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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004

Main Page     Stages & Results     Stage Profile     Latest Live Report   Results

Stage 10 - Wednesday July 14: Limoges - St Flour, 237 km

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Chris Henry

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 10:48 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:10 CEST

A massive stage across the Massif Central is on the menu for Quatorze Juillet with not a meter of flat all day. This stage was used for L'Etape du Tour a few days ago and the most optimistic time schedule for Stage Ten calls for six and a half hours of racing across the unrelenting climbs of Cantal. One Cat 1, two Cat 2 and five Cat. 3 ascents are on Wednesday's program, which is expected to be run as Quatorze Juillet stages always are, in front of huge crowds out to celebrate France's national fête du velo on France's national holiday.

Main climbs

Km 67: Col de Lestards, 7 km at 4.7%
Km 162: Col de Néronne, 8.3 km at 3.5%
Km 173.5: Col du Pas de Peyrol, 5.5 km at 8%
Km 205.5: Plomb du Cantal, 8.2 km at 6%

10:48 CEST    3km/234km to go
The riders are now rolling out of the porcelain town of Limoges on the neutralised section. The weather is sunny and warming up nicely (a welcome change for most of the peloton. Previous stages have seen actin right from the gun but it's possible that on this stage things will be a little less hyper; there are plenty of opportunities to open a gap up today.

But no, after just a couple of kilometres it is Crédit Agricole who start the action with a solo attack by Patrice Halgand.

10:52 CEST   
Massimiliano Mori gets across to Halgand who is still in sight in front of the bunch and looking a little laboured. The duo are then joined by another three, and then another duo coming up afterwards. Right on time, it's Richard Virenque.

10:53 CEST   
Further riders are bridging the gap now, and it looks as though it's all coming back together. It does.

10:59 CEST    8km/229km to go
The road is rolling in these early stages as a succession of unsuccessful attacks leave the bunch strung out down the road. There are a lot of riders out there who are in a hurry to get in the break - patriotic Frenchmen, riders who want a bit of a lead to keep them inside the time limit at the end, mountains points collectors and the normal chasseurs d'étape.

Another promising looking group of a dozen or so goes away but comes back. Meanwhile Filippo Simeoni is off the back, going back to his car already.

11:08 CEST    16km/221km to go
The situation is still fluid at the front of the bunch, but nobody has yet managed to get clear. Brioches La Boulangère have men up to police the attacks, which are almost constant. Simeoni is back in the bunch again.

11:22 CEST    27km/210km to go
More of the same - repeated attacks, rapidly countered. Everybody wants to be up the road and the bunch is in one long line.

Richard Virenque has another go, but it doesn't last. At the back of the bunch, Levi Leipheimer isn't where he should be, while Mikel Pradera is getting some treatment from the doctor's car.

11:32 CEST    32.5km/204.5km to go
The first prize money of the day is a bonus sprint at Laucille, and Danilo Hondo, who had clipped off the front, takes the 6 points and an irrelevant 6 second bonus. He is followed and caught by a group of ten riders including Virenque, Lotz, Voigt (of course), Merckx, and Tombak. Tombak and Voigt take second and third and another five riders come across. The group

US Postal take up the pace in the chase as the lead goes out to half a minute.

11:34 CEST   
The lead group keeps growing, and Axel Merckx and Richard Virenque (who must have had this day marked off in his calendar since Christmas) take off in front alone.

At the back Christian Vandevelde gets a wheel change.

US Postal bring back the rump of the breakaway - just two up the road now.

11:35 CEST   
Three up the road now as Chavanel joins Virenque and Merckx.

11:43 CEST    40km/197m
The first climb of the day is the fourth-cat le Mont Gargan, and to nobody's great surprise Virenque takes the points ahead of Merckx and Chavanel. The lead trio are still not out of sight of the bunch, though, so this may not be the day-long escape that Virenque undoubtedly had in mind.

At the back, Saeco seem to be having problems, with Mirko Celestino and then Salvatore Commesso seemingly struggling. Knaven, Rinero and Peschel all also reported as in difficulty.

11:48 CEST   
Chavanel has been shelled out of the break, but the other two persist. The chase has eased up, and Sébastien Joly, joined by Karsten Kroon, are now trying to bridge the increasing gap.

11:57 CEST    44km/193km to go
Brioches la Boulangère are now taking up the chase in the bunch, as Karsten Kroon has an attack of common sense and sits up to wait for it.

At the back, Pradera is with the doctor's car again.

12:09 CEST    55.5km/181.5km to go
The two leaders are still edging clear as the race passes through the picturesque little town of Treignac. Joly too has now been caught. Another 10 km to the foot of the first climb of this Tour that actually calls itself a col, the third category Col de Lestards, although the listed climbs don't tell the whole story of this stage: Tyler Hamilton says "We came here in May and went over the stage. We did about 200 kilometres up here and it was 200 very difficult kilometres. The stage is 237 kilometres, up and down all day, just like yesterday, There's not a flat piece of road. It's going to be the first day where there's a big selection."

The yellow jersey of Thomas Voeckler drops back to his team car, and the bunch ease up a bit, and the break goes further away.

12:15 CEST   
Voeckler is back with his team-mates at the front now, and RAGT Sémences are also showing up there; it is Bastille Day after all. Spotty jersey (for the moment) Paolo Bettini is also well up there, presumably to mop up the points that his team-mate leaves.

There's a lot of traffic at the back of the bunch, with riders going back to their cars and changing wheels; there will be a big autobus today.

12:22 CEST    67km/170km to go
The Col de Lestards is a 7 km climb averaging a modest 4.7%, but it's certainly enough to put a few riders in trouble at the back. At the front, however, the pace is steady and Merckx leaves Virenque to take the points at the top without a sprint.

Jérome Pineau is the second retirement of the day after Mirko Celestino, which won't help his team-mate Voeckler hang on to his yellow jersey.

12:26 CEST   
Paolo Bettini takes third over the top of the climb followed by Christophe Moreau. The lead at the summit was 4.51; Brioches la Boulangère have picked up the pace a bit now, though. Bettini now leads the mountains classification by 8 points with Virenque up to 4th 10 points behind him. On GC the two leaders are both just over 12.30 down on Voeckler, so unless he cracks they are unlikely to be in contention for the yellow jersey today, but you never know.

12:37 CEST    79km/158km to go
The descent from the col is straightforward and trouble-free, and then it's straight on to the third-cat Côte de Saint-Yrieix-le-Déjalat,a a shorter and steeper affair at 2.7km @ 6.1%. Virenque takes the points again. I can tell you're surprised.

At the back of the race Haimar Zubeldia punctures and is chasing back now in company of a few team-mates.

12:50 CEST   
Bettini again mops up the third place points; Quick.Step clearly have this well worked out to optimise not just Virenque's score but also to prevent anyone else from getting any.

lance Armstrong emerges from his normal obscurity in the bunch to take a quick stop for some reason, and is paced back up to the bunch by several team-mates.

The report of Pineau's retirement seems to be inaccurate; he's still in there. Sorry about that.

13:02 CEST    96km/141km to go
The BLB-led chase is still steady, and still steadily losing time on the two breakaways. Armstrong is safely back in the bunch; US Postal don't seem overly perturbed by a situation on the road which has put Virenque nearly four minutes ahead of Armstrong on GC.

Next primes along the road are the second and final bonus sprint at lapleau, followed fairly quickly by the third-cat Côte de Soursac. But first it is time for lunch, as the two leaders pass through the feed point at Egletons.

13:15 CEST    106.5km/130.5km to go
After the feed the BLB team has upped the pace a bit, so the lead has now been steady at just under 8 minutes and is may be losing the odd second here and there.

Coming up to the sprint at Lapreau, Lotto lead Robbie McEwen up through the bunch, so he looks to be chasing the point that will be remaining after the leaders pass through; they do, and surprisingly Virenque comes through to take the 6 points/seconds, which suggests that he is interested in the general classification. There's a way to go before that is an issue, though.

No, it looks like Merckx actually took the points - Virenque was (I guess) showboating for the crowds.

13:24 CEST   
McEwen isn't going to be able to pick up the remaining sprint points, but Lotto send Thierry Marichal up the road to prevent Hushovd or O'Grady from taking them. Thor Hushovd tries to get across, but without success.

The two leaders are now on the climb of the Côte de Soursac (4.4 km at 4.9%, category 3). Hushovd and Marichal are now together some way in front of the bunch, but don't look to be trying to chase.

13:28 CEST    114.5km/122.5km to go
Indeed, Marichal and Hushovd are caught as the peloton hit the foot of the climb, almost simultaneously as the two leaders go over the summit in the usual order. Merckx must be on a substantial cut and/or a promise of the stage win here.

13:42 CEST   
Once again Bettini and Moreau take the remaining points on the climb; all the climbs so far have had exactly the same result, strongly suggesting that the spotty jersey has been mentally consigned to Virenque already.

Bettini is still leading the competition, now by six points from Virenque. The two leaders are already on the next climb now, the 3.5km at 6.9% of the Côte de Chalvignac; after that there is no descent - it's basically almost all uphill from here to the second category Col de Neronne and the hardest climb of the day, the Pas de Peyrol.

13:51 CEST    126.5km/110.5km to go
This is the first climb that has put Virenque and Merckx onto the small ring. They're still pulling away, though - over nine minutes in front now.

Back down the road, Pradera is in a bit of trouble. Indeed, a number of riders look to be taking it steady and forming an autobus, with Robbie McEwen in there.

13:59 CEST   
Once again, Bettini and Moreau take the third and fourth spots on the Cote de Chavignac behind the two leaders; nobody else seems to be collecting them. With its being the first mountain stage on a sunny public holiday, the crowds are enormous today even in this fairly unpopulated region and even on relatively flat bits of the route.

14:02 CEST   
The cows are more lively today, with a herd of Friesians keeping pace with the bunch for a while.

14:07 CEST    139km/98km to go
It's sunny, open and "false flat" , and there are plenty of jerseys open to the waist in the bunch. At the rear, Thor Hushovd is consulting the doctor - he has been having some breathing problems. He is handed an aspirin and sent back up the road to suffer. The lead is now over 10 minutes.

14:20 CEST    147km/90km to go
The pace is still steady, with another 6 km of false flat before the official beginning of the Col de Neronne; Merckx and Virenque are still going further away. The arrow-headed peloton is still very large, although McEwen seems to be absent so it appears that the small autobus group didn't get back after the last climb.

14:31 CEST    152.5km/84.5km to go
Vicioso is in trouble and going off the back of the bunch, but there will be company for him behind.

The bunch is still being led by the La Boulangère train; the two leaders are getting on with their job and riding smoothly, now passing Salers and approaching the foot of the climb.

Ewen Stewart asks what the cows are doing now. They are outstanding in their field, of course.

14:44 CEST    160km/77km to go
The two leaders are now properly on the climb of the Col de Neronne with clear views over the valleys below. behind, Phonak have arrived en masse behind the Brioches La Boulangère train.

Angel Vicioso is still yoyoing off the back of the bunch, although once the climb gets going he'll probably be back in the gruppetto of a dozen or so riders including McEwen and Hushovd. Up here the spectators are beef cattle, who seem less inclined to chase.

14:47 CEST   
Vicioso isn't interested in the gruppetto; he climbs off. One less team-mate for Roberto Heras.

14:49 CEST    162km/75km to go
Richard Virenque leads Axel Merckx over the summit of the col, 1442 metres above sea level. A quick descent, and then it is the steep slopes of the Pas de Peyrol.

14:59 CEST   
The bunch are more strung out now on the upper slopes of the col, although it's still BLB jerseys at the front; the principals have not yet made their appearance.

Merckx and Virenque have hammered down the 6km wooded descent, which is fast but not particularly technical, and are now at the foot of the Pas de Peyrol. Virenque is climbing in his normal out of the saddle style, with Merckx riding seated; there doesn't seem to be much between them so far.

Moreau and Bettini move to the front of the bunch, but now there are a few blue, orange, pink and green jerseys at the front. But Bettini jumps and Moreau once again can't outpace him. Same order again for the first four.

15:06 CEST   
BLB take up the chase once again on the descent, but the big boys are close behind them which suggests that someone thinks there will be something happening on the Pas de Peyrol.

The two leaders are still together, Virenque leading up the climb which is lined with spectators from the foot. With 10.50 lead still it looks good for both.

Spoke too soon: Merckx is suffering and has let a gap open up between him and Virenque; they are on a very steep passage here.

15:11 CEST    170km/67km to go
In the back group we have McEwen, Bäckstedt, Hushovd and Pradera. The time limit should be quite long today - 50 minutes to an hour - but they have a way to go.

Merckx is riding tempo but still losing ground - about 20 seconds down - but Virenque may want to wait for him if the gap isn't too big at the summit.

15:12 CEST   
The hapless Ivan Mayo has a mechanical problem on the climb.

15:13 CEST   
A Liberty Seguros rider rides clear of the bunch; not Heras, but maybe setting the scene for an attack by him later.

15:15 CEST    174km/63km to go
It's Marcos Serrano. Mayo comes back into the peloton.

Virenque and then Merckx, half a minute down, crest the summit.

15:19 CEST   
The lead is down a tad to 9.52 as Virenque puts it on the 11 sprocket and gets going, not apparently waiting.

Mayo has had more mechanical problems and is coming back into the peloton again. Serrano is caught. Ullrich and Armstrong are riding tempo together close to the front of the bunch.

Paolo Bettini won't get third on this climb; he has blown up and is among the many riders dropped. The bunch is down to about 20 riders now.

15:20 CEST   
Voeckler is still right up there with them. Klöden is now setting the pace, and then US Postal take over.

15:24 CEST   
Denis Menchov attacks out of the bunch, but the principals are riding tempo. Michael Rasmussen is showing the Rabobank colours are the top, as Francisco Mancebo shows the Spanish champions jersey off over the summit ahead of Voeckler.

Mayo is still chasing, the best part of a minute behind the Ar,strong/Ullrich bunch at the summit, but the race will come back together a lot on the descent.

15:25 CEST   
Virenque is still holding a 30 second gap from Merckx. He is now clear in the lead in the mountains jersey competition.

A T-Mobile crashes.
It's Rolf Aldag.

15:26 CEST   
Not Aldag, Kessler. He has hit a fence post and gone down hard. He is conscious but clearly in quite a lot of pain. Sitting up now.

15:30 CEST   
Kessler is up and looks to be OKish; he's carrying on for the moment.

15:32 CEST   
Virenque is fast down the descent, and he and Merckx are now climbing again on the third category Col d'Entremont. Behind, Oscar Pereiro has taken a flyer out of the yellow jersey group which mopped up Menchov earlier.

15:35 CEST   
The Armstrong/Ullrich?Voeckler group is now up to 50 or 60 riders, and the yellow jersey's team are now taking the burden again.

Merckx is looking steady but crests this climb over a minute down.

A Credit Agricole rider has come down hard and is in a ditch; the stretchers are out. It's Sébastien Hinault.

15:42 CEST    192km/45km to go
Virenque has his head down and is going for it, with one listed climb left, the 8.2 km at 6% of the Col de Prat de Bouc, although it's not as if the rest of the stage is all downhill. He should be able to make it from here.

Merckx is still chasing hard, but doesn't seem to be able to make any impression on Virenque.

Michael Rogers has some fans out there - he's with the Voeckler group

15:54 CEST    197km/40km to go
Virenque is now on the second category Col de Prat de Bouc, AKA the Plomb de Cantal. He will be wearing his favourite jersey tonight. Merckx is slipping back slowly.

The Voeckler group are still descending with BLB jerseys to the fore; Mayo is among quite a lot of riders who have come back up to the group.

15:56 CEST    203km/34km to go
Virenque is now 2 km from the top of the climb, still holding an 8'15 lead over the peloton. But Axel is suffering a lot on this climb, and is over three minutes behind his erstwhile companion. He'll struggle to keep the peloton at bay.

15:57 CEST    203km/34km to go
Virenque is about mid-way up the final climb and looking fairly solid; today has been his from beginning to end. Merckx is going backwards, now over 2.30 down and rocking and rolling a bit on the bike.

15:57 CEST   
Axel is bobbing up and down, exhausted after such a long day. But Virenque is riding strongly still, tongue out, pedalling hard on this last climb. He's almost certain to win the stage and take the mountains jersey, as well as move himself up a long way on GC. He only started the day 12'15 behind Voeckler.

15:59 CEST    204km/33km to go
The peloton is growing in size as Stuart O'Grady and Santiago Botero join on the back. It's still three Brioches riders, captained by Didier Rous, leading Voeckler. Great ride by the French champion, who doesn't look like losing any time to the other GC riders today.

O'Grady is yo-yoing off the back a bit.

16:02 CEST    205km/32km to go
Virenque hits the 1 km to go sign to the summit of the Col de Prat de Brouc. Merckx is 4'23 behind and going backwards at an alarming rate.

Status quo in the peloton. Dufaux, Leipheimer, Moreau (who just downs a coke), Armstrong, Hamilton, Mayo, Ullrich et al are all in front.

16:07 CEST   
Voeckler has looked pretty solid on all the climbs so far; he should hang on to the yellow comfortably tonight, making it an all-round properly French quatorze juillet. The principals have taken it steady, just avoiding losing anything to each other. The least visible of them seems to be Tyler Hamilton, who has personal reasons for being a bit out of sorts today.

Virenque, surrounded by a major traffic jam of miscellaneous race vehicles, comes up to the summit of the climb. The crowds are six deep for the final kilometre or two.

16:14 CEST   
Axel crests the final summit 6.45 down; he seems as though he wants to get back into the bunch from here. Mercado takes up Bettini's earlier role as spoiler for Virenque and mops up the third place points. Noval, the weakest (or least strong, maybe) link in the US Postal chain, has been dropped but most of the rest of them seem to be in the main group.

Up in front, Virenque summons his team car imperiously, as Axel sits up and is caught on the descent. He's doing what he does best.

16:18 CEST    217km/20km to go
Virenque has maxed out for his day's effort, taking all 9 climbs for 68 points and now leads the mountains competition from Axel (who took 9 second places...). And with most of 7 minutes' lead at the 20 km to go banner, he should have a stage win as well.

The front group now contains all the favourites and fancied outsiders, with Julich, Caucchioli, Botcharov and Mancebo as well as the riders who have made their presence more obvious; there are no major casualties as yet.

16:23 CEST   
Chavanel, Pineau and Rous are towing the bunch along now on behalf of Voeckler; they have done sterling work today. Jan Ullrich has looked solid, but Kessler's crash and Botero's weakness on the climbs has to be a concern for them.

The strongest of the sprinters are still in the bunch as well, with Zabel and O'Grady up there - O'Grady will be looking for a good placing at the finish, although it is anything but a sprinter's finish.

16:29 CEST    227km/10km to go
Virenque comes under the 10 km banner, not as smooth as he was first thing this morning, riding on the drops and rolling a bit, but still steady enough. This will be his seventh Tour stage win.

16:37 CEST    229km/8km to go
Virenque is still trying to keep the gap open, not just take the win, which is pretty much safe from here, so he will be interested in his GC position (which will be 3 minutes or so ahead of Armstrong, Ullrich and co.)

There are 17 points on offer for second place (mountain stages are awarded fewer points than flat ones; the Tour organisers like to make sure that the race follows its script and that the green jersey goes to a sprinter). The bunch is now up to 80 or so riders, so the sprint for second should nonetheless be a serious affair, although the last kilometre his quite a climb.

16:38 CEST   
Stéphane Goubert has a problem at the back of the bunch; looks as though he's just cramped up.

16:41 CEST   
The group with Bettini in it are reported as 20 minutes down, which should be comfortably inside the time limit.

Virenque passes under the 4 km banner; out in the country on the flat it is strangely subdued for a moment, as all the crowds are on the hills and in the towns. But it will be a well-earned victory procession in a moment.

16:43 CEST    236km/1km to go
Virenque comes into the little town of Saint-Flour; on the outskirts of town a cluster of Flemish Lions are on display, but today has been entirely tricouleur.

16:45 CEST   
Virenque comes under the flamme rouge (located at 850 metres to go because of road space limitations and up the stiff final pitch to massive applause.

Last corner, a glance over his shoulder, two handed salute, eyes and fingers aloft, Virenque's seventh career stage win.

16:48 CEST   
At 39.46 kph, that's just ahead of the fastest schedule. The time limit today will be a fairly comfortable 1.04.52 or so (18% of Virenque's time). Some people out there will be grateful for that.

16:52 CEST   
Halgand leads the bunch under the flamme rouge with Brochard on his wheel. Mancebo comes past them, with Voeckler on his wheel. Zabel comes past on the wheel of Klöden, but surprisingly Zabel can't actually jump past on the line and the German champion takes second place. With Zabel not too badly placed on points, questions will be asked.

17:08 CEST   
Richard Virenque tearfully dedicated his win - and an excellent win it was - to Joel Chabiron, former logistics manager for Festina and involved in the Festina affair with Virenque himself. He has also moved up to 4th on GC behind Voeckler, who coped very well with his first mountains in yellow.

For trivia fans, there were no fewer than five of this years' national champions in the top ten on the stage, with Voeckler, Klöden, Mancebo, Kirchen and Totschnig.

Thanks for following the stage (and its cattle) with Cyclingnews today; we'll be back for tomorrow's stage from St-Flour to Figeac from the start at 1300 CEST.


1 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick Step-Davitamon             6.00.24 (39.46 km/h)
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                         5.19
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                
4 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto         
5 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère                  
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor               
7 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                            
8 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo                               
9 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Domina Vacanze                         
10 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                      
General classification after stage 10
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère           42.42.14
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone     3.00
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) Fdjeux.com                               4.13
4 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick Step-Davitamon                6.52
5 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC                                  7.31
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor            9.35
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                             9.58
8 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor              10.04
9 José Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems       10.09
10 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto    10.18

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