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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

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

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Stage 5 - Thursday July 8: Amiens - Chartres, 200.5km

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

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 12:45 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:10 CEST

12:34 CEST   

Lance Armstrong
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image

Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of stage 5, a flattish trundle skirting Paris from the textile town of Amiens, birthplace of Jules Verne, to Chartres, known principally for the view of the twin spires of its cathedral rising above the wheatfields of the Beauce.

After the tumult of the last couple of days, this is likely to be a quiet stage with another bunch sprint, although the south east wind may break the race up into echelons in places. The prospect of more rain may dampen the enthusiasm for too much action, but someone (probably one of Voigt and Piil) is bound to try and have a go at getting away; the wide open roads of the stage finale are not however going to be propitious to staying away.

One fourth cat climb won't affect anything much - with a five point lead and only three points on offer, Paolo Bettini just needs to finish to keep his spotty jersey. Three bonus sprints at Beauvais (57.5 km), Orvilliers (142 km) and Maintenon (180.5 km) could conceivably allow Lance Armstrong to offload his yellow jersey onto the shoulders of his willing workhorse George Hincapie, but will probably just get mopped up by the échappée-fleuve as usual.

The race is now rolling out of town on the neutralised section. It's raining already.

12:58 CEST   
Erik Dekker attacks without success as the flag goes down, followed by Jimmy Casper; no luck there either. Then it is the turn of Alessandro Bertolini and Dmitri Fofonov, but they too aren't going anywhere. The race is out of Amiens now and rolling up the pleasant valley of the Selle; it would be pretty if the sun came out, but the forecast is only for heavier rain and stronger winds later.

13:16 CEST    15km/185.5km to go
More attacks come and go, with Eisel, Hary, Bertolini (again) and Kroon getting a few lengths clear for a brief while, and then a more ambitiojus looking group with Jakob Piil (who looked like he wanted to start attacking in the neutralised section - surprised it took him this long), Stuart O'Grady and Michael Rogers; they were joined by Hincapie, Tombak, Vicioso and Mori but once again it didn't last, although their maximum 12 seconds lead made Hincapie leader on the road for a minute or two.

Massimiliano Mori was one of the riders we spoke to this morning about how his Tour has been going so far. "Yesterday in the TT I personally didn't feel that great. I had a good day on the stage to Wasquehal the day before with the pavé. There were three of us from Domina Vacanze who ended up in the front group. Cipollini had crashed so he didn't make the split. Normally I stay with him but he told me to go ahead with Scarponi. Yesterday in the TTT Fagnini wasn't there, Mario wasn't pulling all the time because he was trying to save his legs for today's sprint, and I was hurting. Mario really wants a shot at the sprint today even though there's probably going to be a breakaway."

13:22 CEST    21km/179.5km to go
We finally have a group that has managed to open a more substantial gap now. Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com), Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), French champion Thomas Voeckler (La Boulangère), the inevitable Jakob Piil (CSC) and Magnus Backstedt (Alessio) are now clear with half a minute's lead.

13:48 CEST    40km/160.5km to go
The break is now pulling away steadily and the normal pattern of racing has been resumed. Nobody in the break poses the slightest threat on GC, so only the sprinters' teams will be interested in chasing, and it's too early for them to worry.

No improvement in the weather, and all the reports from up the road are pessimistic.

The first of the day's bonus sprints is approaching now at Beauvais, the town that RyanAir will try and convince you is Paris; if Stuart O'Grady has any ambitions left to take the green jersey he should be up for it; none of the others here have any particular reason (apart from the cash) to break rhythm for it.

14:02 CEST    50km/150.5km to go
At 8.20 the gap is now enough for Thomas Voeckler, the best placed rider out there, to be race leader on the road.

Four teams had visits from the UCI's blood-testing "vampires" this morning: Euskaltel, Lotto, Domina Vacanze and RAGT Sémences. All the riders were found fit to compete.

14:11 CEST    57.5km/143km to go
The quintet drop into Beauvais under where the shadow of the massive cathedral (it's a cathedral-ish stage today) would be if there were any shadows, still moving away, 9.30 10.05 lead now and going away faster than I can type. If the weather keeps the bunch uninterested enough, it could well be a good day for the stage-hunters to get away, although we have had a report of it looking "a bit brighter" up the road.

14:17 CEST   
Tyler Hamilton
Photo ©: Chris Henry/CN
Click for larger image
Normally it would be up to the yellow jersey's team to lead the chase, but all the noises from the US Postal camp have been that it is too early for them to be particularly interested in defending the jersey, so we may yet see Voeckler (3 minutes down on Armstrong this morning) swap his maillot tricolore for one that's all one colour this afternoon if this goes on. Probably too early to talk about that yet, though.

As predicted, Stuart O'Grady takes the 6 points in Beauvais ahead of Backstedt and Piil, which moves him up from 10th to 8th in the points classification.

14:31 CEST   
The break has now covered 70 km and has extended its lead out to 12'55. There's some serious horsepower up here with riders like O'Grady, Piil, Backstedt and French champion Voeckler. Casar is no slouch either.

With US Postal probably not wanting to defend the yellow jersey, it will be up to the other sprinters teams to chase these five riders down. There's still 130 km to go, which is enough.

14:38 CEST    80km/120.5km to go
The break has crossed the day's only climb, the Cat. 4 Mont de Fourches with Casar taking the three points ahead of Voeckler and Backstedt. Bettini will still be in the spots tonight though.

The weather is still pretty damp, and the five leaders are now 14'30 ahead of the rather miserable looking peloton.

14:50 CEST    86km/114.5km to go
As noted, Voeckler is now maillot jaune virtuel; he is also therefore leader of the white jersey competition on the road, which might be something he could hope to hang on to for longer if the break goes the distance, and the Pontarlier stage of the 2001 Tour (in which most of the field were outside the time limit after nobody bothered chasing) has come to the mind of more than one of us here.

15.05 lead now, still no action from the bunch - US Postal are at the front looking soggy and bored - and that's already above the canonical minute-per-10km-to-go.

15:01 CEST    90km/110.5km to go
The bunch has now picked up the pace a bit - there are some Lottos near the front among the US Postal and Phonak rain capes, but the break are still edging away slowly. The leaders averaged 42.4 kph over the first two hours' racing, while the bunch were doing something like 37.5 kph.

15:08 CEST    98km/102.5km to go
Brad McGee punctures and has to chase to get back on. As we know there are a lot of you out there following his (mis)fortunes, we collared him this morning to see how he was feeling.

"I feel better but it's hard to tell. Yesterday I felt fine at the start but it [his back] just went out about 15 km and I basically just limped in. The pain's gone but there's just no power. It's like I'm pedalling with two different length cranks. It seems like my body has just adjusted to this position now. It's survival for the moment, but hopefully I'll soon be able to help Cookie out for a sprint."

The roads here (and for most of the rest of the stage) are straight and open through fields of wheat punctuated by stands of poplars. Fassa Bortolo, Gerolsteiner and Quickstep are now up there helping Lotto pick the pace up and for the first time the gap has started to edge down.

15:11 CEST    100km/100.5km to go
The increased pace and the crosswinds in this open terrain have caused a bit of a split in the bunch, although there are no real echelons as yet. About forty riders are a couple of hundred metres adrift.

15:22 CEST    105km/95.5km to go
The second of what were three echelons has now latched onto the main body of the peloton, and the third is coming up in dribs and drabs. Sadly, Brad McGee is still a minute and a bit off the back in the company of Maryan Hary (Brioches La Boulangère)

15:30 CEST   
Echelons are forming again, with the tail of the bunch being more or less blown into the gutter and off the wheels they are trying to follow by the crosswind from the left. The rain has actually stopped and the roads are drying out a bit, but the wind is the big problem now.

Identifying riders is still difficult but Mario Cipollini is certainly among those in the trailing groups which are not well organised. The leaders still have more than 15 minutes

As the peloton passes though a small town a bunch of riders come down in the front echelon, including Boogerd - he's up and OK but annouyed. Petacchi has also crashed. A couple of of Postals down too - Rubiera gets a bike change.

15:37 CEST   
Beltran and Azevedo were alo fallers in Magny-en-Vexin, as was Roberto Heras, but they too are back on the road - no serious casualties. The bunch has eased up and is regrouping, good news for the dropped riders and also for the five leaders who are a dozen kilometres further up the road (lead back up to 15.35) and close to the crossing of the Seine at Sandy Casar's home town of Mantes-la-Jolie.

There is a fair queue for the services of the race doctor, with José-Luis Rubiera looking in a bit of discomfort.

15:48 CEST    122km/78.5km to go
A watery sun has come out on the break, who are still riding quite steadily; it's warmed up enough for Voeckler to take off his tricolour overshoes as the road drops down to the Seine; Magnus Backstedt hangs off the back of the saddle on the descent to reduce his not inconsiderable frontal area a bit. The lead has gone above 17 minutes; the sprinters' teams have not yet returned to the front of the bunch.

16:00 CEST    70km/130.5km to go
Régionale d'étape Sandy Casar passes through his home town without taking the opportunity to stop and say hello to the family, but with the break in this good a position that is perhaps understandable. Or maybe they've gone on holiday...

US Postal are doing all the work behind, but not with any great enthusiasm. Christophe Moreau and Robbie McEwen are both up there keeping Armstrong company; Hamilton has had a trip back to his team car a while back but came back with most of the Phonak team in company.

16:07 CEST    134km/66.5km to go
Brad McGee, suffering with his bad back, has called it a day and packed. Time to go and prepare for the Olympics.

Also at the back of the race, Mario Cipollini has punctured and is now moving back up through the convoy after a wheel change.

At the front, the leaders still have over 17 minutes in hand, and now look more or less assured of fighting out the stage win between them.

16:13 CEST    140km/60.5km to go
Gilles Bouvard and José Enrique Gutierrez come down in the bunch; the Phonak riders is back up but the Frenchman looks to have been hurt a bit more. His chase will be harder because US Postal have picked up the pace and the bunch are a bit more strung out. As the race gets closer to the finish the chances will be higher that the crosswind could split the bunch again, a chance for a strong team at the front to trap any opponents who are not careful enough about their position in the group.

Gutierrez stops again for a bike change - handlebar problems on the one he crashed on.

It's raining on the break again.

16:23 CEST    142km/58.5km to go
The second bonus sprint comes up at Orvilliers, another opportunity for O'Grady to move up a bit in the points competition.

Behind it is still all US Postal doing the work. They are closing the gap slowly, but not enough to bring the break back, and it looks as if the sprinters' teams have given up hope for the day. The rain is coming down quite hard now, but the area is forested so the wind will not be quite as bad for the moment.

O'Grady takes the 6 points, Backstedt 4 and Voeckler 2. That moves O'Grady up to seventh on points for the moment. There is one more sprint to come, with 20 km to go.

16:37 CEST    150km/50.5km to go
Euskaltel are now up at the front of the bunch en masse behind the US Postal train, so clearly Iban Mayo has not given up hope of a good GC performance yet despite his misfortunes so far. Weather still wet and nasty; the bunch are now back in the wheatfields and the shape of the bunch is clearly showing the wind coming from the left, but the hammer is not down yet.

The five leaders are still 15.18 up, so both the win and in all probability Voeckler's yellow jersey seem to be in the bag (Voeckler has 3.49 advantage over O'Grady, so he's the only likely one to take it unless the others attack him right now). With the three riders who have previous stage victories all being reasonable sprinters, and with Voeckler likely to be satisfied with the yellow and white jerseys, it is likely that Sandy Casar will be the first to break the truce between them and try to get clear alone. There is also a little bit of a climb in the last couple of kilometres that might lend itself to a finisseur attack.

16:57 CEST    161km/39.5km to go
The leaders are startiung to show some signs of their efforts in front, with the gap back below 15 minutes, but still all coming through to take their turns at the front.

Richard Virenque gets a bike change but should be able to get back to the bunch OK. He does, which is jus pootling along (by their standards, not mine). In fact the gap is going back up again now.

Voeckler is looking to be suffering worst of the leaders, but all five look to have tightened shoulders. The wind has veered a bit further and is now more of a headwind most of the time.

17:10 CEST    170km/30.5km to go
The five leaders take the opportunity to visit their team cars, the lull before the storm, as it were (only, like, during the storm). They are now passing through Nogent-le-Roi on the banks of the River Eure.

The bunch look thoroughly disinclined to do anything, even though a bit of an attack here - open country, not too far from the finish, strong winds - could put quite a lot of time into the back of the bunch. However, T-Mobile, Phonak and Euskaltel vests are all well up there behind the US Postal train, which is more transcontinental freight than TGV today.

17:20 CEST    180.5km/20km to go
The third bonus sprint of the day is at the little town Maintenon, from which the second wife of Louis XIV took her name (a deeply pious and quietly influential woman who caused mayhem across France by encouraging anti-Protestant sentiment in the early 1700s).

Jakob Piil gets his geears tweaked on therun in.

Alessandro Petacchi has apparently hurt his shoulder in the crash and there will be a team statement later.

Speaking of crashes, here';s another one, and this time McEwen, Bettini, Kessler and Dufaux are involved.

17:25 CEST    181km/19.5km to go
Stuart O'Grady takes the "sprint" without a contest ahead of Casar and Piil. That's 18 points so far for the day, but still 43 points behind McEwen who is back up.

Alessio's Fabio Baldato was also in that crash - it didn't look very fast, just a mistimed touch of the brakes on a curve by a nervous rider. Other names involved include Jimmy Engoulvent, Kurt-Asle Arvesen (who will have knocked off a few of the scabs from his stage 2 finish spectacular, ouch) and Igor Gonzalez. As far as we can tell, all the fallers are up and chasing, but as this stage has been quite slow, the time limits today will be quite tight (and calculated from the break's finish time and not the bunch!) McEwen stops again for a wheel change.

17:36 CEST    190km/10.5km to go
The truce between the five leaders is still in force, but it shouldn't be long now before the others start trying to get rid of Stuart O'Grady, who must be the favourite from here.

A rough calculation suggests that today's time limit is liable to be of the order of 21 minutes, so with the bunch still a steady 15 minutes down, riders don't want to be too far off the back of that.

17:38 CEST    191km/9.5km to go
The leaders are starting to look each other over a bit. Voeckler looks the most tired (and has already ensured himself a major prize).

Backstedt jumps away.

17:40 CEST   
Backstedt's attack doesn't go anywhere, and Voeckler then has a bit of a dig, then there is a cease-fire again.

17:41 CEST   
A typically French road through the Beauce, open and lined with trees. 14.17 lead.

Piil attacks and Voeckler chases him down. Pause again.

17:43 CEST    193km/7.5km to go
The quintet get back into something of a rhythm. O'Grady looks to just be watching and waiting; he and Piil are showing their trackcraft. Casar looks like he might be weaker, but then again, that may be what he wants us - and them - to think.

17:45 CEST    195km/5.5km to go
Voeckler attacks, Backstedt counters. Casar is definitely having more trouble getting back on.

Voeckler goes again, and this time it's Piil to counter. Edgy stuff, into a headwind - a hard call to get away.

17:47 CEST    196km/4.5km to go
Voeckler keeps attacking; he is not as wek as he looks. Things come back together, then Piil goes with O'Grady.

Voeckler gets across to them; Casar and Backstedt look weaker.

Mass pileup in the middle of the bunch, lots of riders stopped.

17:48 CEST    198km/2.5km to go
Merckx, Moreau, are among those down, but behind most of the favourites.

O'Grady goes up the road on his own now.

17:49 CEST   
All the riders who crashed are back up.

O'Grady is still alone, with Piil and Voeckler chasing a couple of hundred metres behind.

17:50 CEST    198.5km/2km to go
Voeckler and Piil bring O'Grady back under the 2 km banner. Then Voeckler attacks onto the little climb away from theriver.

17:51 CEST   
Piil and O'Grady bring the maillot-jaune-to-be back on the climb and then there is a pause, Piil leading out under the flamme rouge.

17:53 CEST   
Too much of a pause, because the other two have come back, but Backste4dt blows up big style. The other four wait again, and Backstedt jumps to lead out, but he's playing the part of the keirin motorbike, and in the wind up it is O'Grady who takes it close ahead of Piil, Casar, Voeckler, and a knackered Backstedt comes over in fifth.

The time limit should be 18.21, we calculate, while the bunch are 13.30 down, so only about 5 minutes more for any stragglers. Voeckler will take yellow and white jerseys, probably before the bunch gets in.

18:02 CEST   
The bunch are coming up to the outskirts of the town now, still with US Postal leading. McEwen is back in there and will probably be after 6th place to strengthen his hold on the green jersey; O'Grady will make up at least 15+18 points on him today in any event.

18:06 CEST   
O'Grady's 85 points put him equal second in the green jersey competition briefly, but the sprinters' teams - AG2R and T-Mobile especially - are now leading out for the gallop for 6th

Haselbacher goes for a long one, but gets swamped - Kirsipuu leads out for Nazon, McEwen comes up fast, but it looked like Jimmy Casper (?) might have made 6th. Photo time.

18:08 CEST   
McEwen took 6th from Hushovd and Tombak; he is safe in green for the moment, but O'Grady has taken a good move up the points rankings.


1 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone    5.05.58
2 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC                                        
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) Fdjeux.com                                     
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère                     
5 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi                           
6 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo                              12.33
7 Janek Tombak (Est) - Le Crédit Par Téléphone                           
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                               
9 René Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner                              
10 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance                        
General classification after stage 5
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère             20.03.49
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis - Le Crédit Par Téléphone       3.13
3 Sandy Casar (Fra) Fdjeux.com                                 4.06
4 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Alessio-Bianchi                       6.03
5 Jakob Piil (Den) Team CSC                                    6.58
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor              9.35
7 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor              9.45

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