Tour de France stage 16 as it happened

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler wins stage 16 of the Tour de France as Britain's Bradley Wiggins retains the yellow jersey on a brutal day in the Pyrenees.

18 July 2012 Last updated at 16:48

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As it happened

  1. 1628: 

    Right, time for me to call it a day. Thanks for keeping me company for the last few hours and I'm already looking forward to doing it all again on Thursday. Allez Wiggo, and cheerio for now.

  2.  

    Will in Chester: "Brilliant result for Wiggo, as cool as a cucumber! Hats off to Nibali and Froome. Tommy V though, gotta love him!"

    Jan in London: "Fan "yellow" tastic!! Yeeeehaaaaa!! Bradley Wiggins. History awaits you in Paris!!"

    Keith in London: Surely Wiggo has silenced the doubters today or are there still some people out there keen on devaluing yet another incredible effort?

    Mark from Grays: "I bet Voeckler wishes the Tour was on for another week! He's been getting better every day."

  3.  

    Rob Bancroft on Twitter: "Last chance for Nibali tomorrow, summit finish will suit him. Needs to take 5 minutes+ out of Wiggins to have any chance... "

  4. 1625: 

    So, just one more day left in the mountains, and one more chance for Vincenzo Nibali to have a pop at Bradley Wiggins. We have got a couple more punishing climbs and a mountain-top finish in Peyragudes to look forward to, at the end of a 144km hike from Bagneres de Luchon.

  5. 1622: 

    Britain's Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins, who still in yellow and is now 540km from the finish line on the Champs Elysees, speaking after passing a stern test in the Pyrenees on stage 16: "It was hot out there, probably the hottest day on tour, and the day after a rest day everybody responds differently to it.

    "The team were really strong today and it ended up being the ideal scenario, we had a great day and put more time into Cadel Evans.

    "Vincenzo Nibali had a good go, he is a class bike rider and I never underestimate him so it was nice to finish with him and take everything he threw at us. It is another day ticked off."

  6. 1616: 

    Here he is again. The Green Goblin is now the Spotted Goblin (thanks to Rich in Bristol for that one). Tommy Voeckler is back on the podium to receive the polka dot jersey after taking over at the top of the King of the Mountains category.

    After he won all four of today's huge climbs, I don't think anyone can argue Mr V doesn't deserve that title.

  7. 1614: 

    Tommy Voeckler is on the podium, celebrating his stage win which is France's fifth of this Tour. Britain have managed four... and can also boast the yellow jersey.

    Bradley Wiggins will wear it for a 10th straight day on Thursday, and is getting closer and closer to wearing it in Paris on Sunday.

  8. 1612: 
    Yellow Jersey

    Look away now, Australian cycling fans. Take a long, long look British cycling fans. Here are the standings after stage 16 of the 2012 Tour de France:

    1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky 74hrs 15 mins 32secs

    2. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky @ 2'05"

    3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas @ 2'23"

    4. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol @ 5'46"

    5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) @ 7'13"

    6. Tejay Van Garderern (US) @ 7'55"

    7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing @ 8'06"

  9.  

    Ray Allger on Twitter: "Fair play to Wiggins and Froome for keeping Nibali in check. If he stays on his bike he'll be in Yellow all the way to Paris now."

  10.  

    Nigel in London: "Couldn't agree more with Joe at 13.45 - Evans' troubles today show that you can't just be towed up the mountain by your team. Wiggo has been at the front and in complete control at all times."

  11.  

    Clare in Herts: "Wiggo not looked in trouble for 1 second today. Totally in control and hit the front when he needed to. Awesome. Allez Wiggo!"

  12.  

    Greg Coull on Twitter: "As close to a perfect stage as you are going to get from Voeckler."‪

  13. 1605: 
    OUCH!

    Cadel Evans is in, at last. He lost more than five minutes on Wiggo in the end. That is going to hurt.

  14. 1604: 

    He left his Tour title on the slopes of Col de Peyresourde when he cracked on the final climb of the day but how much time will Cadel Evans lose overall?

    It could be as much as four minutes on Wiggins & co, while Tejay van Garderen is set to become BMC's best-placed rider. In other words, it has been a total disaster for the Australian.

  15. 1602: 

    Behind the top three, there will be a bit of a shake-up in the standings. Nicholas Roche (Dan Martin's cousin) is in the next bunch to make it home and could move up to the top 10. Jurgen van den Broek and Tejay van Garderen will also be moving up the standings.

  16. 1600:  
    Yellow Jersey

    Wiggo, Froome and Nibali will still be first second and third tonight. Nibali wins the sprint for the line, but Wiggins is right on his wheel and all three riders will get the same time.

  17. 1558: 

    More and more men are crossing the line, including Jens Voigt and Tamworth/Ireland's Dan Martin.

    Wiggins, Froome and Nibali have a little way to go but the top three riders in the General Classification are going to come home together.

  18. 1554: 

    Here comes Chris Anker Sorensen, crossing the line in second place, about a minute-and-a-half behind Mr V.

    Like Voeckler, he was part of a 38-man breakaway who escaped after about 25km of today's 197km stage, more than five hours ago.

  19. 1552: 

    Thomas Voeckler salutes the crowd as he wins stage 16 of the Tour de France.

    He was first to the top of all four major climbs, and has won ownership of the polka dot jersey. It is hard to see how he could have had a better day. Chapeau Tommy V.

  20. 1552: 

    Tommy Voeckler is rolling towards the finish line, soaking up the support from the French fans.

  21. 1552: 

    Cadel Evans goes over the top of Col de Peyresourde, four minutes down on Wiggo & co. He is going to plummet down the standings tonight, and his young American team-mate Tejay van Garderen will move above him in the General Classification.

  22. 1551: 

    Bradley Wiggins is sticking close to Vincenzo Nibali as they weave down to the finish line. A few km down the road, Tommy Voeckler is still charging along towards the finish line, and cannot be more than a green streak to the spectators lining the streets. Just 1.5km for him to go.

  23.  

    Nathan Hughes on Twitter: "Now THAT was impressive by Wiggins. That was all him, not Froome. Great stuff."

  24.  

    Martin Hutchinson on Twitter: "Come on all you Wiggo doubters, what a piece of riding to get back on Nibbles wheel, Bradley pulled him back imperiously!!"

  25.  

    From Dave: "Come on Tommy. This guy is awesome. Following this on a train somewhere near Swindon."

  26. 1547: 

    Wiggins, Froome and Nibali are together again and safely over the top of the Col de Peyresourde. It looks like the only damage done in the General Classifcation will be to defending champion Cadel Evans, who will drop down from fourth place.

  27. 1545: 

    It's down to Wiggo to chase him down himself this time... and he is doing exactly that. No problems.

  28. 1545: 

    HERE GOES NIBALI AGAIN! ONE LAST ROLL OF THE DICE!

  29. 1544: 

    This stage will be Tommy Voeckler's, though, barring any accident. He is flying down this mountain and actually extending his lead on Chris Anker Sorensen, just 5km from the finish now.

  30. 1543: 

    Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and Bradley Wiggins are 1km from the top of the Col de Peyresourde. Nobody will be eating into Wiggo's lead today.

  31. 1542: 

    Not such a good day for Cadel Evans. He is already three minutes down on the yellow jersey group, and that gap could get even bigger by the end of the stage. He has been struggling for a while now but today looks like being the day the Australian officially loses his Tour de France title.

  32. 1539: 

    Tommy V goes over the top of Col de Peyresourde, the fourth mountain he has conquered today. Chapeau Phil Cool.

    It is all downhill to the finish and, with a lead of more than a minute (1min 28sec) on Chris Anker Sorensen, it looks like he will have a stage win to go with that polka dot jersey. What a day for him.

  33. 1537: 

    Again, no drama. Chris Froome is leading Bradley Wiggins back up to the Italian's wheel. They have almost caught him too. Great job by Froome.

  34. 1537: 

    HERE GOES NIBALI AGAIN!

  35. 1536: 

    No drama, though. Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins crank it up and are on Nibali's tail. The other Team Sky men have been dropped.

  36. 1535: 

    VINCENZO NIBALI ATTACKS!

  37. 1534:  
    Polkadot Jersey

    This is great to see: Tommy V is gurning, grimacing and lashing out at spectators who get too close to him as he approaches the summit of the Col de Peyresourde. He will be wearing the polka dot jersey on Thursday... will he get the stage win too?

  38. 1533: 

    At the front of the race, Tommy Voeckler has got a minute on Chris Anker Sorensen (who caught and passed Brice Feilu a few minutes ago). Alexander Vinokourov is another 40 seconds back.

  39. 1531: 
    Yellow Jersey

    Interesting. Amael Moinard has gone back to help Cadel Evans but his young BMC team-mate Tejay van Garderen, seventh overall and wearing the white jersey as the leading young rider, is sticking with the yellow jersey.

    Wiggo, by the way, is looking extremely comfortable and has Chris Froome, Michael Rogers and Ritchie Porte with him. The race leader looks like he is out for a relaxing ride on a Sunday afternoon, not in the closing stages of the toughest stage of this year's Tour de France.

  40. 1528: 

    Uh-oh. He's gone again. Cadel Evans has been dropped by the yellow jersey group again.

  41. 1527: 

    Tommy Voekler has now got a lead of over 50 seconds over Brice Feilu, who is about to be caught by Chris Anker Sorensen.

    Back with the yellow jersey (about nine minutes back), Lotto have gone on the attack.

  42.  

    Calum in Cambridge: "I think David Millar would actually be the Hong Kong Hawk... Sticking with the avian theme."

  43.  

    Nathan Hughes on Twitter: "Thomas Voeckler is just a hero. Come on turbo Tommy! Nothing would make me happier than him to win KoM. Even a Wiggo win! #gasp "‪

  44. 1524:  
    Polkadot Jersey

    Tommy Voeckler has another 6km or so to go until the top of Peyresourde if he is going to claim the maximum Mountain points and make it four out of four wins in that category today, enough to give him the polka dot jersey tonight.

    He'd love a stage win here too of course. The Frenchman has just chucked away his sunglasses to try and lighten his load and I would say he looks in a lot of pain, if I didn't already know a grimace was his standard facial expression.

  45. 1521: 

    I've settled on 'Maltese Master' for David Millar's nickname now.

    Meanwhile, Tommy Voeckler got wind that he was under threat and found another gurn... I mean burst of speed. That has given him about 10 seconds on Brice Feilu, and the gap is growing.

  46. 1519: 

    Tommy V and Brice Feilu are still out front, but only just. They have a gap of only 33 seconds on Alexander Vinokourov and Chris Anker Sorensen, who are hoping to catch them before the top of Peyresourde.

    The yellow jersey group is another eight-and-a-half minutes further back.

  47. 1516: 

    So, stage 16 comes down to the final climb (and descent) of the day. Can Tommy V and Brice Feilu stay out front... and can any of Bradley Wiggins' rivals do any real damage in the battle for the yellow jersey?

  48. 1511: 

    Cadel Evans is back in touch with that yellow jersey group now. Plenty of BMC men up there too, including the man in the white jersey, Tejay van Garderen, who wasn't one of those asked to wait for his team leader.

  49. 1509:  
    Yellow Jersey

    Like Chris Froome and Richie Porte, Michael Rogers is also alongside Bradley Wiggins as they approach the start of the climb to the top of Col de Peyresourde. So Team Sky have got plenty of men around if Liquigas (Nibali) or Lotto (Jurgen van den Broek) try anything.

  50. 1506: 

    Cadel Evans is battling back, in the way defending champions do, and is being paced back to the yellow jersey group by two of his BMC team-mates. He is now 25 seconds back from Wiggo & co.

  51.  

    From Rob in Durham: "Re: Tamworth terror/Nairobi Ninja. Is Wiggins the Ghent gent?"

    And I suppose that makes David Millar the Maltese Master?

  52. 1500: 
    LIVE NOW

    Graham Jones aand Simon Brotherton are about to start live commentary of the closing stages of today's stage on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra. Give this page a manual refresh and, if you can't see it already, the link should appear on the right.

  53. 1459: 

    The Col de Peyresourde (9.5km with an average gradient of 6.7%) isn't too bad near the bottom but it is bloomin' steep near the top, so it will be a tough final challenge of the day for Bradley Wiggins... and everybody else of course.

  54. 1459: 

    Jens Voigt (and his legs) have had enough. The veteran sits up, and that means the chase-group is down to three. Tommy V and Brice Feilu have got 32km left until the finish - basically that's all the way up to the top of the Col de Peyresourde and then down to the finish line in Bagneres de Luchon.

  55. 1458: 

    At the front of today's race, Tommy Voeckler and Brice Feilu are a minute and 20 seconds ahead of the next group of riders, which now numbers four: Alexandre Vinokourov, Jens Voigt, Chris Anker Sorensen and Gorka Izagirre.

  56. 1454: 

    Cadel Evans is 40 seconds behind the Wiggins group as he reaches the top of Aspin. The Australian is a great descender, though, so he will hope to reduce the deficit on the way down.

  57. 1453: 

    It is Ivan Basso who is setting a wicked tempo for Liquigas at the front of the yellow jersey bunch as they crest the top of Aspin. Wiggo still has Chris Froome and Ritchie Porte with him.

  58. 1449: 

    Oh dear. Cadel Evans is seeing the Wiggins, Nibali and Jurgen van den Broek group disappear into the distance. He is in BIG trouble.

  59. 1448: 

    Nibali's Liquigas team-mates have definitely upped the pace and Cadel Evans is struggling to stay with it as they approach the top of Aspin. The defending champion is in big trouble here and he has been dropped by Wiggo & co.

  60. 1446:  
    Polkadot Jersey

    At the top of Aspin, Phil Coo... sorry, I mean Thomas Voeckler, has just picked up another 10 points in the King of the Mountains category after making it three summits out of three today.

    That means he is just six points behind Fredrik Kessiakoff in the battle for the polka dot jersey, and Tommy V will move in front of the Swede if he is first to the top of Col de Peyresourde too. Chapeau Phil.

  61. 1442:  
    Yellow Jersey

    Right, this looks interesting. Vincenzo Nibali's Liquigas team-mates have taken over at the top end of the peloton and that might mean the Italian is planning an attack on the way down Aspin.

    We know the Italian can descend faster than Bradley Wiggins, so he might be trying to open up a gap ahead of the final ascent of the day, up Col de Peyresourde.

  62. 1441: 

    Not much happening in the battle for the yellow jersey but things are a lot more lively at the front end of today's race and, would you believe it, Jens Voigt is involved.

    The 40-year-old is trying to bridge the gap to Tommy Voeckler and Brice Feilut as they approach the summit of Col d'Aspin. Voigt and Chris Anker Sorensen are about a minute and 10 seconds behind the two Frenchmen.

    Dan Martin is going backwards (not literally) and Alexander Vinokourov is on his own. another 10 seconds further back.

  63. 1434:  
    Yellow Jersey

    So, just to recap, no attacks yet from any of Bradley Wiggins' rivals for the yellow jersey.

    Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali and Jurgen van den Broek have got just over 50km left to change that... will they have a pop on the way UP Col d'Aspin or Col de Peyresourde... or on the way DOWN?

    Surely one of them has got to try something sooner or later... because the Team Sky heavy mob are not exactly setting a hot pace at the front of the peloton. We shall see...

  64.  

    From Ed: "Will Tommy Voeckler win King of the Nicknames as well as mountains? 'Phil Cool', 'Green Goblin'... any others?!"

    I like that idea... not sure what colour jersey you would give them though. By the way, Tommy V is also known as Le Chouchou (Sweetheart). I prefer 'Phil Cool' myself.

  65. 1427: 

    Tommy Voeckler and Brice Feilu are already on the slopes of the Col d'Aspin, and so too now are Wiggo & co, who are cruising along, about 10-and-a-half minutes back.

    It is 12.4km to the top of Aspin, with an average gradient of 5%. So, it's easier* than the Col d'Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet.

    * Most things are.

  66. 1423: 

    Blimey, I'm in trouble however I refer to Dan Martin, aren't I?

    How about: (deep breath) The Tamworth-born Irish Garmin rider, 25, son of British Olympic cyclist Neil Martin, nephew of Irish Tour de France winner Stephen Roche and cousin of Nicholas Roche, who is 12th overall in this year's Tour? Snappy, huh.

    Anyway, Martin is 35 seconds behind Tommy Voeckler and Brice Feilu, and has just been joined by Vasili Kiryienka (who is from Belarus in case you were wondering).

  67.  

    Tom Meredith on Twitter: "Couldn't see the Brits putting up with Froome being called Nairobi Ninja so why should we Irish put up with Tamworth Terror?"

  68.  

    Alex Gilmore on Twitter: "Perfect for Team Sky so far. Big lead means no-one in Wiggins' group can win stage and therefore less attacking from chancers."

  69. 1413: 

    Nobody in front of the yellow jersey bunch is a threat in the General Classification, so Team Sky will not be trying to chase down Tommy Voeckler and Brice Feilu.

    The French duo have a lead of about a minute of Voigt, Vinokourov and Kessiakoff, and are about 10 minutes and 10 seconds clear of Wiggo & co.

  70.  

    Gez Franklin in Leicester: "Good old Tommy V - I think he's a great rider, always up there fighting at the front!

  71. 1410: 

    That's another mountain down for Bradley Wiggins on the long road to Paris but he will have to be careful on the descent too. Up ahead on the road, George Hincapie came off as he began rolling down to the base of Col d'Aspin, but the American is unscathed and able to continue.

  72. 1407: 

    Tommy Voeckler briefly lost Brice Feilu on the descent from Tourmalet, but they are back together now.

    Back at the summit, here comes Bradley Wiggins. His Team Sky team-mate Christian Knees is at the top of the peloton and leading over Wiggo & co, who are 10 minutes behind Voeckler and Feilu.

  73.  

    Alex in Sheffield: "If it had been Jens Voigt rather than Laurens ten Dam, would he have said "Shut up face"?"

  74. 1403: 
    Polkadot Jersey

    And he does too. Frederik Kessiakoff surges away from the rest of the men in his mini-group, which now also includes Tour veteran Jens Voigt and Alexander Vinokourov, for fourth place and 14 mountain points.

    Voeckler has picked up 50 mountain points by being first over both summits so far today but Kessiakoff started the day 32 points ahead of him and has picked up 34 points himself.

    That means Kessiakoff is still 16 points clear although, with two more big climbs to come, Tommy V could ride himself into the polka dot jersey tonight.

  75. 1358: 

    Yep, Tommy V is first to the top of the Tourmalet and duly collects maximum points. Frederik Kessiakoff is currently wearing the polka dot jersey but is seeing his advantage eeked away today. He needs to pick up some points here too...

  76. 1354:  
    Polkadot Jersey

    Thomas Voeckler and Brice Felieu have less than 1km to go before they reach the top of the Tourmalet. Mr V will fancy another 25 points in the King of the Mountains to go with his haul from the top of Aubisque earlier today.

  77. 1353: 

    Dan Martin is about 30 seconds behind Voeckler and Feilu, with Frederik Kessiakoff, Chris Anker Sorensen and Laurens ten Dam another 30 seconds further back.

    Lots of suffering going on further back, as you migh expect on a climb like this!

  78. 1351: 

    Tommy Voeckler, who is gurning for France as he hauls himself up this hill, and his compatriot Brice Feilu are now about nine minutes clear of Bradley Wiggins & co, who don't seem bothered about losing ground. Plenty of riders are strung out on the road between them, though, so it is not certain those two will stay clear.

  79. 1348:  
    Yellow Jersey

    Well, I call it the main bunch, but there are only 30-odd riders left in the Brad Wiggins group now. Chris Froome, Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali and Jurgen van den Broek are all among them.

  80. 1346: 

    Edvald Boasson Hagen's shift at the front of the peloton is over... so he drops back to the team car to get the water bottles for the rest of his team. Wiggo, by the way, is still looking comfortable near the front the main bunch at the moment... another Team Sky man, Christian Knees, is leading the way.

  81. 1345: 

    Dan Martin has been dropped by Tommy Voeckler and Brice Feilu, who are now out on their own at the front of the race, about 30 seconds clear of the Tamworth Terror and another 15 seconds clear of Frederik Kessiakoff, who is looking to protect his lead in the King of the Mountains category.

    They have got about 3km to go to the top of the Tourmalet, and another 77km to go to the finish line in Bagneres de Luchon, with the Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde to come.

  82.  

    Joe from London: "Tired of people picturing Wiggo as this guy that needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and completely relient on his team. Gold medalist, former world champ with the yellow jersey on his back! don't they say that you ride like ten men with the Maillot Jaune?"

  83. 1339: 

    Further back down the mountain, it's Edvald Boasson Hagen's turn to hit the front of the peloton for Team Sky, and the Norwegian is setting the pace for Wiggo, Froome & co. No attacks yet by Vincenzo Nibali, Cadel Evans or Jurgen van den Broeck... but plenty of time for that!

  84. 1337: 

    There were signs that breakaway bunch was consolidating a bit, but not any more.

    With 5km to go to the top the top of Tourmalet, Dan Martin attacks. Tommy Voekler and Brice Feilu go with him and Frederik Kessiakoff is struggling to haul himself back... he's still trying though.

  85.  

    Martin in Windsor: "This will make Box Hill in the Olympics look pretty tame."

  86.  

    Darren Leydon on Twitter: "Have a funny feeling this could be the Irishman Dan Martin's day - looking very strong."

  87.  

    R Mulholland from Preston: "C'mon Wiggo!! All those months of training in Majorca will pay dividends today!"

  88. 1330: 

    That lead group of 38 was down to three at one point when Dan Martin attacked and accelerated but it is back up to 16 now.

    As they continue the long hard slog to the rocky summit of the Tourmalet, they have opened up a lead of more than seven minutes on the yellow jersey peloton.

  89. 1329: 

    Those of you new to the Tour de France this year won't remember how Laurens ten Dam made his mark on the 2011 Tour, or rather how his face made a mark on the Tarmac...

    The Dutch rider needed eight stitches in his face after crashing on stage 14, and it is well worth checking out the picture that goes with this report to see how he looked when he rolled over the finish line. Later that day, Ten Dam tweeted "No fractures. Only future scars."

  90. 1324: 

    Tommy V has dragged himself back to the wheel of Frederik Kessiakoff, as has Saxo Bank's Chris Anker Sorensen. They are three of the top four men in the King of the Mountains category, so expect the race to the top of the Tourmalet to be keenly contested.

  91. 1318: 

    I was ticked off by a texter earlier for referring to Dan Martin as 'Birmingham-born' when he is actually from Tamworth, so I'd better not make that mistake again. The Tamworth terror has just made a move from the front of the breakaway bunch, swiftly joined by current King of the Mountains leader Fredrik Kessiakoff and Laurens ten Dam.

    I'm not sure too many of the other escapees have got the legs to keep their pace and they have opened up a gap of 10 seconds on the next group of riders... led by Tommy Voeckler.

  92. 1313: 

    News of another Team Sky rider now. Manxman Mark Cavendish was helping Bernhard Eisel out at the front earlier on but his legs are not built for the Tourmalet and he has already fallen off the back of the peloton. It is going to be a long day in the saddle for Cav... and a painful one too.

    Just think of the Champs Elysees, Cav, and keep on pedalling...

  93. 1308: 

    Riders have already begun to drop off the back of the breakaway bunch, and the going only gets tougher from here on in.

    Back in the peloton, Brad Wiggins and his rivals for the yellow jersey are all together near the front, with Team Sky still leading the way. Christian Knees is setting the pace now, rather than Bernhard Eisel.

  94.  

    From Rich in Bristol: "Love seeing Tommy Voeckler upfront. Me and my housemate call him the Green Goblin. Also Jens Voigt, hope to see him shout his famous "SHUT UP LEGS" when he starts the steep vertical climbs!"

  95.  

    Reece Procter "First TdF I have followed, breaking up an afternoon of calls and meetings. Hope BWig can keep the pace!"

  96.  

    From Mark in Derbyshire: "Re. Tim Foulds (1235). Why would Wiggins wilt? Does all the heat and altitude training he's done this year mean nothing?"

  97. 1302: 

    The route the riders will take up the Tourmelet is 19km long and has an average gradient of 7.4 per cent.

    During last year's race, Welshman Geraint Thomas led the way up to the top (a bleak and windswept place) alongside Jeremy Roy but missed out on the Souvenir Jacques Goddet (a prize of 5,000 Euro to the the first rider over the top). Thomas is of course absent from this year's Tour, because he is focusing on the Olympics, where he will be a key member of the Team Pursuit squad.

  98. 1255: 

    Right then, this is where things start to get interesting. The front bunch of 38 men are approaching the bottom of the Tourmalet, about five-and-a-half minutes ahead of the peloton. Pretty soon, you can expect to see riders scattered and strung out all over its slopes.

  99.  

    From Adam: "Re 1226. Can someone explain why it's always the collarbone that gets broken when cyclists crash? I've lost count of the number of people who have retired this way. Never seems to be arms, elbows or legs."

    Yep, you are not an elite cyclist if you haven't broken your collarbone. It's down to the way riders are often sent flying forward from their bikes in a crash. They usually hit the tarmac or break their fall with their elbow or wrist and the force of the fall travels up the arm to the shoulder, with the collarbone being a weak spot.

    A broken collarbone (usually) means the end of your race, but the good news is that it tends to heal quickly, and riders can still move their legs and exercise while they are off their bikes.

  100.  

    Tim Foulds on Twitter: "Worried Wiggins may wilt in this heat - rode the Aspin and Peyresourdes yesterday and they're tough but today is even hotter."

  101. 1235: 

    It's mealtime for the breakaway bunch, who have collected their musettes after passing the 87km mark at Adast.

    Just the 110km or so for them to go, including ascents of the Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde. Have I mentioned how hot it is recently? No? Well, it's scorchio in the Pyrenees, which isn't exactly good news for the riders facing three more big climbs in the next few hours.

  102.  

    Gordon W in Glasgow: "Will the high point of this years tour, the Tourmalet, turn out to be the high point of the tour (excitement-wise I mean)? Surely Evans and/or Nibali must attack on the slopes of the legendary climb."

    We will surely see some attacks today, but the question is where... Aspin and Peyresourde are closer to the finish so it could be Nibali and Evans try to get clear (eg on Peyresourde) and descend like demons to the finish line.

  103. 1230: 

    Bernhard Eisel and Mark Cavendish are (STILL) the Team Sky men at the front of the peloton, which is about five minutes and 15 seconds behind the 38-man breakaway with 117km to go.

    Wiggo is nowhere to be seen at the moment, but panic not... I think he just answered a call of nature.

  104. 1226: 
    OUCH!

    We have lost another rider. Russia's Vladimir Gusev and Belgium's Romain Zingle collided as they came down towards Adast and Gusev was sent hurtling into a barbed wire fence, suffering a broken collarbone in the process. That leaves 154 men trying to get to Paris.

  105.  

    Juliet in Crystal Palace: "Hear hear Ed from Newcastle and Jonathan on hols. Wiggo has nothing to prove. We'll see his worth when he's really under pressure. Otherwise, why expend unnecessary energy? Froome is great, but I don't think we're in a position to say who is greater as they are not competing against each other."

  106. 1214: 

    Back on the road, Bernhard Eisel continues to lead Team Sky and the rest of the peloton, about four-and-a-half minutes back from the breakaway. We have had about 65km of today's 197km stage and all the main contenders at the top of the General Classification are sitting together towards the front of the main pack.

  107.  

    Eddie in Bournemouth: "A Wiggins win wouldn't be tainted because of Froome's 'attack' on stage 11 - he bolted off the front yes, but who's to say he would, or could have sustained it. We have seen Nibali make numerous 'attacks' but lose strength and simply get reeled in. All these hypotheticals are nonsense. If anyone watched last years Tour they would appreciate the diesel train style of climbing that Cadel Evans showed then, and what Wiggins is showing in this tour. He has nothing to prove."

    Lots of people have texted in to say something similar to Eddie, to be fair.

  108. 1207: 

    The peloton are also over the top of the Aubisque and have begun the long descent down to Adast, and the feed zone.

    I'd be taking a lot of calories on board if I were them, because no sooner have they got rid of their musettes, they begin the haul up to the top of the legendary Tourmalet, the high point of this year's Tour at 2,115m.

  109. 1202:  
    Polkadot Jersey

    Fredrik Kessiakoff goes for maximum Mountain points at the top of Aubisque... but Tommy Voeckler is led out by his Europcar team-mate Yukiya Arashiro and sees him off.

    Voeckler who started the day fourth in that category with 37 points, picks up 25 points as his prize but Kessiakoff collects 20 and he is still sitting pretty in polka dot.

  110.  

    Jonathan on hols in Italy: "I think the speculation over Chris Froome is undermining how well Wiggins is doing. Brad has outpaced him in the time trials and with another remaining it's pure speculation to say that Chris would beat Brad to Paris."

  111.  

    Stu in London: "Can't see Sky not trying to defend title for Wiggins if he wins this year. Froome will be set up for the Vuelta."

  112.  

    Alan in Mids: "Re Dave in Aberdeen. No way is Wiggins gonna ride next year as defending champ as non team leader! Froome will have to move. Simple."

  113. 1153:  
    Polkadot Jersey

    The 38 men at the front of the race now have a lead of three minutes and 45 seconds as they approach the top of Col d'Aubisque, which is 53.5km in.

    Swedish rider Fredrik Kessiakoff, the current leader of the King of the Mountains category, is among them and will do his bid to keep the polka dot jersey the power of good if he can be the first man to the summit.

  114. 1150: 

    Mind you, some people are taking their devotion of Wiggins a BIT too far. Either that, or the demands of this year's race have had a strange effect on Bradley's body...

  115. 1148: 

    It's taken 109 years, and the emergence of a British contender, but it is good to see that the Tour is getting the coverage it deserves on these shores at last.

    The Sun gave away a pair of lucky Wiggins mutton-chop sideburns today, with the advice 'cut these out, stick them to your face and Bradley can win the race'.

    I hope they're right... I would try it myself but I'm already sporting a hefty pair of 'Wiggos'. Nothing stopping you lot though...

  116.  

    Dave from Aberdeen: "Re Ed from Newcastle. I don't know about that... Froome left Wiggins for dust in stage 11 and the speed he was accelerating up that hill, I think he would have been in the yellow jersey at the end of that day had Team Sky allowed. My guess is Wiggins will ride as chief domestique to Froome in TdF and deservedly so if Wiggins wins this year."

  117.  

    Paul from Bristol: "Sky will have their game plan, for sure. An attack by Froomie against the team leader would be insane, but a feint to draw out and crush Nibali, now there's a one-two worth writing about! Vive le Tour."

  118. 1134: 

    Those 38 riders are still around three-and-a-half minutes clear as they continue up Col d'Aubisque, with around 50km of today's 197km stage behind them... and a lot of climbing in front of them (as I'm sure Tom and Greg will testify).

    While we wait for our first attack of the day from Wiggo's rivals, I recommend you check out Matt Slater's excellent piece on Brian Robinson, the first British rider to complete the Tour de France, and also the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour.

    "Breaking into that world was hard, but there were quite a few of us trying to do it," Robinson explained.

    "It was a poor man's sport back then. We would sleep in old vans, living from race to race. We had to learn everything, so we went to France and copied everything they did.

    "Perseverance was the key. But I was never a champion. I was what the French called a 'bon coureur', a good rider."

  119.  

    Tom in Cambridge: "I cycled the Etape du Tour on this stage last Saturday. Absolutely great event - the support was incredible and atmosphere among the riders kept me going. Tourmalet is absolutely brutal, although I'm sure Wiggo will make it look a lot easier than I did (or at least I hope he does...)."

    Chapeau Tom, and Greg too... I quite fancy tackling a big climb in the Pyrenees or the Alps, but not FOUR of them in one day!

  120.  

    Greg H in Bristol: "I completed the Etape du Tour over the Stage 16 route on Saturday, and I can confirm it's brutal. It still hurts thinking about it."

  121. 1122: 

    During Tuesday's rest day, Bradley Wiggins tackled the Chris Froome issue, played down talk of a split in the Team Sky camp and promised to help his team-mate and compatriot win a future Tour.

    "He will win this race one day and I will be there to support him do that," Wiggins said.

    "The guy is capable of winning the Tour otherwise he wouldn't be second overall in the Tour de France.

    "What we do well is that we are a close group and we have been all year. That's why we're in this position now. We've gone out there each day and proved on the road that there isn't a problem."

  122. 1120: 
    OUCH!

    RadioShack are not having the best Tour, are they? Another of their riders, America's Chris Horner, just disappeared over the edge of a precipice after losing control... and losing the road.

    There was no sign of him when the cameras caught up, just his bike on the slope and some spectators disappearing into the woods to try to find him, but Horner has now clambered back on to his bike and is continuing. I think he will need some treatment though.

  123.  

    Ed from Newcastle: "I'd love to see Froome get his attack, only to have Wiggo reel him back in. I'm tired of Froome's "loyalty" tainting Wiggo's win."

  124. 1116: 

    A few of you are asking what Chris Froome will do today. I'd say we can almost certainly rule out another attack from him on his team-mate and maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins, and the only way he will leave his Team Sky leader's side is if Wiggo implodes completely and is dropped by Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali on of the climbs towards the end of the stage.

    Then, and only then, Froome will concentrate on protecting his own advantage over Evans and Nibali.

  125. 1111:  
    Team Sky

    Team Sky, with Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome among them, are at the front of the peloton but don't look in any rush to close this break down. The escapees' lead is still hovering around the three-and-a-half minute mark as they start up Col d'Aubisque... just the 16.4km for them to go to the summit, with an average gradient of 7.1%.

  126.  

    Richard in Southport: "Everybody relax, this is in the bag. Team Sky will attack on the Tourmalet and put this race to bed once and for all. they have far too much in the tank for Cadel Evans or Vincenzo Nibali or anyone else for that matter."

  127.  

    Jake in Bristol: "Hoping Wiggo can hang on today, but I'd bet on Van Den Broeck, Nibali and Rolland at least gaining some time. Already experiencing a conspicuous lack of fingernails... "

  128.  

    John in Lancs: "Taken the day off to watch this one. Should be epic. Wiggo to prove the doubters wrong."

  129. 1105: 

    Birmingham-born Irish rider Dan Martin, the nephew of 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche, is also in this 38-man break, which is more than three-and-a-half minutes clear with 40km done.

    Vladimir Karpets, who I am amazed wasn't involved in that tack attack on Sunday, is also up there, as are two of Cadel Evans' team-mates, Britain's Steve Cummings and 'Big' George Hincapie.

  130. 1059:  
    Green Jersey

    Portugal's Sergio Paulinho won that intermediate sprint at the 26km mark, but I think it is safe to say that Peter Sagan will still be wearing the green jersey when the race reaches Paris because the Slovakian is more than 100 points ahead of his nearest rival, Andre Greipel.

  131. 1054: 

    Good to see that Jens Voigt and Tommy Voeckler are among the men in this 38-man breakaway, which is now two minutes and 22 seconds clear after 30km of today's 197km slog.

    They will have to battle soaring temperatures as well as scaling those massive peaks, because today is another hot one in the Pyrenees.

  132.  

    Jack Hamshaw on Twitter: "Make or break for Brad today, I am backing him! gutted to hear about Frank Schleck, just hope he is telling the truth."

  133.  

    David Quainton on Twitter "Got to say, I doubt would anyone poison Frank Schleck? He's been rubbish all year. Would be like poisoning Francis Jeffers."

  134. 1048: 

    Back on the road, and a big old bunch of 38 riders have opened up a gap of around a minute at the front.

    Team Sky are at the front of the peloton and discussing how they should react.

  135. 1044: 

    I should clarify that Frank Scheck could have started today's stage under the rules of the UCI (he was withdrawn by his team, RadioShack) and he will have a chance to prove his innocence because Xipamide falls into a special category of substances under the World Anti Doping Code called 'specified substances', rather than 'perfomance enhancing'.

    It's a real shame that we are talking about the whole doping issue again when we should just be getting ready for the race to explode in the Pyrenees, but I guess it is not going to go away anytime soon when one of the best riders in the world is under investigation.

  136.  

    Al in Durham: "Please can someone explain what Xipamide (a diuretic) would do for a cyclist?"

    Here you go Al: Diuretics are not considered performance-enhancing but can be used to help riders lose weight, and therefore perform better in the tough mountain stages of the race.

    More ominously, they can also conceal the presence of a banned drug by helping to flush it from the body through increased urination. Xipamide is normally used for the treatment of oedema and hypertension.

  137. 1040:  
    Green Jersey

    Let's get down to business. The first climb of the day is Col d'Aubisque, a hors-categorie (beyond categorization) beast at 1,709m.

    The peloton will hit its slopes at about the 34km mark but, before then, they will fight it out for some points at an intermediate sprint at the 26km mark. Don't be surprised if Peter Sagan takes an interest in that one.

  138.  

    Nick in Nottingham: "Huge day in the TdF! Nervous just sat watching the start! Come on Bradley and Team Sky!"

  139.  

    Raymondo in London: "This is the big one today - Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali et al must go for it or they will run out of stages - can't wait!"

  140.  

    Will in Chester: "This is the big one for Bradley and Team Sky. I'm keeping everything crossed and my eyes will be glued to the live text. Let's hope Team Sky have a more productive day than me!"

  141. 1030: 

    We are green for go in Pau, and there have been a few early breakaway attempts in the first 10km... but nobody has got away yet.

    So, what are you expecting from today's stage, who will attack Bradley Wiggins, and when... and what do you make of Frank Schleck's withdrawal? Tweet me using the hashtag #bbccycling or text me on 81111. Make sure you PUT YOUR NAME on those texts, though, because otherwise I can't use them.

  142. 1026: 

    Frank Schleck, who was 12th in the Tour's overall standings, "categorically denies" taking any banned substance and has insisted that his 'B' sample be tested.

    "If this analysis confirms the initial result, I will argue that I have been the victim of poisoning," he said.

  143. 1021: 

    156 riders crossed the finish line in Pau at the end of Monday's 15th stage, but only 155 riders are left in the Tour today. As you have probably heard, Luxembourg rider Frank Schleck, who finished third in 2011, has been pulled out of the race by his team after testing positive for the diuretic Xipamide.

  144. 1018: 

    Before they get started, the peloton will honour former South African president Nelson Mandela, who turns 94 today. A large banner reading "Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela" will be held up by local children before the racing begins.

  145. 1015: 

    So, will Wiggo make it? I guess we are about to find out. The riders are rolling through the neutral zone in Pau, renowned as 'The Gateway to the Pyrenees' and stage 16 is about to get under way.

  146. 1010:  
    Yellow Jersey

    As Jay-Z would* say, "This is the 99th Tour and a Brit ain't won." Not yet he hasn't, but we are getting bloomin' close to changing that...

    This is how things stand at the top of the General Classification with five days and 737.5km to go until the finish line on the Champs Elysees.

    1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky 68hrs, 33mins, 21secs

    2. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky @ 2'05"

    3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas @ 2'23

    4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing @ 3'19"

    5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel) Lotto @ 4'48"

    *He wouldn't.

  147. 1005: 

    Yep, today is one of the key stages that will decide whether Britain's Bradley Wiggins is going to get to Paris in yellow as the winner of the 2012 Tour de France. It features four climbs in the high Pyrenees - Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col' dAspin and Col de Peyresourde.

    In a word: Brutal.

  148. 1000: 

    Morning all. Are you ready for the big one?