Tour de France stage 19 as it happened

Stage 19 – Modane – Alpe-d’Huez, 109.5km

1724: And breathe. We can confirm Rojas came in at the same time as Cavendish, so Mark Cavendish holds the green jersey with two days of action remaining. Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans lock horns for the yellow jersey in the time trial in Grenoble on Saturday. For now, a pulsating day’s racing concludes with one of the closest finishes in Tour history beckoning. Enjoy it.

1720: We think Rojas was there alongside Cavendish. That being the case, Cavendish retains the green jersey and his 15-point lead.

1718: It’s not clear whether Rojas, Cavendish’s nearest green jersey challenger, was in the same group or not. If Rojas beat the time limit, Rojas will take the green jersey. If Rojas and Cavendish finished together, Cavendish stays ahead.

1717: Here comes Cavendish! He’s at the head of an enormous group – they’re outside the cut-off time, by only a matter of 15 seconds, but the size of that group should prevent Cavendish being eliminated.

1714: Scanning the list of finishers, there seem to be 168 riders home so far, and neither Rojas nor Cavendish appear to be among them.

Polka dot jersey
1709: In other important news, Sammy Sanchez is King of the Mountains for 2011 after coming in second today. That’s the first jersey to be decided.

Lionel Birnie on Twitter:

“If Rojas is inside time limit and Cavendish outside, it could be that all four jerseys change hands today. Remarkable.”

1706: Mark Cavendish has another 10 minutes before the time limit, or at least that appears to be the consensus. Nobody seems to know where exactly he is. Of course, if he’s in a big pack, the time limit won’t mean elimination but one assumes there will still be penalties as per yesterday.

1705: General classification standings (provisional)
1. Andy Schleck
2. Frank Schleck +53″
3. Cadel Evans +57″
4. Thomas Voeckler +2’10”
5. Damiano Cunego +3’31”
6. Alberto Contador +3’55”

1702: Stage 19 results
1. Pierre Rolland 3hrs 13mins 25secs
2. Sammy Sanchez +14″
3. Alberto Contador +23″

Selected others:
5. Cadel Evans +57″
8. Frank Schleck +57″
9. Andy Schleck +57″

James BC on Twitter:

“Could Voeckler possibly rinse Schleck in the time trial and snatch the yellow jersey back? We need to know!”

Chris Crowther on Twitter:

“You have to be proud to be a French cycling fan with the effort of Rolland and Voeckler today.”

1655: And a second question. Is this the greatest finale to a Tour you’ve seen? Reaction from riders to follow as soon as I get it.

1654: The question, then. Who will win the Tour de France?

1653: There will be 57 seconds separating our new yellow jersey owner, Andy Schleck, from Australia’s Cadel Evans when tomorrow’s individual time trial begins in Grenoble. Pierre Rolland is the new white jersey incumbent.

1652: Sammy Sanchez comes home second, Alberto Contador third. Times to follow.

1651: Pierre Rolland wins stage 19 of the Tour de France

1650: One kilometre left. Rolland, then Sanchez with Contador.

1649: It’s going to be Pierre Rolland, isn’t it! Isn’t it? He’s opened up a gap on Contador and we’re fast running out of road…

1647: Further down the hill, Cadel Evans goes! Andy Schleck goes with him!

1646: Pierre Rolland seizes his opportunity as Sammy Sanchez, exhausted, fails to capitalise on catching Contador. So it’s Rolland and Contador battling for victory with Sanchez just about in touch.

1645: You can now clearly see Sanchez and Rolland looming behind Contador.

1643: Three kilometres remain. Contador, then Sanchez with Rolland, then Velits with De Gendt, then the Schlecks with Evans. Contador is 12 seconds up but Olympic champion Sanchez is closing the gap.

1641: Would you fancy an individual time trial after this?

1640: Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans are trying to talk some form of tactics over the deafening crowd noise. A shake of the head from Evans implies no deal. Up the mountain we continue.

1639: This crowd is becoming an accident waiting to happen as they close in enthusiastically upon tired riders. Contador is clearing a path through them like a snow-plough. We’ve hit the steepest slope of the entire Tour now.

1637: As things stand with the finish line around five kilometres away, Andy Schleck will take the yellow jersey with brother Frank and Cadel Evans almost a minute behind him. Thomas Voeckler will be 90 seconds back and Alberto Contador will be fifth, 3’29” off the lead. But five kilometres is plenty for things to change dramatically.

Mikey Pocock on Twitter:

“What is the point of an intermediate sprint in the middle of one of the toughest mountain stages?”

1632: Seven kilometres to the finish and Contador still has the best part of a minute over the Schlecks/Evans group.

1628: The Schleck brothers and Evans are running 90 seconds behind Contador, and they must be processing all manner of calculations in their minds around what they need to do today. Voeckler is more than 2’30” back but still stubbornly pushing on.

1626: Peter Velits goes on the attack with Sammy Sanchez staying close. Alberto Contador has a 16-second advantage over everyone as things stand, midway up the mountain.

1624: A reminder – you never know, you might need one – that all we have after this is the individual time trial around Grenoble and then the sprint to the finish up the Champs Elysees in Paris.

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Steve via text: “Come on the Schlecks! Evans is just too boring to be the winner.”

1621: Contador storms off up Alpe-d’Huez. All Contador has done, all afternoon, is put his foot flat on the gas. Nobody else has yet been able to live with it for any length of time.

1619: Intermediate sprint result – Hesjedal 20 pts, Rolland 17 pts, Jeannesson 15 pts, Costa 13 pts, Riblon 11 pts, Moncoutie 10 pts.

Full details

on the Tour website.

1617: Attack, attack, attack. Alberto Contador joins Pierre Rolland. Andy Schleck and Evans are next to each other just behind.

1614: Cadel Evans leads the charge with the Schlecks in close attendance and Contador still in the picture as we head into the full might of Alpe-d’Huez. Worth documenting that the sprint results didn’t involve anyone remotely near Cavendish in the green jersey standings, but that doesn’t allow for any potential time-related penalties today. (Remember, Cavendish lost 20 points yesterday having finished outside the time limit along with 87 others.)

1608: It’s Voeckler! He’s back! Sort of. The peloton, of whom Voeckler is now a member, is on the tail of the Contador-driven group. Hesjedal and Rolland remain ahead of everyone with a new three-rider group sitting in between those two and Contador’s mob. (Got all that?)

1604: Hesjedal and Rolland are together at the front now. Rolland began the day 12th in the overall standings with Hesjedal 22nd. Rolland is second in the race for the young riders’ white jersey.

1601: Pierre Rolland moves out ahead of the group as Alpe-d’Huez, an average 8% climb, hoves into view. Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal has gone chasing him.

1558: Contador, who spent the opening two-thirds of this stage making a determined attempt out in front alongside Andy Schleck, has at last been caught by a chasing group starring Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck. People are getting fluid on board before the final ascent up Alpe-d’Huez.

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James via text: “Re Tino (see below 1544 entry). Rubbish! Cipo was the best sprinter but never won green because he couldn’t take the mountains. The mountains are part of it, always have been.”

1554: A few of you are asking if there’s still a grupetto (for new arrivals, that’s a pack of riders who drop off the main peloton – and there was one earlier today which included Cavendish) or if they’ve caught the peloton on the descent. The live timing would imply the latter is the case but as I’ve spent my time following the action at the front, I’m not 100%.

1551: Twenty seconds between the leading five and the chase group, who between them span all our yellow jerseys contenders bar the fast-fading Voeckler, who’s another minute or more behind – though still ahead of the peloton.

1548: Maybe 15 minutes, or a little more, until we slam into the foot of Alpe-d’Huez. Who’s saved up enough puff for that final slog?

1544: We now have

live audio commentary

of the remainder of this stage. It promises to be a gripping listen for the next hour or so.

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Tino via text: “Re Gerry (see below 1531 entry), the scenario you described is possible and makes a mockery of the green jersey in my opinion. Rojas would then be wearing green by virtue of being the sprinter who copes best with the mountains and not the best sprinter which is what the green jersey should be all about. The polka-dot guys don’t get punished for poor showings on the flat, do they?

1540: Five riders at the front, of which the two you care about are Alberto Contador and potential new general classification leader Andy Schleck. Nine riders are 25 seconds behind them, and the headliners in that pack are Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans. What effect will newcomer Sammy Sanchez have on the front-runners in that five-man group?

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Gary via text: “By my calculations, if current speed is maintained by Schleck and Cav, he should just make the cut-off by two seconds. Don’t panic.”

It warms the heart to think of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of us sat in front of screens doing frantic mental mathematics. All for a man who is, to the uninitiated, “losing” this race by almost three hours.

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Sarah via text: “If Cav loses the green jersey, what odds the method for calculating cut-off times and/or the penalties for missing them gets reformed next year? I’d be in favour if they did.”

1534: Voecklerwatch – he’s two minutes back.

Tom McKeown on Twitter:

“Cadel Evans has kept himself in contention single-handedly in the last two days; a fantastic effort.”

1531: Now Sammy Sanchez has almost caught the leading quartet. Evans is back with Frank Schleck and friends in a group of seven who are half a minute off the leaders.

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Gerry via text: “Re Mel (see below 1520 entry). If Rojas makes the time limit and Cav doesn’t, I’d presume another 20-point penalty for Cav, which would give Rojas the lead.”

1527: We’re on the downhill and Cadel Evans is determined to catch the leaders before the Alpe-d’Huez climb begins. The live timing suggests Evans is only 15 seconds behind Contador and Andy Schleck. Frank Schleck’s in another chase group behind Evans (who has Sanchez alongside him), and Voeckler’s dropped off the back of the Frank Schleck group as his time in the yellow jersey comes to a noble close.

1526: Keep these exceptional texts and tweets coming. (Instructions for getting in touch at the top of this page.)

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Kevin via text: “On Alpe-d’Huez in the middle of the Andy and Frank Schleck fan-club, three kilometres from the summit. Atmosphere electric. Maillot jeune car just passed. Announcer ringing the cheers: Andy… SCHLECK!”

John McArdle on Twitter:

“No fear of Voeckler not being hailed a French hero by his own people. Half the tour in yellow? Awesome and unexpected. This must be the most exciting Tour in my memory. Great planning to have the real battle ignited in the last few days.”

Michael Morrow on Twitter:

“Last mountain stage and we’re finally seeing the two best cyclists in the world take this Tour by the scruff of the neck. Unbelievable.”

1520: Thomas Voeckler is shown on TV somewhat dramatically and unnecessarily laying waste to a water bottle, moments before cresting the summit of col du Galibier. We’re downhill for quite some way now – and then Alpe-d’Huez. Oh, and a sprint coming up. Cav? … Cav?

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Mel via text: “The sprinters in the delayed group will pull back their teams until there are too many to exclude. Stop panicking about Cav.”

1517: A new surge from Cadel Evans as we near the summit of col du Galibier. Frank Schleck’s keeping up with him. There are 50 seconds between them and the leaders. This could all boil down to Alpe-d’Huez. (I do hope it does. You weren’t busy, were you?)

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Jez via text: “Let’s not forget about the polka-dot jersey [for climbers]. Andy Schleck now leading this too, and where are Jelle Vanendert and Sammy Sanchez?”

Well, Sanchez has just appeared on our screens giving it a push ahead of the Cadel Evans/Frank Schleck group. Vanendert? “Delayed.”

1510: Voeckler has been mopped up by a group involving Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans, which has made its way back ahead of the peloton and is now about 70 seconds behind the four leading riders (Contador, A Schleck, Faria Da Costa, Riblon).

Rory Coen on Twitter:

“Imagine the emotional pain Voeckler is going through. He knows he’ll be riddled with abuse by the French public if he drops back.”

Will he? I mean, maybe they will give him some stick, but what more could he do? This has been a monumental attempt to hold on.

1505: There is a marked contrast between the expressions of Contador and A Schleck, and the grimace on the chasing Voeckler. It pains me to say it but Voeckler is a minute back and this looks like the end of his yellow jersey challenge. As things stand, the jersey goes to Andy Schleck with Voeckler second and Frank Schleck third. Not that I remotely expect things to remain the same by the end of this stage.

Pete Sansom on Twitter:

“Unbelievable, given all of the fuss last year re. chaingate, Andy didn’t see the need this year to wait for Cadel! Come on Cadel!”

Marc Potter on Twitter:

“If Cav finds it too hard today then he could see himself out of the Tour and all the hard work undone.”

1459: We’re approaching the summit of col du Galibier. I say “approaching” – there are six kilometres or so to go. Contador and Andy Schleck lead. Voeckler bobbing about between 30 and 40 seconds back. Cadel Evans and Frank Schleck all the way back in the peloton, a couple of minutes away.

Sean Fulton on Twitter:

“If there was any justice, Voeckler would win overseas sports personality of the year. He is incredible.”

1456: Under the ominous heading of “delayed” in the official live timing, you can now find the name of Mark Cavendish. He’s in good company, mind you. Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd are there too. But Jose Joaquin Rojas, currently the big threat to Cavendish’s green jersey, is tucked up in the peloton for the time being.

1452: Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador are setting the pace between them at the front. Schleck, one would imagine, is quite grateful to Contador for his part in this stage to date. If the two of them can share the burden and keep this up, Schleck will start to look more and more like our overall winner this year.

The Science of Sport on Twitter:

“Voeckler may not succeed but this effort dangling off the lead group and continuing to fight is a highlight of the Tour. At what cost later?”

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Al via text: “Re: Cav, unfortunately he was spotted ‘yo-yoing’ off the back not even halfway up the first climb. I worry about him losing more points to Rojas today. The Spaniard must know, being a reasonable climber in sprinter terms, that this is his last chance to close the difference.”

1445: Voeckler soldiers on alone once more, 40 seconds behind the leaders, getting all the support in the world from the crowd. But it’s Contador up front, trying to go out of this Tour with a bang, hauling four others – including Andy Schleck – along with him.

1442: Some discussion that Cavendish was last seen dropping out the back of the peloton at about the time Contador began his charge. I’ll keep an eye. Liquigas are leading the peloton, as they have been for some time now. Team Sky’s Flecha is drifting back towards the peloton.

1437: State of play approaching the second climb – Contador and Andy Schleck up front with seven others. Voeckler half a minute behind them with Jerome Pineau keeping him company. Then a long line of stragglers separated from the herd until we get to the peloton, with the mechanically challenged Cadel Evans an early casualty (though still going). Frank Schleck’s initial challenge has evaporated for now.

1434: Our TV pictures have just shown a profile of the next climb, the col du Galibier. It’s eye-watering just to look at the work that now faces this lot, having almost conquered col du Telegraphe. And that’s before we worry about Alpe-d’Huez.

Alex Murray on Twitter:

“This already has turned yesterday into just another day at the Tour de France.”

1428: Anybody seen Mark Cavendish yet? I haven’t. I’m assuming he’s in the pack somewhere, weeping softly with Bernie Eisel. Realistically, if they get themselves to the finish line before it goes dark, they’ve done well.

1426: But the thing – the punishing thing – is, Chris, it’s not that long a day! This is such a short stage. It just feels like a lifetime already.

1425: More from British cycling legend Chris Boardman, the king of succinctly tweeted two-wheel wisdom: “Long day to go, best for Cadel and Tommy to get together, settle in and pace themselves. There is one guy riding with 3h to do.”

1423: No pressure on Voeckler, but a Frenchman (he being French) hasn’t made the top three of the general classification – which is the overall title represented by the yellow jersey, if you’re new – since 1997. Don’t throw it away now, Tom. Not now.

1421: Thomas Voeckler has clearly been spending evenings watching the Die Hard series for inspiration. All on his own, he’s slugging it up the hill in a determined bid not to let Andy Schleck run away with it. I’m writing like this is the stage climax but we’re still climbing the first col. How much can you pack into a stage this short?

1419: Cadel Evans has now swapped bikes. Despair for him. The Australian press has been full of “ways Cadel Evans can win the Tour”,

this being a prime example

of the genre, but it’s all going up in smoke.

1417: Cadel Evans stops, causing all manner of consternation, before getting back on the bike. He looks in real trouble but he’s still going. Andy Schleck and Contador have disappeared up the hill in the mean-time as Evans stops a second time before hopping back on again. Calamity for the Australian. Voeckler’s dropped away from Contador and A Schleck as well.

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The Welsh Boys on Alpe-d’Huez via text: “It’s seriously hot here and the amateurs have struggled up the hairpins today. Perhaps today’s winner will be the one that copes best with the heat?”

1414: About half a minute between the breakaway group and the might-actually-win-the-Tour group.

1410: But now Barredo and Frank Schleck are dropping off the pace. So we have: a lead group of 11 who’ve been out in front since the start, a group of three who’ve dropped off that breakaway, a group of four containing yellow jersey contenders Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans and Thomas Voeckler alongside Alberto Contador, Frank Schleck and Carlos Barredo behind them, and then the peloton.

1408: Well, this is stunning. This stage has already leapt to life and we aren’t so much as halfway up the opening climb. Voeckler, in the yellow jersey, is clinging on to this group by the tips of his fingernails. Both Schlecks, Contador and Evans are alongside, as is Carlos Barredo.

Chris Boardman on Twitter:

“No freakin’ way.”

1403: Contador’s still going. Four minutes and 44 seconds between him and Voeckler starting today’s stage? Apparently not enough to dampen the Spaniard’s spirits.

1401: Here we go! Action time. Alberto Contador takes things up a gear as they tackle col du Telegraphe, with Andy Schleck immediately responding to join him ahead of the peloton (but behind the breakaway). Cadel Evans is having to do some work to get up with them, Frank Schleck has made it up alongside his brother, and Voeckler at the back is in danger of getting left behind.

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James via text: “Cadel still favourite I think. Schlecks need to gain at least a minute on him for one of them to win! All down to the time trial! So excited.”

1358: Names of interest alongside Hoogerland in this breakaway – Juan Flecha, reuniting the infamous French-TV-car-collision pairing, and Mark Cavendish’s nemesis (or one of them) Andre Greipel, who’s seventh in the points standings.

1354: The moment I give Voeckler a bit of positive spin, he pops up at the very back of the peloton. Our leading pack of 14 are about two-and-a-half minutes clear. But we’re not into the tough stuff yet.

1349: Johnny Hoogerland kicked this little breakaway off and there are 14 of them out in it, him among them. I find it unlikely it’s going to prove too meaningful but they’re 53 seconds up on the peloton now. What about Thomas Voeckler, then? So many people are writing him off after yesterday’s exertions. Is there really no way he can hold on to the yellow jersey? He keeps on finding a way to retain it…

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Catherine via text: “Reckon Andy Schleck will be in yellow by the end of today, provided his bike chain stays on.”

1344: This early in proceedings, it feels a tad futile documenting proceedings in too much depth. We’ve currently got a fairly large group parked fractionally ahead of the peloton.

Nick Zaccardi (Sports Illustrated) on Twitter:

“If Frank Schleck wins this stage like many predict, it will be interesting to see if it’s Andy versus Frank in the time trial.”

1339: Off we go. Short and sharp, this one. In three hours we’ll be done.

1338: Here’s a nice little nugget, courtesy of the all-knowing


magicians. The gap between Voeckler in front and Evans in fourth, one minute 12 seconds, means we could have the smallest-ever gap between first and fourth when we get to Paris. The record currently stands at 3’05”, set in 2008.

Andy Schleck
Andy Schleck: “Thursday was the best of my victories. When I looked at the course when it was unveiled, I knew I wanted to win that one. Now I’m ready for the yellow jersey.”

Jon Schofield on Twitter:

“Voeckler has made me eat my hat for many stages now. However you can lose 15 secs on Alpe-d’Huez in the blink of an eye.”

1324: Mark Cavendish didn’t finish Thursday’s stage within the time limit – along with more than half the peloton – and today will once again define “uphill struggle” for the Manxman and his fellow sprinters. He holds a 15-point advantage at the top of the standings for the green jersey. Spain’s Jose Joaquin Rojas is second, then there’s a 55-point gap to Philippe Gilbert in third (230), with Thor Hushovd 15 points behind Gilbert on 215. Can Cavendish hang on to play a part in the sprint at the foot of Alpe-d’Huez today? Or is today simply survival and wait for the grand finale?

1320: Here’s how things stand. For the overall yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler holds a 15-second lead over Andy Schleck, with Frank Schleck one minute and eight seconds off the lead. Cadel Evans is 1’12” off Voeckler. Almost everyone seems to think Voeckler will disappear today after putting everything into staying ahead yesterday. Evans also put in a huge shift though. Has he got enough in the tank to overhaul the Schlecks here?

1317: “Alpe d’Huez is it today?” Says a colleague, strolling past. “Gutbuster.” That will be today’s finale, making its return after three years. Our sprinters will simply hope to stay alive and kicking up till that point, with the intermediate sprint plonked firmly at the foot of the hill. But there are two big climbs, col du Telegraphe followed by col du Galibier (making a greedy second appearance in 24 hours), ahead of that.

1314: Andy Schleck tells us his motto is “no guts, no glory”. There’ll be plenty of both today. Three huge climbs and barely any time to get through them in a stage half as long as Thursday’s, but equally as punishing.

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