Tour de France, Grand Tour

France, July 3-25, 1999

Main Page     Stage 18 Results

Stage 18, Jonzac - Futuroscope, 182 kms:

Stage 18 involved the 141 riders in an 184.5 kms journey between Jonzaz and Futuroscope. The stage was shorted from 187 kms because of a local protest by winemakers at the start. There was only one climb - the Cat 4 Cote de Pamproux (km 131) and two intermediate points premies at Salles-d'Angles (km 22) and Vouille (km 163.5). At the start, the UCI conducted blood tests on 17 riders from 11 teams between 7 and 8.10. The teams were US Postal, Polti, Festina, Banesto, Mapei-Quick Step, La Francaise des Jeux, Lampre-Daikin, Vitalicio Seguros, ONCE-Deutsche Bank, Kelme-Costa Blanca and Saeco-Cannondale. All riders tested negative.

The battle for the green point's jersey is almost over as Stuart O'Grady is not 100 per cent fit after a heavy fall at the end of yesterday's stage. Leading up to the first premie at Salles-D'Angles (km 22) Tom Steels punctured but his Mapei teammates quickly got him back into the peloton. The sprint was won by Erik Zabel after some great work from his Telekom teammates. Stuart O'Grady was obviously not badly injured yesterday because he came in second with his Australian teammate Henk Vogels third.

Soon after (km 23.5) 4 riders went away - Alexei Sivakov (Big Mat-Auber 93), Frédéric Bessy (Casino), Peter Wuyts (Lotto-Mobistar), and Christophe Mengin (La Française des Jeux) and they were soon joined by 15 other riders to take a lead of 0.25. The other riders were Erik Zabel (Telekom), Kai Hundertmarck (Telekom), Davide Bramati (Mapei), Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Fabio Sacchi (Polti), Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Jacky Durand (Lotto), Gilles Maignan (Casino), Marco Serpellini, Mariono Piccoli (both Lampre), François Simon (Crédit Agricole), Lars Michaelsen (La Française des Jeux), Miguel Angel Pena (Banesto), and Massimo Giunti (Cantina Tollo-Alexia). The main chasing group was being controlled by Festina and Vitalicio. The first hour passed at an average speed of 37.5 km/h.

At km 43, the gap was 0.18, at km 45 it was 0.25. ONCE and Festina were pushing the peloton as they were without representation in the break. Zabel, O'Grady and Michaelsen were dropped soon after the km 45 and the remaining 16 riders improved their work rate and the lead went out to 48 seconds. By km 63 the gap was 0.30.

The break slowly broke up and it consolidated with 5 riders - Bramati, Wuyts, Bessy, Mengin and Sivakov with a gap of 0.28. By km 80 their lead had grown to 2.00 despite efforts in the peloton by US Postal and others to close them down. In the next few kms, the peloton seemed to lose interest and the top 5 pushed out to 2.30. The lead stood at 3.00 at km 86. There were 2 French riders in the leading group and this was welcome in a country that has peformed poorly in this year's Tour. The average speed was 46.1 km/h for the second hour and 41.8 km/h for the race to date.

The chase from the peloton began in earnest with Banesto and Crédit Agricole prominent. The gap went from 2.35 at km 91 to 1.10 at km 112. Things were not smooth in the leading group though. Bessy and Mengin decided to go it alone and attacked at km 115 but it was in vain. Bessy again tried to drop the other 4 left in the break (Sivakov had been dropped in the Bessy/Mengin attack and regrouping) at km 122. He quickly built a 30 second lead as the only climb approached - the Cat 4 Cote de Pamproux. He took the mountain premie alone. Just before the climb his breakaway partners had been caught. Mariano Piccoli was second in the premie with Jean-Cyril Robin third.

Bessy was caught over the climb by an attacking group of 12 riders. The leading 13 were now Frédéric Bessy (Casino), Jean-Cyril Robin (La Française des Jeux), François Simon (Crédit Agricole), Claude Lamour (Cofidis), Stefano Garzelli (Mercatone Uno), Gianpaolo Mondino (Cantina Tollo-Alexia), Alex Vinikourov (Casino), Banesto riders José Garcia Acosta and Cesar Solaun, Thierry Bourgignon (Big Mat-Auber 93), Elio Aggiano (Vitalicio), Jörg Jaksche (Telekom), and Mariano Piccoli (Lampre-Daikin). They worked well together and with 35km the gap was 2.10 which expanded to 3.00 with 10 kms to go.

The ONCE team was driving the chase but getting no help from the other teams. At the 4.5 kms to go mark the young Italian Gianpaolo Mondini went away from his companions and went on to take a solo victory. Jean-Cyril Robin was second from the Kazak Alex Vinikourov. The peloton came in at 3.06 led by Robbie McEwen. There was no change in the jerseys and the French still did not have a stage win. The last time that there was no French victory in the Tour was in 1926.