell at the base of Andorre Arcalis. Just over 50km to go and they have a lead of 12 minutes and 11 seconds. Who is in the front nine? Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse D'Epargne), Aliksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Brice Feillu (Agritubel) and Johannes Frohlinger (Milram).
Maggitt on 606:
"What is going on in your commentary? First, Cancellara is 'answering a call of nature', then he is 'whizzing downhill' and then 'What's yellow and goes downhill like a rocket? Fabian Cancellara!'. Too much information, surely?!"
Panic over. Cancellara back with the peloton now though, hopefully no more punctures for him today. The front nine are still 11-and-a-half minutes clear by the way - under 60km to go now, will that gap be enough?
Uh-oh. Another puncture for Fabian Cancellara - another rear-wheel change needed. He had just rejoined the back of the peloton too...
What's yellow and goes downhill like a rocket? Fabian Cancellara! He's clearly a class act when it comes to descents, but it's proving a bit tricky for him to negotiate the other team cars - he's going a lot faster than them and is trying to weave in and out of the traffic rather than slowing down...I wouldn't recommend that tactic on my commute to work!
1414: BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"Excellent, this means we get to see Fab showing off his descending skills. He is one of the fastest in the peloton. Last year on the descent to the foot of Alpe D'Huez he pulled back 2 minutes he had lost on the ascent."
Ha! An impressive bit of multi-tasking by maillot jaune Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss star picks up a rear-wheel puncture and falls back to the Saxo Bank team car for a wheel change. While that is being sorted out, he answers a call of nature - very practical. He's back on his bike now and whizzing downhill, looking to get back in touch with the peloton.
SewerSide on 606:
"Re 1334, Andorrans tend to be good skiiers, unsurprisingly, I think the steep climbs would put off any potential cyclists. I do remember one player from their football team against England not long ago, his name was Andorra."
Less than 80km to go now, and the front nine are still enjoying the descent to Organya...then the hard work starts again. The gap is 11 minutes and 43 seconds at the last check, and Astana are still at the front of the peloton. Oh, and the sun is still out. Not a lot has changed in the last hour or so really, although I have learned a bit more about Andorran sports stars thanks to you lot.
djlovesyou on 606:
"Think the lead group is being comfortably managed by the peloton at the moment. It may seem big, but it'll disappear quicker than a cake at fat camp once the last climb starts."
Yep, Christophe Riblon
is unstoppable on the climbs right now - he collects another four King of the Mountains points and leads that category with 26, nine points ahead of Spain's Egoi Martinez who has also collected all of his points today.
are still doing a lot of the work at the front of the peloton but that gap hasn't started coming down yet - still more than 11 minutes. I wonder if Christophe Riblon can win more King of the Mountains points at the next climb...the front nine are closing in on the Port del Comte now, which is at the 136.5km mark of today's 224km stage, after that it is downhill for a long stretch...before Arcalis, of course!
1349: Catalunya Radio's Ernest Macia in Barcelona:
"Less than 100 kilometers to go. The road becomes progressively steeper, the temperature steadily hotter, and the fans who witness Le Tour for the first time, growingly sceptical. 'They are not human - nine men have been away since the first mile and are still ahead?! My lung capacity could fit into a matchbox - without taking out the matches'."
1340: Christophe Riblon
is certainly proving to be King of the Mountains
so far today, he's just taken his third climb of the day after being first to the top of Col de Serra-Seca - and is now leading the standings in that category with 22 points in total, all earned today
Lots of Andorran flags being waved on the slopes of Col de Serra-Seca. I can't think of one Andorran cyclist, have there ever been any in Le Tour, or do they just provide the mountains? Mind you, I cannot think of any Andorran sports stars full stop.
1330: From Sun01, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1233) Let's not get too carried away with David Millar. His team are a one trick pony ie team trial time specialists. They have nothing further to offer this Tour. Millar's solo run was an ideal vehicle for maximum TV exposure for his sponsor and it's probably the only one they'll have as the Tour moves along."
The 'good' news for the front nine is that they have just 100km
of the 224km to go now. The bad news is that is is all uphill or, more accurately, upmountain. They are still making their way to the top of Col de Serra-Seca and the gap to the peloton is still around 11-and-a-half minutes.
1320: BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"(Re 1302) I think the domestique bottle-carrying award does exist at The Vuelta. I seem to remember a record of 22 bottles but can't recall whether that was in a single trip back to the cars or in a single stage.
If the former, then that is mighty impressive. Always alarms me how calmly they manage to stuff half a dozen bottles into their jersey while rolling along at 40km/h."
A bit of chat from you lot earlier about Cadel Evans
- the runner-up in the last two Tours - and how he might have to change the habit of a lifetime and attack today, to make up for the time he has lost so far this year (he is two minutes and 59 seconds down on Cancellara and Armstrong). The Australian, who is 1/16th Welsh (his great grandfather was Welsh) has not had a great day so far but has recovered from a puncture and is back in the main bunch.
Just a reminder of who the nine riders in the breakaway are: Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse D'Epargne), Aliksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Brice Feillu (Agritubel), Johannes Frohlinger (Milram). Nocenti
is still the virtual maillot jaune - he started the day three minutes and 13 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara. The front pack are now about halfway through today's marathon 224km stage and on the slopes of the Col de Serra-Seca, which is the first Cat-1 climb of this year's Tour.
Verzino on 606:
"I feel that maybe there aren't enough jerseys and prizes on offer in Le Tour. Here are some I have come up with: Prince of Descents
- Self explanatory Grumpy Guts
- Moodiest at the post race interview. Evans, Armstrong and Cavendish are leading contenders. Uber Domestique
- Rider who handed out the most drinks on today's stage. The 'I get knocked down....' Suit
- The rider with the worst injuries to finish the stage gets a suit of armour to wear the next day."
1259: From Guy in Cornwall, via text on 81111:
"I think it is brilliant for cycling in the UK that Cav, David Millar and Bradley Wiggins are getting so much exposure! Lets hope that Cav can keep the green jersey today and for the full 3 weeks!"
Guy, you forgot about Charles Weglius...he's doing us proud too.
The peloton have reached the summit of Port de Solsona, around 12 minutes behind the leading group, who have just had the first intermediate sprint of the day. Jose Ivan Gutierrez
won the six points, followed by Aliksandr Kuschynski (4pts) and Egoi Martinez (2pts).
1248: From Andy, at work but about to leave for school Sports Day, via text on 81111:
"Is Brice Feillu a pseudonym or Romain's brother?"
Brice is indeed Romain's younger brother - both of them are on the Agritubel team this year - and is 113th in the general classification overall, two minutes and 11 seconds ahead of Romain, who is 131st.
France's Christophe Riblon has just taken four 'King of the Mountains' points for winning the Cat-3 climb to Port de Solsona (at the 97km mark). The AG2R man also won the earlier Cat-4 at Cote de Montserrat too. Plenty more points up for grabs today though - Another Frenchman, Stephane Auge
, is currently wearing the polka dot jersey but that is likely to change tonight.
A couple of you texted in earlier to ask why David Millar actually lost time in yesterday's stage after his
heroic attempt to claim the stage victory.
Sadly for the Scot, although he was only caught in the final couple of kilometres, he dropped off the back of the peloton and was given his own separate time, enough to push him out of the top 10 of the General Classification. Especially harsh considering his bravery.
are still doing a lot of legwork at the top of the peloton, and have brought the gap to the leaders down to just over 12 minutes. The nine breakaway riders have done around 97km of the 224km course but the bad news for them is that it only gets harder - and steeper - from here.
Just a quick word on Mark Cavendish
, who is still in the green jersey of course. There are three intermediate sprints today, the first at Solsona at the 105km mark, but the breakaway group will hoover up the points available there. The other two are on the slopes of Arcalis, and of course there are more available at the finish - but the amount of climbing in this stage will probably mean the Manx Missile and his main rival Thor Hushovd
won't feature in the mixer today.
Sparta on 606:
"Anyone think that the winner is going to come from the current break? Rinaldo Nocentini, Jose Ivan Gutierez and Egoi Martinez are good riders but I can't see any of them winning really."
winnerfrogman on 606 points out that Martinez is the best climber of the nine riders out in front, so maybe he has got a chance, but the gap is coming down slightly already...going to be very tough for them to stay out there.
BBC Sport's Phil Sheehan on Twitter:
"Hmm, maybe my tip for today - David Moncoutie - wasn't so good after all. A list of 21 riders injured yesterday has appeared and he was among them"
Just a reminder that you will be able to listen to the climax of today's exciting mountain-top finish via our live stream from
which starts at 1415 BST
. Oh, and if you are outside the UK then worry not, you can listen too.
The breakaway nine are: Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse D'Epargne), Aliksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Jerome Pineau (Quick Step), Brice Feillu (Agritubel), Johannes Frohlinger (Milram). The gap is still over 14 minutes but several Astana riders have been together at the front of the peloton, including Lance...they might be looking to close that up a bit, soonish.
That gap is still getting bigger. After 65km, the front nine are 14 minutes and 20 seconds ahead.
1139: From anon, via text on 81111:
"Re 1103 - At least Astana made some much needed cash selling shirts then!"
Plenty of you have pointed out there are lots of Lance-a-likes on the roads at the moment. My favourite cycling top is an Italian national jersey I bought in Florence last summer - only problem is I can't fit into it at the moment...well, not without showing a bit too much flesh!
ghost_of_cygan on 606:
"Personally I would love to see Lance fire up the climbs like the old days but I'm struggling to believe he still has the fitness, the vicious cadence and dare I say it even the desire? As he has nothing left to prove on the Tour."
I think we will find out a lot about Lance, and whether he has still got what it takes, today...at least, I hope we do!
1132: Catalunya Radio's Ernest Macia in Manresa:
"1m Euros, the cost Barcelona has payed to the Amaury Sport Organisation to allow more than 5,000 Frenchmen to set foot in Catalunya. Napoleon did the same for free! Now Manresa - a historical day for a city who loves basketball."
The leaders are going through the town of Manresa
at the 55km mark and that gap is still growing - over 10 minutes now.
It's an hour or so since the start of the stage. The nine escapees are now close to nine minutes clear - they've covered just over 50km of the 224km but have got all the big climbs to come.
1116: From Sparky, via text on 81111:
"Re 1036 - what's with the 'Mexican huts' ?!!" Ha, I'm pretty sure Ernest meant hats, not huts...I've changed it now, but maybe Mexican cycle fans like to bring their sheds along when they watch Le Tour?
1112: BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"Astana will possibly put the light blue train into commission today: ride tempo on the front to the bottom of Arcalis with a break up the road. Then it will be a familiar rolecall: Paulinho, Popovych, Kloden, Leipheimer on the front until the selection is made and they've all ridden themselves into the group.
"Or maybe Saxo Bank will look to make use of their squad in similar fashion. Hopefully we'll get to see Charlie Wegelius doing what he does best as Cadel Evans' mountain domestique..."
The first nine riders are all together now, and have opened up a gap of almost six minutes on the peloton. We've got a new virtual leader of Le Tour too, Italy's Rinaldo Nocentini
(AG2R), who began the day three minutes and 13 seconds behind Cancellara.
1103: From Bobby G, via text on 81111:
"Have seen more Astana jerseys on my ride to work than Man Utd shirts. Thought I saw somebody trying to emulate Mark Cavendish's new look but it turned out to be a recycling bin."
Only one of the three breakaway riders is in the top 50 overall - that's Jose Ivan Gutirerrez
, and he is 49th, four minutes and seven seconds behind maillot jaune Fabian Cancellara. Riblon is 84th and Martinez is 87th. That trio have opened up a 30 second lead on the road today, with six riders chasing them. The peloton are another two-and-a-half minutes back.
1050: From El in London, via text on 81111:
"What are the chances of those lower down on General Classification with less strong teams - like Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov working together against Astana today?"
Another escape attempt - and this time they have stayed away...for now. Three riders - Egoi Martinez
(Euskaltel), Christophe Riblon
(AG2R) and Jose Ivan Gutierrez
(Caisse D'Epargne) are about 20 seconds ahead of a chase group of 20 riders. The main peloton are another 25 seconds back.
1036: Catalunya Radio's Ernest Macia in Barcelona:
"The Tour leaves Barcelona amidst hundreds of photographers, Catalan flags, Mexican hats, French instructions... and Japanese incredulity: 'what on earth are so much people doing in the street in a work day and in a football country?'. Possible answers: unemployment, lack of discipline, Lance Armstrong,and Japanese tourists..."
pekster11 on 606:
"I think Contador will attack today, and put distance between himself and Armstrong... he needs to show Astana who the real team leader is ASAP...."
Oscar Freire - aka 'The Cat' was one of eight riders who tried that early escape. With Denis Menchov struggling, and Robert Gesink out of the race, it's not been a great Tour for Rabobank so far...they might be after a bit of a morale booster today?
1023: OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE SIX:
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi/Saxobank) 19 hours 29 minutes 22 seconds
2. Lance Armstrong (USA/Astana) same time
3. Alberto Contador (Spa/Astana) +19 secs
4. Andreas Kloden (Ger/Astana) +23
5. Levi Leipheimer (USA/Astana) +31
Stage seven is now officially under way; there's even been a few early breakaway attempts - very brave on a day like this. Lots of chat about the Lance Armstrong-Alberto Contador shake-up and how Astana will approach this stage, but surely one of their riders will be in yellow tonight? Surely...
The sun is shining in Barcelona as the riders roll throught the neutral zone - they have got at least another six hours in the saddle before they get to the finish line in Andorra, and a lot of hard work in between.
Phew. There's no rest for the wicked, or the 177 riders still in this year's Tour. Today is going to be tougher than Alf Tupper - welcome to the longest stage of this year's race, and the first to enter the mountains.