Good morning and welcome to live coverage of stage 11 at the 99th Tour de France from VeloNews.com. We're getting kicked off earlier than usual today as the Col de la Madeleine opens up the 148km stage nearly from the drop of the flag.
Before we look at today's profile and so forth, a quick update on where things stand on the road.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) attacked from kilometer 0 and a breakaway of 31 riders... yes, 31 riders... is free with 133km to go.
Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing) glued himself to the Dutchman's wheel and two big groups bridged across straight away. Sky chased hard momentarily, but ultimately let the group go. The gap now is :52.
And the boys are onto the Madeleine now, just 15 minutes into the stage.
Chris Horner's at the front of the peloton ahead of Ivan Basso.
We have a few names in the break: Gilbert (BMC Racing), Dumoulin (Cofidis), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Grivko (Astana), Vinokourov (Astana).
Brice Feillu and Ivan Basso are trying to bridge across what is now just a :27 gap.
Sky's Dave Brailsford said before today's start that he expects a lot of aggression from the GC rivals on today's stage: "The same (as Wednesday) to be honest. It's a short stage, but a very hard stage."
Brailsford said that Sky didn't fear a downhill attack, especially with so much road between the base of Col du Mollard and the finish at La Toussuire.
We're quite fluid at the front here. It appears that Dan Martin has lit up the 31-man group. Basso is with him, along with a handful of other riders.
Valverde has attacked from the peloton.
The gap to the break is only :16 and Scarponi has gone with Balaverde.
Boasson Hagen patrols the front of the peloton, going hard.
Tommy Voeckler is suffering early today and is out the back of the peloton.
Cummings, Gilbert and Burghardt each made the first 31-man group, but none of them have been able to stay with the new seven-man break. Strategy only works so well when you simply don't have the legs on a climb leg the Madeleine. If Tejay were to go in white, Cofidis would chase hard... or as hard as they can.
Here are our eight escapees: Koren (Liquigas), Martin (Garmin), Riblon (Ag2r), Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), Sorensen (Saxo Bank), Valverde (Movistar), Vinokourov and Kieserlovski (Astana)
Horner is into the escape now as well.
Leipheimer is attacking from the peloton as well... then Laurens Ten Dam.
Christian Knees is to the front of the bunch with Boasson Hagen on his wheel.
We have 17 riders in the break now and are trying to get IDs.
The bunch is keeping the move at under a minute. This keeps support cars out of the gap, leaving the break to fend for itself. Not that a team car could get around the peloton on the Madeleine, even with a green disc from the officials.
O, and good morning Brian.
Well, we're up to 21 riders up front. Included in the group are: Dan Martin, Vinokourov, Horner, Valverde, Rolland, Basso, Scarponi.
Good morning, Logan. Welcome to another day at the Tour.
Leipheimer and Ten Dam are still trying to get across the gap with a few others.
We've got a big break and there's still a lot of road ahead of us. 121+ miles worth!
The break still has 7 miles / 12km till the summit of this climb, and there's still THREE climbs after this one.
Irv, officials carry a "barrage paddle" with a red disc on one side and green disc on the other. If a team car sees red, they must stay behind the official's car. Green means go. The officials use this paddle to control the caravan. If the race is unhitching, they'll hold cars back to allow gaps to open, in a move called a barrage, before sending them through. This creates a big advantage for the team cars toward the front of the caravan when things get springy in the mountains.
This is part of what the officials are doing when you see them stuck up out of the sunroof.
From letour.fr: The four riders at 20" behind the leaders are Moinard (BMC), Marzano (LAM), Ten Dam (RAB) and Leipheimer (OPQ).
And here's our break: Horner (RNT), Kern, Malacarne and Rolland (EUC), Scarponi (LAM), Koren and Basso (LIQ), Martin (GRS), Kadri and Riblon (ALM), Feillu (SAU), Hoogerland (VCD), Kruiswijk (RAB), Valverde and Kiryienka (MOV), C. Sorensen (STB), Kessiakoff, Kiserlovski and Vinokourov (AST), P. Velits (OPQ) and Weening (OGE).
Leipheimer's group is making contact with the back of the break now.
Tommy Voekler is up at the front of the field. Look for him to put in some attacks should this break come back before the climbing is done. He will defend those polka-dots till Paris.
The large group of leaders have 1'20" and the chase group of Izaguirre, Burghardt, Bouet and Pineau have 20" on the field.
From letour.fr: Lieuwe 'The Beast' Westra has just quit the Tour de France. The Dutchman's retirement brings the total number of riders in the race down to 173.