Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of Stage 5 of the Le Tour!!
Stage 5: Chambord-Montargis, 183 km
Today is another flat stage, a 183km roll from Chambord to Montarges. There are three intermediate sprints, but only one climb, a baby Cat 4, along the way. It will likely be another party for the sprinters. Having said that, there is a break on consisting of some quality riders. Alone off the front of the peloton by 4' 20" is the hard-riding Juan Antonia Flecha (Fassa Bortolo). Flecha won a stage of the Tour a couple of years ago, and he was also 3rd this year at Paris-Roubaix.
About 3' behind Flecha is a group of three riders chasing: Kjell Carlström (Liquigas-Bianchi), Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole), and Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Caffita). Flecha's lead is now up to 5' now with about 100km left.
Discovery was leading the peloton at a reasonable pace, but that has just changed. Davitamon-Lotto has now put a couple of boys up on point to lead the chase, as has Quick Step. They are now mixing it in with the Discovery train and the gap has started to reverse itself a bit.
Lance Armstrong is in the Yellow Jersey, but it didn't start that way today. He began the stage in his Discovery Channel jersey, saying that he did not want to put on the Yellow Jersey because of the circumstances under which Zabriskie (CSC) lost it yesterday. In essence, Lance didn't want to take advantage of Zabriskie's misfortune, but instead wanted to earn it.
The peloton stopped at kilometer zero (after riding through the neutral zone) and the race organizers had a conversation with Armstrong, asking him to wear the Yellow Jersey. Armstrong finally relented and put the Yellow Jersey on, and the peloton began to race again.
1516 CEST - So Flecha sat up and waited for Commesso, Bodrogi, and Carlström. They have just caught him, and now the group of four is working together to try to pull away from the increasingly interested pack.
Back to Zabriskie: after his crash at the end of yesterday's team time trial, he went to the hospital and got some X-rays. He has no broken bones and he is in the race today, albeit he does have bruised ribs, a sore knee, some major road rash, and a big gash on his elbow. He is all bandaged up and riding in the pack; it's unclear how he's feeling though.
86km left. The four men in the break fuel up in the feed zone. The crowds are huge there. Earlier today, at the first intermediate sprint of the day, the peloton was together, and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) increased his lead in the Green Jersey competition. Boonen won the sprint, followed by Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) in 2nd and Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) in 3rd.
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) looks to have given up worrying about the Green Jersey and is now just thinking about getting a stage win. He is very frustrated about getting relegated to last place two days ago, as this cost him a lot of points in the Green Jersey race. He says his move was to avoid crashing and that O'Grady started the whole thing, though after watching the replay several times I can't really see what he's talking about.
1524 CEST - Crash! In the feed zone, Ivan Basso (CSC) has crashed. The whole CSC team has stopped to help him.
Guerini (T-Mobile) and a Phonak rider seem to have crashed as well. Basso has five men with him doing a mini-TTT trying to get him back up to the field. The peloton is busy stuffing itself, so the pressure is off... the CSC boys should have no problem getting back up to the pack. Oh boy, Arvesen of CSC has now gotten a feed bag caught in his back wheel. He's had to stop and sort this out.
On the front, the Quick Step and Davitamon-Lotto boys are eating and really just sitting up. The CSC boys are back in the pack. That crash hasn't seemed to injure anyone, just an inconvenience more than anything.
Erik Dekker (Rabobank) is near the back of the peloton in his Polka Dot Jersey. Dekker was the first to try to break away today, going solo for awhile before getting reeled in by the pack.
All four men off the front in the break are no threat to Dekker, so he'll be happy: he doesn't have to do anything to defend his jersey over the only climb today. It will be his for another day.
Berhard Eisel (FDJeux.com) was the other man caught up in that crash. Eisel had a spectacularly embarassing crash in last year's Tour: he was in a break of four off the front in an early stage when it was raining. His team car came up for a chat, and Eisel lost concentration while talking and overlapped the wheel in front of him. While the TDF cameras were on him, he lost control and went spinning head over tail into a ditch, his energy gels flying everywhere out of his back pocket. He got back up and caught the break, but was quite chagrined by the whole thing.
1539 CEST - 74km left. Flecha has attacked on the climb to try to get maximum points. The break has a bit over 3' on the field. Bodrogi won the climb, Flecha 2nd, Commesso 3rd. They are all back together, working again.
Wait, it was Carlström who jumped after the mountain points and who came in 2nd, not Flecha.
Today saw the first abandonment by a rider: Constantino Zaballa of Saunier Duval-Prodir decided to head home, suffering from illness.
1546 CEST - 70km left. The gap is now 3' 15". Quick Step-Innergetic and Davitamon-Lotto are heading up the chase still. You know, O'Grady has been sprinting better than he has in quite a while this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see his men coming up to help in the chase before too long.
The pace is definitely up in the pack now. Behind the Davitamon-Lotto and Quick Step-Innergetic train is the Discovery Channel train, with "Gorgeous" George Hincapie (currently 2nd in GC at 55") watching over "El Jefe" Armstrong. Looks like Armstrong is riding comfortably and easily... Robert Förster isn't anywhere nearby trying to elbow Armstrong (which he did by accident a couple of days ago when Armstrong was trying to cut in on him in the pack... he threw the elbow at Lance before seeing who it was, and was immediately kicking himself for it. Lance, of course, had a chat with Gerolsteiner leader Leipheimer about the attitude of his sprinter).
An AG2r rider at the back gets a bag caught in his back wheel. Bad luck that. Dekker is still hanging out near the back; Dekker reaches out to try and grab the bag out of the back wheel, then realizing he likes his fingers the way they are, he thinks better of it.
1558 CEST - 56km left. Knaven and Cretskens of Quick Step-Innergetic are pushing the pace on point. The gap is 2' 35" to the four men in the break (Flecha, Commesso, Bodrogi, and Carlström). Now a FDJeux.com rider is mixing it in with the chase at the front of the peloton.
A light rain is drizzling down, but nothing significant. It looks like it could really come down before the finish though. Race radio reports that Jose Angel Gomez of Saunier Duval has crashed into a parked motorcycle. More details of this as they come, as we don't have any pictures of the crash.
Well, yesterday was certainly a bad day for FDJeux.com. They came in 3rd from last, and lost 2' 50" on GC. This really hurt McGee's overall GC aspirations. Now they have to hope one of their sprinters finds his legs soon, as Cooke hasn't had it so far.
1609 CEST - 48km left. The men in the break are pulling together still, but now they are getting near the final sprint.
Will they fight it out? Or just ignore it? Well, Commesso launches an attack and gets it ahead of Bodrogi. The peloton is closing on them.
The gap is about 1' 50"... it looks like the sprinters will have their way again at the finish. It's very, very flat the rest of the stage.
1616 CEST - Rain is now hitting the camera lenses on the road... it looks like it's getting wet out there. This will make the roads and the sprint much more dangerous.
42km left. The gap is down to 1' 30". It's getting tight. The four men off the front are working well together, but a lot more men than four are working well together chasing in the field.
The riders are rolling through a very green and Lord of The Rings-looking forest right now. Hope the trees don't wake up and get an attitude (as long as the dwarves don't say anything insulting, there shouldn't be any problem. This means you, Robbie).
Armstrong is sitting in behind his lowland gorillas, Pavel "The Gavel" Padrnos and "Gorgeous" George Hincapie, letting them cut a huge hole for him through the wind.
Calzati is getting water from his AG2r-Prevoyance team car. He has a bandage on his left knee... it was Calzati who was having trouble with that plastic bag in his back wheel earlier.
Race radio indicates that Jose Gomez is back in the peloton after that crash with the motorcycle. We'll take their word for it... we never saw anything about it in the race images.
1632 CEST - In the middle of the pack, riders slap each other upside the face to keep from falling asleep. Oh wait, that's just the fans, not the riders. Hopefully the racing will pick up as it nears the end.
32km left. The gap is down to just over 1'. The road looks really wet, though the rain is just a drizzle right now. No fans have been on the road for awhile... they must all be waiting at the finish in Montargis. Or they are napping in the trees somewhere.
A Saunier Duval-Prodir rider is getting a gear adjustment. It's Gomez... they look like they're going to change bikes for him. Meanwhile, Lance is riding in the "Armstrong bubble" that forms around him... he has his boys blocking for him, but also no rider from any of the other teams wants to get too close to him. Respect? Fear? Don't want to do something stupid to crash him out of the race and forever be remembered as an idiot? Whatever the reason, riders give Lance a wide birth. Unless they don't recognize him like Förster... then it's elbow time.
1640 CEST - 25km left. Commesso pushes his stocky little body under the banner. Bodrogi, the very large man behind Commesso, can't be getting much of a draft off of the short Italian. Wow, there is a hard right-hander just near the finish today. The man into that first could well win the stage. That corner could get very ugly.
Tomorrow is another flattish stage, but with three Cat 4 climbs and some other uncategorized bumps on the profile near the end, it could be a day for the opportunists finally. Today, with Quick Step-Innergetic, Davitamon-Lotto, AG2r-Prevoyance, and FDJeux.com doing some hard chasing, it looks to be a sprint-fest for the speedsters at the end. Well, the roads look to be drier now, which is good. The break is winding through Lorris.
There are lots and lots of fans lining the roads in Lorris.
While we're waiting for something interesting to happen, this is a good time to tell you about the Daily Peloton chatroom at [
http://www.dailypeloton.com/chat.asp]. It's fun to chat with your fellow fans, and even the cloaked professional riders who visit regularly (we see you, Mr. Barrett).
1652 CEST - 20km left. The gap is down to around 40". It will be over soon for the break.
15km left. Oh yeah, the hammer is down now. The Quick Step-Innergetic and Davitamon-Lotto boys have it all strung out. Commesso grimaces, knowing his time off the front is almost over.
Zabriskie (CSC) is riding near the back of the pack staying out of trouble.
12km left. Less than 20" to the break now.
So the catch is made, it's all back together. Cofidis comes to the front to pick up the pace for O'Grady heading into the final ten kilometers.
It's Matt White doing the work. Good to see Matt here... last year, he missed out on his first Tour ever by crashing while warming up before the opening Prologue just a couple of hours before the start. Quick Step is also there looking almost Fassa-esque in their organization.
Wow, The Big Hink, George Hincapie, is getting Lance up right near the front. Ullrich is near the front, as is Heras... they are trying to stay out of trouble. They'll likely back off after the 3km line is crossed, though... once inside 3km, you can't lose time due to a crash.
5km left. The peloton is changing all the time. The sprinters are in full elbow mode, leaning in and cutting off and getting into position for the final dash. Now we'll see what this big right-hander inside the final kilometer will do to the sprint.
Whoa! Some nasty crashes! In some corners near the 4km mark. Armstrong is through with no problem. It was a Cofidis rider who went into the barriers. But that was it, luckily... it looked at first like it was a bigger crash than that. Tombak was the man who crashed.
The peloton is still all together under the 3km banner. It's all good now... no time losses for the big boys. FDJeux.com has control of the front now. Eisel and Cooke are both capable of a good sprint. McGee is there for the leadout. Boonen is in there somewhere. I saw a Green Jersey.
Ho! Another hard corner, but they are through now problem. 1km left. McGee on the front. Here comes the leadout... they hit the corner no problem!
Here comes McGee leading out Cooke! Boonen is also getting a leadout. But Cooke is leading out Eisel! Here comes Boonen, but McEwen comes out of nowhere and takes it! Holy mackerel!
It was a bit uphill, this sprint... Boonen got a good leadout, but McEwen was right on his wheel, came around him on the left, and gave a big salute to the judges after taking the win by a half of a wheel. Eisel and Cooke were coming up the right hand barriers, but faded on the uphill slog.
Hushovd was on McEwen's wheel, but couldn't come around. He has another good top-5 finish, though... that'll keep him in there for the Green Jersey competition.
Davis of Liberty Seguros should be top ten, as should Cooke.
This really has been a bad Tour so far for FDJeux.com... they've really been struggling.
So that crash at 4km actually did involve about four men. Nobody went down hard... a few went over the hay bales, but weren't injured. An Illes Balears and a Fassa Bortolo rider went over the bales along with Tombak. All quickly remounted and got on with finishing.
McEwen is all smiles! The Little Emperor likes nothing better than stage wins in the Tour de France. And the big "Eat My Cycling Shorts" that he was able to give to the judges, who he feels unfairly relegated him to last two days ago, is surely adding to that smile.
No change in the GC. Lance Somebody puts on the Yellow Jersey again. You might have heard of the guy.
McEwen takes his trophy and his kisses on the podium. All smiling, and relief... the Aussie Champion has his first victory, finally repaying all the hard work of his team.
Next on the podium is this Texan guy. He pulls on the Yellow Jersey, ho hum, kisses the misses, allows himself a small smile, and goes over to Bernard Hinault to shake his hand.
McEwen says his pointing at his jersey after crossing the line was for his team, who he says has worked so hard and so well for him. He says he now has the monkey off his back.
Armstrong has more Tour wins than Hinault (6 to 5), but Hinault is still ahead of Armstrong in overall days spent in the Yellow Jersey. I can't count high enough to give you the numbers on that one.
Well, Armstrong says that LeBlanc (the race director) told him that if he didn't wear the Yellow Jersey today, he wouldn't be allowed to start the race tomorrow. Interesting, that. Lance also says that he thinks Zabriskie would have kept the Yellow Jersey if not for that crash.
Lance says that he wanted to make a sporting gesture (by not wearing the Yellow Jersey) to acknowledge Zabriskie's bad luck, but obviously LeBlanc had to protect the interest of the sponsors of the jersey and the interest of the fans who came to see a Yellow Jersey pass by them on the road.
At this point, LeBlanc and Armstrong know and respect each other enough that the conversation was probably very straightforward, honest, and respectful.
End result: Armstrong wore yellow today, and heads into tomorrow still far up in the GC.
That's it for our live coverage today. Full results to come, as well as the Jambon Report and Tour news. Thanks for being with us, and please join us again tomorrow!