The start of this stage at Foix, which sadly I missed, was overlooked by the impressive Chateau de Foix, dominating the town. The riders today faced five extreme climbs and the subsequent descents in the Haut Pyrenees. The route passed over the Col de Port and through St Girons and Aucazein before ascending the Col de Portet d’Aspet and after a short descent the Col de Menté. We saw the villages of Boutx, Saint-Béat, close to the River Garonne and Mauleon-Barousse, overlooked by the Chateau de Mauleon before the ascent of the Port de Balès and then the Col de Peyresourde with the race finish at
Loudenvielle, a fairly remote mountain village by Lake Genos (pictured) in the Louron Valley where, as the cyclists rolled across the finish line the helicopter showed pictures of three Ibex scaling the mountainside.
After his injuries earlier in the Tour, a very disappointing placing on Stage 14 following a collision with a spectator and the realisation that the yellow jersey was beyond his reach, Alexander Vinokourov will refocus his efforts after the rest day and support his Astana team mate, Andreas Klöden, who is potentially within shot of the title. However, before this happens Vinokourov today showed his strength and determination by securing a commanding second victory and taking this stage with just under a minute from second placed Kim Kirchen. Rasmusson and Contador continue to battle for the yellow jersey, Contador attacking 6 times with Rasmusson able to fight back each time. Although being marginally beaten over the line by Contador once again (and both being given the same time) Rasmusson still leads the general classification.
The Reuters news agency have produced this interesting film of their race during the Tour to pass on pictures of the cycling action as quickly as possible to their clients. On Stage 11 (Marseille – Montpellier) there was a very lucky escape when the car carrying their pictures team caught fire. They give details in an article ‘Allo Paris, we have a problem…..’ and have also produced a film of the incident. Thankfully they all escaped unscathed and with their lives. The car, however, most of their equipment and their personal belongings were all destroyed.
POLKA DOT (climber) – Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
GREEN (points) – Tom Boonen (Quickstep Innergetic)
WHITE (under 25) – Alberto Contador (Discovery)
COMBATIVE – Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)
LEADING TEAM – Astana