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July 26, 2007

Stage 17 on the road

Yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen and the surviving Cofidis riders all did not start this morning.

No rider will ride in the yellow jersey. This has happened before, most notably when Eddy Merckx refused to take the yellow jersey in 1971 on the day after Luis Ocaña crashed out of the race while leading. Most recently, Lance Armstrong tried not to accept the jersey the morning after Dave Zabriskie crashed out in 2005, but race officials insisted.

VS. broadcaster picks:
Trautwig: Cadel Evans
Sherwen: Tom Boonen
Roll: Robbie Hunter
Liggett: Erik Zabel

A group of 8 riders quickly launched an escape, and have spent most of the day away. Included are Jens Voigt (CSC), David Millar (Saunier Duval), Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step), Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Daniele Righi and Daniele Bennati (Lampre), Martin Elmiger (AG2R), and Manuel Quniziato (Liquigas). They've never been able to get more than 2:30 gap.

1st climb, the 3rd Category Cote de Balieix:
1) Matteo Tosatto, Quick Step, +4 pts
2) Jens Voigt, CSC +3 pts
3) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +2 pts
4) Daniel Righi, Lampre, +1 pt

1st Intermediate Sprint (44.5 km):
1) Manuel Quinziato, Liquigas, +6 pts/6 secs
2. David Millar, Saunier Duval, +4 pts/4 secs
3. Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +2 pts/2 secs

Discovery Channel, Predictor-Lotto, and Bouygues Telecom have all spent time leading the peloton.

2nd Climb, a 4th Category:
1) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +3 pts
2) Matteo Tosatto, Quick Step, +2 pts
3) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +1 pt

3rd Climb, a 4th Category:
1) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +3 pts
2) Matteo Tosatto, Quick Step, +2 pts
3) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +1 pt

4th Climb, 4th Category Cote de Ste-Dode-aux-Croix (63.5 km):
1) David Millar, Saunier Duval, +3 pts
2) Daniele Righi, Lampre, +2 pts
3) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +1 pts

Credit Agricole and Caisse d'Epargne lead the field.

5th climb, the 4th Category Cote de Theux (72.5 km)
1) David Millar, Saunier Duval, +3 pts
2) Daniele Righi, Lampre, +2 pts
3) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +1 pt

Caisse d'Epargne is holding the gap below 2 minutes. At the feedzone, Rabobank's pre-Tour leader, Denis Menchov, climbs off his bike and out of the Tour.

Caisse d'Epargne has finally come off the front, and the gap is going out beyond 3:30. Discovery Channel, Predictor-Lotto, and some CSC riders lead the peloton.

Discovery Channel is happy to have this group stay away, and the gap just keeps growing. Approaching the day's second and last sprint, the gap is almost 8:00.

2nd (last) intermediate sprint:
1) Daniele Bennati, +6 pts/6 secs
2) Jens Voigt, CSC, +4 pts/4 secs
3) Martin Elmiger, AG2R, +2 pts/2 secs

Jens Voigt flatted with just over 25 kilometers to race, and had to close a 25-second gap to rejoin the breakaway. On the day's final climb, a little 4th-Category, Elmiger, Millar, and Voigt kicked it into high gear, stretching, then popping, the group. Righi and Quinziato were the first to go. Fothen attacked, caught by Bennati. Voigt led the group over the climb.

6th climb, the 4th Category Cote de la Montagnere:
1) Jens Voigt, CSC, +3 pts
2) Daniele Bennati, Lampre, +2 pts
3) Markus Fothen, Gerolsteiner, +1 pt

Bennati and Tosatto are probably the best sprinters here. Look for more attacks to shake them.

Now, Millar and Tosatto are in trouble, falling off the group. The gap goes out to 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 40 seconds.

With 4 kms to ride, Voigt launches. Bennati matches him, then Elmiger and Fothen. As soon as they were together, Voigt went again. Bennati came over the top, and the two got maybe 50 meters on Fothen and Elmiger.

Three kms to ride, and everyone's together. At 1200 meters, Fothen goes hard, and again, it's Bennati that chases him down.

The four ride together, with the pace increasing and increasing, and with a couple hundred meters to go, Bennati surges around Fothen and stays away! It's Bennati's first Tour stage win.

The peloton will fight it out for 9th place, since the green jersey competition is still up in the air. They're more than 9 minutes back.

Quick Step is setting up Boonen, Robbie Hunter is there, there goes Sebastien Chavanel, Boonen launches, comes past Chavanel, and it's Tom Boonen nipping Chavanel for 9th place on the day.

So, Contador will put on the yellow jersey, Discovery takes over the team competition, and Voigt will have to be satisfied with the most agressive rider recognition.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2007 | Permalink

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