Chris Froome has increases his lead to 4:14 over Bauke Mollema and 4:25 over Alberto Contador ahead of the second rest day.
Givors - Mont Ventoux
Tour de France - 14 July 2013
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Rodriguez passes Nieve on the closing bend, but the Euskaltel rider pips him for third. Contador cracked in the last kilometre and comes home for fifth place, 1:40 down.
Nairo Quintana comes home 31 seconds down on Froome to take second place.
VICTORY FOR THE YELLOW JERSEY CHRIS FROOME! His grimace turns to a smile as he punches the air over the line...
Back with the Mollema group, Rodriguez attacks...
The summit of Mont Ventoux is covered in a cloud as Froome approaches the end of his most emphatic win ever...
Quintana has completed cracked - while Froome is flying away.
There's the answer: Froome powers clear. Perhaps he just read Lance Armstrong's last Tweet: "Hey Chris - no gifts on the Ventoux."
The big question is whether or not Froome will let Quintana win, or if he'll go for an historic win.
The leaders have 55 seconds on the chasing duo and 1:50 on the Mollema group, who have just caught Porte.
Richie Porte is all smiles as he rides solo between the chasing group and the Contador/Nieve duo. He knows that he has helped secure the success for Sky today.
It's Laurens Ten Dam who sets the pace with the chasing group. The likes of Mollema, Valverde, Fuglsang, Valverde, Rodriguez, Moreno, Peraud, Kreuziger are still there...
Froome turns up the pace once again, but Quintana is more than capable of holding his wheel. The Colombian really betrays no feelings on his face... and now he draws level with the yellow jersey and shares some words before gettign into the dancing position...
Froome and Quintana have 30 seconds over Contador and Nieve now... and 1:15 over the other favourites.
The trees have almost all disappeared now as we enter the moonscape that makes the Ventoux so unlike all other climbs...
Quintana looks pretty relaxed as he takes a pull on the front. One of these two riders will win today, that's certain. Contador and Nieve are together in pursuit - but they're quite far back now, with Richie Porte riding solo behind, and then the group of the also-rans 1:08 behind the yellow jersey.
With a ridiculously fast cadence, Froome surges past Quintana - but the Colombian just manages to get on his wheel.
ATTACK BY FROOME!! The yellow jersey puts in a huge dig to drop both Contador and Porte, and to pass Nieve. He now has just Quintana ahead...
A near naked man with a stuffed wild boar provides a minor distraction for the riders...
Richie Porte is setting a devastating pace and blowing the race apart! Only Froome and Contador can keep on his wheel! Kreuziger has dropped back with Rodriguez, Mollema and Ten Dam.
Jakob Fulgsang is still there for Astana, while Belkin have Mollema and Ten Dam - but not Robert Gesink, who has been distanced. Alejandro Valverde is also off the back...
Michal Kwiatkowski is off the back and will surely hand over the white jersey to Quintana today.
Andrew Talansky, who moved up from 17th to 12th yesterday, is the latest to crack. The young American has probably never ridden the Ventoux before.... what a baptism of fire.
That's it for Kennaugh, who peels off and then comes to a virtual standstill. The last 9km are going to be hell for him. Froome now just has Porte as his pace-setter.
The Sky riders take on musettes under the 10-to-go banner - fresh drinks and maybe a special Sky snack.
The two leaders have 35 seconds over the main pack as they pass under the 10-to-go banner. Contador still has three team-mates - Kreuziger is one of them.
All over for Evans - he's off the back like a stone in the sea.
Quintana is closing in on Nieve... together they may be able to ride well - it just depends if the Euskaltel man has the strength to hold on to his Colombian colleague...
Cadel Evans looks like he's suffering a fair bit on the back of the main pack.
Kennaugh and Porte lead the main pack through the claustrophobic forest-lined road of this mid-section of the Ventoux. Behind Froome, the Saxo contingent lurk with intent, with Belkin's Dutch duo behind, as well as Valverde.
Froome is being marked by Contador. Quintana is not making serious headway - he's only 15 seconds clear.
Froome has Peter Kennaugh on the front of the pack, with Richie Porte in his wheel. This is better for Sky. Quintana has caught and past Bakelants. Chavanel is caught by the peloton, and Nieve leads by 40 seconds.
QUINTANA ATTACKS!! The Colombian powers clear of the main pack and there's no response from any of the GC favourites.
Nieve rides with Jan Bakelants in pursuit of Chavanel, who they will catch soon. Yes, they catch Chavanal, then Nieve drops them both and rides clear.
ATTACK: Mikel Nieve of Euskaltel pings off the front just as Irizar is caught.
Andy Schleck has cracked! He's all over the place and rides onto the side of the road, almost losing his grip in the loose stones and has to be pushed back onto the road by a fan...
The fans are really going crazy - and despite riders' request for spectators not to be cretins, you can't help the actions of a minority. Quite a few are running alongside with flags and falling over beside the action... Most, though, are just cheering, clapping and sucking up the atmosphere... they say there are 500,000 on the mountain today.
Chavanel is giving the French crowds something to cheer on Bastille Day on his orange bike... but he'll soon be caught by Riblon and Irizar - provided they're not caught by the peloton first. The gap is 1:25 from Chavanel to the main pack.
The remnants of the break are being caught in drips and drabs. Sky are down to just a couple of men though... not ideal for Froome.
Just as Peter Sagan is being caught by the peloton, he does a wheelie and waves for the cameras. Such a showman!
Irizar and Riblon ride together in pursuit of Chavanel. Back with the pack, Froome has already lost Sky team-mate David Lopez. You sense that he will soon be very isolated and will have to deal with attacks coming from all directions.
Pierre Rolland has already been dropped by the peloton. Today just hasn't gone his way...
Green jersey Peter Sagan has sat up, his work for the day done - so to speak. I mean, he still has to complete the stage - and that will be a hard shift - but his green jersey has never been more strongly stuck to his shoulders.
Sylvain Chavanel rides onto the start of the HC Mont Ventoux (1,912m) - 20.8km at 7.5%. He has 1:50 over the main pack and is being cheered on by the French fans as he pops an energy gel.
Chavanel has opened up a little gap on the front of the leaders on this downhill ride towards the start of the Ventoux proper. Back with the pack, numerous riders are being tailed off already - and we're not even on the climb yet!
Now Sky come to the front - the whole team is there for Froome, with RadioShack right on the front beside them. Andy Schleck clearly feels up for it today.
Now Euskaltel come to the front of the peloton, working for their climbers Ion Izagirre, Mikel Nieve and Igor Anton.
The leaders are onto the uncategorised Col de la Madeleine, which isn't quite up to its Alpine namesake in terms of difficulty, but it's still a tricky rise and comes right ahead of the main event. The gap is 2:40.
Greipel and Cavendish cross the line for 10th and 11th respectively - it's uncontested as both of them know that the green jersey is impossible now unless Sagan crashes out of the race.
Peter Sagan picks up maximum points at the intermediate sprint, weary of the treat from Chavanel, who nips in for second - but it's uncontested. The Frenchman knows his team-mate Mark Cavendish cannot win the green jersey anymore, and he'll want to keep his energy for the climb ahead. Sagan now has a 104-point lead over Cavendish in the green jersey standings. Game over!
A Sky rider tries to grab a water bottle from a team helper, but makes a complete hash of it. Numerous riders are taking on musettes - now is the time to restock on solids and liquids before the big Ventoux rendez-vous.
No one in the current peloton has ever won atop Mont Ventoux - although Cadel Evans has come closest. The Australian won a stage which finished three-quarters the way up the Ventoux at the Ski station of Mont Serein in Paris-Nice 2008, ahead of Robert Gesink. Both riders are in the mix today - for BMC and Rabobank.
Interesting stat here: when the Tour last finished atop the Ventoux, Contador finished in fourth place around 30 seconds down on the winner Juan Manuel Garate. Laurens Ten Dam, who is fifth on GC today, finished more than nine minutes in arrears...
The peloton is strung out to about 500 metres in length, with the riders roaring along in single file pretty much. The gap is still 3:45 for the nine escapees.
We have the intermediate sprint coming up in about 10km. Peter Sagan has pulled off quite a coup to get in this break - 20 points here should wrap up with green jersey with a whole week left to go.
The average speed for the third hour of racing was 45.5km so still very fast. In fact, the riders have passed through the town of Nyons a full 45 minutes ahead of schedule - such is the fast tempo today.
Saxo-Tinkoff have two riders in the top five in Kreuziger and Contador; Belkin have two in Mollema and Ten Dam; Sky have just the one after Richie Porte cracked last Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the Australian can refind his form and keep up with the favourites today on the Ventoux...
Chris Froome is surrounded by his Sky team-mates - they don't want a repeat of the past week, in particular the stage to Bagneres-de-Bigorre. Remember, they are two down after the withdrawls of Vasil Kiryienka and Edvald Boasson Hagen. Saxo and Movistar have also both lost one rider - while Movistar are, temporarily, a second rider down: one of the Spaniards is taking a leak on the side of the road...
Marcel Kittel drops his chain and will have to fight back on. The same thing happened to the German in the crosswinds the other day. He'll certainly finish today's stage in the grupetto.
Movistar are showing the kind of form they showed a week ago on the second day of the peloton - and not three days ago in the crosswinds of the Indre.
It's 30 degrees Celsius at the base of Mont Ventoux, but it will be much chillier up top. We're hearing reports of stormy weather for next week in the Alps, which would shake things up a little - so far on this Tour we have only had sun.
The peloton is passing some lavender fields. It's quite strung out, with Movistar on the front and Sky tucked in behind. The gap is 3:40 for the nine leaders.
A mountain stage without any long descents would usually be right up Thibaut Pinot's street - but the Frenchman has been suffering with flu the past couple of days and he's once again off the back seeing the medical car.
The gap is up to four minutes for the break, with Movistar - no longer in the yellow helmets as classification leaders - on the front of the peloton. Saxo Bank have the yellow helmets after their triumphant ride in the crosswinds to Lyon.
RadioShack manager Luca Guercilena thinks Andy Schleck stands a good chance of winning today. "A lot depends on the strategies from they GC teams," he said. "Will they let a break go clear and establish a big gap during the first part of the stage? I think that they can let Andy go because as we've said before we're just here to win stages. He has the legs to win on Ventoux."
Before the stage, Alberto Contador said that he envisaged "two races" today: "One for the stage and another for the general classification, but I don't expect alliances, unless interests coincide. Everyone does his race, although there may be circumstances when you can benefit and work together with other riders, but I don't see alliances in advance." But with the leaders' gap coming down, the GC battle may well be the battle for the stage too today...
Jeremy Roy crosses the summit ahead of Christophe Riblon for the final categorised climb before Mont Ventoux.
Movistar have now come to the front of the peloton to help Europcar with the chase. The gap is down to 3:10 as we approach the summit of that fourth climb. It's been a fast first three hours of racing - with an average speed of 47kmh.
Tom Dumoulin has crashed in the peloton - but the Argos Shimano man is back up on his bike and chasing back on.
The leaders are approaching the fourth climb of the day, the Cat.3 Côte de Bourdeaux (4.2km at 5.7%).
Julien El Fares has been caught by the pack, which row rides 3:30 down on the leading group of nine riders.
The last Frenchman to win on Mont Ventoux was Richard Virenque in 2002 and the last Frenchman to win on Bastille Day was David Moncoutie in 2005. If a Frenchman wins today, he'll never have to pick up a bar tab for the rest of his life...
Europcar are doing some damage: the break's advantage has dropped to 3:50 now, with one of the leaders - Julien El Fares (Sojasun) - dropped by his fellow escapees. We're half way through today's mammoth stage - and all the fireworks are yet to come.
As a reaction to that snub to Pierre Rolland - who came within 100m of joining the leaders after an hour of frenetic chasing on at 50kmh - Europcar have come back to the front and are working hard to reduce the lead. It has come down to 4:30.
The riders reach the feed zone with the 10 leaders just over five minutes ahead of the peloton.
So, we have 10 riders with a 6:05 lead over the peloton: Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Markel Irizar (RadioShack), Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Christophe Roblon (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel), Daryl Impey (GreenEdge), Wout Poels (Vacansoleil) and Julien El Fares (Sojasun). Two riders are stuck in no-man's land, 3:30 down on the leaders: Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Marcus Burghardt (BNC).
An idea of how fast the pace is: the leaders covered 50.4km in the second hour of racing, which is an average speed of 49.3km since the start in Givors.
It's all over - for now - for Rolland, who has sat up. In fact, Burghardt gives up first, knowing that riding with the polka dot leader is doing him no favours. Rolland carries on for a bit, then himself takes the foot off the gas, preferring to save himself later for the final ascent. It's true, had he been in the break, the stage would have been his to lose. As it is, it will be very difficult for him to get the win today - especially with the expected GC battle around him.
As a result of the acceleration by the break - which was to Rolland's clear detriment - the Frenchman's Europcar team-mates have come to the front of the peloton to lead the chase. Essentially they are saying: let Rolland join you or we will do our best to thwart this break. Very interesting development...
Le Mevel and Astarloza look like they have sat up and given up their chase - they're not less than two minutes ahead of the pack, and almost five minutes down on the leaders. As for Rolland and Burghardt - they're one minute down...
As soon as Rolland and Burghardt managed to make the connection, the leading group upped the tempo in a bid to distance them - and it succeeded: the duo are now 35 seconds down again. It's clear that Rolland is persona non grata out there...
Rumours trickling through that Omega Pharma-Quick Step are on the verge of announcing a double signing: firstly, of free agent Alessandro Petacchi for the rest of the season, and secondly, of Colombian Rigoberto Uran from Team Sky. Patrick Lefevere apparently told Belgian radio yesterday that the paperwork was almost complete for both riders...
Rolland and Burghardt are just 20 seconds behind the leaders on this long flat drag ahead of the rolling terrain that precedes the Ventoux. Le Mevel and Astarloza aren't making such good progress - they're two minutes down - but five minutes ahead of the peloton.
The best-placed rider in this break is Chavanel, who is 20th on GC, almost 15 minutes down on Chris Froome. As such, Team Sky won't be too concerned about this break, which now has seven minutes on the pack.
In fact, the only rider in this breakaway who had won stages on the Tour but who isn't French is the green jersey Peter Sagan, a triple winner from last year, with one stage so far (and four second places) this year. The Cannondale rider leads the green jersey competition by 84 points over Mark Cavendish and looks all but certain to retain his crown in Paris - especially given the presence of an intermediate sprint ahead of the final climb today.
The Frenchmen looking for Bastille Day glory out there today are: Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ - four-time TDF stage winner - 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012), Christophe Riblon (Ag2R - 2010 stage winner), Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS - triple stage winner - 2008, 2010 x2), Julien El Fares (Sojasun - no stages) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ - no stages, but close). They could be joined by Pierre Rolland (Eurocpar - stage winner 2011, 2012 - two top tens on GC). In short - they are a strong group of countrymen...
RECAP: 10 men in front - Sagan, Irizar, Fedrigo, Roy, Riblon, Losada, Chavanel, Impey, Poels and El Fares // Rolland and Burghardt in pursuit at 42 seconds // Astarloza and Le Mevel at 1:15 // Sky-led peloton at 5:05.
Team Sky have come to the front of the peloton to control the tempo, which has dropped considerably now that the day's break has formed. The 10 leaders - five of which are French - have four minutes on the pack.
Rolland has dropped Le Mevel and has now joined Burghardt in pursuit of the escapees - they are over a minute down though, so it will be touch. Given his climbing pedigree, Rolland will not be a popular figure in the break should he manage to rejoin them. The Frenchman has already been dropped once by the leaders - and for a good reason.
Pierre Rolland clearly wants to get back in the break: the polka dot jersey has countered with Christophe Le Mevel - they are 1:25 down on the leaders.
Marcus Burghardt (BMC) is riding in pursuit of the leaders, 50 seconds down but 25 seconds ahead of the pack. The German was in yesterday's break too so must have good legs.
Julien El Fares takes the solitary point atop the climb, with the peloton coming over 35 seconds down. The Rolland group of chasers were swept up by the pack.
The 10 leaders are onto the third climb of the day, the Cat.4 Côte de Lens-Lestang (2.1km at 3.8%).
Rolland has been dropped by the break before joining numerous other counter-attackers around 10 seconds ahead of the pack. Ahead, we now have Sagan, Irizar, Fedrigo, Roy, Riblon, Losada, Chavanel, Impey, Poels and El Fares. They have 30 seconds on the dozen or so riders in pursuit.
The escapees are: Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Markel Irizar (RadioShack), Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Christophe Roblon (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Juan Jose Lobato (Euskaltel), Daryl Impey (GreenEdge), Wout Poels (Vacansoleil) and Julien El Fares (Sojasun).
BREAK: 11 riders are now off the front of the peloton and this looks more promising, especially with the presence of that man Peter Sagan, the green jersey.
The leaders are caught and Pierre Rolland jumps clear to take the solitary point that could keep him in the polka dot jersey tonight, should a big break escape and mop up the points atop the Ventoux... The Frenchman is on 51 points now.
We're onto the second climb of the say, the Cat.4 Côte de Primarette (2.6km at 4.1%) and De Gendt has been joined by Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Bart de Clercq (Lotto Belisol) and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma). But they only have 5 seconds on the pack so it's looking pretty doomed.
Thomas De Gendt has 15 points in the KOM standings - 35 shy of the current polka dot jersey Pierre Rolland, who has 50 points. An idea of how important today will be in the king of the mountains competition is that there are 50 points up for grabs for the stage winner - 25 for the Ventoux, which is doubled because of its status as a summti finish. As such, Rolland could be caught in one fell swoop by whoever wins today... Chris Froome, the yellow jersey, is on 33 points and lurks with attent.
De Gendt crosses the summit of the Cat.4 Côte d’Eyzin-Pinet (3.1km at 4.9%) in pole position to pick up the solitary KOM point up for grabs.
With the exception of Thomas De Gendt, all the escapees have been reeled in by the peloton. The pace is fast - 48kmh - which is making a break very hard to stick. The Belgian has 10 seconds to play with and must be thinking back at that glorious win of his on the Stelvio in the 2012 Giro d'Italia...
COUNTER ATTACK: Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who has good memories of the Ventoux, is riding with Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) and Rui Costa (Movistar) in pursuit of the three leaders.
BREAK: Three more riders are trying their luck - Andreas Kloeden (RadioShack), Kevin Reza (Europcar) and Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil). This trio may have a better chance of staying out - although you would never have picked out those three riders and put them in the same group before the stage...
Everyone is expecting a ding-dong battle for the race favourites today - but the last time the Tour finished on Mont Ventoux, in 2009, it was a break that survived, with veteran Spaniard Juan Manuel Garate beating Tony Martin (of all people) at the finish. With that in mind, there will be riders galore thinking they may stand a chance of going all the way should they get themselves into the right break...
It's all over for the escapees, who are swept up by the peloton.
France's Jeremy Roy (FDJ) jumps clear of the pack in pursuit of the two leaders, who have about 15 seconds on the pack.
ATTACK: World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) break clear of the pack.
They're off! The queen stage of the 2013 Tour de France is under way!
Today's stage features the longest and hardest single climb of the race (20.8km) at the end of the longest stage of the Tour since 2000. That pretty much sums up what the remaining 181 riders are up against. Before the famous ascent of the Ventoux, there are four lower category climbs, some rolling roads, and some long flat drags - ideal terrain for a break, one no doubt laden with Frenchman on this important national holiday...
The riders are currently rolling through the neutral zone ahead of the official start. The sun is out in a slightly cloudy sky and the temperature is already 23 degrees Celsius. We're in line for a scorcher!
Britain's Chris Froome finishes safely in the peloton seven minutes down on the escapees after a relaxed day for the big GC favourites. The Sky rider leads Bauke Mollema of Belkin by 2:28 and Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff by 2:45 on GC. But today's stage will no doubt totally shake up the overall standings - the time gaps could be enormous.
Yesterday, Matteo Trentin ended Italy's three-year wait for a win on the Tour de France, outsprinting his fellow escapees in Lyon to secure Omega Pharma-Quick Step's third win in four days, and their fourth on the Tour so far. The 23-year-old - who is Mark Cavendish's room-mate - timed his surge to perfection to take his first ever professional win in his debut Tour.
Welcome to live coverage of stage 15 of the Tour de France - the longest in the race, and perhaps the hardest: it's a 242.5km stage along the Rhone that culminates with a summit finish atop the legendary Mont Ventoux. To top things off, it's also Bastille Day in France!