Tragedy marred todays stage when a 7 -year-old child was struck and killed by a car in the Tour de France race caravan.
Jean Marie Leblanc sadly said, "The celebrations of the Tour are now draped with mourning. We all remember the sadness and pain of the death of Fabio Casartelli - and those sad moments have returned to us again."
The boy, Melvin Pompel, was crossing the road to be with his Grandparents when he was hit by a car distributing caramels. Doctors were quickly on the scene and the boy was transferred by helicopter to hospital - sadly it was not enough to save his life.
Two years ago, a 12-year-old boy was fatally injured by a sponsor vehicle while watching riders. Tour officials tightened up road safety measures as a result. Jean Marie Leblanc also said, "It has been a road accident. The Tour takes all the safety measures possible and we warn our drivers to be careful. The police ensure that the publicity vehicles adhere to our guidelines." The tour Directeur offered his sincere condolences to the boy's family and emphasised that the Tour strove to avoid this kind of accident.
A police spokesperson then made an appeal to parents to "hold your childs hand tightly as the Tour and its vehicles pass by."
The driver of the car involved was 20 years old with two years driving experience - the minimum required by the Tour regulations.
Official Communication of the Tour de France
Weather on Thursday: Early fog and will quickly clear leading to bright sunny weather. Weak wind from eastern directions. Temperatures: 22 degrees at the start, 16 degrees at the finish.
A. Gonzalez de Galdeano (Esp): Abandoned - sickness
Bessy (Fra): Stomach problems
Nazon (Fra): Continuous pain in the left knee
Agnolutto (Fra): Stomach problems and major fatigue symptoms
Decisions of the racing commissioners:
Fernandez (Esp): 10 seconds time punishment - holding to the team car
Laiseka (Esp): 10 seconds time punishment - holding to the team car
Bénéteau (Fra): 10 seconds time punishment - holding to the team car
Third fastest stage in the 99 year old history of the tour today (which probably explains the three riders hanging onto team cars), Patrice Halgand won today with a speed just under 49km/h.
The Fastest stages -
50,355 km/h Mario Cipollini, Laval - Blois (194,5 km) 1999
49,417 km/h Johan Bruyneel, Evreux - Amiens (158 km) 1993
48,932 km/h Patrice Halgand, Bazas - Pau (147 km) 2002
48,927 km/h Adri Van der Poel, Tarbes - Pau (38 km) 1988
All Clear All the doping tests carried out on riders in this year's Tour de France up until July 12 have proved negative, the International Cycling Union (UCI) declared on Wednesday.
The statement from cycling's governing body was issued after reports on Wednesday that traces of the drug salbutamol had been found in a sample taken from Tour leader Igor Gonzalez Galdeano on July 12th.
The UCI said some riders were allowed to use the drug to counter asthma.
"The riders who tested over the limit for salbutamol had a prescription," the UCI said in a statement without naming the Spanish rider.
"All the doping tests carried out since the start of the Tour de France until July 12th were negative," it continued.
Gonzalez de Galdeano refused to comment as he was leaving his hotel to be driven to the starting line of Wednesday's 10th stage from Bazas to Pau in the south-west of France.
"This is a non-story and I don't see what I could tell you about a business which doesn't exist," Once team chief Manolo Saiz said.
Into the mountains!
18.07 - Stage 11: Pau - La Mongie 158 km - Mountain top finish
The first big day in the mountains comes with no chance for the riders to find their mountain legs. The stage launches into the epic Col d’Aubisque after just 60 kilometres. This legendary climb, which was first featured in the 1910 edition of the race, is steeped in Tour history. Certainly its average rise of 7.1 % over 17 kilometres will shake the peloton into a completely new order - on the descent the riders face the short ascent of The Col de Soulor before dropping down to Bagneres de Bigorre for a sprint, all before tackling la Moigne for a mountain top finish at 1715 metres.
Circle of Death: In 1910, the Tour included mountain passes in the Pyrenees for the first time - including the introduction of the classic climbs of the Col du Aubisque and the Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees. At the time, tour organizers were criticized for including mountain passes that were thought to be too difficult and would lead to a deaths amongst the competitors. The French Press named the route through the Pyrenees the 'Circle of Death' (a.k.a. 'Circle of the Dead Men'). Since then, the most difficult stage used in the Tour through the Pyrenees has been called the 'Circle of Death.'
Ironically enough it was the 1910 tour which had its first fatality - Adolphe Hélière was electrocuted by a jellyfish while bathing in Nice on the rest day there and died from drowning as a result.
And so today's stage may well be the end of the hopes of one or two of the challengers. The first day's climbing is often the hardest for the cyclists - and one or two of the mountain men may well find it difficult to adjust to the severity of the climbs and the pace.
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
Expect the Basque and Spanish fans to be out in their thousands to cheer their heroes on. Indeed with the absence of the Italian climbers and Team Coast the Spanish teams are those who can put the race leader under most pressure - and Kelme, Euskaltel, Once, and Banesto have all shown this season that they have riders prepared to attack - and if they want to be in yellow in Paris it is today they must make their first assault. Euskaltel-Euskadi with David Etxebarria Ikorta (Spa), Gorka Arrizabalaga Aguirre (Spa), Unai Etxebarria Arana (Ven), Igor Flores Galarza (Spa), Gorka González Larranaga (Spa), Roberto Laiseca Jaio (Spa), Iban Mayo Diez (Spa), Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa), Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) should have a big day in the mountains - Iban Mayo was a sensation in the early stage races last season. He has not raced a great deal this season - with the Euskaltel team stating illness and lack of form - then again they may just be saving him for the Grand Boucle - certainly going to be an interesting day in the mountains. We tend to agree with Oscar Sevilla - he points out that Roberto Laiseca is the local man - could well be the Orangeman is first up the final climb!
“Plateau” - no, nothing to do with mountains - the Plateau is the front chain ring. “Braquet” is a gear and “Pignon” is the rear gear sprocket.
Eugène Christophe. The Tour passes by one of the most famous monuments to the race - the forge in Sainte-Marie-de-Campan - where Eugène Christophe became a tour legend. With thanks to Tom James here is the full story...
The crucial stage was stage 6, Bayonne to Luchon in the Pyrenees. Leading the race overall was the 1912 winner, Odile Defraye, but he was long dropped, and the leader on the road was Eugène Christophe. At the top of the Tourmalet, Christiophe led by five minutes from a group containing Philippe Thys, Lucien Petit-Breton, Gustave Garrigou and Firmin Lambot - Tour winners of the past or future all. On the descent of the Tourmalet, however, Christophe crashed after his forks snapped: nothing for it but to collect the pieces and find a forge. Half running, half stumbling, cutting through the undergrowth on occasions to cut away a bend, eventually Christophe reached the village of Ste. Marie de Campan. Finding a forge, he lit the fire, shaped a piece of metal and repaired his bicycle - all under the watchful eye of Henri Desgrange, there to see he didn't cheat. When Christophe asked a small boy present to work the bellows, Desgrange fined him 10 minutes - despite Christophe having, by this stage, already lost about four hours.
With Christophe gone from the final reckoning - gallantly he carried on, to finish seventh overall in Paris - the lead was taken by Philippe Thys of Belgium. Going into the penultimate stage his lead of over an hour looked secure, especially when second-placed rider Lucien Petit-Breton dropped out after a crash. But Thys was not yet home and dry; a spectacular collapse on the road to Dunkerque saw him lose 56 minutes, and with it, most of his lead, to Gustave Garrigou. It was a somewhat relieved Thys who reached Paris the next day to win his first Tour.
As for the forge, it still stands, with a commemorative inscription added by the French state - the building is now an official monument. After descending the Tourmalet, it can be seen on the right of the road, as you exit the village down the Adour valley.
Repeated with thanks from Tom James' excellent site - please visit it here today to learn more of the history of cycle racing.