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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

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

Main Page     Stages & Results     Stage Profile and Start Times     Latest Live Report   Results

Stage 16 - Wednesday July 21: Bourg d'Oisans - Alpe d'Huez ITT, 15.5 km

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

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:00 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:37 CEST

09:18 CEST   
Starting in Bourg-d'Oisans, this is the first major individual time-trial, and it may also be one of the most watched stages of the Tour. This will be the key stage for most of the favourites, racing 15.5 kilometres up the famous 21 switchbacks of L'Alpe d'Huez.

Km 15: L'Alpe d'Huez, 13.8 km at 7.9%

14:07 CEST   
It's very warm and sunny here in Bourg d'Oisans at the start at 14:00. The temperature is 34 degrees celsius with almost no wind.

The first cab off the rank today is Sébastien Joly (Credit Agricole), who is the last rider on GC and gets this dubious honour. He is followed by Jimmy Casper (Cofidis), Frederic Finot (RAGT) and Matt Wilson (FDJeux.com). The first 147 riders leave at 1 minute intervals, while the last 23 beginning with Iker Camano (Euskaltel) at 16:14 leave at two minute intervals.

For a full list of start times, click here.

14:11 CEST   
A few readers have asked: do all riders get their own follow cars today, given that it's not easy to get off the mountain? The answer is yes. Even though there are only a couple of team cars per team, all the other riders will get neutral support from a race organisation car.

There is another way down the mountain, but with the estimated four billion (give or take a few ibex) spectators on the climb today, even that could be congested.

14:14 CEST   
So far 13 riders have started, and at the first time check (after 1.5 km of flat), Seb Joly is the fastest rider in 2'13. There are two other time checks: at km 9.5 and km 12.5.

14:19 CEST   
Most riders will be using standard road bikes today, with little in the way of aerodynamic modifications. Everyone who is serious will be using the lightest bike allowable i.e. 6.8 kg. Possibly a few riders will be using short bar extensions for the flatter sections.

By the way, the four billion spectator estimate may be a little wide of the mark. CN's reporters Chris Henry and Tim Maloney, who are following Alessandro Bertolini up the mountain, did a quick head count and came up with 500,000 people.

14:22 CEST   
Cofidis sprinter Janek Tombak is the slowest at 1.5 km in 2'16. By the way, the time cut today is 33 percent more than the winner's time, so the slower riders will be aiming to do the climb in under 51 minutes we think.

14:29 CEST   
Aart Vierhouten (Lotto-Domo) is now setting off for his ride. He'll be followed by Franck Renier (Brioches La Boulangčre), Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) and Julian Dean (Crédit Agricole). Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) goes at 14:33.

14:32 CEST   
Joly has come through the 9.5 km mark in a time of 28'13, which puts him on track for about a 44-45 minute time.

14:34 CEST   
Joly certainly won't be the slowest today. Finot comes through 9.5 km in 28'34, then Casper in 29'43.

14:36 CEST   
Sidebar: For the record, most of our readers have no problem with black socks, unlike my co-commentator Roger Hughes. As for me, I prefer to race in white socks unless it's wet :-) But I have nothing against black ones.

14:38 CEST   
McEwen is one of the slowest riders past the first check at 1.5 km in 2'19. He'll be doing what he can to avoid the time cut today, but he's not that bad of a climber and should survive. Much depends on the winner of course.

14:40 CEST   
Francesco Secchiari (Domina) has posted a quicker time than Joly after 9.5 km, setting a mark of 28'07. But he is surpassed by Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com), who is through in 27'53. Cooke is certainly in no danger of being eliminated today.

Bramati is the slowest in 31'13.

14:42 CEST   
In response to another reader question: Yes there are KOM points awarded for today's climb, and the winner will get 30 points as it's an HC (hors categorie) rated ascent.

14:45 CEST   
Joly is nearly at the top of the climb, having passed the 12.5 km check in 40'15. Finot is through the same point in 40'48, heading for a time of 47 minutes or so. The last 3 km of the climb are the easiest, averaging between 5 and 6 percent.

14:46 CEST   
In response to the readers asking about eliminated riders today. What happens if a rider misses the time cut? Simple. They are turned into Soylent Green.

14:48 CEST   
Actually they suffer the same fate as all the other eliminated riders: they are not permitted to continue the race.

Fassa Bortolo's Pippo Pozzato is motoring up the mountain now, cheered on my the throngs (thongs?) of fans. His teammate, Fabian Cancellara has set the best time at the 1.5 km mark in 2'01.

14:51 CEST   
The record for the 13.8 km bit of the climb is often quoted as 37'35 by Marco Pantani in 1997. But climbing analyst François Siohan believes that it's actually 36'50 in 1995 and Pantani rode 36'55 in 1997 for the climb. Armstrong's best time is 38'05, while Ullrich has done it in 37'40 in 1997.

14:53 CEST   
Joly finishes in 47'07, thus he is the first rider up l'Alpe d'Huez this year. Erik Dekker dreamed of this honour, but he was simply not slow enough in the earlier stages of the Tour to gain the last spot on GC.

Finot is up in 47'53, while Casper finishes in 49'47.

14:56 CEST   
Secchiari now has the better time at the finish, with 46'42, still well off the expected best times today.

14:58 CEST   
There are no time bonuses for first second and third today - just the rider's absolute times count.

Tosatto (Fassa) is catching his minute man, Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner).

14:59 CEST   
Ludovic Martin, who has been flying up the mountain, has come through with a good time of 43'52, clearly the best today.

15:05 CEST   
The earlier head count of spectators may have to be revised downwards a little, when some actual mathematics are applied. Given that the road is 15.5 km long and fans can stand on both sides, 100,000 people equals 3 people per meter. Given that the crowds are between one and five deep, we estimate that there are in fact 53 people on L'Alpe d'Huez today.

McEwen is riding within himself, but suffering.

Matt Wilson (51'13) and Davide Bramati (54'45) are in grave danger of being eliminated today. Wilson will be out if the winner rides a time of 38'21 (33 percent extra is the time cut). Bramati will almost certainly be out.

15:05 CEST   
Erik Dekker finishes in a time of 47'22.51, which is the sixth best time today. Top times so far:

Ludovic Martin (RAG)
Francesco Secchiari (DVE) 2.49
Sébastien Joly (C.A) 3.14
Wim Vansevenant (LOT) 3.15
Christophe Edaleine (COF) 3.36

15:08 CEST   
There are no barricades or any obvious security measures until the final kilometres today, as normal for a mountain stage. A police motorbike rides about 20m-30m in front of each rider.

15:10 CEST   
Most riders are not wearing helmets today, as the aerodynamic advantage would be offset by the weight and the extra heat. Some are using caps, others opt the bare headed approach. Danilo Hondo has so much gel in his hair that he probably does have an aerodynamic advantage!

15:11 CEST   
Green jersey candidate Thor Hushovd is making his way up the first third of the climb, suffering with his big frame. But he should be able to avoid the cutoff.

15:13 CEST   
McEwen is well on track after 9.5 km, covering the distance in 28'51. That should net him a time of 46-47 minutes or so at the end.

15:15 CEST   
Viatcheslav Ekimov (USPS) sets off from Bourg d'Oisans, focused as he hits the first corner. Still 85 riders to start.

Ludovic Martin still has the quickest time in 43'52, followed by Simeoni in 46'16 and Tombak in 46'26.

15:17 CEST   
Despite being very close to Martin early on, Karsten Kroon takes it easy over the last portion and finishes in 46'37. Top five so far.

15:19 CEST   
Santiago Botero (T-Mobile) sets off from Bourg d'Oisans, not looking particularly happy about what he has to do. Botero has been riding in the service of Ullrich and Klöden for the past two weeks, and although riding against the clock is normally his thing, he's a long way from the Lance Armstrong beating form of two years ago.

15:21 CEST   
Robbie McEwen rests his arms on the tops of the bars as he finishes on top of l'Alpe in 48'09, popping a wheelie as he crosses the line. He should certainly make the time cut.

15:23 CEST   
Lance Armstrong, clad in shorts and t-shirt at the moment, exits the USPS camper van and begins preparing his bike.

15:25 CEST   
Laurent Lefevre (Brioches) catches and passes Hushovd, who started a couple of minutes in front of him.

Prologue winner Fabian Cancellara, who has the best time at 1.5 km (2'01) finishes in 45'35.97, the second best time behind Ludovic Martin.

15:27 CEST   
Andrea Peron (CSC) sets off at a good clip, taking full advantage of the flat part at the beginning.

Now Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) is on his way. He hasn't had the best of Tours, but may be able to do something in tomorrow's big Alpine stage over the Madeleine.

15:29 CEST   
It's still Ludovic Martin (RAGT) with the best time so far, followed by Fabian Cancellara at 1.43, Martin Elmiger at 2'12, Filippo Simeoni at 2.24 , Janek Tombak at 2.33, Karsten Kroon at 2.44 and Francesco Secchiari at 2.49.

Hondo finishes in 45'36, hair intact. Third best time!

15:33 CEST   
Charteau finishes in 43'59, just 7 seconds slower than Martin. Krivstov is next in 44'18 for third best so far.

Laurent Dufaux is now riding through a particularly dense section of fans and flags. His teammate Paolo Bettini is next to set off from the start ramp.

15:35 CEST   
Aart Vierhouten is dangerously slow in a time of 53'40. That's second slowest after Bramati, who will be eliminated if the winning time is under 41'00.

15:37 CEST   
Peron is going quite hard, jersey flapping open as he tries to keep cool in the 30 plus degree temperatures.

Meanwhile, Stuart O'Grady has left the start ramp.

15:41 CEST   
Flecha fights hard in the final kilometre to finish in 46'55, 17th fastest. He'll avoid the cut though.

Laurent Lefevre (Brioches) sprints home in a solid time of 44'38, fourth fastest.

Erik Zabel is about to leave Bourg d'Oisans. He sprints out hard from the gate and is quickly up to speed. He should have no problems beating the cutoff.

Thor Hushovd comes home in 47'39.

15:45 CEST   
Bettini gets out of the saddle for a while, riding through a tunnel of fans. Michael Boogerd looks very focused as he cruises up, also out of the saddle at the moment.

Triki Beltran (USPS) is about to leave.

Pierrick Fedrigo (CA) has the second best time at km 9.5 in 26'25, nine seconds slower than Martin, who is still the best rider today. A good performance by the RAGT man.

15:47 CEST   
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) has surpassed Ludo Martin's time at 9.5 km, coming through in 26'09.

Meanwhile Didier Rous finishes his ride in 44'39, fifth best so far.

15:50 CEST   
The fans aren't too wild at the moment, most preferring to stay put rather than run after the riders. They're saving their energy for later obviously.

Bettini is riding fairly smoothly, pedalling at a good cadence.

15:54 CEST   
Mark Scanlon is having a good ride today, passing the 12.5 km check in 38'36 (in the top 10 so far).

Mercado is looking fairly comfortable is he navigates the lower slopes. Meanwhile, Pierrick Fedrigo comes home in a good time of 44'01, the third best time after Ludo Martin. The French riders don't usually treat the TT's as "rest days", unlike some others.

16:00 CEST   
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) now has the best time at 12.5 km in 37'24, 8 seconds quicker than Martin.

Ekimov is en route to the finish, and looks a little bit worse for wear as he crosses in 45'56, 2'03 behind Ludovic Martin.

Now Jens Voigt is on his way, riding hard from the start ramp.

16:02 CEST   
An update at 4pm, with 74 riders home on top of l'Alpe d'Huez. The top five:

Ludovic Martin (RAG) 43.52.59
Anthony Charteau (BLB) 0.06
Pierrick Fedrigo (C.A) 0.08
Yuriy Krivtsov (A2R) 0.25
Laurent Lefevre (BLB) 0.45

At the 12.5 km check:

David Etxebarria (EUS) 37.24
Ludovic Martin (RAG) 0.08
Anthony Charteau (BLB) 0.11
Pierrick Fedrigo (C.A) 0.14
Yuriy Krivtsov (A2R) 0.20

16:03 CEST   
Here comes Botero, who finishes in a respectable 44'28. Meanwhile, his teammate Guerini, a former winner on L'Alpe, sets off from Bourg d'Oisans.

16:05 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza, who has the biggest lung capacity of all the Tour riders this year, has gone past 9.5 km in 26'04, which is a few seconds quicker than D. Etxebarria. Meanwhile, Etxebarria gives it everything in the final metres but he just comes up short and finishes in 43'57 (21.1 km/h), the second fastest behind Martin.

George Hincapie is under way.

16:08 CEST   
Lance Armstrong's bike is reported to be 20 grams too light. It weighed in at 6.78 kg instead of the mandatory 6.8 kg. He'll have to put O3 in the tyres or something.

16:10 CEST   
Mercado is riding well, passing 9.5 km in 25'46, 18 seconds better than Astarloza at that point.

Benjamin Noval (USPS) finishes in the fifth best time of 44'01, not looking too stressed.

16:12 CEST   
Ińigo Landaluze (Euskaltel) looks relaxed as he rides up the Alpe, followed by a big Euskaltel van. As said earlier, each rider gets their own following car.

Sylvain Allez Chavanel sets off looking a little tired.

Michael Boogerd finishes in 45'34, well out of the top 10.

16:14 CEST   
Floyd Landis (USPS) is on his way up the climb, pedalling fairly slowly but maintaining a good speed.

Serrano has caught José I. Gutierrez (Illes Balears) and has passed 9.5 km in 25'43, a few seconds better than Mercado.

16:17 CEST   
A reader asks about the level of effort being put in by Armstrong's domestiques today. Most of them will be taking it easy, as there's no point trashing themselves before tomorrow's tough Alpine stage. But Rubiera and Azevedo might go a bit harder to give Armstrong an idea of what time checks to aim for.

16:19 CEST   
Armstrong is warming up to some psych-up music, looking quite focused. He sets off at 16:58 CEST, in about 40 minutes.

Paolo Bettini ends in a time of 44'55, 12th best so far. Astarloza is next in an excellent time of 43'06 (21.6 km/h), smashing Ludovic Martin's time at last.

16:22 CEST   
Egoi Martinez is riding at a good tempo as he comes up. Chavanel looks to be struggling a bit.

David Moncoutié is riding very well, knocking 20 seconds off Mercado's time of 25'46 at 9.5 km.

16:23 CEST   
O'Grady is home in 45'19, not bad at all. He is closely followed by Niermann, who started a couple of minutes ahead of him.

Armstrong and Azevedo are side by side, warming up hard. Armstrong looks very very focused. What can Basso do? Or Ullrich? or Mancebo?

16:25 CEST   
Laurent Brochard (Ag2r) sets off, mullet flapping in the breeze. Surely that will slow him down a bit.

Richard Virenque is circling around near the start gate like a hungry shark. He signs on and moves into position.

16:26 CEST   
Here comes Mercado, sprinting up the final straight to finish in a good time of 43'06.43, a few hundredths of a second slower than Astarloza. That was close.

16:28 CEST   
With 25'04 (22.7 km/h), Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) is much quicker than Moncoutié at 9.5 km. He is on track for the new best time.

Armstrong is wished good luck by a friendly gendarme as he continues warming up.

Richard Virenque, in search of more polka dot points, is setting off now.

16:30 CEST   
Guerini is only 6 seconds slower than S. Gonzalez after 9.5 km for second best at that point. Not really a surprise.

Beltran finishes in 44'35, just behind Landaluze who started a minute in front of him.

But Marcos Serrano is much better, powering home in 42'50, the new best time!

Moreau sprints off in what looks like a very small gear.

16:32 CEST   
Virenque is giving it the works at the bottom of the climb, getting out of the saddle and nearly hitting over keen spectators who want to take a photo of their idol.

Chavanel doesn't look like he's trying too hard today, but he's not too slow.

Michael Rasmussen, avec goatee, is rolling off the start ramp.

16:34 CEST   
Jose Enrique Gutierrez has caught Halgand just before 9.5 km.

Virenque is still out of the saddle. Further up the road, Scarponi's hair is starting to come loose.

16:35 CEST   
Mick Rogers is chased by an Aussie fan just before the 9.5 km check, where he passes in 25'18, third best at the moment.

16:36 CEST   
Moncoutié has set the new best time! The Frenchman crosses in 42'04 (22.11 km/h), 45 seconds better than Serrano and over a minute quicker than Astarloza.

16:37 CEST   
By the way, the 1.5 km check is fairly irrelevant. Serrano was 137th at that point but was second (now) at the finish.

16:38 CEST   
Roberto Heras (Liberty) hasn't done anything special today, finishing in 45'19, 24th fastest and certainly not the best of his team.

16:41 CEST   
Chris points out re: Brochard that a well-executed mullet should have the effect of streamlining airflow around the head. We'll see.

Virenque obviously doesn't like riding in the saddle. Does he even have one on today?

Levi Leipheimer, sans cap, is on route now, riding a standard bike.

Oscar Sevilla (Phonak) is pedalling a ridiculous gear for a climber. He finds a lower one.

16:42 CEST   
Thomas Voeckler (Brioches) is starting in an almost all-white skinsuit. Fortunately there are strategically placed black panels. Did I mention that it was over 30 degrees today? He'll be on the podium for sure in the white jersey.

Petrov leads Bartoli and Botcharov home in 44'33.

16:44 CEST   
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty) is also quicker than his teammate Heras in 44'25, but well off the pace today.

Moreau is now in his rhythm, tackling the first third of the climb.

Voeckler sets off with a big sprint. Allez!

16:45 CEST   
Giuseppe Guerini has done well and finished in a time of 41'52.83, fractionally slower than Santos Gonzalez, who has done the best time in 41'52.33.

16:46 CEST   
Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) passes the 9.5 km check in 24'56, which is even quicker than Santos Gonzalez at that point.

16:47 CEST   
The top five thus far:

Santos Gonzales (PHO) 41.52
Giuseppe Guerini (TMO) 0.00
David Moncoutié (COF) 42.04
Marcos Serrano (LST) 0.45
Mikel Astarloza (A2R) 1.02

At 9.5 km:

Vladimir Karpets (IBB) 24.56
Santos Gonzalez (PHO) 0.09
Giuseppe Guerini (TMO) 0.14
Mick Rogers (QSD) 0.23
David Moncoutié (COF) 0.30

16:48 CEST   
Voeckler is making his way through the thick crowds at the foot of the climb. It's at least 6 deep here with more people standing further up the slopes. Many photos are being taken.

Jan Ullrich is stretching, ready to follow Jose Azevedo (USPS), who is now under way.

16:49 CEST   
Rasmussen opts for an inside line on one of the early hairpins. It's shorter, but steeper that way. He has ditched his cap and is now riding bald headed.

16:50 CEST   
Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak) sprints home in 42'45, which gives him fourth.

Jan Ullrich is focusing on the start ramp. He sets off with a big push on the gears, using TT bars for the first part of the course - one of the few riders to do so.

16:51 CEST   
Here comes Axel Merckx, who has picked up three minutes on Halgand. He ends in 43'21, which puts him in the top 10.

16:52 CEST   
Ullrich remains on the TT bars for the first 1.5 km.

Mick Rogers powers home in a good time of 42'15, which will give him fourth at 23 seconds behind Santos Gonzalez.

16:54 CEST   
Ullrich stays on the bars as he starts climbing, but is sitting towards the back of them. He gets a shove from a spectator, and momentarily loses his balance. But he keeps going. The fans are particularly wild near the bottom.

Mancebo is under way. Now Klöden sets off.

16:55 CEST   
Virenque is well outside Karpets' time at 9.5 km, coming through approximately 1 minute slower.

Totschnig is motoring up the climb now.

16:56 CEST   
Armstrong is now signing on, ready to set off after Basso, who is about to leave. Armstrong has no bar extenders on, opting for a standard bike.

Ullrich is still on the bars. It is more aero.

16:58 CEST   
Ullrich was 1 second slower than Cancellara at the 1.5 km check, while Mancebo was 13 seconds back.

Lance is about to go. He's wired for sound, and Sheryl Crow looks nervous in the car. The maillot jaune sets off!

16:59 CEST   
Ullrich is staying on the bars as much as possible, occasionally sitting on the hoods.

Armstrong is flying along the first flat part, cheered on loudly. The crowds go wild.

Ivan Basso is now on the climb, making his way through the thick crowds.

17:01 CEST   
The crowds are incredible at the bottom, getting so close to the riders after the lead moto goes past.

Goubert (Ag2r) has done a good ride and finishes in 42'14, fourth fastest. Sevilla is next, but he's lost a couple of minutes. Still Santos Gonzalez with the best time of 41'52.

17:02 CEST   
Ullrich is two seconds quicker than Armstrong after 1.5 km, and three seconds better than Basso. But he had the aero advantage.

Karpets is flying home now, but is just outside Santos Gonzalez' time in 41'56. Karpets also had small bar extenders on.

17:02 CEST   
Armstrong is taking the middle road up the climb, nearly killing a few fans that are running on the road. It's really wild here. He's getting tapped/hit too.

17:03 CEST   
Sastre is past 9.5 km in 25'03, which is 7 seconds slower than Karpets and the second best time to that point.

17:04 CEST   
Armstrong is undeterred, but probably a bit nervous with these enormous crowds so close.

Ullrich has reached 10 km to go, and is still on the aero bars. Will it be faster? We'll see. Pantani used to climb on the drops, after all.

17:05 CEST   
Armstrong is getting a mixture of cheers and boos, depending on the nationality of the fans. But he's in a good rhythm, pedalling fast as is his wont. Unlike Ullrich and many others, he's wearing a reversed cap.

17:06 CEST   
Ullrich doesn't look any less comfortable on the bar extenders than he does normally. i.e. he looks like he's suffering like a dog.

Basso is looking great, while Mancebo is struggling a bit in a big gear.

17:07 CEST   
Armstrong passes an Australian contingent, flags held high. The crowds are thinning a bit as he moves up the climb, he not by much. Watch those flags!

17:08 CEST   
Basso - also with bar extenders but not using them - is riding a slightly bigger gear than Armstrong. He's still looking supple, and is obviously giving it full gas.

17:09 CEST   
Basso has lost 20 seconds to Armstrong so far, which is not a great surprise. Armstrong should strengthen his lead in the GC tonight.

17:10 CEST   
Ullrich, still on the bar extenders, is being cheered on as he gets to halfway. His arms are pointing downwards, like his normal TT position. We'll see if it works. He takes a drink and nearly cleans up a mad German fan with a flag.

17:11 CEST   
No changes at the top of the leaderboard at the moment. The top five:

Santos Gonzales (PHO) 41.52
Giuseppe Guerini (TMO) 0.00
Vladimir Karpets (IBB) 0.04
David Moncoutié (COF) 0.12
Stéphane Goubert (A2R) 0.22

17:12 CEST   
Virenque finishes off in a time of 44'11, which will put him out of the KOM points today. But he's 75 points ahead of Armstrong, so he's got a bit of a buffer.

Azevedo has done the best time at km 9.5, in 24'40.

17:14 CEST   
Christophe Moreau (CA) comes home strongly, but is over a minute slower than Santos Gonzalez in 43'06, which is 12th best to date.

Ullrich comes past 9.5 km in a time of 24'07, taking 33 seconds out of Azevedo!

17:15 CEST   
After the 9.5 km mark, there's barriers so Ullrich doesn't have to contend with the wild fans unless he rides too close...

Armstrong is still looking like the man to beat, pedalling incredibly fast now. Basso is suffering.

Klöden is also looking good, following Mancebo and Ullrich.

17:18 CEST   
Here comes Oscar Pereiro, who has caught by Rasmussen and finishes in 42'47. That means Rasmussen is 2 minutes slower.

Mancebo comes past the 9.5 km check in 25'48 - he's lost 4th place on GC to Ullrich already. Ullrich did 24'07.

17:18 CEST   
Klöden is riding much better than Mancebo, and is past 9.5 km in 24'35, which is second best behind the flying Ullrich.

17:19 CEST   
Gibo Simoni sprints home in a time of 43'21, 15th fastest. But he's still fighting.

Klöden looks very comfortable, working hard. What can Basso do?

17:21 CEST   
Carlos Sastre (CSC) finishes his time in 42'08, which puts him in fifth. Still Santos Gonzalez with the best time of 41'52.

Basso is past the 9.5 km check in a time of 24'43, 4th best. Ullrich is already 36 seconds quicker.

17:34 CEST   
As expected, Armstrong is absolutely flying. He passes the 9.5 km check in 23'28 (24 km/h). Crikey.

Armstrong will pass Basso soon. He's on a great ride today.

Ullrich is as well - certainly on track for second best.

Ullrich is back on the bars, in the final 3 km. but today will be all Armstrong, all the way.

Ullrich is 36 seconds better than Azevedo at 12.5 km. He now has 2 km to go.

Basso is now a virtual 3'03 behind Armstrong on GC, meaning that he's lost 1'40 already today. Basso is suffering, but he's just ahead of Armstrong.

Totschnig finishes in 42'56, nearly hitting the barriers at the finish. He is followed by Azevedo, who is home in the new best time of 41'26 - 30 seconds better than Gonzalez!

Voeckler comes in in 46'17, now one of the better times.

Here comes Ullrich, big chainring, sprinting hard to finish in 40'42. New best time!

Basso is finally passed by Armstrong with a few km to the top. That's 2 minutes that the American has put into the Italian. Crowd goes wild. Basso tries to hold the rhythm of Armstrong. And they're side by side for a bit.

Armstrong is 52 seconds better than Ullrich at 12.5 km, with Azevedo third at 1'31. Basso has to let Armstrong go with 2.5 km to go.

17:35 CEST   
Mancebo is getting caught by Klöden in the final kilometre, but the Spaniard will just hold him off. Klöden is on a great ride, and is now within a minute of Basso on GC.

Klöden finishes in 41'23, which means Mancebo was two minutes slower.

17:36 CEST   
Armstrong leaves Basso in his wake as he comes in to the last kilometre, taking heed of the "rip their balls off Lance" signs painted on the road.

17:37 CEST   
Ullrich will certainly be second today, but what can Armstrong do?

Btw, David Bramati will be eliminated due to the 33 percent time cut.

17:38 CEST   
Armstrong sprints for home with a massive effort, giving it everything to cross the line in a time of 39'41 (23.44 km/h), 1'01 faster than Ullrich!

Basso is 42'04, 8th fastest today and knackered.

17:39 CEST   
Armstrong wins his third stage in this year's Tour!! He's clearly the best rider in this edition, no doubt about that. Was the Pantani record broken? Probably not.

17:39 CEST   
The time cut is 52'46, which means Bramati and Vierhouten will be on their way home (or turned into Soylent Green) tonight.

Intermediate timing

1.5 km (complete)

  1. Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 2.01
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.01
  3. Bernhard Eisel (FDJ) 0.01
  4. Lance Armstrong (USP) 0.04
  5. Guillaume Auger (RAG) 0.04

9.5 km (complete)

  1. Lance Armstrong (USP) 23.28
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.40
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.06
  4. Jose Azevedo (USP) 1.11
  5. Ivan Basso (CSC) 1.15

12.5 km (complete)

  1. Lance Armstrong (USP) 33.41
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.56
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.31
  4. Jose Azevedo (USP) 1.34
  5. Giuseppe Guerini (TMO) 1.57

Finish 15.5 km

  1. Lance Armstrong (USP) 39:41.47
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 1.01
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.41
  4. Jose Azevedo (USP) 1.45
  5. Santos Gonzales (PHO) 2.10
  6. Giuseppe Guerini (TMO) 2.11
  7. Vladimir Karpets (IBB) 2.14
  8. Ivan Basso (CSC) 2.22
  9. David Moncoutie (COF) 2.22
  10. Carlos Sastre (CSC) 2.27

General Classification
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor                 67.53.24
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                           3.48
3 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                  5.03
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                     7.55
5 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor                        9.19
6 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto               9.20
7 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                 11.34
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                       13.52
9 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi                            14.08
10 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank                                    15.04

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