Today's time trial hits the Cat 1 Barrage de Tignes up to Val d'Iseres pretty soon into the stage. Sean Yates describes it in Cycling Weekly thus: "it's long for an uphill time trial. I know this road as I went skiing there a few winters ago -- every day for two weeks I rode from Bourg-St-Maurice to the Barrage de Tignes. It took 35 minutes to go down and 1.25 to climb back up. You start on the big ring on a slight uphill, then there's a false flat to Seez [km2] whre it descends down the valley for three or four kilometres. It starts to drag upwards again,then bang, you hit a real gradient, with three or four switchbacks. It's steep through Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise [11.5km] to Barrage. With six kilometres to go the road gets pretty rough and then flattens out through lots of tunnels to Val d'Isere. There will be some pretty serious time gaps -- it could pretty much decide the final top three overall."
All times race time (Central European Time)
With the first rider off at 10.40 and projected in at 11.32 there are a lot still to go. But there's immediately better news for ONCE this morning with the start of Inigo Cuesta. Yesterday declared outside the time limit by the race referees, he has been reinstated on appeal. At the moment he has the fastest time, the only rider so far under the hour riding through enormous crowds. One sign written on the road in Spanish reads: Hallelujah Indurain!
Best time so far goes to Sergei Ouslamine (Refin) with, I think, 58.21 (our commentator swallowed the end of his fifty something). Inigo Cuesta is second at 40 seconds, Cristian Salvato (Refin) third, Neil Stephens (ONCE) fourth, Laurent Roux (TVM) fifth at 51 secs.
Still some time before the big names to take the start. Jalabert at 15.28. Leblanc at 15.44, Indurain at 15.48 etc etc.
And by the way, it's snowing at the summit finish!
Current best time has been clocked by Rolf Aldag (Telekom) -- no time stated, with Didier Rous (GAN) second at 27 secs and Mirko Gualdi (Polti) third at 36 secs.
Best time still with Aldag -- it's 57.19. Rous still third and Gualdi fourth.
Pascal Richard comes in with the best time yet -- 57.05 -- he's interviewed on the line but can hardly speak through gasps for air. Aldag second, Rous third. Meanwhile, on the road Chris Boardman (GAN) has gone through the first intermediate timing point with the best time and the commentator on the motorbike says he's riding very strongly...
Best time now Giuseppe Guerini (Polti) -- 56.11. On the road Boardman is relying on the big ring, and has gone through both the 9km and 15km intermediate points with the best time. He's just caught Melchor Mauri (ONCE) and is on his way to catching Herminio Diaz Zabala (ONCE). Laurent Jalabert (ONCE) has just started on a totally conventional bike and is being given a very generous reception by the roadside crowds...
Guerini still has the best time, with Oscar Camenzind (Panaria) second at 32 seconds. But Boardman is well ahead on the road...
Boardman comes in with best time so far. 1.48 faster than Guerini. Interviewed (in French) he says he'd be happy with a top-five place, especially with people like Rominger going so well. Asked if he went very fast from the start, he says, no. He just went "hard". Indurain now on the road...
Boardman still best time, but Miguel Indurain (Banesto) has gone through the first intermediate point (9km) 6 seconds ahead of Boardman...
Boardman still fastest time, 1.07 ahead of Patrick Jonker (ONCE). But on the road.... Indurain 31 secs ahead of Boardman at second intermediate point (15km), 33 seconds ahead of Luc Leblanc (Polti). But back at the first point Jan Ullrich (Telekom) who is 5th overall goes through 7 secs faster than Indurain (Away too fast?). As we listen Indurain overtakes his two-minute man Leonardo Piepoli (Refin). Riis goes through first intermediate point behind Ullrich, but 2 seconds faster than Indurain. And Rominger goes through even faster, 4 seconds behind Ullrich.
Luc Leblanc comes in third fastest. Boardman still in lead. Udo Bolts second...
But then Indurain comes in 1.29 faster than Boardman. Takes the lead. Indurain...Boardman....Bolts...Leblanc
Berzin fastest at all the intermediate points.
Best times Indurain.... Boardman and third Alex Zulle (ONCE).
Best times Indurain... Luttemberger second Boardman third Zulle fourth
Riis goes through third (?) intermediate point fastest Ullrich was fastest at second intermediate point
Riis gets fastest time 26 secs ahead of Indurain (1 Riis 2 Indurain 3 Luttemberger 4 Boardman 5 Zulle 6 Bolts 7 Leblanc...)
Berzin comes in first.