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94th Tour de France - Stage 16 Live Part 3
By Staff
Date: 7/25/2007
94th Tour de France - Stage 16 Live Part 3

94th Tour de France - Stage 16 Live Part 3
The break is on the climb of the Cat. 1 Col de Marie-Blanque the Col d'Aubisque rises in the distance...

Orthez Gourette to Col d’Aubisque - 218.5 km
Map, Stage Profile, Col d'Aubisque
Remaining Climbs
180.5 km - Cat.1 Col de Marie-Blanque - 9.3 km, avg. gradient 7.4 %
218.5 km - Hors Cat. Col d'Aubisque - 16.7 km , avg. gradient 7 %
Intermediate Sprint: 200 km - Laruns (18.5 km to go)

50 km to go and the gap is down 30 seconds in the last ten km to 4.31. Dekker seems to be doing some damage to the break's lead with his pace-setting in the peloton. But with the five climbers up the road, it will be hard for the guys in the peloton to catch them by the finish.

The five leaders hit the climb. This is the Col de Marie-Blanque, and it is a real beast for the final 9.3 kilometers. the gap down to 3.50. The chase on and the gap is going down quite fast now. There is a three kilometer section late in the climb that averages over 10%. That will cause some serious damage.

The peloton hits the climb, and guys are already being tailed off. Dekker's work is done and he is off the front of the bunch now. Menchov is the next one to lead the chase. Dekker drops back to his team car to get some refreshments. Gerdemann (T-Mobile) is dropped by the pack. So is Zabel of Milram.

Yeah, a lot of guys in bunches are sitting up now, dropped on the steep opening kilometer of the climb; waiting on the move from Contador? Rasmussen himself? Valverde? somone else?

Garcia Acosta drops off the break, so 4 leaders remaining: Mayo, Sastre, Verdugo, and Soler. The four leaders are on that very steep section in the final few kilometers of the climb. The peloton is still shedding riders. The gap is about 2' 57" for the four leaders.

40 km to go. Menchov leads the Rabobank boys at the front of the rapidly disintegrating peloton. Hincapie is off the back of the peloton. Still about four Discovery Channel riders in there though: Leipheimer, Contador, Popovych, and Gusev. Well, now Gusev goes off the back. Even more riders off the back of the bunch as Menchov leads the pace. Kirchen gets dropped again. He's fighting, but looks in trouble. Horner is still in the pack looking after Evans for Predictor-Lotto.

Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) one of the top 10 riders in the GC is off the back too. Verdugo with problems in the break now. 3 leaders now with Sastre, Soler and Mayo. Sastre is still setting the pace in the break, and Verdugo can't follow. The gap of the three is down to 2' 39".

Hats off to Sastre... he's really been driving this break for a long time now with little help. "Shag" Karpets of Caisse d'Epargne now dropped from the Yellow Jersey group (it's not a peloton anymore really). The three leaders are almost at the top of the Marie Blanque but Verdugo won't give up. He will come back in the descent.

Near the top of the climb now. Soler takes over the pace-making so that he can take more KOM points. oler takes the KOM points on the Marie Blanque ahead of Sastre and Mayo. Verdugo is 4th. Into the descent towards the Aubisque now. Again 4 leaders as Verdugo is back. The big GC leaders (except Sastre) were content to save their bullets on this climb. They are waiting for the final climb to really go at it.

The bunch Rasmussen is on the top at 2' 12" of the leaders. Rasmussen takes some points for the KOM ranking too. Only about 15 men were left with the Yellow Jersey at the top of that climb, so you know they were going up it pretty quickly. Who was in that group? Rasmussen, Menchov, Boogerd, Contador, Leipheimer, Cobo, Horner, Evans, Valverde, Pereiro and some others. Zubeldia was there too.

1620 CET - Garcia Acosta is reeled in by the Rasmussen group. The 4 leaders have a gap of 1.55 on them. Popovych grabs some bottles from the Discovery Channel team car and is heading back up to the Yellow Jersey group. There will be a little regrouping, but probably not a lot: that last climb really blew the peloton to hell. 

Menchov did an impressive job of pace-setting on that last climb. His high pace took back a lot of time on the leaders and dispatched quite a few guys, including a couple of guys in the top ten on GC (Kirchen and Astarloza),

29 km to go, Dudes, we are going to see some thunder and lightning on this final climb! The men left in that Yellow Jersey group are taking out their mountain sticks, shaking them around and swinging them a bit, getting ready to try to bonk each other over the heads with them on the final climb of the Aubisque.

1627 CET - 25 km to go. The final climb up the Col de l'Aubisque is a long one, but not as steep as the last two the riders have faced. But it is still a brute: about 16.5 km long with some sections at 9 and 10 percent. Soler is now working with Sastre in the breakaway. Mayo and Verdugo are sitting on. These guys will start to attack each other up this final climb too. 

The gap is down to 1.20. Oh, wait, Mayo actually took a turn setting the pace. Let me get back into my chair... there, okay. Mayo actually worried by the decrease in the time gap, so he's trying to help keep the break away until that final climb. The Yellow Jersey group is up to about two dozen men, take that back, it's 15 riders. A Caisse d'Epargne rider helps Rabobank set the pace a bit. Has Valverde refound his climbing legs? 

1630 CET - Gap at 1 minute. Valverde would be most happy with a stage win at this point, but a move up the GC would be welcome; and why not as Astarloza and Kirchen are gone in front of him.

20 km to go, almost at the ascent of the Aubisque. The leaders are still on a flat section of road. The Yellow Jersey group can probably see them now.

Sastre takes the final sprint in Laruns (18.5 km to go) ahead of Soler and Mayo as the gap is down to 40 seconds. The first few kilometers of this climb are big gear: not that steep. 

1637 CET- On the Aubisque 18 km to go, Menchov and Boogerd lead Rasmussen. Contador is in the spot he has been all day: on Rasmussen's wheel. Verdugo dropped by the break. Now only three men in that lead group. Here comes the final round of the pain fest. Mayo, Soler and Sastre working to stay away... Boy, just watching this makes me want to drink a beer and take a nap. 

Sastre attacks!  Soler on his wheel. Mayo with problems, looks like he's dropped the anchor, Mayo returns. Sastre is hammering, and only Mayo can follow now as Soler goes out the back of the trio. Sastre and Mayo in front with 43 sec on the gruppo Rasmussen. Soler isn't looking bonked, but he can't match the pace of the others. 

1645 CET - Menchov still tapping out the pace for Rabobank. They are moving pretty fast on this shallower section of the climb. Soon the gradient will go up, though, and the attacks will come. Menchov is just doing incredible work today. The leaders hit the steeper section, which is marked by hordes of fans. Menchov is done. 

Sastre attacks again! Lotto's Chris Horner off the back in the bunch. Mayo back with Sastre. Popovych has come to the front of the Yellow Jersey group now that Menchov has bonked. Cobo, Arroyo off the back in the bunch too

Contador is 2nd wheel in the Yellow Jersey group. Rasmussen not far away either. Soler reeled in by Rasmussen/Contador and others. Boogerd and Zubeldia lose the group and tail off.

1650 CET - Popovych, Soler, Contador, Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Evans, a couple of others. Valverde in that group too. They are about 25" behind Sastre and Mayo.

10km to go, Popovych is leading out Contador for the inevitable attack. Mayo and Rasmussen 18 sec. in front Mayo and Sastre. Schleck, Valverde and Pereiro lose the wheels of the yellow jersey group. Wow, Popo's pressure has dropped everyone but Contador, Leipheimer, Rasmussen, Evans, and Soler. Soler off the back. Discovery is looking very good here: three of the five men in this group are now Disco boys.  Sastre and Mayo reeled in now by Popovych, Leipo, Rasmussen, Evans,

Leipheimer attacks!! HOLY SHIT He forces Rasmussen to chase. This will soften him up.Popovych work done.They fly past Mayo and Sastre. 4 leaders now: Evans, Leipheimer, Contador and Rasmussen.Leipheimer setting the pace, Rasmussen 2nd wheel, Contador and Evans there too. Everyone else is toast. 

Evans is really wobbling a lot... he looks like he's hurting. Rasmussen looks effortless still.These four leaders are on the steepest section of the climb. Contador will have to attack soon. They ride into a tunnel. Who knows what will happen in the dark?

9 km left. Contador attacks! He attacked in the tunnel. Rasmussen not responding, This could be it. Rasmussen is pulling Evans and Leipheimer, but he's still about 15 meters behind. Rasmussen fights back.

8 km to go. Leipheimer attacks again! the Disco 1-2 comes again. Leipo, the wheel sucker himself, attacked for the 3rd time; Evans still in the wheels. How many more attacks can Rasmussen and Evans respond to? There have been three strong attacks already. 

If I was Rasmussen I would Levi go, no real threat. Levi sets the pace, waiting for his teammate to attack again. Contador accelerates again but his attacks lack the punch of stage 15. Rasmussen grinding away, pacing himself back up. Leipheimer drops! Only Evans and Rasmussen can follow now.

Now Rasmussen attacks. Contador responds. Evans off the back as Rasmussen attacks. Contador counter-attacks again. He and Rasmussen are back to the duel, nobody else in front of them; the two are talking to each other. Evans is back.

6km - Both want to distance Evans, but they want to distance each other as well. The nutbar fans on the side of the road get thicker and thicker (in many ways). Contador goes again. Rasmussen responds. Evans off the back again as Leipo is back with Cadel, Leipheimer sitting on Evans. He'll make him chase back up himself. 

There is no real power in Contador's attacks. Rasmussen sets the pace. Contador sits in the wheels. Contador's accelerations seem to lack the pop of previous stages. Perhaps the gradient isn't steep enough for him. Levi drops Evans.Leipheimer trying to ride himself onto the podium, and help his teammate onto the top step of the podium.

1707 CET - 5 km to go, 3 leaders again as Leipo is back up there. Rasmussen doing the Yellow Jersey proud, responding to all the attacks. Leipheimer dumps water over his head to cool down and recover a bit. Evans is about 20 meters behind these three. He's trying to bridge. Rasmussen sets the pace, waiting for the next attack from Contador. 

Leipheimer attacks again! Not much of an acceleration, but it was an acceleration. Rasmussen responds easily, but this will make it harder for Evans to close the gap. The two Disco riders are working Evans and Rasmussen. Rasmussen patted Leipheimer on the back for some reason. Evans is closing the gap. Leipheimer looks to see where Evans is. He's closing Levi. Contador will have to go again soon. Leipheimer pulls over and tries to make Rasmussen ride on the front. It doesn't work. His attacks are not powerful enough to trouble the rooster thus far

3 km to go, Rasmussen keeps gesturing at the camera bike. He thinks it is too close. Soler is now in 5th position in the stage as he catches Sastre. Only about 2 kilometers of decently difficult climbing left. The final half kilometer is not that steep. Evans still has not caught the leaders. He doesn't giver up, he's still struggling. and giving all he has.

Rasmussen is waving his arm more than an Italian cab driver. How can he climb this thing with one hand on the bars? He waves to the motors of the jury and photographers.

2 km to go, It could be that Contador doesn't have it left in his legs to attack. He's just saving up for the final sprint probably. Or he's playing the wounded bird. Leipheimer sets the pace, Rasmussen 2nd wheel still gesturing and waving his arm at the race motos. Contador 3rd wheel. The crowds up here are amazing. Lots of Basque flags, orange, but lots of other colors too. The three leaders are in the barriers now.

Final kilometer, Leipheimer is going to try to lead out this sprint for Contador. They'll all three get time bonuses if they can hold off Evans and take the top three spots. Contador off the back

Rasmussen drops both Contador and Leipheimer!!Rasmussen drops both Contador and Leipheimer!! He is going to solo to this stage win! How big will his gap be?20 seconds maybe, you have to say that Rasmussen has earned this. maybe 30 seconds.

Rasmussen is going all out. Leipheimer is dragging Contador along. They are not going nearly as fast as El Pollo Rapido. Rasmussen comes to the line. What will his salute be?

Michael Rasmussen wins the stage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A two armed punch to the skies as he crosses the line.

Leipheimer dropped Contador Leipheimer 2nd at 25 sec.  Leipheimer has accelerated to take 2nd. He needs the time to get on the podium. Contador 3rd at about 30 seconds.

Rasmussen takes inclusive boni seconds about 42 sec on Contador. Of course, as Leipheimer crossed the line the cameras at the line went out. Evans will be hard pressed now to try to climb higher on GC in that final time trial. Yeah the invisible rider has to be invisible at the line count both for Leipo and Evans. Hey, Levi did some attacking on that climb. Finally... sorry, if you call that an attack? more like raising his butt. That counts as an attack for him.

Soler crosses in 5th. Will that be enough to hold onto the Polka-Dot Jersey after Rasmussen's victory? Rasmussen takes 40 points, Soler 24 so its prolly just enough. Zubeldia 6th, Cobo 7th, Sastre 8th. Horner is in now with Astarloza at 7.05 with De la Fuente in tow.

So including time bonuses, Rasmussen took 34" from Leipheimer, 47" from Contador, and 1' 03" from Evans. He needed that time. Now he has a cushion in the final 55.5 km flat time trial, and the cushion should be enough to ensure his victory (if he avoids illness and crashes). This will also give Denmark their first ever Tour victory (now that Riis has been stricken from the books) if he holds on.

Contador took only 16" from Evans (with bonuses), whereas Leipheimer took 29" with bonuses from the Aussie. That race for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th will be very hot in that final time trial. 

Levi Leipheimer says that this was one of the toughest Tour stages he's seen. He said that Contador wasn't as good as he was a couple of days ago, and he could tell at the end that Rasmussen was very strong and was going to jump them. He also says that he's going to give it everything in that time trial because he wants to be on the podium in Paris.

Rasmussen is one happy scarecrow up on the podium. Again, he makes those podium models look downright chunky. 

Those top four riders have really distanced themselves from the rest now. The time trial Saturday will see a big battle for the top four spots, then another battle for 5th and 6th, then another battle for the final four spots in the top ten. Until then? The sprinters finally get to show their faces on camera again! Yay!

Stage 16 Results
1. Rasmussen Michael 58 Rabobank 6h 23' 21"
2. Leipheimer Levi 111 Discovery Channel 6h 23' 47 - 00' 26"
3. Contador Alberto 112 Discovery Channel  6h 23' 56 - 00' 35"

4. Evans Cadel 41 Predictor - Lotto 6h 24' 04 - 00' 43"
5. Soler Hernandez Juan Mauricio 219 Barloworld 6h 24' 46 - 01' 25"
6. Zubeldia Haimar 71 Euskaltel/Euskadi 6h 25' 13 - 01' 52"
7. Cobo Acebo Juan Jose 204 Saunier Duval/Prodir 6h 25' 15 - 01' 54"
8. Sastre Carlos 31 Team CSC 6h 25' 33 - 02' 12"
9. Pereiro Sio Oscar 11 Caisse D’epargne 6h 25' 48 - 02' 27"
10. Valverde Alejandro 18 Caisse D’epargne 6h 25' 48 - 02' 27"
11. Popovych Yaroslav 118 Discovery Channel  6h 26' 32 - 03' 11"
12. Arroyo David 12 Caisse D’epargne 6h 26' 58 - 03' 37"
13. Schleck Frank 36 Team CSC  6h 28' 03 - 04' 42"
14. Boogerd Michael 52 Rabobank 6h 28' 53 - 05' 32"
15. Kirchen Kim 27 T-Mobile Team 6h 29' 23 - 06' 02"

General Classification after Stage 16
1. Rasmussen Michael 58 Rabobank
76:15' 15"
2. Contador Alberto 112 Discovery Channel 76:18' 25 - 03' 10"
3. Evans Cadel 41 Predictor/Lotto 76:20' 18 - 05' 03"

4. Leipheimer Levi 111 Discovery Channel Team 76:21' 14 - 05' 59"
5. Sastre Carlos 31 Team Csc 76:24' 27 - 09' 12"
6. Zubeldia Haimar 71 Euskaltel/Euskadi 76:24' 54 - 09' 39"
7. Valverde Alejandro 18 Caisse D’epargne 76:28' 43 - 13' 28"
8. Kirchen Kim 27 T-Mobile Team 76:30' 01 - 14' 46"
9. Popovych Yaroslav 118 Discovery Channel  76:31' 15 - 16' 00"
10. Soler Hernandez Juan Mauricio 219 Barloworld 76:31' 56 - 16' 41"
11. Astarloza Mikel 73 Euskaltel/Euskadi 76:32' 07 - 16' 52"
12. Pereiro Sio Oscar 11 Caisse D’epargne 76:32' 32 - 17' 17"
13. Arroyo David 12 Caisse D’epargne 76:36' 23 - 21' 08"
14. Mayo Iban 207 Saunier Duval - Prodir 76:40' 39 - 25' 24"

This concludes our live coverage of stage 16. Join us tomorrow for stage 17 Pau to Castelsarrasin  a mostly rolling affair over 188.5 km with one cat.3 and 5 category 4 climbs. Stay tuned for the official results and gaps, and photos from the race.
Stage 17 Profile, Last km.

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