So ends an enthralling stage nine, one which has effectively ended the hopes of one of the favourites. Wednesday's stage has the additional bonus of falling on Bastille Day, so expect a charge from a Frenchman on a less stressful stretch between Chambery and Gap, which also incorporates the Cote de Laffrey, a 9.0% first-category climb. I'm back in the chair tomorrow, so see you then.
Stage nine results:
1. Sandy Casar (Fra/FDJ) 5h 38m 10s
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp/Caisse d'Espargne) same time
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita/Lampre) same time
4. Christophe Moreau (Fra/Caisse d'Espargne) +2"
5. Anthony Chatreau (Fra/BBT) same time
6. Alberto Contador (Esp/Astana) same time
7. Andy Schleck (Lux/Saxo Bank) same time
8. Samuel Sanchez (Esp/Euskatel) +52"
9. Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp/Katusha) +2'07"
10. Levi Leipheimer (US/RadioShack) same timeOverall Standings:
1. Andy Schleck (Lux/Saxo Bank) 43h 35m 41s
2. Alberto Contador (Esp/Astana) +41"
3. Samuel Sanchez (Esp/Euskatel) +2'45"
4. Denis Menchov (Rus/Rabobank) +2'58"
5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel/Omega Pharma-Lotto) +3'31"
From Azabache on 606:
"Don't write off Lance! Awesome recovery. If he maintains this form to the end he might very well get a podium place."
Admirable mentions for Rabobank's Denis Menchov, who climbs to fourth in the GC (-2:45) while Omega Pharma's Jurgen van den Broeck (-3:31) drops a place into fifth.
In comes current yellow jersey incumbent Cadel Evans, the Australian looks utterly broken. He's over eight minutes behind Schleck and Contador and you've got to say that's curtains for his hopes of reaching Paris in the maillot jaune. His head is cradled by an unidentified team-mate just metres from the finishing line, which goes to signify the pain the BMC rider is experiencing right now, from losing his place at the top of the GC and the sheer physical exertion of going through the toughest stage of the mountains so far.
Bradley Wiggins crosses the line some five minutes after Casar, not a great day for the three-time Olympic champion. Schleck heads the general classification for the first time in his career and holds both the yellow and white jersey.
Alberto Contador finishes sixth with Schleck in seventh. Saxo Bank's Schleck will wear the yellow jersey as Lance Armstrong's group, which includes Ivan Basso, cross the line about 2:47mins behind Casar.
Francaise des Jeux's Casar holds off an attack from Schleck and Contador with a powerful burst in the last 100m and storms over the finishing line ahead of Caisse d'Epargne's Luis Leon Sanchez and Lampre Damiano Cunego.
1615:Sandy Casar wins stage nine of the Tour de France 1614:
But Schleck and Contador have caught the leading quartet. Hold on to your hats folks, we're in for a storming finish...
Just 1km to go and Luis Leon Sanchez, winner of a stage from the last two years, is on the hunt for another victory.
Just 5km from the finish and the gap between Contador and Schleck and the leading group is just over a minute. The leading quartet have slowed up, looks like they're saving energy for the big spring for the line.
From Im_partial on 606:
"10k to go for the 4 leaders, who's your money on, LL Sanchez or Cunego? Don't rate Casar or Charteau to win it, but I've been wrong before!"
Euskatel's Samuel Sanchez is not far behind Schleck and Contador, which means the Spaniard is likely to take third place in the GC this evening. Schleck, Contador and Christophe Moreau are now about 80 seconds behind the leading quartet of Sandy Casar, Anthony Charteau, Luis-Leon Sanchez and Damiano Cunego.
From InfostradaLive Twitter:
"Anthony Charteau replaces Jerome Pineau in the polka dot jersey. Both riders have amassed 85 points, but the former has won more at HC."
Evans is now 9:30mins behind the leaders, seven-and-a-half minutes adrift of his yellow jersey rivals Schleck and Contador. Saxo Bank rider Schleck has a 41-second lead over Spaniard and defending champion Contador. Still no sign of Bradley Wiggins. About four minutes behind Schleck and Contador are Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Jurgen van den Broeck, although the Belgian suffers a puncture on the Madeleine descent and has to swap his bike.
Voigt gives in about 100m from the 2000m summit, the poor bloke is shaking his head in utter disbelief as Saxo Bank team-mate Andy Schleck ups the revs alongside Contador as they make their way down the super steep descent. Because of its status as a hors-category climb, the Cote de la Madeleine earns the riders double points and Anthony Charteau cashes in with 30, while Damiano Cunego (26) and Luis-Leon Sanchez (22) add to their tallies.
Up alongside white jersey wearer Schleck is team-mate Jens Voigt - where did he come from? Excellent support for Schleck, while Contador is happy to sit on the Luxembourger's wheel. Just under 1km until the Madeleine summit...
From nadarsenal on 606:
"This is fantastic racing. Oh the glory of the unexpected; it is engrossing! I can't leave the room for fear of missing another Schleck attack. Fair play to Contador for resisting him though. It's good to see them work together and thus destroy everyone's else's, including Evans', chances. "
Cadel Evans is some seven minutes down from the leading group.
Andy Schleck is the new virtual leader of the Tour as he and Contador close the gap on the breakaway led by Luis-Leon Sanchez to 3:30mins. Damiano Cuengo, Anthony Charteau and Sandy Casar are riding alongside Sanchez.
From Phildange on 606:
"Conti is finally OK now. AS chose the wrong day to attack him . It seems he understood now. They spoke together and now seem to collaborate to eliminate everybody else."
There's a discussion between Schleck and Contador, both riders look as if they have plenty in reserve should one attempt a break with 37km left before the finish. Ivan Gutierrez shows some extremely generous hospitality for compatriot Contador, handing the Astana rider a water bottle has he glides past the Caisse d'Epargne rider. The gap is closing - and fast.
Schleck hits the gas once again, it's all too much for Samuel Sanchez but Alberto Contador is more than equal to the task. The second and third riders are now four minutes behind the leaders. Enthralling viewing/reading/listening.
It's all kicking off now - Astana's Alberto Contador has made a break alongside team-mate Daniel Navarro and in hot pursuit is Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck. This stage is sizzling. Contador and Schleck are playing all sorts of games, weaving about the road as neither wants to work for the other. And up comes Samuel Sanchez.
Yellow jersey holder Cadel Evans looks as if he is riding through treacle - the BMC rider is all on his own and that has to be curtains for the Australians. Looks like we're going to see a new rider in the maillot jaune this evening.
From matzov on 606:
"At the moment, its looking to me like a shoot out between the two best descenders in the lead group. Lovely Luis and the little Prince."
Meanwhile, Caisse d'Epargne's Luis-Leon Sanchez is clearly attempting an attack on the yellow jersey - and he has excellent support from team-mates Christophe Moreau and Ivan Gutierrez. Evans is over five minutes behind the leader. At 1500BST we have live audio commentary from Simon Brotherton for the closing hour and a half of stage nine. Refresh your web browser
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And off goes Alexandre Vinokourov on a lone attack some 51km off the finish. The peloton looks up and not one rider responds. Not quite sure what his attack is about, but the Kazakh has a history of these sort of things. The leading group is nine-strong after dropping Rin Taaramae, Jerome Pineau and Johannes Froelingher. They have a 1:40min lead over Pineau and Froelingher. About a third of the Madeleine has been negotiated.
Team Sky's Michael Barry is another casualty, which isn't good news for Bradley Wiggins's hopes of propelling himself into the top 10. Madeleine is making her presence felt. Grimaces everywhere.
And now the peleton fractures again. Hushovd in trouble too - 10 minutes and counting.
Pineau dropped now - weary-looking pedal strokes, he looks like he's cycling through glue.
And here's the peloton at the bottom of the Madeleine - and there's Cadel, tucked in behind his BMC boys.
The breakaway group approaches the bottom of the Madeleine with a lead of 6 mins 32 secs over the yellow jersey. Good chance to stay away, you'd think.
Some interesting thoughts from Evans this morning - he seemed quite relaxed about the prospect of the Madeleine. Certainly no fear. Any of you have experience of climbing it?
And the green points are snaffled by Ivan Gutierrez
of Caisse d'Epargne, who takes the maximum six, while Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux collects four with Caisse d'Epargne's Christophe Moreau taking two. We have 65km until the finish line and the yellow jersey of Cadel Evans is 6:24mins behind the stage leaders.
The breakaway group extends its lead to six minutes with 72km to go. Sprint points are on offer at La Bathie at 135.5km.
From Im_partial on 606:
"Re Sean Yates on Lance Armstrong - I can't see LA quitting this race unless he has another bad crash resulting in more serious injury. He's a fighter, he's obviously not at all happy about his GC position and having to ride for Leipheimer, but he will do so in the hope of a) a stage win somewhere along the way b) exposure for the new RS team and c) exposure for the Livestrong cause. Not sure how he'll feel at the end of it all if Leipheimer actually manages a podium place, mind you."
We've just seen probably our first shot of Cadel Evans as he negotiates a roundabout some 5:41mins behind the leading dozen. The yellow jersey holder is flanked by three members of his BMC team to give their man plenty of support for the HC climb which lies ahead, while sports director John Lelangue issues instructions alongside the Australian.
Former British rider Sean Yates believes his former team-mate Lance Armstrong, who dropped right out of the running following a nightmare stage eight on Sunday, will not drop out of the Tour "He did a great prologue which surprised a few, but he has found it hard. I think he'll finish though," said Yates, who rode with the seven-time winner with Motorola in the early 1990s. Any thoughts on Yates's assessment?
So that's the third of Tuesday's three climbs taken care of, now it's 40km or so of taking in the beautiful topography of the Alps before we reach the gruesome Col de la Madeleine, the only Alpine hors-category climb of this year's tour. The climb ascends 1600m over 25km before a steep descent and the finishing line shortly after. So which one of the race front-runners will make their move to gain valuable time over their rivals? Looks like we're set for an intriguing couple of hours.
At the top of the Cote des Saisies (14.4km climb with a 5.1% gradient) and Jerome Pineau adds another maximum King of the Mountain 15-point haul to his collection in an all-French top three along with Caisse d'Epargne's Christophe Moreau (13) and Bouygues Telecom's Anthony Charteau (11).
"TV Tommy" being Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, who looks set to give it some welly on Stage 10 on Wednesday. Why? Because it's Bastille Day, the French holiday which marks the start of the Revolution in the late 18th century. And what could France want more than a home rider to cross the finishing line at Gap in the name of "liberty, equality, fraternity"?
Lunchtime as the stage-leading riders cling on to the musettes
dangled by their teams half-way up the Cote des Saisies. Their lead has been cut by some 30 seconds to just under five minutes. The Caisse d'Epargne team are looking strong with three riders in the breakaway dozen while Bouygues Telecom are represented by Anthony Charteau and Cyril Gautier.
The open jerseys of the BMC riders are collected together at the head of the peloton. Meanwhile, Team Sky head coach Shane Sutton says "everyone will be biding their time for the Madeleine" as well as talking up Bradley Wiggins's chances of making a big impression with a decent ride on this particular stage.
From 5 live cycling on Twitter:
"Sorry, for the lack of tweets so far. The official #tdf computer with all the flashes, time gaps, etc, went mad on my desk today."
wants to know how AG2R's Nicolas Roche is doing. So far, I haven't seen the Irishman's face from our pictures, but I will most definitely keep you posted when we have sight of him. Meanwhile, Eduard Vorganov gets a huge push from a Katusha Team official following a change of bike as the riders start the ascent up the first category Cote des Saisies at 97km into this 204.5km-long stage. Our 12-strong breakaway is now five minutes ahead of the peloton.
mentioned Christophe Moreau who, at 39 years, would become the second oldest stage winner in the Tour's history. However, Le chien
was told by his Caisse d'Epargne team not to contest any more mountain points, which allowed Jerome Pineau to cash in at the top of Col des Aravis, extending his polka dot jersey lead over Sylvain Chavanel to 34 points.
Thor Hushovd, clad in the pea-green sprinter's jersey, summons the Cervelo doctor, which confirms something hurt when he crashed on the Cote de la Colombiere ascent. The leaders are now just 0.5km from the Col des Aravis summit.
From Im_partial on 606:
"Seeing Christophe Moreau and Jens Voigt up in the break brings back a few happy memories. It's quite the year for the old boys. The CdE boys really fancy it today, I like the idea of LL Sanchez to win, but it will all depend on how they survive the rigours of the Madelaine."
Cadel Evans's BMC team currently head the peloton, which now trails the front 12 by four minutes halfway up the Col des Aravis. Still another 138km - and the ferocious Col de la Madeleine to come... Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong has summoned the RadioShack team to chat to boss Johan Bruyneel. Anyone care to speculate what that could be about?
As well as Pineau and Moreau, there were points at the top of Cote de la Colombiere checkpoint for Bouygues Telecom's Anthony Charteau (11), Francaise des Jeux's Sandy Cesar (9), Caisse d'Epargne's Luis-Leon Sanchez (8), Bouygues Telecom's Cyril Gautier (7), Saxo Bank's Jens Voight (6) and Caisse d'Epargne's Jose Ivan Gutierrez (5). Meanwhile, Cofidis's Rin Tarramae have swelled the front-runners, with Lampre's Damiano Cunego, to 12 riders.
The peloton crosses some three-and-a-half minutes behind the leading duo as the riders hit the descent, adopting the prone aerodynamic position over the bars as they will drop about 600m before negotiating their next climb, the second-category Col des Aravis at 71km.
Polka dot jersey holder Jerome Pineau picks up 13 points at the top of Cote de la Colombiere - but French compatriot, Caisse d'Epargne Christophe Moreau, cashes in with the maximum 15 points, delighting the watching home support.
Some news to tell you about - green jersey holder Thor Hushovd has crashed, but the Norwegian is back on his bike although no more information about what happened. Meanwhile, Milram's Johannes Frohlinger has dropped off the pace and the breakaway is now nine-strong as the riders have about 2km to go before the top. Their rewards are 15 points for the first rider to cross the checkpoint, with 13 for second and 11 for third.
From F1Hornet on 606:
"A few of the Radioshack boys have jumped from the peloton then? Perhaps they feel like giving it a go today now they don't have to support Lance. Some of them looked like they might have been holding back on Sunday to help out Lance."
Apologies, Luis-Leon Sanchez rides for Caisse d'Epargne not Saxo Bank (see 1116 entry). The polka dot jersey of Jerome Pineau slows down for what looks like a new radio, although the Quick Step rider is quickly back into action following a swift changeover by his support team. Yellow jersey holder Cadel Evans is about two minutes behind in the peloton while the breakaway has slowed as they reach the mid-point of the Cote de la Colombiere.
We're having a few "technical issues" with our texts console, so please don't send anything in at the moment. There's a man with a torch, an Allen key and a sponge attempting to sort the problem out. In the Alps, the peloton is a good three minutes behind the breakaway group of 11. At the head of the peloton are RadioShack, closely followed by the cyan-coloured jerseys of Astana.
From wooley7 on 606:
"I think the breakaway might hold out today, but if they don't I'm plumping for (Robert) Gesink for the stage today. He looked good yesterday and may make a break for it if all the GC contenders are looking at each other."
Caisse d'Epargne's Luis-Leon Sanchez has been mentioned as a possible stage winner today by a few pundits - and the Spaniard is up with the breakaway group of 11 as they start the climb up the first-category Cote de la Colombiere, with 15 points on offer for the first rider to hit the checkpoint at the top. We've made a few tweaks to the page which looks so much nicer now, so please manually refresh your web browser
to satisfy your text commentator.
And Thor Hushovd
picks up six points as he crosses the sprint point first at Cluses, with Milram's Johannes Froehlinger collecting four and Saxo Bank's Jens Voight picking up two.
Quite a few people wondering what green jersey holder Thor Hushovd is doing with the breakaway group. Pretty simple, there are sprint points on offer at 25km at Cluses. It's coming up very shortly...
From wooley7 on 606:
"From what I have read the decent is fast but not too technical until the bottom where there a few hairpins. It may be a good one to get out and stay ahead on."
News just in - Team Katusha's
has withdrawn from the race after suffering a broken hand during stage two of the race. The Russian said he was having trouble holding the handlebars and "in such conditions it be no sense to continue". Meanwhile, there's an 11-rider strong group which includes Thor Hushovd as they approach the category-four Cote de Chatillon.
And we're off - huge plumes of wispy clouds hover over the lush, verdant plains across the serene Alpine views as the riders go full pelt after the 1.9km neutral zone. Jerome Pineau, the polka dot jersey holder, is among the front-runners in a group of about seven. Don't forget to get involved via
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Fresh from a day of sleeping, eating food off a plate and various team meetings, the riders must conquer the biggest climb of this year's Tour, the Col de la Madeleine. It's the only hors-category climb (the toughest of the lot) in the Alps this year, but it's a killer. With an ascent over 1600m and a climb of 25km and a summit of 2000m above sea level, this particular obstacle could make or break the leading contenders.
Morning all, rest day over it's time to head for the mountains for the gruelling 204.5km stage between Morzine to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
, number nine of this year's Tour. Expect more drama than a gritty Harold Pinter play, but with more two-wheeled transport and sweat-wicking fabrics.