Many thanks for your company today, on text and on 606. Join us tomorrow for the first of this year's Tour's ascent of the legendary Col du Tourmalet.
Phew! Who would have thought that stage 15 would have become so dramatic?
The debate is still raging on 606
as to the appropriateness of Contador taking advantage of Schleck's misfortune - get involved.
1625: From Ryan via text
Be fair, Contador was responding to Schleck's attack and went past him. He might not have known about the chain.
From Im_partial on 606
"Whole thing is, he [Contador] could have attacked if he didn't know, then sit up on the descent once he heard - which is what many other big GC men have done in the past. Too bad this discussion is going to take away from Ti-Vo's terrific sortie for the victory. Chapeau to the French Champion!"
Here are the stage scores on the doors: 1. Voeckler 2. Ballan @1'20" 3. Perez @1'20"
Here's the top three overall: 1. Contador 2. Schleck @8" 3. Sanchez @ 2'00"
Schleck comes in... 39 seconds later so Contador is now the leader by eight seconds.
Contador crosses the line - how much time has he got on Schleck?
Voeckler wins. The French national champion glides serenely over the finish line to huge applause.
Contador and Co are piling it on. It's going to be nip and tuck as to whether Schleck will still be in yellow today. He's 34 seconds behind Contador...
Meanwhile, Tommy Voeckler is 2km from the finish and is going to take the stage. It's been the best year for a while for the French.
Contador is not a popular man on 606.
"That sounds like really poor form from Contador. I never liked him anyway, but he's dropped even further in my estimation."
From Luke in Japan on 606
"Awwww no Andy! Gutting! Contador saw his chain go and attacked! No class whatsoever. He had Schleck's number anyway and would do him in the TT so to attack on Schleck's misfortune was just unclassy."
There are going to be harsh words after this stage if Contador stays away - it's just not the done thing in cycling to take advantage of a leader's mechanical.
Sanchez, Contador and Menchov are really going for it on the descent, but Schleck can see them, about 20 seconds ahead.
Gritting his teeth, Schleck pulls back about 10-15 seconds as he crests the Bales and begins the descent - not his forte.
Schleck's trying to climb back but he's 30" behind. No sign of Contador sitting up - he's with Menchov and Sanchez. Voeckler, meanwhile, is over the top.
Schleck's lost his chain and Contador attacks! Disaster for the yellow jersey, but poor form by Contador to take advantage when the leader has a mechanical.
Voeckler is 1.5km from the summit and senses the win. Behind, the select group are beginning to play cat and mouse again, looking at each other, which has allowed the bunch to re-form.
Voeckler is working hard but beginning to wander around the road on the steep sections - he is 3km from the top. Ballan is 50" back; gap is holding around six minutes. Schleck has come to the front and is towing Contador, Sanchez and Menchov away from everybody else. It's yesterday once more.
Rock on! Tommy has 40" on Ballan and is holding the six-minute gap to the bunch. Schleck has just one man with him now, while Contador has three assistants. Intriguing.
Voeckler is 5km from the summit. He has 25" on Ballan and six minutes on the bunch, which Saxo is still driving, but they're down to three men now, with a rash of turquoise Astanas biding their time on the tails.
Tommy Voeckler has - predictably - pulled away from the break as they hit a 10% gradiant section.
Both Armstrong and Kloden are with the chasing bunch - good descenders each - could they have a cunning plan to take the stage?
The break has fractured, with five riders - Voeckler, Ballan, Van Summeren, Arrieta, Vandborg and Ivanov - leading the way. But the gap is tumbling... 6'33" now.
Saxo Bank still doing all of the work in the bunch - gap is below eight minutes, with about 10km of the climb left for the break.
From Corrupted Mind on 606
"I don't back Sanchez to win today or Menchov for that matter but I do think they will work together to take time off the big two will resume 'silly season' on the climbs today. Conti believes that all he has to worry about is AS and AS thinks the same about Conti. I don't think we'll see any Vino attacks today either."
Saxo Bank driving the pace in the bunch, with Astana in close attendance, and eating into the gap, which is dropping steadily now; down below 9'30"
Bit of a tumble at the back of the peloton; Anthony Geslin and a Footon rider gingerly get to their feet.
The group are working together on the fairly gentle early slopes, but the gap is dropping - it's now at 10 minutes.
The break begin the ascent of the Port de Bales, with almost 11 minutes' advantage. If they can get over the top with any reasonable gap, you have to think they can stay away. Hopefully, however, Menchov or Sanchez will force something out of Contador and Schleck in the peloton.
Saxo Bank still at the front of the bunch, led by Stuart O'Grady.
Mopping up the second sprint placings: 1. Turgot (6pts); 2. Mondory (4pts); 3. Ivanov (2pts).
1448: From Andy in Northants via text
London to Paris 2009 in aid of breast cancer campaign for my mum who'd passed away in march. I'd been stuffed on the hills but flew when we arrived in Paris to win the final sprint. Cried like Cavendish!
, both SG19 Cowshed and DeGuzman are going for TiVo (Thomas Voeckler) for the stage win, while ike2112 fancies Johan van Summeren. What's your call?
The break is now over 10 minutes ahead, in the valley at the foot of the Port de Bales.
1434: IRL from Will in Aldridge
On my commute into Bristol town centre I often had a great blast with a guy on a recumbent. No slipstream, not fair!
1420: From Oliver Miles in Devon via text
Col des ares has the worlds friendliest cafe on top run by a dutch couple. The break away probably have time for a quick one.
Leader Andy Schleck's Saxo Bank team are leading the peloton towards the Col des Ares, but are controlling it rather than chasing the break, which now has over nine minutes' advantage.
The break now has 8'50 at the foot of the Col des Ares. I had to make sure I typed that correctly.
1410: IRL from Rob in Wallingford via text
I regularly battle with a guy who cycles past, stops to prune the oxfordshire hedgerows and cycles past again. Very much a hare and tortoise scenario but with a different ending.
I'm puzzled, Rob. Are we talking some form of Cavendish Scissorhands here?
1402: The award for persistent SMS usage goes to Dan, via text
"Nice to know someone else is using an old steel frame too. I have an old Falcon which must be about 20 years old and weighs a ton. Got chatting to a guy on the train the other day who had one too, except he had a solar cooker strapped to the back of his (I slightly offended him by calling it a bird box). I'd never heard of such a thing but he swore it worked a treat. He had a jacket potato in there ready for his tea when he got home!"
The break, with a gap of 7'15", are over the top of the Portet d'Aspet - "TV Tommy" took the 10 points for being first over - while the peloton wind their way up the slope.
Minor tryping (sic) error in the 1345 entry - you may need to refresh to make any sense of that!
PGBaddick on 606
"My musette has a jar of Brylcream and a packet of smokes."
Haha nice one (see 1320).
The break are on the Portet d'Aspet. It's a 5.8km, second cat climb.
Tuna steak with rice and peas for my lunch. What's in your musette?
Talking of feed stations, I'm going to retrieve my musette from the fridge...
BMC are down to seven riders after Mauro Santambrogio abandons. Saxo Bank and Omega Pharma are leading the bunch, but the gap is up to 3'27".
The riders in the break are: Brian Vandberg (LIQ), Johan van Summeren (GRM), Serguei Ivanov (KAT), Lloyd Mondory (ALM), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Reda (QST), Luke Roberts (MRM), Thomas Voeckler (BTL), Sebastian Turgot (BTL) and Aitor Arrieta (EUS)
Another break has a pop, after the feed station, and has managed to get more than 20" ahead - 1'50", in fact. Names to follow, if they hold on.
1320: IRL from anonymous via text
There's a bloke commutes by bike up jamaica road, SE London, with bryl creamed hair, wearing a mac, and often smoking a fag. If he ever overtakes me I'll retire.
That would certainly be my advice!
1317: IRL from Corinne via text
re Mark in Copenhagen - did you check the smokers bike for an engine?
The break has been caught. No news on which team was doing the chasing, I'm afraid.
1310: IRL (Impromptu racing latest) From Mark via text
I remember upon first moving to copenhagen i was 'giving it some' on my trek, fully lycra clad, and passed by a guy in flip flops, smoking.
Elmiger has been caught, so Nicolas Vogondy has a go, followed by a chasing group of 23 others after around 75km. The group has caught Vogondy, and the gap is 20". Maybe this one will get away, or maybe they're hungry - the feed station is about 15 clicks away.
1300: Impromptu racing latest via text
Every bike journey i make round london is a race! I'm sure there must be other's who find this. This morning I managed to reel in a break away group who had jumped the lights on the ascent to southwark bridge... From Phil (3pts)
Ankush Agarwal on 606
may have it about right: "This is going to be the most weirdly exciting day of the Tour."
Ooo - here we go. Perhaps. A break shot off, but Sky chased it down. However, Swiss champion Martin Elmiger has managed to get 15" ahead after 68km. Can't see it lasting.
1250: From Matt via text
I got done over by a chunky old bloke with a beard on a mountain bike whilst on a flat stretch of the A57 out of Sheffield. To my shame I told him I was bonking!
DeGuzman on 606
: "Weird top 3 indeed. Wonder how long it will take until the peleton can relax. A lot will be hoping for a breakaway that gets everybody's blessing."
Very weird. As suggested, a break tried to get away but they've been pulled back.
1242: More impromptu racing chat from Tony via text
Bunch sprint (4 of us) to the gates of Glasgow Green one morning I got the perfect gap thanks to a lead out alsatian! Crenshaw had nothing on this dog!
It's all gone topsy turvy at the sprint in Clermont, where the awards go thus: 1. Hunt (6 pts); 2. Knees (4 pts); 3. Pineau (2 pts). Did the climbers and sprinters get the two intermediates mixed up?!?!?!?!
Meanwhile, back on the Tour, the bunch are approaching the first sprint, and the sprinters' teams look like they want to keep it all together. Will Cav make a rare bid to take intermediate points?
1222: Etape du Tour update from Jon via text
Etape was brutal. It's a great stage, it's got everything. Cobbles, tight, narrow streets, fast descents and monstrous climbs. Hit a top speed of 57mph. On the Port de Bales now!
Chapeau, Jon - great effort!
1215: Some more local cycling chat, from Dibbsy in Muswell Hill via text
Sanchez for me - simply awesome descender! Sorry to hear about your puncture. What bike do you ride? I use a brompton (other makes of folding bike are available) to the City from Muswell Hill and have never made it back without getting off and walking. It has only got 2 gears though!?
Cheers, Dibbsy. I ride an old Raleigh steel frame affair for commuting, but a Boardman for my (now occasional) Sunday rides. Other makes are, as you point out, available.
Some action on the roads on France... the results of the climb up Carla-Bayle: 1. Fedrigo (3pts); Hushovd (2pts); Petacchi (1pt).
The points were for the King of the Mountains classification, of course, but interesting that the green-jersey contenders were up at the front.
1208: From Jon in London via text
"I had a right ding dong of a battle up Col de Highgate last week. Turns out my opponent was just toying with me as he launched an attack just approaching The Woodman. That said, I slaughtered him on the descent into Banlieue-Jardain De Hampstead to take the sprint points.
I know just where you mean, Jon. Anybody else got any tales of impromptu races-with-strangers?
Cheeky move from Contador and Astana - they got 10" on the bunch, but were reeled in by Saxo Bank. A sign on things to come?
1202: From Dan via text
"Col de highgate should be a cat 2 climb, especially with the 214 buses to avoid."
I know exactly what you mean!
Going back to Sammy Sanchez's chances of a win, from
Millsy on 606
: "The question is though, can he [Sanchez] stick with the bear fighting pair. I expect huge amounts of Fireworks, and we saw what happened on the Madeline, which has the same "Long HC Col/Long Descent".
Some early attempts to break away have failed - the speed is high in the peloton, where there appears to be a mood to control the opening kilometres in the approach to the fourth-category Cote de Carla-Bayle.
Early punt on the stage winner from
Number6Valverde on 606
: "My money is on Samuel Sanchez, handy descender and the finish is very near Spain so lots of home support."
Good morning and welcome to stage 15 of the Tour.
After a puncture mishap of my own on the Col de Highgate this morning, you may have to bear with me a little in the early stages while I get myself together.
But in the meantime, why not catch up with Bradley Wiggins' thoughts -