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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
Produced by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting by Tim Maloney, Chris Henry, and Gabriella Ekström
Stage 1 - Sunday, July 6: Saint-Denis/Montgeron - Meaux, 168 km
Time conversion guide: AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs
Start time: 13:15 CEST
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage, powered by T-Mobile, of the first road stage of the Tour de France, perhaps the most historic of all the stages in this year's Tour. It starts in Saint-Denis in Paris and meanders its way through the suburbs for 28 km until it reaches the Cafe Le Réveil Matin, where the first Tour started back in 1903. There the riders will stop briefly until 13:16, when the flag will drop for the official start. After that, it's a flatt(ish) 168 kilometre journey eastward of Paris to the Brie cheese city of Meaux, where the first stage will end.
There are three intermediate time bonus sprints on offer today, at Corbeil-Essonnes (km 19), Avon (km 72), and Mauperthuis (km 132). There are also three Category 4 climbs, Côte de Champcueil (km 31), Côte de Boutigny-sur-Essonne (km 45) and Côte de Barbeau (km 85). These will determine the first wearer of the polka dotted climber's jersey in this year's Tour.
The weather today is 23 degrees and overcast, with some humidity but not too much wind. It should be a fast day.
They're off in the first stage, after Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc, dropped the flag at 13:15 to signal the start. A massive crowd was on hand outside the Le Réveil Matin café to see the riders off, with the French national anthem playing as they left.
Wearing the yellow jersey for the first time in his career is FDJeux.com's Brad McGee, who won the prologue yesterday in sensational fashion. McGee could surprise a few people at this year's Tour, as his climbing has been steadily improving over the years - a top 10 finish is not out of the question, but it's early days yet.
The FDJeux.com team's plan is to keep the jersey, but to try and get Baden Cooke to take it over by winning bonus seconds in the intermediate and final sprints. "I will have a go at the stage win," Cooke told Cyclingnews today. "With five riders able to take over the jersey in case of the stage win, and one of them being me, they might just as well go for me. We're going to put Brad up there to help me try and take it."
13:25 CEST - 7 km
13:34 CEST - 12 km
O'Grady and Millar have moved to the front in anticipation of the sprint.
13:44 CEST - 20 km
Several teams tried to get their riders in position for the sprint, but in the end it was Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) taking the points and the six second bonus ahead of Maillot Jaune Brad McGee, who doesn't intend on giving up the golden fleece without a fight. McGee gets four seconds for his efforts, while McEwen, who rode a 7'58 yesterday (compared to McGee's 7'26) will move a few places up the GC. Third place in the sprint went to Jean Delatour's Jean-Patrick Nazon.
Robbie McEwen told Cyclingnews that he had a good prologue yesterday. He went under 8 minutes, which was his goal. He looked happy about the fact that Erik Zabel was three seconds slower.
After the sprint, several riders have attacked: Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Andy Flickinger (Ag2r) and Walter Beneteau (Brioches).
13:52 CEST - 26 km
14:00 CEST - 34 km
14:10 CEST - 42 km
14:14 CEST - 45 km
The leaders are on the second climb of Côte de Boutigny-sur-Essonne. Beneteau sprints for the points and takes them ahead of Mengin and Flickinger. That puts Beneteau and Mengin on equal points for the climber's jersey. The gap is now up to 2'30.
A Kelme rider - Julian Usano - has a problem with his chain. He stops and puts it back on. It won't be as critical as David Millar's chain loss yesterday, which probably wasn't helped by the lack of a front derailleur on his bike. Five Cofidis riders had mechanical problems yesterday however.
14:19 CEST - 51 km/117 km to go
Flickinger, Mengin and Beneteau are riding through Milly-La-Forêt to the cheers of another large crowd. The peloton is quite relaxed at the moment, letting them get out to 3'00. McGee can relax, as he has a teammate in front.
Gilberto Simoni and the Saeco team are spotted briefly at the front of the peloton. Simoni was quite happy when we saw him this morning.
Simoni's teammate Joerg Ludewig told Cyclingnews that they might have a go with Salvatore Commesso or Gerrit Glomser close to the finish. "We're not going to have anyone in an early break. The major goal is just to protect Simoni," said Ludewig.
14:29 CEST - 58 km/110 km to go
The peloton is being led by a couple of Lotto-Domo riders, but there is no desire to chase yet.
14:40 CEST - 66 km/102 km to go
Flickinger, Beneteau and Mengin are working a bit harder, and are 6'24 in front.
14:47 CEST - 72 km/96 km to go
Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) is one of the candidates for the stage win today, although he does have a teammate up the road so he doesn't need to chase. Kirsipuu told Cyclingnews that he did the last 15 km of this stage two days ago and it certainly looks good for him.
14:57 CEST - 79 km/89 km to go
Credit Agricole and Fassa Bortolo have put a few riders on the front to help the Lotto-Domo chase. Fassa's sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is another big candidate for today's stage. He told Cyclingnews today, "The stage is looking really good for me. I'll be up for it of course."
The gap has come down to 8'22.
15:06 CEST - 85 km/83 km to go
The peloton, driven by Lotto-Domo, Credit Agricole and Fassa Bortolo, crosses the Seine some 7'33 behind. Lance Armstrong is near the front too, protected by his US Postal - Berry Floor teammates. The peloton goes through the feed zone, but the front riders don't bother getting their feed bags.
Tobias Steinhauser (Bianchi) gets a puncture, and a fairly fast wheel change. He has to chase alone, but gets help from the caravan and will have no problems regaining the bunch.
15:16 CEST - 93 km/75 km to go
The leaders have covered 89.4 km in the first two hours, which is not slow.
15:28 CEST - 100 km/68 km to go
15:38 CEST - 108 km/60 km to go
15:46 CEST - 113 km/55 km to go
As for the Maillot Jaune, it looks like if the stage finishes in a regulation bunch sprint, then Brad McGee will hold onto it, as he picked up four bonus seconds in the very first sprint.
15:57 CEST - 123 km/45 km to go
Race leader Brad McGee is at the back, very distinctive in his yellow jersey and shorts, eating an energy bar that is stuck to his stem. In case you missed it, Brad described his win yesterday in his Tour diary, as well as a Post-prologue interview.
16:06 CEST - 128 km/40 km to go
The latest time check is 2'06 between the peloton and the three leaders.
16:12 CEST - 132 km/36 km to go
The peloton passes the sprint at 2'03 behind the break, with Fassa Bortolo's Dario Cioni leading the way.
16:21 CEST - 138 km/30 km to go
Candidates for the stage win, if it ends in a bunch sprint, are many. Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Erik Zabel (Telekom), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Romans Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola), Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r), Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com), and several more.
16:27 CEST - 144 km/24 km to go
The weather is still overcast, but there is no threat of rain.
16:31 CEST - 145 km/23 km to go
16:35 CEST - 150 km/18 km to go
Flickinger is now 49" in front of the bunch.
16:40 CEST - 153 km/15 km to go
Fassa Bortolo and Lotto-Domo are the only teams working, but plenty of other teams are lurking right behind them. FDJeux.com has a few riders up there now. Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) is at the back of the bunch, suffering from sickness.
16:43 CEST - 156 km/12 km to go
Flickinger is caught with 11 km to go, as Zabel gets help from his teammates to get back on. He can make it in time.
16:45 CEST - 157 km/11 km to go
Vini Caldirola riders are quite visible near the front now, but it's still Fassa Bortolo (for Petacchi) in the front.
16:48 CEST - 159 km/9 km to go
16:50 CEST - 161 km/7 km to go
16:51 CEST - 162 km/6 km to go
16:53 CEST - 163 km/5 km to go
16:55 CEST - 165 km/3 km to go
16:56 CEST - 166 km/2 km to go
16:57 CEST - 167 km/1 km to go
16:58 CEST - 168 km/0 km to go
McGee comes across eventually, but he looks quite shaken. He shouldn't lose any time as the crash happened in the final km. His teammate Casper is lying on the ground with a neck brace though.
Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) has to walk across the line with his bike on his shoulder. There were many riders down in that crash, but it looks as though the main GC candidates survived. However, Tyler Hamilton (CSC) has been taken to hospital for examinations after falling on his left shoulder - we'll have more news on that later.
The jerseys: Brad McGee (yellow), Robbie McEwen (green), Christophe Mengin (polka dot) and Andy Flickinger (white). Thanks for following the live coverage of the first stage with Cyclingnews. We'll be back tomorrow at 12:15 with stage 2, from Seine-et-Marne to Sedan.
Unofficial 1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.44.33 2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom 4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon 5 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com 6 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step 9 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Vini Caldirola 10 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r General classification after stage 1 1 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com 3.51.55 2 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis, Credit Par Telephone 0.04 3 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.06 4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi 5 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) US Postal-Berry Floor 0.10 6 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC 7 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2r 8 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 0.11 9 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski 0.13 10 Santiago Botero (Col) Team Telekom