Tour de France, Grand Tour

France, July 3-25, 1999

Main Page     Stage 16 Results

Stage 16, Lannemezan - Pau, 192 kms:

Stage 16 a 192 kms ride from Lannemezan to Pau with four major climbs left in the Tour - the Cat 1 Col d'Aspin (1,489m) at km 35.5, the 2,111 m Hors Category Col du Tourmalet at km 65.5, the Cat 1, Col du Soulor (1,474m) coming at km 121.5, and the Cat 1 Col d'Aubisque (1,709m). There are three chances for riders to get green jersey points - the sprint after only 16.5 kms at Sarrancolin, the km 161 sprint at Louvie-Juzon, and the final sprint into Pau. Even though Escartin took a few minutes out of Armstrong yesterday it is hard to see the American in serious trouble. The weather was cool and overcast for the 142 riders left in the race. Spaniard Manuel Beltran (Banesto) did not start after suffering from injuries received in a fall yesterday. He was important to Alex Zülle's efforts.

The early part of the stage was notable only for the way Telekom (one of only 2 teams still complete - Lotto being the other) set up Zabel for the first points premie. But Sebastian Demarbaix (Lotto) fooled them all and attacked at km 14, just 2.5 kms before the sprint. He built a lead of 8 seconds and that was enough to take the first premie. Zabel was 2nd from O'Grady. The green lead is 12. Robbie McEwen (Rabobank) and Elio Aggiano ( Vitalicio Seguros) went on with it after the sprint and caught Demarbaix. O'Grady, Zabel and Stefan Wesemann (Telekom) were also in that group but they were quickly brought back by the peloton.

Attention then turned to the 12.1 km long Col d'Aspin (at km 35.5) which has an average gradient of 6.8 per cent. The peloton was led into the early parts of the climb by Henk Vogels (Crédit Agricole), Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Patrick Jonker (Rabobank), Pascal Derame (US Postal), François Simon (Crédit Agricole) and Thierry Bourguignon ( Big Mat-Auber 93). The peloton was complete right up to the 1 kms to the top mark. To guage how slow it was Robbie McEwen was in the lead group! Richard Virenque came to the front with Alex Zülle. As the premie began, Virenque was chasing Mariano Piccoli (Lampre) with Andrea Peron (ONCE) and McEwen also riding fast. He led Piccoli out and the Italian took the Marcus Ljungqvist (Cantina Tollo-Alexia). Stefano Garzelli (Mercatone Uno), Andrea Peron (ONCE), François Simon (Crédit Agricole), Marco Serpellini (Lampre) and Alex Zülle in 10th. The descent from Aspin was non-eventful and there were no attempts to break. It was very boring at this stage.

Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Kelme) and Alex Vinikourov (Casino) mounted successive attacks to breathe some life into the stage.

The move by Vinokourov was short-lived and the next major action came when Richard Virenque signalled his intention to go for it. Armstrong marked him closely. Stéphane Goubert (Polti) was on the front of his teammates group and working hard. In front was Fabian Jeker (Festina) and Goubert attacked the yellow jersey group and went across. All the fancied riders are in the yellow group - Virenque, Escartin, Armstrong, Zülle ... Yesterday's big loser was Abraham Olano and he was also finding it hard today. He was dropped from the yellow group today on the climb of the Col du Tourmalet and looked to be in for another bad day. The positions at the front changed a lot and at km 61 (4.5 kms to go before the summit) there were 5 leaders - Pavel Tonkov, David Etxebarria, Andra Peron, Armin Meier, and Alberto Elli. Meier and Peron didn't last long and with as the Col du Tourmalet approached there were 11 riders in Armstrong's group just behind - Armstrong, Belli, Virenque, Garzelli, Escartin, Carlos Contreras, Zülle, Livingston, Totschnig, Dufaux, Guerini and Vinikourov. Olano was gone. The climb up the Hors Category Tourmalet is 17.2 kms long with an average gradient of 7.5 per cent. Certainly a good selector. The clouds were low and the conditions misty as they neared the top. Peron was able to rejoin the leaders - Elli, Tonkov and Etxebarria. They had 30 seconds on the chasing group of 11 riders. Tonkov was riding much bigger gears than the others and sitting while his 3 companions were out of their saddles a lot in smaller gears. Peron was dropped again soon after.

Alberto Elli (Telekom) came from behind to take the mountain premie over the Tourmalet from Tonkov (Mapei) and David Etxebarria (ONCE) at 0.05. 18 seconds back was Peron, then Escartin (at 0.23), and Armstrong, Livingston, Zülle, Dufaux, Virenque, Contreras, Guerini, Belli, Totschnig, Vinikourov (all at 0.23). Olano was 2.54 down as he passed the top. 9.47 down was the green jersey rivals Erik Zabel and Stuart O'Grady. Boardman was also in that bunch.

There were 25 riders in the yellow jersey group and they were 1.00 behind the three leaders on the descent. The chase group grew as riders got back on. A lead of 1.20 was held for some time with attacks coming out of the chase group by Peron, Vinikourov amongh others.

The three leaders were at 1.18 (km 95) and between them and the 28-rider yellow jersey group, Christophe Rinero was stranded 1.15 down. From behind, Abraham Olano mounted a fantastic resurgence and came back to Armstrong. He was 2.31 down at the summit and rode the descent furiously. The yellow jersey group was swelling to more than 60 riders. At the feedzone the leading trio were 2.00 up on the yellow jersey.

On the Cat 1 Col du Soulor (1,474m) with a summit at km 121.5, the lead was whittled away although the three were working well together. Rinero was still alone in between them and a group of 4 riders - Garcia (Vitalicio), Serrano (ONCE), Vinikourov (Casino) and Arrieta (Banesto). 4 other riders went across to them - Carlos Contreras (Kelme), Herman Buenahora (Kelme), François Simon (Crédit Agricole) and Roland Meier (Cofidis). At km 114, the lead was 1.48 on the 8 and 2.15 on the yellow jersey group containing all the fancied riders. Rinero eventually gave up his lone chase and was absorbed back into the 7 rider group within 3 kms of the summit. 7 because Simon was dropped prior to this. Escartin (in the yellow jersey group) made his move and the main riders in the peloton reacted quickly. Armstrong, Alex Zülle and Belli in particular. Over the top it was Pavel Tonkov then Elli then David Etxebarria from a group of 4 at 2.50 (Meier, Serrano, Garcia and Vinikourov). Then 8 riders at 3.05 (Armstrong, Arrieta, Contreras, Escartin, Zulle, Buenahora, Belli and Rinero).

The final Cat 1 climb of the day came in the form of the Col d'Aubisque. The 8 riders in the yellow jersey group was split into half by attacking riding from Ferdinand Escartin. Lance Armstrong and Alex Zülle were able to hold his wheel. Over the top it was Elli then Tonkov with David Etxebarria in third place 1.25 ahead of Escartin, Contreras, Armstrong and Alex Zülle. There was another group close by comprising Belli, Garcia and Vinikourov with Virenque, Olano and Dufaux, Commesso and some others at 4.15. On the final descent the gap was 1.10 on 8 riders - Armstrong, Vinikourov, Garcia, Escartin, Zülle, Belli, Contreras and Serrano. At 3.00 were a large number of riders including Dufaux, Virenque and Olano.

The chase was well organised on the descent into Pau. The three leaders basically waited for the group once the gap was down to below a minute. With 35 kms to go there was a 12-rider group out front. Virenque, Olano and Dufaux and others were 3.25 down and losing out as a result of the re-organisation on the front. The second points premie went to Escartin (Kelme) from Belli (Festina) with the yellow jersey third. With 25 kms to go the 12 out front were 2.40 clear and were never headed. Contreras attacked with 5 kms to go but Elli, Etxebarria, Serrano, Arrieta and Vinikourov quickly got onto his wheel. The ONCE pair worked the sprint with Serrano leading Etxebarria out in the final corner. The Spaniard took his second stage win. The yellow jersey was 11th across the line at 0.21. Virenque and co were 2.13 down.