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Le Tour 2001
Power Tap

89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

Main page    Stage profile    Start List    Results

Stage 15 - Tuesday July 23: Vaison-la-Romaine - Les deux Alpes, 226.5 km

Complete Live Report

Start time: 10:20 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

10:20 CEST    start
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the longest stage of the Tour de France, 226.5 kilometres from Vaison-la-Romaine to Les deux Alpes. Today's stage is the fourth of five mountain top finishes, culminating in the 1644m climb of Les deux Alpes, where Marco Pantani took over the 1998 Tour de France.

The climbs on offer today include the Cat. 3 Col De Prémol (km 68.5), Cat. 2 Col De Grimone (km 116), Cat. 3 Col De La Croix-Haute (km 123.5), Cat. 3 Col Du Banchet (km 136.5), Cat. 3 Côte De Ponsonas (km 160), Cat. 2 Col D'ornon (km 190), and the Cat. 1 finish to Les deux Alpes.

10:45 CEST
The weather today is once again fine and sunny, with temperatures in the high 20's at the moment, and a light NE wind blowing in the riders' faces.

Lance Armstrong remains in total control of the race, with a 4'21 lead to second placed Joseba Beloki (ONCE), and 6'39 back to Lampre's Raimondas Rumsas. Although Armstrong will stay cautious until the final day, the race for the GC appears to be for second place now.

10:59 CEST - 25 km
The peloton is still together after a fast start, with Ag2r on the front as they make their way along winding roads through the hinterlands of the Provencal olive growing region of Nyon.

We spoke to Ag2r's manager Vincent Lavenu this morning, who commented about Alexandre Botcharov's 2nd place on Mont Ventoux. "We were happy with Botcharov's ride on Ventoux. But he made a mistake. He tried to ride too hard (like a champion). He paid for it later. He had never been in a situation like that on a big break in a big stage. We're still happy with his ride."

11:03 CEST - 28 km
An early break of nine riders including Laurent Jalabert was chased down by Lampre-Daikin, but it's clear that the pace is very high for the first part of the race.

11:14 CEST
There are only two sprints on offer today - Luc-En-Diois (km 81.5) and Bourg-D'oisans (km 203). The battle between Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel will no doubt continue, unless a break gets away to soak up the points. At the moment, the pair are tied on 229 points, with McEwen wearing the green for the time being.

11:27 CEST - 48 km
José Angel Vidal (Kelme-Costa Blanca) and Mario Aerts (Lotto-Adecco) have attacked at kilometre 48, and have a small lead. It's reported that 48.3 kilometres were covered in the first hour! When you take into account the gradual climb, that's frighteningly fast.

The Cat. 3 Col De Prémol (km 68) is not too difficult a climb, but the descent is quite tricky. It's got 9-10 hairpins and could surprise a few.

11:33 CEST - 52 km
Aerts and Vidal were brought back after 51 km. Jalabert keeps trying to get away - he's worried about Virenque catching him in the polka dotted jersey competition, although Virenque is still 68 points behind Jalabert.

ONCE and Lampre are clearly trying to keep the pace high to take the race to Armstrong, rather than let US Postal control the proceedings. The same tactic was applied by USPS in the Tour's first mountain stage, with success. But there is one important difference between USPS and the rest of course, and that's Lance Armstrong.

11:48 CEST - 61 km
Some more Postal jerseys are being seen at the front now, as they try to put a lid on the attacks, which have continued to break up the peloton.

11:57 CEST - 67 km
At the foot of the first climb, there are eight riders in the lead. Santi Botero (Kelme), Mario Aerts (Lotto) and Nicki Sorensen (CSC) have 15 seconds on Andrei Kivilev (Cofidis), Vlodomir Gustov (Fassa Bortolo), Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Dariusz Baranowski (iBanesto) and Ivan Gotti (Alessio). The peloton is at 40 seconds.

12:05 CEST - 73 km
Santi Botero takes the 10 points at the top of the Col de Premol, followed by Mario Aerts, Nicki . Sorensen, Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert.

12:36 CEST    90 km/136.5 km to go
The descent from the col is a tricky one and at the back of the field the unfortunate Christophe Moreau crashes out; he remounts but after a couple of kilometres he decides to call it a day, another in the series of misfortunes that has dogged Crédit Agricole this race. Dave Bruylandts (Domo) also crashes but continues.

Botero and Aerts are joined by a chasing group of five just after the day's first bonus sprint (taken by Aerts ahead of Botero with Hvastija leading the chasers through), and the peloton seems happy to let them go this time, and they open the gap fast, so now with a five minute lead we have:
Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme - Costa Blanca
Axel Merckx (Bel) Domo - Farm Frites
Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJeux.com
Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) Bonjour
José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Ibanesto.Com
Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto - Adecco
Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio

12:52 CEST    105 km/121.5 km to go
The best placed riders in the break are Botero and Merckx, who are 18.36 and 25.55 down respectively, so they are not an enormous threat to Lance Armstrong's yellow jersey, or even to Raimondas Rumsas's third step on the podium.

After passing through the feeding station at Chatillon the breakaway group has reached the foot of the second climb of the day, the second-cat Col de Grimone, with the lead up to 7 minutes from the US Postal-led peloton.

13:10 CEST    113.5 km/113 km to go
At half distance in the stage the leading riders are still together a few kilometres short of the summit of the climb, and still edging away from the pack; the gap now is 8.35.

13:31 CEST    124 km/102.5 km to go
Over the summit of the col in something of an information blackout the gap steadies at 8.40; the break are now on the brief descent before climbing back up the main road drag of the Col de Croix Haute.

13:37 CEST    123.5 km/103 km to go
Axel Merckx leads the breakaway group over the Col de Croix Haute as, it now appears, he did over the Grimone before it. The gap has opened up a bit once more, just on the 9 minutes now.

13:43 CEST    128.5 km/98 km to go
At Lalley, the foot of the descent, the race turns east again up the little third category climb of the Col du Banchet; the seven leaders have pulled out another half a minute's lead.

13:51 CEST    136.5 km/90 km to go
Axel Merckx again crests the Col du Banchet ahead of Santiago Botero. This break is of course mopping up most of the mountain points, but there are still a few to be won by the front runners in the bunch, and Laurent Jalabert and Richard Virenque have been running neck and neck; so far Virenque has managed to pull just one point back on Jalabert's fairly substantial lead in the Grand prix de la montagne. Otherwise all the chasing is being left up to the US Postal team; with a lot of kilometres towing the race behind them and undoubtedly many more to come they are being fairly conservative about it, and the lead of the break is now up to 10.50, almost enough to ensure that ONCE and Lampre may come up to give them a hand in order to protect the podium places of Rumsas and Beloki.

14:07 CEST    148.5 km/78 km to go
The sections of this course in between the formally listed climbs are decidedly rolling and do not really offer any respite to the riders. The lead has stabilised again at between 10.40 and 10.50. To recap, the seven in front are:
Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme - Costa Blanca
Axel Merckx (Bel) Domo - Farm Frites
Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJeux.com
Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) Bonjour
José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) Ibanesto.Com
Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto - Adecco
Martin Hvastija (Slo) Alessio

14:22 CEST    160 km/66.5 km to go
With the leaders on the relatively short but sharp climb at Ponsonas (third category) the gap is coming back down as the US Postal train picks up the pace behind - 9.40 now.

Once again it is Merckx who is strongest on the climb ahead of Botero; he will be in the top 5 or so in the mountains classification this evening.

14:39 CEST    168.5 km/58 km to go
The leading group are working together but less than perfectly, although these roads make it difficult to maintain an orderly paceline. Difficult, but not impossible as the US Postal team has been doing a team time trial at the front of the bunch for a substantial distance so far, and have brought the gap ahead of them down to 8.56 as the riders cross eastwards along the foot of the Taillefer massif; soon they will turn left onto the second-category climb of the Col d'Ornon, the last climb before the summit finish at Les Deux-Alpes.

14:52 CEST    177.5 km/49 km to go
The gap goes up again to over ten minutes on a descending section; it is clear that the tempo of the Postal train on the climbs is what does the most damage, while the break is going well on the flat. The break are now nearing the foot of the 10 km Col d'Ornon; it is followed by a very steep descent to Bourg d'Oisans and then 17 km of main road up the valley before the finishing climb. The day's second bonus sprint is in Bourg d'Oisans, so unless this group is caught on this section (unlikely) by a field including Zabel and/or McEwen, the status quo will be maintained in the points competition for another day, with the pair tied on points and separated only by their minor stage placings.

15:15 CEST    186 km/40.5 km to go
At the tiny hamlet of Chantelouve half way up the climb - which gets steeper towards the top - the break are still 9.40 up although that have lost about a minute from their peak lead. Ahead it looks like Botero, Merckx and Aerts are doing more than his share of the work; behind, you guessed it, there are five or six blue jerseys lined out behind Victor Hugo Peña leading up the rest of the race.

15:22 CEST    190 km/36.5 km to go
The pace set by the USP team has done some damage at the back of the race, and the first bus is forming now, with Viacheslav Ekimov, his work done, in pride of place.

At the top of the climb it is once again Axel Merckx who takes the points, ahead of Botero and Aerts.

Iban Mayo is one of the earliest victims; the Euskaltel team are having an extremely low-profile Tour - they are the lowest earners of the peloton, and have never really challenged anywhere except for a few appearances in breaks by David Etxebarria. We had a word with their team manager, team director Miguel Madariaga: "The tour has been very hard this year for our boys. The first week we had a really tough time. We were hoping to recover in the Pyrenees but that did not happen. Zubeldia has got good legs but it's tough for him to do anything."

15:32 CEST    
Nine minutes later Tomas Konecny leads Virenque out for the sprint at the top of the climb and Jalabert cannot get past his fellow countryman and sees another point eroded from his lead.

At the back of the bunch, Benoit Joachim swerves across the road, possibly dodging a motorbike, and knocks Bonjour's Sylvain Chavanel flying.

On the fast descent, ONCE's José Azevedo attacks.

15:37 CEST    203 km/23.5 km to go
The leaders pass through Bourg d'Oisans, where Emmanuel Magnien puts on a show for the crowds and takes the bonus sprint ahead of Sandy Casar; McEwen will be in green again tomorrow as long as he finishes inside the time limit. They are half an hour up on the fastest schedule for the race. They sweep past the turning that takes you up Alpe d'Huez - not this year, boys.

At the 20 km banner their lead is 8.49. The final climb is the biggest of the day, but it isn't Mont Ventoux by any means; this group (or Merckx and Botero, at any rate) do have a real chance of staying clear of the bunch, who are 7 km back down the valley with Padrnos setting the pace.

Azevedo has half a minute's lead on the bunch. Is he attacking on his own account or is he up the road to provide a springboard for Beloki?

15:47 CEST    209 km/17.5 km to go
Javier Pascual touches wheels in the bunch and hits the deck, but continues. The lead is once again over 9 minutes with the leaders on the first main road stretch of the final climb.

News comes in from elsewhere; Jan Ullrich has received a six-month suspension from the German federation for his out-of-race positive test for amphetamines.

15:54 CEST    212.5 km/14 km to go
After the first steep pitches the climb levels out with a small descent, and the seven leaders are still working fairly well together.

As the bunch take the first slopes there is a rapid sorting out, and Laurent Jalabert is the wrong side of the split.

16:00 CEST    216.5 km/10 km to go
Aerts leads the break under the 10 km to go banner, approaching the start of the "real" climb.

Behind, Olympic gold medallist Miguel Martinez attacks from the rapidly diminishing bunch. ONCE are now present in numbers at the front of the group, although Azevedo appears to have been caught again. Armstrong is riding on an ONCE wheel now.

As the climb gets steeper, Merckx is the first to break the truce in the break.

16:02 CEST    217.5 km/9 km to go
Botero and Aerts go with Merckx and Magnien comes across to them; then Aerts has a go and Magnien is dropped again, then Botero. This time there is a gap and the Colombian has clear blue water between him and Merckx, with Aerts some way behind.

16:06 CEST    219.5 km/7 km to go
Botero is mostly climbing in the saddle but on strength, a long way from Armstrong's spinning. Merckx is still within reach.

Now seven minutes separate the leader from the Armstrong/Beloki group - Dario Frigo attacks in front of a mass of pink jerseys under the 10 km banner.

16:10 CEST    221.5 km/5 km to go
Martinez is caught by the Armstrong group.

Botero is riding at a steady tempo and 20 seconds clear of Merckx with Aerts a few seconds further back.

Martinez and Kivilev are dropped by the Armstrong group under pressure from the ONCE train, 6.40 behind the Colombian.

16:14 CEST    223 km/3.5 km to go
Botero is still pulling away from Merckx as he approaches the steepest section of the climb. The ONCE-led bunch is now down to 30 or so riders - Virenque has just been dropped. Aerts is now coming up to Merckx.

16:18 CEST    224.5 km/2 km to go
Botero has the stage sewn up if he doesn't blow up; sunglasses on the top of his head, head tilted in a way that reminds me of someone I can't quite think of.

Merckx is caught and dropped by Aerts, he can't find a comfortable climbing position, constantly moving his hands around on the bars.

16:20 CEST    
Mancebo attacks from the yellow jersey group - too small to call it a bunch now, with Michael Boogerd Levi Leipheimer taking a turn at the front. They are still nearly 7 minutes behind Botero.

Azevedo counters with Mancebo, who is threatening his GC place.

Aerts is closing slightly on Botero, 42 seconds behind now.

16:23 CEST    225.5 km/1 km to go
Botero has an old-fashioned look about him - climbing on the drops. He is under the flamme rouge and safe now; all over the bike on a big gear, but you can't complain about the effectiveness.

16:24 CEST    finish
Botero comes in to take the win, doing a sort of greatest hits compilation of the world's victory salutes.

A disappointed looking Aerts comes in to take second at 1.50, saluted by a mass of vlaamse leeuw flags. Merckx follows at 2.28; Magnien and Casar follow in together at 4.20.

Behind Mancebo and Azevedo have been caught; David Etxebarria has a go from the Armstrong group and is countered by Roberto Heras; Mancebo has a go. Armstrong is in second place in the group, keeping a close eye on things.

Beloki attacks in the closing metres; for a moment it looks as if he may grab a few seconds, but Armstrong counters with Rumsas on his wheel and the top three on GC come in together, Rumsas leading, 6.40 down on the Colombian.

1 Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca           5.55.16 (38.25 km/h)
2 Mario Aerts (Bel) Lotto-Adecco                        1.51
3 Axel Merckx (Bel) Domo-Farm Frites                    2.30
4 Emmanuel Magnien (Fra) Bonjour                        4.22
5 Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJeux.com                          4.28
6 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) iBanesto.com         5.15
7 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Lampre Daikin                  6.41
8 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski
9 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service
10 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                 6.46

General classification after stage 15

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service           62.53.36
2 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                       4.21
3 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Lampre Daikin                  6.39
4 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) ONCE-Eroski           8.50
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                 10.54
6 José Azevedo (Por) ONCE-Eroski                       11.11
7 Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca             11.31
8 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) US Postal Service      11.41
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank                       13.00

Mario Aerts gets the jury's most aggressive rider award for the day; Axel Merckx picks up a sackful of mountains points, and several TV stations get half an hour of empty space to fill in; the stage was run off at more than 4 kph faster than the fastest schedule. Tomorrow's stage is shorter, but it features yet another summit finish at La Plagne, as well as one of the most feared experiences for a Tour rider - a 14 kilometre descent in the neutralised section; there is no scheduled stop for replacement brake blocks at the start proper at the foot of the mountain ... oh yes, and there's the little matter of the Galibier and the Madeleine as well.

Thanks for following this stage with us; we'll be back again at 11.30 Central European Summer Time (UTC +0200) tomorrow.


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