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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

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Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting by Jeff Jones, Tim Maloney, Chris Henry, and Gabriella Ekström

Stage 10 - Tuesday, July 15: Gap - Marseille, 219.5 km

Complete Live Report

Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs

Start time: 11:45 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

11:43 CEST    
Lance Armstrong
Photo: © C.Henry/CN
Founded over two and a half millennia ago by wayfaring Greeks, Marseilles was one of the original stops for the 1903 Tour. Marseille is famous for its ports, gangsters and soap. This transitional stage is a long gradual descent from the Alps to the sea through the scrubby back country of Provence mainly following the valley of the river Durance, with just a couple of fourth category climbs along the way. Stage 10 could favour a break that goes early... if the sprinters' teams let it stay away through the picturesque Old Port to the finish, at the end of a wide 2 km straight, outside the Stade du Vélodrome (which, for those out of the footballing loop, is the home ground of FC Olympique Marseille and doesn't have a velodrome in it at all any more).

Two non-starters this morning: Stefano Garzelli soldiered on yesterday with a bad throat infection that made it impossible for him to eat during the stage, but has decided not to continue today; his compatriot Eddy Mazzoleni has a blistered foot and has also taken the path of discretion.

11:54 CEST    3 km/216.5 km to go
With the first bonus sprint of the day after only 10.5 km, the day starts in a lively fashion, as Lotto's Leon Van Bon tries to get away as soon as the flag goes down, but his break is short-lived.

The FDJeux.com team is pulling the bunch along, taking responsibility on a stage which will probably have more to do with the green jersey than the yellow one.

12:09 CEST    10.5 km/209 km to go
Robbie McEwen makes his intentions clear by taking the first bonus sprint ahead of green-clad Baden Cooke, bringing him a couple of points closer to the jersey. With Petacchi gone and the Belgian press and public somewhat dischuffed about the performance (or lack thereof) of the Lotto team so far, today will certainly be a stage McEwen has his eyes on.

12:16 CEST    21 km/198.5 km to go
A break of nine riders has formed after the first sprint and is going away, although the bunch has not completely let them go yet.

The break is as follows: Jakob Piil (Team CSC), Fabio Sacchi (Saeco), Bram De Groot (Rabobank), Damien Nazon (Brioches La Boulangère), Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), Philippe Gaumont (Cofidis), Serge Baguet (Lotto-Domo), Vicente Garcia Acosta (iBanesto.com), José Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme).

12:33 CEST    32 km/187.5 km to go
The break has now opened up a proper gap ahead of a bunch where FDJeux.com are still setting the pace. A few riders have tried in vain to get across to them, the latest attempt coming from Nicolas Portal.

One of the riders we chatted with this morning was Rabobank's Bram de Groot, one of the breakaways. "We don't have a captain any more. What we have to do is place ourselves in the breaks. It's going to be a long, hot day. I will try to go with a break but my hip is hurting really bad because of the crash on the first day."

Serge Baguet's presence in the break means that Lotto will not be chasing it, allowing them to save themselves to help McEwen for a bunch gallop later, while Baden Cooke's helpers wear themselves out.

It's probably going to be a fairly uneventful stage, so if you're lucky we'll probably be able to deal with a few of your emails today...

13:02 CEST    50 km/169.5 km to go
The gap is now up to 6.25, so this looks as though it will be the official long break for the day.

The first hour of the stage was run off at a brisk 47.8 kph (for the break, I'd guess at somewhere just under 45 kph for the peloton). US Postal are now leading the bunch; they'll probably be perfectly happy not to see the break again until they reach their hotels - the best-placed rider up the road is Gutierrez who is 47 minutes down on GC, and thus extremely unlikely to pose a threat to Armstrong's yellow jersey. They will be more wary of the off-chance of moves later in the stage by the major contenders.

After Beloki's sad exit yesterday, the main challenges to Armstrong now look to come from the winners of the last two stages, Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) and Alexandr Vinokourov. We spoke to two of Vino's team-mates who will have a lot of work to do on his behalf in the next few days. Despite the obvious disappointment about his own performances, Santi Botero told us "I'm feeling better every day. Yesterday was not so bad. I'm very happy for Alexandre and I just hope that Alexandre can keep the same level when we reach the Pyrenees." Belgian Mario Aerts said "I will try to place myself in a break if I can. I knew that Vinokourov was good yesterday but I didn't know he was this good."

But he normally keeps a low profile? "Maybe with you guys but not in the team," laughed Aerts.

13:34 CEST    79 km/140.5 km to go
The break is still going away, past the ten minute mark now. Nothing too exciting happening in the bunch. There are a lot of very tired legs out there, but I'd expect the peloton's speed to pick up in another 30 or 40 km as the teams that aren't represented in the break and don't have more pressing needs start to look for the chance of a stage win.

If this break does stay away, Haselbacher, Nazon and Piil can all sprint a bit, whilst Baguet has a good line in finisseur attacks. But they're a long way from the seaside still.

14:08 CEST    105 km/114.5 km to go
The break is still going away as they climb and pass the fourth category climb of the Côte de Villedieu, where the points went to Philippe Gaumont ahead of De Groot and Nazon the elder.

A few of you have asked about Tyler Hamilton today; before the start of Stage 10, he emerged from the CSC team bus looking very stiff and really in pain. He is definitely not a happy camper at the moment, and his mood was markedly different than on previous days.
CSC directors Bjarne Riis and Sean Yates are preoccupied at the moment and the vibe is not good. It's hard to say what's going to happen but Hamilton will probably finish today, and then it is a matter of what the rest day brings.

US Postal are still leading the peloton.

14:36 CEST    119.5 km/100 km to go
Alberto Lopez de Munain (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has crashed in the bunch; was down for quite a while, but he is back on his bike now, looking a bit shaky. He has been an important domestique for Iban Mayo.

Break still going away, seven blue jerseys and a yellow one leading the bunch along with Telekom, Bianchi and Euskaltel at their shoulders. There is a way to go yet, but this break is looking an increasingly promising one.

14:56 CEST    129.5 km/90 km to go
At 19'23 the break now has a bigger margin than any other in this tour so far. I'm not putting any money on them being caught. The road gets a bit more rolling for a while, now, so the weaker links in the break may start to show soon; however, at the moment they are riding a well-disciplined paceline.

Someone whose name I have lost enquired how the somewhat obscure "Prix du centenaire" classification was calculated - the answer is that it applies only to the six stages which finish at the stage towns from the 1903 Tour, and it is calculated using the old runner's method - adding together the places on those six stages, lowest total wins. At the moment it is being led by Baden Cooke, second in Lyon, since Alessandro Petacchi has gone on home.

There is also a prize for the best placed rider on GC from the 10 countries that are due to join the EU next year. Not many people know that.

15:02 CEST    137.5 km/82 km to go
Fabio Sacchi outsprints Bram de Groot for the second bonus sprint, to put a bit more cash in the not terribly overstuffed Saeco coffers. His team leader Gilberto Simoni, who had been talking of retiring, was a little more optimistic this morning ("I have been feeling very bad. But it's better today. It'll be interesting to see how I go today.") but hasn't been particularly visible, not that he has particularly had occasion to be. The break is now more than 20 minutes ahead, and still going away, shades of the rainswept stage to Pontarlier a couple of years back.

15:21 CEST    153.5 km/66 km to go
Heras is collecting bottles for US Postal and taking the opportunity to swap a word or two with the Spanish riders as he passes up the bunch. There are lots of conversations going on in the fairly unworried and unhurried looking peloton; probably the beginnings of negotiations for next year's contracts, in some cases. The bunch are a bit over 15 km behind the nine leaders, 22.09 down as they pass through Rian where Sacchi took that sprint.

Although it's warm out there, it is quite overcast and it looks as there may be thunderheads building up.

15:36 CEST    160.5 km/59 km to go
The gap is just starting to edge down now, but the winner is almost certain to be one of the nine up the road; they're probably starting to think more about how to deal with each other than about putting every effort into staying away now. The day's second listed climb, the Côte du Jaillet at 50.5 km to go, might see a first opportunity for a bit of a shakeout in the breakaway group.

We have a roadblock up the road with a sit-in on the road holding up the main field. In aid of getting anti-globalisation campaigner José Bové out of jail. A few fists fly as the Garde Républicaine clear the way (not riders' fists).

The front of the bunch is neutralised by the commissaires for a few kilometres to allow the riders at the back, who were held back for longer, to get back up to them.

15:48 CEST    169 km/50.5 km to go
The disruption allows the break another couple of minutes' leeway. The sun is shining more brightly now as the break climb the Côte du Jaillet, and a first attack goes from the break; it is Vicente Garcia Acosta.

Serge Baguet gets across to Garcia Acosta and takes the prime; they sit up and the break comes back together, but now the end game has started.

Next to attack is Gutierrez.

15:55 CEST    173.5 km/46 km to go
Behind, Euskaltel have come up to help US Postal with the chase, desultory though it may be; they don't want Banesto or Kelme picking up too much time for the team classification from their riders in the break.

Gutierrez is still going it alone on the gradual descent.

16:02 CEST    179.5 km/40 km to go
Gutierrez has opened up a good gap, some 30 seconds in front of the other eight breakaways.

The EU Enlargement classification that I mentioned earlier is probably being led by Alessio's Vladimir Miholjevic , unless David Millar can take up Maltese citizenship in a hurry.

Euskaltel's efforts unfortunately succeed in shelling out earlier crash victim Alberto Lopez de Munain from their own team. He has hurt his arm, but should be able to roll in within the time limit from here, although it might be tight with the break that far ahead.

16:16 CEST    190.5 km/29 km to go
Gutierrez is still time trialling in, but behind him the other eight are not letting him get any further away, and it could well be that he has gone too soon.

16:20 CEST    194.5 km/25 km to go
Gutierrez is into the outskirts of Marseille, but the gap behind him is closing again. He is pushing it hard, riding low on the hoods, elbows at right angles, getting out of the saddle to keep the momentum up over slight rises in the road.

Through twisty streets Gutierrez's slim margin has been enough to keep him out of sight of the chasers, but now he is onto a stretch of urban highway and more visible. To his advantage, the chasers are not working very well together, very stop-start stuff.

16:31 CEST    204.5 km/15 km to go
Gutierrez is clearly suffering, and looks as though he is sitting up for a moment before plugging on. Behind, Bram de Groot is sitting resolutely on the back of the group; Baguet, Gaumont and Sacchi lead the chase, or rather attack in turn, and he is caught on a tough little road bridge climb.

Jakob Piil clips clear.

16:35 CEST    206.5 km/13 km to go
Piil is still going all out on this viaduct across the docks, but Fabio Sacchi gets across to him. Behind him, the other six (Gutierrez appears to have sat up) are messing about and not chasing properly.

16:38 CEST    209.5 km/10 km to go
None of the remaining six chasers seems prepared to take up the chase, as Piil and Sacchi look to be in team time trial mode coming around the top of the Quai de Bruxelles; they have pulled out 45 seconds already.

Bram De Groot gets clear of the others as the course brings them back uphill from the port.

16:44 CEST    
Baguet, Gaumont and Garcia Acosta have all messed about for too long. Sacchi and Piil are riding a tight two-up and still look to be flying. De Groot is not making much impression, one against two, although he is still clear of the others who are now out of contention.

16:48 CEST    214.5 km/5 km to go
In the bunch, a way back down the road, there has been a crash involving Pavel Padrnos.

The two leaders seem safe to fight out the spoils between them, with the race director's cars and their team cars in behind them now. De Groot is losing ground, the other five more still; Gutierrez is cruising in 3 minutes down already.

16:53 CEST    217.5 km/2 km to go
The two leaders come into the long finishing straight and shake hands before they start finessing. Sacchi leads out...

16:55 CEST    
Trackie Piil comes through under the flamme rouge and starts slowing it down, holding close the left barrier, looking back at Sacchi track style.

Sacchi jumps on the right, Piil is straight on his wheel and the Dane comes through, winding up a slightly bigger gear, to take the stage. A bit of trackcraft always comes in handy in a match sprint.

Bram De Groot comes through alone for third, and then Damien Nazon holds off Rene Haselbacher in a fairly animated sprint for fourth.

Gutierrez struggles in five minutes down, and now it is a long wait for the bunch; the sprint for tenth may well be important for the points competition.

*commentator taps fingers for a few minutes*

US Postal are leading a rather uninterested looking bunch through the closing kilometres now. Padrnos is on the back looking a bit the worse for wear. The FDJeux.com team is sitting on the posties waiting for the gallop for 10th.

David Millar appears to temporarily join the FDJeux team and provides a blatant leadout for McGee and Cooke; Zabel is on Cooke's wheel but can't get through after McGee peels off; McEwen almost does but not quite, and Cooke is safe in green; as safe as anyone is when they are sprinting into a space occupied by some errant cameramen. Black mark for the organisation, but no damage done this time, although McEwen gets to demonstrate how to use your head in a sprint. They are 21.24 behind Piil and Sacchi.

Thanks for following today's stage with Cyclingnews and T-Mobile - tomorrow is a rest day and then we will be back on Thursday for the short transitional stage from Narbonne to Toulouse.


1 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC                                 5.09.33
2 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) Saeco
3 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank                                 0.49
4 Damien Nazon (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère                    2.07
5 Rene Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner
6 Philippe Gaumont (Fra) Cofidis
7 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Domo
8 Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) iBanesto.com
9 José Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Kelme                           5.06
10 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com                               21.23
11 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo
12 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom

General classification after stage 10

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor              45.46.22
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom                      0.21
3 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                            1.02
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                         1.37
5 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                                1.52
6 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                               2.10
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                               2.25
8 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor                    2.28
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                      3.25
10 Denis Menchov (Rus) iBanesto.com                            3.45

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