Rogers climbs off his bike and seems in tears, or at least very close to them, as he embraces the nearest person he vaguely knows. What a stage that was.
Michael Rogers (TCS) gana la 16ª etapa del #TDF en Bagnères-de-Luchon por delante de Voeckler (EUC) y Kiryienka (SKY) pic.twitter.com/YomqzWZKrn
Voeckler takes second place, with Kiryienka just behind in third.
A fantastic attack about 5km from the end was decisive. Gautier tried to immediately come back, couldn’t, and that was the stage done. Rogers coasts round the final few corners, and starts punching the air with 100m to go!
There are four men together, all of them now well behind Rogers: Serpa, Voeckler, Kiryienka and Gautier. Surely, though, the Australian is going to win this.
This is quite a descent. There’s 5km of it to go, and Rogers is the furthest down.
Meanwhile Nibali is held up a little bit by a rogue car driving in his way.
#TDF Car on the descent. I thought they learned when they fenced Hoogerland pic.twitter.com/pDDBK97vXR
I’ve not seen a lot of the leading three of late, as the cameras focus on Pinot (doing well) and Bardet (not so much), but apparently they’ve been arguing among themselves.
Rogers, Voeckler and Serpa having an argument on the descent, some finger-wagging
and one more Pinot attack has split that group, with only Nibali following him.
Some good work here from Arnaud Jeannesson, helping the six-man group containing Nibali to the top of the Port de Balès. Also there: Pinot, Péraud, Gadret and Valverde.
With nothing but a descent to come, barring accident surely the stage winner will come from the first three over the top of that mountain. That’s about all that can be predicted at this point.
He gets 25 points, and is followed by Voeckler (20) and Rogers (16), with Kiryienka (14) and Gautier (12) a way back. Also earning themselves some points: Van Avermaet (10), Montaguti (8), Kwiatkowski (6), Slagter (4) and Gallopin (2).
Romain Bardet, this morning’s No3, is dropped now. With Thibaut Pinot, who was 16sec behind in No4, apparently thriving, it looks like there’ll be significant changes today at the top (or very near the top, at the very least) of the GC.
Some big names are being dropped even by the main chasing pack now. Tejay Van Garderen, who was fifth this morning, is among those slipping.
.@tejay_van est lâché du groupe #MaillotjauneLCL #TDF
Currently Rogers leads, from Serpa and then Voeckler, with those three moving clear of Gautier and everyone else well behind.
Joaquim Rodríguez is also struggling, putting the polka dot jersey very much up for grabs. Rafal Majka was only just behind at the end of Sunday’s 15th stage.
Now Voeckler goes again, this time more decisively. He’s 5km from the peak of the mountain. He streaks 25 yards clear, and then Serpa quietly accelerates back to his shoulder.
Seven left on the front – Voeckler, Rogers, Kiryienka, van Avermaet, Serpa, Izaguirre and Gautier #TDF
Now Thomas Voeckler has attacked. A little bit. He goes wide, pushes, and streaks five yards clear. And then he stops and lets the others catch him.
They’ve already cycled 207km today, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re struggling up this devilish climb. Michael Rogers is leading, and pushing. Only five people have really stuck with him.
Really, if two commercial stations are going to simultaneously broadcast the Tour (as they are in the UK), they could at least have the good grace not to both have adverts simultaneously.
and Slagter. There’s now a 10-man breakaway.
So far dumped by the leading group since the start of the Port de Balès: Keukeleire, Albasini, Roy, Reza, Dumoulin, Delaplace, Vachon, Eisel and Kluge.
Injury update: David de la Cruz, who broke his collarbone on stage 12, has had surgery today, and apparently it went well.
The breakaway group continues to shed bodies. I count 13 now.
The leading group is down to 20, with Roger Kluge struggling with the climb and left behind.
The estimable Lionel Birnie, co-editor of the excellent Cycling Anthology series of books, is eating his way around France watching the Tour. Here’s his latest update:
Finally the Gourmet de France has reached cassoulet country. http://t.co/VVHuMbs6RI
The comeback has begun: the leading 21 now lead the chasers by 12min 9sec, which is about 30sec less than a couple of minutes ago, as people jockey for position ahead of the big climb.
Here’s your handy visual guid to the breakaway 21:
60km. Las diferencias entre el pelotón y los fugados siguen aumentando. #TDF #TourTVE pic.twitter.com/u0RMl2guhv
The leaders are heading up the big one now, the 11.7km, 7.7% Port de Balès. Looks like Kévin Reza is leading them at the moment.
The leaders lead by 12min 29sec, or by seven kilometres. If they stretch their lead by a single additional minute before the end Kwiatkowski would be fifth.
“Which leg did Alberto break then?” wonders Simon Gates. “I thought he had a tibia fracture but the bandages on his right leg dont suggest that (though I am not an orthopaedic expert maybe someone who is could comment?) Or maybe that isnt really him?”
I too thought it was the tibia. “The doctor told me that surgery would only lead to more trauma on the knee and would only delay my recovery more,” Contador said last Tuesday. “The good news is that no tendons or ligaments were damaged and the fracture is in the best possible place. I’ll have to stop everything for two weeks and, until the wound heals, my leg has to be immobilised.”
Among those who Kwiatkowski is likely to overtake today are Belkin’s Bollema and Ten dam, and König of NetApp. Neither team has anyone in the leading group of 21 today (neither to Katusha, Astana, Cannondale, Giant, Trek or Cofidis).
If the stage ended right now Michal Kwiatkowski would be up nine places in seventh, 7min 36sec behind Nibali, and within a couple of minutes or so of the podium-chasers.
An update from Alberto Contador. Wherever he is, it looks good (but then, I do really like a good lake):
Hello everyone,getting better little by little,but much more slowly than I wanted.Always well accompanied. #daybyday pic.twitter.com/ZxXP4HIYTu
Voeckler gets another couple of points for being first over the Col des Ares, with José Serpa coming second and snaffling a point of his own.
On then to the Col des Ares. The leaders are very near the peak now, but the chasers are just passing the 6km-to-the-summit marker.
A reader who has actually pedalled up the Port de Balès with his own legs writes: “I recall that Stage 15 of the 2007 tour (Foix > Loudenvielle) covered both the Col de Portet dAspet and the Port de Balès (and the Peyresourde, and the Col de Ment, and the Col de Port),” writes Andrew Cooke. “I recall this specifically because it was the stage over which the Etape du Tour was ridden that year, in which I participated.
“My day was going as well as could be expected for a 12,000 calorie day in the saddle, right up to the point where I crashed on one of the hairpins descending the Port du Bales as your colleague Mr Fotheringham says, 60mph(ish) mountain descents can be risky.
Clearly nobody’s enormously worried about the breakaway group. Michal Kwiatkowski is among them, and just over 19 minutes behind Vincenzo Nibali in the individual classification when the day began, and of the 21 Cyril Gautier (a smidgeon over 50 minutes behind) is the next closest to the lead.
It very much looks like there are three people on Vasil Kiryienka’s bike here.
The leaders, now nearly 10 minutes ahead of the rest, have sped past the Casartelli monument on the way back down from the Col de Portet d’Aspet, and thoughts are turning to the next climb, the category three Col des Ares.
.@letour rend hommage à Fabio Casartelli / @letour pays a tribute to Fabio Casartelli #TDF pic.twitter.com/EhEZeOl4hf
Thomas Voeckler, who’ll be licking his lips and picturing a stage win about now I’d have thought, has taken five points for being first over the Col de Portet d’Aspet. He was followed by Michael Rogers (three), Jan Bakelants (two) and Tom-Jelte “Bring Your Dagter to The” Slagter (one).
“Its my birthday tomorrow, what are the chances of having my name on the board?” wonders Neil Meadowcroft. “I bet its down to who you know!”
It is indeed and I’ve just got off the phone to my friends in France
“Apparently, until the mid-1960s, throw in the sponge was more common than throw in the towel, in English,” writes Stuart Brown. “Since then, the first has almost disappeared from use, but the second become more and more frequent. Perhaps we live in defeatist times?”
I can tell you that in the (majority of the) history of the Guardian and the Observer (from their creation in 1821 and 1791 respectively until 2003) there had been 56 uses of the phrase “throw in the sponge”, the most recent in 2002 (and that was a letter, so written by a reader rather than a pro). There are meanwhile 482 uses of “throw in the towel”, the first in 1921.
Here’s the ominous-looking sign at the foot of the Port de Balès, the stage-closing climb:
Early call #keeno of 78.1 kms & 7 mentions for “chain gate” on Port de Bales by @PaulSherwen & @PhilLiggett #sbstdf pic.twitter.com/AvxKFdBHlU
Perfil del Port de Balès cuya cima se encuentra a 21 kms de meta. #TDF #VamosValverde #Balès pic.twitter.com/XgRF34ICFs
Here’s the latest from our man on the scene, William Fotheringham:
Bit breezy up top of the Bales. Tailwind on last bit + top of descent. Having just driven it I can see why Pinot got the heebie-jeebies
The leaders are now heading up the Col de Portet d’Aspet, a category two climb.
#letour: Rui Costa is the first reigning World Champion to abandon the #TDF since Tom Boonen in 2006. @RuiCostaCyclist @tomboonen1
“You forgot to presage the Jimmy Fallon clip with a warning that it was utterly lame,” writes Richard Searle. “I just hope all the hysterical laughter in the background was canned.” It was a little bit bobbins, wasn’t it?
The leading group continue to extend their lead: it’s now over nine minutes.
You’d have thought, what with the stunning weather, the staggering views and the imminent ludicrous climb, people would have enough to think about, but I suppose that if Prince George ever becomes a cycling fan, he will find this quite cool.
100km to go, and the leaders have an eight-minute lead.
100K to go and the leaders have 8:05 on the bunch where Astana is leading #tdf
French for Tour fans: my new phrase for the day is jeter l’éponge, to throw the sponge. It’s what French people do when English people would throw in a towel, and specifically what Rui Costa did this morning.
The intermediate sprint at Saint-Girons, 124km into the stage, has been won by Roger Kluge, followed by Greg van Avermaet and Jérémy Roy.
“Interesting point you make re St Elmo’s Fire,” writes Paul Griffin. “Were you aware that Miley Cyrus’s existential. Sisyphean anthem, The Climb, is actually about Stephen Roche’s Tour-winning ascent of La Plagne in 1987? In some rare white label versions, deep in the mix, you can hear Phil Liggett’s astonished commentary on the fade out.”
There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb
That Port de Balès looks like a wild climb and a crazy descent, right at the end of the stage. First, though, the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, a category two climb on the way down from which, in 1995, Fabio Casartelli crashed and died. This is from an article William Fotheringham wrote before the race returned to the area in 2005:
The Tour has a small number of holy places and the Portet d’Aspet is one of them. Cycling fans come here to pay tribute, leaving their offerings – those hats, bottles and flowers – as they do at the Tom Simpson memorial on the Mont Ventoux and the statue of Fausto Coppi on the Col d’Izoard. These are places of pilgrimage: the Tour’s noble dead serve as a symbol for the sacrifices and suffering of all who have attempted the world’s greatest bike race.
For all the risks run daily during 60mph mountain descents and 45mph bunch sprints, when disaster is a mere touch of one wheel with another away, fatalities on the Tour are rare. Apart from Casartelli, there has been one other death in a crash on the race, when the Spaniard Francisco Cepeda died of head injuries in 1937. Simpson’s death was due to heat exhaustion. Coppi, the winner of the Tour in 1949 and 1952, died of malaria in 1960.
Here’s a nearly-live picture from the front of the race.
Picture from Ion Izagirres 21-man break in #TDF. 605 gap after 111km (125 to go, three climbs remaining). pic.twitter.com/iPaa8296Me
The leaders have covered a little bit more than 110km, and are thus approaching halfway. The 21-man breakaway is six minutes ahead of the pack.
Jimmy Fallon of Tonight Show fame has been turning his attention to the Tour:
Some classic Tour photography today
As for today, 90km into the stage, there’s a 21-man breakaway currently just under four minutes ahead of the peloton. Those breakawayers in full: Bernhard Eisel and Vassil Kiriyenka (Sky), Jon Izagirre (Movistar), Michael Rogers (Tinkoff), Jan Bakelants and Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS), Samuel Dumoulin and Matteo Montaguti (AG2R), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Garmin), José Serpa (Lampre), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Tony Gallopin (Lotto), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Cyril Gautier, Kévin Reza and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Michael Albasini and Jens Keukeleire (Orica), Roger Kluge (IAM), Anthony Delaplace and Florian Vachon (Bretagne).
And then there was one: Geraint Thomas is the only Briton left in the 2014 Tour de France, following the withdrawal this morning of Simon Yates.
Two non starters: Yates and Costa http://t.co/JvOXDrtWfH #TDF
For a 21-year-old neo-pro, he contributed every day, everything he could do, said White. Making one break in the Tour de France is an achievement but to make a couple and the way he has gone about the whole Tour de France experience is a great sign for the future. Yes, it would be nice for him to finish the Tour, but it was a group decision that enough is enough and we have a lot of goals for him in the second half of the season.
So to get the wheels rolling, here’s a map of today’s stage:
C’est parti pour la plus longue étape de ce #TDF avec 237,5km et le Port de Balès (HC) pour attaquer les Pyrénées. pic.twitter.com/66hTMpxJQ0
Stage 16: Carcassonne > Bagnères-de-Luchon – 237,5 km The longest stage to enter the Pyrenees. D+=3600m pic.twitter.com/T1tcGAeH1p
Oricas bus har bare problemer med bus-parkering under Touren #tourtv2 pic.twitter.com/dqEJH6EiBQ
#TDF Un peu de tension ce matin au briefing.. Mais notre vachette #RAGT veille pic.twitter.com/xqQkGSgc41
Play the game
You know you can’t quit until it’s won
Only you can do what must be done
You know in some way
You’re a lot like me
You’re just a prisoner
And you’re tryin’ to break free
I can see a new horizon
Underneath the blazin’ sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s
Flyin’ higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future’s lyin’
St Elmo’s Fire!