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July 19, 2007

Stage 11 on the road

One minor climb today, with a pancake-flat finishing 100 kilometers. It's the flattest stage of the 2007 Tour.

VS. Broadcaster picks:
Roll: Zabel
Liggett: Boonen
Trautwig: Hushovd
Sherwen: Rodriguez

An early break featured CSC's Jens Voigt, Sylvain Chavanel and Nick Nuyens of Cofidis, Benoit Vaugrenard of Française des Jeux, Kanstantsin Siutsoue of Barloworld, and Daniele Bennati of Lampre.

1st Intermediate Sprint/31.5 km ridden:
1) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Nick Nuyens, Cofidis, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +2 pts/2 secs

AG2R's Christophe Moreau was involved in a crash with Simon Gerrans.

1st (and only) Climb, a 4th Category:
1) Kanstantsin Siutsou, Barloworld, +3 pts
2) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bouygues Telecom, +2vpts
3) Nick Nuyens, Cofidis, +1 pt

Moreau's teammate Sylvain Calzati has abandoned, leading 170 riders in the race.

With 81 kms ridden, Chavanel, the last of the breakaway riders, was captured, and Alexandre Vinokourov and another Astana rider have some to the front to try to get the peloton to lower the very fast pace they've been racing.

Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner's German champion, Philippe Gilbert of FdJeux, Dmitriy Fofonov of Credit Agricole, and Xavier Florencio of Bouygues Telecom attacked and got a quick 20 second gap. Saunier Duval's David Millar spent a few kilometers bridging, while the peloton soft-pedaled behind, and the gap to now 5 leaders grew to more than 4:20.

Just before Millar caught up, the leaders rolled through the intermediate sprint:

2nd Intermediate Sprint (Arles, at 96.5 km ridden)
1) Xavier Florencio, Bouygues Telecom, +6 pts/6 seconds
2) Fabian Wegmann, Gerolsteiner, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Philippe Gilbert, Française des Jeux, +2 pts/2 secs

With 80 kilometers/50 miles to ride, the peloton rides 5:44 seconds behind the 5 leaders.

In a stiff sidewind, Astana worked a few riders to the front, and absolutely hammered the tempo. They quickly forced a split in the peloton, with Christophe Moreau the biggest name caught behind. Tom Boonen made the first group, while Thor Hushovd and Erik Zabel were shed immediately, which may help Boonen's green jersey campaign.

Moreau has 3 experienced teammates working with him, but can't make up ground on the Astana-powered select group. Rasmussen is in the lead group, most of Discovery Channel, at least 4 Caisse d'Epargnes including Valverde and Pereiro, Cadel Evans and Chris Horner for Predictor-Lotto -- 70 or more riders in all.

The Astana-powered group quickly build a gap with Moreau's group, and started closing in on the 5 leaders. With 45 kilometers/28 miles to ride, the yellow jersey group was less than a minute behind the leaders, with Moreau in a group of 14 more than a minute behind that group.

The 5 leaders were captured with 38 kilometers/24 miles to ride, and Moreau's group was 2:00 back.

Astana pulled its riders off the front until the gap fell below 1:30, then went back to the front to push the advantage.

With 10 kilometers to ride, Moreau's gap was 2:30, but his group had grown with the addition of Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd, and others.

With less than 5 k to ride, attacks started to come from the peloton. Christophe Rinero of Saunier Duval made a go, but Quick Step instantly pulled him back. Then Vinokourov launched! He quickly got 30 meters, but was reeled back in by the sprinters' teams with less than 3 kms to ride.

In the last kilometer, a number of sprinters slid off the course into the left barriers, including Freddy Rodriguez, Tom Boonen, Francisco Ventoso, Julian Dean, and Fränk Schleck. Only about 12-15 riders were intact at the head of the field after that.

Liquigas drove toward the line, and Robbie Hunter of Barloworld outcornered them on the righthander with 500 meters to the line, got a gap, Fabian Cancellara (!) tried to close on him, and two Liquigas riders, but Hunter stayed away to the line, to take his first-ever Tour stage win in his 6th Tour. It's also the first Tour stage win ever by a South African, or any African.

Moreau finally crossed the line 3:19 back, and probably lost any chance he had at an overall victory here.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 19, 2007 in 2007 Stage 11 | Permalink

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