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

Main Page     Stages & Results     Stage Profile     Latest Live Report   Results

Stage 14 - Sunday July 18: Carcassonne - Nimes, 192.5 km

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

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 12:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:19 CEST

The Pyrenees are over and with Monday a rest day, Stage 14 is a dead flat transitional stage for sprinters from the fortified city of Carcassonne to Nimes, site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre. Sunday will likely see maillot vert Robbie McEwen and his foes battle it out in final on the last stage left for the fast men before Paris. With a prevailing tailwind from the west along the Mediterranean Sea, Stage 14 is likely to be run at a superfast pace.

12:52 CEST   
The weather at the start today is warm (27 degrees) and humid, with the rain this morning having cleared up. There is a stiff wind blowing at 30-40 km/h from the east, which will be against the riders for the first part of the stage. However towards the end it will switch round to the south west approaching Nimes.

There are no climbs today, and only two intermediate sprints at Capestang (53km) and Villevieille (166.5km).

The flag is dropped after a fairly long 8.1 km neutral section.

12:55 CEST    3km/189.5km to go
Bobby Julich injured
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
After crashing in stage 13 yesterday, CSC's Bobby Julich is looking a little worse for wear this morning in Carcassonne. His right wrist is all taped up and it's quite painful, although nothing is broken.

12:58 CEST    8km/184.5km to go
Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) opened the hostilities, and was joined by Janek Tombak, Mark Scanlon and Guillaume Auger, but they was quickly chased down by the Fassa Bortolo team. A new wave of attacking starts, as is traditional at the start of any Tour stage.

12:59 CEST    8.5km/184km to go
Servais Knaven (Quick.Step) is the next rider to have a go, but he is caught as well. The riders are really moving at the start, and the speed is over 50 km/h.

13:07 CEST    15km/177.5km to go
The peloton has covered 15 km in not much more than 17 minutes. But still no-one has been able to get clear.

13:14 CEST    20.5km/172km to go
Despite the headwind at the start today, the average speed is still well over 50 km/h as the peloton remains strung out in a long line. It usually takes between 30-50 km before a break can get clear. <scarcasm>Everyone must be full of beans after the two nice easy days in the Pyrenees.</sarcasm>

13:19 CEST    25km/167.5km to go
There is a small split in the peloton as 20 riders get clear, including Nardello, Pozzato, Garcia Acosta, Knaven, Pineau, Scanlon, Wilson, Kroon and Commesso.

13:21 CEST    26.5km/166km to go
The leading group of 20: Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile Team), Bert Grabsch, Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak Hearing Systems), Filippo Pozzato, Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo), Pierrick Fedrigo (Crédit Agricole), José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Christophe Edaleine, Jimmy Engoulvent, Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Servais Knaven (Quick Step-Davitamon), Jérôme Pineau (Brioches La Boulangère), Mark Scanlon (AG2R Prévoyance), Karsten Kroon, Marc Lotz (Rabobank), Christophe Mengin, Matthew Wilson (Fdjeux.com), Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Koos Moerenhout (Lotto-Domo), Paolo Valoti (Domina Vacanze).

There is a second group chasing these riders, with the yellow/green/polka dot jerseys in the main peloton a little bit further back.

13:27 CEST    29.2km/163.3km to go
The seven riders chasing the leading 20 are: Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo), Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole), Michele Bartoli (Team CSC), Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis), Stefano Zanini (Quick Step-Davitamon), Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R Prévoyance), Erik Dekker (Rabobank).

Noteworthy is that nearly all of the riders in the group, except Pineau (24th at 14'48) and Nardello (48th at 44'51) are more than an hour down on GC.

13:34 CEST    32.5km/160km to go
At the moment there are now 18 riders in the lead, being chased by a group of seven and then the peloton with the yellow jersey in it. Rabobank seems to be very aggressive, with Kroon, Lotz and Dekker in these groups. Cofidis also has three (Edalaine, Engoulvent and Fofonov) while Ag2r, FDJ, Phonak, Fassa, Credit Agricole and Quick.Step all have two riders.

13:35 CEST    35.5km/157km to go
It's all come back together now and a new attack goes with just four riders: Santos Gonzalez, Juan Antonio Flecha, Christophe Edalaine and Jean Cyril Robin.

13:37 CEST    37km/155.5km to go
Scanlon and Commesso try to get across to the leaders, but fail in the strong wind. The gap is 12 seconds.

13:41 CEST    39km/153.5km to go
JP Nazon's bike
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
Another of the riders injured yesterday when he crashed on the descent of the Portet d'Aspet (the non-Casartelli side) was Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r-Prevoyance), who has the job of team sprinter after Kirsipuu abandoned before the mountains. Nazon's fork snapped in the crash, as you can see from this pic.

Gap is now 25 seconds between Gonzalez, Flecha, Edalaine and Robin and the peloton.

13:47 CEST    44km/148.5km to go
This is a rather enterprising move by Flecha, Gonzalez, Edalaine and Robin. They've managed to increase their lead up to 55 seconds as the peloton eases off the throttle a bit. But with Quick.Step, Lotto-Domo and Credit Agricole not represented, we can probably expect a concerted chase a bit later on.

Of the four, Santos Gonzalez is the best placed on GC, lying in 33rd at 27'04.

13:52 CEST    48km/144.5km to go
The gap is hovering between 50 seconds and a minute as the peloton hasn't quite let up behind the leading four. It's been a very fast start on the wide roads, considering a 30-40 km/h headwind: 44.6 km were covered in the first hour!

13:54 CEST    50km/142.5km to go
Rabobank is driving the peloton hard behind the break, and has brought the gap back to 45 seconds. Rabobank really wanted to get in the moves today, which explains their motivation.

13:56 CEST    51km/141.5km to go
The leading quartet are getting close to the first sprint at Capestang (km 53), which is really of no interest to them as none are in contention for green.

13:59 CEST   
Rabobank has brought the leaders back to 30 seconds just before the first sprint. Ideally they will get close enough for one of them to jump across without bringing anyone else. Easier said than done.

14:03 CEST    55km/137.5km to go
It's now down to 21 seconds, as the bunch rolls along led by the Rabo train. At the back, Christian Vandevelde (Liberty) gives the injured Bobby Julich a pat on the back and some encouragement.

The results of the sprint at Capestang: 1. Santos Gonzalez, 2. Jean-Cyril Robin, and 3. Juan Antonio Flecha.

14:04 CEST    57km/135.5km to go
Exactly as predicted, when the gap comes down to 15 seconds, Erik Dekker (Rabobank) attacks off the front in pursuit of the break. There is general panic behind in the peloton as the chase stops.

14:05 CEST    58.5km/134km to go
Dekker gives it everything and has opened up a nice gap on the peloton. He can see the four leaders in his sights and rides them down. There are now five leaders.

14:06 CEST   
The leaders now: Santos Gonzalez (Phonak), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Christophe Edaleine (Cofidis), Jean-Cyril Robin (Fdjeux.com) and Erik Dekker (Rabobank).

Dekker takes a breather on the back of the break before rolling through.

14:09 CEST    60km/132.5km to go
A RAGT rider attacks the peloton in pursuit of the five man break, but he goes nowhere. Moerenhout (Lotto) tries next. The gap is only 10 seconds.

There's a bit of a hold up (crash?) near the back of the peloton with Arvesen and Julich involved.

14:11 CEST    62km/130.5km to go
Thomas Voeckler
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
The race is on the main road again, riding on the right hand side of a dual carriageway. Bettini does a big turn on the front, with Cooke following. But they can't quite close the gap to the five leaders.

Race leader Thomas Voeckler (Brioches) is well placed near the front, as is Armstrong and the US Postal boys.

14:12 CEST   
In the front of the race, Dekker comes through for a hard turn, followed by Flecha. The five have opened it up to 20 seconds again as the peloton regroups, chases, regroups, chases...

14:16 CEST    65.5km/127km to go
Quick.Step has missed the break, and Knaven, Mercado and Rogers start working in front of the peloton, with Rabobank's Marc Wauters right behind them. The wind is still against the riders. The five leaders are working perfectly, but the peloton is bigger and uglier and doesn't seem to want this break to go.

14:19 CEST    67km/125.5km to go
The race passes through the city of Beziers and the break gives up the ghost. Peloton together after 66 km. But not for long - Simeoni counters through the streets of Beziers.

14:20 CEST    68km/124.5km to go
Simeoni gets Baden Cooke for company, and a eight others close the gap. The peloton is strung out in pursuit, with many Posties on the front. Voeckler is in the break! That's why...

14:22 CEST    70km/122.5km to go
Voeckler is ridden down by US Postal. Funny that. The Simeoni/Cooke/Hondo 10 man breakaway comes back to the fold. A Phonak rider counters, then Fofonov counters the counter. Peloton looking quite thin now.

14:24 CEST    71km/121.5km to go
bobby Julich is sitting last wheel, trying to stay out of trouble.

Laurent Brochard (ag2r) attacks, but Jens Voigt (CSC) rides him down. Da Cruz (FDJ) has a go next. It's on for young and old.

14:25 CEST   
So much for Beziers. We're now back on the open road with Da Cruz powering away on his own in front of the peloton, which is looking a tad ragged at the moment. There is a very long line of riders sitting in the left hand gutter.

14:28 CEST    74.5km/118km to go
Da Cruz sits right back in the saddle, powering away, but he is caught. More attacking, with Dekker and O'Grady getting up the front.

Bobby Julich is dropped, and is sitting just behind the peloton in the caravan looking like he's in a lot of pain.

14:30 CEST    76km/116.5km to go
Fabio Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi) has punctured. Laurent Dufaux (Quick.Step) also. They should be able to get back on using the caravan.

O'Grady, Da Cruz and Dekker are drying to get a break going. There's about 15 riders including Merckx, Commesso, Garcia Acosta... but folks don't wanna work.

14:33 CEST    78.5km/114km to go
O'Grady and Dekker drive the break, which also has Aldag, Tosatto, Dean, Sorensen, Da Cruz, Hruska, Merckx, Commesso, Garcia Acosta and Auger in it. The gap is 16 seconds.

14:35 CEST    80km/112.5km to go
The composition of the break: Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile Team), Matteo Tosatto (Fassa Bortolo), Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole), Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), José V. Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros), Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Carlos Dacruz (Fdjeux.com), Salvatore Commesso (Saeco), Axel Merckx and Aart Vierhouten (Lotto-Domo), Guillaume Auger (R.A.G.T.).

Merckx is the best placed on GC in 27th at 20'13.

Quick.Step has missed it, and is chasing hard.

14:36 CEST    82km/110.5km to go
The break reaches the feed zone in Valros (km 81.5) and several riders grab feed bags. The peloton is about 20 seconds behind with Knaven and Virenque on the front.

14:37 CEST   
Merckx looks very comfortable in the break, and O'Grady and Dekker look to be the driving forces. Correction: Vierhouten is in the peloton, not the break.

14:39 CEST    85km/107.5km to go
There are thousands of fans out to cheer the riders as they pass through Valros.

Crash at the back - it's Nazon again, who's gone off into a ditch. He's ok, and is on his bike again with teammate Nicolas Portal with him.

14:43 CEST    88km/104.5km to go
The 12 man breakaway is working a bit better now that they've got 20 seconds lead. Many teams are represented, and Merckx isn't a huge threat on GC, so US Postal and Brioches don't have to chase.

But Lotto-Domo (despite Merckx being in front) and Quick.Step are riding hard in the peloton, which has split after the feed zone. 15 seconds.

14:45 CEST   
Piil is having problems at the back, and is seen to by the race doctor.

The 12 man break is working very well, even Merckx, despite the fact that his teammates are chasing behind him! A bit of a waste.

14:48 CEST    92.5km/100km to go
Portal and Nazon have clawed their way onto the back of the peloton, where Jakob Piil is hanging out.

Jens Voigt (CSC) punctures. This is not CSC's day.

McEwen (Lotto-Domo) is near the front behind the three Quick.Step boys, but pulls off when he sees US Postal right behind him, signaling them to come through. Lotto-Domo seems to be playing the Merckx card then.

The second hour was raced at 46.5 km/h (with a 35 km/h headwind).

14:50 CEST    93km/99.5km to go
The race passes through the thriving metropolis of Pezenas.

Iban Mayo is off the back in a small group. This could be another bad day for the Basque.

14:52 CEST   
Knaven continues to drive the peloton in pursuit of the 12 man break, which has just imploded. Da Cruz goes alone with Merckx and Auger in tow.

Knaven drives so hard with Moerenhout on his wheel that they ride away from the bunch.

14:54 CEST    96km/96.5km to go
Voigt is on his way back to the peloton after his puncture, carrying about 10 bidons for his teammates.

The peloton has suddenly eased off with US Postal in front. Merckx, Da Cruz and Auger are still away. Sorensen and O'Grady are there too - interesting.

We're now halfway, and it's been flat out racing from the gun.

14:56 CEST    98km/94.5km to go
Bernhard Eisel (FDJ) has dropped back and is getting seen to by the doctor, who gives him some cream for a saddle sore problem. Eisel unzips his jersey and (we don't need to explain further).

14:57 CEST   
More riders are bridging up to the O'Grady group. Fedrigo and Nardello are there, as are a Fassa Bortolo rider and possibly Allan Davis (Liberty). A couple more in pursuit.

14:58 CEST    100km/92.5km to go
There is no cooperation in front as Merckx looks behind for the peloton. He drives hard on a climb and Nardello goes with him. But then the rest of the group catch up. Flecha, Rogers and Davis are there too.

14:59 CEST   
The break grows to about 15 riders but there is zero cooperation. Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) is in the front group, and sets off alone. US Postal has closed the gap to everyone else.

One leader: Nicolas Jalabert.

15:02 CEST    101km/91.5km to go
The back of the peloton is strung out on the left hand side of the road, suffering in the wind. A RAGT rider lets a gap open and a Euskaltel has to close it. Servais Knaven is well back in the field now.

Jalabert is being chased by Botero, Igor Gonzalez and a Euskaltel rider.

Knaven, Casper and Finot are dropped from the peloton.

15:04 CEST    102km/90.5km to go
The leaders: Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak), Santiago Botero (T-Mobile), Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel) and Igor Gonzalez (Liberty) are being chased by a group of six riders at 5 seconds, with the peloton another 10 seconds back, led by Postal.

15:06 CEST    104km/88.5km to go
The leaders are together, and we have: Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak), Santiago Botero (T-Mobile), Iñigo Landaluze and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Igor Gonzalez (Liberty), Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa), Pierrick Fedrigo (CA), Marc Lotz (Rabobank), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) and Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com). This might be it...

The road curves downhill now and the leaders have 40 seconds. US Postal isn't chasing.

15:07 CEST    106km/86.5km to go
With Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano the best placed rider in the break in 46th at 42'40, the GC teams don't have to be concerned. Also there are no threats for the green jersey, like O'Grady, up here, so this break could go to the end. We'll see.

55 seconds now.

15:10 CEST    108km/84.5km to go
The pace slows in the peloton and it's that time of the day. After 107 km of hard racing, many riders are feeling the pinch in their bladders.

US Postal has set a very moderate tempo in front, while the breakaway now has 1'30 and gaining.

15:14 CEST    111km/81.5km to go
Brioches la Boulangère have now got three men in front of the peloton, followed by the US Postal train. The gap is 2'19 and with a solid group of 10 riders up the road, the sprinters teams are going to have to ride very well to bring them back. Especially as the break has been established relatively late in the piece.

15:16 CEST    112km/80.5km to go
Armstrong is sitting in about 10th wheel behind the combined US Postal/Brioches trains, then Voeckler in yellow and then Jan Ullrich, pedal ling about 20 rpm. Why? Because he can.

15:21 CEST    115.5km/77km to go
The break is now working pretty well, with all 10 men rolling through for their turns. Euskaltel has two riders up here with Landaluze and Martinez, but there's plenty of competition here for the stage win. Santi Botero, Aitor Gonzalez, Peter Wrolich and Christophe Mengin (probably the best sprinters on paper)...

It looks like Oscar Sevilla (Phonak) is getting some bandaging on his wrist from the race doctor.

3'10 with 77 km to go.

15:26 CEST   
Despite this being a flat stage, the crowds are still enormous, waiting all day for their 3 minutes of live race action.

But the Tour is much more than that - the moment when the riders come through is merely the climax to several hours of getting sunburned, drinking various quantities of alcohol, having a picnic, begging for a free sample of Cochonou salami, a Cofidis keyring, and maybe a sample pack of sunscreen.

15:29 CEST    122km/70.5km to go
The gap to the 10 leaders continue to balloon as Brioches la Boulangère's three men ride a steady tempo at the front of the peloton. Anthony Charteau is once again the main worker for the baker boys.

It's now 5'16 with 70 km to go.

15:33 CEST    124km/68.5km to go
We're very much in vineyard country today, as the race travels along near the coast of the Mediterranean.

It looks very much like that the 10 leaders will go all the way to the finish and the bunch will be sprinting for 11th. Quick.Step and Lotto-Domo haven't showed themselves in front of the peloton, and it's just Brioches riding very steadily protecting Voeckler in yellow.

Iban Mayo managed to return to the peloton a while back, but it's clear he's still not 100 percent.

15:40 CEST    130km/62.5km to go
With 63 km to go, the leading group has over 7 minutes lead on the peloton, which has absolutely no interest in chasing. Brioches is riding a training tempo on the front, and even the cyclotourists on the bike path next to the road are keeping up. Voeckler doesn't mind at all.

Leaders: Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak), Santiago Botero (T-Mobile), Iñigo Landaluze and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty), Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa), Pierrick Fedrigo (CA), Marc Lotz (Rabobank), Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner, Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com).

15:46 CEST    134km/58.5km to go
It's now up to 8'31 as the pace increases again in the peloton, more to control the situation rather than chase the break down.

15:49 CEST    136km/56.5km to go
Andreas Klöden is at the rear of the peloton. The fourth placed rider on GC is looking for his team car and a few water bottles. After yesterday's tough Pyrenean stage, Klöden commented to L'Equipe, "It was another great day even if I wasn't able to follow Armstrong all the way to the end. I preferred to climb at my own rhythm. Earlier, Jan had given me carte blanche to do my best to stay with Armstrong for as long as possible. I'm still convinced that Jan is going to come back very strong in the Alps."

9 minutes, as the break passes through the outskirts of Montpellier.

15:51 CEST    138km/54.5km to go
In the peloton, Marcus Ljungqvist (Alessio-Bianchi) has crashed, but it's not serious, just a bit of skin off his hand.

The Brioches yellow jersey parade continues, and Voeckler is getting a lot of cheers from the side of the road.

15:53 CEST    140km/52.5km to go
In the break, Landaluze looks to be one of the strongest, which will help his teammate Egoi Martinez if they are to plan a 1-2 offensive. With such a huge lead, the breakaway will likely start attacking each other from a long way out.

15:58 CEST    143km/49.5km to go
Marc Lotz (Rabobank) comes through for his turn, followed by Aitor Gonzalez and then Fedrigo. The break's pace is still solid while the peloton is travelling a little more slowly. The gap is now 10'12 and perhaps stabilising, as the five Brioches la Boulangère riders keep control of the bunch.

16:03 CEST    147km/45.5km to go
The time gap is rapidly becoming irrelevant as there are no classement riders in the breakaway. Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) is the best placed of the 10 leaders in 43rd at 37'39. But for the record, the differential is now 10'40.

In the break, Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) drops back to his team car for a water bottle or three.

16:08 CEST    149km/43.5km to go
We now have seven Brioches riders on the front of the bunch with Voeckler in eighth wheel. Sylvain Chavanel is one of them, having ridden impressively yesterday to finish 17th at 6'34 behind Armstrong.

Chavanel was quoted in L'Equipe as saying, "I did my little escape. That was planned so our team wouldn't have to ride. Since Rasmussen was with us in the break, I didn't have any illusions of winning. But, of the three I was with during the day, it was I who finished first. Once I was caught, I tried to set the pace for Thomas on the climb of Plateau de Beille. At 4 km to go, I couldn't follow any more. Last night I was completely wiped out."

11 minutes with 42 clicks to go as the break rides through Castries.

16:10 CEST    150.5km/42km to go
Besides vineyards, today's stage is remarkable for the medieval architecture in all of the towns that the race passes through. And the crowds of people. Where did they all come from? Don't they have homes to go to? It's a great day for the beach.

16:13 CEST    153km/39.5km to go
A run down of the eight remaining Brioches la Boulangère team members, who are doing the job du jour of keeping Voeckler out of the wind and letting a non-threatening break get as much time as they want.

Besides Voeckler, there is road captain Didier Rous, Frank Renier, Walter Beneteau, Anthony Charteau, Laurent Lefevre, Jerome Pineau and Sylvain Chavanel.

16:17 CEST    156km/36.5km to go
Christophe Moreau drops back to his team car for a bidon. He takes three, then asks his director for a coke. He obliges, and Christophe toasts him with the small can. Then makes his way back to the bunch with three bidons stuck in his back pocket.

JP Nazon, who crashed earlier today at the feed zone, has a scraped right shoulder but he's still in the race.

Almost 12'00 now with 36 km remaining.

16:20 CEST    158km/34.5km to go
The break is looking slightly more disorganised as each rider starts thinking about their own chances to win today. Aitor Gonzalez, Santi Botero, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano would all be looking for a solo TT opportunity, while sprinters like Wrolich, Mengin and Lotz might want to keep the group a bit bigger. Then there's the two Euskaltel riders Egoi Martinez and Iñigo Landaluze, who will certainly cook up a cunning plan if they can. Finally Fedrigo and Jalabert will try to get themselves into the winning break if they can.

16:24 CEST    160km/32.5km to go
The second sprint of the day is coming up in 6 km at Villevielle, but will have no consequence for the breakaways, who are all eyeing each other off now as we get close to 30 km to go.

It's a fairly hot day today too down on the Mediterranean coast, with temps up to 30 degrees celsius.

Peloton: All Brioches, all the time. 12'15.

16:28 CEST    164km/28.5km to go
The break takes a right hander at a roundabout as it heads towards the sprint in Villevielle, conveniently located on a small climb.

Billions of spectators cheer them on through the narrow streets.

16:31 CEST    166km/26.5km to go
The road gets steeper and this would be an ideal place for an attack. Landaluze leads the break with Fedrigo and Lotz in tow. Under the sprint banner, it's Wrolich who takes the points uncontested from Mengin and Fedrigo.

16:34 CEST    167.5km/25km to go
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) signals for some water and gets a bottle of Aquarel from the motorbike. Nicolas Jalabert tries to grab a bidon from the side of the road but misses. Doh!

25 km to go and the gap is still growing: 12'41. That will put Martinez in virtual 30th on GC, so it's not a big concern for the Brioches riders on the front of the bunch.

16:36 CEST    170km/22.5km to go
Santi Botero chats to the T-Mobile team car, getting instructions from one of his directors. He's back in the break now and straightaway goes through for his turn. Marc Lotz adjusts his shoe straps...

16:39 CEST    171.5km/21km to go
The leaders aren't really working overtime, but still the gap is growing to the peloton. It's 13'15 with 22 km to go. Brioches la Boulangère are enjoying the fact that they don't have to kill themselves to bring these riders back.

16:40 CEST   
The peloton passes a roundabout dedicated to Stéphane Goubert (Ag2r), who is 17th on GC.

16:40 CEST    172.5km/20km to go
The break goes under the blue 20 km to go banner, led by Nicolas Jalabert. Still no sign of any aggression in the break.

16:44 CEST    175km/17.5km to go
A question from Lucky Rossow, who asks how do the riders in the break get water bottles? Well normally there are a couple of team cars in the race, so one will go up to the break and the other will sit behind the peloton. The way it works is that the cars also "do turns" behind the break, unless a particular rider calls for his team car. Then the traffic marshal signals for it to come through. You don't see this on TV, but you do on a motorbike.

Also, there's a neutral motorbike with bottles of water that riders can access.

16:46 CEST    177.5km/15km to go
The peloton is now riding up the hill where the second sprint is located, which means that it is 10 km behind the break.

16:48 CEST    178km/14.5km to go
There's still not much movement in the break as it goes under 15 km to go. All 10 riders are still rolling around, so probably no-one is feeling super strong.

16:52 CEST    181km/11.5km to go
The leaders now have 11 km to go and the cooperation is still very good. They scare a couple of horses in a paddock next to the road. Now cow sightings today unfortunately.

16:53 CEST    182.5km/10km to go
The 10 man break reaches 10 km to go, still working smoothly. The road goes slightly uphill here, so it may be a good place for an attack. No-one looks interested at the moment.

16:54 CEST    183.5km/9km to go
Aha! Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano makes the first move. He is chased by the rest o the break. He is annoyed that a Euskaltel rider has led the chase.

Now Aitor Gonzalez counters. The other Euskaltel gets on his wheel. It's still all together.

16:55 CEST   
Fedrigo goes next with Egoi Martinez in tow. The gap is slightly bigger as JaJa chases.

16:56 CEST    185km/7.5km to go
Landaluze, Botero and Aitor Gonzalez are chasing off the back. The other seven have come back together. Now Igor goes again just as Landaluze almost gets on the back.

It goes nowhere. Aitor makes the next attack!

16:57 CEST    186km/6.5km to go
Mengin chases down Aitor, but it takes a while. The rest are right on Mengin's wheel. Mengin eases up a bit. The gap is about 20m. Then Lotz comes off Mengin's wheel and tries to close the gap. But no. Aitor is going well.

16:58 CEST    187.5km/5km to go
The break starts looking at each other and Aitor has 100m. He's not looking back much and is driving as hard as he can. He's a past winner of the Vuelta and is a formidable time trialist.

Fedrigo counters behind Aitor, who has 8 seconds.

17:00 CEST    188.5km/4km to go
Gonzalez goes under 5 km to go and has 15 seconds lead. No-one wants to chase the powerful Basque, even the other powerful Basques in Euskaltel.

Gonzalez navigates a few roundabouts and extends his lead. Could this be win number three for the Petacchi-less Fassa Bortolo squad?

17:01 CEST    189km/3.5km to go
Igor attacks in pursuit of Aitor, but Fedrigo closes the gap. Aitor has 20 seconds. They're racing for second.

17:02 CEST    190km/2.5km to go
Aitor is riding at a beautiful tempo, hands on the hoods, flying along with just over 2 km to go.

Fedrigo attacks in pursuit.

17:03 CEST    191km/1.5km to go
Aitor hits a small climb as Mengin and Jalabert attack in pursuit. But Aitor is now at the bottom of the descent. Less than 2 km to go. It's 15 seconds.

17:04 CEST   
Mengin and Jalabert are now clear in pursuit of Aitor Gonzalez, but Jalabert is not as strong as Mengin. He does a turn with 1.5 km to go.

17:04 CEST    191.5km/1km to go
Aitor is now under the last kilometre and is really motoring. Another stage win for the boys in blue and white!

17:05 CEST    192.5km/0km to go
Aitor Gonzalez sprints down the final straight in Nimes which is lined by thousands and thousands of people. He wins the stage with a sizeable advantage over the rest.

17:06 CEST   
Jalabert leads out the sprint for second and takes it from Mengin. Fedrigo fourth then Wrolich, Lotz, Igor, Botero and the two Euskaltel boys Landaluze and Martinez in that order.

17:12 CEST   
The peloton is strung out now as it heads to the finish about 14 minutes behind the break. Lotto-Domo, CSC, Alessio, US Postal are all near the front. There's still a few green jersey points up for grabs so McEwen will be trying to get a few more, as will Zabel, Hushovd and O'Grady.

Marichal drives the bunch with Noè on his wheel between kilometre 5 and kilometre 3. Then Noè takes over but not for long as Vansevenant goes right past the Alessio man.

Vansevenant leads up the hill towards the 2km to go banner, but Christophe Moreau takes over with Dean and Hushovd in tow. A bit early. They drop back a bit and a Cofidis rider takes over. Vierhouten is right behind and then comes through. McEwen is right on O'Grady's wheel, next to Zabel. 1 km to go.

Vierhouten winds it up onto the Avenue Jean Jaures and sprints to 700m. Then Engoulvent leads with O'Grady on his wheel. O'Grady loses position and then Zabel goes very early. McEwen, Hushovd go head to head to the line and it's McEwen who gets 11th by centimetres and increases his lead in the green. Hushovd and Hondo were right up there for 12th and 13th.

No changes in the GC, and Voeckler gets to keep his nice yellow jersey for tomorrow's rest day and Tuesday's 15th stage, which will be another challenge for him to fend off Armstrong. But by the Alpe d'Huez TT on Wednesday, Voeckler will almost certainly be out of the hot seat, having ridden an excellent race.


1 Aitor Gonzalez Jimenez (Spa) Fassa Bortolo            4.18.32
2 Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) Phonak Hearing Systems            0.25
3 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Fdjeux.com                           
4 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Crédit Agricole                   0.29
5 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner                         0.31
6 Marc Lotz (Ned) Rabobank                                     
7 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) Liberty Seguros              
8 Santiago Botero (Col) T-Mobile Team                      0.37
9 Iñigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                0.41
10 Egoi Martínez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                 0.43
11 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo                         14.12
12 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                          
13 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner                             
14 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone      
15 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team                              

General classification after stage 14
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère         62.33.11
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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