Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

Main Page    Results & report      Stage Details      Previous Stage     Next Stage

Stage 14 - Saturday, July 16: Agde - Ax-3 Domaines, 220.5 km

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

Live report

Live coverage starts: 10:50 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Stage 14 profile
Click for stage map

10:51 CEST   
Good morning, and welcome to an early start to the first of the Pyrenean stages.

Today the Tour organisers have brought us a three-for-the-price-of-one special: a long stage that starts as a flat sprinter's special over the first 70km (including the day's two bonus sprints), followed by a rolling section (with a handful of fourth category climbs) that might see some optimistic breakaways, and then a climber's battlefield with the hors catégorie Port de Pailherčs and a summit finish at Ax-les-Trois-Domaines. And we'll be with you all the way...

The riders are now on the neutralised section out to the start proper.

11:10 CEST    10km/210.5km to go
Today's two bonus sprints (the first is at Narbonne after 50k) will not make any difference to who wears the green jersey tomorrow - the 12 points on offer are less than the 14 that separate Thor Hushovd and Stuart O'Grady, and neither will be in contention for the points at the stage finish today - but will still be of interest to those two riders; Robbie McEwen has declared that he is not particularly interested in the points competition, just in stage wins (not least because he lost a significant number of points when relegated from second place on the third stage), and having hammered his team yesterday will surely be giving them orders to take it easy while they can today.

The start of the race is, for once, fairly steady and there are no successful breakaways yet, such attempts as there have been having been squashed by the peloton pretty quickly. One non-starter this morning: Rabobank's Gerben Löwik is out of the race.

The final 100 metres.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Click for larger image

11:11 CEST   
Our Behind the Blue curtain reporter Chris Brewer has checked in with his pre-stage report:

"The mood around the team hotel is relaxed but focused, knowing the next 2 days are critical to winning the 2005 Tour. I spoke with Discovery Channel's Director Sportif Johan Bruyneel and Assistant DS Dirk Demol. 'Today and tomorrow are going to be decisive, both with mountain finishes. But we have an advantage and it's up to the others to attack,' said Bruyneel. 'Our plan is to maintain what we have and see how the others react. If there's a possibility, and Lance feels good, he might try, but we'll figure that out on the road.'

"I asked Demol which of the 2 stages he saw as having the biggest chance for major attacks. 'Today is hard, but tomorrow is even harder. If you give your all today you may pay for it tomorrow. I think the big, big attacks will come tomorrow.'"

11:22 CEST    25km/195.5km to go
A group of ten riders has now gone a few seconds clear, and the names in it suggest that they are more interested in the end of the stage than the preamble: Totschnig, Garzelli (32 today), Garate, Nardello and Moos alongside rouleurs like Gilbert, Krivtsov, Beneteau, Grivko and Carlos Da Cruz who was in the break all day yesterday. Rabobank are leading the chase and they have a quarter of a minute's lead.

11:38 CEST    40km/180.5km to go
The gap for the ten riders is now increasing, up to 2.25. The best placed of them is Georg Totschnig, 22nd on GC and 11.43 behind Lance Armstrong; with a sackful of mountains points on offer today, Rabobank will have been doing their sums with an eye to protecting Michael Rasmussen's mountains jersey, but they don't have too much to worry about - the most threatening rider in the break is Juan Manuel Garate with 24 points to Rasmussen's 160.

It's still hot down here by the Med, with clear skies, and it looks as though it will be staying that way all the way into the mountains without much relief, a far cry from the temperatures not far above freezing at the top of the Galibier, at any rate.

11:58 CEST    50km/170.5km to go
Philippe Gilbert leads out his team-mate Carlos Da Cruz for the first sprint in Narbonne, and Andriy Grivko follows them over for third; no big changes to anything from that. There are another 28 km to the second sprint at Saint-Laurent-la-Cabrerisse.

The break now have a lead approaching four minutes.

12:05 CEST    60km/160.5km to go
The lead is still increasing, but not too fast. Rabobank and Discovery are unlikely to let riders of the standard of Totschnig and Garzelli get too far clear. 4.30 now.

12:13 CEST    65km/155.5km to go
The ten leaders have had a bit of a tailwind so far, but that shouldn't take too much away from their average speed over the first hour, 50.8 kph, which shows that the chase has been fairly serious as well.

Chris Horner was a protagonist in yesterday's almost-successful breakaway. Read what he had to say about it in his Cyclingnews diary here.

12:19 CEST    70km/150.5km to go
The lead seemed to have steadied a bit at around four and a half minutes, not enough to pose a serious threat in view of the terrain up the road (unless birthday boy Stefano Garzelli or Georg Totschnig are having an absolutely super day, rather than just trying to make sure they don't get blown right out of contention on the Port de Pailherčs) but too good to let go easily. But now the chase seems to have eased and the lead is increasing again, 6.20 now.

12:33 CEST   

12:42 CEST    85km/135.5km to go
The second sprint was a mirror image of the first, Da Cruz, Gilbert and Grivko, which will have rocketed Da Cruz from 80th this morning to equal 47th (with Garzelli, as it happens) in the competition for the green jersey. The gap is still growing, and from here the terrain changes as we head into the hills of the Aude and up to the first of four minor climbs, the Col de Villerouge.

12:52 CEST    90km/130.5km to go
The lead has now topped the 8 minute mark with the leaders coming close to the top of the six-kilometre drag of the Col de Villerouge and the bunch just starting the climb. Krivtsov leads Garate and Grivko over the summit for the points.

13:07 CEST    102km/118.5km to go
The second climb of the day is another fourth-cat job, the 3.3 km Col de Bedos, and it is straight after the descent from the Villerouge. This time it is Garate who takes the climb ahead of Garzelli and Beneteau; he is clearly looking for the points today.

The lead is still going up, if slowly; 8.20 at the last check.

13:19 CEST    109km/111.5km to go
The third of these baby cols is the Col des Fourches, 2.2 km of 4.5%; again it is Garate who takes the honours ahead of Beneteau and Grivko; these climbs haven't broken the ten-man group up significantly though, and the climbers will not really want to lose anyone yet who will be able to help them on the grind up the valley between this range of hills and the foot of the Port de Pailherčs. Their lead is up to 8.45 now.

13:30 CEST    115.5km/105km to go
The final climb of this section of the course is the third-cat Col du Paradis, which the leaders are now tackling; one rider unlikely to find the name amusing is David Herrero of Euskaltel who is reported to have been dropped from the main bunch.

The terrain has slowed the average speed of the race now, but not diminished the levels of effort

13:42 CEST    117km/103.5km to go
Juan Manuel Garate duly takes the top points on the Col du Paradis - that's 12 points he's picked up over this section of the course, putting him up to 6th in the mountains classification just behind Armstrong. The bunch are still around 9 minutes down, and Brad McGee, who is having a rough time of late, has also been dropped from it.

From here the riders drop down to the valley and the day's main feed in another 20 km or so, and then an hour or so on the flat run up to the foot of the Port de Pailhčres, where the tough will undoubtedly be getting going.

13:57 CEST    134km/86.5km to go
After a brisk few kilometres of descending, the leaders have now reached the feed zone at Couiza. The lead is being held steady on nine minutes now; the leaders' teams have no real need to chase any harder before the Port de Pailhčres itself, when we will see what the breakaways' real agendas are - survival or a real stab at a stage win or pegging back some GC time.

One team we'd have expected to be seeing more of in the Pyrenees is Liberty Seguros; we spoke to Jörg Jaksche this morning:

Are you the team leader now? "We don't work that way. But as none of the leaders is in front at the moment, neither Beloki nor Heras, I'm the only one left for GC. In the Pyrenees, I'll try to consolidate my placing, stay in front."

Which mountain range do you prefer? "I actually prefer the Alps to the Pyrenees, because they're a little cooler in temperature, and the climbs are not so steep. I just hope the overall level of performance will decrease as everybody gets tired."

What's the level like until now? "Fast and high!"

14:05 CEST    140km/80.5km to go
The lead measured at the feed zone was 9.35, with the bunch being led by Discovery Channel. The average speed over the first three hours of the stage has been 44.5 kph, which puts them a few minutes ahead of the fastest race schedule.

14:15 CEST    150km/70.5km to go
Euskaltel, unrepresented in the break as the race nears their home ground (although this is the Occitan end of the Pyrenees rather than the Basque end) have sent some riders up to help Discovery with the chase. The gap is still steady at 9.33, nevertheless.

14:26 CEST    156km/64.5km to go
Some of you have enquired about the Port de Pailhčres climb, which is not one of the more familiar names. It's listed as 15.1 km at 8.1% and rated hors catégorie, but Chris Brewer tells us that although it climbs fairly sharply from the start, it is the second half of the ascent that defines it: relentless switchbacks that only increase in steepness as they drive on seemingly ever upward. With about 5km to go the road narrows to one thin lane and the fans are thick along the roadside. After the summit it's a very twisting descent to the base of the final climb.

The Pailhčres has only been used once before in the Tour, two years ago, when Mercado was first over the top. With 20 km to the foot of the climb, the ten leaders are still around the same distance ahead of the field, 9.42 at last time of asking.

14:38 CEST    164.5km/56km to go
So, a quick recap as the long hors d'oeuvre gives way to the main course. There are ten leaders: Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile Team) and Alexandre Moos (Phonak Hearing Systems), who are presumably there to provide a springboard/support up the road for their team leaders, Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas-Bianchi) and Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), who are more likely to be looking out for their own chances of a stage win or a move up the general classification, and Walter Bénéteau (Bouygues Telecom), Carlos Da Cruz and Philippe Gilbert (Française Des Jeux), Andrei Grivko (Domina Vacanze) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r-Prevoyance) who are the chancers, up there for whatever prizes and publicity they can pick up on the way, and/or a bit of a start up the Pailhčres.

The two FDJ riders in the break make a spectacular pigs ear out of taking a roundabout, but they are at the back and don't actually hold everyone else up in the process. It's still Euskaltel orange and Discovery blue at the front of the bunch, and still a gap of 9.40-something up the road to the break.

14:45 CEST    168.5km/52km to go
The roads are still flattish (but clearly dragging up), but the terrain is anything but as the bunch pass through the spectacular St-Georges gorge. As we approach the foot of the Pailhčres there is plenty of action among the team cars behind both break and bunch.

The bunch have pulled a few seconds back, but not anything that suggests that it's decisive yet.

14:55 CEST    173km/47.5km to go
Euskaltel appear to be wearing a standard team issue white undervest, being displayed by their men up the front who are all riding with their orange jerseys flapping.

I suspect that I shall soon have an interesting set of data on the geographical distribution of the phrase "to make a [right] pig's ear of something". They screwed up, OK? Not seriously, just all over the place on a simple right-hand turn.

15:03 CEST    176.5km/44km to go
Spanish champion Garate is looking the most nervous of the ten leaders as they approach the foot of the climb; as they start up the narrow wooded road it is however Alexander Moos who tries to jump clear first, while Nardello appears to be having a bit of trouble following. And surprisingly Garate too is not enjoying it.

Behind them T-Mobile have now taken up the pace on the false flat approach to the climb proper, and have blown a whole lot of riders out the back.

15:05 CEST    178.5km/42km to go
Moos, Garzelli and Beneteau are clear now, with Totschnig and the two Ukrainians chasing together, and the others are back down the road somewhere.

15:09 CEST   
The T-Mobile assault is doing serious damage, both in front and behind. Guerini is setting the pace with Vino on his wheel, and suddenly there is a group of 5 clear, with Armstrong the only Discovery rider there!

Rasmussen gets up to them too. There is complete carnage behind, Heras, Mayo, Brochard, Menchov all shelled out.

15:11 CEST   
Rasmussen, Basso, Mancebo, Ullrich, Armstrong, Vinokourov are all together. Hincapie is leading a bunch of Discovery riders to ride tempo and hold the gap, with Moreau with them.

15:12 CEST   
The pace drops and a few more riders make the gap, then Basso attacks, The pace lifts, and then Vino goes, and Armstrong is dropped!

15:13 CEST   
Ullrich gets across the gap, as does Kashechkin.

15:15 CEST   
Ullrich, Vino, Basso and Kashechkin are together. Rasmussen and Mancebo are back with Armstrong and trying to get across. But now Armstrong counterattacks alone!

15:16 CEST   
Armstrong has bridged the gap, along with Landis; now it is Rasmussen and Mancebo who are the riders in a bit of trouble.

15:18 CEST   
Rasmussen is glued to Mancebo's wheel, with Leipheimer also trying to bridge the gap; it looks as though it's coming back together now. BUt these are only the lower slopes of the penultimate climb...

BAsso puts more pressure on.

The leaders are still six minutes ahead, but Beneteau is dropped; just Garzelli and Totschnig there now.

15:20 CEST   
Armstrong, Ullrich and Kashechkin go with Basso, and Vinokourov is in trouble now, losing touch with Mancebo, Evans, Leipheimer and Rasmussen who are grinding back up to them.

15:22 CEST   
That group comes back together, then Basso attacks again, and the pattern repeats - Ullrich follows, then Armstrong, then Landis. Rasmussen and Mancebo are inseparable twins, riding tempo rather than reacting to each jump. Klöden is with them.

15:25 CEST   
Vinokourov clearly went too deep too early and seems to be going irredeemably backwards now. Rasmussen and Mancebo have also lost half a minute, Vino is behind them.

15:28 CEST   
Ahead Garzelli and Totschnig are setting a good steady pace, but all the attention is on the quartet of Armstrong, Basso, Landis and Ullrich. Other members of the former break are drifting backwards through the race and confusing the picture.

15:29 CEST    185.5km/35km to go
The two leaders are now on the hairpins on the top half of the climb.

15:34 CEST   
Kashechkin is hanging in there with Evans, Mancebo and Rasmussen. The whole situation has to be described as somewhat fluid.

Vino is climbing alone, not blown, but suffering.

Armstrong is riding tempo now; he doesn't want Rasmussen or Mancebo back.

15:36 CEST   
Totschnig has ridden half a minute clear of birthday boy Garzelli now. Moos tried to stay with Landis as the Armstrong group caught him, but couldn't for long; Nardello is next to be caught and he is putting a dig in for Ullrich now.

15:39 CEST   
Popovych is reported as being a couple of minutes behind Armstrong et al. Moos has clawed his way back to the Armstrong group but not for long.

Zubeldia has now got up to the Rasmussen-Mancebo group.

15:41 CEST   
Georg Totschnig has 3 km to go to the summit. The road is narrow and these hairpins are not the sort that have been re-engineered for tourist buses either, with wicked gradients around the inside.

Vinokourov and Kashechkin are just about getting up to the Rasmussen and Mancebo group. Almost but not quite, and Mancebo lifts the pace and they are gapped again.

15:44 CEST   
The Armstrong group and the Rasmussen groups have both swollen to seven riders each, with Leipheimer making it up to Armstrong, Ullrich, Basso and Landis, and Moos and Nardello joining from the opposite direction. And now Nardello is dropped but Garate has been caught.

15:46 CEST   
The gap between the Armstrong group and the Rasmussen group is now almost a minute, with Vino dropped further once more.

Another apparent loser is Christophe Moreau, who is three and a half minutes behind Armstrong in company with Michael Boogerd and Bobby Julich.

15:49 CEST    29km/191.5km to go
Totschnig is now into the final kilometre of the climb, riding a steady tempo alone with a musette over his shoulder - not needing to match anyone else's pace makes it look a little easier for him. He crests the summit and sets out on the very technical descent to the foot of the final climb.

15:55 CEST   
From the ten-man breakaway that started the climb, only Totschnig and Garzelli have stayed clear to the top. Armstrong, Ullrich, Landis, Basso and Leipheimer come over 3.47 down, and 4.27 for Mancebo, Evans, Klöden, Zubeldia and Rasmussen - they could well get back on the descent.

The descent is steep, narrow and winding right from the top. And bumpy.

16:05 CEST    205.5km/15km to go
The final climb to what used to be the Plateau de Bonascre and is now Ax-3-Domaines - the wonders of ski station branding - kicks up straight from the foot of this descent (the leaders are down below the tree line now, but nobody seems to be trying anything rash). Totschnig could stay clear here, depending on how lively it gets behind.

The Rasmussen-Mancebo group has caught up the Armstrong group on the descent, so they have managed that well. Vinokourov too is descending alone and will probably get up there too. He's in the cars now.

16:09 CEST    210.5km/10km to go
Totschnig has reached the foot of the descent at Ax-les-Thermes, then it's hang a left over the river and onto the last climb. All done very stylishly.

Vino has the back of the Armstrong group just ahead of him now; he'll make it across, but not have any recovery time. He's brought some bottles up for Ullrich and Klöden though.

16:14 CEST    213.5km/7km to go
The (relatively) short final climb is crowded from the very start, and the Austrian is setting a good pace, though even he can't make the early 11% pitch look easy.

The Armstrong group starts the climb and Vinokourov jumps clear to up the pace, then drops back as Klöden takes the front.

Evans is dropped.

16:16 CEST   
The group is splitting now, Vinokourov has done what he can and is being dropped. Still Klöden and Ullrich leading.

Zubeldia is playing the accordion at the back now. This pace is not good news for Totschnig.

16:18 CEST   
Armstrong is clearly not having a good day because he's getting out of the saddle a lot, maybe having back problems. He is definitely suffering today, although not badly enough to lose yellow, as Rasmussen seems to be worse.

16:18 CEST   
Basso and Landis are first in line behind the two T-mobile riders, then Armstrong, Mancebo, Leipheimer and Rasmussen. Totschnig is on one of the easier sections now, and last clocked at just under 4 minutes ahead - it *might* be enough.

Zubeldia is dropped.

16:20 CEST   
Basso accelerates and Ullrich, then Armstrong are straight on his wheel, Leipheimer, then Landis make it up, bur Rasmussen and Mancebo are distanced again.

One kilometre to go
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Click for larger image

16:22 CEST   
Landis and Leipheimer are having trouble as Basso, Ullrich and Armstrong catch Beneteau who has done a lot of work for not much return.

16:24 CEST   
Landis and Leipheimer get back on, then Basso accelerates again and they are both dropped once again.

Rasmussen and MAncebo are a quart of a minute behind them.

Totschnig is still 3 minutes up, 4 km from the finish. If he gets this he deserves it. Garzelli is now only a minute ahead of Basso, Armstrong and Ullrich, though.

16:27 CEST   
Garzelli is caught - Armstrong is now leading the trio. Rasmussen and Mancebo have dropped Klöden now.

16:29 CEST   
Basso takes up the front under the 4 km banner, then Jan Ullrich, but they are not attacking any more, but trying to ride the rest of the race out of the podium places. Totschnig now has just 2.11 lead over the trio with 3 km to go, but the final km is more or less flat.

16:31 CEST   
Rasmussen and Mancebo are 35 seconds behind Armstrong, Ullrich and Basso now, keeping the pace steady and limiting their losses wisely.

16:33 CEST   
The big three are balked somewhat by a fan with a massive Colombian flag. All three are riding with their jerseys open in the backing heat. Ullrich is clearly having a little more trouble hanging on than the other two.

Armstrong ups the pace a bit.

16:35 CEST   
Totschnig reaches the prime line at the top of the climb and has just 900 metres to go.

Behind Ullrich is blown out by Armstrong's acceleration, but Basso is still with him.

16:37 CEST   
Totschnig comes up the finishing straight, having been out in front for over 200 km. Too knackered to do his jersey up, even. An excellent ride, that should not be overshadowed by the shenanigans behind him.

Armstrong leads out for second and Basso can't do anything about it, and the Texan takes second a few lengths clear, 56 seconds down on Totschnig. Ullrich comes in puffing to limit his losses to a large handful of seconds, then Leipheimer and Landis together half a minute down on Armstrong for fifth and sixth, then Mancebo and Rasmussen at 45 seconds - they haven't looked at their best, but they have avoided disaster and Rasmussen will still be in second place overall and the spotty jersey. Klöden, Zubeldia, Vinokourov and Garzelli follow up. The biggest loser on GC seems to be Christophe Moreau, who will have dropped from third to tenth.

Thanks for following the stage with us on cyclingnews today - join us again tomorrow for the Grande étape pyrenéen from Lézat-sur-Lčze to St-Lary-Soulan.


1 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                     5.43.43
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel                   0.56
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                 0.58
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                           1.16
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                        1.31
6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                     
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne    1.47
8 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                              
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                        2.06
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                  2.20
11 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                 3.06
12 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                  3.35
General classification after stage 14
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel               55.58.17
2 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                          1.41
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                 2.46
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                           4.34
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                        4.45
6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                 5.03
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne        
8 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team                        5.38
9 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                  7.09
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                  8.37

Back to top