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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Complete Live Report
Start time: 12:27 CEST
The climbs are as follows: Côte Des Bois De Serves (Cat. 3, km 41), Côte De Marlioz (Cat. 4, km 57.5), Côte De La Sémine (km 74), Col De Richemont (Cat. 1, km 96), Col De La Cheminée (Cat. 3, km 115), Côte De Giriat (Cat. 4, km 137) and Col Du Berthiand (Cat. 2, km 147.5). Not exactly a sprinters day out!
There are also two intermediate sprints on offer: At Cruseilles (km 43) and at Le Petit Abergement (km 111.5).
The weather today is beautiful once again, with temperatures expected to reach the mid 20's, and a light NW wind blowing in the latter half of the stage.
12:35 CEST - 5 km
12:45 CEST - 12 km
The attacks have started already, with Gian Matteo Fagnini (Telekom), Jorg Jaksche (ONCE), Jakob Piil and Nicki Sorensen (CSC-Tiscali), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Leon Van Bon (Domo), Thierry Loder (Ag2r), Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Nicola Loda (Fassa Bortolo) gaining 20 seconds on the peloton.
12:53 CEST - 19 km/157 km to go
13:02 CEST - 22 km/154 km to go
Hushovd is clearly having a good end of Tour, as he was doing a lot of work in the middle group yesterday - towing the likes of Carlos Sastre and David Moncoutie up some of the climbs. Perhaps today could be his day?
13:13 CEST - 28 km/148 km to go
US Postal is also at the front, and the gap is now down to 2'20. However, with only 15 km to go until the sprint, they may run out of kilometres to close it down.
Cyclingnews contributor Tomas Nilsson notes that all remaining Scandinavians in the Tour are in today's break.
13:24 CEST - 37 km/139 km to go
13:37 CEST - 48 km/128 km to go
The sprint at Cruseilles shortly after was taken by Loda, from Dekker and Van Bon.
The peloton is cruising behind at 2'15, so have not given up yet.
Correction: Nicki Sorensen is the best placed rider in the break. (26th at 37'41)
13:46 CEST - 58 km/118 km to go
It seems as though the Bonjour team is driving the pace in the peloton to try and pull back the break. It's down to 2'10, and dropping gradually. The first hour was covered at a steady 40.6 km/h.
Dekker takes the 5 points for the Côte De Marlioz, followed by Van Bon and Sorensen.
13:54 CEST - 64 km/112 km to go
Lotto's director Jef Braeckevelt complained about Telekom's tactic yesterday, when they sent Rolf Aldag up the road to take the first sprint at 10 km. "It's not neat what they did," he was quoted in today's Het Nieuwsblad. "Everybody here walks around nervously. But we wait and see. McEwen has got the Green Jersey on his shoulders, so it's up to them to do something about it. The decision will be made on the Champs-Elysées anyway."
Serge Baguet wasn't happy either: "Hans De Clercq and Hondo from Telekom arranged at the start that there would be no sprinting for the points between Zabel and McEwen. Then Aldag goes and gets the points for Telekom. That's why I went in the chase."
Robbie McEwen is calmer than the rest of his team "I have the Green Jersey and feel that I'm the strongest sprinter. Zabel doesn't worry me."
14:02 CEST - 70 km/106 km to go
To recap, the riders in the break are: Gian Matteo Fagnini (Telekom), Jorg Jaksche (ONCE), Jakob Piil and Nicki Sorensen (CSC-Tiscali), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Leon Van Bon (Domo), Thierry Loder (Ag2r), Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Nicola Loda (Fassa Bortolo).
By the way, after amassing 262 points in the mountains competition, Laurent Jalabert has won the polka dot jersey for the second year in a row. There aren't enough climbs left for any of the others to catch up. Mario Aerts is on 178 points, and Santiago Botero is on 162. Jalabert will also win the Most Combative classification for the second year in a row, as he has 98 points compared with Franck Renier's 50. Allez JaJa!
14:11 CEST - 74 km/102 km to go
The next climb of the day is the Cat. 1 Col De Richemont, a 12.8 kilometre mountain averaging 5.3%. It's the hardest one that the riders will face today.
14:21 CEST - 81 km/95 km to go
14:28 CEST - 84 km/92 km to go
8'00 up the road, the 10 breakaways are climbing the Col de Richemont, and are still riding as a compact group. Erik Dekker is looking good, but he might be lacking sufficient form to win today, given the composition of the break. The two CSC riders will certainly try something, and Leon Van Bon, Nicola Loda, Gian Matteo Fagnini and Thor Hushovd are all excellent sprinters. Then there are Christophe Mengin, Thierry Loder and Jorg Jaksche. It's almost certain that a small group will arrive at the finish to contest the stage.
The average speed so far is 42 km/h
14:35 CEST - 87 km/89 km to go
A lot of spectators usually hang out at the feed zones to grab the cast off musettes (feed bags). There is generally a lot of competition to get one of these souvenirs.
14:43 CEST - 90 km/86 km to go
In other news, Stefano Garzelli was banned for nine months and fined 50,000 Swiss francs ($35,000) by the Swiss Olympic Association for testing positive to probenecid during the Giro d'Italia. The SOA specified that the maximum sentence was a 2 year ban and a 100,000 franc fine, but Garzelli can return to competition next April provided he pays half the amount, and he will be on a five year probationary period. He holds a Swiss licence, hence the sanction by the Swiss Olympic Association.
14:57 CEST - 95 km/81 km to go
14:59 CEST - 96 km/80 km to go
In the peloton, Piil's teammate Tyler Hamilton drops back to the CSC car to pick up five water bottles, for distribution to his other teammates. Hamilton, after placing second in the Giro, is on target for an 18th place in the Tour.
Floyd Landis leads the peloton over the top of the climb at 8'02.
15:12 CEST - 106 km/70 km to go
The names in the break again: Gian Matteo Fagnini (Telekom), Jorg Jaksche (ONCE), Jakob Piil and Nicki Sorensen (CSC-Tiscali), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Leon Van Bon (Domo), Thierry Loder (Ag2r), Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Nicola Loda (Fassa Bortolo).
The full results of the Col de Richemont: 1. Nicki Sorensen (CSC-Tiscali), 2. Nicola Loda (Fassa Bortolo), 3. Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), 4. Jakob Piil (CSC-Tiscali), 5. Jorg Jaksche (ONCE), 6. Leon van Bon (Domo), 7. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), 8. Gian Matteo Fagnini (Telekom), 9. Thierry Loder (Ag2r), 10. Erik Dekker (Rabobank), 11. Floyd Landis (USPS, 12. George Hincapie (USPS).
15:22 CEST - 111 km/65 km to go
Occasionally you will see Cat. 1 climbs change into Hors Categorie climbs depending on where they are situated in the stage. If everyone is expected to be tired, then the climb will be rated harder.
15:28 CEST - 115 km/62 km to go
The points on the Col de la Cheminée are taken by Jakob Piil, from Gian Matteo Fagnini, Leon van Bon, Nicki Sorensen and Erik Dekker.
All the breakaways are taking equal turns, as each of them realise that they're in with a good chance of a stage win.
The peloton hasn't completely forgotten about the 10 leaders, but with a 7'48 gap, it's unlikely they'll pull it back in time.
15:38 CEST - 120 km/56 km to go
15:49 CEST - 130 km/46 km to go
Ted asks why US Postal is content to let breaks go every day, when Lance Armstrong has no chance of chasing them down on the final climb. The reason is that US Postal are interested in one thing: winning the Tour de France. Armstrong has already won three stages, which is plenty (although he would have taken the opportunity to win more if it arose). Stage wins are no longer a priority for them. Of course, if Joseba Beloki (2nd on GC) or Raimondas Rumsas (3rd on GC) were in one of the breaks, Armstrong's team would chase it down very quickly.
15:58 CEST - 135 km/41 km to go
To recap, we have 10 leaders in the race: Gian Matteo Fagnini (Telekom), Jorg Jaksche (ONCE), Jakob Piil and Nicki Sorensen (CSC-Tiscali), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Leon Van Bon (Domo), Thierry Loder (Ag2r), Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Nicola Loda (Fassa Bortolo). They escaped at km 4 and currently lead the still complete peloton by 7'46.
16:01 CEST - 137 km/39 km to go
16:08 CEST - 142 km/34 km to go
Jorg Jaksche attacks, stringing out the break. Van Bon is off the back. Mengin, Jaksche and Sorensen are leading, as Loder and Fagnini try to chase them.
16:12 CEST - 144 km/32 km to go
Several readers have asked why Beloki and Rumsas didn't attack Armstrong more in the mountains. The simple answer is that they couldn't. Beloki tried on Mont Ventoux and Armstrong countered so hard that Beloki lost nearly 2 minutes. Since then, he and Rumsas have been watching each other closely, but neither have had the legs to attack each other.
16:17 CEST - 146 km/30 km to go
16:20 CEST - 147.5 km/29 km to go
Jaksche takes the points at the Col du Berthiand, followed by Loder, Mengin, Sorensen, Fagnini. Then Dekker, Hushovd, Piil, and Van Bon at 5 seconds. They make the bridge on the descent. Nicola Loda is definitely dropped.
The peloton, with US Postal in the lead, is cruising up the climb. Armstrong is close to the front, as are Beloki and Rumsas. Robbie McEwen is also there, as well as Zabel. The gap is 9'30.
16:27 CEST - 155 km/22 km to go
16:30 CEST - 156 km/20 km to go
The Dekker group works together and starts to close the gap again.
16:33 CEST - 160 km/16 km to go
Piil and Hushovd are now a little way off the front.
16:38 CEST - 163 km/13 km to go
Mengin makes the bridge to Piil and Hushovd. The finish is constantly up and down - it's tough to organise a chase. The leading three are at 18 seconds.
16:40 CEST - 164 km/12 km to go
16:42 CEST - 165 km/11 km to go
Of the three, Mengin is a good sprinter, but so is Hushovd. The Frenchman had better beware if he is to secure the stage win. Piil is suffering, and starts to talk to his team manager. Bad idea as Hushovd attacks. Mengin goes after him, and Piil claws his way back on.
16:45 CEST - 167 km/9 km to go
16:48 CEST - 171 km/5 km to go
All three in front are taking equal turns.
16:51 CEST - 173 km/3 km to go
Behind them, Erik Dekker is stirring up the pace but it's too late to catch the leaders.
16:53 CEST - 174 km/2 km to go
No-one has attacked yet on this long, flat and quite straight run into the finish.
16:54 CEST - 175 km/1 km to go
Stuart O'Grady has attacked the peloton(!). Possibly for some more points.
16:56 CEST - 176 km/0 km to go
Van Bon leads Jaksche and Sorensen home for fourth, and a few seconds behind comes Fagnini, Dekker and Loder. Nicola Loda finishes in 10th.
Stuart O'Grady appears to be time trialling his way to 11th place, but the peloton is not that far behind him.
17:08 CEST - 176 km/0 km to go
McEwen now has a one point lead over Zabel in the green jersey competition, which will be decided once again on the Champs Elysees. So far, McEwen has been faster than Zabel on the whole, but the Telekom top man is quite capable of pulling off a big win in Paris.
The mountains and most combative classifications were unofficially decided today in favour of Laurent Jalabert. No-one can catch him unless he abandons the race for some unfortunate reason.
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 4.28.28 2 Christophe Mengin (Fra) FDJeux.com 3 Jakob Storm Piil (Den) CSC-Tiscali 0.05 4 Leon van Bon (Ned) Domo-Farm Frites 0.33 5 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE-Eroski 6 Nicki Sørensen (Den) CSC-Tiscali 7 Gian Matteo Fagnini (Ita) Team Deutsche Telekom 0.40 8 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 9 Thierry Loder (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance 10 Nicola Loda (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 6.58 11 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Adecco 11.42 12 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom 13 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole 14 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre-Daikin General classification after stage 18 1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service 77.30.35 2 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 5.06 3 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Lampre Daikin 7.24 4 Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca 10.59 5 José Azevedo (Por) ONCE-Eroski 12.08 6 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 12.12 7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com 12.28 8 Roberto Heras Hernandez (Spa) US Postal Service 12.54 9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 13.58 10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) CSC-Tiscali 14.49
Thank you for following Stage 18 with us on Cyclingnews.com. We'll be back at 10:30 CEST/01:30 PDT/04:30 EDT/18:30 Aust EST with tomorrow's Stage 19 individual time trial. Au revoir until then.