The ride today through Lot, Dordogne and into Charente was fairly flat. The start was at Cahors set in a bend on the River Lot and famous for the Pont Valentré (not dissimilar to that at Orthez at the start of Stage 16). The riders went through well known villages by the river Dordogne, their houses often perched or climbing high up the cliffs: La Roque Gageac, Beynac et Cazenac, St Cyprien, Le Bugue and past the Chateau de Lieu Dieu near Boulazac. They rode through the red roofed town of Perigueux by the River Dordogne, on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella, dominated by the
magnificent Cathedral St Flor (close up aerial view – pictured). After Perigueux there were aerial views of several chateaux including Chateau Villbois Lavalette surrounded by a long curtain wall and high on a spur above the village. The race finished at Angoulême in the Charente (on the River Charente) with an aerial view of the chateau style town hall and Cathedral St Pierre.
There was a breakaway group which eventually comprised four riders: Sandy Casar, Michael Boogerd, Axel Merckx and Laurent Lefevre who went well ahead of the rest of the field and gained a large lead which could not be caught. Sandy Casar was unseated, riding into Frederik Willems who had crashed after hitting a stray dog at 27km. Willems, part of the original breakaway was eventually caught by the peloton but the incident did not seem to upset Casar enough to stop him from eventually winning the stage and the combativity award, beating Merckx, who has announced his retirement, into second place. The peloton were content to have a relatively easy ride before the rigours of the time trial tomorrow and the overall placings for yellow, polka dot, green and white jersey and best placed team remain unchanged.
RESULTS (British riders in italics)
POLKA DOT (climber) – Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
GREEN (points) – Tom Boonen (Quickstep Innergetic)
WHITE (under 25) – Alberto Contador (Discovery)
COMBATIVE – Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux)
LEADING TEAM – Discovery Channel Team