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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 13 - Friday, July 15: Miramas - Montpellier, 173.5 km

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and Hedwig Kröner

Live report

Live coverage starts: 13:20 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

 

Stage 13 profile
Click for stage map

13:32 CEST   
Good morning and welcome to stage 13, a relatively short transitional stage across the plains of Provence from Miramas to Montpellier. Today will in all probability be one for the sprinters, with perhaps a chance for a breakaway group if the sprinters' teams let them get away. And it's going to be a hot one, with blazing sunshine and temperatures already hitting 30°C and likely to be going up a few more yet.

The riders are now rolling out on the neutralised section to the official start. Although there was some doubt about 5th-placed Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) who was suffering from a sore knee, he will indeed be starting.

13:42 CEST    10km/163.5km to go
And the pace is a lively one with attacks going as soon as the flag drops, although none went very far until Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) and Manuel Quinziato (Saunier Duval) went clear at the second kilometre; they too have been caught again since then, however and the bunch is all together.

Some patches of melting tar are reported along the route, with the local authorities spraying water on the roads ahead of the race to cool them down.

14:03 CEST    25km/148.5km to go
And now we do have a proper breakaway, initiated by Carlos Da Cruz at km 15 and followed up by a few of the usual suspects: Thomas Voeckler (who just took the day's bonus sprint), Chris Horner, Ludovic Turpin and Juan Antonio Flecha.

The quintet are now approaching the day's only listed climb, the Col de la Vayède - just a kilometre of 6%, nothing to get seriously worked up about.

14:10 CEST   
Behind the Blue Curtain reporter Chris Brewer has checked with his pre-stage report:

I spoke with assistant Discovery Channel director Dirk Demol about the day ahead. "It should be a day to recover. We have some pretty hard stages to come and it should be pretty hot for the next couple of days. But we know this is the last chance for many riders to get a stage win - some simply won't make it over the mountains. As long as it's nobody dangerous we hope a not-too-big break goes down the road."

Medical update: Manuel Beltran had to stay in the hospital for a 24 hour observation for a concussion but will then return home. He's fine, but after crashing and wrecking his helmet he still wanted to continue racing, but had no memory whatsoever of going down after touching wheels with another rider.

14:11 CEST    29km/144.5km to go
Chris Horner crests the rise first, moving him up to something like equal 51st in the spotty jersey competition,. ahead of Da Cruz and Turpin; probably not going to be a major threat to Michael Rasmussen, but it's cash in the bank all the same.

14:20 CEST    40km/133.5km to go
The peloton are still happy to let the breakaway go as the race heads down to cross the Rhone at Tarascon - it simplifies matters, not least for the sprinters' teams who will not have to faff about with the bonus sprints - and the gap has now crossed the five minute mark; Chris Horner is the best placed rider, 29th on GC at a mere 15.22 behind Lance Armstrong, so I guess that we may see Discovery chasing if things get too out of hand.

Indeed, we had a word with Robbie McEwen this morning on how the stage was likely to develop: "We've got four guys that could ride, but they're also very, very tired. I don't expect Cofidis and Credit Agricole to help in any sort of chase. All the other teams will be sending riders up the road, trying to get in a breakaway. It's a normal scenario at the end of the second week of the Tour. It just doesn't stay together."

14:37 CEST    48km/125.5km to go
After the gap opened to more nine minutes clear as they raced through the Côte de Rhône vineyards west of Beaucaire, Discovery Channel have indeed picked the pace up a bit, and the lead is back down to just over 8 minutes.

Another scalp we collected in the village-départ this morning was Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), whom we drilled for info on the green jersey battle. "I think it's going to be a hard competition. The Pyrenees are going to be very hot and very hard, and there's a lot of very tired guys out there. I think it's going to be the best of us (Hushovd, McEwen, O'Grady) that passes the mountains that takes the jersey." Will it be a fight all the way to Paris? "It's possible, because what's going to happen is that the three of us will try to neutralise each other out of the race. A lot more is going to be played out in the hard stages of the Pyrenees."

15:02 CEST    73km/100.5km to go
Lotto - mainly in the persons of Johan Van Summeren and Wilfried Cretskens - is now helping with the chase, and the gap is now falling back to six and a half minutes.

The wind today is a breeze coming off the sea, a cross-tail wind from the riders' left, which is keeping the pace high. Alejandro Valverde was just at the tail of the bunch, possibly following a visit to the race doctor to check on his dodgy knee.

15:11 CEST    83km/90.5km to go
At the feed at Uzès Alejandro Valverde has dropped off the back of the bunch, waved his team-mates away and looks as though he is trying to find his team car, which would be a sad end to a promising looking race.

15:13 CEST   
Valverde has indeed just stopped and climbed into his team car. A massive disappointment for him and for us. He is obviously very distressed.

15:18 CEST    87.5km/86km to go
The race goes on. The main bunch is now lined out behind the Davitamon-Lotto chasers and the gap is continuing to diminish; at this rate they will not be staying away to the finish.

15:26 CEST    93km/80.5km to go
Hanging on the back of the bunch now is yesterday's winner David Moncoutié, who will certainly be taking it steady today after yesterday's efforts. Ahead Lotto now has a four-rider train setting the pace for the bunch with help from Lampre.

Ahead, Thomas Voeckler is talking to his team car and collecting bottles, a major preoccupation today.

15:39 CEST    102km/71.5km to go
The day's second bonus "sprint" - rolled through with no change in the rhythm of the break - was taken by Juan Antonio Flecha, a matter of purely academic interest.

15:50 CEST    106.5km/67km to go
Voeckler gets another couple of bottles, which may give you some idea what the race's water consumption is going to be like today. Behind them the pace has eased up fractionally and the bunch is massed more than lined out, with a bit of an echelon to the left in the front rank; they're not going to want to catch the break too early, for fear that another will develop - Davitamon-Lotto and Lampre certainly seem to have things well under control, though.

15:59 CEST   
Lance Armstrong, for the record, is riding comfortably on Benjamin Noval's wheel, with a bunch of Discovery vests clustered behind the Lampre and Davitamon riders who are doing the lion's share of the work. The other sprinters' teams seem to be keeping a low profile still, though.

The lead is down below three minutes now, and the break certainly seems to be doomed.

16:12 CEST    123.5km/50km to go
On wide and open roads through olive groves the bunch is once more lined out, in the right-hand gutter on the most exposed sections, so there is a small danger that echelons may form, splitting the bunch.

We can assume that McEwen is feeling pretty good today, because he's certainly making his team work like dogs; I would be a bit concerned that he may be short of support at the end of the stage where other teams will be fresher. But then again, that may be why I'm a journalist and not a team manager.

16:19 CEST    129.5km/44km to go
Horner is taking some big turns on the front of the break; he's probably now going to be faced with a tough few kilometres of hanging on after they get caught if he is not to drop out of his fairly creditable GC position (and a long day on the attack is not ideal preparation for the Pyrenees either). The lead is under 2 minutes, but the bunch are perhaps easing up to avoid catching them too early now.

16:24 CEST    135.5km/38km to go
All the remaining GC contenders are riding well up in the bunch, while Johan Van Summeren takes yet another long turn.

16:30 CEST    138.5km/35km to go
The bunch are accompanied by a rider on a grey horse for a few hundred metres, a reminder that we have been passing fairly close to the Camargue here. The bunch is lined out again and it takes a full gallop to keep up.

They're reining in the break as well, gap hovering just over a minute.

16:36 CEST    143.5km/30km to go
Voeckler is collecting bottles again. (Lots of other riders are doing so too, naturally). We're close to many holiday areas and there have basically been spectators scattered along the whole course; there are very few bits of road without at least a roadside picnic or two going on.

The finish today is a bit tricky, with the final kilometre a bit on the twisty side, so this could be one of the less well organised bunch sprints today.

On the straightest bits of road the break can now be seen by the bunch - game over, really.

16:40 CEST   
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue Curtain, reports that "We just drove the final 7 km and aside from the heat it's not a very technical finish at all. With 7km to go the peloton has a wide highway to work with that eventually funnels down with 2km to go to the traditional more narrow 2-lane barriered finale. At 6500m there is a traffic island but hopefully that won't come into play and the pack should split around it.

"With about 650m left there is a left had turn but it's more sweeping than painfully sharp and then with 200m to go there is a gentle sweep to the left before the final drive to the line. Non-technical and fast, fast, that's the way it is."

16:42 CEST    148.5km/25km to go
This will be the 26th time that a tour stage finishes here, with the last time 11 years ago when Rolf Sörenson took the honours (on a day that Lance Armstrong was one of many who packed in suffocating heat, if I remember correctly).

The gap is indeed being held steady now, at around 50 seconds. Of course, that also gives other teams a chance to organise themselves for the sprint.

16:48 CEST    151.5km/22km to go
Carlos Da Cruz jumps clear of the break, but Horner leads the chase back to him.

Servais Knaven jumps clear of the bunch and has a gap. Too good a rider to let go clear at this stage...

16:51 CEST    155.5km/18km to go
Former Paris-Roubaix rider Knaven is still trying to get across the gap as the race turns down the umpteenth long, tree-lined road , but the bunch are unsurprisingly not letting him get too far out of sight; he is caught again now.

16:55 CEST    157.5km/16km to go
Quick.Step clearly have a cunning plan here as they send another rider away; the rhythm of the Lotto chase has now broken up but that attack is quickly swamped; Armstrong is very prominently staying up near the front as well.

David Loosli (Lampre) has a go; no luck there either.

16:57 CEST    158.5km/15km to go
The cars have now all been pulled out of the gap behind the breakaway. Discovery Channel are now taking up the chase, more to try and keep the pace steady than to win the stage.

Chavanel attacks out of the bunch.

16:59 CEST   
Chavanel doesn't look like he's going anywhere; he's struggling to find a comfortable position and the pace is hotting up behind him.

He makes it across to the breakaway and goes straight through. They jump to get on his wheel.

17:01 CEST    162.5km/11km to go
Chavanel sits up when he realises he's not going clear. Voeckler tries to jump away, but no joy.

After his quick rest at the back of the group Chavanel jumps again and this time gets clear.

17:03 CEST    163.5km/10km to go
Horner gets with Chavanel, while The remainder of the break are getting caught; it's still Discovery keeping the pace high at the front of the bunch. They have a quarter of a minute but it's a long way to hold that sort of a gap.

17:05 CEST   
Salvatore Commesso is trying to get across to the two leaders now in company with Andriy Grivko. They haven't actually caught the other four breakaways - Da Cruz, Horner, Flecha and Voeckler - yet, but they are not making any impression on the two in front.

17:07 CEST   
Grivko and Commesso catch the quartet but the bunch are hot on their heels now. Grivko tries to jump clear but they are on his wheel, and then the peloton swallows them all up, with Liquigas on the front.

Chavanel and Horner are hanging on for grim death in front, though, with a 25 second gap.

17:08 CEST    168.5km/5km to go
Now it's Philippe Gilbert for FDJ leading the bunch out - they have two sprinters still in there and have been taking it steady all day by virtue of having a man in the break.

17:10 CEST   
Ronny Scholz takes the front for Gerolsteiner, with George Hincapie on his wheel and Armstrong himself behind him and Ullrich and Vinokourov not far back either. Horner is leading from Chavanel but their advantage is dwindling. 14 seconds.

17:12 CEST    171.5km/2km to go
Telekom are on the front now but no team are really getting a big train together yet. The gap is 8 seconds, not enough.

17:13 CEST    172.5km/1km to go
Liquigas set a train going, but under the flamme rouge the two leaders still have 8 seconds and Chavanel is leading out - they can't mess about...

17:15 CEST   
It's a few metres too far for Chavanel and Horner, and around the last corner Fred Rodriguez leads McEwen out and the Australian takes the stage with Stuart O'Grady coming up fast but not fast enough; he makes a gesture of protest about McEwen's line but there was nothing to complain about really. Not clear whether O'Grady or Rodriguez took second yet.

It was O'Grady in second spot, while green jersey Thor Hushovd could only get fifth; he keeps the jersey but with a diminished advantage. The sprint was timed at 74.6 kph! No change on general classification apart from the disappearance of the unfortunate Valverde in fifth, who also thus leaves the white jersey of Yaroslav Popovych.

McEwen rightly praises his team for a good piece of work in giving him his third stage win. But tomorrow they will be back to hanging on in there as we return to the mountains with a summit finish at Ax-les-Trois-Domaines. So thanks for following the stage with us at cyclingnews and do join us tomorrow for an earlier start, 10.45 CEST, to see what the Pyrenees bring us.

Results

Provisional
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                    3.43.14 (46.632 km/h)
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone         
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto                          
4 Guido Trenti (USA) Quick.Step                                 
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                            
6 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                         
7 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                             
8 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi                       
9 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                       
10 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval-Prodir                      

General classification after stage 13

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel               50.13.50 (43.884 km/h)
2 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                          0.38
3 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                   2.34
4 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                 2.40
5 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems              3.48
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                        3.58
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne    4.00
8 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                           4.02
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                        4.16
10 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                    

 

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