Today's stage is already 121.7 km from the finish, and about to pass the Col du Grand Saint Bernard. It's one of the most difficult stages of the Tour this year, with the summit of the Col du Grand Bernard posing the biggest challenge.
The second climb, a category one to the Col de Petit Bernard, is about 31 km from the finish and by then the outcome of this stage could be decided.
Pics: Near Mont Blanc (Benepe (c)
The first summit arrives now, and already two riders are at the head of the course, Franco Pellizotti (LIQ) and Vladimir Karpets (KAT) , with almost a two minute lead over the peleton.
But a chase group composed of 24 riders is one minute 24 seconds behind and gaining on the two leaders as they climb the first difficult mountain pass. The peleton is two minutes behind the leaders, and among them is Alberto Contador, the Yellow Jersey, and his team Astana.
Among those in the chase group is Hincapie, Voigt, Van den Broeck, Anton, Rogers, Casar Fedrigo, Bouet, Velits, Roche, Moinard, Vogondy, Gomez, Rolland, Trofimov, Verdigo, Goubert and Gutierrez.
Pic: Mont Blanc (Benepe (c))
But Cancellara, Martinez, Pasamonte, and Moncoutie (COF) who were part of the original 30-man split, were caught by the peleton near the top of the col as the rest of the split pedaled away in front.
At the front of the peleton, Astarloza (EUS) has attacked, before the Col de Grand Saint Bernard.
But before the col, Bouet, Vogondy and Rolland were caught and subsumed by the peleton. Now after the summit of the col, only 13 riders are the chase group following the two leaders, at 116.5 km.
It’s a long way down, and with winding, narrow roads, with flimsy barriers, the leaders could lose time if they don’t have the same appetite for descents as for ascents.
There will be more to come: with only a two minute lead, it is unlikely the leaders will be the first to either reach the summit of the second hardest climb today, the Col of the Petit Saint Bernard more than 90 km away, before descending 31 km into Bourg Saint Maurice.