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Page last updated at 08:59 GMT, Thursday, 14 July 2011 09:59 UK

Tour de France stage 12 as it happened

Stage 12 - Cugnaux - Luz Ardiden, 211km


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By Peter Scrivener

1645: Just time to tell you that Geraint Thomas finished 36th, 5'20" behind Sanchez. Cavendish is still out on the road. Today's report is up and news of Cavendish's finish will appear in there. Thanks for all the tweets and texts today. Let's do it again some time.

1643: Britain's Mark Cavendish picked up nine points in the race for the green jersey to extend his lead in that competition while today's stage winner Samuel Sanchez has taken the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey off Johnny Hoogerland.

1641: A good day for the French who lead three of the five categories on Bastille Day. Voeckler is in yellow. Jeannesson has the white jersey and AG2R are the best team.

1639: A great effort by Geraint Thomas though. He broke away after just 2km and made it halfway up Luz-Ardiden before he was caught. Unfortunately though he's also missed out on the white jersey for best young rider in the race. FDJ's Arnold Jeannson of France takes that honour.

1634: Perhaps not quite the day we were hoping for with attacks galore going up to Luz-Ardiden - a lot of cagey riding going on until we hit the last 5km and from then on in, it was tremendous. Is Contador a spent force? Or was it more a case of he got fed up of chasing down repeated Schleck attacks?

1632: The overall standings sees Voeckler on 51 hours, 54 minutes and 44 seconds. Frank Schleck is at 01'49", Cadel Evans at 02'06", Andy Schleck at 02'17". Alberto Contador is at 04'00".

Yellow jersey
1629: Thomas Voeckler is rewarded for a truly stunning ride by finishing in ninth, just 50 seconds down and he will indeed stay in the yellow jersey.

1627: Frank Schleck was third in the stage, 10 seconds behind Sanchez while Basso, Evans and Andy Schleck @ 30 seconds rode away from Contador who was 13 seconds further back.

1624: Chapeau to stage winner Sanchez though. After a touch over six hours in the saddle, he found a little bit of a sprint to leave Vanendert and delight the Basque fans at Luz-Ardiden with his first Tour stage win.

1622: But the real drama is happening behind. Contador has been broken. Andy Schleck, Evans and Basso come in together, 30 seconds behind Sanchez, without the Spaniard who ends up dropping another 14 seconds on his rivals.


1620: And Sanchez and Vanendert have seen Frank and put the hammer down and they have stopped messing around. Frank's not going to catch them now. Who's going to take the sprint?

1619: This is relentless off the front. Evans goes again. But Andy And Alberto stay with him. Frank Schleck only 20 seconds behind the leader - could the Luxembourg champion spring a surprise win?

1618: Evans and Basso go off the front and still Contador and Andy Schleck watch each other. They suddenly decide they'd best do something about this and they get into Basso's wheel with Evans leading. Voeckler has been broken but he should stay in yellow if he can keep his legs turning. Leaders under 1km to go.

1617: Brilliant scenes at the front as the thousands lining the route part to allow Sanchez and Vanendert to continue their climb. Schleck in pursuit of the leaders but he's 45 seconds back with 1.5km to go.

1615: And Frank Schleck goes again. And it's third time lucky for the Luxembourg rider. No response from Contador, or his brother Andy or Cadel Evans, or Basso, you get my drift? Good.

1614: We're inside the last 3km and everyone is still looking at each other. Samuel Sanchez will be loving this up front. He's still 75 seconds clear with Vanendert. Andy still watching Alberto.

1613: There's 3.3km to go and Frank Schleck goes again and this is a bigger effort. Contador in pursuit. Will Andy go next? Voeckler staying up there. Big big effort from the Frenchman.

1611: Andy Schleck has a little dig at the front and Contador is immediately in his wheel and Cadel Evans responds. And just as it looks as though everything is settling down, Frank Schleck has a go. Evans, Basso and Contador all react.

Text in your views on 81111
Alice K, via text on 81111: "Come on G, don't give up now! He so deserves the white jersey, where is Gesink?" Not sure to be honest Alice - he was dropped a long, long time ago.

1605: Roche has help with Christophe Riblon and another AG2R rider coming back to help him. Ivan Basso following a Liquigas team-mate up to Luz-Ardiden at the front of the yellow jersey pack. Voeckler looking very comfortable behind Basso. There's 5km to go and Samuel Sanchez is encouraged by Vanendert to do a bit of work on the front. They lead by 70 seconds.

1603: Ireland's Nicolas Roche has also dropped out the back of the yellow bunch, while Geraint Thomas faces a long 6km to the finish as he too is overtaken by Voeckler, Evans, Contador and the Schlecks.

1600: And Philippe Gilbert has finally been dropped. Jeremy Roy is also going backwards through the peloton. Voeckler looking strong though and he could surprise many by staying in yellow tonight. He has more than two minutes to play with over his nearest rival Cadel Evans, so unless Evans jumps out in the final 6.5km or so, Bastille Day will end with a Frenchman in yellow.

1558: Samuel Sanchez and Jelle Vanendert whizz past Thomas and Roy. It's all over for the Welshman. Let's hope he's got enough in the tank not to lose too much time as there's still about 8km to the summit.

1555: BBC Radio five live commentator Graham Jones: "All this will be good for Geraint Thomas. It's great experience."

1553: Riblon of AG2R is caught by the main bunch so no stage win for him today. Geraint Thomas and Jeremy Roy are having their lead whittled away and they are now just 80 seconds in front.

1552: Andy Schleck looking over his shoulder almost as much as he is looking up the road. Reckon he's wary of Contador by any chance? Lots of looking around but nobody taking the initiative. Contador appears happy to be sitting in the bunch but he's the one who is trailing in the overall standings. Is today the day to try and get some time back?

1550: Jens Voigt has called it a day. Great effort for his team by the German and Andy Schleck is having a good look around to see who is with him - the answer is all the big names. Not the time to make a dash for it yet.

1548: Ivan Basso of the Liquigas team is quietly going about his day in the group with the Schlecks and Contador and Evans. Back up at the front and the crowds close in on Roy and Thomas as they negotiate a couple of hairpins on one of the steepest sections of the climb.

1545: In that group with Gilbert, is Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, Kreuziger, Perez Moreno and Riblon. A couple of dangerous riders in there. This is setting up for one heck of a finish.

1543: Back up at the front and Geraint Thomas and Jeremy Roy, who have been in the lead since breaking away after 2km, are working well together. And here comes the main bunch over that bridge - I can't look! And here goes Jens Voigt. The Leopard-Trek rider injects some pace on the front of the bunch. Setting up a Schleck attack perhaps?

1540: Riders going over a very narrow bridge which has a massive drop on either side into a gorge - you wouldn't catch me anywhere near that. Philippe Gilbert is off the front of the peloton. He's got Christophe Riblon for company and Voeckler grabs a bottle of water from a Tour official - unusual to see that. Thirsty work this cycling I guess.

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Anon, via text on 81111: "@andycarruthers: Tweet each question and the answers and we'll all do one each."

1535: Huge crowds in the town at the bottom of the ascent to Luz-Ardiden. A couple of massive British flags as well - sure that will give G a big boost as he prepares for the final assault. I have a feeling he's not going to make it to the top in the leading group though. Hope he proves me wrong.

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Malcolm Ellis, via text on 81111: "Regarding newspapers inside jerseys, I used to use brown paper inside my outer layer during the winter when out with the CTC back in '76, very effective"

1533: Just 20km to go then. 13km of that is uphill. Sharply uphill. We're not far off the bottom of the final hors category climb of the day to Luz-Ardiden. Thomas and Roy are one minute clear of Moreno and Kadri.

1528: Thomas and Roy are descending well and they have extended their advantage over Moreno and Kadri. Kreuziger didn't make it up to the front two and he's paying for it on the way down. He was within 20 seconds at one point, he's now 2'20" back. The yellow jersey group is at 3'15". How do you see the climb to Luz-Ardiden? Can Roy and Thomas stay out there?

Andy_Carruthers on Twitter: "Update on sports day. My house won. Big G to win the stage would make it even better. Anyone want to finish my exam marking though?"

1525: A tweet asking for news on Cav. Well, he won the intermediate sprint from the peloton earlier in the day - picking up nine points to extend his lead in the race for the green jersey - as six breakaway riders had already gone through the line. Since then, it's been a case of damage limitation for the Manx Missile. Not sure where he is but will update if I hear/see anything.

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Mark from Wilmslow, via text on 81111: "These text updates are too much. I'm on edge waiting for the next one. Zero work getting done. Forget the riders, I'm going to exhausted after this"

1522: Kreuziger goes over the top while putting on a little body-warmer to keep out the chill on the descent. Others are stuffing newspapers inside their jerseys. Whatever works I guess. And here comes the peloton with the Voeckler et al, about three minutes behind Geraint and Jeremy.

1519: And Roy goes over the top in first. Thomas follows and they are on the descent. Looks a little hairier than Hourquette d'Ancizan. BBC five live's Simon Brotherton says: "Not being funny, but this is one road you don't want to come off because it's a long, long way down."

1518: Roy has caught Thomas but back down the road Saxo Bank's Jesus Hernandez has a blast off the front with AG2R's Christophe Riblon. Thomas hanging on to Roy's wheel as best he can.

1515: Quick pitstop for Andy Schleck - that's only a front-wheel puncture though and he's soon back on his bike and back with the main bunch. Thomas under the 1km to the summit sign. He's still got Roy chasing him - about 50m behind.

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Phil in Bucks, via text on 81111: "Not getting much work done, watching live txt updates, listening to 5 live sports extra coverage and popping downstairs to watch on tv when I can... Mountain stages are TOO good!"

1512: France's Jeremy Roy trying to get back with Thomas - is that a case of Thomas taking a breather with a couple of kilometres to the summit? Or Roy putting in a Bastille Day effort to please the French spectators?

1510: The early sun has disappeared by the way - no rain on the mountain, but it is overcast - sure the riders won't mind that though. Jens Voigt leading the peloton, which contains yellow jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler, both Schlecks, Contador, Cadel Evans and, somewhat surprisingly Philippe Gilbert.

1508: Geraint doing a lot of damage today so far as the peloton goes through the ski resort of La Mongia. Remember, the Welshman has still got the descent of Tourmalet and the 13km climb up Luz Ardiden to go but he's got his head down and he's looking in decent nick.

lamenters on Twitter: "re alcato; statistically speaking, no not at all. The number of accidents is well within norms. This year lots of team leaders tho."

1504: He's still got 4km to the top of the Tourmalet, but Geraint Thomas has put in another big effort and he's broken the leaders and is out on his own. Go on G.

It's good news for a British rider
1502: That little extra push from Geraint means Kreuziger is yet to bridge the gap to the leading trio. Chavanel struggling a bit now though and the peloton is about to swallow him up. Mangel, who was dropped by the leaders has latched on to Kreuziger. And Thomas has gone for it!

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Pete in Notts, via text on 81111: "Trying to do MBA dissertation with live feed of TDF on the iPhone no chance. C'mon G stay with them going up & FGS hang on coming down! Smokin brakes."

1459: About 6km to the summit and Thomas is pushing them along at a decent rate. Mangel starting to lose touch and suddenly the group is down to three - Ruben Perez Moreno, Jeremy Roy and Geraint Thomas.

1455: And Kreuziger can see the group up front. Gutierrez is being dropped again and Astana's Kreuziger blasts past him as though he is standing still. HTC's Tony Martin, another of the general classification riders is shoved out the back door of the peloton. Leopard-Trek's efforts working well.

1452: Roman Kreuziger continuing to plough a lone furrow up Tourmalet but he's closing on the front six. He's around 40 seconds behind them. Chavanel is one minute behind Kreuziger while Leopard-Trek's efforts have brought the peloton to within four minutes of the leaders.

White jersey
1449: Big development for Geraint Thomas in the race for the white jersey. Robert Gesink, the current wearer of the best young rider's jersey, is struggling on the Tourmalet. He has a team-mate for company but he waves him up the road and shakes his head. Gesink is a decent climber but he has been defeated and he's not even halfway up yet. So if Geraint does get caught today, there's a good chance he will be in white.

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Anon, via text on 81111: "Sitting in the High Court, phone hidden in case bundle watching TdF updates. C'mon Andy!!"

1445: Chavanel's challenge seems to be fading. He's been dropped by Kreuziger already. Hoogerland by the way, has been caught and spat out the back of the peloton. Peter Velits of HTC fighting his way back to the main bunch, zips past Hoogerland and has the peloton in his sights.

leguape on Twitter: "So Kim Andersen using exactly the play Bjarne Riis used to set up Sastre's attack in 08 #TDF on Alpe d'Huez?"

1439: And here come Leopard-Trek. The team of the Schleck brothers have suddenly jumped on to the front of the peloton and upped the pace. Joost Posthuma tapping out the pace with Cancellara in his wheel.

1437: BBC Radio 5 live's commentary will be up and running in the next couple of minutes. The link is on the right of this page. Simon Brotherton and former Tour rider Graham Jones taking you through the closing stages.

1433: Thomas is back up with the leaders. He and Gutierrez have worked well together. French team Europcar continuing to lead the peloton which is just getting onto the start of the 17.1km climb to the summit, which at 2,115m is the highest point, so far, on this year's Tour.

1430: RadioShack's Kloden back at his support car getting treatment for his latest set of injuries. It's been a tough tough race for the American outfit so far with Janez Brajkovic, Christopher Horner and Yaroslav Popovych all withdrawing in the first 10 stages.

alcalto on Twitter: "Is this the most accident prone Tour ever? Can't remember one with so many riders coming off so much "

1425: A quick switch of bikes for Voeckler at the bottom of Hourquette d'Ancizan and the leaders are on the bottom slopes of Tourmalet. Geraint and Gutierrez are riding together at 45 seconds behind the leaders and with an advantage of 2'30" over Kreuziger and Chavanel.

1423: Before we get to the Tourmalet though, just time to remind you that you can listen to live commentary of the last couple of climbs on BBC Radio 5 live - the link will be on the right-hand side of this page from 1440 BST - I'll give you another nudge a little closer to the time.

1420: A few minutes to calm down then as we continue to descend Hourquette d'Ancizan and prepare for Tourmalet. Today is going to be the 80th time the great mountain has been climbed - it's the most climbed in Tour history.

craigsteeps on Twitter: "This tour de france is much more exciting than the golf!! And i love golf too."

1415: No news as to where Geraint is yet. Gutierrez is a minute behind the leading quartet so safe to assume Thomas is somewhere between the two. Kreuziger and Chavanel about four minutes down, with the yellow jersey pack another minute or so further back.

1412: In similar fashion to how Geraint fell off, race leader Thomas Voeckler takes a tumble. It looked like the Frenchman had held on as he slid round the corner, but he could not correct in time and he drilled it into a car. Several riders, including Andreas Kloden go down behind him but there are all up and off speeding down the mountain in no time.

1410: That was close, twice, for Geraint. Not sure what the problem was but he's been left by Moreno, Kadri, Roy and Mangel. That will be a long road back for the Team Sky rider. And there's a whole pack of riders down.

1407: Yowsers that was close. The Welshman, who had gone over the top in fifth place, comes off on one of the first corners. His back wheel slides out from under him and thankfully that's not a high-paced accident. He jumps off the bike before he is catapulted over the edge of what looked a huge drop. He's straight back on and oooh he's almost off again. At the very next corner he goes straight on and onto the grass - problem with the brakes there.

1405: And as we go over the top, Mangel leaps away to take the 10 points, with Moreno second and Kadri third. And a spill for Geraint.

1400: You've got to feel for Hoogerland. Those 33 stitches in his backside and leg perhaps starting to tell. He tries to get out of his saddle and give it another go, but he's not catching Kreuziger and Chavanel.

1357: About 3km from the summit and the leading five are maintaining their lead over the chasing group and the overall pack. Gutierrez is yet to be passed by Hoogerland's trio either. Voeckler looking comfortable in the main bunch and there's Leopard-Trek's Andy Schleck up near the front with a couple of team-mates. And Hoogerland has been dropped.

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DG in Derbyshire, via text on 81111: "Hmmm 3 safety inspections to do at work or shall i watch the tour over these 3 mountains? Its a toss up!!"

1351: Jeremy Roy taking a spin at the front of the leading bunch whose lead over the chasing trio is now a shade under five minutes, although the lead over the peloton is closer to six minutes. Europcar continuing to pull the peloton up Hourquette d'Ancizan.

Andy_Carruthers on Twitter: " The open on my big screen, tour on my laptop and sports day out my window. Makes marking these exams bearable."

1348: Got to love the mountains. Kreuziger has caught Chavanel and Hoogerland and they are fairly chugging up the first climb. Geraint Thomas continuing to tap out the pace for the leading quintet.

1345: No reaction from the rest of the peloton who are around 30 seconds back, although as I type that Astana's Roman Kreuziger has shot off the front in pursuit of Hoogerland and Chavanel. The leading group is down to five as Gutierrez has been dropped - they are a little over five minutes clear of the chasing duo.

1343: Hoogerland is in the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey remember, not that there's been many hills so far. Chavanel also has form in the mountains - a French winner perhaps?

1341: Katusha sprinter Denis Galimzyanov already out the back of the peloton - he is in for one very long afternoon. At the other end, Johnny Hoogerland has had another dig and he's been joined by Sylvain Chavanel.

1339: Europcar still driving the pace along at the front of the peloton. They are keeping their man Tommy Voeckler up near the front and their efforts are eating into the lead of Thomas' crew. It's now just under six minutes.

1336: Puncture for Leopard-Trek's Fabian Cancellara. Not a great start to the climb for Spartacus who is having to exert a lot of energy to get back to the peloton. He will be helping the Schleck brothers on this first ascent, if he can get back to them. He's weaving through the team cars, bit of slipstreaming and the Swiss champion is back on. Good effort by the big man.

1335: Huge crowds on the climb and we are only a couple of hundred metres into it. Half the front six out of their saddles already. The peloton closing in at 6'45". The road has been re-tarmaced but it's twisty and narrow and the descent is expected to be tricky. Fingers crossed they all make it safely up and down.

1330: Here we go then. We are on the lower slopes of Horquette d'Ancizan. The climb is officially 9.9km long with an average gradient of 7.5%. The summit is at 1,538m, which is a little under 1,000m higher than where the sprint was contested.

jonmbryant on Twitter: "Drat... stage hotting up and I'm off to meetings all afternoon"

1327: Cavendish's team-mate Mark Renshaw followed him over the line in the intermediate sprint. Rojas took seven points, while Gilbert only picked up three. Good result for Cav who now has just the small matter of three mountains to ride over.

1325: Almost immediately Jonny Hoogerland has a spin off the front of the peloton. But he's got a Movistar rider with him and he's going to be no help at all because his team-mate Gutierrez is in the leading bunch.

1322: That crept up on me a bit - apologies for that. Basic upshot is HTC brought Cavendish through and he's picked up a valuable nine points in his quest to stay in the green jersey. One of his main rivals Gilbert not picking up many there - official confirmation when I get it.

1321: Movistar setting the pace on the front with Omega Pharma bringing Philippe Gilbert through but here's the HTC train - we're almost at the sprint line - a little earlier than I thought.

1317: The leading sextet have rolled through the intermediate stage with France being allowed to take a 1-2-3. Laurent Mangel was first over the line for 20 points with Jeremy Roy and Blel Kadri followed by Moreno, Gutierrez and Thomas. Gutierrez by the way has been suffering with stomach problems. Nine points up for grabs for the next man over the line. The peloton is still nine minutes adrift though so time to make a lunchtime cuppa before they arrive.

davidpaulstarr on Twitter: "re Dave W 1246, cyclists cruising in the peloton at under 100bpm is no surprise. "

1310: That lead is up to nine minutes. If not a stage winner today, could Team Sky's Geraint Thomas find himself wearing the white jersey of the best young rider? Current wearer Robert Gesink is a decent climber and was 1'50" ahead of Thomas at the start of the day.

ACNorthEnd on Twitter: "HTC's Peter Velits to announce himself on the big stage today with a win. Came third in the Vuelta 2010 so can handle a Grand Tour"

Green jersey
1305: You can tell the sprint is coming because the HTC boys are starting to make their presence felt towards the front of the peloton. Six out front remember so there won't be big points on offer for the green jersey contenders but every one counts for current incumbent Mark Cavendish.

1300: The peloton slows ever-so-slightly to grab their musettes at the feed station. All manner of water bottles and energy bars being stuffed into pockets before the bags are thrown to the expectant spectators.

1255: We are halfway through today's stage. It's been a bit of a breeze if I'm honest. But all the action is coming up. We've got the intermediate sprint in a little over 10km. Then it's onto the slopes of the first category one climb of this year's Tour, Horquette d'Ancizan. The legendary 17km climb up Tourmalet follows and then there's just the small matter of the 13km up to the finish at Luz-Ardiden. More on those climbs later.

RobFarrington on Twitter: "Re Rob at 1232: 4170 metres"

1250: The leaders are 8'30" ahead of the peloton. Europcar's sporting director apparently disagreeing with his lead rider Voeckler and how far the breakaway should be allowed to go. Dominique Arnould reckons it could get to 10 minutes and be fine. He said: "There is enough time to catch up. Just before the first climb there will be accelerations because several teams will want to place their leaders in a good position. As a result the break will lose two to three minutes relatively quickly."

reubensneller on Twitter: "I have stuff to do (like finding a job) but I've just been completely sucked in by today's stage. Come on Geraint! If not, Cadel!"

1246: Vaconsoleil's polka dot jersey wearer Jonny Hoogerland drops back to the support car for a little tweak on his bike. How that boy is still riding in this year's tour is beyond me. Thirty-odd stitches in his wounds - if you've not seen the pictures of the aftermath of his crash into barbed wire, the top of his leg looked like Darth Vader's head when Luke removes his helmet in Return of the Jedi. Not pretty.

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Dave W, via text on 81111: "Re: 1204, Heart rates are a funny thing. My resting rate is 38 and I'm not a top class athlete. However 100 sounds way too low even for cruising and suggests crosstalk on the transmitter. Hi tech is great when it works!"

1240: The riders at the tete de la course? Here's a reminder. Britain's Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas has been joined by FDJ's Jeremy Roy, who is one of three Frenchman who have made an early bid for a Bastille Day victory. Laurent Mangel of Saur and Blel Kadri of AG2R are the other two. Spaniards Ruben Perez Moreno of Eukaltel and Jose Ivan Gutierrez of Movistar complete the sextet

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A-nonny-mouse, via text on 81111: "Best not divulge identity whilst at work! Tour is crying out for a new 'il pirata' to set the hills alight. Hope someone has the courage to back themselves and grab yellow."

1232: The lead has been pegged at the eight-minute mark. Europcar working well for their leader on the front of the bunch. The bright red and white Cofidis train are following. Movistar's Jose Ivan Gutierrez having another word with the doc. Hope it's nothing too serious for the Spaniard.

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Rob, via text on 81111: "Anyone know the total height gain for today's stage? Been googling without success. Thanks"

1227: Team Europcar lift the pace a little at the front of the peloton now the lead is up to eight minutes. The road is noticeably starting to go uphill.

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Anon, via text on 81111: "Re 1204, wonder what his resting heart rate is? Indurain's was 28bpm, now that's not normal!"

1222: Can you get any more French than that? A bunch of 2CVs and a field of sunflowers. Our virtual leader Geraint Thomas is heading the six out front to a lead approaching eight minutes.

Jamesbaker1979 on Twitter: "Are HTC going to contest the intermediate sprint? Will @markcavendish be close enough to the front of the peloton?"

1215: Team RadioShack say they are looking to limit their losses today. Andreas Kloden took a tumble in the stage to Super-Besse and his team director Alain Gallopin says "it is already difficult to follow the best when you are 100%, so it would be a surprise if he is there today".

1210: The leaders are 25km away from the feed zone. Couldn't come at a better time as it's about 18km before the intermediate sprint and 25km or so ahead of the bottom of the climb up Hourquette d'Ancizan. Anyone climbed it before?

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Ritch in Southampton, via text on 81111: "I'm cheering for Thomas although I can see them being caught on the final climb. A Schleck 1-2 I guess we will see who the real leader of Leopard-Trek really is."

1207: Voeckler calling the shots from the peloton and he's told his team he doesn't want the escapees' lead to be allowed to get to more than eight minutes. It's currently hovering around the seven-minute mark.

1204: Loving some of the stats from the Le Tour website: Team Sky's Christian Knees is pootling along in the middle of the peloton - his heart rate has been below 100 beats per minute for the last 10 minutes. Surely that's not normal?

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Jono, via text on 81111: "Re 1125 - tough yes, but not the toughest on this year's tour. Stage 18, ending in Serre Chevalier, has 3 hc climbs, all at higher altitude (so much less oxygen for the climbers) - brutal, even by tour standards." Good shout. Any others from years gone by?

1158: That lead is up to seven minutes. Peloton really not bothered by that at the moment. Europcar dragging the main bunch along with yellow jersey wearer Tommy Voeckler of France having a bit of a laugh with a few other riders.

ManxStevo8 on Twitter: "no chance this break will go the distance. Stage winner will be one of the big contenders, Frank is my bet."

1155: A little earlier I asked how hard you thought today's stage would be. Here's Leopard-Trek's Maxime Monfort: "The stage is very, very hard so the hierarchy will settle naturally. It's the final climb that will be decisive, so inevitably we will attack but we must also be smart. We'll have to take time on our main rivals. My role is to position our two leaders [Frank and Andy Schleck in the best conditions."

firemansword on Twitter: "Stop the race! Stop the race right now. British guys holding Yellow and Green jerseys! @GeraintThomas86 @MarkCavendish" That's virtual yellow in case you are just tuning in

1148: All a little quiet on the road. One of the escapees, Jose Ivan Gutierrez has just had a word with the doctor in the medical car. Not sure what, if anything, is wrong with the Movistar rider. He looks okay as he takes up the pace while Thomas drops to the back and tries to rip open an energy bar with one hand before resorting to using his teeth.

Tomredman93 on Twitter: "Geraint Thomas to take the stage, Gesink will have to attack so he doesn't lose White Jersey and will end up taking overall GC lead"

The sun is out
1142: It's a lovely day in southern France. The sun is shining and the rain of yesterday is but a distant memory. And the escapees are more than six minutes in front - Thomas is technically the race leader.

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Ben, via text on 81111: "As I often do at this time of the year, I put the mountain bike to one side and dusted down my skinny wheeled friend to take on some local - Lake District - hills. Did the Contador dance for about a mile up the first hill and threw up at the side of the road. Bad omen for Alberto that, Schleck all the way. Don't underestimate the pain these guys will be in!"

1140: Voeckler's Europcar team on the front of the peloton as tradition dictates. A couple just bow out for a quick watering of the roadside flowers. Meanwhile, up at the front, Geraint looking extremely comfortable as he leads the six escapees who are 5'48" down the road.

Twit_nut on Twitter: "UK supporters routing for the Schlecks' - how about Geriant Thomas? he actually fights for wins rather than sitting on back wheels"

1135: McGee also expanded on the first climb of the day - Hourquette d'Ancizan - "It's a bit tight and tough at the bottom. It'll just put a bit of pain in the legs before the Tourmalet." He also revealed that Contador climbed the three hills on today's stage before the Spanish national championships.

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Dan, via text on 81111: "Cat and mouse all the way between evans, the schlecks and contador with contador taking a few seconds back I reckon"

1130: Telling comments from Saxo Bank sporting director Brad McGee? "The guys who really want to see themselves on the podium in Paris have to try something today." Saxo Bank is, of course, the team of Alberto Contador.

soph_tennis on Twitter: "Come on Schleck brothers! Much prefer mountain stages to the sprints, so much more exciting to watch. Happy Bastille day everyone!"

1125: The leaders are through 45km and the lead is staying the right side of five minutes for Geraint Thomas. Just how tough do you rate today's stage? The hardest in modern times? I know it's not got a patch on some of the 300km+ stages of the early days when the race organisers really were sadistic.

Text in your views on 81111
Rich in Nottingham, via text on 81111: "My mate Adam did L'Etape at the weekend (nice one big guy) and is the spitting image of Andy Schleck so I'm gunning for him...allez Adam, sorry, I meant Andy"

Alberto Contador
1119: On the first climb of the day, the new, category one Hourquette d'Ancizan, Contador added: "I've been up by car, it's a hard climb. It'll make the last climbs even tougher. We can safely say [there will be a break on] Luz Ardiden."

1115: The lead is nearing 5'30" - if it gets to 5'52" Geraint Thomas will be the leader on the road. Here's a bit more from Contador, speaking at the start of today's stage: "You can say the Tour starts today. There have been some very tough days, physically and mentally. Everything is alright though."

TomB on Twitter: "Huge day today in the TdF! Should finally find out whether Contador really is struggling with his knee"

1109: We're approaching the 35km mark. The intermediate sprint comes at 119km in Sarrancolin - it's steadily uphill between here and there.

Text in your views on 81111
Anon, via text on 81111: "I reckon Contador is crocked after his spills. Shlecks to dominate (sadly). Hope a complete outsider grabs it with both hands-would really put the pressure on the contenders." Please remember to put names on your texts. Ta

1103: While the race meanders through the foothills of the Pyrenees, a quick look back to yesterday's 18th career stage win for Britain's Mark Cavendish. How happy did he look to be back in green? Good effort by the Manxman - but will he still be in green after the mountains? Could Philippe Gilbert have a say?

1058: Great stat from the official Tour de France website. Race leader Thomas Voeckler's cumulative time of 45 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds is one hour, 35 minutes, 50 seconds quicker than the man in last place - his Europcar team-mate Vincent Jerome. In case you didn't know, the last placed rider is called the 'Lanterne Rouge'. That translates to the red light, as in what you would find on the back of your car.

MarkPickering on Twitter: "Come on @GeraintThomas86 keep this up! Three herculean climbs in the spirit of the Welsh valleys!"

1053: Evans also wins the "stating the obvious" award of the Tour so far. On Contador's knee problems, he added: "The knee is always a problem because there's no real way you can spare it the way you can the arm or the elbow, which are far less essential to pedalling the bike." Er...thanks Cadel! Breakaway is up to 4'20".

1050: One of those other riders would be Cadel Evans. He summed up the general feeling of anxiety in the peloton, saying: "You never know before the first mountains exactly how you will feel. Sometimes you feel good and you're dropped on the first climb. Sometimes you feel bad and you manage to keep up all day."

1047: Andy Schleck has refused to be drawn into speculation about his great rival though. And while most people expect another tremendous contest between the pair in the Pyrenees, the Luxembourg rider said: "It doesn't change anything because there are other riders out there, not just him. It is not just a duel between Alberto and me."

1042: What of Contador though? The Spaniard has made public a problem with his knee and today's stage could make or break his Tour. However, he has dismissed suggestions the pain will cause him to quit. "The idea of going back home never crossed my mind," he said. "I'll go back home for sure, but only at the end of the Tour." The leaders have opened up a lead of around 3'20".

Text in your views on 81111
Jamie, via text on 81111: "Hopefully Cadel or Andy will put time into Contador. Be nice to break the monotony of his dominance and see a new winner."

1037: Interesting move by Geraint? Of the six out front, he is the leading rider in the general classification. He started the day 5'51" behind Tommy Voeckler. That's a lot of time to make up - does the young Welshman, who has been blogging for BBC Sport from the race, have the legs to get over three big climbs? Will the main protagonists let him even have a go?

EzaGeeza on Twitter: "been looking forward to this for one whole year! C'mon Schleck(s)."

1032: Somewhat predictably there are a trio of French riders in there as well. FDJ's Jeremy Roy, who appears to have tried an escape on every stage so far, is among the sextet. His compatriots Laurent Mangel of Saur and Blel Kadri of AG2R are also there. Spaniards Ruben Perez Moreno of Eukaltel and Jose Ivan Gutierrez of Movistar complete the escapees.

1028: There has been an early escape and British Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas is among six riders who have opened up a 25-second gap after 4km of racing.

1025: No Armstrong this year of course - the seven-time winner of the Tour. The American almost crashed out of the race in 2003 - he went down while attacking on the climb to Luz-Ardiden after a spectator's bag caught his brake lever. In true Tour fashion, everyone waited for him and then Armstrong kicked away to win the stage.

1022: QuickStep's Sylvain Chavanel may also fancy a dig. He got involved in a breakaway the last time the Tour went up to Luz-Ardiden in 2003. The Frenchman's brave effort came to nought though as he was caught just 4km from the summit by a certain Mr Lance Armstrong.

1020: Let's not forget it's also Bastille Day and that usually means a French rider will make a bid for glory. It's a tough day to go for it but Christophe Riblon won in the Pyrenees last year. The riders are just pulling out of today's start town, Cugnaux.

Text in your views on 81111
1016: It promises to be a long and fascinating day in the saddle and I'm going to need your help to get me through this. How do you see the day panning out? Will Cadel Evans try put more daylight between himself and Contador? Will the Spaniard attack like we've never seen before? What will the Schlecks do? And how much do you feel for the poor sprinters who will be just looking to stay in the race? Tweet me via hashtag #BBCTdF or text on 81111 with TOUR before your message. (Not all contributions can be used. Messages will be charged at your standard operator rate)

1014: The riders are going to need all the help they can get today as well. It's a ridiculously long 211km, taking in three huge climbs. We start with 120km or so of steady riding before the category one Hourquette d'Ancizan, which has never been climbed in the Tour before, is upon us. Then we go up and down the classic hors category Tourmalet before the final ascent to Luz-Ardiden. Ouch.

1010: Twice runner-up Cadel Evans could well take over in the lead today. He can climb with the best of them and he leads Contador by 111 seconds, although the Australian is only 11 seconds ahead of another two-time bridesmaid Andy Schleck. Andy will also likely have the help of his brother and Leopard-Trek team-mate Frank, who is currently fourth, one place and eight seconds ahead of his sibling.

Yellow jersey
1007: Pre-race favourite and three-time winner Alberto Contador has been caught up in a couple of those spills and is four minutes, seven seconds behind race leader Thomas Voeckler going into today's stage. That's not as bad as it may sound though as Voeckler is not the greatest of climbers and he will not expect to be wearing the yellow jersey after today.

1003: Morning all. An early start today as we head into the Pyrenees for the first mountain stage of the 2011 Tour. A staggering 21 riders have already withdrawn from this year's race with crashes galore accounting for the likes of Britain's Bradley Wiggins, Slovenian Janez Brajkovic and Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck - all of whom were outside chances for a podium finish in Paris.

1000: So, who said the Tour de France was dull until it reached the mountains?

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see also
Sanchez wins first mountain stage
15 Jul 11 |  Cycling
Tour de France: How the Tour unfolded
24 Jul 11 |  Cycling
Tour de France ones to watch
30 Jun 11 |  Cycling

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