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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini


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

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

Stage 19 - Saturday July 24: Besancon - Besancon ITT, 55 km

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

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 11:26 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:46 CEST

This 55 km TT is a long and difficult test over undulating terrain with only 5km of flat. One of the longest in recent memory, Stage 19 is harder than last year's TT in Gaillac. Unless a huge defaillance hits Armstrong on the backroads around Besançon, this stage should be a battle between him and Jan Ullrich. Two podium spots are still up for grabs, as CSC's Ivan Basso hopes to keep his second place spot safe from T-Mobile's onslaught of Andreas Klöden (at 1'02 behind Basso) and Jan Ullrich (at 3'59). The big question for the classy Italian, whose weak spot is long TT's, is if he can hold off Ullrich, who will have to ride the TT course 4.4 seconds faster per kilometre than Basso to steal the final podium spot and sew up Team GC for T-Mobile in Paris.

11:29 CEST   
The weather for today's time trial is not the best, as it's very humid and muggy with temperatures in the mid-20's. Some rain is falling at the start. The wind is from the north, blowing between 10-20 km/h and 30 km/h on the plateau, which the riders climb onto after 10 km. It will be a tailwind for the first half of the ride and a headwind coming home.

The start times have Jimmy Casper as the first rider off the ramp at 11:26, and he will be followed by Sebastien Joly at 11:28. Joly blew his chances of becoming the lanterne rouge in this year's Tour by getting in the breakaway yesterday, and now Casper has an unassailable 13 minute lead for last spot on GC.

The riders will leave at 2 minute intervals until the last 20, who will depart at three minute intervals.

11:36 CEST   
There are four intermediate time checks today: Bonnet Rond (km 18), Courcelles (km 34.2), Les Planches (km 40) and Le Gare (km 47.5). With the wind and the undulating course, we can estimate that a winning time could be around 1:05:00 (51 km/h). We'll see once some of the better time trialists in the early wave start to post times.

Casper, Joly, Finot, Wilson, Edaleine and Secchiari are now all under way.

11:46 CEST   
The biggest uphill in today's course comes after 4.5 km, when the riders leave Besançon (247m) and climb up to the Cote de Morre (422m) in 4.5 km. This is an average gradient of 3.9%, and even with a tailwind it's going to hurt. The course undulates after that before gradually dropping back down to 262m by the finish. The start is at 235m, so the riders will probably feel a little ripped off.

11:48 CEST   
Early riders to watch today include Erik Dekker (Rabobank) who is just about to set off (11:48). Also Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) at 11:58, Jan Hruska (Liberty Seguros) at 12:14 and Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) at 12:30.

While on a good ride, Peschel crashed twice in last year's final TT and broke a rib, finishing the stage but abandoning before Paris. Let's hope he has better luck today.

11:55 CEST   
Jimmy Casper is now through the first time check at km 18 in 27:06, a tad under 40 km/h, as Christophe Laurent (RAGT) sets off from the starting house. The rain has stopped for the time being.

11:58 CEST   
Joly and Finot have gone through the 18 km check about a minute quicker than Casper in 26'10. Casper will have to pick it up a little, as the time cut today is an additional 25% of the winner's time i.e. If the winner does it in 1:05:00, a time of 1:21:15 (40.61 km/h) will have to be ridden in order to make the cut. However, the weather conditions may slow things down a bit - we'll see.

12:04 CEST   
So far we have five riders through the first check at 18 km, with Joly and Finot sharing the fastest time in 26'10, and Australian champion Matt Wilson coming through the slowest in 27'22. Wilson was close to missing the cut on Alpe d'Huez, but should be able to make it to Paris with a solid ride today.

12:10 CEST   
Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) is now into his rhythm, tackling the first climb. Let's see what he can do at km 18. 23 riders have started, with Pierre Bourquenoud the latest one to leave.

12:15 CEST   
11 riders are through the 18 km check, with Joly and Finot still the fastest in 26'10, ahead of Auger (26'12), Edalaine (26'26) and Secchiari (26'40). Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis) is the slowest at this point in 27'24.

12:23 CEST   
Casper, Joly and Finot have passed through the 34.2 km check, with Finot rumbling through in 49'03 (42.8 km/h) and on a good pace to finish in about 1:15:00. Casper was past the same point in 50'59, nearly two minutes slower than Finot, but well on track to make today's likely time cut.

12:25 CEST   
Wilson is also past 34.2 km, clocking 51'05. Christophe Edalaine has done 48'58, which is better than Finot's time. Not sure of what Joly's time was yet.

12:32 CEST   
As predicted, Uwe Peschel has done a good time after 18 km, clocking 24'49, more than 40 seconds better than Dutch champion Erik Dekker (25'32). Peschel averaged 43.5 km/h to this point, which is not bad considering that 4.5 km was uphill.

Let's see what Cancellara can do. He has just left the start ramp.

12:33 CEST   
Joly and Finot were dead even at 34.2 km, both doing 49'03. After 40 km, just 3 seconds separate them: Joly in 56'56 and Finot in 56'59.

12:38 CEST   
As expected, Edalaine is quickest at 40 km in 56'43. But Dekker has now gone past the 34.2 km mark in 47'06, erasing nearly two minutes off Edalaine's time. Peschel should be quicker again.

12:42 CEST   
Joly and Finot are still neck and neck at km 47.5, with Joly marginally quicker in 1:08:32 to Finot's 1:08:33.

Czech rider Jan Hruska (Liberty) has now passed the 18 km check in 25'09, 20 seconds behind Peschel who has the best time to that point.

12:47 CEST   
Peschel has motored through the 34.2 km check in 46'30, eclipsing Dekker by 36 seconds.

Joly has passed Casper and finished in a time of 1:16:58 (42.87 km/h).

12:53 CEST   
Edalaine finishes in 1:15:55, over a minute quicker than Joly. Finot lost ground over the last 7 km to end in 1:17:12, while Casper (1:19:09) and Wilson (1:19:18) should have no problems in making the time cut.

12:54 CEST   
Peschel has now passed 40 km in 53:56, leading Dekker by 26 seconds at that point. The Dutchman has gained ground over Peschel in the last 20 km.

12:58 CEST   
Jan's new chopper TT bike
Click for larger image
Looking towards the end of the stage, a few of our readers have been so bold as to suggest that Jan Ullrich might beat Lance Armstrong today. The current form of Lance does not suggest that this will be the case, but you can be sure that Der Kaiser will be giving it everything to go for the stage win today. Jan did beat Lance in last year's 47 km TT in Cap Decouverte, but with the non-scorching weather conditions favouring the maillot jaune today, a repeat looks unlikely.

But Jan may have a secret weapon according to our readers, who spotted him riding this special "chopper" time trial bike earlier. As you can see, this machine enables Ullrich to breathe easy while at the same time being super-aerodynamic. It's a marvel of modern engineering that cost €35,000 to develop.

13:03 CEST   
Peschel's 18 km time has been improved upon by both Cancellara (24'46) and Wauters (24'45). Meanwhile Dekker has passed the 47.5 km check in 1:05:22, over two minutes quicker than Edalaine who has the best time at the finish so far.

13:06 CEST   
Top five times at 18 km (37 riders through):

Marc Wauters (RAB) 24.45
Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 0.01
Uwe Peschel (GST) 0.05
Jan Hruska (LST) 0.25
Erik Dekker (RAB) 0.48

Top five times at the finish (12 riders through):

Christophe Edaleine (COF) 1.15.55
Sebastien Joly (C.A) 1.02
Frederic Finot (RGT) 1.16
Win Vansevenant (LOT) 2.34
Jimmy Casper (COF) 3.13

13:09 CEST   
Dekker has just finished in 1:13:38, beating Edalaine's time by 2'17. It looks to be a slow course today, but it depends on how hard Dekker was pushing.

13:15 CEST   
Peschel comes into Besançon with the new best time of 1:13:13, beating Dekker by 25 seconds. But back out along the course, Belgian TT specialist Marc Wauters (Rabobank) is in a powerful rhythm, passing the 34.2 km check in 45'48, 42 seconds better than Peschel.

13:20 CEST   
Fabio Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi) has set the new slowest time: 1:20:56. He'd better hope that no-one goes under 1:05:00 today.

13:25 CEST   
Cancellara is slower than Wauters after 34.2 km, coming through in the second best time of 46'08. Meanwhile Wauters has passed the 40 km check in 53'13, 24 seconds ahead of Cancellara.

Peschel still has the best time in 1:13:13.

13:27 CEST   
Pierre Bourquenoud (RAGT) will be cutting it fine today. He's past the 47.5 km mark in 1:12:07, 32 seconds slower than Baldato.

13:29 CEST   
Walter Godefroot (T-Mobile) doesn't believe that Ullrich will win the stage. "I don't think so today. Armstrong is too good," he told Belgian TV1. "But I think that he is very motivated and I expect something from him."

13:35 CEST   
Marc Wauters is racing towards the finish, on track to the new best time. He has set the fast time at all checks so far: 24'45 at 18 km, 45'48 at 34.2 km, 53'13 at 40 km, 1'03'56 at 47.5 km...

13:36 CEST   
Bourquenoud has finished in a time of 1'21'08. He'd better hope that no-one goes under 1'04'50 today or he'll be eliminated. But it looks like winning time will be around 1'07'00, depending the conditions.

13:44 CEST   
Wauters is home in a solid time of 1:11:55, beating Peschel by 1'18. The Belgian now has the best time at every time check.

13:52 CEST   
Wauters still has the best time with Cancellara finishing 30 seconds slower than the Belgian. Top times at the finish:

Marc Wauters (RAB) 1.11.55
Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 0.30
Uwe Peschel (GST) 1.18
Erik Dekker (RAB) 1.43
Jan Hruska (LST) 1.45

13:53 CEST   
Yesterday's tęte a tęte between Lance Armstrong and Filippo Simeoni has set people's emotions buzzing, both outside and inside the peloton. After Simeoni was chased down by Armstrong when he bridged up to the leading break in stage 18, it was clear that Armstrong was exercising his considerable muscle (both literally and figuratively) to prevent Simeoni from being there. After they went back to the peloton, Simeoni copped a lot of flak from many of the other riders, who were in agreement with Armstrong that Simeoni damaged cycling when he testified in the Ferrari trial a couple of years ago.

In his testimony, Simeoni admitted to taking EPO, testosterone and other banned substances, but said that Dr. Michele Ferrari (who also advises Lance Armstrong) prescribed them to him. Armstrong subsequently called Simeoni a liar in an interview with Le Monde in 2003. Simeoni objected to this, and is suing Armstrong for a symbolic sum of €100,000.

On the morning after Stage 18, David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) commented on Armstrong's stage tactics in the Basque daily Deia with the simple headline - "You don't do these things".

Contrary to Armstrong's comments that he was protecting the peloton and that the peloton had congratulated him on his actions, Etxebarria thought that Armstrong's actions "were not to the liking of the peloton" and that a stage of the Tour was not a time to rectify any problems the race leader might have with Filippo Simeoni. Etxebarria commented that the "bad feeling was not followed by T-Mobile, the natural rival of Armstrong, who could have chased Armstrong...they only did it, timidly when the gap to the American was at two minutes".

13:59 CEST   
Isidro Nozal (Liberty) has set off at 13:54, six minutes behind Santi Botero (T-Mobile). Both riders have been doing domestique duty during the Tour, and won't be up to their best TT levels today. Nozal nearly won the Vuelta last year thanks to his flat TT'ing, but was beaten by Heras on the final mountain TT on the second last day.

14:01 CEST   
By the way, Simeoni has finished his ride today in 1'20'05, one of the slower times (Bourquenoud is still the slowest in 1'21'08). But Armstrong will have to ride an incredible time to eliminate him. He's probably not that vindictive.

14:06 CEST   
With 67 of 147 riders now past the 18 km check in today's 55 km individual time trial, the best time is still Marc Wauters' 24:45. Prologue winner Fabian Cancellara was 1 second slower than the Belgian at that point, but gradually faded to finish 30 seconds behind. At all time checks, it's been Wauters and Cancellara in first and second place.

14:12 CEST   
Olympic TT champion Viatcheslav Ekimov (USPS) has gone through the first time check at 18 km in 24'46, just one second slower than Wauters.

14:18 CEST   
At the 18 km mark, the top five, with half the field now through this check point, looks like:

Marc Wauters (RAB) 24.45
Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 0.01
Viatcheslav Ekimov (USP) 0.01
Uwe Peschel (GST) 0.05
Santiago Botero (TMO) 0.09

14:22 CEST   
Eki has picked up speed and now has the best time at 34.2 km in 45'33. Wauters' top time is in danger.

14:26 CEST   
Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros) is getting ready to leave in a few minutes. He is normally pretty useful against the watch, as he showed on Alpe d'Huez.

14:28 CEST   
German sprinter Erik Zabel is now under way, rolling along on the still wet roads around Besançon.

Ekimov is 18 seconds better than Wauters at 40 km, the new best time.

14:29 CEST   
Zabel is tackling the first climb, which drags on for 4.5 km at 3.8%. Christian Vandevelde is chasing him.

14:30 CEST   
Serrano assumes the position on the start ramp, gets the countdown, and is under way. It's not raining at the moment, even though the roads are wet.

14:33 CEST   
Vandevelde looks to be in a 53x18 or 17 as he drives up this first climb. He reaches a steeper part and slows a little.

Pierrick Fedrigo is past the 34.2 km check in 46'25, fourth fastest.

14:35 CEST   
Botero is a bit better than Fedrigo at km 34.2, coming across in 46'19 (4th best).

14:39 CEST   
There are quite a few t-Mobile skinsuits out on the course, with Serguei Ivanov also riding up the climb in a smaller gear than his teammates. There are huge crowds on the hill, who take their time to get out of the way of the riders. There's no barriers. At least the roads are nearly dry.

Ekimov has done the best time at 47.5 km in 1'03'40, 16 seconds better than Wauters. The Russian should maintain his advantage to the line.

14:40 CEST   
Iker Flores (Euskaltel) is chasing Ivanov on the climb, also pedalling a nice low gear and really motoring.

14:41 CEST   
Carlos Da Cruz (FDJ) crosses the finish line in the eighth fastest time of 1'15'07. The top five at the moment:

Marc Wauters (RAB) 1.11.55
Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 0.30
Uwe Peschel (GST) 1.18
Yuriy Krivtsov (A2R) 1.19
Erik Dekker (RAB) 1.43

14:44 CEST   
Santiago Perez (Phonak) gets his bike weighed at the start and it's 7.6 kg, well over the 6.8 kg limit.

Jose Vicente Garcia Acosta (Illes Balears) is suffering a bit as he comes to the finish in a time of 1'15'41 (11th best). He was in the day long break yesterday and narrowly missed winning the stage. He was outsmarted by his compatriot and former teammate Juan Miguel Mercado, who surprised him at 300m out to jump from behind and win the stage.

Flores is over the top of the climb and is picking up speed.

14:45 CEST   
Ekimov is coming home now in a fast time, with Bruyneel following him in the team car. The Russian Olympic Champion crosses the line in a time of 1'11'43, new best time! 12 seconds better than Wauters.

14:51 CEST   
Christian Vandevelde (Liberty) has equalled Wauters' time at 18 km, also passing in 24'45. Meanwhile, TerminAitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) has set off from the ramp. He can do a great time if he's motivated.

The wind has dropped, although it's still very humid and overcast.

14:53 CEST   
Nicolas Jalabert (JaJa Jr?) comes home in a time of 1'14'19.94, averaging just over 44 km/h.

Meanwhile, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty) has set off. Still 43 riders to start.

Paolo Bettini is rolling along in the early part of the parcours, just going through the motions. He doesn't have to ride a great time today.

14:56 CEST   
Andrea Peron (CSC) is giving it a bit of stick as he rides up to the 34.2 km check in Rouhe and crosses in 46'37, 1'03 slower than Ekimov who has the best time at that point.

Igor makes the right hand turn over the river Doubs, fairly gently as the roads are a bit wet here.

Sebastian Lang finishes in 1'13'35, 6th best.

14:58 CEST   
Marcos Serrano runs into a bit of grief when the TV helicopter flies too low and blows debris all over the parcours. He dodges an umbrella, a chair, a newspaper... That's not going to help him. He still manages to pass 18 km in 24'45, the equal best time with Wauters and Vandevelde.

14:59 CEST   
Fedrigo has caught his two minute man Pavel Padrnos (USPS) and finishes off in 1'13'19, which will put him in 6th place.

15:00 CEST   
The top five at the finish with 67 riders home:

Viatcheslav Ekimov (USP) 1.11.43
Marc Wauters (RAB) 0.12
Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 0.42
Uwe Peschel (GST) 1.30
Yuriy Krivtsov (A2R) 1.31

15:02 CEST   
Serrano is now in a good rhythm again, and has Bettini in his sights. His director is yelling at him in Spanish.

Santi Botero, the 2002 World TT Champ, finishes in 1'13'34, 7th fastest.

15:05 CEST   
Serrano passes Bettini, who grabs his wheel for a bit before the Spanish rider gradually pulls away.

Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears) has the new best time at km 18 in 24'40. He's the Spanish TT champ, so he's no slouch.

Jens Voigt (CSC) is on his way now.

Most riders are opting for a rear disc wheel today, which is considered the most aerodynamic wheel under pretty much any conditions.

15:06 CEST   
Bettini is following Serrano at about 15m, on the other side of the road though. He may get penalised time for this if he's not careful, and the penalties are not soft.

15:08 CEST   
Serrano, being in front, can take the best lines through the bends, while Bettini has to switch to the opposite side of the road all the time.

Vandevelde is huffing and puffing his way to time check 2 (34.2 km) in 45'54, 3rd best behind Ekimov and Wauters.

Meanwhile, the Serrano-Bettini duel continues as Bettini passes Serrano!

15:11 CEST   
Serrano is having none of this and passes Bettini again. They're flying along at 50 km/h past an incredible example of "crop art" in an adjacent field, depicting a huge cyclist on a TT bike, maybe 500m x 500m.

Lance Armstrong has emerged in his casual gear and begins going through his warmup phase.

15:13 CEST   
Jose Ivan Gutierrez, who has the best time at 18km, is definitely on track for a good overall time today. He has a great position, very low and aero, similar to Nozal.

George Hincapie gets quickly up to speed as he leaves the start ramp.

15:15 CEST   
Jörg Ludewig (Saeco) has just caught Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) but is taking his time to pass him.

Gutierrez has wound it up to 70 km/h on a descent. He is really travelling.

15:17 CEST   
Serrano and Bettini are still together as they reach the 34.2 km check, with Bettini crossing just before Serrano. Serrano's time is 45'44, while Bettini will be 2 minutes slower.

Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) is even better than Jose Ivan Gutierrez at 18 km, doing a brisk 24'37 to the first time check.

15:21 CEST   
Marzio Bruseghin (Fassa Bortolo), who is normally a good tester, finishes in 1'13'54 for 11th. Then US Postal's Benjamin Noval comes home 1'12'47, fourth fastest. Not bad at all.

Ludewig can't pass Scholz and has dropped back a bit on one of the climbs.

Jose Ivan Gutierrez nearly cleans up a spectator who is standing like a stunned mullet in the middle of the road. He has to brake, swerve and get going again.

15:23 CEST   
Nevertheless, Gutierrez comes up to the second time check in an excellent time of 45'41, just 8 seconds slower than Ekimov.

Not to be confused with Jose Ivan, Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak) sets off from the starting house.

Bobby Julich has done an incredible time at 18 km of 23'52, smashing the TerminAitor's time by 45 seconds.

15:25 CEST   
Speaking of mullets, Laurent Brochard (Ag2r) has left the start ramp, hair protected by a helmet today. He has got a sort of a goatee/thin moustache thing going.

Jose Ivan Gutierrez is now tackling the second half of the parcours, head down.

15:29 CEST   
For those asking, Allan Davis (Liberty) finished in 1'18'18, while Scott Sunderland did it in 1'19'05. Baden Cooke (FDJ) was home in 1'19'09 and Matt Wilson did it in 1'19'18.

15:31 CEST   
Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo) is settling into his rhythm. He's a good tester as well, and holds the record for the fastest ever prologue in a Grand Tour (in the Giro 3 years ago).

Giuseppe Guerini follows him.

Jens Voigt is 18 seconds behind teammate Bobby Julich (CSC) at 18 km. The roads are drying up well now, favouring the later riders.

15:32 CEST   
Stuart O'Grady
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
Jose Ivan is 12 seconds slower than Ekimov at km 40. He's losing ground to the Russian.

O'Grady finishes in a decent time of 1'14'35, 18th quickest.

15:33 CEST   
Top times at km 18:

Bobby Julich (CSC) 23.52
Jens Voigt (CSC) 0.18
Aitor Gonzalez 0.45
Jose Ivan Gutierrez (IBB) 0.48
Igor Gonzalez (LST) 0.49

Top finishing times:

Viatcheslav Ekimov (USP) 1.11.43
Marc Wauters (RAB) 0.12
Fabian Cancellara (FAS) 0.42
Benjamin Noval (USP) 1.04
Uwe Peschel (GST) 1.30

15:36 CEST   
Vandevelde comes home in 1'12'31, fourth place behind Ekimov. Erik Zabel comes in 10 seconds behind, but lost an additional 2 minutes as he was caught by Vandevelde.

Aitor Gonzalez passes Beltran just before time check 2 and passes in 45'46, 3rd fastest. Ekimov's second half was quicker than his first half.

Mick Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon) is setting off for his 55 km of fun.

15:38 CEST   
Jose Ivan Gutierrez has got the big gear going in the final section of the parcours.

Bobby Julich is flying towards the second check (34.2 km) in 44'07, that's 1'25 better than Eki. Excellent riding.

Axel Merckx rolls down the start ramp to the cheers of thousands of fans. Millions even.

15:42 CEST   
Jose Ivan Gutierrez has caught and passed both Ludewig and Scholz, who started 2 and 4 minutes ahead of him.

Marcos Serrano finishes in 1'12'42 for 5th place. Eki still has the best time.

15:44 CEST   
Jose Ivan is just 3 seconds slower than Ekimov at km 47.5, while Aitor Gonzalez has matched Eki's time at the 40 km mark. Julich will trump them all though.

15:48 CEST   
Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com) starts, looking nervous.

Jose Ivan Gutierrez is powering home and just beats Ekimov time by 1 second: 1'11'42. Very close finish!

15:49 CEST   
Jens Voigt (CSC) is through 34.2 km in 44'48, slower than his teammate Julich but quicker than the rest of the field.

Virenque in dots is doing his hungry shark impersonation again near the start gate.

15:51 CEST   
Vladimir Karpets is en route, hoping to brush aside/clean up/nail down Voeckler, who is inhaling an energy drink just before the start.

US Postal's Floyd Landis is through 18 km in 23'37!! 15 seconds better than Julich.

15:53 CEST   
Voigt's Cervelo is showing a lot of seatpost. Oohlala. That's a bit immodest.

Virenque is under way, just before Voeckler.

15:55 CEST   
The sun is now shining weakly on the riders as the afternoon drags on.

Jens Voigt demolishes Evgeni Petrov (Saeco) who started 2 min in front of him. He's also got Egoi Martínez in his sights. Martinez blinks and Voigt flies past.

Aitor Gonzalez has ridden fantastically over the last part of the course and has gone 40 seconds under Ekimov's time at 47.5 km, the best so far.

15:57 CEST   
The white clad TiTi Voeckler is off the ramp now, hoping to preserve his 45 second lead over Karpets in the young rider classification. It's going to be a big ask.

Hincapie passes 34.2 km in 45'09, third fastest after Julich and Voigt.

15:58 CEST   
Karpets looks great as he motors up the first climb, barely moving his upper body at all, long hair flowing in the breeze. We don't think he qualifies for a mullet though.

16:00 CEST   
Gibo Simoni (Saeco), 14th on GC, is now setting off. He's not the best against the clock, but will try to fend off Voeckler and Virenque, who are 31 seconds and 1'12 behind him on GC.

16:01 CEST   
Julich is powering still, clocking 51'15 at 40 km. Jens Voigt is 28 seconds slower.

Here's Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo), driving smoothly home in a time of 1'11'23, 19 seconds better than Gutierrez.

16:03 CEST   
Rasmussen looks nervous as he starts his ride.

Santos Gonzalez passes 34.2 km in 45'07.

Voigt has got a huge gear going as he nears the finale. But Bobby Julich is on track to the new top time: 1'09'37! Fantastic ride, averaging 47.4 km/h.

16:04 CEST   
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty) comes home in 1'12'21, not bad for 6th.

16:07 CEST   
Rogers is 18th fastest at km 18, 1'22 behind Landis.

Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches) passes the 34.2 km point in 46'11, 13th best behind Julich.

16:09 CEST   
Karpets has got the big gear wound up on a slight descent, still rock solid. He has yet to reach the first time check.

16:10 CEST   
Armstrong and Azevedo are warming up, listening to music. Well Armstrong is listening. Azevedo is listening to Armstrong listening.

Their teammate Floyd Landis is continuing his excellent ride, passing 34.2 km in 44'00. Best time. He might have gone out really hard for the first 18 km to give Armstrong a time to aim for.

16:11 CEST   
Sandy Casar is not enjoying himself out there, trying to find a gear that enables him to ride at 50 km/h with ease. There isn't one.

16:14 CEST   
Voigt comes into the finish a bit slower than Julich, but still with an excellent time of 1'10'08. Second fastest behind Julich.

The current top five:

Bobby Julich (CSC) 1.09.37
Jens Voigt (CSC) 0.31
Aitor Gonzalez (FAS) 1.45
Jose Ivan Gutierrez (IBB) 2.05
Viatcheslav Ekimov (USP) 2.06

16:15 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) has set off. Just 8 more riders to follow him at 3 minute intervals.

Petrov is home in 1'13'14, 13th best.

Stéphane Goubert is getting a lot of support as he motors along.

16:17 CEST   
Karpets is through 18 km in 24'18, fifth quickest. Let's see what Voeckler can do.

Carlos Sastre (CSC) assumes the position on the start ramp. CSC has a pretty solid team.

16:18 CEST   
Landis is still on track for a top time, passing 40 km in 50'58, that's 17 seconds better than Julich.

Beltran is chatting to Armstrong, telling him where the tricky corners are. Armstrong has worked up a good sweat on the rollers.

16:20 CEST   
Voeckler is cruising along towards time check one, wearing his white(ish) skinsuit and tricolor gloves.

Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), the seventh best rider on GC, has left the start.

16:23 CEST   
Robin Williams is chatting to Jean-Marie Leblanc in the presence of Lance.

Hincapie comes to the finish with his partner Melanie in the following car in a time of 1'10'45, 3rd best time.

Paco Mancebo (Illes Balears) has set off.

Voeckler has already lost most of his 45 seconds to Karpets at the 18 km point. He's 1'38 behind Landis (Karpets was 41 seconds back).

16:25 CEST   
Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo), not a renowned time trialist, comes up to the 34.2 km check in 46'24.

Voeckler looks good as he puts in a little sprint up one of the many undulations on this course. But he's going to have to ride incredibly to prevent Karpets from taking over the white jersey.

Totschnig is rock solid as he tackles the climb at the start.

16:27 CEST   
Jose Azevedo (USPS) is on his way. He's the fifth rider on GC and is no mean rider against the clock.

Casar is on a wide open stretch at the top of the plateau.

Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) finishes in 1'11'06 for fourth at the moment. Still Julich leads Voigt and Aitor in the finishing times.

16:29 CEST   
Landis is well on track to beat Julich's time, clocking 1'01'15 at 47.5 km, 21 seconds faster.

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is ready to roll. He'll have to do a perfect time trial to get on the podium today. People have been talking about him overhauling Basso (3'59 and two GC positions ahead), but that's going to be tough. More than 4 seconds per kilometre!

16:30 CEST   
Rubiera is past the 34.2 km point in 44'49, fourth fastest. He was also fourth at time check 1. Most spectators are cheering him, but there are a few boos.

16:32 CEST   
Ullrich is not pedalling that quickly as he starts off, but that's normal for him.

His teammate Andreas Klöden is next off. Well, T-Mobile will have at least one rider on the podium in Paris. Maybe Klöden can take back the 1'02 on Basso to take second place on GC. That's quite possible.

16:33 CEST   
Sandy Casar has now gone by the 34.2 km mark in 46'02, for 14th.

Klöden is also pedalling slowly at the start ,which is all uphill.

16:35 CEST   
Jose Enrique Gutierrez finishes in 1'12'02 for 9th best. Further back down the course, Vlad Karpets is stomping and passes the 34.2 km check in 44'41.92, the third quickest after Landis and Julich.

Speaking of Landis, Floyd is riding hard to the finish, and comes across in 1'09'14 (47.66 km/h). Dirk Demol in the team car would have been happy with that.

Ivan Basso (CSC) sets off, looking nervous.

16:38 CEST   
Lance Armstrong, who wants to go out on a high this year, is getting ready to fly off the start ramp. He's the man to beat today, as always. He's off, straight away cranking it up to a good tempo.

16:40 CEST   
Armstrong is pedalling his usual low gear as he tackles the first uphill part of the course.

Leipheimer is third at the 18 km point, 28 seconds behind Landis. Julich is second still.

Virenque comes past the 34.2 km check in 46'38, top 30 at the moment.

16:40 CEST   
Ullrich and Klöden are now on the main climb of the day, both riding smoothly with Ullrich pedalling the largest gear he can.

16:43 CEST   
Paco Mancebo (Illes Balears) is suffering on a flatter part of the parcours.

Karpets takes a sharp left hander on a descent, keeping it well under control.

Thomas Voeckler is past the 34.2 km mark in 47'15, 42nd fastest. He's in danger of being passed by both Casar and Karpets for the young rider GC.

16:45 CEST   
Armstrong is now spinning his way up the first climb, really flying. Did anyone tell him its uphill? He's riding a 55/44 big chainring combo with an 11-21 rear cluster.

16:46 CEST   
Ullrich is now at full speed on the flat/slight descent, doing 60 km/h.

Mancebo doesn't look at all comfortable on his bars.

16:49 CEST   
Karpets is past the 40 km point in fourth place, 54 seconds behind Landis. He's on a great ride today and will take the white jersey for sure.

The sun is now shining more strongly, and the last riders have really got the best conditions as it was raining earlier today.

16:50 CEST   
Christophe Moreau is suffering a bit as he reaches 34.2 km, passing in 45'33, 8th fastest behind Landis.

16:51 CEST   
Axel Merckx rides into Besançon in a good time of 1'13'08, for 17th best so far.

16:52 CEST   
The top five at the finish so far:

Floyd Landis (USP) 1.09.14
Bobby Julich (CSC) 0.22
Jens Voigt (CSC) 0.53
George Hincapie (USP) 1.30
Santos Gonzalez (PHO) 1.51

16:53 CEST   
Ullrich continues driving along the parcours, looking very smooth. Let's see what he can do at km 18.

16:55 CEST   
Jose Luis Rubiera finishes off strongly in 1'10'29 for 4th place so far. Good ride from the Postie.

Ullrich has done the best time at km 18, seven seconds better than Landis in 23'30.

16:56 CEST   
Klöden has done an excellent time too, crossing 18 km in 23'34, just four seconds slower than Ullrich. All eyes are on Basso...

16:57 CEST   
Ullrich seems to have swapped to his old TT machine and not the new version previewed in this live report. Oh well, he'll never know how fast a chopper can be.

16:58 CEST   
Top five at 18 km:

Jan Ullrich (TMO) 23.30
Andreas Klöden (TMO) 0.04
Floyd Landis (USP) 0.07
Bobby Julich (CSC) 0.22
Jose Azevedo (USP)

16:59 CEST   
Levi Leipheimer is steaming up to the 34.2 km check in a time of 45'02, for 6th. He's lost a few places since time check one.

Basso has done the third best time at 18 km, the same time as Klöden!!

17:00 CEST   
Casar finishes in 1'12'53, closely followed by Vladimir Karpets, who crosses the line in 1'10'22, fourth best. Great ride from the young Russian.

17:02 CEST   
As expected, Armstrong has smashed the best time at km 18, doing 22'47, which is 43 seconds better than Ullrich!!

17:04 CEST   
Carlos Sastre is past the 34.2 km mark in the 9th quickest time.

If Armstrong keeps going like this, he'll win by a couple of minutes. It depends on what Ullrich, Basso and Klöden have left in the tank. At the early stage, it looks like Basso will keep his second place on GC.

17:06 CEST   
Ullrich has got the rear disk spinning at a good speed now as he negotiates the flatter part of the parcours. Armstrong is still pedalling very quickly and he's not hanging around. A fifth stage win for Lance is on the cards today.

17:06 CEST   
Richard Virenque fights with the bike all the way to the line, crossing in 1'13'26 for 24th at the moment.

17:07 CEST   
Mick Rogers has finished his ride in 1'14'17, 37th at the moment.

17:10 CEST   
Andreas Klöden has now reached the wide open spaces and is flying along, looking as smooth as his team captain.

Mancebo is top 25 at km 34.2, just a little slower than Totschnig, who is not on a good day.

17:11 CEST   
Jose Azevedo is past the 34.2 km check in a time of 44'49, 6th fastest for the Portuguese rider.

17:13 CEST   
Ullrich continues his ride in the late afternoon sun, getting plenty of cheers from the fans alongside the road. He reaches the intermediate point in Rouhe (km 34.2) in 43'47, 43 seconds better than Landis. Impressive riding from Der Kaiser.

Voeckler finishes in 1'16'30, 7'15 slower than Landis.

17:15 CEST   
Andreas Klöden now comes up to the 34.2 km mark, clocking 43'35, which is 18 seconds slower than Ullrich.

But what can Basso and Armstrong do?

17:16 CEST   
Michael Rasmussen finishes in a modest time of 1'13'45.

Moreau is better, finishing in 1'11'47, not bad for 11th.

17:19 CEST   
Armstrong takes the second before the 34 km check fairly carefully, still moving very well.

Here comes Ivan Basso, who is now suffering after riding so well at the first check. He is slower than Klöden and passes in 44'06, fourth fastest. He's lost 30 seconds on Klöden (he can lose 1'02) and 48 seconds to Ullrich.

17:20 CEST   
Klöden has a great chance to take second on GC - he needs to make up 32 seconds over the last 20 km.

Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) finishes in a good time of 1'12'10 for 13th.

Ullrich is 47 seconds better than Landis at 40 km, clocking 50'11.

17:21 CEST   
Armstrong is through 34.2 km in 42'31, no surprises there. He's 46 seconds better than Ullrich, which means Ullrich has really picked it up in the second part. He's only lost 3 seconds to Armstrong in the last 16 km.

17:24 CEST   
Basso is looking smoother again as he maintains his cadence on a downhill section. Klöden is coming to the 40 km mark, and is only 18 seconds behind Basso on virtual GC.

17:25 CEST   
Klöden's 40 km time is 50'26, just 15 seconds slower than Ullrich.

Leipheimer comes come in 1'10'55 for 7th, a good ride from the American.

17:27 CEST   
Klöden is now on the last climb, riding well.

Basso passes 40 km in 51'18, 52 seconds slower than Klöden. He can only lose 1'02...

17:27 CEST   
Klöden is now virtually 7 seconds behind Basso on GC. It will take an incredible ride from the Italian to save this one.

17:28 CEST   
Basso flies across the river Loue as Armstrong comes through 40 km in 49'20, which is 51 seconds better than Ullrich.

Sastre finishes in 12th in 1'11'45.

17:29 CEST   
Armstrong is now motoring across the bridge over the Loue, Basso in his sights.

17:30 CEST   
Basso hits the last climb and is hurting bad. Klöden meanwhile has clicked up a gear and is powering towards the 47 km check.

17:31 CEST   
Ullrich is past the 47.5 km mark in 1'00'11, that's 1'04 better than Landis and 1'25 ahead of Julich.

17:32 CEST   
The real battle today is between Klöden and Basso for second place on GC. They're neck and neck at the moment. Maybe if Armstrong catches Basso, he'll pick up speed.

17:32 CEST   
Georg Totschnig is finishing his ride now. The Austrian is home in 1'12'39 (18th), not one of his better rides.

17:33 CEST   
Klöden flies past 47.5 km just 10 seconds slower than Ullrich!!

17:34 CEST   
Basso has got the big gear thang happening now, looking for any way to ease the pain in his heart and lungs. There is no way.

Armstrong is about 30 seconds behind Basso now (he started 3 minutes behind).

17:35 CEST   
Top times so far:

18 km

Lance Armstrong (USP) 22.47
Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.43
Andreas Klöden (TMO) 0.47
Ivan Basso (CSC) 0.47
Floyd Landis (USP) 0.54

34.2 km

Lance Armstrong 42.31
Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.46
Andreas Klöden (TMO) 1.03
Floyd Landis (USP) 1.29
Ivan Basso (CSC) 1.35

40 km

Lance Armstrong 49.20
Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.51
Andreas Klöden (TMO) 1.03
Floyd Landis (USP) 1.38
Bobby Julich (CSC) 1.55
Jens Voigt (CSC) 2.23
Ivan Basso (CSC) 2.26

17:35 CEST   
Basso is now effectively 3rd on GC, 17 seconds behind Klöden. The Italian is cooked.

17:36 CEST   
Ullrich is in the home stretch now, en route to second or third place today, depending on how strongly Klöden brings it home.

Francisco Mancebo finishes in 1'13'24 for 27th, not bad going. Azevedo in next in 1'10'38.

17:37 CEST   
Ullrich steams home behind in 1'07'50!! New best time!!

17:37 CEST   
Just three more riders on the road, Klöden, Basso and Armstrong.

17:38 CEST   
Armstrong is now past the 47.5 km mark in 59'17, that's 54 seconds better than Ullrich. He should go under 1'07'00 by the finish.

17:39 CEST   
Klöden is driving it all the way home, having an effective 22 seconds on Basso on GC. Klöden will finish second overall in the Tour de France.

17:40 CEST   
Klöden finishes off a fantastic ride in 1'08'16, 26 seconds slower than Ullrich. He will take third in this stage.

17:41 CEST   
Ivan Basso, the only rider to stick with Armstrong in the Pyrenees, has run out of gas in the last week. But he's had a great Tour and a third place overall will be a nice reward.

Armstrong, followed by a posse of motorbikes, still hasn't caught Basso.

17:42 CEST   
Basso gives it everything as he reaches the final 2 km, Armstrong hot on his heels.

Armstrong will win his fifth stage in this year's race, a record for him.

17:43 CEST   
Basso struggles on the false flat as he approaches the last kilometre, Armstrong 15 seconds back.

17:44 CEST   
Basso is exploding in the last kilometre, the pain is overwhelming. He should hold off Armstrong at least.

17:45 CEST   
Basso comes home in a good time of 1'09'39, sixth on the day, 1'50 slower than Ullrich.

Armstrong is home in 1'06'49, again 1'01 (isn't that spooky?) better than Ullrich. A great way to finish off the Tour.

17:46 CEST   
Armstrong is ushered off the course by his handlers, giving his bike to the team. He is congratulated by Virenque as he goes into the interview room.

The GC has changed a bit, with Armstrong opening up a 6'38 lead to second place, which has been taken by Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile) in an excellent ride. Basso started well but wasn't good enough to hold off the T-Mobile motors and slipped to 3rd on GC at 6'59. Ullrich is fourth at 9'09, and Azevedo fifth at 14'30.

Intermediate timing

18 km

  1. Lance Armstrong (USP) 22.47
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.43
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 0.47
  4. Ivan Basso (CSC) 0.47
  5. Floyd Landis (USP) 0.54

34.2 km

  1. Lance Armstrong 42.31
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.46
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.03
  4. Floyd Landis (USP) 1.29
  5. Ivan Basso (CSC) 1.35

40 km

  1. Lance Armstrong 49.20
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.51
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.03
  4. Floyd Landis (USP) 1.38
  5. Bobby Julich (CSC) 1.55

47.5 km

  1. Lance Armstrong 59.17
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 0.54
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.04
  4. Floyd Landis (USP) 1.58
  5. Bobby Julich (CSC) 2.19

Finish, 55 km

  1. Lance Armstrong 1:06:49.31
  2. Jan Ullrich (TMO) 1.01
  3. Andreas Kloden (TMO) 1.27
  4. Floyd Landis (USP) 2.25
  5. Bobby Julich (CSC) 2.48
  6. Ivan Basso (CSC) 2.50
  7. Jens Voigt (CSC) 3.19
  8. Vladimir Karpets (IBB) 3.32
  9. Jose Luis Rubiera (USP) 3.40
  10. Jose Azevedo (USP) 3.48
General classification after stage 19 
  
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor                 79.27.17 
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                  6.38 
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                           6.59 
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                     9.09 
5 Jose Azevedo (Por) US Postal p/b Berry Floor                       14.30 
6 Francisco Mancebo Pérez (Spa) Illes Balears - Banesto              18.20 
7 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                 18.46 
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                                       20.10 
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank                                     20.31 
10 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems                        23.13

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