The Feed Zone: Tour de France news and views

Rest day press conferences
It was the battle of the press conferences today as some of the teams invited the press round for a chat. Only six journalists turned up to Cervelo’s ‘presser’, well, it was at 10am this morning (most are in the afternoon) but the Garmin one went down well.

Free Chipotle Burritos and Margarita’s supplied by POM meant the Hotel Parc Beaumont was packed out.

Astana’s and Saxo Bank’s were cleverly organised to take place at the same time as each other while Sky’s was kept as a bit of a secret. RadioShack didn’t hold one. Again.

French wins
The French riders continued their stellar race when Pierrick Fedrigo won the stage to Pau yesterday. The win was the third in a row for the home nation after Thomas Voeckler won stage 15 to Bargnéres-de-Luchon and Christophe Riblon won stage 14 to Ax 3 Domaines – all three Pyrenean stages so far.

The last time the French won three Tour stages in a row was in 1994 when Jacky Durand, Luc Leblanc and Richard VIrenque went back to back to back.

Quick Step keeps its Tour heroes
Belgian team Quick Step announced on today’s rest day that both Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau had renewed their contracts with the team; signing on the dotted line in Pau.

The agreement with both riders was for one more year with an option for 2012.

Chavanel has won two stages of this year’s Tour and spent two days in the leader’s yellow jersey. Pineau spent time in the King of the Mountains jersye in the first week – as Quick Step held all three jerseys for a day – and now sits a slightly distant fifth in the competition.

Odds on for Contador
Online bookmaker Paddy Power reckons race leader Alberto Contador will hold on to his yellow jersey all the way to Paris. They’ve just released their latest odds. With just four days to go, there were no real surprises.

Contador 5/4, Schleck 3/1, Menchov 11/1, Samuel Sanchez 16/1, Van Den Broeck 25/1, Gesink 30/1, Castre [sic] 40/1, Rodriguez 40/1

Feeling sick?
Most of the journalists and cameramen were cleared out when Ivan Basso finished stage 16 in Pau yesterday. The winner of the Giro d’Italia came down with a fever over night, but decided to start the stage regardless.

“I have a strong desire to make it to Paris,” said Basso. “The Tour de France is of such importance and deserves respect, I am going to push as long as I can.”

Basso finished the stage 34 minutes after the winner, Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and now is 27th in the overall classification.

David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) finishing in Paris is no certainty. After being banged up with team-mates Christian Vande Velde and Tyler Farrar on the stage to Arenberg and suffering on his own at the back on the stage to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Millar spent part of his second rest day in bed with swollen glands.

While Millar was at the Kyriad hotel, his team-mates met the press near the Baeumont Parc in Pau. To keep the mood lively, Garmin supplied Chipotle burritos and margaritas. Mmmm!

Upstairs from the the Garmin press gathering (okay, picnic), Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) was resting. He has a cold and is trying to recover from it ahead of tomorrow’s stage to the Col du Tourmalet.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) does not have a cold, but may fake one if the Padova prosecutor, Benedetto Roberti, starts overturning more juicy details about his preparations and handing them over to head Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) prosecutor, Ettore Torri.

Odds are 2:1 that he will not finish the race and there are even greater odds he won’t win the green jersey. He only trails by four points, but rumour has it he has been told to not win it and just enjoy what he has done so far: two stage wins. The last thing Tour boss Christian Prudhomme wants is a jersey winner (as with Bernhard Kohl and the mountain’s jersey in 2008) who subsequently becomes embroiled in a high-profile doping case.

Tour’s “experienced” man takes up the mountain fight
“I wasn’t the oldest man in that escape,” said Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) yesterday.

No he wasn’t. He was joined by 39-year-old, Frenchman Christophe Moreau (Caisse d’Epargne). While Armstrong and Chris Horner were protecting RadioShack’s team classification, Moreau (five months older than old Tex) was gathering mountain points.

Moreau topped the Tourmalet and Aubisque first, and gained a total of 60 points for his day out. With the gains, he now trails Anthony Charteau (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) by 15 points for the polka dot jersey.

In addition to the points, Moreau also took the Jacques Goddet prize for topping the Tourmalet first. Every time the Tour de France passes the race’s mythical pass, they award the rider with the prize and some cash.

Moreau’s goal, though, is the famous polka dot jersey.

“You want a scoop?” is what a taxi driver said to Cycling Weekly’s Gregor Brown this morning on the way to the Garmin press gathering.

“Yes,” our man Brown said.

“Nicolas Sarkozy is going to meet with Lance Armstrong tomorrow,” the driver continued, “on the Tourmalet to honour him with the Légion d’honneur.”

“What?” Brown replied.

“The highest honour the french president can give to someone. He will fly in and honour Armstrong tomorrow,” said the driver.

“Bill Stapleton was in my car the other day and told me. He was complaining because he was heading home, but now has to fly immediately back.”

Brown did not report how much (or if at all) he tipped the driver.

And finally – the weather
Everyone was keeping one eye on the weather forecast as we head towards the race’s most crucial stage tomorrow. Forecasts are saying heavy rain could affect the area, setting up what could be a classic stage. Join us tomorrow for our live text coverage from the race.

Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Armstrong has his last go in the Tour
Tour’s points leader Petacchi investigated for doping
Contador issues video apology to Schleck
Millar searches horizon for Eiffel Tower
Schleck-Contador friendship turns sour after chain problem
Wiggins at 2010 Tour: “I haven’t got it”
Basso wins Tour’s acceptance; podium spot next goal
Contador versus Schleck: A game of seconds
Can Cav win without Renshaw?
Hesjedal pushing his way to the Tour’s top
Renshaw disqualification overshadows Cavendish’s win
Charly Wegelius pulls out of Tour
Did Armstrong own a stake in Tailwind Sports, or not?
Cavendish in a ‘must win’ situation for Tour’s green jersey
Millar rides through pain barrier to make time cut
Roche alongside Tour’s top men ahead of Pyrenees
Wiggins to aim for Tour de France stage win?
Dan Lloyd battles on in Tour despite groin strain

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Rest day review (July 21)
Stage 16: Fedrigo takes tough Pyrenean stage
Stage 15: Victorious Voeckler continues fine Franch Tour as Contador takes yellow jersey
Stage 14: Riblon hangs on in Pyrenees to give France fourth stage win
Stage 13: Vino returns to top of Tour after doping ban
Stage 12: Rodriguez wins as Contador attacks
Stage 11: Cavendish bags third stage win but lead out man kicked out of Tour
Stage 10: Cavendish bags third stage win but his lead-out man is kicked out of race
Stage 10: Paulinho claims narrow stage victory on Bastille day
Stage nine: Casar wins stage as Schleck and Contador go head-to-head
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage 15 photo gallery
Stage 14 photo gallery
Stage 13 photo gallery
Stage 12 photo gallery
Stage 11 photo gallery
Stage 10 photo gallery
Stage nine photo gallery
Stage eight photo gallery
Tour 2010 wallpaper
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage 16 video highlights
Stage 15 video highlights
Stage 14 video highlights
Stage 13 video highlights
Stage 12 video highlights
Stage 11 video highlights
Stage 10 video highlights
Stage nine video highlights
Stage eight video highlights
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special