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95th Tour de France - Stage 15 Live
 
By Staff
Date: 7/20/2008
95th Tour de France - Stage 15 Live
 

95th Tour de France - Stage  15 Live
Four crusaders on the attack with 13 minutes on the peloton as they climb the Agnel

Stage 15 Digne les Bains - Prato Nevoso  183 km
Welcome to stage 15. The 156 riders were greeted by rain at the start and the predictions for the day call for a wet stage to the finish in Italy. Mark Cavendish decided to pull out of the race this morning to prepare for the Olympics. Cadel Evans is enjoying his fifth day in yellow and he has 5 rivals within one minute the closest Frank Schleck at one second. This will be the first stage to make a serious challenge to Evans for the jersey and for the those favorites who lost time to improve their position on the general classification. Nick Bulls stage 15 preview:

There is a feeling within me that the first Tour de France visit up the Prato Nevoso will be remembered for a long time. First, the timing of it – the race still undecided, a rest day follows the stage....  will aid this, and with it being in Italy, someone called Damiano Cungeo would love to take the victory.

The other major climb on Stage 15, the Col a’Agnel, is also new to the Tour. The summit is reached 58km into the route, so it is too early to be of any significance. Bluffing could well occur here, and no doubt we’ll see a few riders wearing sunglasses to conceal their condition.

The gap between the two important climbs will inevitably lead to a breakaway group going away early on. The climb to the finish may be too difficult for any escapees to stay away from the pure climbers/GC favourites, especially as the final three kilometres average 7.5%.


 © Amaury Sport Organization 

The early attempts to escape only managed to string out the pack until 12 kilometers into the stage Egoi Martinez (Euskatel) initiated an attack and was joined by Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r) and Danny Pate (Garmin/Chipotle). The trio managed to gain 35 seconds on the field and 2 km later shared the first sprint points of the day in Guillestre with Egoi Martinez taking the max points followed by Jose Luis Arrieta and Danny Pate in that order. The lead trio were joined by Credit Agricole's Simon Gerrans in the next few kilometers as the gap grew to 1:25.

158 km to go, The quartet ran the gap up to over 4 minutes which sparked a response from Silence/Lotto with Mario Aerts and Robbie McEwen coming to the front to lead the chase after Cadel Evans returned to the front of peloton after a natural break. The quartet is no danger to the leader and they obviously were given a pass to gain some time... and gain time they did with our four crusaders taking over ten minutes out of the peloton as they reached the hors category climb of the Col Agnel.

141 km to go, the gap is 13:10 as the crusaders start the 20.5 km climb... sure to be attacks on the climb by the climbers to bridge up to the four. A Lampre duo have come to the front to lead the chase of our brave quartet and the gap to the four drops slightly.

1436 CEST - 128 km to go, Our 4 leaders have run the gap up to 13:45 under overcast skies. The climb runs up a large valley with mountains on either side. Christophe Brandt of Silence/Lotto has attacked working to bridge to the four, but it's a no go. Lampre riders continue to lead a tightly packed peloton; the leaders are 5 km from the summit. It looks like they will lead over the top. Behind riders are being spit out the back but not as many as one might expect, the day is young. Silence/Lottos McEwen and Devolder are two of the first victims.

1447 CEST - 2 km to the summit the quartet continues to work together and holding the gap at over 13 minutes. Riders continue to fall off the back as the road pitches up. Stijn Devolder pulls to the side of the road the former Belgian road champion abandons the race... a blow for Cadel Evans and the Silence/lotto crew for sure.

1456 CEST - The quartet is over the summit Egoi Martinez led for the max points, followed by Jose Luis Arrieta, Simon Gerrans and Danny Pate in that order with 12:50 over the peloton. Caisse d'Epargne CSC and Lampre lead the bunch up the climb. Popovytch at the front, Evans stays safe near the front.

120 km to go - Our quartet is flying down the descent staying close. All the favorites on the front as they prepare for the descent, the Schlecks, Cunego et al. Aerts and Popovytch on the front leading the chase.

1509 CEST - 113 km to go for the leaders. Gap 11:35... the peloton comes over the summit Tommy Voekler led the over the summit 11:50 down on the leaders followed by: Bernard Kohl, Remy Di Gregorio, Yaroslav Popovytch, John Lee Augustyn, and Jens Voigt.

106 km to go - gap 11:48. The tour has arrived in Italy, our quartet continue to work well on this long descent as the peloton strings out over a kilometer following in a ribbon of color. The sun has come out at the finish in Prato Nevoso which will be welcome news for the riders... The rain has started again as the peloton or whats left of it, continues to descend. We are about 29 km from the second intermediate sprint in Rossana.

98 km to go - Voekler leads the first group with 20 seconds. Oscar Freire and a small group have rejoined the peloton on the descent, the rain continues on the peloton while our lead quartet have dry roads. The four: Egoi Martinez (Euskatel) Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r) Danny Pate (Garmin/Chipotle) and Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricole) continue leading with 12:52.

1524 CEST - 83 km to go. Oscar Pereiro has crashed on the descent... he is moving which is good news. The gap goes up to 14:37 for our 4 crusaders having the advantage of the dry roads on the descent and the peloton slowing. The peloton has slowed with none leading the chase as they wait for news of Pereiro; they spread across the road with no one at the front. The gap goes up to over 15 minutes for the four ahead. It rises to 15:53 as the peloton waits.

78 km to go - Pate leads the quartet as the gap goes to 16:13. The chase has picked up as 3 lotto riders led by Vansummeren lead the bunch as we get an update on Pereiro. Oscar Pereiro was conscious after his fall but has sustained serious injuries with possible fractures to his shoulder and femur... he is currently on his way to the hospital; his tour over. 

72 km to go - 16:40 the gap, Lampre has joined Silence/Lotto on the front; the pace has gone up another notch on the chase, but it doesn't look like a popular decision.

1554 CEST - 69 km to go, the gap to our four leaders has gone up to almost 17 minutes on the chase as they race ahead under sunny but windy conditions; the 4 are enjoying quite a lead as they approach the final intermediate sprint to come in 4 km. It looks like we may have the winner of today's stage in the group... they have the cat 3 pimple as the only obstacle before the climb of the Prato Nevoso summit. 67 km to go the gap goes over 17 minutes.


Fans line the road and hillside gallery waiting for the riders to arrive on the Prato Nevoso. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

1603 CEST - Cunego and Lampre lead through the feed zone getting a gap, not an attack but avoiding trouble. Cunego and Lampre, along with the other Italians are of course highly motivated to show well as the tour arrives in Italy. Cunego's acceleration has split the peloton in two with about 20 in a group 100 meters ahead. The gap has fallen below the 17 minute mark as the Lampre's raise the pace, the peloton reacts and the chase is on. Through the second intermediate sprint Gerrans led Pate and Arrieta for the max points.

60 km to go, the second group closes the gap. Frank Schleck is back at the team car picking up bottles - now that's a surprise the second placed rider doing domestique service. Riders continue to raise the pace with Cadel having to chase back on while the riders rifle through their mussetes and try to eat. The four up front continue to pound away working together but the Lampre press has reduced their gap to 15:45 in the last 5 km.

1614 CEST - 56 km to go, the gap steady at 15:45 as CSC Jens Voigt joins Lampre and Garmin on the front. Evans is surrounded by 4 of his team mates in tenth wheel. The pace is flying now as the gap falls to below 15 minutes with 53 km to go. Can the four stay away, or will they succumb on the final climb?

53 km to go, the four fight back - 15:01 the gap. The peloton responds - 50 km to go the gap falls to 14:50 it's a full out peloton/break pursuit.

Our live coverage continues: Stage 15 Live Part 2

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