July 16, 2006
Stage 14 on the road
Today completes the transition, as the Tour approaches the Alps and three difficult climbing stages on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. There are two 3rd-Category climbs, then two 2nd-Category climbs on the day. The Col de Perty comes just after the day's halfway point and the Col de la Sentinelle sits like a springboard almost 10 kilometers before the finish line.
Mirko Celestino of Team Milram abandoned on the stage. Double Giro d'Italia winner Gilberto Simoni is 7 minutes behind the field; he may be next.
After a lot of testing breaks, there are 6 men up the road: T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler, Davitamon-Lotto's Mario Aerts, Lampre's Salvatore Commesso, Saunier Duval's David Canada, Bouyges Telecom's Pierrick Fedrigo and Rik Verbrugghe of Cofidis. They've got about 5 minutes on the field, being driven by Caisse d'Epargne. Quick Step also has a rider right up on the front, Cedric Vasseur.
Magnus Backstedt has abandoned. It's one of the saddest days of the Tour for Clydesdales.
Over the top of the Col de Perty, it's a 5:40 gap.
With about 65 kilometers to ride, QuickStep now has 4 riders on the front. Sherwen and Liggett think they're riding for Boonen, who might be better able to hang over the last climb than McEwen, but as likely would be Filippo Pozzato or new QuickStep rider Jose Rujano. The gap has dropped to 5:20.
With 50 kilometers to ride, the gap is 5:10, with QuickStep doing most of the work, joined by one rider from Liquigas.
There's an accident in the breakaway, and Verbrugghe, Canada and Matthias Kessler have gone down. Verbrugghe overcooked a righthander and catapulted over a guardrail. David Canada tried to adjust his line, and his front end washed out, and he slid into the guardrail. Kessler, riding behind Canada, stayed upright all the way into the guardrail, which launched him over and down a hill.
Kessler is back on his bike. He's lost his sunglasses, and is riding in no-man's land, but he looks okay. Verbrugghe was bleeding, and Canada looked like his collarbone might be broken.
Commesso, Fedrigo, and Aerts are still leading the peloton, now by 3:36 with less than 35 kilometers to ride. Liquigas is leading the peloton, with Caisse d'Epargne tucked right in behind.
Milram has contributed a rider to the chase, along with Liquigas. Milram and Liquigas think Zabel and Paolini are strong enough to survive the upcoming climb and take a sprint finish. Kessler is back in the peloton. With 25 kilometers/15 miles to ride, the gap is 3:00. The day's last intermediate sprint is just ahead for the leaders.
Verbrugghe and Canada have been taken away in an ambulance; they're out of the Tour. Verbrugghe probably broke a leg, and Canada broke his collarbone.
The leading trio don't alter their pace through the sprint, as Commesso takes 6, Fedrigo 4 and Aerts 2 points towards the green jersey.
The peloton comes through at 2:22, with 20 kilometers to ride. Liquigas still leads the peloton, but a lot of riders are coming forward in the field. Hincapie, Evans, Landis, Klöden, Moreau, and Menchov are all there. Sprinters are falling off the back of the pack, and Kessler is back there as well; Moncoutié and Casar are also off the back.
I'm going to launch a new post for the climb of the Col de la Sentinelle and the stage finish.
Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2006 | Permalink