Good morning and welcome to VeloNews.com's live coverage of stage 12 at the 99th Tour de France.
After Thursday's blistering 148km punch-out, today's 226km run from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay Davezieux is the 2012 Tour's longest stage.
We do still have the Cat. 3 Annonay Davézieux, which starts roughly 25km from the finish and should give us some action from the stage hunters.
That's interesting, Caley, on a stage of this length, though with a mostly downhill run-in to the day's first climb at 20km, I suppose the Sky boys wanted to swipe the cobwebs.
With 105km to go, a group of five riders has 4:40 on the bunch. They are: Gautier (Europcar), Martinez (Euskaltel), Millar (Garmin), Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Kiserlovski (Astana).
Peter Sagan was away with a small group on the descent of the Granier, but Orica shut that escape down.
Here's a look at our top 10 on GC after Thursday's four-climb Alpine stage:
1. Bradley WIGGINS, Sky in 48:43:53
2. Christopher FROOME, Sky +2:05
3. Vincenzo NIBALI, Liquigas-Cannondale +2:23
4. Cadel EVANS, BMC Racing +3:19
5. Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol +4:48
6. Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, RadioShack-Nissan +6:15
7. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC Racing +6:57
8. Janez BRAJKOVIC, Astana +7:30
9. Pierre ROLLAND, Europcar +8:31
10. Thibaut PINOT, FDJ-BigMat +8:51
The escapees are out to 5:30. Unless Liquigas and Orica get a wild hair, I'd venture to say they'll be in the showers by the time the bunch arrives today.
We actually only had two riders miss the time cut yesterday, in Lampre's Yuriy Krivstov and Alessandro Petacchi. Kenny Van Hummel was the final finisher under the mark, at 36:35, while Tyler Farrar, JJ Haedo and breakaway man Yukiya Arashiro were among a few riders that trailed off the back of the groupetto, but made it safely to the finish.
We did have quite a few guys abandon on the road, among them Robert Gesink, Lieuwe Westra and Bauke Mollema.
Horner said after the stage that he had terrible cramps that required him to stop, refuel and get back to work. Frustrating for the veteran to miss out on the finale when he was in the winning move.
It might, if not for the GC and points races. I think Sky is keen to let these guys go to the line after two hard days in the mountains and Orica wants to limit Peter Sagan's chances at jumping away on the final climb to end Matt Goss' points jersey pursuit.
Speaking of which, the break is out to 8:30 with 97km to go.
There is a grupetto off the back, but that autobus is gaining on the bunch and could regain contact soon. That would give us five leaders, a peloton and perhaps a few stragglers. There will be a lot of guys heading in the bunch on the way to the Ardoix.
The gap is up to 10:16. Let's have a contest...
Guess the gap! If the breakaway goes to the line today, the first person to most accurately guess the gap we'll see at the finish wins a copy of "Slaying the Badger" from VeloPress. Just post a comment with your answer. *We may post a few answers, but will hold most of them until the finish.
They're up to 11:30 with 88km to go.
We have some good guesses coming in, from 2:13 to more than 13 minutes. Keep them coming.
Sky's starting to ride now, with the gap sticking at about 11:30.
Good question, Irv. Nearly all of the sprinters dropped on the climbs, including Cav and Greipel, are back in the peloton. I'll be very surprised to see a bunchy today even if the break doesn't make it. With the top of the Cat. 3 Côte d'Ardoix inside 20km from the finish and a tough, uphill run to Annonay Davezieux, the guys like Peter Sagan and Simon Gerrans should take a crack. If there's a chance, Liquigas will give it some stick on the climb to try and dispatch Matt Goss before the final.
Not every day of a three-week race can hold the energy of Thursday, Seany. The boys need an intermediate stage to shake out the legs. We'll get to see more action shortly. Sunday's stage should serve up another beat-down before the race hits the Pyrénées proper on Wednesday.
We have a lot of guesses in for our "Slaying the Badger" giveaway. I'm going to shut that bad boy down at 75km to go. Get your answers in. If the break stays away, what will be the gap at the line?
I'm just off the front, CB. Neal Rogers will be dropping in shortly. Caley and company are on a long transfer today and I imagine we'll hear from them shortly. Thanks for following along.
And that closes out the guesses. If you have the winning number at the finish, shoot us a comment. We'll do the same. Thanks everybody for getting your answers in. Good luck.
I'll throw in a copy of the "Feedzone Cookbook" if that happens.
Long transfer today. Good weather at the finish. Not too windy, mostly sunny. Not that Peter Sagan would care if it were raining...
With 72.5km to go, the escape is sitting at 11:15.
Good day to all of you. Love seeing our man Bernhard Eisel on the front.