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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 12 - Friday July 16: Castelsarrasin - La Mongie, 197.5 km

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Chris Henry (and Jeff Jones occasionally)

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 12:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:17 CEST

The first of the Pyrenean stages, today's stage begins at Castelsarrasin, with 120 kilometres of mental preparation before the riders hit the category one Col d'Aspin. Then it's all downhill for the next 12km, before the riders face the next climb of the Col du Tourmalet, finishing at the ski station of La Mongie. This climb is where Lance Armstrong won two years ago after his battle with Beloki.

Climbs

Km 172: Col d'Aspin, 12.5 km at 6.3%
Km 197.5: La Mongie, 15 km at 6.8%

12:07 CEST   
Today's stage starts with a 2.1 km neutral zone through the streets of Castelsarrasin, before the start proper at 12:05.

The flag drops and they're away!

12:10 CEST   
It's a beautiful day in Castelsarrasin, fairly warm and sunny with not too
many clouds and not very humid. The temperature at the start is 30 degrees,
and it's expected to warm up to 32 degrees in Gimont after 52 km, and the
tops of the two climbs will be between 20 and 22 degrees.

Pavel Padrnos was allowed to start today, after the UCI did not agree with the Tour's view to exclude him. Padrnos has been absolved of any wrongdoing in the San Remo anti-doping investigation, even though the judge still has to square off the case in October. A report on Cyclingnews will follow shortly.

12:11 CEST    5km/192.5km to go
Frederic Finot (RAGT), Marcus Ljungqvist (Alessio) have attacked from the gun. They have been caught by Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo) and Wim Vansevenant (Lotto-Domo) and already have 40 seconds lead.

12:14 CEST    7km/190.5km to go
CSC has got to the front of the peloton, and has pegged the gap to 40 seconds. Bjarne Riis' team will no doubt want a man in the break.

Of the leaders, Kirchen is the best placed on GC in 38th at 12'59, so the peloton might keep things in check.

12:17 CEST   
Correction: Finot rides for RAGT-Semences (thanks Bart). Could this be the first time that RAGT makes the break? The gap is still 40 seconds.

12:21 CEST    12km/185.5km to go
The four leaders have been clawed back to 30 seconds by a fairly determined chase. This is an ideal stage for a long breakaway, so there are many teams that want to be up there for the party.

12:23 CEST    14km/183.5km to go
Points leader McEwen and mountains leader Virenque are back in the second half of the peloton, which has split trying to chase down these four breakaways. Voeckler is in the front part this time.

The split doesn't last too long, and the peloton is back together again, still 40 seconds behind the leading quartet.

12:26 CEST    17km/180.5km to go
It's come back to 30 seconds, but the four leaders are being very persistent. Kirchen, Finot, Vansevenant and Ljungqvist are the riders ahead.

12:30 CEST    20km/177.5km to go
The four lead by 35 seconds still, and will stay away at least until the first sprint at Beaumont-de-Lomagne at km 21.5. US Postal is controlling the bunch at the moment.

12:32 CEST   
The gap grows to a minute as Jens Voigt (CSC) sets off in pursuit of the leading four. It will be a big ask to close this gap though.

12:35 CEST    23km/174.5km to go
Vansevenant takes the 6 points at Beaumont-de-Lomagne ahead of Kirchen and Finot. The leaders now have 50 seconds to Voigt and 1'10 to the peloton. They don't look like coming back in a hurry.

12:37 CEST    26km/171.5km to go
Voigt is not making any more ground - he's now a minute behind the escapees and will probably sit up to wait for the peloton. It looks like the very first break of the day was the good one.

12:38 CEST    27km/170.5km to go
Voigt has sat up, leaving Kirchen, Ljungqvist, Vansevenant and Finot to their own devices in front.

12:48 CEST    35km/162.5km to go
The break is still going away, but not desperately quickly; after Jens Voigt was caught a group of five riders including Laurent Brochard and José Maria Acosta tried to get across, but the attempt was snuffed out as quickly as it started,

At the back of the race, Illes Balears' Mikel Pradera, still suffering from crashes in the early stages, is in trouble already.

12:55 CEST    40km/157.5km to go
CSC will be miffed that they have let this break go, since Alessio, their closest competitors in the team classification at 2.23, have a man up there in the person of Marcus Ljungqvist. However, the odds are stacked against any break making enough time on the long flat run up the valleys to stay away on the two big climbs at the end of the day.

As the break have 2.40 lead, Alessio are virtual team classification leaders now, in fact.

13:17 CEST    53km/144.5km to go
Nicolas Portal took off apparently in pursuit of the breakaway group, but turned out just to be taking the opportunity to greet his family by the roadside.

The bunch are not chasing very actively at all at the moment; the break has however averaged a decidedly brisk 46.8 kph for the first hour, although admittedly that stretch includes virtually all the flat road for the day; from here to the foot of the Aspin the roads are more rolling, with a decided uphill tendency.

13:24 CEST   
Maillot jaune Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangčre) faces his toughest test today in the Tour's first big mountain finish in the Pyrenees. Voeckler, who has worn the yellow jersey since finishing in the lead group in Stage 5 told L'Equipe after Stage 11 that, "I didn't have great legs. Physically I'm not feeling that great but I hope the legs will be better today because with the Col d'Aspin and the Tourmalet are both steep and you can lose a lot of time quickly."

It remains to be seen whether the race will really take off before the foot of the Tourmalet, since summit finishes tend to have a deadening effect on earlier action.

The lead has edged over four minutes, but the peloton has now picked up the pace a bit and it doesn't look as though they are going to be allowed a monster lead today.

13:44 CEST    75km/122.5km to go
The tension mounts. This is a journalistic way of saying that not a lot is actually happening at the moment. No bovine action, even. Anyway, as Len Hall points out in a mail to us, we are coming into goat country now (well, and sheep, too, Len. And bears, here and there.)

We would like to make it quite clear that we don't hold with the minority view expressed in your emails that this us the most boring tour ever (you know who you are), just because it has run true to form (except for Petacchi, at any rate). For a start, we remember Indurain putting about an hour and a half into the field on the first time trial and then riding tempo for a fortnight and (albeit a bit vaguely) Merckx having practically won the race sometime in May by virtue of having intimidated the rest of the professional class. Count yourselves lucky. And you have the Internet, rather than crackly long-wave French radio. Anyway, the gap is steady.

14:01 CEST   
To avoid any confusion as to where the stage goes, the finish point at the lovely concrete ski resort of La Mongie is about two thirds of the way up the southern side of the Col du Tourmalet, as local lad Didier Rous says "just before it starts to get really hard". That's the Saint-Marie-du-Campan side, so all commentators will have their Eugčne Christophe anecdotes handy.

There is a bit of cloud now at the finish, and there could be thunder and lightning for the stage climax. The four leaders are now starting to fade and have lost a few seconds on the bunch where CSC (for the team classification) and T-Mobile (for the points for Zabel) will be the main beneficiaries should they get caught before the Aspin and the bonus sprint at its foot.

14:16 CEST    97km/100.5km to go
Baden Cooke has livened affairs up marginally by puncturing. He's back on, though. The race passes out of the département of Gers into the Haute-Garonne.

The Pyrenean bears all live further north, for clarification. We might get a Pyrenean Ibex, though.

14:30 CEST   
When I say "the southern side" I mean the Mediterranean end, logical south, as it were. OK, so it's actually eastern really. Jan and David Heffernan from Lancaster report (independently of one another) seeing golden eagles up there a week ago. We'll keep our eyes peeled.

The boring/not boring ratio is standing at about 1:3. And there is absolutely no connection between ibex and Eprex®.

At the feed the lead had just dipped below four minutes, but basically it's still pretty much even. Except that the break are all trying hard, and most of the bunch are sitting relatively comfortably.

Mikel Pradera, who seems to have been following the race at a distance of 200 metres since some time last week has finally called it a day.

Iban Mayo gets a bike change - not sure whether that's a mechanical or just switching bikes for the climbs to come. He's back in the bunch now.

14:40 CEST    111km/86.5km to go
The Pyrenean ibex is apparently extinct as of 2000 when the last one was killed by a falling tree. Thanks to Fat Nick for that.

A few people have enquired about how the team classification works: it's basically the aggregate time of the first three riders for each team on each individual stage (plus the actual, non-limited, team time trial time). Thus different riders can count every day - it's not just the team's first three riders on GC.

US Postal and Brioches La Boulangčre are towing the bunch along at a reasonable lick, not completely lined out but not all across the road either..

14:58 CEST    123km/74.5km to go
Tyler Hamilton gets a bike change and the Phonak team drop back to help him get back in fairly briskly. Again, not clear whether it is a genuine mechanical, or different bikes for the climbs.

15:02 CEST    126km/71.5km to go
Still three of the La Boulangčre team leading the chase, then a couple of Postals ahead of the yellow jersey accompanied by his team captain, Didier Rous. They've brought the gap back to 2.46 now.

It's now raining on the final climb, but still dry on the race itself.

15:17 CEST    134km/63.5km to go
The cloud-shrouded Pyrenees now looming ahead of the riders, with the odd flash of lightning visible (it's raining hard at the finish now). The four leaders are passing through the little town of Lannemézan. The average speed has dropped back a bit, but still over 42 kph for the first three hours. They have also climbed the best part of 500m already on the undulations and draggy false flats up to this point.

20 km to the bonus sprint at Sarrancolin and the foot of the Aspin now.

15:27 CEST    141km/56.5km to go
The break have just hit the beginning of the rain, although it is fairly mild for the moment. Bad news for Jan Ullrich who likes it warm; good for Armstrong who goes well in the wet.

15:34 CEST   
This is proper Pyrenean weather now - very overcast. BLB have moved off the front now and left the pace setting to US Postal and the first glimpse of a Euskaltel jersey on the front.

15:39 CEST    148.5km/49km to go
Cyclingnews spoke to Lance Armstrong's agent Bill Stapleton a few minutes ago to ask him about the Pavel Padrnos case. "The team's position is that Pavel has been cleared by the police in Italy," said Stapleton. Padrnos' attorney in Italy allegedly has a letter from the NAS clearing his client of any wrongdoing. "As far as we're concerned, it's just a procedural issue at this point."

In October, Padrnos, Zanini and other riders will have their case reviewed in court in San Remo, Italy. Stapleton expects Padrnos' case to be dismissed. "Our opinion is that the standard that ASO is applying - that all riders under investigation cannot ride - is unfair to the riders."

The yellow jersey joins the crowds getting a bike change; he's moving up the race convoy now.

The break are definitely on their way back to the bunch now; it looks as though they are really feeling the effects of the weather.

15:46 CEST    153.5km/44km to go
The leading quartet ride through the second bonus sprint without any apparent interest in fighting for it. As the principals in the green jersey competition aren't likely to be figuring in the top stage placings, we can assume that there will be no changes at the top of the table.

15:50 CEST    155km/42.5km to go
The gap is less than a minute now and the break is doomed to failure.

According to an AFP report, the Tour de France (ASO) has lost its appeal to exclude Padrnos and Zanini from the Tour. The organisers appealed after the UCI decreed that the pair could stay in the race, despite the Tour's "under investigation" (or should that be "guilty until proven innocent"?) rule.

15:54 CEST    159km/38.5km to go
As we move onto the foot of the Aspin Quick.Step take up the pace, with T-Mobile just behind them; they are joined by Manuel Beltran. An attack by Virenque looks like it might be on...

15:59 CEST    162km/35.5km to go
US Postal are now at the front en bloc, riding a hard tempo; orange and pink jerseys aren't far behind them.

Botero is among those dropped. Apparently the rain has eased off at the finish, but it looks as though the race will get the worst of it on the Aspin.

16:05 CEST   
Yesterday's hero David Moncoutié and today's rehabilitated villains Pavel Padrnos and Stefano Zanini are among those dropped; Sunderland, Peron Mengin, Bruseghin and O'Grady too. Still US Postal putting on the pressure at the front; no sightings of interesting fauna yet. Weather for ducks, though.


First to brave the weather and the wrath of the posties by attacking is Filippo Simeoni, with a Euskaltel rider coming up behind him.

Zubeldia is having trouble hanging on to the much reduced bunch, probably forty or fifty riders left.

16:08 CEST   
Simeoni now has a quarter of a minute, and now it's Christophe Moreau who tries to get across the gap to him. Still riding tempo in the bunch.

Virenque decides it's dangerous and jumps across to them.

Beltran and Noval are dangling off the back of the bunch now.

16:12 CEST    167km/30.5km to go
Simeoni jumps clear of the two Frenchmen again, and then the bunch sweeps them up; Michael Rasmussen and Eloi Martinez have a go, pass and drop Simeoni who goes back to the bunch.

Boogerd is dropped.

16:13 CEST   
Voeckler is towards the rear of the bunch, as are Simoni and Hamilton, but he seems to do that a lot.

16:15 CEST    169km/28.5km to go
Martinez goes back to the group, which is still thinning down. Just Michael Rasmussen left in front, at about 10 seconds. George Hincapie and Floyd Landis are towing the blue train, with Rubiera, Armstrong and Azevedo behind. Basso is next to Armstrong, then Klöden and Ullrich.

16:17 CEST   
Ullrich has a pretty miserable look on his face as well as a rain jacket on. Most of the riders don't have jackets on, as although it's still pouring it's not quite cold enough yet.

Rasmussen has 13 seconds.

16:18 CEST    170km/27.5km to go
At the back of the peloton, where Voeckler is located, Michele Bartoli has his rain jacket sticking out of his pocket. It may even be two rain jackets.

Ullrich moves up. Voeckler is on Bartoli's wheel, but it's not a good one because Bartoli's being dropped!

16:20 CEST    171km/26.5km to go
Voeckler puts in an acceleration and gets onto the tail end of the group, which has 1.5 km to the top of the Aspin. There's still 30-40 riders here, and it's still US Postal with five men on the front.

Caucchioli (Alessio) has moved forward, next to Ullrich and Klöden.

Rasmussen takes a look behind, but he's only got 14 seconds. This descent is doing to be interesting.

Bartoli is 10 seconds off the back.

16:22 CEST   
Sandy Casar is still here though, looking a lot better than Voeckler. He's third on GC at the moment at 4'13.

Virenque moves up towards the front, ready to pounce for the mountain points.

16:23 CEST    172km/25.5km to go
Rasmussen continues to drive his way through the soggy crowds that are lining the road. The rain has eased slightly, but of course it's still wet.

Moreau is right on Virenque's wheel, who is about to make his move for the summit.

16:24 CEST    172.5km/25km to go
Virenque charges but it's Rasmussen who takes the points. It looks like Moreau was second with a nice bike throw, and Virenque third.

Chavanel is last wheel of the front group over the top. Hamilton is a fair way towards the back of the peloton. Now for the descent...

16:26 CEST    174km/23.5km to go
The yellow jersey group takes the first few corners of the descent very gingerly.

Full results of the Col d'Aspin: 1. Rasmussen, 2 Moreau, 3 Virenque, 4 Totschnig, 5 Landis, 6 Hincapie, 7 Rubiera, 8 Armstrong.

Moreau attacks on the descent!

16:28 CEST    176km/21.5km to go
A Euskaltel rider closes the gap to the peloton - it's Camano. Bartoli is also back on.



16:29 CEST   
It's still Rasmussen in the lead, being chased by Moreau and another rider on the descent of the Aspin. The peloton is in bits chasing them. Voeckler is well placed.

16:30 CEST    177/5km/20.5km to go
The descent is now over and it's Rasmussen with a small lead over Moreau at the bottom. No crashes in the peloton, it looks like.

16:31 CEST   
Ullrich is chasing in the first group with Casar and Voeckler and five others. One US Postal rider is there, but it's not Armstrong, who is another 10 seconds back in the peloton. Three Posties are towing Armstrong back to the first chase group.

16:32 CEST    179km/18.5km to go
Armstrong's group is 11 seconds behind Ullrich's group, which contains Voeckler, Klöden, Mayo, Moreau, Mercado and Casar...

16:34 CEST    180km/17.5km to go
Ullrich's group isn't working well, and Armstrong's Postal boys should close the gap. They do, and it's back together before the climb up to La Mongie (Tourmalet).

Rasmussen now has 14 seconds lead over Virenque and Etxebarria, and 30 seconds to Armstrong's group, which now has Voeckler and Ullrich in it.

16:36 CEST    184km/13.5km to go
Virenque and Etxebarria are caught by the front group. It's just Rasmussen in the lead now.

Ullrich has got a rain jacket on still, but it's not zipped up and it's flapping all over the place.

Brochard takes a flyer...

16:37 CEST    185km/12.5km to go
Etxebarria leads the peloton onto the last climb with Brochard a little way ahead and Rasmussen still at 20 seconds, hammering, head bared now as it's the last climb.

16:38 CEST    186km/11.5km to go
The sun comes out again! The roads are still wet, but this will help the morale.

Mercado and Brochard are together, 13 seconds behind the Dane. The Voeckler/Armstrong/Ullrich/Hamilton/Mayo group is at 24 seconds.

16:39 CEST   
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) is dropped, work done for the day.

Mercado and Brochard come back to the fold too, as Hincapie drives up the tempo. Ullrich has gotten rid of his jacket.

16:40 CEST    187km/10.5km to go
Hincapie, Rubiera and Landis are now on the front of the peloton, which is 27 seconds behind the flying Michael Rasmussen. Maybe 30 riders left in this group, including all the favourites.

16:41 CEST    187.5km/10km to go
The helmets all come off as they hit the 10 km to go banner. Landis (in front) has his on the handlebars.

16:43 CEST    189km/8.5km to go
The peloton contains Voeckler, Armstrong, Ullrich, Klöden, Mayo, Moreau, Mercado, Virenque, Mancebo, Piil, Gutierrez, Simoni, Hamilton, Landis, Rubiera, Hincapie, Azevedo...about 30 riders in total.

Landis still has his helmet on the handlebars, but it doesn't seem to be slowing down.

A few riders - including Casar - are chasing back on.

16:45 CEST   
Voeckler is still hanging on the Armstrong group, although the elastic looks a bit stretchy. Hamilton and lots of Phonak jerseys are also worryingly far back.

16:46 CEST    190.5km/7km to go
Hamilton is dropped

16:48 CEST   
Sastre has jumped clear at the front of the group on the steepest section of the climb and is clear.

Virenque and Voeckler are both dropped now. Hamilton has not blown completely; he's riding steady damage limitation.

And then it's Ullrich's turn to be in trouble.

16:50 CEST   
Rasmussen is caught by Sastre, bit the Armstrong group - down to 15 or so riders - are right there with him.

Ullrich is riding with Guerini behind, clearly in trouble. It's Azevedo who is doing the damage.

16:53 CEST    193km/4.5km to go
Armstrong has taken 20 seconds out of Ullrich; Simoni is with the German, whilst Basso is among the leaders.

Virenque, Voeckler and Hamilton are all together now so Voeckler should be able to hang onto the jersey.

16:56 CEST    193.5km/4km to go
Sastre attacks from the Armstrong group again under the km banner. Klöden is up with Armstrong and looks like T-Mobile's plan B. Ullrich is 40 seconds and fading.

16:58 CEST   
Azevedo has dropped off now and Armstrong is alone with eight companions: Basso and Mayo there.

17:02 CEST   
Armstrong jumps. ONly Basso is able to go with him.

They see Sastre up the road in front; they're reeling him in. He latches on.

17:06 CEST    196km/1.5km to go
Sastre is dropped under one of the snow shelters; Basso is now leading Armstrong through packed crowds, about 50% of whom are wearing orange.

Voeckler is having a bit of trouble staying with his group now.

17:08 CEST   
Basso and Armstrong are coming up the last 500m side by side. Armstrong lifts the pace a bit and leads out....

17:10 CEST   
Basso comes through and wins the stage, with Armstrong coming in on his wheel.

Kloden comes in third at 19 seconds, followed by Mancebo...

17:13 CEST   
The remains of the eight man group who stayed longest with Armstrong come in a about a minute down, with Mayo in there.

The Ullrich group comes in at 2.12, followed by a group with Hamilton and Virenque at 3.38, then the yellow jersey at four minutes dead - Voeckler will keep his jersey for another day.

17:19 CEST   
Well, that might just be game over. Then again, there are still a few more mountains to come yet, but Hamilton, Mayo and Ullrich are clearly on the back foot.

Armstrong moves up into second place on GC, 5.24 behind Voeckler, who might find tomorrow's monster stage to the Plateau de Beille a step too far.

17:36 CEST   
Other good rides that went unnoticed at the time: Sandy Casar limited the damage to hang on to third overall. Another white jersey prospect, Vladimir Karpets, finished with Moreau and Leipheimer, just inside 2 minutes down. Andreas Klöden looks a far better prospect than Ullrich. The ever-present Jakob Piil, who one would normally expect to be coming up in the autobus, rode out of his skin to finish 3 minutes down. Michael Rogers and Oscar Sevilla finished with Ullrich 2.30 down; Roberto Heras was a little further off the pace. But Basso is the big gainer: the stage win was no gift, and he looked more comfortable than Armstrong in the last kilometres; now we have to await the bigger mountains tomorrow to see if this is more than just a particularly good day for the young Italian.

Richard Virenque was out of the picture on the final climb but will still be in spots tomorrow, and McEwe, who popped a back wheelie coming over the line today, will still be in green if he gets in before the shops shut.

Thanks for following this epic (in the technical poetic sense: long with much repetition) stage - join us tomorrow for a stage with no long flat run-in, but rather no fewer than seven listed climbs ending up with the hors catégorie Pleateau de Beille finish. (Only the most cynical and jaded of Tour-watchers would dare predict that there won't be any real action until the final cimb, again). Coverage starts when the race starts, namely 1100 CEST. Thanks for following the action (and inaction) with us here on Cyclingnews.

Results

Provisional
1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                             5.03.58
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor              
3 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                       0.20
4 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto    0.24
5 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                             0.33
6 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems               0.50
7 Denis Menchov (Rus) Illes Balears - Banesto              0.59
8 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Domina Vacanze                    1.02
9 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                      1.03
10 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                
11 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                          
12 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                             1.32
...
20 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                         2.30
41 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangčre            3.59
 
General classification after stage 12
 
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangčre         51.51.07
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor          5.24
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) Fdjeux.com                             5.50
4 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick Step-Davitamon              6.20
5 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                       6.33
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                    
7 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto    6.43
8 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC                                6.53
9 Santos Gonzalez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems             7.23
  

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