87th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 1 - 23, 2000

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Complete live report

Stage 9 - July 9: Agen - Dax, 181 km

Scheduled start time: 12:58 CET

Welcome to the ninth stage of the 87th Tour de France, 181 kilometres from Agen to Dax. Today it's a sprinter's stage. The only mountain, or rather climb, is a fourth category hill, Côte de Montaut, at 143 of the 181 kilometres of the day. Sprints are located at Nérac (22. 5 km), Parleboscq (68 km) and Saint Sever (132.5 km).

The weather in the morning a bit overcast in Agen but a little sunnier in Dax, temperatures less than 25 degrees C. Winds from the west turning towards northwest at 10 kph, maybe increasing during the day. That means headwind at the start and crosswind towards the end of the stage, but apart from that: A nice day for a bicycle ride.

The peloton leaves town at 12.50 CET with a time start eight minutes later on the outskirts of Agen on the southern shore of La Garonne.

13.00 CET - The peloton is rolling on it's way from town out to the time start. Yesterday Erik Dekker attacked in the first kilometre and then the race was on. There was an early mountain prime to earn points on then. Today we might expect the riders to be a little more patient, no climbs until the latter part of the stage. But of course this is the Tour, there's always some guy who wants some seconds of fame so you never can tell.

13.15 CET - As expected an easy start today. The sprinters have had a less dominant role in the first week compared to other years, so today the might want to keep the field together. First sprint at Nérac will be reached at about 13.25. There are two small hills to pass first but no real climbs.

13.38 CET - Allan Johansen of Memorycard Jack&Jones has done his duty. His attack at 12 kms was taken care of immediately however. Johansen was the last man to make it on the team that has as its main goal to get as many riders as possible to Paris with as much attention as possible. How 'bout another colour on the jerseys than the grey you have now, Danes?

13.50 CET - Some action to report at last, thanks to the organizers: The first sprint goes to Marcel Wust (Festina) ahead of Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2R) and Robbie McEwen (Farm Frites) with Telekom setting up the sprint. The first 20 km took 44 minutes which is a decent time for beginners.

14.05 CET - Kelme's Pascual Llorente attacks after the sprint and gets ten seconds before being reeled in. The first hour average speed: 30.3 kph.

14.27 CET - Stuart O'Grady is reported to be leaving the hospital in Bordeaux today after having his collarbone operated to speed up the recovery. In the mean time his lead out man, Swedish Magnus Bäckstedt will have to find a new role for himself in the tour: "Losing Stuey was heavy but I'll do my best to win a stage for him," says the Swedish giant who won a stage in 1998. He reveals that he hasn't been in top form the first few days but it's getting better day by day.

14.40 CET - At last an escape and an interesting one. Nineteen riders, including both top sprinters Wüst (Festina) and Zabel (Telekom) got almost half a minute to the peloton. But now Mercatone Uno, Saeco and FDJ are reeling them in.

14.55 CET - Nine kilometres of suspense are long since past. The peloton is once more assembled. Extebarria (ONCE), Heppner (Telekom) and Morin (CA) have tried their luck around 60 kms but they were reeled in almost immediately.

15.08 CET - Second sprint at Parleboscq (68 km): 1. Erik Zabel (Telekom), 2. Massimo Apollinio (Vini Caldirola), Gilles Maignen (AG2R) in an 18 man break also consisting Elli, Heppner (Telekom), Livingston (US Postal), Garcia-Acosta & Tauler (Banesto), Beltran (Mapei), Extebarria (ONCE), Velo (Mercatone Uno), Padrnos (Saeco), Hernandez (Festina), Mattan (Lotto), Blaudzun (MCJ), Hinault (CA), Beneteau and Simon (Bonjour). The have some 20 seconds to the peloton.

15.15 CET - The escape group is really working hard. They have half a minute at 74 km to the peloton lead by Rabobank.

15.27 CET - Nico Mattan (Cofidis) attacks in the group. Blaudzun (MCJ) and Beneteau (Bonjour) tags along. The others are caught by the peloton.

15.32 CET - Back to order. Peloton assembled again and Banesto for some reason setting up the tempo. Maybe Spanish television starts their broadcast at half past three…

15.40 CET - Actually the Banesto car was at the far end of the feeding zone which explains this collective eagerness. It was pure hunger, not for glory but the ordinary kind. After the feeding, Lotto's Marichal and Mengin (FDJ) attacked but not for long. Now there's lunch for everybody.

15.49 CET - The next attack comes from Bäckstedt (CA), Verbrugghe (Lotto) and van Heeswijk (Mapei). They soon get half a minute but green jersey defenders Festina starts the chase.

16.00 CET - The trio had 38 seconds for a while, now it is 34 with Festina still chasing in the peloton. Bäckstedt and Verbrugghe are good rouleurs while van Heeswijk is more of a sprinter.

16.10 CET - The peloton closing in: Festina have all their nine riders at the front and it finally seems to pay off.

16.15 CET - Festina didn't carry out their effort and the escapers' gap is widening again varying a bit around 30 seconds.

16.22 CET - New efforts from Festina and the trio is caught as there is a fall in the peloton.

16.30 CET - There is a real race going on now. The third hour went at 45 kph, 30 percent faster than the first. The field is approaching the third and last sprint of the day in Saint Severe with some 50 kms to go. Jacky Durand has attacked before the sprint though.

16.34 CET - The sprint in Saint Severe: 1. Christophe Moreau (Festina), 2. Jacky Durand (Lotto), Marc Wauters (Rabobank). Josepa Beloki (Festina) attacks after the sprint.

16.41 CET - Beloki got a ten seconds gap. Telekom had to do the job to catch him and yellow jersey Elli was one of the hardest working, and with 42 km to go Beloki is caught.

16.46 CET - Time for the day's only climb and it's Paolo Bettini (Mapei) working his way up to take the points while dotted jersey Erik Dekker is nowhere to be seen. He is six points ahead of Bettini and there are five to get on the this climb. There are more tomorrow but maybe too many points, or rather too high and steep mountains for Bettini and Dekker.

16.55 CET - A group of four has got a gap again forcing Festina to work again in the peloton when we pass Mougron. The breakaways are Bettini (Mapei), Rous (Bonjour), Verheyen Lotto) and Vidal (Kelme).

17.00 CET - Polti is also helping out in the peloton now but the gap is increasing to 52 seconds with less than 25 kms to go. In the front group the riders are working well together. Didi Rous was also in the front group yesterday.

17.05 CET - With 20 kms to go, in Montfort, Bettini causes a gap in the group and they seem to be a little less cooperative right now. Festina is still pulling the peloton for Marcel Wüst. Geert van Bondt (Farm Frites) is also along , looks good for his tam mate Robbie McEwen in the sprint.

17.10 CET - Polti are also driving now and speed is really high. But with 16 kms to go the gap is still 51 seconds, there is a chance.

17.15 CET - A fall in the peloton. Ekimov is one of the riders involved, Borgheresi, van Hyfte and others also. All of them up and rolling though. At ten kilometres the gap is 1.08. The peloton is not able to narrow the gap.

17.22 CET - Telekom and Farm Frites also working now. Lafis is towing up McEwen. But the front group still has almost a minute to the peloton with eight kilometres to Dax. Vidal looks passive right now. Bettini is pushing Verheyen to close a gap to Rous. The peloton is approaching rapidly now and the lack of cooperation is a problem now. Vidal is more or less forced to do his part now. Cars are passing the group now, which means that the gap is to narrow for any cars. It's 34 secs at five kms.

17.25 CET - It is less than 20 seconds at four kms. Bettini is taking full responsibility now in the front group. There are a number of roundabouts and a difficult 90 degree bend in the final run into town. Bettini attacks now at 3 kms, Verheyen and Rous and finaly Vidal hangs on though at 2 kms.

17.30 CET - 10 seconds at 2 kms and the quartet riders are looking at each other. They will be caught but Rous starts the sprint and Bettini wins at the same moment as the peloton catches the group. Unbelievably cool by the little Italian, winner of Liège -Bastogne -Liège and now the nineth stage of the Tour de France. Zabel is fifth behind the quartet.

17.35 CET - No time gaps for the four breakaways. The result of the stage:

1. Bettini (Mapei), 2. Verheyen (Lotto), 3. Vidal (Kelme), 4. Rous (Bonjour), 5. Zabel (Telekom), 6. Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola), 7. Cassani (Polti), 8. Piziks (Memorycard).

Wüst was nowhere to be seen in the sprint so Zabel takes the green points jersey. Otherwise everyone in the same clothing.

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