Live Coverage – Stage 13 Tour de France, 2008
12:55 PM: Good day and welcometo VeloNews.com's Live Coverage of the 13th stage of the 95th edition of the Tour de France, a 182-kilometer race from Narbonne to Nimes.
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12:55 PM: Good day and welcome
to VeloNews.com’s Live Coverage of the 13th stage of the 95th edition of the Tour de France, a 182-kilometer race from Narbonne to Nimes.
Though labeled a “flat” stage, this is likely to be a hot, tiring day in the saddle on mostly back roads between Narbonne and Nimes (population 146,000). Both of these 2,000-year-old Roman cities sit on the coastal pain of the Mediterranean, but the route between them loops through the foothills of the Massif Central with three Cat. 4 climbs. As on the previous stage, the final 25km is on wider roads, this time heading to a 1.1km-long finish straight on the Avenue Jean Jaures in downtown Nimes.
Today’s start is slated for 1:00 p.m. and barring any unforeseen circumstances, it looks like we’re on track to get rolling on schedule today.
We are happy to report that there has been no more bad news from the AFLD (the French national anti-doping agency), so maybe we can actually pay a little more attention to racing today.
Before we do, however, there is one interesting doping-related note: AFLD director Pierre Bordry confirmed that Ricardo Ricco was not the first rider to test positive for the new drug, Micera. In fact, all three riders who turned up positive at the Tour this year were caught using this new “third generation” version of EPO. Apparently, the rumor that AFLD and WADA didn’t have a test for the new drug were wrong. Surprise gentlemen!
If that’s what it takes to rid the sport of cheaters, then chapeau! to the research staff and WADA and the scientists at Roche for cooperating well in advance of the drug’s release.
Okay, we now return to our regularly scheduled coverage.
12:58 PM: Stage finishes in Nimes
A total of 15 stages has finished in Nimes, but only one was in the past 20 years. That was four years ago when on a stifling hot day at the end of a much flatter and longer stage from Carcassonne, the erratic Spanish rider Aitor Gonzales jumped clear of a small breakaway group in the dying kilometers to take the victory.
The odds are good that there will be a field sprint for the second day in a row, but these transitional stages across the Midi often produce successful breakaways. Looking at similar stages in the not-so-distant past, David Millar (now with Garmin-Chipotle) won a stage like this into Beziers six years ago, while Dane Rolf Sorensen took the win from Aussie Neil Stephens at Montpellier in 1994. Should it not end in a sprint — which might favor someone like Cavendish, McEwen or Ciolek — a breakaway could again favor Millar, or perhaps Belgian Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux), German Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank) or Frenchman Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel), who just missed out to Gonzales in 2004.
01:04 PM: The road ahead
Today’s stage includes three Category 4 climbs – each offering 3, 2 and 1 point to the first three that cross their respective summits:
The Cote de la Resclauze (which summits at 62km)
The Cote de Puechabon (at 105.5km)
And the climb to Pic Saint-Loup (at 126km).
There two intermediate sprints and those are quite late in the stage:
Saint-Bauzille-de-Montmel (at 139.5km)
01:06 PM: Saunier Duval
The title sponsor of the Saunier Duval cycling team announced today that it has ended its support of the team. We’ll try to get more information as it becomes available.
01:08 PM: Drop us a line
If you have a comment, complaint or question, don’t forget that you can yank our collective chains simply by hitting the “Contact our editors” link at the bottom of our Live Update window.
We promise to read all of them, will try to answer many of them and may be able to post a few during today’s coverage.
01:15 PM: It’s warm out there
With temperatures in the mid-80s and a brisk wind from the west, it may not be all that pleasant out there today.
Riders are taking their time rolling through today’s neutral zone.
That reminds us. We received a question from a reader yesterday asking about that very term, “neutral zone” and asked us to define and explain its purpose.
Since most of these stages start in towns, the neutral zone gives riders a chance to casually clip in and settle in before the actual racing starts. It serves as a safety measure, too, since the start is often pretty crowded with cars, fans and even reporters. The neutral zone gives the peloton and the caravan a chance to line up properly before the real racing begins. Usually around three to five kilometers, the neutral zone also affords fans to enjoy a relaxed look at the peloton. For small towns that have spent big bucks – errrrrr euros – to host a start, that’s the least the Tour can do. Race director Christian Prudhomme will stand out of the sunroof of his car and signal the official start as the peloton rolls along at 20 or 25kph. Then, on a day like this, the attacks begin… often within seconds of Prudhomme dropping the flag.
01:17 PM: As we were rambling
about neutral zones and the like, the peloton actually made it through and – surprise, surprise – we had an almost immediate attack.
Now at the four kilometer mark, Florent Brard (Cofidis) and Nicki Terpstra (Milram) have already put a minute into the field. Neither man poses a threat on GC, so the sprinters’ teams – or teams hoping to get a guy into a break – will be doing the chase work for now.
01:20 PM: At 6km
the two escapees have bumped their advantage to 1:30.
It’s unusual for an early break like this to go unchallenged, but it does happen. Over the last few stages, riders have had to fight like dogs over the first 20 or so kilometers to put together a break. It may be that the location of the intermediate sprints – quite late in the stage – has left the green jersey contenders disinterested in mounting an early chase.
01:22 PM: Our two leaders
and their relative postions on GC:
125. Niki Terpstra (NED), Milram at 1:40:19
146. Florent Brard (FRA), Cofidis at 1:51:21
As we said, neither of these two poses a threat on GC, unless Evans and others stop to catch a movie on their way to the finish.
01:23 PM: At 9km
the seemingly disinterested peloton has allowed the two escapees to build their lead to 2:25
01:29 PM: On cruise control
The peloton is clearly not interested in chasing these two for a while. It’s hot, windy and they may want to conserve some energy for a while. At the 13km mark, our two leaders have reached a 3:00 advantage over the field. They will, of course, have to bump it up considerably higher if they expect to survive the remaining 169km in front of the peloton.
01:33 PM: Five minutes
Our two escapees – Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Florent Brard (Cofidis) – are taking full advantage of their opportunity and working hard to build up as much of a lead as possible. They have five minutes at the 15km.
01:36 PM: 17km
The leaders are at the 17km mark with 5:00 over the peloton.
01:45 PM: Eight minutes
Our two leaders are at the 24km mark and have upped their advantage to 8:00.
We have to guess that there are a lot of riders out there thinking of using this as a day to relax.
01:57 PM: Reader question
Reader Edward M in Virginia asks
Same flat terrain. . .A breakaway of three and the peloton How much faster can the peloton go then the group of three (same physical effort)?
I wish there was a simple formula, Edward, but there is one general rule that once the peloton gets serious, it usually takes about 10km to knock out a minute. Keep in mind that it often depends on how many teams put riders into the chase. At this point our two leaders are busting their butts to put time into the field. Meanwhile, the guys who will assume chase duties later in the day are taking it pretty easy and benefiting from the drafts offered by riders now at the front. The guys up front are probably sharing the work pretty equally and will eventually tire. It requires about 25 percent less work to cruise along in the peloton than it does being on point and cutting through the wind.
So, when the chase gets serious, let’s assume we see a combination of seven or eight relatively fresh riders ramping up the speed in the peloton and you can see how the gaps can drop pretty quickly.
01:58 PM: 9:45 at 33km
the two leaders have bumped their advantage to nearly 10 minutes.
02:03 PM: Ramping it up?
The two leaders’ advantage has dropped to 9:10 at the 36km mark. Was 10 minutes the length of today’s leash? Could be.
02:06 PM: Columbia
the Columbia team of sprinter Mark Cavendish has put a couple of riders up front in the peloton, a sign that the young Brit is in the hunt for his fourth stage win today. He’s certainly showed good form this Tour.
02:09 PM: Francaise des Jeux
02:11 PM: 40km
The leaders are now at 40km and the gap has been cut to 8:25 under pressure from the Columbia and Francaise des Jeux teams.
02:16 PM: At 43km
the gap is now 8:20.
02:20 PM: At 47km
our two leaders are on the flats leading to the day’s first KOM, the Cat. 4 Cote de la Resclauze, which summits at 62km.
Their advantage over the peloton continues to drop slowly. They are now 7:55 ahead of the main field. Columbia and Francaise des Jeux are doing the lion’s share of the work.
02:26 PM: At 50km
the two leaders – Florent Brard (Cofidis) and Milram’s Niki Terpstra – are now 7:33 ahead of the peloton.
02:32 PM: Holding
the Columbia and Francaise des Jeux teams seem content to allow this one to hang around the 7:30 to 7:45 range.
02:36 PM: At 55km
the gap is now down to 7:00 and the day’s first rated climb is coming up.
02:43 PM: On the Cote de la Resclauze
Our leaders are on the climb and are at the 60km mark with a lead of 6:55.
02:47 PM: Old movie quote
We have been pleased and reassured that many of you out there are classic movie fans. At least a score of you have written in to remind us of a great line that seems to apply to the news of the last day:
“Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”Edward G. Robinson
Little Caesar (1931)
Man, we certainly hope so.
02:52 PM: Brard
takes top points on the climb… although neither man raced for the KOM line. Now at 65km, the two leaders have an advantage of 6:50.
02:54 PM: Lang
the peloton does not object as KOM leader Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) scampers out of the field to grab the last climber’s point. He crossed 6:49 behind the two leaders and the peloton came across just a few seconds later. No escape attempt, he’s back in the fold.
03:04 PM: Lunch
Our two leaders are nearing the feedzone.
They should have an easy time of it, but if the opening days of the Tour are an indication, the peloton’s trip through the feedzone will be a bit riskier.
Meanwhile Francaise des Jeux and Columbia continue to set the pace at the front of the peloton.
The gap – at 72km – is now 7:05.
03:05 PM: With 108km remaining
in today’s stage, the two leaders’ 7:00 advantage doesn’t look good. It won’t take a massive effort to pull that back if the peloton gets serious.
03:13 PM: 6:35
the gap is holding pretty steady, suggesting that the chasers from Columbia and Francaise des Jeux are working only to slowly pull these two in. There is no sense of panic, given that there are more than 100km remaining.
03:15 PM: Yea!
The peloton makes it through the feedzone without incident.
As you might suspect, team leaders – like Garmin’s Christian Vande Velde – forego the opportunity and risk and leave the dangerous work of grabbing lunch, either from the side of the road or from the team car, to the domestiques.
03:32 PM: More news from Saunier Duval
Leonardo Piepoli has been fired from the Saunier Duval team for a “violation of team’s ethical code.” We may assume that the results of his tests won’t be all that good, either.
And so it goes.
03:37 PM: The wind
is strong out there today. You can see that riders hanging near the back of the peloton are getting gapped now and then. There is a strong crosswind.
We spoke with Garmin-Chipotle’s Jonathan Vaughters. He says his team’s strategy today is quite simple.
“Our plan is to stay near the front,” he said. “We are now a uni-dimensional team, with just one mission to stay up front and keep Christian out of trouble. With this wind, I can expect the field to break up near the finish and we can’t afford to lose time. It’s a simple strategy… but one not always easy to carry out.”
03:42 PM: The gap
continue to drop. With 81km remaining, the two leaders are now 6:00 ahead of the field.
03:48 PM: Cavendish
VeloNews’ Neal Rogers spoke with Columbia’s Mark Cavendish before the stage, and the young sprinter said he’s ready to take a fourth today should it end in a field sprint.
“I feel good, and I’ve got a strong team riding for me, so I don’t see why not,” Cavendish said.
03:50 PM: Dropping
With 78km remaining, the gap has dropped below 5:00.
Francaise des Jeux and Columbia continue to set tempo in the peloton.
03:51 PM: Vande Velde
Rogers also spoke with Christian Vande Velde, who said riding for a podium spot against his former CSC teammates Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck is not as intense of a rivalry as one might imagine.
“I’m good friends with both Frank and Carlos, and we’re always laughing around in the bunch,” Vande Velde said. “Frank’s been giving me a hard time about driving the group (atop the Hautacam on stage 10), which gave Cadel that one second and the jersey. He knows that had nothing to do with how I was riding, but he kids me about it.”
03:54 PM: On the Cote de Puechabon
The two leaders are nearing the top of the day’s second KOM. We can imagine that Lang will repeat his grab of the last point.
03:56 PM: Yuck
Our leaders have just rolled past a row of cars that appear that caught fire. Way ugly.
03:58 PM: Lang concedes
the last KOM point to his teammate Bernard Kohl, as the peloton crests the climb at 4:19.
04:06 PM: Stuart O’Grady
Our man Andrew Hood had a quick chat with Stuart O’Grady (CSC-Saxo Bank), who said he was surprised to see Cadel Evans isolated without teammates in the final kilometers of the stage in the run into Narbonne: “Maybe he doesn’t have the best team around him, but Cadel is strong. You have to be careful in that situation. There could have been splits. There will be a lot of crosswinds again today.”
04:08 PM: With 67km remaining
our two leaders are fighting the wind and they are looking a bit tired. The gap has dropped to 3:48.
04:13 PM: With 63km
remaining, the two leaders’ advantage is now down to 3:18. They are struggling up there.
04:23 PM: Nearing the top
of the Pic Saint Loup, our two leaders are now just 2:33 ahead of the peloton. With more than 55km remaining, we’re betting on a catch. Yeah, no risk in that prediction, but we do our best to sound knowledgeable.
04:27 PM: Average speed
After more than three-and-a-quarter hours of racing, our two leaders have averaged about 39.8kph. They will be caught within the next 20km and that should make Mr. Cavendish happy. Can he win another?
04:36 PM: Tick, tick, tick
the Columbia and Francaise des Jeux teams continue to do the bulk of the chase work. There are now 46km remaining and the gap has dropped to 1:55.
04:38 PM: Olympic news
Stijn Devolder has decided not to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The decision was taken yesterday evening after a meeting with the team’s technical staff.
“Giving up the Olympics is a difficult, painful decision. Since the beginning of the year I’ve participated in many races, always trying to race at the highest level – says the man who won the 2008 Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Ronde Van Belgie races – and also expending a lot, both physically and mentally. At this time I want to concentrate 100% on the Tour de France, giving it my best for myself and for the team. The experience I’m achieving in this Tour de France will be very important for me in view of my future participations in this important race.”
After the finish of the Tour de France Devolder is planning a brief period of rest before entering in the last part of the season.
“After the Tour de France I’m only going to race one circuit, Tuesday 29th of July in Dixmude (Belgium) – explains Devolder – and then I’ll concentrate on recharging my batteries and spending time with my family. I’ll return to racing on August 20th for the Eneco Tour (from the 20th to the 27th August, 2008) to start working on a plan to reach the World Championship, a race that means a lot to me. I want to be in Varese to give it my all and have a great race.”
04:40 PM: Sprinters
are happy that the gap is now down to less than two minutes with 42km.
The sprinters were sharpening their knives this morning: “It’s probably the last sprint until Paris,” said Geert Steegmans. “I hope to be better. We’ll see if the sprinter teams work together.”
Well, at least two of them are.
04:44 PM: A smile
As our two leaders approach the “sprint” at Saint-Bauzille-de-Montmel, Florent Brard (Cofidis) and Nicki Terpstra (Milram) laughed and joked about which one of the two would “win.”
Meanwhile, it looks like points leader Oscar Freire has sent teammate Juan Antonio Flech up the road to keep anyone else from grabbing points.
04:46 PM: 40km
to go and Flecha’s work is done. He’s denied anyone else the last point, and has returned to the peloton.
The gap is now 1:40.
05:01 PM: With 29km to go
the catch will be perfectly timed. The gap is now 52 seconds.
We see two riders trying to bridge up, but these two up front are not pushing it.
05:04 PM: Flecha
this time with Stephan Auge on his wheel is going for the sprint mark again. Will Auge try to bridge? It should be easy this time, since the leaders are only 23 seconds up the road.
05:06 PM: Terpstra
knowing that Brard has a teammate coming up, has decided to attack. He’s got a small gap. Auge is going to join up with his Cofidis teammate.
05:09 PM: Gaps
So we have Terpstra now 25km from the finish. He’s 35 seconds up the road from Brard and Auge. Flecha looks to be drifting back to the peloton, which is now at 1:27.
05:10 PM: Terpstra
is now at 20km to go. He is 58 seconds ahead of Auge and Brard. He is also 1:42 ahead of the peloton.
05:12 PM: FDJ
has five of its riders at the front of the peloton. They are closing in on Auge and Brard. Terpstra is ticking along nicely… especially for a guy who has been on the attack for 160+ kilometers.
05:14 PM: The wind
has sure eased off. It was blowing at 40kph for a while today. No that it’s a nearly pure tailwind, it’s dropped to 5kph.
05:15 PM: Terpstra
is now 1:01 ahead of Auge and Brard. The peloton is at 1:34, so the two Cofidis riders appear to be close to being reeled in.
05:18 PM: Cobra venom?
It appears that Ricardo Rico has been formally arrested on the charge of “using poisonous substances,” a part of France’s anti-sporting fraud law. The penalty is pretty heavy, too. He could face up to five years in a French prison.
Having covered the Festina scandal in 1998, we can assure you those are not pleasant places to be.
05:20 PM: Brard and Auge
have company. They have been swooped up by the peloton. With 13km to go, only Terpstra is out there, and he is 53 seconds ahead of the field, full of many ambitious sprinters.
05:22 PM: 40 seconds
on these wide open roads, Terpstra may not want to look over his shoulder. There’s a big mass moving up fast, with 12km to go.
05:23 PM: 20 seconds
After a long day on the attack, Terpstra is about to be caught.
Singing? What’s that singing we hear?
05:23 PM: 18 seconds
with 11.5km to go.
05:24 PM: Oh the agony
He’s now nine seconds ahead of the field…
Nope… check that.
05:25 PM: With 10km
to go we have a counter attack from Bouygues Telecom. That’s got a snowball’s chance.
05:26 PM: The snowball has melted
Our lone attacker has been pulled back, with 9km remaining.
05:27 PM: Crash
It looks like Gerolsteiner’s Sven Krauss hit a sign in the middle of the road. Wow. He snapped his bike in half, but he seems to have survived it. Ouch.
05:28 PM: Chavanel
The Cofidis is feeling a bit randy today. Sylvain Chavanel has attacked with 7.5km to go.
05:30 PM: If anyone can do it
Chavanel is one of those who can pull it off. He did a similar move in Paris-Nice, but man, he has three full-on sprinters’ trains roaring up behind him.
05:31 PM: Chavanel has 10 seconds
with 5km to go.
05:32 PM: Chavanel
is driving hard, with the Coumbia team driving the chase behind him. He’s now 9 seconds ahead of the field with 3.8km remaining.
05:33 PM: Coming up fast
Milram and Columbia manage to pull Chavanel back with 3km to go.
05:34 PM: Quick Step moving up
It’s a big mix up front. 2km to go.
05:34 PM: Liquigas and Gerolsteiner
are now moving up to the point.
05:35 PM: Liquigas
is at the front with 1km to go.
05:36 PM: Big swarm
Milram comes up fast
Credit agricole, too. Robbie McEwen charges…
But no! Cavendish again!
05:38 PM: Wow
Mark Cavendish earns his fourth stage of this Tour de France! Holy… wow.
What a sprint.
Cav’ is getting handshakes from his teammates. What a great sprint.
05:41 PM: That boy can move
It really did look like that Cavendish was caught up in traffic with 300 to go, but by the time he hit the final 150, he was clear and just blew past McEwen, who finished second on the stage.
What a terrific sprint.
1. Mark Cavendish (GB), Columbia
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Silence Lotto
3. Romain Feillu (FRA), Agritubel
As for the overall, it looks like all of the top riders finished safely in the field and we won’t see any major changes on GC.
05:47 PM: Okay folks
that was fun. Be sure to check back for the usual reports, photos, results and more over the coming hours.
We’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good day folks.