58km to go: Nasty crash in the pack, with Soren Kragh Andersen falling right off the road and into quite a deep ditch; others went too, including Simon Yates. Tim Declercq also hurt. There’s an ambulance at the scene. More as we get it.
65km to go: Sean Bennett suddenly shows a bit of aggression out front but no one goes with him and they settle back together, Goldstein at the head, while Philippe Gilbert leads a four-man break out from the peloton to ask a few questions.
67 km to go: Goldstein leads the front trio from Bennett and Latour, while the gap to the pack – now led by Tim Declercq – dips to 1:20 before creeping back up to around the 1min 27sec mark.
72km to go: Pogacar looks immensely relaxed among the pack, smiling and bantzing in leisurely-Sunday-afternoon-ride mode, while Cavendish looks deadly serious, ready to pounce. And the peloton edges a bit closer to the front three of Goldstein, Latour and Bennett – now around 1:30 behind approaching Cebazan.
77km to go. Thanks for ushering me to the front there David. Vakov still heading that chasing peloton, the gap to the leading trio hovering at just under two minutes (around 1:49 currently). The calm before the storm. They’ve just passed the very attractive town of Beziers.
Time for Tom Davies to ride to the front of the peloton and see if he can reel the leaders in. Back later.
80km remaining: The gap continues to drop. The peloton, headed by Petr Vakov (Alpecin-Fenix) with a Deceuninck-Quick Step train tucked in behind, is 1min 48sec back.
Fun fact: There are more roundabouts today (97) than in any stage since 1996. Here’s some hot roundabout action from two years ago which shows that going left or right can make a difference.
90km to go: As the race passes through vineyards and rolling countryside, the gap has now come down below two minutes. This really does look all set up for Cav.
Some comparison stats here about margins.
100km to go: As you were. Goldstein, Latour and Bennett bowl along in front, currently 2min 44sec clear. Deceuninck-Quick Step still policing the peloton as they look to get Cav in position later in the race although Petr Vakov (Alpecin-Fenix) is also taking his turn on the front.
Intermediate sprint: Goldstein wins it at 104km, the first Israeli rider to win anything at Le Tour. He takes 20pts, Bennett 17 and Latour 15. Back down the road, will Cavendish flex his muscles by winning the sprint for fourth? He doesn’t get really involved, leaving Sonny Colbrelli to pick up some useful points.
Result of intermediate sprint at Fontès (km 104.2)
1 Goldstein 20pts
2 Bennett 17pts
3 Latour 15pts
4 Colbrelli 13pts
5 Matthews 11pts
6 Morkov 10pts
7 Philipsen 9pts
8 Cavendish 8pts
9 Bouhanni 7pts
10 Mohoric 6pts
11 Mezgec 5pts
12 Asgreen 4pts
13 Bjerg 3pts
14 Kuss 2pts
15 Pogacar 1pt
Rigoberto Uran’s popularity: Bradley Wiggins is a pretty iconic figure and @SirWiggo has a healthy Twitter following of 75.8k. But that’s nothing compared to Uran, who currently sits second in the GC. The Colombian has an absurd 1.4million followers. Goodness me. @UranRigoberto if you want to add to it.
120km to go: The Goldstein, Bennett, Latour breakaway – “a sublime prog house outfit responsible for releasing a slew of classic peak time tunes caned by all and sundry and featured memorably in the club scene in Basic Instinct,” says Chris Collinson from BTL – leads by 2min 43sec so the gap is holding station.
An update from the official website says Lylian Lebreton, the sport director of TotalEnergies, told France Télévisions from the team car that Pierre Latour was set to break away tomorrow, not today. “This is not the scenario we imagined this morning”, he’s quoted as saying. “We wanted to be part of a breakaway that would have included more riders. Tomorrow’s stage suits Pierre much more. We haven’t chosen the race situation we’re in. Once again, Anthony [Turgis] got the ground cut from under. He’s frustrated. He’s going very strongly. Today he had a small chance to race for the win from a breakaway but he’ll try another day. He never gives up. He’ll look for another opportunity before the end of the Tour.”
To be honest, Goldstein, Bennett, Turgis doesn’t scan as well so, for prog-rock reasons, this has played out correctly in my book.
This must feel like a gentle mod ride out for Bradley Wiggins as he pootles through the countryside. But it was very different on Wednesday when he produced this lovely tribute to Tom Simpson. Worth a look if you missed it.
Cavendish by the numbers: Here’s the breakdown by year of Cav’s 33 stage wins so far:
2008 – 4
2009 – 6
2010 – 5
2011 – 5
2012 – 3
2013 – 2
2014 – 1
2016 – 4
2021 – 3 and counting
Dangers to Cav: Wout Van Aert, the brilliant winner of the double Mont Ventoux stage on Wednesday, and Jasper Philipsen are considered Cavendish’s biggest threats today with nothing significant happening so far. The gap is coming down to three minutes.
140km to go: Goldstein, Bennett and Latour remain out in front but their lead has been cut to 3min 23sec by the peloton.
Bradley Wiggins: Nothing to note yet from Eurosport’s man on the motorcycle beyond a lot of the peloton needing to “go for a wee”. He noted yesterday that Cavendish seemed a little rattled about having to wear a standard green jersey rather than his preferred skinsuit number. It’s the same story today. Is there some sort of laundry backlog? Or is this an inside job to stop him winning today’s stage so he can save the big moment for the Champs-Élysées? Conspiracy theories welcome.
Cavendish’s chances: It’s a calm before the storm day in terms of the GC but what of Mark Cavendish’s bid to win that magical 34th stage and tie Eddy Merckx’s record? Cav was a clear 3/1 favourite with the bookmakers to win today’s stage when prices went up last night. And with Deceuninck-QuickStep policing this breakway, Cav has been cut to odds-on with the in-play traders. In other words, folks, this could be a big, big day!
Leading trio: Just to note that the three leaders are no danger at all to the GC. Latour is the highest ranked of them but currently sits 51st, a hefty 1hr 21min 10sec back from the yellow jersey.
165km to go: So, who will win today’s battle between breakaway and bunch? Right now we have a three-man breakaway of Omer Goldstein (Israel Start-Up Nation), Sean Bennett (Qhubeka-NextHash) and Pierre Latour (Team TotelEnergies). They’re 4min 34sec clear of the peloton. Latour just sprinted to grab 1 KOM point at côte de Pic St-Loup.