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94th Tour de France - Stage 15 Live Coverage Part 1
 
By Staff
Date: 7/23/2007
94th Tour de France - Stage 15 Live Coverage Part 1
 

94th Tour de France - Stage 15 Live Part 1
The road goes up again in the second day of the Pyrenees Climbers Festival with 5 categorized climbs on the menu on the way to Le Louron... another opportunity for the favorites to attack and upset the G.C.

Stage 15 - Foix Loudenvielle to Le Louron - 196 km
Stage Map: Race profile, last 5 km 
Stage 15 Difficulties:
27.5 km - Cat. 2 Col de Port - 11.4 km, average gradient 5.3 %
98.5 km - Cat. 2 Col de Portet d'Aspet - 5.7 km, avg. gradient 6.9 %
114.0 km - Cat. 1 Col de Menté - 7.0 km, avg. gradient  8.1 %     
159.5 km - Hors Cat. Port de Balès - 19.2 km, avg. gradient 6.2 %
184.5 km - Cat. 1`Col de Peyresourde - 9.7 km, avg. gradient 7.8 %
Intermediate Sprints
68 km - Saint Girons (128 km to go)
127 km Marignac (69 km to go)

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of stage 16 a day for the mountain goats, and one that will have the Rabobank squad working to protect their captain and race leader Michael Rasmussen. The mountain stage from Loudenville to Louron takes us over 5 climbs. The race started today without Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) and  Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) Gilbert abandoned due to illness. Pozzato leaves with a win for the stage to Autun earlier this Tour added to his palmares.


The riders leave the start... Photo © www.benrossphotography.com

At 11.30 the riders started and it wasn't long after that the attacks began. First one to take the flyer was Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Frederik Willems (Liquigas). The stage start was nervous with anticipation. 190 km to go we had a break of about 20 riders with lots of teams involved in the break. The break has about 15 sec. on the bunch led by Rabobank. Some of the riders in the break are Sergio Paulinho, George Hincapie, Tadej Valjavec, Jens Voigt, David de la Fuente, Frederik Willems, Sylvain Chavanel, Stefan Schumacher, Christian Vandevelde, José Ivan Gutierrez, Nicolas Portal, Cristian Moreni and Juan José Cobo Acebo.

Team Barloworld helps Rabobank in the chase, they do this for Mauricio Soler, the 3rd at Plateau de Beille, the winner of the stage to Briancon and currently second in the KoM ranking. Sylvain Chavanel attacks in the front again as the others are chased down by the bunch; but they don't let Sylvain go.


The Team cars launch from the start to follow the race.
Photo © www.benrossphotography.com

The next one to attack is Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel). In the peloton some riders are dropped already; Cyril Dessel and Dario Cioni as the chase heats up the pace. Verdugo is caught by Oscar Pereiro, Denis Menchov and Christophe Moreau while Mercado and Geraint Thomas have problems following the pace and slide off the back.


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Attacks continue at the front. We finally have a break forming with Gorka Verdugo, Oscar Pereiro, Denis Menchov, Alexandre Vinokourov, Christophe Moreau and Alejandro Valverde. On the first slopes of the Col de Porte they have a lead of 13 sec. on the bunch. Vinokourov attacks as the cooperation in the break isn't the best, Vino seems to have found his legs again after yesterday's loss. We have 4 leaders up the road. Moreau and Valverde gave up their efforts and wait on the bunch.

Vinokourov (Astana) attacks again as the cooperation is still not acceptable. Verdugo (Euskaltel) bridges across as Menchov and Pereiro are reeled in by the bunch. The gap of the two in front is 20 seconds on the first chasers and 25 sec. on the bunch. Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) bridges across and we now have three leaders. It's still 7 km to the top  of the Col de Porte. Lots of riders are off the back in the bunch now.

1226 CET - 164 km to go as the gap is down to16 seconds for the break. Il Falco leads the descent of the Col de Port in the bunch. Arrroyo, Menchov, Gadret, Goubert, Garate, Verdugo, Tschopp, Cobo, Kohl, Beltran and Vino are the 11 leaders. But the bunch is not far behind, as they keep the break on a short leash with 160 km to go.

1235 CET - Crash in the bunch. A Credit Agricole rider goes down in a turn and an Euskaltel rider can't avoid him. The Euskaltel rider goes on but the Credit Agricole rider stays down on the road; it  is Christophe  Le Mevel. The break of 11 is caught as Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner) and Johann Tschopp (Bouygues) attack.  Cyril Dessel (Ag2r) abandons, 7th in the 2006 Tour he's had a poor Tour this year. Le Mevel is in a an ambulance and off to the hospital so the next abandon is a fact.


Too Tour Cute! T- Mobile fans start young.
Photo © www.benrossphotography.com

150 km to go, and the stage is still chaotic. There is a new chasing group of about 20 with Kirchen, Vino, Arvesen and some others. Kohl and Tschopp have 21 seconds on the chasing group and 1.30 on the peloton. The pace in the peloton slows so the riders can take a natural break; a good chance for the dropped riders to catch on again after Col de Port did its damage.

The chasers are Hincapie, Lefevre, Vaugrenard, Garate, Knees, Vinokourov, Ivanov, Navarro, Cobo Acebo, Ruben Perez, Zubeldia, Landaluze, Kirchen, Menchov, Vila, Bennati, Arroyo, Arvesen and Albasini. Portal is the 20th rider, Vandevelde, Halgand and Turpin are in the break too. Ok so that makes 23 up the road a talented group.

The bunch is now 3.50 down on Johann Tschopp and Bernhard Kohl. Astana has 3 riders in front, are they setting up an offensive?

Vitacost.com

1356 CET - 140 km to go. The 2 leaders are caught by the chase group. We have about 25 riders in front with 5.23 on the bunch. This looks to be the break of the day. We have the first intermediate sprint coming up and then the Feed zone... where the road starts to tilt up in anticipation of the Categpry 2 Col de Portet d'Aspet. This group has some strong talent.. Hincapie, Vino, Zubielda, Perez just to name a few and Rabobank made a smart move to get Menchov in.

130 km to go - 6.13 the gap, the gap grows showing the level of the peloton's approval of the mix of riders in the break.

68 km - Saint Girons (128 km to go)  Lampre's Bennati wins the first intermediate sprint ahead of Ivanov and Kohl. And the break is a runaway train at this point as the gap jump up to 7.00 in the last 2 km.

1322 CET - 120 km to go, the gap up to 7.40. The 25 are all are working well together, with the exception of Rabobank's Denis Menchov and a few others. Menchov is riding in last wheel to control the break and won't be taking any pulls for the group. The break is on the first foothills of the climb Col de Portet d'Aspet about 15 km away from the feed zone when the gradient goes up.


Fans inventory their swag collected from the tour caravan and test the new megaphone as they await the riders. Photo © www.benrossphotography.com

110 km to go, as the gap is up to 8.16. The break is still working well together. Rabobank leads the chase in the bunch with Weening, De Groot and Flecha at the front and Michael Rasmussen tucked in comfortably in yellow among his orange and blue jersey escort.

The break is in the feed zone with almost 70 kms done, the road tilts up here after the boys put on the feed bag and refill their energy reserves. We don't expect this break to shatter on the climb as the riders should want to come over the first two climbs with as much help as possible for the final assault. Also the Col de Portet D'Aspet is not long enough. Maybe they have time to honor Fabio Casartelli at the monument on top of the climb. Casartelli tragically died after a crash on the descent of this climb in 1995.

Casartelli rode for Motorola during that period and was the current Olympic Champion (he won the road race in Barcelona 1992). The day after the stage was neutralized; with the whole Motorola team crossing the finish line 100 meters ahead of the bunch as a team remembrance for Fabio. In the same Tour Lance won a stage pointing with his forefingers pointing to the heavens in a salute to his friend and fallen team mate.

1350 CET - 4 km to the KOM of the Portet d'Aspet. The gap of the break is up to 9.10 as the peloton led by the Rabo lads pace the peloton with no intention at the present, to waste energy chasing the break of 23 up the road.

100 km to go the gap is up to 9.20 The break continues to work well together on the slopes.

1 km to the summit, the 25 are climbing well together looking determined to keep the break together and share the work.

500 meters to the top, the gap closes to 8:45 on the climb. Lefevre took the KoM points on the Aspet ahead of Halgand and Garate.

Zubeldia, Arroyo, and Menchov are all between 11 and 20 in the General Classification. Which makes them 11 to 18 minutes down on Rasmussen and his yellow jersey. Rabo is on the front and they are drilling it pretty hard at this point; the break has the full attention of the peloton during the climb, and the gap falls to 7.45.

Live coverage continues in Part 2

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