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2008 Tour de France thread.........

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Now that the football is over, I can begin.


Tour de France 2008

Running from Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th 2008, the 95th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,500 kilometres.


These 21 stages have the following profiles:


10 flat stages,

5 mountain stages,

4 medium mountain stages,

2 individual time-trial stages.

Distinctive aspects of the race


4 mountain finishes,

2 rest days,

82 kilometres of individual time-trials,

19 Category 1, Category 2 and highest level passes will be climbed.


There is more to come so keep 'em peeled.

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Alejandro Valverde won the first stage of the 2008 Tour de France on Saturday after a powerful uphill finish in Plumelec. The Spaniard launched a stunning counter-attack in the final 200m of the 197.5km stage from Brest to Plumelec after Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen looked to have victory in his sights.


Valverde, sixth-place last year and one of the pre-race favourites, now wears the race's first yellow jersey just two weeks after he triumphed in the prestigious Dauphine Libere warm-up event.


"I'm extremely happy to have won the opening stage and have the yellow jersey," the Caisse d'Epargne rider said.


"I felt very great but the team was phenomenal. It was hard work today but I feel in really good form."


With a strong showing in the spring classics season earlier in the year, Valverde is undeniably the man of the moment.


The 28-year-old, however, is not getting carried away. "So far we have only completed one stage," he stressed. "Tomorrow is the next test and we will take things day by day. But I will try and keep the yellow jersey for as long as possible."


Valverde's victory came after an exciting first day's racing which, for the first time since 1966, was not carried out in the format of a prologue time trial.


An early attack by Cofidis' Stephane Auge saw an eight man breakaway - including local rider Lilian Jegou (Francaise des Jeux) and French favourite Thomas Voeckler (Bougyues) - jump out of the peloton just moments after the start.


The eight riders at one point opened up a gap of eight minutes but started to be swept up with 15km of racing to go.


Jegou, riding in front of his local Breton crowd, and Spaniard De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) managed to hold out a little further, but they too were caught kilometres later as the peloton jostled towards the testing finish at Plumelec.


Solo attacks by Agributel's Romain Feillu and Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher both fell by the wayside as the riders hit the punchy 1.7km Cote de Cadoudal, dubbed the Breton Alpe d'Huez.


Kirchen of Team Colombia - formerly High Road - then surprised his rivals with a surge 500m from the finish line, only to be thwarted by Valverde's incredible burst of pace in the closing stages.


With a finale mirroring his superb win in April's Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic, the Spaniard powered around the final bend and swept past Kirchen with under 100m to spare.


Belgium's Philippe Gilbert (FdJ) took second place, just one second in arrears, while France's Jerome Pineau (Bouygues) took third.


Kirchen had to settle for fourth while young Italian rider Riccardo Ricco (Saunier), second in the Giro, took fifth.


Overall contenders Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Frank Schleck (CSC) underlined their credentials with respective sixth- and seventh-placed finishes, although Schleck had a scare when involved in one of a handful of crashes brought about by the bustling Breton winds.


The only casualty of the day was France's Herve Duclos-Lassalle after the Cofidis rider was forced to abandon his debut Tour with a broken wrist after crashing heavily at the feeding zone.


Colombian Juan Mauricio Soler, the reigning king of the mountains, looked to have aggravated a wrist injury sustained in the Giro after falling 9km from the finish.


The 25-year-old Barloworld rider's overall classification hopes took a dent after he crossed the line more than three minutes behind the impressive Valverde.


Voeckler will be wearing the Tour's first polka dot jersey on Sunday after amassing a tally of points over three low-category cols on Saturday, while fellow Frenchman Pineau will be the de facto green jersey for stage two, a 164.5km slog from Auray to St Brieuc


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Norway's Thor Hushovd of Credit Agricole underlined his green jersey credentials by sprinting to victory in the second stage of the Tour de France, a 164.5km ride from Auray to Saint Brieuc.


The 30-year-old showed fine form to hold off a duel attack by team Colombia pair Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek after a rainy day across the Breton countryside.


Kirchen, the 30-year-old all-rounder from Luxembourg who finished ahead of Hushovd in the race's opening stage on Saturday, took the green jersey, while Alejandro Valverde of Spain, the stage one winner, maintained his leader's yellow jersey by a single second.


Hushovd managed to keep his calm after Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara of CSC launched a trademark attack in the final kilometre.


After an expert lead out by his team-mates - in particular Australian Mark Renshaw - Hushovd burst clear of both Cancellara and Ciolek, while holding off a late burst by Kirchen.


"That was a great finish and I am really happy," Hushovd told Eurosport after the stage. "I felt a bit tired after yesterday but in the end I felt good and the team did a great job.


"We knew it was a long way to go until the finish but we went at the right time and after Mark Renshaw led me out I did a great sprint."


France's Thomas Voeckler of Bouygues ensured he would wear the polka dot jersey until at least Thursday after repeating his first-day feat of getting into an early breakaway.


Voeckler jumped clear of the peloton alongside compatriot Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis on the first of four lesser category climbs of the day.


The pair were joined by another French duo after Christophe Moreau and Saint Brieuc-born David Le Lay, both of Agritubel, broke clear of the chasing peloton on the closing stages of the third-category Mur de Bretagne, 72km from the finish.


The four Frenchmen held a lead of around three minutes over the pack, but where finally reeled in with just kilometres to spare - despite a late solo effort by Chavanel to go alone.


Hushovd's victory in the town where Chris Boardman infamously crashed out on the first day of the 1995 Tour means his team Credit Agricole have fulfilled one of their main ambitions of the race.


Hushovd said: "We will go for more stages but the pressure is now off for me because I already have my win and hopefully more will more."


Another opportunity will come as early as Monday when the race travels 209km from St Malo to Nantes, a stage which seems tailor made for a flat bunch sprint at the finish.


One name who may not be on the starting list is reigning king of the mountains Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld.


The 25-year-old Colombian rode Sunday's stage with his right wrist heavily bandaged following his fall on Saturday and finished the stage more than seven minutes in arrears, putting him already more than ten minutes behind the leaders


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ST BRIEUC, France (Reuters) - Sprinters will be on their favourite terrain in Monday's third stage of the Tour de France, a 208 km run from St Malo to Nantes.


Following two opening stages designed for attacking flair, the course will now switch to the flat, leaving little room for successful breakaways.


"The finale is cut out for the pure sprinters, like Robbie McEwen or Oscar Freire," said race director Jean-Francois Pescheux.


Those who usually try their luck in front of the peloton might be tempted to save some energy for Tuesday's time trial on a 29.5 km circuit at Cholet.


Norway's Thor Hushovd, who won on Sunday, could make it two consecutive wins with a Credit Agricole team totally built around him.


Freire, Spain's three-times world champion, will be out to make amends though after missing out on victory by a few metres in the opening two stages.


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11:10 - The depart fictif, or virtual start, has just been given, we're just moments away before the official start of this pancake flat 206 kilometre race from Saint-Malo to Nantes. This is definitely one for the sprinters, and who knows? Maybe even one for Mark Cavendish.



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203km - Another sprinter who will hope to contend today is German Erik Zabel. The six-time green jersey and 12-time stage winner turns 38-years-old today. Happy birthday Erik! Having not won a stage since 2002, the sprint veteran will not be a favourite today, but he should never be discounted.



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159km - A little bit of history for you: Belgian legend Eddy "the cannibal" Merckx is to this day the only Tour winner to finish the race with the yellow jersey, green jersey and polka dot (climber's jersey) having won all three in 1969. The white jersey for best young rider did not exist yet, but he would have won that one too....

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