Tour de France, Grand Tour

France, July 3-25, 1999

Main Page     Stage 17 Results

Stage 17, Mourenx - Bordeaux, 200 kms:

Stage 17 was back on the flats and required riders to race the 200 kms between Mourenx and Bordeaux. The expected green jersey battle between Erik Zabel and Stuart O'Grady was the most interesting aspect with 2 sprints along the way - Hagetmau (km 42) and Saucats (km 173). 141 riders set out on the journey with notable absentee Pavel Tonkov, who did not start following a death in his family.

The first 10 kms were docile. The peloton was complete to within 1 kms of the top of the only climb for the day - the Cat 4, Cote d'Arthez-de-Bearn (km 15). Ellio Aggiano (Vitalicio) attacked to gain some mountain points. Over the top of the 188m climb it was Aggiano then Mariano Piccolo (Lampre) then Jacky Durand (Lotto) who was last on GC and first on combativity. Aggiano was absorbed back into the peloton after taking the mountain premie. Over the top, 13 riders attacked (km 16) - Kai Hundertmarck (Telekom), Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Alex Vinokourov (Casino), Fabrice Gougot (Casino), Ellio Aggiano (Vitalicio), Henk Vogels (Crédit Agricole), Jean-Cyril Robin (La Française des Jeux), Jon Odriozola (Banesto), Mariano Piccoli (Lampre), Jacky Durand and Sebastian Demarbaix (Lotto), Fabio Sacchi (Team Polti) and Massimiliano Napolitano (Mercatone Uno-Bianchi). When the first time check was received they had a 0.18 lead. By km 23 it had dropped to 0.12. Just as the peloton was about to catch the leaders, Jacky Durand went away on his own but he was caught at km 28.

The next major action came 5 kms later when Christophe Moreau (Festina), Michael Boogerd (Ned), Alberto Elli (Telekom), Thierry Gouvenou (Big Mat) and Anthony Morin (La Française des Jeux) attacked. Only Morin survived the move and he led the peloton alone for some 3 kms and was then joined by Laurent Brochard (Festina) at km 37. This attack was swept up as the Telekom team prepared to launch Erik Zabel into the show at the first premie (km 42). Zabel won the sprint from O'Grady the Lars Michaelsen (La Française des Jeux). Zabel now led the green jersey classification by 14 points. O'Grady hasn't been able to get any points off Zabel for some days now.

A new move went away soon at km 45 after the premie sprint - 8 riders Dekker, Rolf Huser (Festina), Udo Bolts (Telekom), Stéphane Heulot (La Française des Jeux), Henk Vogels, Sergio Barbero (Mercatone Uno), Carlos Da Cruz (Big Mat), Alvaro Gonzalez-Galdeano (Vitalicio). They quickly built a lead of 0.45, then 1.06. Mapei were on the front of the chasing bunch - they have one ambition today to get Tom Steels up for a stage win. As Mapei started in earnest, the gap initially started to fall but after some time the cooperation between the front riders was clear and the gap grew to 1.40 by km 69.7 - Mont-de-Marsan. then 2.25 at km 80 and 7.10 at km 90. The best-placed rider in the break was Stéphane Heulot at 24.15.

The lead reached 7.55 at km 100, which was the largest gap that the 8 gained. The AVS for the stage after 2 hours was 44.45 km/h but the second hour was 48.3 km/h. The 8 leaders were from 8 teams with Mapei, Rabobank and Polti notably absent. The latter were aggressive on the front of the chasing group with 85 kms to race the lead was down to 6.38. When Mapei and Rabobank joined the chase the lead fell to around 5.36. With 70 kms left the gap was 5.25 and Cantina Tollo (also absent in the front) were also helping the riders from Mapei, Rabobank and Polti. A strong coalition against the break. At km 130 - the gap was 5.17, km 134 4.40.

The pace had slowed (!) in the third hour - 45.7 km/h (and 44.85 km/h overall for the stage to that point). The 8 leaders - Bolts, Huser, Barbero, De Waele, Heulot, Vogels and Gonzalez-Galdeano - were working well but up against an all-out chase. At km 145 the gap was 4.10. 5 kms later with 50 kms to go it was down to 3.56. Slowly but surely. Telecom were not helping at all in the chase. They had Bolts there and realised that with O'Grady absent the sprint points would be soaked up and so Zabel would be unthreatened at the top. They could always get into gear should the break collapse. Options all round for them.

The time gaps kept coming in - 3.04, 2.50 (km 160), 2.25 (km 167), 1.55 (km 171). The second sprint premie at Saucats (km 173) went to Carlos Da Cruz then Fabian De Waele with the Swiss rider Rolf Huser in third. As the leaders came towards Bordaux it was clear that Udo Bolts was not working. With just over 25 kms to go, Rolf Huser attacked and tried a solo break. He had a 200 metre lead with 25 kms to go with the peloton 1.05 down. The young Carlos Da Cruz, one of the very attacking riders in his first Tour, chased Huser alone from the group of 7 and caught him at km 184. 2 kms later the peloton closed the race down and it was a mass sprint in Bordeaux coming up.

In the streets of Bordeaux with 1.5 kms to go, the German team Telekom got into gear with Zabel getting a sit in their wheels. There was a lone attempt by a Rabobank rider but it was unsuccessful. With 1.4 kms to go the speeds were around 60 km/h and Stuart O'Grady touched the wheel of Robbie McEwen and fell. He was okay but missed the chance to get some vital green jersey points.

On the "quai Louis XVIII" in Bordeaux, Zabel went for the sprint first but Steels passed him quickly on his right to win the stage. Tom Steels who gained his 3rd stage victory in this year's Tour when he outsprinted (narrowly) Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, George Hincapie and Silvio Martinello. His win gave some consolation to the Mapei team which had lost Pavel Tonkov at the start after his step-father had died overnight. There was still no French victory.