Welcome to Cycling Weekly?s daily update from the Tour de France.

This is our digest of what happened on each day of the 2008 race.

STAGE 21

Etampes ? Paris-Champs-Elysées

Distance: 143km

IN A NUTSHELL

Gert Steegmans rescued a dreadful Tour for Quick Step, despite Gerald Ciolek?s very late burst. Another 100 metres and the young German would have given Columbia its sixth stage win.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

4/10 ? A real end-of-term feel to the day, but who can blame them? The racing on the Champs-Elysées was good, though.

WHAT HAPPENED

The usual slow roll-out, photo opportunities, glass of Champagne, tall rider swaps bikes with short rider, you know the drill. Then the pace lifted as they reached Paris. Xavier Florencio and Jose Ivan Gutierrez were among the first to attack. Then Carlos Barredo and Nicolas Vogondy had a go for a lap or so. Later Stephane Auge, Kanstantin Siutsou and Alexandre Botcharov got away. Francaise des Jeux?s pair Arnaud Gerard and Philippe Gilbert had separate digs too, but the sprint was inevitable. The bunch split up on the run-in ? which never used to happen ? and Sastre conceded seven seconds to Evans bringing the margin down to under a minute.

WINNERS

Carlos Sastre ? Third Spaniard in succession to win the Tour de France

Gert Steegmans ? Quick Step can smile again

LOSERS

Dmitriy Fofonov ? ?I bought something on the internet.? Yeah, smart move, chump

ABANDONS

None ? 145 of the 180 riders reached Paris

STAGE 21: Top five

1. Gert Steegmans (Belgium) Quick Step in 3-51-38

2. Gerald Ciolek (Germany) Team Columbia

3. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

4. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Silence-Lotto

5. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Crédit Agricole

The Brits

134. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 34sec

145. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 1-37

OVERALL

1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC in 87-52-52

2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 58sec

3. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 1-13

4. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 2-10

5. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 3-05

The Brits

68. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-59-39

84. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-22-33

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER CLASSIFICATION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE 20

Cérilly ? Saint-Amand-Montrond

Distance: 53km individual time trial

IN A NUTSHELL

Carlos Sastre won the Tour. He lost only 29 seconds to Evans after turning in a tremendous ride. Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner pulled off another shock, following up his win in the Cholet time trial by beating Fabian Cancellara by 21 seconds.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

6/10 ? It was tense but because Evans never got close it lacked the drama that had been anticipated. The main problem was that Evans was nine minutes ahead of Sastre on the road so by the time the Spaniard had gone through a time check, Evans was almost at the next.

WHAT HAPPENED

Sastre rode the time trial of his life, while Evans faltered under the pressure.

WINNERS

Carlos Sastre – Obviously

Bernhard Kohl – Clinched a place on the Tour podium

Kim Kirchen – Rounded off a superb Tour with a fantastic time trial to regain his place in the top ten. No one will say he can?t time trial again

LOSERS

Frank Schleck – Proved why CSC were right to pin their hopes on Sastre by losing five minutes and four places overall, slipping from second to sixth

ABANDONS

None

HOW DID CW?S TIP GET ON?

We got a bit carried away with Jonathan Vaughters? confidence in Christian Vande Velde. The American did a great ride, to finish fourth, but he was still a minute and a bit off the pace

STAGE 20: Top five

1. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner in 1-03-50

2. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) CSC at 21sec

3. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 1-01

4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-05

5. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-37

Other contenders and Brits

6. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 1-55

7. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 2-05

9. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 2-21

12. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC at 2-34

16. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 3-00

54. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 5-38

OVERALL

1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC in 84-01-00

2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 1-05

3. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 1-20

4. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 2-00

5. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 3-12

The Brits

67. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-59-19

84. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-21-10

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER CLASSIFICATION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE 19

Roanne – Montlucon

Distance: 165.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Sylvain Chavanel has obviously learned that lesson well. The Cofidis leader has been one of the most aggressive riders in the Tour, attacking in the mountains and twice trying to escape in the last 10 kilometres of a stage. Today he finally did it, outsprinting his fellow Frenchman Jeremy Roy at the finish.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

2/10 – It wasn’t a cracker, to be honest.

WHAT HAPPENED

Chavanel attacked after 78 kilometres. Three kilometres later he was joined by Roy (Francaise des Jeux). They rode together to the finish. Chavanel won the sprint.

WINNERS

Sylvain Chavanel – Gave Cofidis their second stage win of the Tour. Deserved to finally win one after all those attempts.

LOSERS

Anyone who took the day off work to watch the stage on telly

Wim Vansevenant Silence-Lotto rider has been last overall each of the past two years. But he’s being ‘beaten’ in that race by Bernhard Eisel now.

ABANDONS

No. 31 – Damiano Cunego (Lampre). Did not start, suffering from injuries sustained in previous day’s crash

No. 32 – Christophe Brandt (Silence-Lotto). Did not finish

No. 33 – Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). Outside time limit

No. 34 – Romain Feillu (Agritubel). Outside time limit

No. 35 – Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) Outside time limit

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON

We picked Gilbert. Again. Idiots.

STAGE 19: Top five

1. Sylvain Chavanel (France) Cofidis in 3-37-09

2. Jeremy Roy (France) FDJ same time

3. Gerald Ciolek (Germany) Team Columbia at 1-13

4. Erik Zabel (Germany) Milram

5. Heinrich Haussler (Germany) Gerolsteiner

The Brits

20. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle same time

134. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 3-08

OVERALL

1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC in 82-56-00

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1-24

3. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 1-33

4. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 1-34

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 2-39

The Brits

68. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 2-00-16

85. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-20-44

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE 18

Bourg d’Oisans – Saint-Etienne

Distance: 196km

IN A NUTSHELL

The peloton took something as close to a day off as possible, while Marcus Burghardt and Carlos Barredo broke clear and fought out the finish. The big German won the stage. The other drama of the day was Damiano Cunego’s fall. The Italian has been having a miserable Tour and lost more time, trailing in with his Lampre team-mates way behind the bunch.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

3/10 – A good day to do the gardening instead

WHAT HAPPENED

After a very fast start, the bunch final let Barredo and Burghardt clear. Romain Feillu, Mikel Astarloza and Christophe Le Mevel countered but couldn’t get across. As soon as the break was established, the bunch took its foot off the gas. In the sprint, Barredo tried to be crafty but Burghardt was too strong.

WINNERS

Marcus Burghardt – Another great result for Team Columbia and proof the team is no one-man show.

LOSERS

Damiano Cunego – Crashed again – at a time when the peloton was still riding hard. Very quickly lost 10 minutes, which became 20 by the finish as he trailed in last.

ABANDONS

None

HOW DID CW’S TIP GET ON?

Philippe Gilbert finished in the bunch. Just like buying a lottery ticket, we had no chance with that one.

STAGE 18: Top five1. Marcus Burghardt (Germany) Team Columbia in 4-30-21

2. Carlos Barredo (Spain) Quick Step same time

3. Romain Feillu (France) Agritubel at 3-33

4. Christophe Le Mevel (France) Credit Agricole same time

5. Mikel Astarloza (Spain) Euskaltel at 3-35

The Brits

48. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 6-50

114. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 7-07

OVERALL

1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC in 79-16-14

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1-24

3. Bernhard Kohl (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 1-33

4. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 1-34

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 2-39

The Brits

71. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 2-00-16

88. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-18-49

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE 17

Embrun – Alpe d’Huez

Distance: 210km

IN A NUTSHELL

CSC executed a precise, if rather late, tactical plan and it paid off just about as well as they could have expected. Carlos Sastre’s attack at the foot of Alpe d’Huez netted him the stage – the second of his career – and the yellow jersey for the first time. Cadel Evans limited his losses to 2-15.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

10/10 – The best stage of the race so far. Everything led to Alpe d’Huez. The move by Peter Velits and the way Jerome Pineau went across was more than a mere precursor, it was an exciting racing. The tactical battle of wits on Alpe d’Huez between the favourites was superb to watch. It reminded us what made us fall in love with bike racing in the first place… Let’s just hope our memories are not sullied.

WHAT HAPPENED

Remy Di Gregorio (FDJ), Peter Velits (Milram) and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) attacked after just three kilometres. Stefan Schumacher bridged across shortly afterwards – getting into the break for the second successive day. By the top of the Croix-de-Fer Velits was alone. On the descent Jerome Pineau caught the yellow jersey group but went straight through and got across to Velits. They were caught as soon as Alpe d’Huez began. Sastre tried one attack, which Menchov matched, then another, which saw him get clear by himself. From then on it was a race against the clock.

WINNERS

Carlos Sastre – Whatever happens next, his attack on Alpe d’Huez demands great respect. It netted him a superb stage win and a few days in yellow, if nothing more. His lead is 1-34 – and that gives him a chance.

CSC – It was starting to look a bit like they had left it late, and there were murmurs that Bjarne Riis’s supposed tactical acumen was clad in the Emperor’s dressing gown. But the plan for Alpe d’Huez was – within the confines of what is possible – ideal and it was executed superbly.

Denis Menchov – Went with Sastre at first, then immediately regretted it when he was dropped from the yellow jersey group. He then had to chase long and hard to get back on and it is to his credit that he managed to do so. More than a minute behind Evans so can’t win the Tour, but could still make the podium.

LOSERS

Bernhard Kohl – Any chance of winning overall is gone now for the Austrian. He went through a couple of bad patches on Alpe d’Huez. Not too sure about his climbing style either – he looks like one of those Churchill dogs you see in car windows. Still, the polka-dot jersey is an excellent consolation.

ABANDONS

No. 30 – Jimmy Casper (Agritubel) – Outside the time limit. Dropped from the back group at the bottom of the Croix-de-Fer, crossed the line almost 49 minutes down on the winner

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON

Carlos Sastre. Well done us.

STAGE 17: Top five

1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC in 6-07-58

2. Samuel Sanchez (Spain) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-03

3. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC same time

4. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 2-13

5. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC same time

Other contenders and Brits

7. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 2-15

8. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank

9. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle

10. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner all same time

31. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 11-41

118. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 38-00

OVERALL

1. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC in 74-39-03

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1-24

3. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 1-33

4. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 1-34

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 2-39

The Brits

71. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 2-00-16

88. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-18-32

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE 16

Cuneo – Jausiers

Distance: 157km

IN A NUTSHELL

The six men who could win the Tour became five. Christian Vande Velde was dropped on the Bonette-Restefond, suffered a minor crash on the descent, and lost 2-36 to the Frank Schleck group. Denis Menchov lost touch on the extremely fast descent of the Bonette-Restefond, losing another 35 seconds to Evans. Young South African John-Lee Augustyn of Barloworld reached the summit of the Tour’s highest climb first then had a spectacular crash which sent him plunging down the gravely bank. Fortunately he was not badly hurt. And a Frenchman won a mountain stage – Cyril Dessel.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

8/10 – The favourites did not attack each other on the Bonette but that didn’t make it any less fascinating. The descent was amazing to watch, and the four-man fight for the finish was tense. Dessel clearly knew the finish better than the others.

WHAT HAPPENED

A 24-rider group went clear, with Stefan Schumacher going clear by himself on the Col de la Lombarde. John-Lee Augustyn led over the top of the Bonette-Restefond but crashed, leaving the way clear for Cyril Dessel (AG2R), Sandy Casar (FDJ), David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne) and Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) to get clear on the descent. They covered the 23 kilometre descent in a mind-boggling 23 minutes – that’s an average of 60kph. And they were hitting 100kph at times on the straights.

At the finish, Dessel was too canny. He knew that if he got into the final two corners first he’d win, and that’s exactly what he did.

WINNERS_Cadel Evans – If he could have chosen the perfect way for the stage to pan out, this would have been it.

The French – Two riders in the break, first and second on the stage. It’s a long while since that happened.

The breakaway riders – Get it right and there is a genuine hope of staying away, even on the most difficult of mountain stages.

Cadel Evans – It may not be exciting but Evans is closing in on Australia’s first Tour de France win by doing exactly what he needs to do each day.

Bernhard Kohl – A superb Tour for the Austrian. Looks set to win the king of the mountains title with the lowest points total in years.

Andy Schleck – The boy is a horse. If his older brother doesn’t win the Tour this year, Andy will within the next three, surely.

LOSERS

Denis Menchov – Caught up behind a crash on stage three, and a poor descent here – but for that, he’d be level with Frank Schleck overall.

Sandy Casar – Another second place for the Frenchman. Struggled at the back of the quartet on the descent and had he not had to waste precious energy closing the gap after each tricky corner, he might have beaten Dessel.

CSC – May come to regret their lack of aggression. Effectively they have left it to the last major mountain of the Tour to try to win it. By setting the pace they made it easy for Evans to do nothing other than follow, playing right into his hands.

ABANDONS

No. 28 Sebastien Chavanel (Francaise des Jeux) – did not finish

No. 29 Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) – outside the time limit

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON

We went for Denis Menchov (Rabobank), but the Russian had a torrid time and lost more time to his rivals.

STAGE 16: top five

1. Cyril Dessel (France) AG2R-La Mondiale in 4-31-27

2. Sandy Casar (France) Francaise des Jeux

3. David Arroyo (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne both same time

4. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine) Silence-Lotto at 3sec

5. George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia at 24sec

The other contenders and Brits

10. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 1-28

11. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto

12. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

15. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC all same time)

19. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) at 2-03

21. Denis Menchov (Russia) same time

26. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 4-04

The Brits

138. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 31-56

144. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle same time

OVERALL

1. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC in 68-30-16

2. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 7sec

3. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 8sec

4. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC at 49sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 1-13

The Brits

65. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-23-05

100. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-07-40

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE 15

Embrun – Prato Nevoso

Distance 183km

IN A NUTSHELL

Aussie Simon Gerrans out-rode his three breakaway companions to take the first Alpine stage of the 2008 Tour at the mountain top finish of Prato Nevoso. The real race was fought some four minutes behind as the overall contenders scrapped for vital seconds. The upshot was that Cadel Evans lost the yellow jersey to Frank Schleck.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

9/10 – Slow start, then the race for the yellow jersey exploded. We didn’t know who got the race lead until the official results came up, it was so close. It doesn’t get much better than that.

WHAT HAPPENED

Rather than helping to produce a clear winner, the first Alpine stage of the 2008 Tour made the race for the yellow jersey even closer.

Whilst four breakaway riders – eventual winner Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricole), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle) and Jose Arrieta (Ag2r) – fought for the stage win up front, the overall contenders formed an elite group behind them on the final climb to the top of Prato Nevoso.

The group included race leader Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), Frank Schleck, Andy Schleck and Carlos Sastre (all CSC-Saxo Bank), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle) and Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner).

Going into the stage, Frank Schleck was just one second behind Evans in the GC. CSC-Saxo Bank were fully aware of the situation and had three riders in the group – however, Evans had no one to assist him and attempted to police every move made by the CSC trio. There’s only so much you can do on your own. Evans let Kohl, Sastre, Valverde and Menchov go up the road, concentrating his efforts on following Frank Schleck.

Schleck jumped away from Evans on the final run-in, coming across the line nine seconds ahead of the Aussie and giving him the race lead. If that weren’t damaging enough to Evans, Kohl had also gained time and jumped to second place in the overall, pushing Evans down to third.

WINNERS

Frank Schleck Had two team-mates in the lead group and usurped Evans at the top of the table with a tactically astute ride in the first tough Alps stage. Needs to do more of the same to build up some time between him and Evans to limit his losses in the final time trial.

Bernhard Kohl Late attack very nearly got the Austrian the yellow jersey. He didn’t quite make it, but he’s now moved up to second just seven seconds behind Schleck.

Mark Cavendish The man who has won more stages of this year’s Tour than anyone else elected not to start the stage. With four stage wins to the British sprint ace’s name – double the number previously won by a Brit in a single Tour de France – he has made the right decision to quit and now concentrate his efforts of getting gold on the track in Beijing.

Cadel Evans A winner? Evans may have lost the yellow jersey, but the taciturn Aussie has always looked uncomfortable in the spotlight. Now the pressure’s off, he can get on with limiting his losses in the Alps and snatching any deficit back in the final time trial. See below.

LOSERS

Cadel Evans See above. Evans had no support from his team in the final blast up Prato Nevoso, whereas Schleck had brother Andy and Carlos Sastre for support. His lack of team assistance cost him the lead.

Damiano Cunego Lost yet more time to the other contenders and is now right out of contention, and the top ten. He’s now 15th, some seven minutes 43 seconds adrift of Schleck.

ABANDONS

No. 24 – Mark Cavendish (Columbia) – elected not to start

No. 25 – Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) – abandoned on stage

No. 26 – Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne) – abandoned on stage

No. 27 – Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) – abandoned on stage

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

We went for Maxime Monfort, hoping that the Belgian would get into the successful break and go for the win. It was an ambitious punt, but he came in a respectable 23rd at 6-09 – three places ahead of Damiano Cunego. Not a complete disaster. Really, it’s not.

STAGE 15: top five

1. Simon Gerrans (Australia) Credit Agricole in 4-50-44

2. Egoi Martinez (Spain) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3sec

3. Danny Pate (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 10sec

4. Jose Arrieta (Spain) Ag2r at 55sec

5. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 4-03

The Brits

105. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 21-57

127. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 25-33

OVERALL

1. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC-Saxo Bank in 63-57-21

2. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 7sec

3. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 8sec

4. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 38sec

5. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 39sec

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas

STAGE 14

Nimes – Digne-les-Bains

Distance 194.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

The sprinters prevented a break succeeding on the sort of transitional stage you’d expect one to prevail. Team Columbia tried to set it up for Gerald Ciolek but Oscar Freire was the fastest. Winning the fourth Tour de France stage of his career gave Freire’s bid for the green jersey a real boost.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

7/10 – Good aggressive racing, particularly from the last hill onwards

WHAT HAPPENED

It was extremely fast from the start as the bunch was reluctant to let the big group of 24 go away. Instead four of those 24 were let off the leash. Sandy Casar (FDJ), Bram Tankink (Rabobank), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) and William Bonnet (Credit Agricole) got a maximum lead of six minutes.

Bonnet was first to blow, with 28km to go when Gutierrez attacked. Then Casar and Tankink were caught too. Gutierrez pressed on alone and held the bunch at arm’s length before finally giving in 10km from the end.

Cavendish was dropped on the final hill. Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) tried a late effort for the second successive day but was swallowed up. In the sprint no one could hold off Freire’s burst.

WINNERS

Oscar Freire – Before the Tour he said he would not be going all the way to Paris but now he has the green jersey in his sights. He’s now got a very nice lead of 47 points over Thor Hushovd but, perhaps more importantly, he’s now a whopping 75 points ahead of the wild card threat of Kim Kirchen. That is an almost impossible gap to close now

LOSERS

Barloworld – The company announced it would be ending its sponsorship after the Tour de France. What a shame the company didn’t insist on an externally-managed anti-doping programme, preferring instead to cut and run after the positive test. Wouldn’t it also say a lot more if Barloworld cut its ties now, today, instead of reaping the publicity for another week. If you want to go, go. Courier some plain white jerseys and black shorts to the Barloworld riders and say ‘thanks for everything’. Either they want to be involved in cycling or they don’t.

ABANDONS

No. 23 – Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) climbed off at the feed

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

No dice for Cavendish today. It was asking a bit much, really. Five weeks of grand tour stage racing at the age of 23 – and six stage wins – is absolutely incredible.

STAGE 14: top five

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank in 4-13-08

2. Leonardo Duque (Colombia) Cofidis

3. Erik Zabel (Germany) Milram

4. Julian Dean (New Zealand) Garmin-Chipotle

5. Steven De Jongh (Netherlands) Quick Step

The Brits

18. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld

82. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle all same time

108. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 3-27

OVERALL

1. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto in 59-01-55

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1sec

3. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 38sec

4. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 46sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 57sec

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Sebastian Lang (Germany) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas

STAGE 13

Narbonne – Nimes

Distance: 182km

IN A NUTSHELL

Mark Cavendish wrote his name into the record books as the first British rider to win four stages in a single Tour with another superb sprint, this time finishing with daylight to spare over his nearest rival.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

6/10 – Again, pretty formulaic stuff until the finish, which for any British fan featured an absolutely remarkable finish. If you’d said five years ago that a British rider would win four stages in the Tour de France they’d have given you very odd looks

WHAT HAPPENED

Niki Terpstra (Milram) and Florent Brard (Cofidis) attacked as soon as the race exited the neutralised zone. The pair got a maximum lead of seven minutes. As they were pulled back, Brard’s team-mate Stephane Auge bridged across, but they were caught with 14km to go and Terpstra was passed with 10km left. Another Cofidis man, Sylvain Chavanel, went for it with seven kilometres left. His bid failed with three kilometres left. And that meant the inevitable Cavendish win.

WINNERS

Team Columbia – It’s quite clear now that although Cavendish is the fastest in the world and the effort the team makes to help him to the line is immense. Not as drilled, clinical and seemingly effortless as the Saeco or Fassa Bortolo trains of all – but that’s what makes it so entertaining to watch and so easy to admire. The boys in blue really have to work at it.

LOSERS

The breakaway riders – It just isn’t working for them in this Tour. Only at Nantes on stage three has a conventional break stayed away on a flat stage. They keep trying but there’s a sense of the inevitable when only two or three men go clear. They’ve no chance.

ABANDONS

None

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Another one for Cavendish, another one for CW’s not-at-all-biased-in-any-way tipster

STAGE 13: top five

1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia in 4-25-42

2. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Silence-Lotto

3. Romain Feillu (France) Agritubel

4. Heinrich Haussler (Germany) Gerolsteiner

5. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

The Brits

22. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle

55. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld all same time

OVERALL

1.Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto in 54-48-47

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1sec

3. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 36sec

4. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 46sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 57sec

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Sebastian Lang (Germany) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas

STAGE 12

Lavelanet – Narbonne

Distance: 168.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

Mark Cavendish became the first British rider to win three stages in a single Tour de France. The day started bleakly – or brilliantly – depending on your point of view, when it was announced Riccardo Ricco had failed a dope test for CERA, a so-called third generation EPO. The entire Saunier Duval team quit the race.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

4/10, rising to 9/10 for the final three kilometres. It was a real going-through-the-motions day on the Tour. A tailwind meant a fast day and an impossible task for the escapees. The bunch was still fanned out across the road with 30 kilometres remaining. The sprint was exhausting and amazing to watch though, as Team Columbia took control, lost it, regained it, lost it again and the finish descended into anarchy. The roundabout with three kilometres or so to go played a huge part in disrupting the attempt to get a train going. Cavendish was incredible.

WHAT HAPPENED

Two riders, Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis and Arnaud Gerard of FDJ attacked but their lead never really amounted to much. Juan Jose Oroz of Euskaltel bridged across to them with 55km to go. The gap hovered between 30 seconds and a minute or so but the bunch let the dangle. It was an easy catch, which set up the sprint.

WINNERS

Mark Cavendish – Even though he’s getting tired, they still can’t beat him in a sprint.

Christian Prudhomme – Didn’t say much in his press conference but didn’t need to. The swift decisions of 2008 are enabling the puss to be squeezed from the boil quickly

Sebastian Lang – Inherited the king of the mountains jersey after Saunier Duval’s withdrawal

Vincenzo Nibali – Took the white jersey by rights after Ricco’s positive test

LOSERS

Riccardo Ricco – A sad indictment of the cycling system that has produced him. At 24 his career is in tatters. Let’s hope the comparisons with his hero Marco Pantani stop here. Undoubtedly a talent, but one who was steered into, and embraced, a culture that has damaged him and his sport

Saunier Duval – The whole team quit, unlike Liquigas or Barloworld when Beltran and Duenas tested positive. Did they quit because there was another positive to come?

Barloworld – Another one bit the dust when Baden Cooke crashed and broke his collarbone. Now there are only four

ABANDONS

No. 15 – Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) – tested positive for CERA, a type of EPO

No. 16 – Leonard Piepoli (Saunier Duval)

No. 17 – Josep Jufre (Saunier Duval)

No. 18 – Jesus Del Nero (Saunier Duval)

No. 19 – David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval)

No. 20 – Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval)

No. 21 – Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval)

No. 22 – Baden Cooke (Barloworld) – crashed

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Mark Cavendish won again. CW can’t take too much credit for this.

STAGE 11: top five

1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia in 3-40-52

2. Sebastien Chavanel (France) Francaise des Jeux

3. Gert Steegmans (Belgium) Quick Step

4. Erik Zabel (Germany) Milram

5. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

The Brits

49. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle

81. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld all same time

OVERALL

1. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto in 50-23-05

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1sec

3. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 38sec

4. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 46sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 57sec

The Brits

47. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 35-22

95. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 1-16-21

147. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 1-52-04

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Sebastian Lang (Germany) Gerolsteiner

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas

STAGE 11

Lannemezan – Foix

Distance: 167.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

A break got away and was allowed to stay away. Amael Moinard made the boldest – some may say, stupidest – move of the Tour by attacking the group miles from the finish. However, his response after the race reiterated the spirit and point of bike racing in a heart-warming way. In the sprint Martin Elmiger tried to sit on Kurt-Asle Arvesen’s wheel but justice prevailed and the Norwegian gave CSC their first stage win of the Tour.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

5/10 – Once the break had gone, the bunch sat up for the day. Oscar Pereiro’s attack on the Col de Portel was amusing, though.

WHAT HAPPENED

After 35km Kurt Asle Arvesen and Fabian Wegmann attacked. They were joined by Alessandro Ballan, Alexandre Botcharov, Dmitriy Fofonov, Gert Steegmans, Martin Elmiger, Koes Moerenhout, Marco Velo, Benoit Vaugrenard, Amael Moinard, Filippo Pozzato and Pierrick Fedrigo. That made a lead group of 13.

Steegmans was dropped by the break after about 20 kilometres but by the 60km mark the move had a lead of 8-10, which grew to 15-15 at the base of the Col de Portel.

With seven kilometres to go to the summit, Amael Moinard of Cofidis attacked alone. Meanwhile, Oscar Pereiro of Caisse d’Epargne attacked the bunch and got almost two minutes at one point.

Moinard stayed away until 8km from the finish. Aversen was first to try something, 4km from the line. He was marked by Elmiger, then joined by Ballan. Moerenhout tagged on as they went under the red kite. Arvesen had just enough to outsprint Elmiger, who had done a cheeky amount of sitting on.

WINNERS

Kurt-Asle Arvesen – Held his nerve and was strong enough to take the stage

Amael Moinard – Attacked a long way out and rode by himself before his inevitable recapture. To his great credit he said afterwards: “I’d rather finish 11th trying to win.”

The bunch – As close to a day off as you can call a 167-kilometre slog through the Ariege

LOSERS

Barloworld – Moises Duenas tested positive for EPO. CW quite literally no longer likes the cut of his jib. Paolo “Dont’ Call Me Jennie” Longo Borghini crashed and broke his collarbone. Felix Cardenas had ‘sore tendons’ and got himself dropped, then pulled out. A terrible, terrible day for Claudio Corti’s team – which makes you wonder whether Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings and Chris Froome wouldn’t be better off somewhere else sooner rather than later.

Filippo Pozzato – Together with Alessandro Ballan, was the most dangerous rider in that 12-man lead group but the pair of them failed to impose themselves at the right time

ABANDONS

No. 12 Moises Duenas (Barloworld) – Did not start after it was announced he’d tested positive for EPO after the stage four time trial in Cholet

No. 13 Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld) – Crashed early on the stage, broke right collarbone

No. 14 Felix Cardenas (Barloworld) – Dropped. Did not finish. Barloworld are now down to five riders

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

To be fair, on days like this it’s impossible to pick a winner. We thought the first-category climb might bring the Euskaltel boys out to play – perhaps Samuel Sanchez. But the break had long been established.

STAGE 11: top five

1. Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway) CSC in 3-58-13

2. Martin Elmiger (Switzerland) AG2R-La Mondiale

2. Alessandro Ballan (Italy) Lampre all same time

4. Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands) Rabobank at 2sec

5. Alexandre Botcharov (Russia) Credit Agricole at 11sec

The Brits

37. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 14-51

126. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 22-14

130. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 22-14

OVERALL

1. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto in 46-42-13

2. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 1sec

3. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 38sec

4. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 46sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 57sec

The Brits

50. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 35-22

102. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 1-16-21

156. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 1-52-04

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval

jersey will be worn by Vincenzo Nibali

STAGE 10

Pau – Hautacam

Distance: 156km

IN A NUTSHELL

Saunier Duval did a one-two on the stage, with Leonardo Piepoli edging out Juan Jose Cobo. Hinault and LeMond at Alpe d’Huez in 1986 it wasn’t. But it did reaffirm the Spanish team’s dominance in the two Pyrenean stages. Frank Schleck attacked and almost denied Cadel Evans the yellow jersey. The Aussie leads by a single second. For Alejandro Valverde it was a disaster. He lost 3-35 after getting dropped near the top of the Tourmalet

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

9/10 – The winners of the stage were almost irrelevant, what was fascinating was the change to the overall classification and the pursuit between Schleck and Evans for the yellow jersey

WHAT HAPPENED

A group of 24 went clear early on and eventually seven of them – Cancellara, Roy, Di Gregorio, Dupont, Duque, Freire and Fothen – persisted with it. Remy Di Gregorio (FDJ) attacked them with 15km of the Tourmalet to climb. Valverde, Pereiro and Cunego were dropped from the yellow jersey group 2.5km from the top.

By the foot of Hautacam, Di Gregorio’s lead was down to 40 seconds. CSC had been setting a fierce pace, thanks to Jens Voigt. Saunier Duval were extremely aggressive. Piepoli and Cobo took turns to attack and eventually got clear with Schleck. Evans tried to counter-attack but was closed down each time. Eventually Menchov agreed to share the chase with him and they pegged the Schleck group without making any in-roads.

WINNERS

Frank Schleck – Attacked hard and got a decent gap – one that Evans and Menchov could not close significantly, even when Schleck was dropped by the Saunier Duval pair. Harsh that he missed out on yellow by such a narrow margin.

Oscar Freire – Got in the seven-man break to clinch some absolutely vital points in the green jersey competition at the intermediate sprints to serve notice to Kim Kirchen that he’s going to be the man to beat.

Saunier Duval – Two stage wins out of two. A one-two at the finish today. They’ll be delighted with that.

LOSERS

Kim Kirchen – Harsh to call him a loser today because he fought extremely hard against the odds. Forced to ride alone he came agonisingly close to getting back on at one stage on Hautacam before they lifted it again and dropped him for good. Can concentrate on battling for the green jersey now.

Alejandro Valverde – The big shock of the day. Any chance of winning overall now are gone. Who’d have thought a week ago that he’d get dropped not on Hautacam, but on the Col du Tourmalet. The injuries from his crash the other day must be more of a factor than he’s let on.

Andy Schleck – The French TV commentators were very surprised when Andy started to going backwards but we weren’t. This is a very different race to the Giro d’Italia. Schleck did his job for CSC and in a funny way he’ll be of more use to his brother and Carlos Sastre now he’s a bit further down overall.

ABANDONS

No. 11 – Yuriy Trofimov of Bouygues Telecom climbed off

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

We stressed that CSC had to attack. They certainly took the race by the scruff of the neck. Sastre is in no better or worse position than he was this morning, but Frank Schleck is now holding a very good hand.

STAGE 10: top five

1. Leonardo Piepoli (Italy) Saunier Duval in 4-19-27

2. Juan Jose Cobo (Spain) Saunier Duval same time

3. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 28sec

4. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 1-06

5. Vladimir Efimkin (Russia) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2-05

The other contenders and Brits

6. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval at 2-17

7. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC)

8. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto

9. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank

10. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle all same time

15. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 4-19

18. Damiano Cunego (Italy) Lampre at 5-51

19. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 5-52

22. Oscar Pereiro (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 7-03

26. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 7-38

28. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 8-59

45. Stijn Devolder (Belgium) Quick Step at 14-38

120. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 33-14

132. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle same time

169. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 34-55

OVERALL

1. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto in 42-29-09

2. Frank Schleck (CSC) at 1sec

3. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 38sec

4. Bernhard Kohl (Austria) Gerolsteiner at 46sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank) at 57sec

The other contenders and Brits

6. Carlos Sastre (Spain) CSC at 1-28

7. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 1-56

8. Juan Jose Cobo (Spain) Saunier Duval at 2-10

9. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval at 2-29

10. Vladimir Efimkin (Russia) AG2R-La Mondiale at 2-32

13. Samuel Sanchez (Spain) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 4-26

14. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 4-41

16. Damiano Cunego (Italy) Lampre at 5-37

48. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 35-22

91. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 1-08-58

158. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 1-44-41

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval

Jersey will be worn by Vincenzo Nibali on Wednesday

STAGE NINE

Toulouse – Bagneres-de-Bigorre

Distance: 224km

IN A NUTSHELL

Riccardo Ricco won his second Tour de France stage, following the win at Super-Besse, with an extremely aggressive attack inside the final five kilometres of the Col d’Aspin. He caught the last of the breakaway riders, Sebastian Lang, a kilometre from the top, then flew down the other side.

Ricco regained more than a minute of his losses. They won’t be too keen to let him go again on Monday at Hautacam.

The only other drama of the day was that Cadel Evans fell off after 106km and needed his cuts cleaned by the race doctor.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

6/10 – Not vintage stuff. Ricco attacked with panache, but if he’s not your cup of tea, you were probably willing him to be caught. No one in the second group really wanted to commit to the chase and no teams were mob-handed enough to reel it in.

WHAT HAPPENED

Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) and Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) went clear after 22km. With 62km remaining Lang and Kuschynski dropped Jalabert, then shortly afterards, Lang pressed on alone. On the Col de Peyresourde David De La Fuente and Maxime Montfort tried to get clear, then the winner in Aurillac, Luis Leon Sanchez joined them.

On the final climb, the Col d’Aspin, Stefan Schumacher, then Ricco, then Oscar Pereiro tried to attack. The final move came when Ricco got clear towards the top of the Aspin. Once he’d caught Lang and got almost 1-30 clear, that was it.

WINNERS

Riccardo Ricco – Won the stage and hoisted himself up the general classification. Another good day tomorrow and the top ten will be back in sight. Also looking good in the king of the mountains competition.

LOSERS

Stefan Schumacher – Tried to attack on the Aspin but wasn’t getting anywhere. Eventually lost ground and his third place overall

Thomas Lovkivst – Did a fair bit of work for Kirchen and ended up paying the price, losing five minutes and his white jersey to Andy Schleck

Haimar Zubeldia – Lost eight minutes to the favourites. Is going to have to go some to ghost unnoticed into the top five again this year

BEFORE AND AFTER

How the stage affected the general classification

GAINS

Christian Vande Velde – up one place to third after Schumacher’s slip

Riccardo Ricco – Took back 1-17 and will suddenly be back on the radar again

LOSSES

Stefan Schumacher – lost 40 seconds and slipped to fourth

David Millar – slipped from seventh to 25th as he lost four minutes

Thomas Lovkvist – lost more than five minutes and the white jersey

STAYED WHERE THEY WERE

Kim Kirchen – 1st

Cadel Evans – 2nd at 6sec

Denis Menchov – still fifth at 1-03

Alejandro Valverde – still sixth at 1-12

The Rest

ABANDONS

None.

HONORABLE MENTION

Barloworld’s Kenyan-born Brit had an excellent day and was in the second group, that finished only 40 seconds behind the Evans-Valverde group.

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Valverde was seventh on the stage. It didn’t really go as expected. It was a surprise Ricco was allowed to go on his own. Had it been a sprint, Valverde would have won. Oh yes.

STAGE NINE: top five

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval in 5-39-28

2. Vladimir Efimikin (Russia) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1-04

3. Cyril Dessel (France) AG2R-La Mondiale at 1-17

4. Dmitriy Fofonov (Russia) Credit Agricole

5. Christian Knees (Germany) Gerolsteiner all same time

The Brits

51. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 1-57

55. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 4-34

150. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 28-11

OVERALL

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia in 38-07-19

2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 6sec

3. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 44sec

4. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 56sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 1-03

The Brits

25. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 4-31

84. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 38-07

151. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 1-12-09

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. David De La Fuente (Spain) Saunier Duval

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC

STAGE EIGHT

Figeac – Toulouse

Distance: 172.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

Mark Cavendish won again – in the rain in Toulouse. It was his second Tour de France stage win and his fourth grand tour stage win of the season after he won twice at the Giro d’Italia. He becomes the first British rider to win two Tour de France stages in one year since Barry Hoban in 1973. Four grand tour stages in a single season is also a British record.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

6/10 – It was a pretty routine day in the rain but had a gripping finish. It all threatened to get a bit messy a kilometre or so out but Cavendish’s speed was immensely impressive.

WHAT HAPPENED

Laurent Lefevre and Jerome Pineau (both Bouygues Telecom), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale) got clear just before the second climb of the day and settled in. They didn’t get too far ahead at any point and in the last hour of racing there were a number of escapes from the bunch in an attempt to bridge across. None worked. With 13km to go, Pineau attacked the other three and only Txurruka could go with him. They were both caught 3.5km from the line, which is when Columbia took over. They looked briefly to have lost control of the lead-out but Ciolek and Cavendish were ideally placed and once the Isle of Man sprinter got going there was no doubt about the result.

WINNERS

Mark Cavendish – Two Tour de France stages under his belt – the sky is the limit now. Whether he goes all the way to Paris is highly debatable but he will hang around and see if any of the stages between the Pyrenees and Alps ends in a sprint

Team Columbia – Another superb day for the Columbia boys. Okay, so Kirchen lost the green jersey to Oscar Freire but he stayed in yellow, Lovkvist remained in white, and Ciolek was second on the stage

Oscar Freire – In green and with a decent 14-point lead over Thor Hushovd. The green jersey competition is going to be absolutely fascinating from here on, with Kirchen and Valverde likely to score well in the mountain stages. Freire may be tempted to go all the way to Paris now, though. Freire is tied with Kirchen and may lose the lead again tomorrow but if a sprinter is going to win the jersey, it’s most likely to be the Spaniard

LOSERS

Manuel Beltran – No explanation needed

ABANDONS

No. 10 – Manuel Beltran – tested positive for EPO and was expelled from the race, and arrested and questioned by the police.

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Bang on. We went for Cavendish and he pulled it off. Fastest in the world? There can be absolutely no doubt.

STAGE EIGHT: top five

1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia in 4-02-54

2. Gerald Ciolek (Germany) Team Columbia

3. Jimmy Casper (France) Agritubel

4. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

5. Robert Forster (Germany) Gerolsteiner

The Brits

118. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle

138. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld all same time

OVERALL

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia 32-26-34

2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 6sec

3. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 16sec

4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 44sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank) at 1-03

The Brits

7. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-14

122. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 37-27

143. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 45-15

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank)

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. David De La Fuente (Spain) Saunier Duval

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Team Columbia

STAGE SEVEN

Brioude – Aurillac

Distance: 159km

IN A NUTSHELL

Luis Leon Sanchez gave Caisse d’Epargne their second stage win of the race. He was in a break that went clear on the Col d’Entremont. Even when he was caught just over the top of the Cote St-Jean-de-Donne he still had the strength to attack with four kilometres to go and time trial to the finish.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

8/10 – For the second successive day, the Massif Central served up a treat.

WHAT HAPPENED

It was extremely aggressive from the start, the peloton split in two very early, forced partly by a move that included David Millar – who was looking to sneak into the yellow jersey.

Things really got going on the second-category Col d’Entremont, when Josep Jufre (Saunier Duval) attacked. Luis Leon Sanchez went after him and decent quartet was made up of another Saunier Duval rider, David De La Fuente, and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas. They worked together to gain almost two minutes, putting pressure on Team Columbia, who had to chase. There were some tired faces at the front of the peloton. When the peloton split the biggest name stranded in the second half was Damiano Cunego.

Over the top of the final climb, the four men were caught – but not before De La Fuente attacked to get enough points to take the polka-dot jersey.

On the run-in, Sanchez put in a very powerful attack and soloed to the line. With so many Caisse d’Epargne riders in the second group to hamper the chase and police any counter-attacks, it was in the bag.

WINNERS

The top 17 overall – You need not look any further than Damiano Cunego when considering which riders will make the top three in Paris. Cunego is 17th, 2-09 back, and even he’s looking too far back to be thought of as a potential winner

Kim Kirchen – At the moment he’s defending his yellow jersey, but if he should lose it, he’s building a very nice lead in the green jersey competition, which would be a decent consolation prize should he miss out overall

David De La Fuente – Did enough to get a one-point lead in the king of the mountains competition – but he had to get over the final climb in first place to do it

LOSERS

Damiano Cunego – He’ll be glad to see the back of the Massif Central. He was dropped again today, and lost another 27 seconds to leave him 17th at 2-09. He’s probably the last man who has any chance of getting on the podium now. Anyone any lower than that is pretty much out of it.

Thor Hushovd – The Credit Agricole rider actually did a fantastic ride to finish in the second group, just 27 seconds down on the Kirchen group. But he wasted his energy sprinting for 24th place because the points for the green jersey competition only went down to 20th

Magnus Backstedt – The big Swede came into the Tour short of form and he’s paid for it. Had it been a ‘normal’ opening week, he’d probably have been able to get through the Pyrenees and ride himself into decent shape. As it was, he trailed in 11 minutes behind the man in front of him and was eliminated

ABANDONS

No. 5 – Lilian Jegou (Francaise des Jeux). Crashed hard and suffered bad injuries, including a broken arm. He was taken to hospital in Saint-Flour

No. 6 – Christophe Moreau (Agritubel)

No. 7 – John Gadret (AG2R)

No. 8 – Mauro Facci (Quick Step)

No. 9 – Magnus Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle) Outside the time limit

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Let’s not speak of this again. Okay, we took a wild punt based on yesterday’s result and guessed at Moises Duenas of Barloworld. He was in that second group, in 40th place. Ahem.

STAGE SEVEN: top five

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne

2. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 6sec

3. Filippo Pozatto (Italy) Liquigas

4. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne all same time

The Brits

50. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 33sec

145. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 21-53

148. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld same time

OVERALL

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 6sec

3. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 16sec

4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 44sec

5. Denis Menchov (Russia) Rabobank at 1-03

The Brits

7. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-14

125. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 37-27

148. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 45-15

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. David De La Fuente (Spain) Saunier Duval

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Team Columbia

STAGE SIX

Aigurande – Super Besse

Distance: 195.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

The self-styled Cobra – Riccardo Ricco – kept a cool head and got the jump on Alejandro Valverde to win the first summit finish of the Tour. Yellow jersey Stefan Schumacher hit Kim Kirchen’s back wheel as the sprint started to open up and went down. He lost 32 seconds and the race lead. The usual rule is that riders who crash or have a mechanical problem in the final three kilometres will be given the same time as the group they were with – but that does not apply to stages with a summit finish. Kirchen took the yellow jersey.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

9/10 – It was a belting race from the Col de la Croix-Morand onwards with multiple attacks and a thrilling finale. Schumacher’s crash only added to the drama.

WHAT HAPPENED

After an aggressive start three Frenchmen got clear for the second successive day. This time it was Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) and Freddy Bichot (Agritubel). Caisse d’Epargne stepped up the chase on the descent of the Croix-Morand, which is when Bichot decided to go it alone.

WINNERS

Riccardo Ricco – He may have a mouth as big as the Mont Blanc tunnel but given the old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, anyone who Filippo Pozzato hates has got to be alright really.

Sylvain Chavanel – There was no secret to Chavanel’s strategy. He went out in search of king of the mountains points and did just enough to pinch the lead from Thomas Voeckler. Cofidis have apparently had a special polka-dot jersey designed. Quite what’s special about it we’ll have to wait and see. Chavanel and Voeckler are actually level on points but the Cofidis rider gets the edge because of his better placing on the second-category climb.

Agritubel – The French team have had a man in the break every day up to now.

Kim Kirchen – Team Columbia are having a dream Tour. Kirchen now holds the yellow jersey and the green jersey.

Christian Vande Velde Tactically Garmin tried to do something exciting to grab the yellow jersey, and for that they should be applauded. Caisse d’Epargne tried to wind it up but had to rely on the steep final 1.5km of the climb to crack the American

LOSERS

Damiano Cunego – Looked bad on Super Besse. Lost 32 seconds, which doesn’t bode well for the Pyrenees

Stefan Schumacher – It was a very unfortunate way to lose the yellow jersey but riding into the back wheel of your nearest rival inside the final kilometre wasn’t the smartest thing to do

The syndicated French media A lot of regional French newspapers are listing Mark Cavendish as Maltese in their results. Bizarre.

ABANDONS

No. 4 – Aurelien Passeron of Saunier Duval was forced to pull out as a result of the injuries sustained the previous day, when he crashed into a spectator on the run-in to Chateauroux

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

We’ve been given a fair bit of stick – quite rightly – for our rubbish predictions so we’re not going to get all carried away and gloat now we’ve got a couple of things right. But we did say Ricco would win the stage and that Kirchen would end the day in yellow.

STAGE SIX: top five

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval in 4-57-52

2. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 1sec

3. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto same time

4. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) CSC at 4sec

5. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia same time

The Brits

39. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 51sec

79. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 4-48

168. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 17-46

OVERALL

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia in 24-30-41

2. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 6sec

3. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner at 16sec

4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 44sec

5. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 47sec

The Brits

97. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 15-40

141. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 23-28

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Sylvain Chavanel (France) Cofidis

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Team Columbia

STAGE FIVE

Cholet – Chateauroux

Distance: 232km

IN A NUTSHELL

Mark Cavendish won his first Tour de France stage. The first British stage winner in the Tour since David Millar’s time trial win at Nantes in 2003. Cavendish’s win follows two in the Giro d’Italia earlier this summer.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

6/10, rising to 10/10 for the last two kilometres – if you’re a British fan.

WHAT HAPPENED

Lilian Jegou (Francaise des Jeux) attacked after three kilometres and was followed by Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) and Florent Brard (Cofidis). The French trio were allowed their head and their maximum lead was 8-15. Slowly, over the final 85 kilometres, the gap came down but the chase went right to the wire. With 1,400 metres to go Vogondy went for it. The other two were caught and for a moment it looked as if Vogondy might make it. But the Columbia train, plus a spurt from Credit Agricole’s Mark Renshaw, narrowed the gap. Cavendish had to go from a long way out, more than 250 metres, and only got past the rapidly fading Frenchman with about 75 metres to go.

WINNERS

Mark Cavendish – The fastest sprinter in the world at the age of 23. His confidence is sky high – can he win another one?

Nicolas Vogondy – Spent more than 220 kilometres out in front and when it became blindingly obvious the trio were going to get caught he refused to give up and launched a desperate last bid to shake off the peloton. For British fans caught up in the excitement of Cavendish’s win it’s worth sparing a thought for the French champion’s effort.

Thor Hushovd – As CW predicted, took the green jersey – but may see it transfer back to Kim Kirchen at Super Besse.

LOSERS

Juan Mauricio Soler – The poor man’s luck just got worse. Already nursing a broken hand after a crash on stage one, he fell in the neutralised zone before the race even started and then climbed off at the 11-kilometre mark.

ABANDONS

No. 3 Juan Mauricio Soler – injuries from crash on stage one

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Ah, the old double bluff worked! Our tips have been doing so appallingly that we decided not to jinx Mark Cavendish by picking him. Instead, we cursed one of his biggest rivals, Thor Hushovd, clearing the way for the Manx Missile to win his first Tour stage. And if you believe that…

STAGE FIVE: top five

1. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia in 5-27-52

2. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

3. Erik Zabel (Germany) Milram

4. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Credit Agricole

5. Baden Cooke (Australia) Barloworld

The Brits

50. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle

134. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld all same time

OVERALL

1. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner in 19-32-33

2. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 12sec

3. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 12sec

4. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 21sec

5. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) CSC at 33sec

The Brits

97. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 5-58

162. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 11-08

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Credit Agricole

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Thomas Voeckler (France) Bouygues Telecom

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Team Columbia

STAGE FOUR

Cholet time trial

Distance: 29.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

Fabian Cancellara lost. CW wasn’t the only one convinced the Swiss moto had it in the bag. There was a general feeling around the race that it’d take something special to topple him. Stefan Schumacher produced that something special to obliterate his time by 33 seconds. If you had told Kim Kirchen, David Millar and Cadel Evans this morning that they’d beat Cancellara but not win the stage, they’d probably have laughed at you.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

7/10 – It was interesting to see a break from the usual 50-plus kilometre time trial stage, and coming so early in the race, and with a tricky couple of days in the Massif Central just around the corner, it was definitely intriguing. We’ve added an extra point for the sheer jaw-dropping quality of the result too.

WHAT HAPPENED?

That’s probably the question Cancellara and co at CSC will be asking themselves for a few days. But Cancellara was simply not at the races all day. Christophe Riblon of AG2R set the early marker and saw Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) beat it in succession. The race ‘proper’ started when Jens Voigt (CSC) set the best time, seemingly setting up the inevitable Fabian romp. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) was leader briefly until Cancellara pulled out all the stops over the final ten kilometres to take over. That was until Schumacher blitzed round the course.

WINNERS

Kim Kirchen – Is the guy going to finish in the top five every day between now and the Pyrenees? We knew the rider from Luxembourg was going to be up for it in the first week of the Tour but he’s flying.

Cadel Evans – No wonder he couldn’t stop smiling when he was interviewed on French television after the race. All that fretting about Valverde’s improvement against the watch at the Dauphine came to nought. Evans is the clear favourite at the moment.

Denis Menchov – Second best of the overall contenders in sixth place. Lost only six seconds to Evans and on the others gained back all the time he lost as a result of Monday’s crash.

Carlos Sastre Only lost 1-16 to Evans, which considering the Spaniard’s usual problems against the clock, ain’t bad at all.

LOSERS

Fabian Cancellara – CW’s resident tipster has egg on his face and a lightly fried hat to eat at some time in the next few days, but Cancellara’s the one who really messed up. The course was made for him. The wind dropped a bit later in the day but Schumacher thrashed him.

Alejandro Valverde – The Dauphine feels a long time ago now. A month back he roasted the oppo in a time trial that was hillier than this and longer than this. Today he froze.

Riccardo Ricco – Altogether now ‘I’m not here for the overall, you idiots.’ He’s not now. He lost three minutes to Evans.

Frank Schleck – Battling to win the Tour de Schleck now as he conceded ground to his younger brother in a discipline he’s supposed to be stronger at.

ABANDONS

None.

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Let’s not go there, shall we? All we’ll ask is that we’re allowed some ketchup with our hat.

STAGE FOUR: top five

1. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner

2. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

3. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle

4. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto

5. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) CSC

The Brits

33. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld

143. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 4-05

OVERALL

1. Stefan Schumacher (Germany) Gerolsteiner in 14-04-41

2. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 12sec

3. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 12sec

4. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 21sec

5. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) CSC at 33sec

The Brits

98. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 5-58

163. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 11-08

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Thomas Voeckler (France) Bouygues Telecom

YOUNBG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden) Team Columbia

STAGE THREE

Saint Malo – Nantes

Distance: 208km

IN A NUTSHELL

The day the break succeeded. Despite all our confident predictions about how we’d see a sprint in Nantes and how Alejandro Valverde would keep the yellow jersey until the Cholet time trial, the Tour de France was turned on its head by four breakaway heroes. Samuel Dumoulin became surely the shortest Tour stage winner for years, while Roman Feillu (who won the Tour of Britain last year) became the first Frenchman to pull on the yellow jersey since Cyril Dessel in 2006. Dumoulin’s moment of glory was interrupted by a protestor in a hi-vis jacket.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

8/10 – The best stage so far. The four breakaway riders gave it absolutely everything all day and really caught the peloton out.

WHAT HAPPENED

Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), William Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle), Paolo Longo Borghini – ‘Don’t call me Jennie’ -(Barloworld) and Roman Feillu (Agritubel) broke clear as soon as they left the neutralised zone and built a great advantage very quickly. After 40 kilometres they were already 10 minutes up.

It reached almost 15 minutes before the bunch tried to peg it in at 10.

With 50 kilometres to go the lead was still 6-45 and looking like it might have a chance. The peloton mis-judged it badly in the last hour.

A crash with 25 kilometres to go split the peloton into three, with Denis Menchov (Rabobank) among those caught in the second group.

At the finish, Dumoulin’s persistence paid off and the second of two digs gave him the win.

WINNERS

Cofidis – After last year’s positive dope test for Cristian Moreni, Samuel Dumoulin’s win erases painful memories

Roman Feillu – Seized his chance superbly to end the day in yellow.

Paolo Longo Borghini and Will Frischkorn – May not have a reason to drink a glass of Champagne at the dinner table but contributed fully to a cracking day’s racing

LOSERS

The sprinters – Assumed it would come back together. It didn’t. They left it too late

Denis Menchov, Riccardo Ricco – Caught out by the crash that happened with 25 kilometres to go and lost 38 seconds to the other favourites.

ABANDONS

No. 2: Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) – crashed out and had to quit

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Again we went for Mark Cavendish. He was tenth – sixth in the bunch sprint – his first top 10 placing so far.

STAGE TWO: top five

1. Samuel Dumoulin (France) Cofidis in 5-05-27

2. William Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle

3. Romain Feillu (France) Agritubel both same time

4. Paolo Longo Borghini (Italy) Barloworld at 14sec

5. Robbie McEwen (Australia) Silence-Lotto at 2-03

The Brits

10. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia

25. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle both same time

150. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 4-55

OVERALL

1. Roman Feillu (France) Agritubel in 13-27-05

2. Paolo Longo Borghini (Italy) Barloworld at 35sec

3. William Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-42

4. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne at 1-45

5. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 1-46

The Brits

8. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle at 1-46

85. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain Team Columbia at 3-45

168. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 11-11

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Thomas Voeckler (France) Bouygues Telecom

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Roman Feillu (France) Agritubel

Andy Schleck will wear the white jersey on stage four

STAGE TWO

Auray – Saint-Brieuc

Distance: 164.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

A French of Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler got away and were joined by David Le Lay and Christophe Moreau. As they were mopped up in the final handful of kilometres, Fabian Cancellara attempted his now familiar last spurt before the Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd won a hectic sprint to clinch the sixth Tour de France stage win of his career. The much hoped-for Mark Cavendish assault on a Tour stage would have to wait another day.

With the time gaps so tight, a reshuffle based on cumulative stage finish positions hoisted David Millar up to seventh.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

6/10 – The last 20 kilometres were exciting as the peloton left the capture as late.

WHAT HAPPENED

As CW predicted, Bouygues Telecom kept a lid on things early on so Thomas Voeckler could score on the first king of the mountains climb and secure the lead from Bjorn Schroder of Milram.

After the summit Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Voeckler got clear and built a maximum lead of 6-25 with 100 kilometres to go.

David Le Lay and Christophe Moreau (both Agritubel) attacked the bunch after the Mur de Bretagne and caught the leading pair with about 50 kilometres to go. At that stage the quartet led by three minutes.

With 20 kilometres to go the lead was down to 1-00 but they did not give in. Three kilometres out and the bunch was almost upon them when Chavanel jumped. The other three were swallowed up and as Chavanel was caught Fabian Cancellara tried his trademark late move. It paid off last year at Compiegne, when he was in the yellow jersey, but not here.

Instead Thor Hushovd won despite a surprise late surge from Kim Kirchen (High Road).

WINNERS

Credit Agricole – Another Hushovd stage win won’t do Roger Legeay’s bid for a new sponsor any harm. Rumour has it a deal is in the offing and an announcement could be due during the Tour.

Kim Kirchen – Fourth place followed by second gives him the green jersey

LOSERS

Gert Steegmans – Quick Step tried to chase for him but he had a shocker. Then the rumours of him signing for Tinkoff emerged – as did details of his proposed salary, so it wasn’t all bad news

Bernhard Kohl – Not one of the big favourites but definitely top 20 material. Losing 1-59 on a day like this won’t help

Juan Mauricio Soler – Again. Suffering badly as a result of Sunday’s injuries, when he was dropped, Barloworld didn’t even send a team-mate back for him. He came in last, at 7-18.

ABANDONS

None.

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Blinded by national bias, we plumped for Mark Cavendish, although we did name Hushovd as one of the other favourites so we’ll give ourselves half a point.

STAGE TWO: top five

1. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Credit Agricole in 3-45-13

2. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

3. Gerald Ciolek (Germany) Team Columbia

4. Robert Hunter (South Africa) Barloworld

5. Erik Zabel (Germany) Milram all same time

The Brits

26. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle

27. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia both same time

144. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 2-30

OVERALL

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d’Epargne in 8-21-20

2. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia at 1sec

3. Oscar Freire (Spain) Rabobank

4. Juan Jose Cobo (Spain) Saunier Duval

5. Cadel Evans (Australia) Silence-Lotto all same time

The Brits

7. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle same time

100. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 2-00

170. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 6-34

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Thomas Voeckler (France) Bouygues Telecom

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval

STAGE ONE

Brest ? Plumelec

Distance: 197.5km

IN A NUTSHELL

The average prologue features about seven minutes of action for each rider. Today?s break from the norm featured about seven minutes of action full stop.

As predicted the break went away, then was reeled in. The rain stayed away but the wind blew.

On the final climb the pure sprinters found it too steep and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) timed his run for the line to perfection to take the first yellow jersey of the Tour. Whoopie.

Meanwhile, last year?s king of the mountains winner Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) crashed on the run-in and lost three minutes. No one plans to fall off but this could help his cunning plan to cut loose in the mountains.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

First three-and-three-quarter hours: Total snoozefest

Last fifteen minutes: Riveting

Great to do something different, but we?ll never complain about the prologue again. We promise.

WHAT HAPPENED?

A break of eight went clear in the first few kilometres. It was sparked by Lilian Jegou, a Breton riding for Française des Jeux. He was joined by Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Björn Schröder (Milram), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Geoffroy Lequatre (Agritubel) and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval).

The break?s maximum lead reached around 8-15 at 30 kilometres.

It fell to 4-50 with 100km to go, then 3-27 with 50km to go.

In the king of the mountains competition, Voeckler and Schröder found themselves tied on eight points after all the hills, meaning the first over the line at the finish would gain the polka-dot jersey.

The peloton stepped it up inside the final hour and the gap quickly fell under two minutes.

With 35 kilometres to go, Jegou and De La Fuente attacked the group and got clear by themselves.

They still had 1-28 over the pelton with 20km remaining.

They were finally caught with seven kilometres to go.

First to attack on the final hill was Roman Feillu of Agritubel but he was soon passed by Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner. He looked good for a while until Kim Kirchen passed him.

The rider from Luxembourg faded and Valverde passed him with plenty of room to spare.

WINNERS

Alejandro Valverde ? Obviously. First time in yellow for the Spaniard

Cadel Evans, Frank Schleck, Oscar Pereiro ? finished in the first group, losing only a second to Valverde

Thomas Voeckler ? grabbed the polka-dot jersey by finishing ahead of Björn Schröder at the finish

LOSERS

Juan Mauricio Soler ? crashed with 9.5 kilometres to go. Shaken by his fall he badly mis-judged a left-hand bend as he was chasing to get back. Eventually lost 3-04. However, this may work in his favour when he needs space to move in the mountains. All he needs now is to ride round the Cholet time trial with his back brake wedged on and he?ll be allowed to attack in the Pyrenees in search of the polka-dot jersey

ABANDONS

Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis) ? son of double Paris-Roubaix winner Gilbert ? was the first rider forced out of the Tour. He crashed in the feed zone with 100km covered, and was left nursing his wrist. A musette bag got caught in his front wheel.

HOW DID CW‘S TIP GET ON?

Oscar Freire was ninth. Good, but no chorizo.

STAGE ONE: top five

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d?Epargne in 4-00-36

2. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) Française des Jeux at 1sec

3. Jérôme Pineau (France) Bouygues Telecom

4. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

5. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval all same time

Brits

11. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Chipotle same time

119. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) Team Columbia at 2-00

174. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 4-04

OVERALL

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d?Epargne in 4-00-36

2. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) Française des Jeux at 1sec

3. Jérôme Pineau (France) Bouygues Telecom

4. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) Team Columbia

5. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval all same time

174. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Barloworld at 4-04

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d?Epargne

Philippe Gilbert will wear the green jersey on stage two

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. Thomas Voeckler (France) Bouygues Telecom

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Riccardo Ricco (Italy) Saunier Duval



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 17: Sastre wins on Alpe d’Huez, takes lead

Stage 16: Dessel wins

Stage 15: Schleck takes lead in the Alps

Stage 14: Oscar Freire wins in Digne-les-Bains

Stage 13: Cavendish takes fourth win

Stage 12: Cavendish makes it three

Stage 11: Arvesen wins

Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Analysis: tactical battle on L’Alpe d’Huez [stage 17]

Schleck promises to attack main rivals

Schleck ready to defend Tour lead [stage 15]

Rest day news round-up [July 21]

Saunier Duval riders: “We are honest”

Cavendish talks to Cycling Weekly after quitting Tour

Schleck savours first ever Tour de France jersey [stage 15]

Comment: Why Cav is right to go home today

Cavendish pulls out of the Tour

Barloworld to end cycling sponsorship

Ricco speaks on Italian television

Cavendish joins the all-time greats

Saunier Duval sack Ricco and Piepoli

Tour bosses say fight against doping continues

Ricco denies doping at the Tour

Saunier Duval pull out of Tour

Tour’s top ten changes

Ricco positive for EPO at Tour

Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary

Cavendish battles through Pyrenees

Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]

Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour

Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 17

Stage 15

Stage 14

Stage 13

Stage 12

Stage 11

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage nine

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

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