Tour de France, Grand Tour

France, July 3-25, 1999

Main Page     Stage 12 Results

Stage 12, Saint-Galmier - Saint-Flour, 197 kms:

Stage 12 left Saint-Galmier and took the riders on a 201.5 km journey across six Cat 2 and 3 climbs through the French region known as the Massif Central. There were 158 riders left in the race after Christophe Bassons did not start and said the Tour was too demanding for him as a clean rider. The first 5 kms was easy as the stage is very demanding later on. At km 7, Massimilliano Lelli (Cofidis) and Alberto Elli (Telekom) attacked and were soon joined by Australian Robbie McEwen (Rabobank) and Laurent Brochard (Festina).

After building a 0.14 gap, Brochard went out the back. The gap continued to grow and the trio worked well together to lead the now, fast moving peloton by 55 seconds. By km 15, the lead was 1.25 and reflected the cooperation of the riders. The gap was 1.40 after 21 kms with US Postal driving the chasing peloton. The first climb came at km 22 - the Col de la Croix de l'Homme-Mort and McEwen went off the back quickly leaving Lelli and Elli at the front. The climb is 16.2 kms long and has an average gradient of 4.4 per cent. The leaders were able to continue building the lead and after on the early slopes their lead was 2.15. Lylian Lebreton attacked off the front of the chasing group and held a 10 seconds gap. At the back of the race, Swede Magnus Backstedt, teammate Henk Vogels (Crédit Agricole), Marco Artunghi (Mercatone Uno-Bianchi) and Dane Lars Michaelsen (La Française des Jeux) were dropped. Lebreton and McEwen were absorbed back into the peloton as successive attacks from ONCE, Kelme and Mapei started. The two leaders had a gap of 2.00 at km 28. Crédit Agricole are having a bad day with O'Grady and Boardman going out the back and Backstedt abandoned on the first ascent. In fact, O'Grady chased for 40 kms before he regained contact with the peloton at km 75.

At km 36, the summit was reached with Elli and Lelli still 1.55 in front. The order over the Cat 2 climb is Lelli then Elli, with Armin Meier 1.35, then Gines Roland Meier, Mario Aerts all at 1.50, 7th Castelblanco, then Piccoli, Virenque and 10th was Francisco Garcia.

Roland and Armin Meier together with Fernandez Gines are chasing them off the front of the main peloton. They were quickly joined by 8 other riders - Wladimir Belli (Festina), Ivan Gotti (Polti), Francisco Garcia (Vitalicio), Carlos Alberto Contreras (Kelme), Kurt Van de Wouwer and Mario Aerts (Lotto), Dominique Rault (Big Mat-Auber 93), Stefano Garzelli (Mercatone Uno) and José Joaquim Castelblanco (Kelme). After the first hour the average speed was only 34.5 km /h.

After some aggressive peloton riding, the second group was caught. Lelli and Elli sustained a 2.00 lead over the peloton. Once again Fernandez Gines attacked with help from Didier Rous and Lylian Lebreton (Big Mat) tried to get across. The leaders had a gap of 1.23 on them soon after with the peloton at 1.37. It was chopping and changing a lot and with the second climb approaching Lelli-Elli were 1.30 in front of a new chasing group comprised of Oriol (Casino), De Wolf (Cofidis) and Lampre's Ludo Dierckxsens. Over the top of the Cat 3, Col des Pradeaux it was Lelli then Elli with Bessy 3rd at 1.30, and then Madouas, De Wolf and Desbiens close behind. At km 61, the lead was 1.25. The peloton was complete.

The leading duo were tiring and their lead dropped to 1.15 just after the climb. 9 riders formed a chasing group - Castelblanco, Simon, Mondini, Gouvenou, Heulot, Rous, Lotz, Etxebarria and De Wolf - and they quickly brought the lead down to 0.45 with the peloton a further 40 seconds back. This looked to be a dangerous move.

Soon after (km 80) they caught Lelli and Elli and were joined by some other riders to make a leading group of 14 riders with a gap of 1.40 on the peloton. The group was Elli (Telekom), Lelli, Desbiens and De Wolf (Cofidis), Castelblanco (Kelme), Simon (Crédit Agricole), Gouvenou (Big Mat), Rous (Festina), Lotz (Rabobank), Bessy and Gougot (Casino), Mondini (Cantina Tollo), Heulot (La Française des Jeux) and Etxebarria (ONCE).

At km 81.5, the first points premie was won by Simon from Bessy and Gouvenou. The leading 14 had a gap of 2.30 at this point and were going away. The race had certainly hotted up in the second hour. Avs for the 2nd hour was 46.7 km/h and overall 40.6 km/h.

There was some action in the peloton as Elio Aggiano, Mariano Piccoli and Roland Meier unsuccessfully tried to bridge the gap to the leading group, who by now had a 3.00 advantage. This widened to 3.30 at km 92 as they started the climb. The next mountain premie on the Cat 3, Cote du Procureur at km 95.5 was won by Lelli from Mondini, Bessy, Desbiens and in 5th place Gouvenou.

At the 4th climb the premie went to Mondini from De Wolf and then Desbiens, Gouvenou and in 5th place Simon. There was not much at stake in the GC from the break although Stéphane Heulot (La Française des Jeux) was the best placed and he moved into the top 10 as a result of the time gap they had built. At the second points premie at Langeac (km 148.5) the lead was a huge 11.30. Bessy won the sprint from Desbien and Simon.

The next climb saw no change in the composition of the race. The Cote de Lestival premie went to De Wolf from Mondini, Desbiens, Heulot, Rous, in 6th was Etxebarria then Bessy, Lotz, Simon and Gouvenou. With 156 kms gone the lead was now 12.30. The games started at km 165 when the riders in the leading group attacked each other. As a result, the group split with only 8 riders still in contention at km 165 - Gougot, Castelblanco, Lotz, Elli, Gouvenou, Etxebarria, Bessy and Desbiens.

With only 22 kms to go, the Spanish rider David Etxebarria attacked alone as they got to the top of the final climb. Going over the top he had a lead of 0.35 on a trio - Simon, Elli and De Wolf. The remaining 10 in the break were at 0.52.

The third hour average speed was 39.3 km/h.

The finale was a foregone conclusion with David Etxebarria taking the prize. He is a small man (55 kgs, 164 cm) and he finished 0.25 in front on his own. Simon was second at 0.25 with Elli third. The peloton was at 12.25. The green jersey changed hands with Zabel taking a 3 point lead of O'Grady.