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Photo ©: Bettini

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

Main Page     Stages & Results     Stage Profile     Latest Live Report   Results

Stage 13 - Saturday July 17: Lannemezan - Plateau de Beille, 205.5 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Chris Henry

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 10:50 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:03 CEST

The big Pyrenean stage starts in Lannemezan, passing over seven categorised climbs before finishing atop the hors categorie Plateau de Beille (15.9 km at 7.8%). 205 km long, this stage contains an additional two Cat. 1 climbs (Col de Core, km 99.5 and Col d'Agnes, km 146), two Cat. climbs (Portet d'Aspet, km 64 and Latrape, km 131) and two Cat. 3 ascents (Col des Ares, km 42.5, and Port de Lers, km 155). The intermediate sprints are at Orgibet (km 74) and Ornolac (km 182.5).


Km 42.5: Col des Ares, 4 km at 4.7%
Km 64: Col de Portet d'Aspet, 4.4 km at 9.8%
Km 99.5: Col de Core, 14.2 km at 6%
Km 131: Col de Latrape, 5.6 km at 7.7%
Km 146: Col d'Agnes, 9.8 km at 8.2%
Km 155: Port de Lers, 3.8 km at 5.7%
Km 205.5: Plateau de Beille, 15.9 km at 7.8%

10:47 CEST   
It's a nice sunny day at the start in Lannemezan, with temperatures in the mid-20's and climbing. But, just like yesterday, rain is predicted in the last third of the stage, which will make it tough for riders who don't adapt well to sudden climatic changes (they know who they are).

In keeping with our incredibly popular outdoorsy rural theme, Cyclingnews has decided to relocate its main commentary position from the finish line tribune on top of Plateau de Beille to a paddock adjacent the press tent. Through a series of strategically placed France Telecom cardboard placards, we have even managed to get the Tour's WiFi network to work out here. So we'll be bringing you all the action as it happens from our crack team of international reporters on the road in all-natural surroundings. Someone's conveniently left a helicopter here too, which will be handy for getting off this mountain.

11:00 CEST    1km/204.5km to go
After a fast neutral section, the flag is dropped a few minutes before 11am to start the 13th stage. Straight away, Yuri Krivstov (Ag2r) attacks and has a small gap to a chasing group and a strung out peloton.

Sergio Marinangeli (Domina Vacanze) didn't start today.

11:03 CEST    3km/202.5km to go
Krivstov is caught by a group of 13 riders, with Alessandro Bertolini and Scott Sunderland (Alessio-bianchi), Ludovic Martin (RAGT), Floyd Landis (USPS), Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Michele Bartoli (CSC), Bram de Groot (Rabobank), Richard Virenque (Quick.Step) and several more.

11:05 CEST    4km/201.5km to go
The full group: Floyd Landis (US Postal), Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile Team), Ińigo Landaluze (Euskaltel), Michele Bartoli (CSC), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner), Richard Virenque (Quick Step), Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros), Jérôme Pineau (Brioches), Marcus Ljungqvist and Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi), Bram de Groot and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), Gilles Bouvard and Ludovic Martin (R.A.G.T.).

It's too big though, and US Postal is driving the bunch to chase it down. The gap is about 12 seconds.

11:08 CEST    9km/196.5km to go
Postal is working hard on the front of the bunch and has pegged the gap to 8 seconds. There are 14 riders in front, and with guys like Rasmussen, Virenque and Nardello there, USPS doesn't want to let it go.

The group sort of sits up and Pineau counter attacks.

Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) punctures

11:09 CEST    11km/194.5km to go
Virenque counters behind Pineau just as the group is caught. One of the RAGT riders goes with him, but USPS is still driving the bunch.

11:12 CEST    12.5km/193km to go
Rabobank closes the gap down and the attacks start over again. The beginning is always a key tactical part of the stage, and it is clearly very difficult to get in a break. It usually takes between 30-50 km of this sort of attacking before the elastic breaks and a break is allowed to go.

11:15 CEST    15km/190.5km to go
The peloton is really travelling - one loooong line. Zubeldia drops off the back, not sure whether it's a mechanical or it's his sore knee.

Michael Boogerd attacks and gets four riders for company, including Jens Voigt, Juan Miguel Mercado and Christophe Moreau.

11:17 CEST    17km/188.5km to go
The five riders have a small gap as the counter attacks come from behind them. US Postal is trying to control it.

Zubeldia looks like he's going to step off soon. He's not riding very fast and is waiting for his second team car.

11:19 CEST    17km/188.5km to go
The lead group contains Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole), Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears - Banesto), Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step-Davitamon) and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), and they have 8 seconds advantage over the blue jersey led peloton.

Zubeldia abandons and gets into his team car. A disappointment for the rider who finished so high on the GC last year.

11:22 CEST    22km/183.5km to go
The bunch is now 16 seconds behind the lead group, which is working well to establish a gap. Moreau is the best placed on GC, 37th at 13'40, so US Postal (and Brioches) can probably let this break go. But Mercado won't be doing much work as Virenque is back in the peloton - Moreau threatens Virenque's GC place as well as being 50 points behind him in the mountains GC.

Moreau was quoted in L'Equipe today as saying, "Unfortunately, Richard and I did not collaborate when we were together on the Aspin. We had different interests, different jerseys and that's how the race goes. I climbed on courage, I went all out and that was good for the morale. I could see that Ullrich was in trouble and also Hamilton and the maillot jaune. The polka dot jersey could interest me, that's true, just like a stage win because for the general classification it's not going to happen."

Bobby Julich punctures.

11:24 CEST    24km/181.5km to go
The break sits up as the peloton catches them. Voigt, Boogerd and Zandio try to keep going, but are caught by Zanini and Botero.

11:26 CEST    25km/180.5km to go
Virenque closes the gap to the leaders, and now there are six. He has a bit of trouble closing it but Zanini drops off the back and tows him back up.

The lead group: Jens Voigt (Team CSC), Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears), Stefano Zanini and Richard Virenque (Quick Step-Davitamon), Santiago Botero (T-Mobile) and Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)

11:27 CEST   
Boogerd is a bit annoyed that Virenque is there, and the break is caught again.

Chavanel counters, but doesn't get far.

11:29 CEST    27km/178.5km to go
Menchov is out the back of the bunch and riding very slowly. A mechanical or pain? It's pain. He's barely moving. He'll abandon soon.

Chavanel has another go and takes a CSC rider with him, surely not Voigt? Yes it is. They have 15 seconds.

11:31 CEST    30km/175.5km to go
It's over for Menchov. The Russian takes off his helmet and steps into the team car.

Meanwhile, US Postal is still leading the peloton although a counter attack has gone off in pursuit of Voigt and Chavanel. Lance obviously wants to win the stage today (as he did yesterday), so US Postal is keeping a close eye on the breaks.

11:32 CEST   
Voigt and Chavanel now have 30 seconds on a slightly more subdued peloton. US Postal is still at the front, but only riding a controlling tempo - not chasing.

11:37 CEST    31km/174.5km to go
The break is established and Voigt reaches into his pocket for some food. There are 8 US Postal riders on the front, with Team CSC placed right behind them protecting Basso. Maillot jaune Voeckler is further back.

Iban Mayo has to stop to get a saddle adjustment. But it's time for a nature call, so he should have no problem getting back to the peloton.

11:39 CEST    33km/172.5km to go
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) counter attacks as the leaders now have 1'40 on the peloton. The Danish rider gets a gap and is solo.

Iban Mayo is now back in the bunch.

11:45 CEST    36km/169.5km to go
Rasmussen closes to within 1'30 of Voigt and Chavanel, who aren't bad climbers. The Postal led peloton is at 2'12. We can assume that Brioches has given up control of the race, after over a week's worth of very hard work on the front.

The first climb, the Col des Ares, is coming up soon, starting at km 38. It's a Cat. 3 climb measuring 4 km at 4.7%.

Glomser (Saeco) has been dropped by the peloton. This could be it for the Austrian.

11:49 CEST    40km/165.5km to go
Glomser unstraps the helmet and waits for his team car. It's the end of the road for the Saeco rider.

Rasmussen is now 1'20 behind the two leaders, who are 2'25 in front of the bunch. The Col des Ares has started.

11:53 CEST    42km/163.5km to go
Time for a reader question. Dutch reader Emmanuel van Ruitenbeek asks what the "saddle bag" is doing on Jens Voigt's bike. It's actually a transmitting device that relays his heart rate, power output (he has an SRM system too) and other data to German TV (and presumably his team) during the race.

Purely by coincidence, John Stevenson has just let me know that we have a feature on Jens Voigt's bike here. The CN mind-reading system must be working well today.

11:56 CEST    42.5km/163km to go
Chavanel takes the four points at the top of the Col des Ares ahead of Voigt. Rasmussen is following at about 1'20, with the peloton led by Eki and Noval at 2'25.

12:00 CEST    45km/160.5km to go
Rasmussen takes third at 1'25 while Noval gets the final point at 3'06.

It's still very warm weather and no sign of any rain. Lots of riders dropping back for team car visits and bottle duty.

12:06 CEST    50km/155.5km to go
The descent of the Ares is moderately technical, but there are no problems for any of the riders.

Voigt and Chavanel are keeping Rasmussen at bay for now: The Dane is still on his own, 1'10 behind the leaders. The bunch is sitting at 3'07, now being led by Pavel Padrnos.

44 km were covered in the first hour.

12:11 CEST    53km/152.5km to go
Thomas Voeckler (Brioches) is dropping back behind the peloton, looking for his team car. He finds it amidst the organised chaos that is the Tour caravan and has a chat with his team director.

Mayo seems to be having more mechanical problems, but he has a teammate on hand and takes some time out to chat to the team car, grabbing a few spare bottles too for his teammates. So who's the Euskaltel team leader today then?

The gaps: Chavanel and Voigt have 1'14 to Rasmussen and 3'40 to the peloton.

12:16 CEST    58km/147.5km to go
The leaders are now a few km from the foot of the Col du Portet d'Aspet, rated as a cat. 2 climb averaging a nasty 9.8% for 4 km. This climb will forever be known as the one where Italian Fabio Casartelli, while descending crashed into a concrete block and died during the Tour in 1995. There is a memorial to Casartelli a couple of km from the top, on the side that the riders climb today.

12:23 CEST    59.5km/146km to go
Chavanel and Voigt are nearing the lower slopes of the Portet d'Aspet, although the climb proper hasn't quite started yet. Rasmussen is still in no-man's land at 1'25 behind, with the peloton at 4'10.

The climb starts and straight away you can tell it's a nasty gradient. Chavanel gets a bit of assistance from his team car, via a bottle and an adjustment to his radio gear.

Chavanel is no stranger to long breakaways. He was away in the famous stage of the Tour last year to Luz Ardiden, but was caught by an adrenaline-charged Lance Armstrong on the final climb after Armstrong had crashed and the others may or may not have waited, depending on who you listen to.

12:27 CEST    61km/144.5km to go
Rasmussen is on the climb now, and the peloton has reached the foot of it, led all the time by nine US Postal riders. USPS has been riding on the front virtually from the start today, and will be doing everything to put Armstrong in a position to win and take the yellow jersey on Plateau de Beille (that's what it says on my script anyway).

That's the plan, but as we know, things change.

The peloton rides past the Casartelli memorial at a steady pace. No stopping today though.

12:28 CEST   
Casper, Engoulvent and Tombak (all Cofidis) are having problems at the back of the bunch, but they're fighting to keep in contact. It'll be a very long day otherwise.

12:30 CEST   
Rinero (RAGT) is dropping off the back too, finding the Portet d'Aspet very tough in this heat.

In front, Chavanel is pedalling slowly with Voigt coming through every now and again to take his turn. They still have Rasmussen at 1'10 and the peloton at 4'15. They're getting near the top now.

12:32 CEST   
Matt Wilson (FDJ) is fighting hard along with Thor Hushovd (CA). Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen are also at the wrong end of the peloton.

Rasmussen is just 25 seconds from the leaders - nice riding!

12:35 CEST    63.5km/142km to go
It looks like the bus is forming early today. McEwen, Nazon, Cooke, Hushovd, Dekker, Eisel, Becke, Joly, Casper, Baldato are all being distanced by the peloton on the Portet d'Aspet.

Rasmussen closes the gap to the two leaders with 500m to the summit. He is pedalling much faster too.

12:37 CEST    64.5km/141km to go
With a little acceleration, Chavanel is first over, followed by Voigt and Rasmussen. Further back, Moncoutié attacks with Virenque in tow. There's still a few more points to be gained on this Cat. 2 climb.

12:40 CEST   
Aldag, Knaven, Loosli, Beneteau, Bertolini, Elmiger, Dean, Pozzato, Zanini are all going off the back of the peloton.

Thomas Voeckler is dropped! He gets paced up by Laurent Lefevere and will have to do a bit of fancy riding on the technical descent to catch the peloton.

Virenque takes fourth place on the climb ahead of Moncoutié at 3'31.

12:42 CEST    68km/137.5km to go
Voeckler sees the top of the climb and sprints, with Lefevre on his wheel. The descent begins, and the maillot jaune is chasing on to the tail end of the peloton. Only five more climbs...this is going to be a very tough day for the Frenchman, who has had a fantastic race.

The three leaders are at the bottom of the descent.

12:43 CEST    70km/135.5km to go
The leaders race through St Lary are the foot of the Portet d'Aspet. Virenque and Moncoutié have sat up, at 3'20 behind them. The peloton at 3'45 will close the gap soon enough. Voeckler is at the back of the peloton, but he's still in contact and that's a good sign for him.

12:45 CEST   
JP Nazon has crashed on the descent. We hope it's not serious.

12:48 CEST    73km/132.5km to go
Chavanel, Rasmussen and Voigt are approaching the first sprint in Orgibet. Chavanel takes the points ahead of Rasmussen and Voigt.

Moncoutié and Virenque come back to the peloton, which has the usual blue jerseys in front.

12:54 CEST    78km/127.5km to go
Tyler Hamilton has dropped to the rear of the peloton, wanting a one-on-one with his team car.

Situation stable: the trio has 3'57 on a US Postal led peloton.

Two years ago, Postal rode exactly the same way in a similar stage, setting a hard tempo all day to set up Armstrong and Heras on the Plateau de Beille. Only Beloki survived losing too much time that day.

12:58 CEST    80km/125.5km to go
It's sunny and hot at the finish on top of the Plateau de Beille where thousands of fans are camped out, waiting for the race.

McEwen is back in the peloton, and that means the other sprinters have probably made it back too. 4'31.

O'Grady is up the front next to Klöden and Basso, right behind the Postal locomotive.

13:00 CEST    81km/124.5km to go
JP Nazon is back in the peloton after his crash, which is good news.

The leaders have reached the feed zone, just before the Col de Core (14.2 km at 6%) with 4'44 over the bunch. Rasmussen started the day in 23rd at 10'20 down, so he's moved up a few virtual places on GC.

13:05 CEST    81km/124.5km to go
Te peloton goes through the feed zone and there is a bit of a traffic jam. Eki grabs his musette right at the front of the peloton.

Hamilton has stopped. He rides backwards through the caravan, waving to all the directors, and climbs into the team van at the feed. That's a terrible blow for Phonak, but after Hamilton's loss yesterday he was no longer a GC threat. The pain from his fall in Stage 6 and quite possibly the mental anguish of losing his dog Tugboat can't have helped.

13:09 CEST    87km/118.5km to go
Hamilton's abandon will probably leave Santos Gonzalez as the Phonak leader at the moment, as he is the best placed on GC. José Enrique Gutierrez and Oscar Sevilla are also in the top 15.

5'23 after 87 km to Voigt, Chavanel and Rasmussen. Just 2 km to go to the foot of the Col de Core.

13:12 CEST    90km/115.5km to go
The leaders hit the foot of the Col de Core, 14.2 km at 6%. The lower slopes aren't too steep, and there is even a 2.5% false flat after 4 km of climbing. It's a Cat. 1 climb.

Tom Boonen has crashed and is sitting on the ground. His stem has broken! Ouch. He gets a new bike, but doesn't look too happy about riding it.

13:15 CEST    91km/114.5km to go
Boonen is back on a bike, clinging to the race doctor's car. He is in pain, but he doesn't look too beaten up. It seems as though his stem broke, causing him to crash. He gets some treatment on his knee by the doctor, while being towed up the climb. Now he's on his own, and has to chase the rest of the way through the caravan.

The three leaders are hammering along on the Col de Core, all in the small chainring but moving quickly.

13:18 CEST    91.5km/114km to go
McEwen is dropped again with a few of the other sprinters. It's very early on the climb, but a bus may form. McEwen digs deep and bridges the gap to the peloton. O'Grady is also back there.

Tom Boonen rides up the dropped group and finds Zanini for company. The peloton is another 200m up the road, but they're closing the gap. They do, and it's back together.

5'16 to the leaders. No changes.

13:20 CEST   
The reason for Tyler Hamilton's abandon is, as suspected, his bad back. For Hamilton it's not the same as having a broken collarbone, pain wise.

13:24 CEST    93.5km/112km to go
Armstrong is looking fairly happy today, sitting pretty behind seven of his teammates. Floyd Landis is directly behind Armstrong.

Two of the three leaders look to be suffering, while Chavanel looks reasonably comfortable as he tows the break up the long, green valley towards the summit of the Col de Core. This climb gets a bit steeper towards the top, but nothing more than 7.5%.

13:27 CEST    94km/111.5km to go
The relentless pace in the peloton is causing more riders to drop off - Dekker is one, but he has to lose a lot of time before he can be considered for the Lanterne Rouge (last rider on GC) competition.

4'56 to Chavanel, Rasmussen and Voigt.

13:31 CEST    96km/109.5km to go
Boonen asks for the race doctor again, and this time gets assistance for both knees. He ends up in the debris at the back of the peloton, but is climbing pretty well still.

The leaders have less than 5km to go to the summit, and the road gets a little steeper now. The descent of this climb is reasonably tricky. I did it six years ago and had nightmares about the roads melting under my tyres. That was the year where Roland Meier was first over the top while in a break with Rodolfo Massi and (?). Pantani won the stage, which also finished on Plateau de Beille.

13:33 CEST   
McEwen is being dropped again and finds the company of a few others. The peloton is still quite large - well over 100 riders.

We haven't spotted any cows yet, for those who are wondering.

13:36 CEST    97km/108.5km to go
Pozzato, Zanini, Bertolini, Baldato, Simeoni, Davis, Cancellara, Valoti are being dropped off the peloton. Voeckler is once again at the front end of the bunch, risking a fine for an undone helmet. He's sitting next to Hushovd.

13:40 CEST    98.5km/107km to go
The leaders have 1 km to the summit of the Col de la Core, and it's now Rasmussen who's setting the pace. Voigt is doing less work on the climb, but is still hanging on OK.

Noval, Beltran and Padrnos are on the front of the peloton, as usual. Postal doesn't mean to relinquish control of this race and it looks like everyone is waiting for the last climb. Virenque moves forward, ready to pounce for the mountain points.

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) has abandoned.

13:43 CEST    99.5km/106km to go
Rubiera and Azevedo drop back to grab some bottles from the team car for their hard working teammates in front.

Chavanel leads the break towards the summit, bit Rasmussen matches him when he accelerates. Chavanel takes the 15 points, Rasmussen gets 13 and Voigt 11. Let the descent begin!

13:46 CEST    102km/103.5km to go
Voeckler is still at the back of the peloton as it nears the top of the Col de la Core, but he'll make it. The gap is 5'07, and has barely changed in the last 30 km.

13:49 CEST    104km/101.5km to go
As the bunch nears the top, Dufaux takes over the tempo setting with Virenque and Moreau on his wheel. At the start of the stage, Virenque led the spotted jersey competition by 38 points over Axel Merckx and 52 points over Moreau. It seems as though the two Frenchmen are the only ones interested in it.

Not quite - Mancebo attacks for the points but it's Virenque who has the best legs and gets fourth ahead of Moreau and Mancebo.

13:52 CEST    106km/99.5km to go
Virenque and Mancebo have a little chat on the descent, as Mancebo got in the way of Virenque's sprint, or Virenque pushed him out of the way. It depends on your point of view, and Virenque is trying to impress his point on Mancebo.

Gutierrez has a puncture.

13:58 CEST    111km/94.5km to go
The leaders are negotiating the descent of the Col de la Core quite well, and have maintained their 5'15 advantage over the peloton. They're now nearly at the bottom.

Another reader question. Australian Mark McKillop asks what the "bus" is. Also known as the autobus or the gruppetto, this is generally the term given for the big group that forms at the back of the race in the tough stages containing most of the non-climbers.

14:00 CEST   
The leaders are now at the bottom of the descent, and Chavanel grabs a bottle of water (not a normal bidon) from his car. In a stage like today, drinking constantly is important as it's critical to stay hydrated until the final climb.

A crash with two Liberty Seguros riders - one is Heras!

14:01 CEST    115km/90.5km to go
The crash happened just after a hairpin on the descent. Heras takes a long time to get going, but he does and is helped by his teammates. Dekker flies through a non existent gap and a little group forms around Heras to tow him back.

14:06 CEST    118km/87.5km to go
Heras is still chasing as the road flattens out through Seix, a typical tiny Pyrenean village along the river Salat. It looks nice in the river.

14:09 CEST    120km/85.5km to go
Another couple of reader questions. Question 1) How is the team classification calculated? See yesterday's report, but it's the sum of the team's top three riders each day that is added to the team's total. The GC time of the riders is not used.

Question 2) Why aren't there any Coca-Cola bottles in the Tour any more? Because Coca-Cola stopped sponsoring the Tour a couple of years ago. Most riders use their own bidons now or any other drinking receptacles that they are given.

Heras' group has made it back to the caravan, and will close the gap to the peloton. Davis waits by the team car to get bottles.

Gap is 5'28 to Chavanel, Voigt and Rasmussen.

14:12 CEST    122km/83.5km to go
Voeckler has stopped for a bike change. He takes his bidon off and swaps it and is under way again. No sign of a yellow transponder on his chain stay. He gets paced back by two teammates.

The lead trio are nearing the fourth climb of the day, the Cat. 2 Col de Latrape (5.6 km at 7.7%). Short, but fairly steep.

14:16 CEST    124km/81.5km to go
Another question: For Bruce Murphy, who was asking about team assistance in the mountains - there's still considerable aerodynamic benefit to be had following a wheel at TdF climbing speeds. If these guys are climbing at 30 km/h on the shallower slopes, a large percentage of your work at that speed goes into overcoming air resistance. Even at 20 km/h it's still significant. There's also a psychological benefit in being paced - less need to think.

14:20 CEST    125km/80.5km to go
Chavanel, Rasmussen and Voigt hit the Latrape with a 5'42 lead on the peloton, which is almost unchanged with USPS on the right. Voeckler is towards the front again, bike changed. Basso is there, as are Rogers, Julich, Piil, Caucchioli, Ivanov, Ullrich, Klöden, Virenque etc. All looking pretty calm.

14:24 CEST    127km/78.5km to go
Rasmussen leads Voigt and the comfortable looking Chavanel on the Latrape. Chavanel seems to be getting the most assistance from his team car on the climbs, making full use of the hand on the water bottle.

14:27 CEST    129km/76.5km to go
The usual groups are forming off the back of the peloton on the Latrape, including (surprisingly) Iban Mayo, who really doesn't look as quick as he did in the Dauphine. He is attended to by a couple of teammates. Euskaltel has already lost Zubeldia today, so if they lose Mayo then there's not much left for them.

14:29 CEST   
Mayo looks pretty ordinary at the moment, he's not pedalling that fast and is with Etxebarria and a couple of others. He passes Scott Sunderland, who looks rather surprised at seeing Mayo back here. Sunderland grabs the back of the Euskaltel train and tries to hold on.

14:31 CEST    130km/75.5km to go
The peloton is still quite large, and Voeckler is sitting towards the back again. Mayo's group is about 30 seconds back, and has O'Grady in it now as Scott Sunderland takes it a little easier. T-Mobile's Sergei Ivanov comes back to them.

14:33 CEST   
Another reader question: Why are there so many punctures? Can't the pros afford a little extra weight and ride with thicker tyres? Our tech editor John Stevenson answers: Actually some good modern tyres do have puncture-reducing features, like belts under the tread (Clement Criteriums for example). The problem is they're just not very effective. They reduce punctures a bit, but you can't make tyres very puncture-resistant without increasing weight or rolling resistance a lot. A decent-sized piece of glass, especially lubricated by rain, will cut through just about anything you can use as a lightweight tyre casing.

14:34 CEST   
Chavanel, Voigt and Rasmussen are working hard to keep their 5'48 advantage to the top of the Latrape. This is "only" a Cat. 2 climb, but it's causing a lot of damage to the peloton. It looks like it could be the end for Voeckler, who is battling valiantly to hold on in the yellow.

Voeckler puts in another of his patented little sprints and staves off the inevitable for the time being. How does he do that all the time?

14:36 CEST    131.5km/74km to go
Chavanel easily takes the points on the Latrape ahead of Rasmussen and Voigt, and he is picking up a nice bag of mountain points today. He's won 39 so far.

Mayo's group is now nearly a minute behind the peloton. Not good for the Basques.

14:39 CEST    134km/71.5km to go
Rasmussen has trouble on the melting roads and has to take a foot out to avoid crashing.

Voeckler is dropped again, but he sees the 1 km to go sing and sprints onto the peloton.

Mayo's orange tinted group now has Dekker and another Rabo rider in it. Also Aldag is there. They're over a minute behind the peloton.

14:42 CEST    136km/69.5km to go
The summit approaches for the peloton, and it's a big surprise...Richard Virenque takes the fourth place points ahead of teammate Bettini and Moreau. Virenque pretty well has a mortgage on this jersey.

Chavanel takes another bottle and then a coke can from his car. They're on the next climb, the Cat. 1 Col d'Agnes, a rarely used one in the Tour. It's 9.8 km at 8.2% and is all narrow roads. A very nasty climb.

Mayo's group is 6'52 behind the leaders, and nearly two minutes behind the peloton. Four Euskaltel riders are with Mayo.

14:47 CEST    137km/68.5km to go
The three leaders have 5'12 as they struggle up the lower part of the Col d'Agnes, which has a 10 percent section after 2 km. Chavanel is suffering, and can't hold Voigt and Rasmussen. He's going backwards.

14:48 CEST   
As to why riders drink coke, please see Pam Hinton's response in our fitness section.

The coke hasn't done Chavanel any good though, as he's 30 seconds behind Rasmussen and Voigt now.

14:52 CEST    139km/66.5km to go
Chavanel has pretty much blown a valve. He's going backwards at a great rate.

Meanwhile Voeckler, still risking a fine which he probably doesn't care about, is suffering big time off the back of the peloton. This climb will surely be the end for him. Surely.

Gaps: Voigt and Rasmussen lead Chavanel by 37 seconds and the peloton by 5'15. It's all US Postal on the front, all the time.

14:53 CEST   
Voeckler grabs a bottle of water from a spectator and empties it on his head, trying to cool off. The peloton is thinning down again, as Noval leads. Klöden is looking good too.

14:54 CEST   
The readers who have pointed out that most of the rider's work on a climb goes into climbing are right, of course - John Stevenson was thinking of 85 percent at 30 km/h on the flat as an illustration of the fact that even at relatively low speeds, there's advantage to be had in drafting.

[That's nearly as good as the logical southern slope (meaning east) of the Tourmalet excuse!]

14:57 CEST    139km/66.5km to go
Mayo's group which contains four Euskaltels including Mayo now has Sunderland in it again, but they're not coming back. The gap is 8'00 to the leaders and about 3'15 to the peloton.

Ullrich has moved up a bit and is now on the wheels of the six US Postal riders in front. The peloton is getting smaller very fast.

Mayo tried to abandon, climbing off in the middle of the road. No big surprise. A teammate waits for him and his director pushes him off again. Then Garcia Acosta and Cancellara push him. They want him to keep going.

14:59 CEST   
Mayo is getting a lot of support from his teammates and countrymen around him. Garcia Acosta tells him to keep going. There's only this climb, the next one and the Plateau de Beille to go. So easy is it...

15:00 CEST    141.5km/64km to go
The Col d'Agnes is steep enough to make anyone crack. Mayo gets some technical assistance from his team mechanic, making sure that the gears are indexing perfectly. It's more mental support than anything else.

Meanwhile Voeckler is with Secchiari some way off the back of the peloton.

15:02 CEST   
The lead peloton - still with six Postal riders in front - is down to about 40-50 riders. Ullrich is up there, as are Klöden, Mancebo, Basso, Caucchioli.

15:04 CEST    142km/63.5km to go
Mayo looks to be travelling a bit better now, sitting on D. Etxebarria's wheel. Landaluze is also back with him.

Voeckler is about 30 seconds behind the peloton, with one US Postal rider with him - Noval. Voeckler lives still!

In front, Chavanel is 50 seconds behind Voigt and Rasmussen with the peloton at 4'32.

15:06 CEST    143km/62.5km to go
Voeckler gets an energy gel from the Quick.Step car, which is good to see. He can see the back of the caravan in front of him, tantalisingly out of reach.

Chavanel seems to have recovered a bit (maybe the coke has kicked in?) and is sitting 50 seconds behind Rasmussen and Voigt.

Mayo is now 10 minutes behind the two leaders. At least this climb flattens out a bit towards the top.

15:07 CEST    144km/61.5km to go
Mancebo attacks! He gets a small gap and the Postal train remains solid. 10 seconds.

Mancebo looks back and accelerates out of the next hairpin. There's US Postal jerseys on the front of the bunch, but not as many now.

Heras is dropped from the peloton.

15:09 CEST    144.5km/61km to go
Mancebo drives it as hard as he can as the peloton splinters into small bits on the Col d'Agnes. Five US Postal jerseys in front, when Ullrich, Klöden and Virenque, Moreau...

15:10 CEST   
Merckx and Verbrugghe are being dropped with Sandy Casar (FDJ), who is third on GC. After yesterday's stage, Casar told L'Equipe that "I'm disappointed because the team did a very good job to bring me to the bottom of the Aspin. I didn't have the legs and I lost time needlessly on the descent of the Aspin. I wasn't able to do what I needed to do on the descent. After that it was too fast for me on the climb to La Mongie. In the group I was in, everybody had a teammate up ahead so nobody wanted to ride with me."

15:13 CEST    145km/60.5km to go
Mancebo realises that there's no point in continuing, and the Postal train with Azevedo, Hincapie, Rubiera, Landis and Armstrong pulls him back. Leipheimer is also in the Armstrong group, as is Sastre (just). Maybe 25 riders left.

Voeckler is about 40 seconds off the back of the peloton. Beltran catches him.

1 km from the summit for Rasmussen and Voigt, who have 4'30 on the lead bunch.

15:17 CEST    147km/58.5km to go
The final kilometre is "only" 6 percent, but this has really been a brutal climb. The crowds aren't huge, but they're loud.

Some names in the front peloton: Armstrong, Landis, Rubiera, Azevedo, Hincapie, Ullrich, Klöden, Guerini, Pereiro, Moreau, Basso, Sastre, Totschnig, Simoni, Goubert, Karpets, Mancebo, Virenque.

Rasmussen takes the points at the summit ahead of Voigt. Chavanel should take third. The peloton is 3'40 back.

Voeckler is now with the Casar/Merckx group - not too far from the Armstrong group.

15:19 CEST    149km/56.5km to go
The Armstrong group nears the summit at 3'44 behind the two leaders, with Chavanel crossing the top at 2'00 behind. Voeckler's group is at 4'31, so he may get back on.

Rasmussen and Voigt are flying down the descent now.

15:21 CEST   
Virenque and Moreau assume the position in front and it's Virenque who takes the points for fourth (9 points) at 3'47. Moreau is fifth then it looks like Landis.

The Voeckler group summits at 4'40.

Mayo's group is way, way back - more than 12 minutes. Mayo does not look happy, but he looks better than before when he stepped off the bike.

15:23 CEST    150km/55.5km to go
Voeckler attacks the descent, which is fairly short, and takes Merckx with him. The maillot jaune is not done yet! Allez Voeckler!

Mancebo took sixth on the Agnes.

15:24 CEST    151.5km/54km to go
Rasmussen and Voigt, still with 3'40 of their lead, are on the penultimate climb of the day, the Cat. 3 Port de Lers (3.8 km at 5.7%). Then they'll have a nice long descent down the valley to Tarascon before tackling the Plateau de Beille.

15:27 CEST    153km/52.5km to go
Voeckler almost closes the gap but he runs out of descent. He's about 20 seconds behind Armstrong's rather select group on the Port de Lers. He's got Halgand and Mercado for company, and another Brioches rider.

15:29 CEST    154km/51.5km to go
The US Postal train continues to trundle along, extremely impressively too. They have been riding in front all day and still have five men left, while the greater percentage of the peloton is in bits behind them.

Nozal (Liberty) leads the Mayo group over the Col d'Agnes. Meanwhile, the two leaders Voigt and Rasmussen are nearly at the top of the next climb.

Merckx has caught the Armstrong group.

15:32 CEST    155km/50.5km to go
Chavanel is still going alone in between the two leaders and the mini-peloton, which now contains Armstrong, Landis, Rubiera, Azevedo, Hincapie, Ullrich, Klöden, Guerini, Pereiro, Caucchioli, Moreau, Basso, Sastre, Totschnig, Simoni, Goubert, Leipheimer, Karpets, Mancebo, Virenque, Merckx, Halgand, Scarponi and Mercado.

Rasmussen takes the points at the summit of the Port de Lers ahead of Voigt.

15:36 CEST    158km/47.5km to go
Chavanel summits at 2'17, with the Armstrong group at 3'31, led of course by Virenque who sprints for the remaining point.

Voeckler's group crosses at 4'03, and he should be able to close the gap on this long descent. Great riding.

15:40 CEST    161km/44.5km to go
For concerned readers, we haven't had a Mick Rogers sighting for a while, but he's not in the Armstrong group.

Chavanel is eating on the descent, still alone, 40 seconds ahead of the Floyd Landis led peloton.

Voeckler's group, which also contains Casar, Moncoutié and Egoi Martinez, is on the back of the peloton again. Chapeau!

15:44 CEST    166km/39.5km to go
Rasmussen and Voigt have 3'12 on Chavanel, who is standing up on the descent and waiting for the bunch to catch him. It does on the very narrow roads.

There's no rain in sight by the way.

15:45 CEST    167km/38.5km to go
The leading pair, who have been out in front since 28 km, now have just 38 km to go.

Armstrong flats, and gets a very quick wheel change and is under way again.

15:46 CEST   
Armstrong gets a teammate back with him and is chasing back on on the descent through the caravan after his puncture. The bunch waits and for the first time in ages there are no Postal jerseys on the front.

15:48 CEST    170km/35.5km to go
Armstrong is now on the back of the peloton, which is reaching a flatter section of the descent in Vicdessos.

Good to see Voeckler in front again.

The leading pair now have 4'01 after the Armstrong puncture.

15:52 CEST    172km/33.5km to go
Basso drops back to chat to Sastre and give him a bottle. The pace is off now that the group is in the valley, and Mancebo can even find time to take an on the bike pitstop. Chavanel stretches out and looks for Voeckler. He can help him a bit more now. Ullrich chugs down an Extran.

15:56 CEST    176km/29.5km to go
There's nary a rain cloud or a cow in sight atop the Plateau de Beille, and the riders will finish today under bright blue skies. We have about 40 riders in the peloton which is chasing Michael Rasmussen and Jens Voigt, who have been in front for 150 km.

Rogers is back on.

15:59 CEST    178km/27.5km to go
TiTi Voeckler (yes, that's his nickname) is busy refueling himself in the peloton, right behind Virenque and the US Postal train.

The leading pair are riding through Tarascon-sur-Ariege near the foot of the Plateau de Beille. The final climb starts at 16 km to go and averages 7.8 percent, with the steepest parts at the bottom of the climb. The leaders have 4'00 over the Landis-led Postal bus.

16:01 CEST    179km/26.5km to go
Voeckler chats with Marichal, who congratulates him for hanging on this far. The maillot jaune sprints up the side of the bunch to improve his position. Will he be in yellow tonight?

3'47 for Rasmussen and Voigt. The Postal boys are driving hard behind them.

16:03 CEST    181km/24.5km to go
Both leaders look quite good despite such a brutal stage. Rasmussen rests his hands on the tops of the bars as they approach the second and last sprint in Ornolac. Peloton at 3'36 and closing.

16:04 CEST    183km/22.5km to go
Voigt takes the 6 seconds and points in Ornolac with Rasmussen on his wheel. Still 2 seconds up for grabs for the peloton...

16:08 CEST    185.5km/20km to go
The peloton is quite strung out as the Postal Five lead Voeckler through Ornolac. The sprint is taken by Landis (there was no sprint). The 2 seconds obviously weren't considered important enough.

Rasmussen and Voigt have 3'18 with 20 km to go.

16:11 CEST    187km/18.5km to go
So far, everything has gone according to plan for US Postal. Now it's just up to Armstrong to finish it off on the Plateau. He must be feeling good to have the boys riding on the front from kilometre zero. Let's see if the others can surprise him today.

Voeckler, Chavanel and Pineau are sitting directly behind the Postal train, then Basso and Sastre, then Ullrich and Klöden.

3'10 with 18 km to go.

16:14 CEST    190km/15.5km to go
The leaders are in Les Cabannes, ready to take the sharp right hand turn onto the climb. It has begun.

16:15 CEST    191km/14.5km to go
Both Rasmussen and Voigt ditch their helmets into the team car at the foot of the climb. A male fan chases them, dressed in a thong.

The peloton is at 2'35...

16:16 CEST   
The Postal train leads all the way into Les Cabannes, with Hincapie taking over from Landis leading up to the climb. The gap is 2'20 at the bottom.

Voigt and Rasmussen are still cooperating, but Rasmussen looks to be the stronger.

16:17 CEST    192km/13.5km to go
The helmets are passed to soigneurs at the bottom, and everyone is suddenly bare headed.

Hincapie is the first to drop off, then Landis. Just Azevedo and Rubiera left for Armstrong.

16:19 CEST    192km/13.5km to go
Karpets and Virenque are among the first to be dropped on the climb as the Postal duo drive up the pace for Armstrong. Soon there are only 25 riders left, then 20... Sevilla's gone, and Mercado and Brochard.

Rubiera leads, riding hard.

16:20 CEST   
Moreau punctures and gets a wheel from Botcharov. Bad moment. He takes ages to get the wheel in and loses a good 30 seconds.

16:21 CEST    193km/12.5km to go
Moreau has problems getting going again but he does so eventually. He's not going to come back though.

Rubiera continues to make the tempo with Azevedo and Armstrong on his wheel. Klöden is there but Ullrich is a bit further back in 9th.

Goubert attacks!

Rasmussen and Voigt have less than 2 minutes lead now.

16:22 CEST   
Goubert gets a small gap over Rubiera, Azevedo, Armstrong, Basso, Klöden, Totschnig, Ullrich.

Goubert comes back.

Voeckler is dropped. As are Merckx, Verbrugghe and Chavanel.

16:25 CEST    193km/12.5km to go
Moreau finds teammate Halgand, who tries to pace him back to the leading group but it's too far. Scarponi, Mercado, Sastre, Guerini, Merckx are all dropped. Voeckler is riding well, with Chavanel.

First group: Armstrong, Rubiera, Azevedo, Ullrich, Klöden, Guerini, Pereiro, Caucchioli, Basso, Sastre, Totschnig, Simoni, Goubert, Leipheimer, Mancebo.

The two leaders have 56 seconds.

16:27 CEST    193.5km/12km to go
Voeckler is battling hard, 45 seconds behind the Armstrong group which has Azevedo, Rubiera, Basso (looking good), Ullrich, Klöden, Goubert, Totschnig, Mancebo, Pereiro...

Moreau rides past Voeckler. Chavanel and Merckx are a bit ahead.

16:28 CEST    194km/11.5km to go
Rasmussen and Voigt are not going to make it, they're only 40 seconds ahead of the Armstrong group, where Rubiera is setting a fierce tempo waiting for Azevedo to take over.

Moreau is passing Merckx and Chavanel now, trying to pick up as many places as possible.

16:29 CEST   
Rasmussen and Voigt are really suffering, as is Ullrich at the back of the Armstrong group. Azevedo takes over the pace making and immediately Ullrich and Leipheimer are gapped.

16:31 CEST    195km/10.5km to go
Armstrong is left with Azevedo, Basso and Totschnig. Klöden and Mancebo are chasing them at a short distance.

They catch Rasmussen and Voigt. All over.

16:32 CEST    195.5km/10km to go
Azevedo continues to set a hard pace as Totschnig drops off. Only Basso is left with Armstrong and his Portuguese teammate with 10 km to go.

16:33 CEST   
Armstrong is looking very comfortable, more so than Basso.

Ullrich looks pretty cooked as he goes past the dropped Rasmussen.

16:34 CEST    196.5km/9km to go
After only 5 km of climbing, we have Armstrong, Azevedo and Basso left with Totschnig chasing at 20 seconds and then Mancebo and Klöden. Ullrich is with Pereiro, Leipheimer and Goubert at 40 seconds, Voeckler is at 1'30. He has to lose 5'20 today to lose the yellow.

16:36 CEST   
The Plateau starts to get a little bit easier after the initial steep sections, if you can call 7.2 percent "easier".

Totschnig hasn't cracked, and he's about 10 seconds off the back. Klöden and Mancebo another 10 seconds.

16:37 CEST    197km/8.5km to go
Jose Azevedo is doing exactly the job he was hired for - tow Armstrong as far as possible up the final climb before his team captain finishes it off. Only Basso might put a spanner in the works today.

16:38 CEST   
Voeckler, the long haired Karpets and Chavanel are now together, 1'41 behind Armstrong's trio. Ullrich is at 0'52.

16:41 CEST    198km/7.5km to go
Ullrich is with Goubert, 55 seconds behind Armstrong. No sign of Leipheimer and Pereiro, who were here just a minute ago.

Armstrong, Azevedo and Basso still lead Totschnig by 5 seconds, then Klöden and Mancebo, then Ullrich alone. Leipheimer and Pereiro are behind the German.

16:41 CEST   
Azevedo peels off and Armstrong takes over, with Basso stuck to his wheel. Less than 8 km to go. Basso takes over.

16:42 CEST    198.5km/7km to go
Ullrich is going better now, but he's a minute behind Armstrong and Basso. Meanwhile, Totschnig passes Azevedo, who is taking it steady now. Then Klöden and Mancebo then Ullrich...

16:43 CEST   
Armstrong gets out of the saddle and accelerates, but Basso remains seated and is not distanced. He has to struggle though.

Ullrich at 1'12, Voeckler at 2'27.

16:45 CEST    199.5km/6km to go
Basso does a turn, so he's having another good day. Armstrong can't get rid of him yet. Klöden and Mancebo are catching Azevedo. Klöden dumps a water bottle over his head.

16:46 CEST    200km/5.5km to go
Totschnig is now clearly third on the road, fighting hard at 15 seconds behind Armstrong and Basso.

Ullrich is at 1'31, so he's going to lose another bucket of time today. He's not pedalling very fast as the climb steepens to 8.5 percent.

16:47 CEST   
Basso takes over, looking fresh and hungry. Armstrong gets a push from a fan, who runs for about 300 metres beside the lead duo. There's another nude runner too.

16:49 CEST    200.5km/5km to go
Ullrich looks pretty cooked, but he's not doing too badly today compared to yesterday in that he's 7th on the road. But 2'00 back now.

Armstrong goes under 5 km to go, with Basso right on his wheel.

16:50 CEST    201.5km/4km to go
Basso takes over again as the Basque fans cheer them up. It's all orange, all the time. No Mayo today but this will be fine.

16:52 CEST    201.5km/4km to go
The situation with 4 km to go: Armstrong, Basso lead, with Totschnig at 0'45, then Mancebo at 1'10, Klöden at 1'15, Azevedo at 1'40, and Ullrich 2'00. Voeckler is 3'30 back.

16:53 CEST   
The climb flattens out a bit with 4 km to go, but there's still some steepness to come.

Voeckler accelerates past Merckx with 5 km to go. He is 3'55 behind.

16:54 CEST    202.5km/3km to go
Klöden can see Mancebo just in front of him, but he's not catching him. The Spaniard can see Totschnig, but he's not catching him. Ullrich can see Azevedo, and he does catch him under the 4 km to go banner

16:55 CEST    202.5km/3km to go
Voeckler is getting huge cheers as he fights for his yellow jersey with 4 km to go.

In front, BAsso and Armstrong are together under the 3 km to go banner. Basso has ridden fantastically again. Armstrong, well I guess we expected it after the way his team rode today. Impressive rides from both of them.

16:56 CEST    204km/1.5km to go
Mancebo fights his way past 3 km to go with Totschnig still 30 seconds in front of him. But the battle for stage honours is between Armstrong and Basso.

16:58 CEST    203.5km/2km to go
Armstrong looks a bit better than Basso today, but who knows? Basso showed yesterday that he was strong in the final, and probably wouldn't mind another stage win. Aha, there is a brief chat with 2 km to go.

16:59 CEST    204km/1.5km to go
Totschnig fights his way through the Basque crowds, a minute behind the two leaders. In front Basso grits his teeth and does another turn.

16:59 CEST   
Voeckler could save his jersey - 4'10 back to Armstrong and Basso. Ullrich is at 2'19.

17:00 CEST    204.5km/1km to go
Ullrich, sixth on the road, fights through the Basque crowds inside the final 2 km. Voeckler has to finish 5 minutes-ish behind order to keep the jersey.

1km to go, and Armstrong and Basso are stuck together. Basso leads.

17:01 CEST   
The road flattens out at the summit as Basso continues in front

17:02 CEST    205.5km/0km to go
Armstrong sits behind with 500m to go, Basso is just riding hard. Armstrong is ready to take the stage and waits until 150m to go and wins the stage from Ivan Basso!

17:04 CEST   
Totschnig comes in third at 1'05. Then Klöden and Mancebo are back together, but it's Klöden who takes fourth ahead of the Spaniard at 1'26. Ullrich fights hard for sixth, finishing 2'41 back. Azevedo, Moreau(!) and Caucchioli are close behind.

Voeckler is coming - it's 3'30 already.

Simoni in at 3'40, then Pereiro and Goubert and then Voeckler puts his first up as he crosses 4'42 behind Armstrong. He keeps yellow!!!

17:19 CEST   
Well that's all folks. The stage unfolded more or less as planned for US Postal, but there were some surprises en route. Great riding by Basso, Voeckler(!), Rasmussen, Voigt, Chavanel, but the abandons of Hamilton, Menchov, Zubeldia and almost Mayo were not considered.

Voeckler's ride was amazing to keep the yellow, considering how badly he looked on the first few climbs. But he only has 22 seconds left of his formerly great lead over Lance Armstrong, with Ivan Basso in third at 1'39. Andreas Klöden is the best of the T-Mobile boys in fourth at 3'18, while Ullrich is now in 8th, a relative improvement from yesterday.

McEwen keeps the green and Virenque the spots. See you tomorrow!


1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor       6.04.38
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                    
3 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                       1.05
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                       1.27
5 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto        
6 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                          2.42
7 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor             2.50
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crédit Agricole                  2.51
9 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                      
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                             3.43
11 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                      
12 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance                           
13 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangčre            4.42 

General classification after stage 13

1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangčre         58.00.27
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor          0.22
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                1.39
4 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                       3.18
5 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto    3.28
6 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                       6.08
7 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor             6.43
8 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                          7.01
9 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                  7.59
10 Sandy Casar (Fra) Fdjeux.com                            8.29

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