Welcome to Stage 10 of the Tour de France!
Stage 10: Grenoble-Courchevel, 192 km
With all due respect to the time trials, today is the real day of truth. This is 192.5 km ride between Grenoble and Courchevel, the riders must face two Cat 1 climbs including the finish up a very nasty 22.2 km climb with an average 6.2 gradient. There will be no place to hide on that final climb, and look for big time gaps today.
As we begin, there is a seven-man break underway. It includes Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), Laurent Brochard (Bougues Telecom), Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2r), Gianluca Bortolami (Lampre-Caffita), Mauro Facci (Fassa Bortolo), Luis Sanchez (Liberty Seguros-Wurth), and Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel-Euskadi). The lead was up to as much as 10' 40", but now sits at around 7' as the riders near the top of the first climb, the Cat 1 Cormet-de-Roseland. Strangely, much of the work on the front of the peloton is by Credit Agricole working for Christophe Moreau. The sprinters and weaker riders have been popping off the back the entire climb.
Voigt (CSC) is flying the Yellow Jersey near the front of the pack, working for Basso. Right on his shoulder is American Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir). The hammer isn't really down yet for the big GC men… that will certainly change when they hit the final climb, of course, and likely long before that.
84.5 km left. The break is breaking up a bit. Poshuma has attacked, and a couple of men got shed in the process. The lead is down to 6' 20" with 10 km to go on this first big climb, a monster at 20.1 km with an average 6.0% gradient. Ouch. Sanchez and Posthuma are now pushing the pace.
Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is off the back of the peloton and in trouble. A counter-attack has gone from the peloton now, including Mancebo (Illes Balears), Chris Horner, and Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile).
Garzelli (Liquigas-Bianchi) started this counter attack, and Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) was the first to counter. So this is a group of very dangerous riders on the attack!
Now its Manuel Beltran (Discovery Channel) setting the pace on the climb. Sevilla is back in the peloton, and he's second wheel behind Beltran.
Mickael Rasmussen (Rabobank) is sporting some polka dot shorts to go with his Polka Dot Jersey. How precious.
Beltran slams a powergel while leading up the front of the pack. Sevilla is still 2nd wheel, Azevedo is 3rd wheel. At the start, Lance says it's important to distance some people on the first mountain stage like this, but not necessarily everybody.
Out front it's still Sanchez, Posthuma, Brochard, and Facci. This climb doesn't appear to be that steep at this point, though it's nasty in some sections. Krivstov is the fifth rider left in this break, but he's struggling. The counter-attack from the peloton looks like it's been neutralized. Garzelli and Horner are both near the front of the peloton.
So it's a 5' lead for the break with a few more kilometers left in the climb. Apparently, Mayo has a bum knee that is slowing him down. Too bad for the Basque fans! They were hoping for some big things in this Tour from Mayo, but now they'll have to look elsewhere.
So Five Disco men on the front: Noval now sets the pace, followed by Hincapie, Azevedo, Beltran, and a couple of others. Padrnos is even in the group, though not at the front... he's about halfway down the pack riding near Voigt, who is in the Yellow Jersey. Boy, the pace is stiff and steady. Voigt looks to be struggling to stay in the peloton now! Come on Jensie, stay up there!
Voigt is now off the back by about 10 meters. Lucky for him they are nearing the top. Leipheimer, Julich, Moreau, Klöden, Horner are all visible behind the Discovery train.
Ullrich and Landis are there. Armstrong is riding back a bit in the pack, not behind his train. Voigt has now regained the peloton! Good work, dude.
Rasmussen is near the front of the peloton, which is now about 4' 30" behind the break. Brochard attacks over the top of the climb in the break for the maximum points, and has a gap heading into the descent.
74 km left. Another attack by Pereiro and Jaksche. They must be setting up their leaders, Heras and Landis (respectively). The Discovery boys just keep setting the tempo. There are some very brave fans (and some apathetic cows) near the top. There are some clouds
now... could be some rain soon.
So the peloton heads over the top. Lance has moved up to the back of his "leadout train" to get a good look at the descent. Wow, the riders are catassed going down the descent. Pereiro and Jaksche are flying. Off the front is still Brochard, though, solo with quite a good gap over the other men in that original break. It's desolate and it looks like this is about the only month with no snow up there...
Brandt (Davitamon-Lotto) has got a clear racing jacket caught in his back wheel. Bummer! He's now off the back of the peloton in the cars.
Meanwhile, "Le Mullet" Brochard, with his long hairs pulled into an aerodynamic ponytail, flies down the descent at the front of the race.
The motorcycle behind is showing about 100 kph on the descent, which is about 62 mph. That's moving, folks. 3' 50" is the lead for Brochard
now. Those other men from the break are between the peloton and Brochard. Pereiro and Jaksche are still off the front of the peloton as well.
Pereiro and Jaksche hit some fast curves on the descent... Brochard is in some similar curves up ahead. Some hard corners on this descent, which could be easy to overcook. Brochard handles them no problem. McGee drops back to take a whiz off the back... brave, don't get anything caught in the wheels, Bradley!
While Bradley literally takes his life in his hands on the descent, Ullrich whizzes by on his way back from a visit to the cars. Not sure why Ullrich was back there... maybe a nature break as well?
Popovych crashes! The Discovery rider is back up and chasing. He looks to have popped a wheel. So race radio says that Popovych hit the CSC team car. Hmmm... there will be some discussion about that tonight, I'm sure. Johan and Bjarne are going to have to chat about that one.
Jaksche and Pereiro still driving it. Brochard has pushed his lead over the peloton to over 4' 30", and 25" over the first chasing group.
54 km left. Brochard hits the final intermediate sprint. On the horizon looms the Courchevel. For a detailed look at the climb, click
There are some nasty steep sections to that climb, including a section over 10% at around 13 km into the climb. At around 11 km into the
climb there is a long 9.8% section too. That is brutal, let me tell you.
Pereiro and Jaksche catch Isasi. He jumps onto the back. Meanwhile, Sanchez catches up to Brochard. Those two are at the front of the
race with about 20 km left to the last climb.
So Heras now has two men up the road, Sanchez and Jaksche, clearly part of some master plan by Manolo Saiz.
Popovych is back up at the front of the pack. He actually smiles, laughs, and gives the thumbs up. He's riding next to Hincapie. His left
elbow is bloody and his jersey dirty, but that looks to be it.
47 km left. The Discovery boys still set the pace across the valley. Of the GC hopefuls, only Mayo is off the back. Riders are
dropping back to the team cars in the peloton to get water and gels for that final climb. Well, Mayo is now back in the peloton. He'll get shelled
again early on that final climb, though.
Six Discovery men are on the front, and two more are back in the cars. They look to be in full force here, ready for the smackdown to come.
Hincapie and Popovych are the ones in the cars getting water and gels.
43 km left. Sanchez and Brochard are still off the front together, trying to hold their advantage to that final climb.
Sanchez and Brochard have 5' 40" on the peloton now. That will start to vanish quickly on the final climb. Armstrong barks some instructions
to his mates at the front of the peloton. So between the two leaders and the peloton is Pereiro, Jaksche, Isasi, and the rest of that early break.
The peloton is single file here. 40 km left. Sorry the gap is actually 4' 40". Pavel "The Gavel" Padrnos sets the pace, driving his huge
frame through the air. The pressure is now on.
Looks like the Discovery team is going to try their traditional leadout into the uphill finish, which works just like the leadout for a sprint except
that it's slower, the riders take much longer pulls, and it's uphill. But his climbers will come to the front and bring the pain as soon as they hit the
climb, trying to get rid of as many riders as possible. If all goes well, it will be down to just Lance and a couple of others by the time the leadout
is over. Of course, you can bet that Vinokourov, Heras, and others will try to jump the leadout and throw a wrench in the works.
37 km left. Just under 10 km from the climb now. The hammer is down. Noval is pushing the pace now. Behind Discovery, all the big
GC hopefuls are starting to line up.
32 km left. The gap is 3' 31" to the break, which has now come together into a group of nine men. Discovery is really pushing the
peloton, while Pereiro and Jaksche push the break. The gap is shrinking as the Disco men really push it.
About 5 km from the final climb, the gap is down to 3' 10".
The leaders are about to the base...The Disco boys are at the front. Pereiro attacks, Vinokourov behind Armstrong. Mayo in trouble....Beltran
coming off the front, his work done. On the early slopes of the climb, the gap is down to 2' 40"... men in the break are being shelled. Pereiro and
Jaksche are blowing everyone away, including Brochard. Mayo is gone now.
Now Jaksche has dropped Pereiro! Whoa! That's surprising. And Voigt is gone from the chasing peloton.
16 km left. Is Jaksche going for the win? He's hitting some of the steeper sections now. Here is Jose Luis "The Punisher" Rubiera
driving the pace in the peloton. Oh man, men are popping off in chunks now. The peloton is disintegrating! Sevilla is shelled. Menchov is gone!
The Rabobank leader is dragging way off the back. Zubeldia gets shelled. Heras is dropped! He's gone! The Discovery tempo has put Heras way
off the back!
Well, it's Darwin time in the Tour. No place to hide, the weak are being culled from the heard, just like in a show from... the Discovery
Channel! Hey, I get it now! Beloki is dropped. So while his team leaders are gone from the pack, Jaksche drives off the front of the race.
Now Sastre (CSC) launches an attack from the peloton. Discovery is holding him at about 20 meters. Savoldelli is now driving the pace for
Discovery, the Giro Champ pushing it up the climb. They catch Brochard, and Sastre is almost back now too.
Moreau is still with the diminishing peloton. Wait, now he's been dropped, along with Karpets (Illes Balears).
Rogers (Quick Step) has been dropped. Moreau could be in Yellow if he can stay close, but it looks like he's toast! Horner has been shelled,
as has Julich. Botero is gone! So Botero (Phonak) is getting blitzed, and Julich (CSC) is gone. And guess who is on the front? Hincapie!
Discovery Channel's man is climbing with the elite.
Vinokourov and Ullrich are still in the group, as is Evans, Landis, Klöden, Piepoli, Basso, Rasmussen, Leipheimer, and a few others. Only
about fifteen men left in the Armstrong group now.
12 km left. Hard to believe that Hincapie is with this elite group... man, he's a stud! So Sastre has been shelled from the group. Only the
big guns are left. T-Mobile looking good with three men here. Vino and Ullrich are under pressure, but hanging on and looking like they might have
enough to attack. We'll see how high Discovery can ratchet the pain. Vino is now struggling at the back of the group! Whoa!
Vino is having a hard time keeping the wheels at the back. Azevedo is now gone, as have Hincapie... having done their job, they pull off.
Popovych and Armstrong are the only Disco riders left. Basso looking good right over Armstrong's shoulder.
Rasmussen now right behind Armstrong, looking good. Mancebo looking good too. Vino having a hard time... getting gapped! He's toast!
Pereiro is gone.
Vino is totally shot... he's toast, and Klöden and Ullrich are still riding well! So much for my lame-ass predictions yesterday... Lance up to
chat with Popovych, and now Popo puts the hammer down! He's sprinting up and now Armstrong is getting a springboard.
Now Lance is shredding it all himself. Only Basso, Rasmussen, and a couple of others with Lance... Mancebo and Valverde are on Lance's
wheel, but Ullrich is gone! Now Valverde struggling, and Basso on Lance's wheel. Holy smokes, Mancebo is now gone. Landis has popped! Wait,
Mancebo is now on the front, driving it with Lance! Go "Neckbrace" Mancebo!
SO it's Mancebo, Lance, Rasmussen, Basso, and Cadel freakin' Evans! Valverde is still in there with Lance. Everybody else is gone now. Lance's group blows by Jaksche. Rasmussen looks like he's the strongest in the group, actually. He's not under pressure at all.
10 km left. Leipheimer is coming back to the Armstrong group! He's pushing back. Rasmussen comes up to raise the pace... he's working with Armstrong. So Evans is now in trouble, while Leipheimer has come back up to the Lance group.
Evans has been tailed off. Lance pushing the pace, not wanting help, coming around Rasmussen to drive it on his own. He's clearly feeling good. This is a very very steep part of the climb.
Behind, Ullrich is making faces driving his big bones well behind in the cars. So Valverde is the surprise here... he was saying he was waiting until the Vuelta, but here he is.
Lance pulls off, and get some help. So now it's down to five men again... Mancebo, Basso, Rasmussen, Valverde, and Armstrong are the only ones left in this lead group. Now Lance comes back to the front. He's accelerated, and Basso is now in trouble!
Ullrich dying a thousand deaths on his bike, trying to claw up the climb. Ullrich is well behind now. Basso is back on... the group of five is still together, and now Rasmussen is back to driving up the climb. So it's Armstrong and Rasmussen taking turns driving it. Behind, Klöden is pacing Ullrich up the climb.
Up front, Armstrong has raised the pressure again, and blown Basso off the back again. Mancebo struggling, Rasmussen and Valverde able to match the acceleration. So it's down to four men, and Lance is just picking them off one by one. Lance turns to see how much pain he is causing. You know, the climb gets harder from here... and Lance knows it.
Valverde now pulls through to help Lance. He looks comfortable. This guy is really raising his game to the next level, let me tell you. Poor poor Jensie Voigt is way off the back, barely turning over the pedals.
So the gap: Armstrong et. al. are 1' 30" ahead of Jan Ullrich. At least that prediction of mine came through. Everything else? Toast!
Rasmussen now drives the pace, and now Mancebo pulls through. Armstrong is sitting at the back now, looking like he's getting ready to launch again. "Neckbrace" Mancebo is pulling hard, helping himself and his boy Valverde to a high GC position by the end of the day. CSC and T-Mobile? Gone. The big threat is now coming from Rabobank and Illes Balears for Armstrong. Who knew that would happen? This is freakin' awesome racing.
5 km left. Lance sitting on, letting other guys do the work. Mancebo and Valverde living up to the spirit of Miguel Indurain, the five-time champ who rode for this team under the Banesto sponsership. Now Lance is back to the front, and Jean Marie LeBlanc is motioning in the car following for the cameraman to move it... the pace is up again.
Lance is turning through the barriers in the town, Rasmussen glued to his wheel. You know, Valverde is a fierce sprinter, and will be hard to beat if it comes down to that. So much damage on this climb, it's hard to sort out who is where. Landis is over 1' down, but he's in front of Ullrich. Leipheimer seems to be riding well too, though he's no longer with the Armstrong group.
3 km left. Rasmussen is pulling hard, and the Danes and Dutch go crazy. He's taking turns with Lance now. They want to bury the rest of the field today. Ullrich looks like he's getting his prostate checked, poor man. C'mon Jan, keep driving it! He's still sitting behind Klöden.
So it looks like these four men will sprint it out. 2 km left. Rasmussen, Lance, Valverde, and Mancebo are all out of the saddle looking at each other. Who will attack first?
Lance goes back to the front to keep the pace high. Rasmussen is 2nd wheel. Final Kilometer.
Rasmussen now still taking turns with Lance, really making his case for the podium! Valverde third wheel, Mancebo 4th. Lance now on the front, and nobody wants to pull through... Lance maneuvers Rasmussen onto the front. Whoa, a steep, steep turn... now under the 1 km banner. And so Valverde is now in front, Mancebo 2nd wheel... They are playing around a bit now... Rasmussen attacks from the back!
Valverde marks him, Armstrong next. Rasmussen goes again, but the others are on him. Valverde marks him, Armstrong next. Rasmussen goes again, but the others are on him. Lance in the back, watching... Good position, and he launches! Valverde is the only one who can catch him! Here it comes... Lance leading it out... can Valverde come around?
Oh yeah, Valverde comes around and wins the stage!Lance comes 2nd, and shakes the hand of Valverde. Lance did everything he could to drop Valverde, and the talented Spaniard still beat him. What a finish!
Rasmussen and Mancebo come through a few seconds back. Basso comes in 5th at 1' 00", still not bad. Leipheimer 6th, 1' 15" back! Great ride for him. Jaksche is the new leader of Liberty Seguros, leading a group with Ullrich, Landis, Klöden, Piepoli, Evans and a few others... they cross in 2' 15" behind Armstrong and Valverde. So much for the great T-Mobile threat.
What a frustrating day for the talented team from Germany. It's like deja vu all over again. I really thought Vinokourov would be a great challenger to Lance, but he was dropped before they got halfway up the climb.
Vinokourov and Julich cross together 5' 17" behind. Karpets comes across 6' 15" down... I'd picked him for top ten. Doh!
3. Rasmussen @ 9"
4. Mancebo @ 9"
5. Basso @ 1' 02"
6. Leipheimer @ 1' 15"
20. Horner @ 3' 59".
2. Rasmussen @ 38"
3. Basso @ 2' 40"
4. Moreau @ 2' 42"
5. Valverde @ 3' 16"
6. Leipheimer @ 3' 58"
7. Mancebo @ 4' 00"
8. Ullrich @ 4' 02"
9. Klöden @ 4' 16"
10. Landis @ 4' 16".
So not a bad day after all for Basso and Leipheimer. Rasmussen and Mancebo really helped themselves out today. Of course Lance and Valverde are the big winners. Moreau did well to limit the damage and stay in the top five.
Rasmussen says that Discovery set an incredible pace, and that Lance and Valverde were very, very strong. He says his performance has been beyond all expectations - he came hoping for the mountain jersey and a stage; he's done both. Now he says he can start to focus on the GC. He says that now we know who the strong guys are and can do the math to figure out what's really going on in this race.
Valverde, when he crossed the line, made an expression between a smile and a look like he'd taken a knee to the groin. He was in real pain, but he raised his arms and tried to smile. Now he's really smiling up on that podium! He is stoked at beating Armstrong on a stage like this. That's something to tell the grandkids about, for sure.
Armstrong says that the team had their climbing legs today, and that they were strong and inspiring. Hearing that Vino and Jan were in trouble over the radio really helped the team go faster. He says that he was trying to be conservative with so many guys with him near the top, but he was also trying to go hard to take maximum time, a difficult balance. But he also said that you have to be able to take time out of your rivals when you can, and today was that day.
Now he takes his 72nd career Yellow Jersey, Lance, smiling broadly while kissing the podium girls. Meanwhile, riders are still coming across the line in little packs. Today was a real leg breaker.
More GC positions: 11. Botero @ 5' 20", 12. Jaksche @ 5' 33", 13. Evans @ 5' 55", 14. Popovych @ 6' 25", 16. Vinokourov at 6' 32", 17. Julich @ 6' 37".
So the sprinters have yet to cross the line. Hmm... it's getting near a half hour. Not surprising, really. But no Jens either...
Here are some more surprising results from the stage: 42. Heras @ 9' 49", 54. Menchov @ 11' 51", 61. McGee @ 14' 04". These three guys were expected to climb well, but got shelled early and lost big time. Yeah, these are some big boy sized time gaps today. Jens Voigt now struggles across 31' 28" down in the Yellow Jersey.
Yeah, these are some big boy sized time gaps today. Jens Voigt now struggles across 31' 28" down in the Yellow Jersey. Oh, wait... Valverde is now in the White Jersey, not Popovych. My mistake.
More GC results: 36. Heras @ 12' 59", 45. Menchov @ 16' 16", 50. McGee @ 18' 28", 66. Mayo @ 27' 31", 72. Voigt @ 29' 23".
Since there was so much going on from the gun today, we failed to mention that Evgeny Petrov was disqualified before the start for hematocrit values out of range.
All right then, that's our coverage for today, but join us early tomorrow for another epic stage in the Alps that includes:
At km 55 - Col de la Madeleine - 25.4 km climb to 6.1% - H Category
At km 110 - Col du Télégraphe - 12.0 km climb to 6.7% - 1 Category
And at km 133 - Col du Galibier - 17.5 km climb to 6.9% - H Category
Thanks very much for being here today, and stay tuned for our regular Tour features later in the day. Vive le Tour!!!
Results and classifications