87th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 1 - 23, 2000

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Complete live report

Stage 14 - July 15: Draguignan - Briancon, 249 km

Start time: 09:37
Estimated finish time: 17:40

Good morning - or afternoon - and welcome to the 15th stage of le Tour, and today is going to be one testing stage. How does the prospect of 249 kms into a headwind through some of the toughest climbs on offer in the French Alps sound? Well, that's the prospect facing the 145 survivors this morning as they woke up and rolled down to the start line.

Cyclingnews correspondent Tim Maloney reports from Draguignan that the wind was up to 35kmh at 8.30am in the village, with much stronger gusts expected on the Cols. Not a day for the early breaks as there's nothing like headwinds and three very tough climbs to deter the adventurous. This stage to Briancon also features one gradual drag up the Col d'Allos which starts just over 55km into the stage, and then finishes at the summit of the Col at kilometre 127, only 72 km up the road.

We'll keep you posted of all developments, but the mood in the village is of sanity to prevail on this most brutal of days. Tim reports many expect that Festina rider Joseba Beloki (Spa) currently in third at 5.52 to Lance will have a good day, as he keeps improving with each stage, while big Jan will attempt to preserve his second place. Armstrong is expected to play it safe, as he has a good buffer of 4.55 over Ullrich, who must watch the Spanish rider's every move, and the Spaniards do have a habit of looking after each other.

Some of the DNFs yesterday included: Angel Casero (Spa) Festina, Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Saeco-Valli & Valli, Lauri Aus (Est) Ag2R Prevoyance, Miguel Angel Pe˝a (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Deutsche Bank, as well as the Italian duo of Michele Bartoli (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step DNS Paolo Bettini (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step.

The world super-team of cycling has been decimated in this year's tour due to the same problem: gastro. The team hotels on tour may lose a couple of chef's hats in next year's Michelin Guide.

9.37 CET - 249km to go:

The riders have rolled out of Draguignan in sunshine and into a headwind, although the temperature is about 24 degrees C and kind of pleasant. After the first 4.3km neutral zone the riders were racing at 9.43am and heading for the Cote de Canjuers, the first ascent of the day at 19.5km. The stage starts and then basically heads into the alps, so it was an easy roll out this morning.

Tim Maloney reports that Mercatoni Uno were the last team to sign on this morning, with Marco Pantani arriving surrounded by his team-mates. The Pirate "definitely had his race face on this morning and was looking very focused, so expect some action on the Col d'Izoard", Maloney said.

10:25 CET - 11km, 238km to go

As the peloton approaches the Cote de Canjuers, the first ascent of the day at 19.5km, they are riding tempo as no attacks were expected on this small climb which peaks at only 840 metres - the Col d'Izoard is some 2,360m high, another 208.5 kilometres down the road.

Between those two peaks are another two serious climbs, the Col d'Allos at 2,250m and 127km into the stage, and then the 2,109m Col de Vars at 177.5km. All in all, a tough day.

One of the more experienced pros in the peoloton, Roberto Conti, a stage winner of the Tour at Alpe d'Huez, told cyclingnews before the start that "today was a day for the 'fondisti' (strong riders)". Conti is just hoping to follow the wheels of the lead bunch and be in the action when it hits the Izoard.

10:36 CET - 19.5km, 229.5km to go

At the summit of the Cote de Canjuers it was the Belgian rider Nico Mattan (Cofidis) who grabbed the points, followed by Richard Virenque, then Javier Otxoa (Spa).

This keeps Otxoa in the lead in the mountains competition with 165 points, with team-mate and Colombian climber Santiago Botero a close second only four points behind with 161 points. Virenque, meanwhile, is yet to get out of double figures while Mattan stays third in the mountains competition with 158 points.

11.10 CET - 35km, 214km to go

The peloton is expected to remain together - and still was - after the relatively short climb of the Cote de Canjuers, with another small ascent and then a roll down into the valley until the gradual drag up to the Col d'Allos commences some 55km into the stage. This finishes another 72km up the road, and there may be an attempted break by the Kelme climbers, such as Botero and Otxoa, who can see an opportunity to take more points in the climber's competition on the earlier climbs of the stage.

11.20 CET - 42km, 207km to go

The peloton is still together as the riders are expected to keep a steady tempo until they hit the first sprint of day at Castellane, 55km into the stage. This morning the US Postal squad all fronted at the start with the climbers looking fairly relaxed, although Frankie Andreu was looking a little more focused, as he probably realises he is in for some tough work today. Overall, the USPS squad is complete and looking very strong. Lance Armstrong conducted a long interview with Samuel Abt from the New York Times overnight. He and Abt talked about this Tour but also about the early days of his career and was relaxed, but not too relaxed, as he has some tough days still to come.

In fact, Armstrong's defense of his yellow jersey is certainly assisted by the fact that he has all eight team-mates still in the race.

11.46 CET - 55km, 194km to go

Erik Zabel (Telekom) took out the intermediate sprint of the day at Castellane, 55km into the stage, followed by Australian spinter Robbie McEwen (Farm Frites) and Franšois Simon (Fra) Bonjour. This gives Zabel a commadning lead with 214 points in the Points Classifcation, nearly double that of second-placed Romans Vainsteins with 110. McEwen, meanwhile, is surviving this tour and although he reported that he was suffering from bronchitis, the Australian is now probably the fastest pure-speed sprinter in the peloton. If he can survive today, then we could see a stage win in the latter flat stages.

12.24 CET - 74km, 175km to go

Another 20km or so down the road after the sprint, and it's time for a bit of lunch. The peloton passes through the feed zone in the alpine town of Saint-Andre-les-Alpes at 73.5km and remains together, and clearly riding in survival mode. Good thing they started earlier today by rolling out well before 10am, because the bunch has covered 74km in the very civilised time of 2.23. Surely saving themselves for what is directly ahead.

12.45 CET - 84km, 165km to go

All quite on the front. Still no attacks - what's wrong with these guys? Clearly smarter than most cycling reporters ...

When cyclingnews spoke to team management and riders in the village prior to the start, there was a very high awareness of the effort required for today's stage and strangely, a relaxed approach from some teams. Clearly, no-one was hyped about riding 249km into a headwind in the French Alps. The average for the first three hours is around 28kmh. Cyclingnews spoke with Vincent Lavenu form AG2R Prevoyance prior to the start, although his pocket climber Benoit Salmon as well Andrei Kivilev (Kaz) were both looking nervous and focused. "They know they have a very long day ahead of them," he said. Just for something different, both of the climbers rolled up to the start with some new lightweight wheels, the Sestriere model from Rolf. A psychological boost if nothing else.

13.30 CET - 106km, 143km to go

As the peloton approaches the real ascent of the Col d'Allos they remain together. The first major climb of the day is 13.4km long with a gradient of 6.1 per cent. The summit of the d'Allos comes 127km into the stage, so there should be a litle anxiety building now. The USPS squad are riding tempo on the front and the Colombian and Spanish climbers are still content to sit in.

The Colombians are celebrating the performance of their climber Santiago Botero (Kelme). The Colombian newspaper "El Tiempo" wrote about Botero and the Mount Ventoux stage with the following thanks to Haroldo in Los Angeles:

A small detail feathered Botero's brakes. Heras, the lead rider of the Spanish Kelme team, was suffering on the last climb of the day. Through his tiny earphone Botero heard the order from Vicente Belda, team director. 'Heras is not feeling well, Santiago. Wait up for him and set the pace for him so that he doesn't lose too much time.' With that Botero's hopes faded away.

Further in the interview he said: "I said it before and I'll repeat it - I'll try to win a stage." As far as his second placement in the mountains classification he said: "I'm going to ask permission to fight for the jersey for our team if it's the last thing I do." Botero's team mate Javier Otxoa (Ochoa) is the current holder of the jersey but he was not among the top contenders on Mount Ventoux.

13.55 CET - 120km, 129km to go

As the peloton covers half of the 13.4km climb of the Col d'Allos, they have another seven kilometres until the summit. The Posties remain at the front, with a little pink in the immediate background, but no attacks. Expect some of the climbers to come out soon, as there is only a few points separating the two Kelme team-mates, Otxoa (165 points) and Botero (161), Mattan with 158 and Virenque has cracked the ton with 104. The first four hours of the race has been at an average of just over 28kmh, so there is the chance we will see some spirited climbing on the Col de Vars and then the Izoard.

14.05 CET - 126km, 123km to go

As expected, the climbers have begun the attacks. Kelme's Javier Pascual Llorente (Spa) rolled off the front and has pulled a one minute lead with Nico Mattan and Santiago Botero leading the chase, as well as Oxtoa and Arrieta. The climbers are coming out for some fun. A chasing group starts to form including Van De Wouwer, Niermann, Jimenez, Mancebo, Rodrigues, Zberg, Serrano, Bolts, Tauler and Herve.

The peloton has split apart, with a Kelme climber (Pascual-Llorent) away with a 35 seconds lead over a group of six including Baranowski, Conti, Otxoa, Botero, Van de Wouwer, Vinikourov and Herve. Then follows another group containing Mancebo, Jimenez and Udo Bolts from Telekom, with the yellow jersey group another 1.05 behind.

14.18 CET - 127km, 122km to go

At the summit Pascal Herve (Polti) bagged the climb over the Col d'Allos with Pascual-Llorente in second, Otxoa third, then Botero, Baranowski, Conti, Vinokourov and Jimenez. Down the road Virenque tried attacking his group but was caught by the yellow jersey group of 20 or so being led by Telekom's Guerini and surprise - Pantani has lost contact with this bunch.

14.25 CET - 130km, 119km to go

The yellow jersey group came over the summit at the 127km point about 30 seconds down on the leaders, but they will probably regroup on the descent. Although he was dropped from this bunch, perhaps Pantani was saving his strength for the other climbs to come?

However, there were several other casualties, with Laurent Jalabert dropped, as well as Robbie McEwen, Magnus Backstedt and Leon Van Bon. Earlier on the climb, Danish rider Michael Sandstod (Memorycard-Jack & Jones) abandoned the tour after finishing in last place yesterday.

14.40 CET - 148km, 101km to go

A new attack after the descent has come from Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) Rabobank and Jon Odriozola (Spa) from Banesto still with over 100km to go. On the descent, Abraham Olano punctured and crashed, although it is not known if he is badly hurt. The yellow jersey group has descended safely and Jalabert has rejoined. The other question of the day is: where's Alex?

14.50 CET - 154km, 95km to go

Maarten Den Bakker and fellow breakaway Jon Odriozola (Spa) from Banesto now have five companions in a bunch that has pulled one minute on the yellow jersey group. The seven include Jens Heppner from Telekom, Pascual-Llorente (Kelme), Polish rider Dariusz Baranowski from Banesto, Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Saeco-Valli & Valli and Didier Rous (Bonjour). At the sprint at the 154km point in Jausiers it was taken by Banesto's Odriozola, then Baranowski and Rous.

This small group is now on its way to the Col de Vars with the summit still over 20km away at 177.5km mark. Following the yellow jersey group by another ten seconds is the main bunch being led by the ONCE team, hopefully with Olano.

15.00 CET - 161km, 88km to go

There has been a reformation with the main bunch including the yellow jersey, as the ONCE team have pulled both Jalabert and Olano back into the main field. The lead group of seven have taken a 1.15 lead over two Scandinavian riders, Denmark's Bo Hamburger and Glenn Magnusson (Swe) of Farm Frites. In the village this morning, Hamburger told Tim Maloney that the achilles tendon trouble he experienced after the cold and rain of the Hautacam stage was surely going to be tested today.

The two Scandinavian riders are in front of the yellow jersey group by 1.10, which is now behind the lead group of seven by a total of 2.25.

15.15 CET - 171km, 78km to go

Another casualty: Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto-Adecco has abandoned. Meanwhile, the yellow jersey group is letting the lead bunch of seven pull more time, with their lead now at 2.55 over the Armstrong bunch. In between, the two vikings have split up with Magnusson drifting back to the main field and Hamburger staying out on his own. In the main field, Kelme's Botero has attacked the lead group and could join Bo well before the summit of the Col de Vars, which is another seven kilometres up the road. Riding on the front of the Armstrong bunch is his USPS squad, while all the favourites are in this group, including Ullrich, Pantani, etc.

15.25 CET - 174km, 75km to go

Bobby Julich is in trouble and has been dropped from the yellow jersey bunch, which trails a lead group of seven by 3.20. Botero has pulled away from the yellow jersey group and is making his way up to Bo Hamburger, who trails the leading seven riders by 1.35. However, Botero still has well over a minute to make up to reach Hamburger, and then another minute and a half before he reaches his Kelme team-mate Javier Pascual-Llorente. There are still four kilometres of climbing left on the Col de Vars.

15.30 CET - 176km, 73km to go

After experiencing a little trouble on the climb, Didier Rous has rejoined the lead seven who are still over three minutes ahead of the Armstrong bunch, while Hamburger is gradually losing contact and now nearly two minutes behind and Botero is approaching with only 20 seconds to make up.The Colombian is putting time into the yellow jersey group, but still has eight on the road in front of him.

The Col de Vars is a 10.3km ascent at an average gradient of 6.8 per cent, a bit shorter than the previous climb but a bit steeper. The lead group of seven are nearly at the summit, 177.5km into the stage.

15.38 CET - 178km, 71km to go

After over 10 kilometres of climbing on the Col de Vars, Jens Heppner was over the summit of the Col de Vars in first place, followed by Jon Odriozola (Spa) from Banesto and then Kelme's Pascual-Llorente, with the remainder of the lead group just behind. The Colombian climber Botero has made a super effort on the climb, overtaking Hamburger and coming over only 1.20 down on the lead seven, after being over three minutes behind half-way up the climb. Next over the climb came Virenque at 2.16 down and ahead of the main bunch, which is still comparatively large for this part of the stage.

15.50 CET - 189km, 60km to go

The Colombian has bridged to the front group. Botero has made a great effort and got across to the front group, which includes his Kelme team-mate Pascual-Llorente. This could make things interesting, as this group of eight also includes pre-Giro favourite Salvoldelli (Saeco).

Behind in the main peloton, Armstrong looks relaxed and is close to front, chatting with team-mate Cedric Vasseur, riding through the valley before they hit the main part of the Izoard.

In fact, as they approach the ascent of the Izoard, the par cours swings around and this makes the wind a favourable tailwind, until they turn into the serious 14 kilometre main part of the climb, where they will encoutner the wind coming across their collective right-hand sides.

Although Felice Gimondi is in the press room and the Italians are believing this will be a great stage for Pantani, we have not seen anything of the Pirate. Virenque, meanwhile, attaqcked the main bunch in the hope it seems of pciking up what points are left in the climber's competition, but he still trails the two Kelme riders by around 50 points.

16.00 CET - 199km, 50km to go

Afternoon feed. At the second feed with 55km to go the lead group of eight has a lead of 3.40 over the yellow jersey group and they are taking on food and drinks as they will get a chance to recover in the valley with the assisting tailwind, before they swing around and cop the wind to their right and hit the serious part of the climb.

The eight includes two Kelme riders and two Banestos, in Odriozola and Baranowski, as well as Jens Heppner (Telekom) Didier Rous (Bonjour), Maarten Den Bakker (Rabobank) and Paolo Salvodelli (Saeco-Valli & Valli). As the best climber in the group, it is expected that Botero may sit on in this part of the stage before hitting this bunch when the going gets steeper.

16.20 CET - 209km, 40km to go

The lead over the yellow jersey bunch has now stretched out to nearly five minutes and Botero is still sitting on the back, waiting to make his move. Back in the main peloton, Armstrong and seven USPS riders are on the front and seemingly unconcerned by this break, as the closest rider to him on GC is Botero, and he began the day in 19th place 13.11 behind Lance.

Along with the Posties are Ullrich and his Telekom team-mates Wesseman and Guerini, but they are all just prepared to ride tempo as they cross the Combe de Querys.

16.35 CET - 219km, 30km to go

The leaders are now into the Izoard proper and the Kelme riders have hit the front. eading bunch of seven are maintaing their gap of nearly five minutes to the peloton as they approach the Izoard. Overall, this is a favourable situation for Paolo Salvoldelli, who is considered one of the best descenders in the peloton. If he does not lose too much time - if any - on the ascent of the Izoard, then he stands a good chance of leading the descent into Briancon. However, the last two kilometres of the stage is a very steep ramp - with the gradient at eight percent in one section.

16.40 CET - 221km, 28km to go

Botero has attacked! Only the Polish rider Baranowski (Banesto) can go with him and they have pulled away by 200 metres and are seemingly on their way. In the main field our veteran pro climber Roberto Conti (Ita) Vini Caldirola-Sidermec has attacked off the front and the peloton of 35-odd riders is not responding. They are still well over four mintues behind. None of the main challengers are yet to make Armstrong work any harder than is necessary.

16.55 CET - 227km, 22km to go

At last - Pantani has attacked in the main field and was quickly followed by Virenque, but they are racing for 10th and 11th overall as Conti has pulled away by one minute from the main peloton, which is 5.16 behind the two leaders Botero and Baranowski (Banesto). Then Armstrong responds and he makes his way up to Pantani while Virenque goes back to the remainder of the main field. Conti is still up the road with a one minute lead and is looking like he will catch the six riders of the original lead bunch.

Ullrich can't follow and is having a bad day. The two Festina riders, Joleba Beloki and Christophe Moreau are at the front of what's left of the main bunch.

17.07 CET - 227km, 22km to go

Armstrong has dropped Pantani and Conti, who they caught on the climb and is now riding away. He has a lead over a group containing Pantani, Conti, Virenque, Herve and Heras, while Botero stays away at the front with only two kilometres from the summit.

17.15 CET - 231km, 18km to go

A chasing group has formed and recaptured Armstrong, while Botero was first over the summit with Baranowski second at 2.05 and Salvoldelli third at 2.35 behind. Then 30 seconds later came the group of Armstrong with Virenque and Pascal Herve leading over the group containing Armstrong, Pantani, Beloki and Moreau. Ullrich is still behind and having a bad day.

Let's see if Paolo can use his descending skills to work with Baranowski and catch the Colombian climber. The Armstrong group of 13 or so were three minutes behind the Kelme climber. However, he only has a 30 second lead to the main chasers and follows the Polish rider by 30 seconds.

17.30 CET - 239km, 10km to go

Botero is looking good for the stage win and the climber's jersey today as he speeds towards Briancon. Behind at two minutes are Salvoldelli and Baranowski, while Virenque has attacked the chasing group and is 3.12 behind the leader on the road. Pantani urged the Telekom riders to help chase and they are on the front trying to reel him in.

Armstrong is in the chasing group and looking comfortable.

17.35 CET - 244km, 5km to go

Botero still has a lead of 1.52 over Salvoldelli while the main chasing bunch containing Virenque, Pantani and Armstrong is still over three minutes behind.

17.40 CET - 249km, stage over

Botero has hit the line in first place in a fantastic victory for the Kelme team. He came in at 7.56.13 nearly eight hours in the saddle. Following him is Paolo Salvoldelli 2.29 behind, while Pantani attacked the chasing group about 700 metres from line on the steep ramp to secure third at 2.45, while the sprint in the chasing bucnh was taken by Escartin, then Moreau, Virenque, Armstrong, Ullrich and Heras.

Botero's average for the day 31.45 kmh. As we reported earlier, Botero told the Colombian newspaper "El Tiempo" that he was determined to win a stage, and today he did so. "I said it before and I'll repeat it - I'll try to win a stage." As far as his second placement in the mountains classification he said: "I'm going to ask permission to fight for the jersey for our team if it's the last thing I do." Botero's team mate Javier Otxoa (Ochoa) is the current holder of the jersey but he was not among the top contenders on Mount Ventoux.

Today Botero has claimed the first stage win in the tour for a Colombian since Chepe Gonzalez in 1996. In this case Botero rode alone on the final climb in a thoroughly deserved victory.

 

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