• Click on auto-refresh for all the latest action • Ping your emails to email@example.com • Our interactive guide to this year’s Tour • The official Tour de France website 1.50pm: Before the Guardian lawyers start getting irritable, I should probably point out that there isn’t a shred of evidence to support my theory that Thomas Voeckler attempts to seduce other cyclists’ wives, smokes too much in the peloton and smells of potatoes. I’m just speculating here and to the best of my knowledge he’s a non-smoking family man who probably smells of talcum powder and lemon-scented shaving balm
1.50pm: Before the Guardian lawyers start getting irritable, I should probably point out that there isn’t a shred of evidence to support my theory that Thomas Voeckler attempts to seduce other cyclists’ wives, smokes too much in the peloton and smells of potatoes. I’m just speculating here and to the best of my knowledge he’s a non-smoking family man who probably smells of talcum powder and lemon-scented shaving balm.
1.47pm: On the subject of Thomas Voeckler’s lack of popularity among his fellow riders, Matthew West begs to differ with my theory that it might be because the Frenchman attempts to seduce other cyclists’ wives, smokes too much in the peloton and smells of potatoes.
“An article here on The Inner Ring suggests that Voeckler has a tendency to play up in breaks – feigning tiredness and sitting back, only to whizz off to take the sprint,” writes Matthew West. “There’s always some kidology in cycling (Lance Armstrong duped Ullrich’s Deutsche Telekom team into attacking and burning themselves out by pretending to crack on the famous Alpe d’Huez stage in 2001) but if you do that sort of thing too much, you will make yourself unpopular.”
1.46pm: “What has happened to Jeremy Roy this year?” asks Thomas Cox. “A source of constant amusement last year with his kamikaze breaks and utter disregard for team protocol, surely rather than hanging out the back with the sprinters he should be making mischief at the front on days like today? And rather than looking for a few seconds at the finish, doesn’t Cadel need to blow this wide open given Wiggins’ time-trial form? Schleck went too late last year, I hope Evans won’t die wondering in ’12.”
1.43pm: The yellow jersey bunch reach the top of the Col de Madeline 2min 55sec behind the leading group, who are decending at speeds of up to 60km-per-hour. Peter Velits is leading the charge down the mountainside and looks to be trying to put some asphalt between him and his fellow escapees.
1.41pm: With 25 King of the Mountains points on offer for the first man over the summit of the Col de Madline, five men leap off the front of the leading bunch to spring it out. Peter Velits is first over and takes maximum points and is followed by Astana rider Fredrik Kessiakoff who takes 20 points, enough to make him the virtual King of the Mountains on the road.
1.35pm: That lead group of 26 is now a lead group of 28: Amael Moinard (BMC), Chris Horner (RNT), Christophe Kern, Davide Malacarne and Pierre Rolland (EUC), Gorka Izaguirre (EUS), Michele Scarponi and Marco Marzano (LAM), Kristijan Koren and Ivan Basso (LIQ), Dan Martin (GRS), Blel Kadri, Maxime Bouet and Christophe Riblon (ALM), Brice Feillu (SAU), Johnny Hoogerland (VCD), Laurens Ten Dam and Steven Kruiswijk (RAB), Alejandre Valverde and Vasili Kiryienka (MOV), Chris Sorensen (STB), Fredrik Kessiakoff, Robert Kiserlovski and Vino Vinokourov (AST), Levi Leipheimer and Peter Velits (OPQ) and Pieter Weening (OGE). And breathe …
1.32pm: As the 26-man breakaway approaches the summit of the Col du Madeline, the gap between them and the yellow jersey group is just under two minutes. Behind the yellow jersey group, another sizable bus of dropped riders including Sylvain Chavanel, Jens Voigt, Stephen Cummings, Jeremy Roy, Lars Bak and Tyler Farrar has formed.
1.31pm: Here we go … Fight! Fight! Fight! By way of response to Gary Naylor, James Cavell writes: “We aren’t only seeing a well trained competitor with the strongest team dominate the Tour by staying at the front in the climbs and gaining time in the time trials though are we?” he says. “We’re seeing a superior rider on the strongest team win Paris Nice, the Dauphine and the Tour de Romandie – a feat not even ‘The Cannibal’ Eddy Merckx could manage. This is how unprecedented this run of form is. And we’ve also seen Wiggins beat his rivals in time trials by a little more in each of these races as the season develops, showing he is getting stronger and stronger in the run up to the main event.”
1.29pm: We’re in the Savoir region of France and as the peloton passes a field full of remarkably indifferent looking bell-wearing brown cattle, Liquigas rider and green jersey-wearer Peter Sagan drops out of the main group to get some mechanical assistance from his team car.
1.27pm: And then there were 173: Vacansoleil-DCM team leader Lieuwe Westra has abandoned. He has, apparently, been suffering from a virus. Well, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
1.24pm: The best placed rider on GC in the 26-man escape group is Michele Scraponi from the Lampre-ISD team, who is 15th overall and 7min 14sec behind Wiggins. He could conceivably wrestle the yellow jersey away from Wiggins this afternoon, but with a long time-trial to come, has very little chance of winning the race.
1.17pm: The lead group of 26 riders lead the Wiggins group by 1min 39sec and have eight kilomtres to go to the summit of Col de Madeline. I’m going to take a very quick break to grab a coffee and will be back shortly …
1.15pm: “Can you give an update as to how Nicholas Roche is getting on – there hasn’t been too much mention of him on the MBM since the start of the Tour,” asks Thomas Plunkett.
All I can tell you is that he’s 10th on general classification and having a good Tour. I suspect he’s in the yellow jersey group today, as he’s not in the lead group and he’s too good to have been dropped this early.
1.12pm: The Leipheimer group has caught the main group, meaning that the lead group now comprises 26 riders. They’re 1min 35sec ahead of the yellow jersey group, which is being controlled by the riders of Sky. Somewhere in the middle, Jerome Pineau is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
1.09pm: With 28 kilometres behind them and 119 or so to go, a group of 22 riders, none of whom are in with a decent shout of getting on the podium, lead the yellow jersey group by 1min 23sec. Fourteen seconds behind that leading bunch is a group of four riders, including Levi Leipheimer (OPQ), Laurens Ten Dam (RAB), Amael Moinard (BMC) and Marco Marzano (Lam). Behind them, Jerome Pineau (OPQ) is trying to bridge the gap.
1.08pm: Cav watch: Mark Cavendish has been dropped from the yellow jersey group.
1.04pm: “Whilst it’s all good patriotic stuff cheering on Wiggo, it’s ever so slightly dull isn’t it?” writes Gary Naylor, who thinks a rain delay in cricket is exciting. “With Contador and Andy Schleck indisposed, no climber appears to have a jump (except maybe Chris Froome and he won’t), so the yellow jersey can follow the wheels and wait for the time-trials. It would be better if there were time bonuses on the line (as there was for a short time) – 30 seconds, 20 seconds and ten seconds as that might give an incentive for the GC men to try for the stages. If all-rounders (like Wiggo) can be honed by a tailored training regime for one race per year and protected by a strong team, Tours will become very dull – as in trench warfare, it’ll be too easy to defend and too risky to attack.”
1.01pm: Another four riders have made the jump from yellow jersey peloton to breakaway group. The gap is 48 seconds and Team Sky are vigilantly monitoring proceedings from the front of the peloton, with Edvald Boasson Hagen is towing along. Remember, we’re on just the first of four big climbs in what should be a splendid afternoon’s bike racing.
12.57pm: That breakaway group (well, 13 of them out of 17): Kristijan Koren (LIQ), Christophe Riblon (ALM), Dan Martin (GRS), Johnny Hoogerland (VCD), Chris Sorensen (STB), Robert Kieserlovski (AST), Alex Vinokourov (AST), Chris Horner (RNT), Davide Malacarne (EUC), Kadri (ALM), Ivan Basso (LIQ), Peter Velits (OPQ) and Pieter Weening (OGE).
12.54pm: While I was typing out the names of the 31-riders in the breakaway, 23 of them got dropped, while others jumped across from the peloton. As things stand, we have a breakaway group of 17 riders with a lead of 41 seconds on the main bunch.
12.50pm: Possibly on the back of yesterday’s exertions, or perhaps because he’s aware that we’re all talking about him, Thomas Voeckler has already lost touch with the yellow jersey peloton. Of course, there’s always a chance he’s up to something … the snake. Given how unpopular he is among his peers, I suspect he might be dropping back to the race referees car, to grass up Cadel Evans for illegally downloading the new Spiderman movie from the internet in his hotel room on the rest day.
12.44pm: That escape group in full: he escape group: Marcus Burghardt, Stephen Cumming, Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Yaroslav Popovych (RNT), David Malacarne (EUC), Ruben Perez (EUS), Grega Bole (LAM), Kristijan Koren (LIQ), Dan Martin (GRS), Mikael Cherel and Christophe Riblon (ALM), Samuel Dumoulin (COF), Johnny Hoogerland (VCD),
Luca Paolini (KAT), Hutarovich (FDJ), Gesink and Kruiswijk (RAB), Karpets (MOV), Sorensen and Sorensen (STB), Grivko, Iglinskiy, Kieserlovski and Vinokourov (AST), De Weert and Pineau (OPQ), Albasini (OGE), De Kort, Gretsch and Huguet (ARG). Apologies – I gave up writing out first names about halfway through there, as I was worried you might think I’d fallen asleep or died.
12.43pm: “I’d always thought, as you did, that Thomas Voeckler seemed like a ‘salt of the earth’ kind of guy,” writes Brad McMillan. “Then I listened to the (excellent, but way too short) ITV podcast this morning and Ned Boulting described asking Voeckler for a quick interview; a request met with snarling, almost threatening behaviour until the moment the camera rolled … and it was suddenly all sweetness and smiles. Ned referred to it, somewhat disdainfully, as the ‘Europcar Smile’.”
12.40pm: “My Tour de France magazine says that in the peloton, Thomas Voeckler is known as ‘The Fucker’, but without really saying why,” writes Sam Wingfield.
What is it? I want to know what Thomas Voeckler has done to upset all his colleagues? I suppose, being a Frenchman, it isn’t out of the question that he’s constantly trying to seduce their wives, then blows toxic clouds of Gitanes smoke into the faces of those riding behind him.
12.38pm: The 31-man breakaway has begun the first ascent of the day and are making their way up the 25.3-kilomtre long climb up the Col du Madeline. The gap between them and the bunch is over 40 seconds, but back in the peloton, Team Sky are to the fore and apparently determined not to let them open too big a lead.
12.33pm: The breakaway group of 31 riders approaches the foothills of the Col de la Madeline with a lead of 52 seconds over the stragglers. Breakaway groups of 31 riders are no fun of those of us who type Tour de France stages for a living, but here goes … Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) is there, as are Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Sergiy Grivko (Astana), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Vino Vionokourov (Astana) among many others.
12.30pm: David Buckerfield writes in with a theory about Thomas Voeckler’s lack opf popularity in the peloton. “He must be impossible to ride with or ride against because he’s always varying his speed and generally causing problems all around him,” he says. “It makes for wild and unpredictable racing- a competitor’s nightmare, but a spectator’s dream!”
That sounds plausible enough, although the truth could be much simpler. Perhaps Thomas Voeckler smells of blight-infected potatoes, or is one of those really annoying people who constantly interrupts people telling jokes in the peloton by shouting out the punchline.
12.25pm: The flag has dropped and immediately the peloton is blown to smithereens as assorted riders make a break for it. Rabobank rider Robert Gessink and BMC rider Marcus Burghardt led the charge and with eight kilomtres covered are part of a 31-man breakaway that have opened a a 16-second lead on the bunch.
12.18pm: With the peloton on its procession through Conflans before the flag to signal the start of the day’s racing, ITV presenter Chris Boardman is doing a chucklesome feature on the various not-entirely-legal methods riders who have been dropped by the peloton use to get back in touch with it. Holding on to waterbottles being handed to them from team cars for a very long time as the car accelerates ids a particular favourite, as is having a mechanic lean out of the car to filddle around the back of your saddle with a spanner, while polacing his hand on the rider’s back for “balance”.
Then, of course, there’s the zig-zagging through the race traffic, drafting behind motorbikes and team cars. Riders cycle at full pelt in the slipstream of cars driving at 80km-per-hour, the front wheel of their bike just centimetres from the car bumper, meaning the slightest nudge on the brakes by the driver will send him hurtling over his handlebars and either through the back window or into the middle of next week.
It may be of interest to those following the race on you live coverage today on the Guardian.” Chris also thinks that James Richardson and I should have our own daily Tour de France podcast. It’s a lovely thought, but unfortunately James Richardson is, as is customary, taking the Eurosport shilling during the year’s Tour.
Video highlights of Stage 10: Team Europcar rider Thomas Voeckler is, apparently, one of the morst unpopular riders in the peloton. I have no idea why and he’s always struck me as an honest, nails-hard cyclist who seems affable enough, if a bit of a drama queen. Anyway, if you want to view video highlights of his stage win yesterday, click on this link and enjoy.
Today’s stage begins in Albertville: Nicknamed the crossroads of the four valleys, Albertville nestles in the Combe de Savoie and adjacent to the Tarentaise, Beaufortain and the Val d’Arly and you can click on any of the preceding links to see just how purdy it is.
“With its medieval city of Conflans, it is graced with a double label of Town of Art and History and Cycling Tourism Town which allows it to bridge the gap between heritage and sporting activities,” says the official Tour de France website. “Visit the Sarrazine Tower, the Red House, the Saint-Grat church or the Manuel de Locatel Castle. Albertville also opens its doors onto lakes and the surrounding mountains and offers a large choice of walks on foot or on bike. The proximity of Lake Annecy, the Bauges Nature Park, Beaufortain and the Tarentaise makes it an ideal base for taking a break and catching your breath.”
Ou est Tejay van Garderen? A concerned colleague who fancied a punt on the BMC rider to win today’s strage has just told me he’s not listed in the betting. I haven’t heard anything about him pulling out of the race, but will bring you more news if I get it.
Fabian Cancellara leaves the Tour
Fabian Cancellara has withdrawn from the Tour de France ahead of today’s stage. The Swiss won the Liege prologue and held on to the race leader’s yellow jersey until Saturday’s seventh stage, when Bradley Wiggins assumed the maillot jaune.
Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) was 58th overall following yesterday’s 10th stage, almost 40 minutes behind Wiggins, and will now return home to be with his wife in the final days of her pregnancy before focusing on the Olympics.
“I am not only a bike rider, I am also a husband and father with another baby on the way,” said Cancellara,who will be aiming to defend his Olympic time-trial title on 1 August. “It is my personal wish to be present when my wife Stefanie gives birth to our second child.”
Cancellara’s departure means the peloton is now 174 strong. A total of 198 riders started the race in Liege.
The top 10 on General Classification
1 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky 39hr 09min 20sec
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC +1min 53sec
3 Christopher Froome (GB) Sky +2min 07sec
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale +2min 23sec
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha +3min 02sec
6 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan +3min 19sec
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan +4min 23sec
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC +5min 14sec
9 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol +5min 20sec
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale +5min 29sec
Bradley Wiggins stresses ‘my incredible pedigree’
When he sets out for the Alps on Thursday morning, Bradley Wiggins will become the first British rider to wear the yellow jersey for four days in a single Tour de France, eclipsing the record set by Chris Boardman in 1994 and matched by David Millar in 2000, writes Richard Williams. And on Wednesday night the leader of the 2012 Tour responded to an invitation to revisit his outburst of Saturday night, when he gave his expletive-splattered opinion of those who insinuate, via social media, that he and his Sky team-mates are not above the sort of suspicions that regularly darken the horizon of professional bike racing.
“I’m not some shit rider who has just came from nowhere,” he said at the end of the 10th stage through the Jura massif that was won by the Frenchman Thomas Voeckler, “and I don’t feel I should have to sit here and justify everything I’ve done to the world.
“I’ve been three times Olympic champion on the track. People have to realise what kind of engine you need to win an Olympic gold medal as an individual pursuiter. I’ve been six times world champion, fourth in the Tour de France, third in the Vuelta last year. I was a junior world champion. I’ve got an incredible pedigree behind me.”
The likely strategy for today’s stage
For peerless, searing insight into bike-racing of the kind you just don’t get here, few websites hold a red lantern to The Inner Ring (follow them on Twitter here), who have this to say about the tactics they foresee being employed in today’s stage. If you haven’t visited the website before, scoot along and give them the turn, although you might want to delete it from your search history afterwards as the name could be … um, misconstrued.
There are at least two separate objectives today, the stage win and the overall classification with the additional interest of two HC climbs offering beaucoup points mid-stage. For the stage win it is likely a breakaway forms on the first climb and some climbers go away for the day. The peloton behind might let them have their day, but it is conditional on the composition of the breakaway and whether hostilities break out behind.
For the overall candidates we’ll see if any of the teams in the hunt for a big place try to dynamite the race from the start. Sending riders up the road would help and we’ll see if riders like Astana’s Janez Brajkovic, Movistar’s Rui Costa or BMC Racing’s Teejay van Garderen try to go clear. If so this will force Team Sky to chase and commit precious energy early in the stage and increasing the chance that Wiggins and Froome are isolated. But I sense some caution amongst the others, few want to show their hand whilst Sky are so strong.
Later the Col du Mollard stands out as the launchpad for an attack for Cadel Evans, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Vincenzo Nibali. This trio have been the only big names willing to attack so far. Perhaps it is too obvious but they could try to accelerate over the top of the climb and then use the long descent to take time on Team Sky and hold the advantage to the finish. But the last climb is ideal for a train of Sky riders to haul back any fugitives given the relatively easier gradients, as much as the day offers big climbing the last climb is faster.
Worse we saw Nibali try a move yesterday. It didn’t work but it cost a lot of energy and perhaps some confidence. It’ll mean the Sicilian is likely to miss something today. And Evans too was sprinting for the finish, I don’t know why, except to win extra ranking points for him and his team.
Bradley Wiggins is a student of the sport’s history and I think at some point he’ll want to win a road stage outright whilst in yellow and he seems to have the form so don’t be surprised to see him going for it.
Richard Williams’ Stage 10 report and video highlights
Bradley Wiggins will have enjoyed his ride through Artemare. The residents of that pretty village in the department of the Ain decided to celebrate their inclusion in the route of Wednesday’s 10th stage of the 2012 Tour de France by covering their streets and squares with yellow balloons in a salute to the leader’s jersey, which Wiggins was in the process of defending with impressive authority.
The first serious attempts to separate him from the maillot jaune were expected during a stage that started in Mâcon, on the banks of the Saone, and finished in the small town of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, in the foothills of the Jura. They came on schedule but neither Cadel Evans, lying second in the overall classification, nor Vincenzo Nibali, sitting in fourth place behind Chris Froome, Wiggins’s Sky team-mate, could put a dent in the margins by which they trail the Englishman after a stage won in heroic style by Thomas Voeckler, the 32-year-old French rider who occupies a special place in the hearts of his fellow countrymen.
Four weeks ago, when Voeckler abandoned the Route du Sud with a persistent ache in his right knee that was provoking collateral strains, it looked as though he would be unable to perform his role as France’s current two-wheeled hero, established by 10 days in the yellow jersey in 2004 and 10 more last year. Voeckler’s knee became the French equivalent of Wayne Rooney’s metatarsal.
Click on the link to read the rest …
Stage 11: Albertville to La Toussuire (148km)
Good morning everybody and boy have we got what promises to be an epic stage of cycling for you. Probably the most difficult day’s racing on this year’s Tour, the 148-kilometre spin from Albertville to La Toussuire is a relatively short, but utterly brutal Alpine odyssey boasting four mountain ascents: the Hors Categorie 25.3-kilometre Col de la Madeleine (2,000m and 6.2%), the HC 22.4-kilometre Col de la Croix de Fer (2,067m at 6.9%), the 5.7-kilometere Col du Mollard (1,638m at 6.8%) and the 18-kilometre slog to the finish at La Toussuire (1,705m at 6.1%).
Today’s stage is flat at the beginning, but not for long, so we can probably expect the peloton to set off at a ridiculous clip, not entirely dissimilar to the cavalry charge down to the first that marks the start of each Grand National, as various schemers with their eye on stage glory attempt to form a breakaway.
It’s going to be a busy day for Team Sky, whose mettle will be sorely tested, as any big name contenders riders such as Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans hoping to take time out of maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins are more or less obliged to attack him today. If the Londoner is still in yellow by close of play today, the Tour will be his to lose.