Tour de France, Grand Tour

France, July 3-25, 1999

Main Page     Stage 10 Results

Stage 10, Sestričres - L'Alpe d'Huez, 218 kms:

Stage 10 began at 10.34 with 166 riders still in the race. The first 40 kms was an easy downhill run. Both O'Grady and Zabel were keen early to get points for the green jersey, held overnight by the Australian. The first 30 kms passed quickly with the peloton complete. The first sprint premie came at km 37.5 (Gravere) with Zabel beating O'Grady then Big Mat's Christophe Capelle third. Stuart was now 11 points in front of the German for the green jersey. After the first hour the avs was 44.1 km/h although the parcours was easy.

The first climb was the Hors Category (the second of the Tour to date after Galibier) Col du Mont-Cenis with the summit coming at km 67. The climb was 24.7 kms long at an average gradient of 6.3 per cent - tough. Alex Zülle encountered some bike problems after a few kms of the climb and he was aided by several Banesto teammates. By the half-way mark (12 kms to go) the peloton was still complete and the pace steady. The first rider dropped was Latvian Raivis Belohvosciks, who was already a clear last on GC. He retired soon after leaving 165 riders in the race.

Near to the Franco-Italian border (km 55), it was the Polti team which was at the front of the race setting the tempo. The first 60 kms was uneventful. With Eddy Merckx travelling with Jean-Marie Leblanc in the lead car, his son Axel was getting dropped due to sickness. He retired soon after.

Nearing the top, Polti were hammering for Virenque. Piccoli was sitting their wheels. Over the top, it was Dmitri Konyshev (Mercatone) then Richard Virenque (Polti) with Gianpaolo Mondini (Cantina Tollo) third. Then Arrieta 4th, Piccoli 5th, Brochard 6th, Andreu 7th, Armstrong 8th, Santos Gonzalez 9th, Goubert 10th, Belli 11th, Jeker 12th.

On the descent Stéphane Heulot and Thierry Bourgignon attacked and got a 0.11 lead quickly. Leon van Bon and Jan Svorada retired as the climbing started to take its toll. The two leaders built their lead to 0.35 with US Postal pursuing them. The lead continued to grow and by km 107 (Modane) they had 6.00. But they presented no threat to the GC as Heulot the best placed of the two was 18.57 down overnight. The lead was soon out to 7.15. But there were still two major climbs to come.

The next climb was the Col de la Croix de Fer (km 165.5). The US Postal team was leading the chasing peloton between Cenis and Croix de Fer. Lampre lost its third rider for the day when Czech Pavel Padranos quit at the feed zone. The two leaders meanwhile had a gap of 11.00. This could actually work. For Australian fans the news was all bad. Jay Sweet, now the last GC rider was dropped with Vogels, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady. Nearby was Jacky Durand, Mariano Piccoli (early KOM jersey holder), and Magnus Backstedt. The peloton was split in two behind the two leaders who were riding inspired. An attack from the first peloton came from Swiss rider Roland Meier who was then a clear third. The front peloton contained the yellow jersey, Virenque, Olano and Zülle. Virenque had a hiccup (puncture) but got back to the front chasing peloton soon after. Meier by this time had a 20 second gap on this group. The main bunch was 10.40 down on Heulot and Bourgignon and 20 seconds down on Meier. There were 50 riders still in this group. The US Postal strength at the front was weakened when Frankie Andreu went off the front chasing group. Festina rider Belli was also dropped as was Jens Voigt and Christophe Moreau.

With 6 kms of climbing, the two out front had a lead of 9.16 on Meier and 10.10 on the chasing group. Brochard was dropped. The next action came with a blistering attack from Mercatone's Stefano Garzelli. He set about joining Meier. Hincapie was dropped leaving only Hamilton and Livingston to support the yellow jersey. O'Grady was driving the second peloton.

Garzelli built a lead of around 20 seconds from the yellow jersey peloton which was being led by Kevin Livingston, Tyler Hamilton, Lance Armstrong, José Luis Arrieta, Alex Zülle, Laurent Dufaux, Udo Bolts, Ivan Gotti and Richard Virenque. With 10 kms to climb Heulot and Bourgignon had a lead of 7.35 on Meier, 8.15 on Garzelli and basically the bunch. Garzelli, while showing something of what might be in the future, did not have the strength to continue his charge. With 3.6 kms to go, the Spanish Kelme-Costa Blanca team took over the pace in the chasing group and Livingston was dropped. Soon after José Luis Arrieta punctured. Over the top it was Heulot first, then Bourgignon, then Meier at 4.55 then Richard Virenque at 6.12 in 4th, followed by 5th Peron, 6th Zulle, 7th Armstrong, 8th Vinikourov, 9th Bolts, 10th Olano then Dufaux, Etxebarria, Moreau, Beltran and in the same group and 15th ONCE's Marcos A. Serrano.

With 25 kms to go before the end, the two breakaways were maintaining a lead of 4.40 on Meier and 5.40 on a new chasing trio (Simon, Etxebarria and Aerts). The three riders had broken clear on the descent of Croix de Fer. The yellow jersey group was still at 6.15 with one more climb to come - Alpe d'Huez.

The second of two sprints came at the little village at the base of the Alpe d'Huez - Bourg d'Oisans - only 16.5 kms from the end. Thierry Bourgignon won from Heulot with Meier 4 minutes down in third. At 4.35 and closing was the yellow jersey group who had absorbed the three riders (Simon, Etxebarria and Aerts).

The action then turned to the 14 kms acsent of L'Alpe d'Huez. On the front of the yellow chasing group it was two Banesto riders who were doing the work - Manuel Beltran (prominent yesterday at Sestričres and José Luis Arrieta, who had recovered from his puncture. Stéphane Heulot then attacked Bourgignon on the first ramps of the climb and went for glory. The chasing group was now Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Alex Zülle, Guiseppe Guerini, Abraham Olano, Alex Vinokourov, Manuel Beltran, Kurt Van de Wouver, Richard Virenque, Pavel Tonkov, Daniele Nardello, Laurent Dufaux, Ferdinand Escartin and Escartin's Kelme teammate Carlos Alberto Contreras.

Stéphane Heulot's bold attempt was thwarted only 3 kms from the finish. Manuel Beltran worked very hard to put teammate Alex Zülle into the frame and was primarily instrumental in bringing back Heulot. The 8 riders left in the front group who all benefitted from Beltran's work were Beltran, Zülle, Armstrong, Escartin, Contreras, Virenque, Guerini and Tonkov. With 2.8 kms to go, the Italian Guerini attacked and quickly made ground on the others. Tonkov was the first to respond but could not make a dent in Guerini's progress. Then some stupid photographer was blocking the road and the Italian crashed into him with less than a km to go. For a TV image of the crash. Guerini fell but quickly got back on his bike and won by 21 seconds from Tonkov and 25 seconds on Escartin, Zülle and Lance Armstrong. The yellow jersey lead widened to over 7 minutes.