Stage 11: Tarbes - Val d'Aran - Pla-de-Beret

Well, a day with five hard climbs will sort out the standings, won't it? Menchov takes the stage win on a day that Rabobank controlled the end, but it's Floyd Landis that takes the yellow jersey. Menchov and Landis are the clear leaders now; Kloden, Evans, and Sastre are close, but they will have to look towards the Alps to prove themselves better than they were today. If Landis continues to ride the way he did today, without any teammates to really help him, then he should be in yellow in Paris. It won't be an easy defense as Menchov's Rabobank showed themselves to be a strong mountain threat. T-Mobile hasn't given up yet either, though all their bets are riding on Kloden now. One team that won't give Landis any trouble is Discovery. I picked them as the strongest team going into this Tour, and let me say I couldn't have been more entirely wrong. They haven't controlled a second of this race and certainly weren't ready for today's attacks.

Leipheimer hung in there with Landis and Menchov, hoping that his loss of contender status would allow him to escape for the win, but Menchov kept nailing back his attacks. It didn't seem like it was going to be a Rabobank day: T-Mobile did the initial damage on the penultimate Col du Portilon climb, dropping all of Discovery except Azevedo as well as Caisse rider Vladimir Karpets; however, T-Mobile did the most damage to itself, knocking all of their highly placed riders out of contention, except Kloden, who they pushed into cramping. Rabobank seemed more concerned with helping Rasmussen get some KOM points, as Boogerd led out Rasmussen twice to collect points. On the lead-in to the final climb, though, Rasmussen moved to the front of the surviving 18 riders and set a pace that kept the peloton from closing down the gap. Then on the final climb it was Boogerd who shattered the rest of the group, shedding Azevedo, Fothen, Parra, Schleck, Simoni, Moreau, and Zubeldia. With a final push he popped off Kloden.

Menchov, Landis, Leipheimer, Evans, and Sastre were the only riders to survive Boogerd's final acceleration. Leipheimer made several attacks, but wasn't going to be allowed to get the win by Menchov. Landis did the majority of the work, with Menchov and Evans doing a bit of pacing as well. An attack by Levi and counterattacks by Menchov and Landis were enough to drop Sastre and Evans. Menchov timed his final sprint perfectly, coming around the final corner ahead and holding off Levi and Landis. From there it was a race to see if Dessel could pull a Voeckler and stay in the yellow jersey. Dessel needed to limit the time gap to about four and a half minutes, but was eight seconds too slow in the end -- the difference was Landis' twelve-second time bonus.

David de la Fuente deserves a big mention as he and Fabian Wegmann duked it out for KOM points early in the day. de la Fuente won that battle and was able to stay away until the final climb.

Prediction check:

  • Prediction: First I picked Sastre and then swapped for Rasmussen, with Floyd in yellow.
  • Actual: Rasmussen was nowhere close as he sacrificed himself for Menchov, who took the stage win. Sastre got dropped near the very top and came in fifth.

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TiVo-delayed stage log (West Coast time)

Prediction: Man, this feels darn near impossible. I'm going with Carlos Sastre. I think Floyd will hang in there, but I don't see him getting a stage win. It seems like one of those light Spanish guys should win. Scratch that, I just remembered Rasmussen. I think Rasmussen is going to go for it because he needs to get himself into this KOM competition. Oh, and Floyd in yellow, though Moreau will take a shot at it.

If you're like me, you were probably a bit disappointed by the lack of initiative yesterday by the contenders yesterday. There should be no problem with that today -- it's simply too hard. There will be plenty selection today and no more games about who is strong and who isn't.

Sprint 1: Steegmans led McEwen out at the first intermediate sprint point and McEwen padded his lead a bit

Col du Tourmalet

Wegmann, Flecha, Camano, and de la Fuente are out on a break. Wegmann and de la Fuente want some KOM points today.

ag2r is leading the peloton's climb, protecting the yellow jersey proudly. Dessel and Moreau are being protected by ag2r. Bye-bye Mayo already under this tempo.

CSC: Giovanni Lombardi (CSC) has abandoned. That makes CSC quite weak now. O'Grady got a wheel change. Unsurprisingly, Zabriskie was dropped near the top, but he should be able to catch back on before the next climb. Sastre appears to be all by himself near the front of the peloton.

Discovery: CheChu is having trouble climbing again. That hurts Discovery to not have one of their Spanish climbers not on form. Savoldelli is being dropped on the climb, just in front of his teammate Padrnos. Savoldelli is their top overall. They still have a lot of guns in the game -- Aze, Popo, Hincapie -- but someone has to do the work. Savoldelli may be able to catch back on during the descent, as was his strategy during his Giro win. Three remaining Discovery riders -- Martinez, Noval, and Ekimov -- are grouping near the back. Martinez is only the only bad sign as I'm surprised to see Noval and Ekimov hanging on so well. Noval and Ekimov have pulled themselves back into the group.

Phonak: Robbie Hunter is protecting Landis but the rest of Phonak seems to be falling down the mountain.

Lotto: Chris Horner has been dropped.

The break's advantage is down to 4:30 after being as high as 8:30 on the climb. They are 0.3k from the top and dl la Fuente is standing on his pedals, looking like he's ready to duke out Wegmann. de la Fuente leds out, Wegmann tries to follow, but de la Fuente had the advantage around the inside corner and took the KOM points.

Voeckler beat out Rasmussen in a sprint to the top of the Tourmalet. That's not something I would have expected. Rasmussen is going to have to do better than Voeckler to take the KOM competition.

Col d' Aspin

The peloton is ever-so-slowly eating into the breakaway's lead on the climb. Their lead is down to 4:11, down from about 5 minutes at the bottom. Voeckler is amazingly bridging the gap between the two. The French riders are really coming out this Tour.

Wegmann made a great move for the KOM points, attacking early and blowing de la Fuente off his wheel well before the line.

Boogerd and Rasmussen have moved to the front. Boogerd gave Rasmussen his leadout and now Rasmussen takes his points, not so many with the five riders that have already gone through.

There weren't as many fireworks on this climb, we'll see what happens next.

Col de Peyresourde

10km to go the summit as the break hits the climb. Voeckler is still 0:35 back, not quite having bridged. The peloton is about 4 minutes behind.

Camano has been dropped from the break and is being caught by Voeckler. Flecha is being dropped now. Voeckler can't catch the leaders despite all his bridging. It was a bold move, but appears to have failed.

Egoi Martinez is being dropped again. Also dropped are Garzelli and Pereiro. Popovych is near the back. Now he's searching out his team car possibly as he's dropped back among the cars and is looking around.

Kloden, Hincapie, Landis and Levi have been visible near the front.

KOM: 1km to the summit for Wegmann and de la Fuente. Now it's de la Fuente who goes early and is way ahead of Wegmann. de la Fuente took that easily as Wegmann didn't seem to have the energy anymore. de la Fuente moves into the KOM jersey by 3 points.

Boogerd is going to do another leadout for Rasmussen. Voeckler is on Rasmussen's wheel, which means he got swept up by the peloton. Voeckler has been dropped by Rasmussen and Boogerd and now Rasmussen takes the fourth place KOM points as Flecha is still ahead in no man's land.

There still hasn't been an attack out of the peloton other than the early break. Someone has to make a move, don't they? Landis doesn't need to attack as he just has to defend until the time trial, but Discovery needs to get a lot of time.

Col du Portilon

T-Mobile is moving to the front of the peloton and taking over the workload from ag2r on the Portilon. Four riders for T-Mobile on the front (Kessler, Rogers, Kloden, and ? ), which is the most of their small team. Landis, Evans and Moreau are on the back of their train. A lot of riders are being dropped by this pacemaking, including Popo, Mercado, Vandevelde, and yellow jersey Dessel.

Kessler is leading Rogers and Kloden. Landis is staying visible at the front and Levi is there as well.

Mayo has abandoned.

Boogerd and Rasmussen are also near the front of the group. Fothen and Totschnig are holding on the back.

Hincapie has been dropped and is in the chase group! He's got none of his teammates with him. It might be Azevedo still in the lead group. If Azevedo is Discovery's hope, then he'll have to attack big to get time gaps on time trialers like Landis.

Wegmann has been swept up.

Cunego has been dropped.

Hincapie is in no man's land, hard to tell if he's bridging or being dropped. It looks like the latter.

Kessler is completely done, having done an excellent job for his team. Kessler deserves a bonus for blowing up the field, including Hincapie.

Boogerd is now taking over the pacemaking, leading up Rasmussen. T-Mobile riders are dropping back. Landis and Levi are staying in the 3/4 spot throughout. Azevedo is on their wheel. Menchov, Moreau, Sastre, Schleck, Evans, Simoni, and Cunego are still there. Gerolsteiner is actually in a pretty good spot right now with three riders still in this group, even if two are near the back. Rabobank is also in a good position with Menchov, Rasmussen, and Boogerd, though Rasmussen will have to shift objectives. Landis has no teammates with him, but for now he just has to ride defensively.

The time gaps appear to indicate that Hincapie is at leat two minutes behind the contenders.

KOM: de la Fuente takes the Portilon climb, expanding on his KOM lead. He looks exhaustedly happy. He'll get to spend quite a few days in polka dots.

Rasmussen takes second on the climb as he works his way into the KOM competition.

Schleck crashed on the descent, which has gapped the descent group with Boogerd, Rasmussen, Landis, and another rider in the front split. Boogerd is mad at the cameraman.

Rogers is driving the descent just like he did yesterday. Now Landis is driving the descent, wanting to push the gaps he's got on riders like Hincapie.

The lead riders were slowing up to eat some food and Arroyo went zooming ahead on attack. Cunego was the only rider to follow. Landis seems more concerned with taking on water as is Rogers.

Karpets is another rider losing big time as he's back with peloton group that's down 1:20 from the Landis group. That time gap means that the peloton is pulling back time on the Landis group, though. The Landis group needs to pick up it's pace, otherwise they might rejoin before the next climb. Now down to 1:08

de la Fuente is still leading the race but is waiting up for something because he keeps halting his cadence and looking back. He's being caught by Arroyo and Cunego. He's latched onto their group.

OLN displayed the power watt measurements from the climbs: Tourmalet 307 watts, Aspin 325, Peyresourde 337 Portilon 350. The race has gotten tougher and tougher.

The Arroyo/Cunego/Fuente lead is only 0:21 with 25k to go. They may be sitting up on this. The Landis group has picked up the pace as they are now holding their time gap on the peloton. The Arroyo group has been assimilated back into the Landis group under the tempo setting by Rasmussen. I'm surprised to see Rasmussen and not Boogerd doing the work up front.

Cunego has been dropped from the lead group.

The time gaps are a bit confusing. There is a chase group at 0:49 and the peloton is at 1:40, I'm not sure which group Hincapie, Popo, etc... are riding in, though Mercado and Dessel are in the 1:40 group. The gaps would seem to indicate that a group split from the peloton, or it could be Cunego who was dropped off the back of the chase.

Dessel could hold onto his yellow jersey if he doesn't lose too much time on the Pla da Beret.

de la Fuente is now back in the yellow jersey group.

Pla da Beret

Rasmussen is going backwards at the start of the climb, having sacrificed himself setting the tempo at the front for Menchov.

Simoni is being dropped on the climb, as is Fothen, Parra, Schleck, Zubeldia. There's a lot of climb left (11k) and their splintering already.

Boogerd is taking the lead for Menchov. Rabobank is really doing their work for their leader.

Moreau is cracking.

Boogerd, Menchov, Landis, Kloden, Sastre, Leipheimer, Evans that are the selection right now. Azevedo has cracked -- Discovery has no more pieces in the game.

The lead on the yellow jersey is 2:42, which still keep Dessel in the lead.

Levi is the only rider in the lead group that can attack and not be followed.

Mercado is attacking the yellow jersey group. If Mercado gaps Dessel, he could take the yellow jersey at the end of the day, but Dessel won't let that happen and has closed down the attack.

Boogerd has been brilliant -- with 7.8k to go Boogerd pulls off and Menchov accelerates. Kloden has fallen off. Landis, Sastre, Levi, and Evans are right there with Mechnov.

Levi Leipheimer attacks. Menchov isn't letting it go even though Levi isn't a threat. they all want the stage win and Menchov has some teammates to payback for their efforts.

Levi does another test attack but sees that Landis is going to follow, so he aborts. Where was Levi storing his legs because they are back in the game today. The Tour would be a different story right now if Levi hadn't such a terrible time trial.

The lead group fans out and now Landis has gone to the front to set the pace. Back a chase group, Boogerd is dropping Kloden. The lead gropu fans out again as they try to select another person to set the tempo. Landis is again the tempo setter.

Dessel is riding as hard as he can to stay in yellow. 6k to go, the lead is at 3:30, which still isn't enough for the yellow jersey.

4:06 gap on the yellow jersey for Landis. He needs about another half a minute, depending on which time bonus he gets across the line.

Levi has attacked again with 3k to go. Menchov and Landis are nailing it down. Sastre and Evans cannot hold. Now Menchov counter attacks. Landis follows and Levi grabs on. Now Landis goes right on past. I think Menchov is having trouble holding on -- Landis looks barely troubled while Menchov is swinging his bike wildly. Landis has zipped up the jersey -- he expects to win and I do as well the way he looks right now.

Landis, Menchov, and Levi have hit the flat at the top and are zooming to the finish.

Menchov is leading the charge to the finish. Levi is second spot. Levi can't come around. Menchov takes the victory, rewarding his teammates Boogerd and Rasmussen for their hard work.

Evans and Sastre lose about 20 seconds. Boogerd grits his teeth and comes in next at a minute down.

Kloden, Zubeldia, and Shleck come in at a 1:30

Now it's just Dessel racing against the clock for the last decision of the day.

Fothen, Toschnig, Parra and Rogers come in 3 minutes down.

1km to go and I don't think Dessel has it.

Azevedo and Simoni have lost 4 minutes

And Dessel has lost the yellow jersey by a matter of seconds. The time bonus gave Landis the lead.

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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