92nd Tour de France - GT
France, July 2-24, 2005
Results & report
Stage 15 - Sunday, July 17: Lézat-sur-Lèze - Saint-Lary Soulan (Pla d'Adet),
Commentary by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes, with additional reporting from
Anthony Tan and Hedwig Kröner
Live coverage starts: 11:10 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST
Stage 15 profile
Welcome back to the Hindenburg
IV, which is floating lazily above the start in Lézat-sur-Lèze before the
kick off of the 15th stage of the Tour de France. Today's stage is the Grande
étape pyrenéen from Lézat-sur-Lèze to St-Lary-Soulan, over 205.5 km and
six categorised climbs. They are:
Col du Portet d'Aspet (souvenir
Casartelli) (Cat. 2, km 85, 5.9 km climb at 6.9 %)
Col de Menté (Cat. 1,
km 100.5, 7.0 km climb at 8.6%)
Col du Portillon (Cat. 1, km 137.5, 8.4
km climb at 7.3%)
Col de Peyresourde (Cat. 1, km 162, 15.3 km climb at
Col de Val-Louron-Azet (Cat. 1, km 182.5, 7.4 km climb at 8.3%)
Saint-Lary-Soulan (Pla-d'Adet) (HC, km 205.5 (finish), 10.3 km climb at 8.3%)
There are also two intermediate sprints today, at Clermont (km 37), and Argein
(km 69.5), which means that the sprinters interested in the green jersey won't
have to climb any mountains before the bonus sprints.
fireworks en route to Ax-3-Domaines, where T-Mobile took the race to Lance Armstrong
and the Discovery Channel team, today will be a very tough stage with so little
time to recover from yesterday's efforts. In stage 14 we saw a very good T-Mobile,
which managed to successfully isolate Armstrong from his teammates with two
major climbs to go. In past years, this has almost never happened - Armstrong
has always had at least one teammate to help him out in case something went
wrong. But this year, Discovery has been a bit lacking in that dept.
Fortunately for them, Lance is the strongest rider in the race and rode very
well yesterday, putting time into all of his rivals. At the end of the day,
that's what counts.
11:18 CEST 5km/200.5km to go
Today's stage got
underway at 11:10am, and it's been a fairly brisk start, as usual. Weather conditions
today are warmish and overcast again, with temperatures expected to reach 30
degrees. At the moment, it's about 24 degrees.
Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r)
has made the first attack.
Photo: © AFP
Today's stage is also the one that
Lance Armstrong wants to win most of all, as it's almost exactly 10 years ago
that his friend and teammate Fabio Casartelli died while descending the Portet
d'Aspet. The race will cross over this climb today (km 85) and will pass the
Casartelli memorial on the descent, which is about 4 km from the summit. You
can be sure that Armstrong, and many others, will be thinking of Casartelli
then. Many riders in the peloton are wearing white sweatbands with "Fabio" printed
on them today.
In Stage 13 in 2001, over a very similar course to
that of today, Armstrong captured the maillot jaune after winning on
d'Adet, 1'00 ahead of his rival Jan Ullrich. The latter actually crashed
on the descent of the Peyresourde, but Armstrong did not take advantage of the
situation, and Ullrich rejoined in time for the final climb, where Armstrong
was simply too good.
Armstrong will certainly be wanting to repeat
that performance, especially as he hasn't yet won a stage in this year's race.
11:26 CEST 13km/192.5km to go
Dumoulin has been
caught, and the attacks continue in the early part of the stage. Oscar Pereiro
(Phonak) was another to try, without success.
11:33 CEST 17km/188.5km to go
It's still all
together at the 17 km mark, after attacks by Brochard, then Botero, Martinez
and Contador have all been caught.
11:39 CEST 21km/184.5km to go
After 20 km, we
have a new attack with 10 riders: José Luis Arrieta (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne),
Santiago Botero (Phonak Hearing Systems), Alberto Contador and Marcos Serrano
(Liberty Seguros-Würth), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Bianchi), Stéphane Augé
(Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Salvatore
Commesso (Lampre-Caffita), Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux) and Egoi Martinez
The group has a 10 second lead.
11:41 CEST 23km/182.5km to go
The Rabobank team
is chasing the break hard, and the lead drops to 8 seconds.2
11:44 CEST 26km/179.5km to go
The break has now
been caught after a hard chase. The riders are about 10 km from the first sprint.
11:48 CEST 30km/175.5km to go
The peloton has
split after catching the latest break, and Klöden, Hushovd, and Leipheimer are
in the second group, chasing.
Boogerd has attacked now.
11:52 CEST 33km/172.5km to go
Boogerd now has
15 seconds on the peloton, and has been caught by another 13 riders.
second part of the peloton, with Leipheimer, Klöden, and Hushovd, has rejoined
11:59 CEST 35km/170.5km to go
With Boogerd in
the break are: George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile
Team), Erik Dekker and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak Hearing
Systems), Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros-Würth),
Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Laurent Brochard and Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues
Telecom), Alessandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze), Iker Camano (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
and Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r-Prevoyance). The gap is still 15 seconds to the peloton,
as the first intermediate sprint approaches.
None of these riders
are remotely threatening for the GC (Pereiro is at 24'40, Hincapie at 24'59),
or the green, or the polka dot jerseys.
12:00 CEST 38km/167.5km to go
Davis takes out
the sprint in Clermont ahead of Caucchioli and Astarloza. The break still holds
a slender 15 second lead.
12:05 CEST 41km/164.5km to go
And, just like
that, the breakaway has 4'00 on the peloton. Obviously, the Powers That Be have
decided that this break is OK to let go.
12:13 CEST 48km/157.5km to go
The break is now
4'40 ahead of the uninterested peloton, and will almost certainly mop up the
next sprint points at Argein (km 69.5). Interestingly, there are no CSC riders
in the break, but there are three Rabos, one Discovery, and one T-Mobile. These
riders will try to stay ahead for as long as possible so they can help their
teammates if and when they come through on the final climbs. You saw that yesterday
with Nardello doing a bit of work for Ullrich on the Pailhères. Even if it's
only for a kilometre, it all helps.
12:22 CEST 55km/150.5km to go
The gap continues
to grow as the break rolls along, now 7'20 ahead of the peloton. Interestingly,
five of these riders (and all three of the Rabobankers) have won individual
Tour stages before.
12:27 CEST 60km/145.5km to go
have been covered in the first hour of racing. Fast, but not as fast as some
of the Tour stages. The break is now approaching the 60 km mark.
200 metres to go.
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue
Curtain, has checked in with his pre-stage report:
Discovery Channel Assistant DS Dirk Demol, he confirmed what most suspect. 'Today's
a tough day, but I was watching the final ascent highlights on Eurosport last
night. I saw a lot of guys who were really on the limit when they crossed the
finish line. There will of course be the usual attacks from the beginning, but
I expect the GC riders will await till the second to last or the last climb
12:34 CEST 65km/140.5km to go
We spoke to Discovery
Channel's George Hincapie this morning at the start in Lezat-sur-Leze. "Today's
stage is the most difficult...there are six big climbs whereas yesterday there
were only two. So today is much more difficult, a lot harder."
hasn't won a stage up till now, will he have extra motivation today? "I think
his main concern is to try to win the Tour. And if a stage win comes, then we
will take it."
Do you think these last Pyrenean stages are special
to Lance? "Well every day is his last one – alpine stages, Pyrenees stages,
Tour stages. I think his main goal is stay focussed and not think too much about
12:37 CEST 66km/139.5km to go
The gap is now
up to 10'20 as the break enjoys a bit of freedom. Do I hear the cry, "Let 'em
go, they'll die in the hills"? [note to self - must stop using that]
12:42 CEST 70km/135.5km to go
The big bad break
reaches the second sprint at Argein with an 11'40 lead on the peloton. They'll
need another 13 minutes for Pereiro to take the virtual maillot jaune, so there's
no panic behind.
12:44 CEST 72km/133.5km to go
In the peloton,
Ullrich has punctured, but is back with the group after a wheel change.
The second sprint was won by Alessandro Bertolini ahead of Pietro Caucchioli
and Allan Davis. None of these riders are remotely threatening for the green
jersey, so these sprints are more for the team coffers.
12:51 CEST 75km/130.5km to go
The break is now
13 minutes ahead of the bunch, as they near the Portet d'Aspet.
12:57 CEST 80km/125.5km to go
The lead of the
break continues to grow, and it's now 14'25!
The riders in the break
again: George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile Team), Michael
Boogerd, Erik Dekker and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak
Hearing Systems), Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Allan Davis (Liberty
Seguros-Würth), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Laurent Brochard and Jérôme
Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Alessandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze), Iker Camano
(Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r-Prevoyance).
13:03 CEST 82km/123.5km to go
The 14 man break
is on the Col du Portet d'Aspet, a 5.9 km switchbacked climb averaging 6.9%.
The Casartelli memorial is 4 km down the other side, at the same point that
Casartelli crashed in 1995.
13:05 CEST 83km/122.5km to go
The gap is still
going up, not coming down. It's 15'24 now between the break and the peloton,
which is still just rolling along.
13:10 CEST 84.5km/121km to go
Erik Dekker is
riding hard on the Portet d'Aspet, with Pereiro on his wheel. Kroon and Boogerd
are next in line. The last time check to the peloton was 16'10. Padrnos and
Noval are leading the yellow jersey in the bunch.
The break has 17 minutes on the Discovery
led bunch as it reaches the top of the Portet d'Aspet. That's quite a lead!
Photo: © AFP
13:24 CEST 93.5km/112km to go
Dekker took the
points on the Portet d'Aspet, ahead of Caucchioli, Boogerd, Pereiro, Kroon,
They pass the Casartelli memorial on the descent, and
are now on the Cat. 1 Col de Mente, a steep 7.0 km climb at 8.6%. The gap seems
to have stabilised at 17 minutes, and is now coming down as plenty of riders
are getting dropped by the bunch. Beloki and Bäckstedt are in trouble already
on the Aspet.
13:27 CEST 93.5km/112km to go
The break takes
a short descent and is now on the Col de Mente proper. Hincapie is not doing
too much work.
The peloton is still on the Portet d'Aspet, at 17'05.
Oscar Sevilla is in a bit of bother
on the back of the break on the Mente.
The main bunch, led by Noval and
Padrnos, passes over the summit of the Portet d'Aspet, 17'24 behind the break.
13:33 CEST 95km/110.5km to go
Sevilla is back
with the break, riding a fairly big gear. Bertogliati is suffering to hold on
We spoke to T-Mobile's DS Mario Kummer
about the slightly bizarre tactics towards the end of yesterday's stage, particularly
when Klöden and Ullrich "chased down" Vinokourov's little attack at the foot
of the final climb.
Kummer explained that he wanted the team to keep
the pace high: "The situation was that nobody reacted behind so we decided to
put on the tempo. That's how this situation came about."
On the second
last climb, the others knew Vino had troubles. "Yes exactly. Vino's performances
were excellent before, but he didn't have the legs like, say, at the Galibier,
where he had a super day, so as the others didn't react, we had to. He was out
to tickle the others a bit, but unfortunately it didn't work."
you have it.
13:39 CEST 98km/107.5km to go
The gap is still
going up - 18'10! This good be a stage for one of the Rabobank riders or Pereiro.
Botero has rejoined the bunch after suffering a bit on the Portet d'Aspet.
The peloton passes a few horses near
the Col de Mente, which look more interested in the grass than the Tour de France.
Noval and Padrnos are still leading the bunch, riding
a very steady tempo with Armstrong in fifth wheel.
We talked to Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi),
who hasn't been well for the last few days. "I had a really rough day yesterday
with stomach problems and my throat isn't all that good either. Today it's a
little bit better but still not good. I'll just struggle through this stage."
The break nears the top of the Col
de Mente, with Erik Dekker riding a solid tempo again. He is obviously trying
to set up Boogerd for a stage win later today.
13:49 CEST 100.5km/105km to go
Dekker and Boogerd
are chased by two lunatics in polka dotted clown suits as they cross the summit
of the Col de Mente. Dekker takes the points from Kroon, Boogerd, Pereiro, Caucchioli,
Menchov and McGee are in trouble in the peloton.
Brochard, Astarloza, Camano, and
Bertolini have to chase back on after the climb.
In the peloton,
Garzelli is in a bit of bother as well.
13:52 CEST 114km/91.5km to go
The descent of
the Col de Mente is steep and hairpinned, and the Bouygues car squeals its tyres
as it sits behind the break.
Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) is being
shelled from the peloton on the steep slopes of the Col de Mente. McGee is back
here too, looking very cooked, head down, swerving from side to side (although
14:00 CEST 111km/94.5km to go
The break is in
the feed zone at Saint-Beat, still enjoying an 18 minute advantage over the
14:05 CEST 113km/92.5km to go
Oscar Sevilla sculls
a coke can as the temperatures rise in the valley. Hincapie seems to have a
full bladder, and performs some on the bike relief.
is dropped by the peloton, which is near the summit of the Col de Mente, led
by six Discovery riders, including Armstrong. The bunch is still fairly large
though - well over 100 riders.
14:08 CEST 118km/87.5km to go
The peloton now
rides past the four clowns in polka-dots, who manage not to get run over. Padrnos
and Noval lead the bunch over the top, 17'57 behind the break. Voeckler is still
there, on the back.
Rasmussen is spotted (hah, pun!) squeezing a
carton of Extran down his throat. "I hope to feel better today," he told Cyclingnews
this morning. "Yesterday was a difficult stage, but I limited my losses so it
14:09 CEST 120km/85.5km to go
The peloton snakes
down the descent of the Mente, not taking too many risks on these steep hairpins.
The leaders are nearly at the Spanish border - we go into Spanish road/airspace
for a few km today.
Voeckler has punctured on the descent
and is signalling for his team car.
Voeckler stops on a corner where
there is a yellow clad cheerleader, but doesn't have much time for a chat. He
gets a new wheel and he's on his way again, chasing.
14:23 CEST 125km/80.5km to go
The gap is now
up to 18'44 as the peloton passes through the feed zone at Saint-Beat. Armstrong
gets out the route profile and has a look at it, his "Fabio" wristband clearly
visible. Four climbs to come. He says he feels pretty good.
yesterday, the gap might be too big to pull back, because there are some handy
climbers up front. Caucchioli is good, as is Pereiro. Don't underestimate Boogerd,
Hincapie, and even Sevilla.
Beloki is trying to chase back onto
the peloton, all alone.
Beloki's going to have a hard time
making the time limit today - he's 22'50 behind already, and four minutes behind
the break. No-one to help. That could be an exit for the rider who finished
third on this stage in 2001.
14:30 CEST 130.5km/75km to go
The break hits
the third climb of the day, the Cat. 1 Col du Portillon, and 8.4 km climb at
7.3 %. They have 18'52, down from 19'11.
Brochard empties a bidon
of water over his head, as he sits behind Davis. All 14 are still together with
Pereiro riding tempo.
The peloton rides past a dam on the
CSC has now taken up the chase with Arvesen and Roberts.
That's a necessary change, if the Others want to take the race to Armstrong.
14:34 CEST 132.5km/73km to go
The break is out
of Spanish territory, as it tackles the Portillon.
The peloton is
now strung out, reducing the gap to 18'23.
Basso punctures - that will not do
the CSC chase much good. He's back now.
14:37 CEST 133km/72.5km to go
back on the front but at an easy pace, letting Basso and co. catch back on.
That wheel change took a while. He's in the caravan, and will rejoin the peloton
very quickly. Gap is 18'06.
Dekker is dropping off the back of the
break, 4 km from the summit of the Portillon.
CSC is back on the front of the bunch,
having given up 30 seconds or so to the break after Basso's puncture. They ride
past a supermarche in Bossost, which is selling pottery.
is now in trouble in the break, 3.6 km from the summit of the Portillon. The
Basque asks his director what to do: "Ride faster!"
Pineau is next to be shelled from
the break. It's Kroon setting tempo.
14:44 CEST 135.5km/70km to go
And then there
were 10...Bertogliati goes out the back of the break, and makes his way back
to Pineau and Astarloza. Dekker is a fair way behind now.
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue
Curtain, reports from the finish:
"Hot and windy, that's the simple
description atop Pla d'Adet. The wind is blowing so hard that rocks and trash
are being blown into the hundreds of parked cars at the top, and small tornado-like
whirlwinds are quite frequent as well. Orange is definitely the color of the
day as the Basques are out in the thousands and already very fired up.
"The climb up Pla d'Adet is not as vicious as the say second half of Port de
Pailhères yesterday with its many switchbacks, the main thing today is that
1] you've already ridden 5 major climbs and 2] then final 10.7 km in the stage
are just unrelenting. And unlike many mountaintop finishes where the leader
gets a bit of a break at the summit, the final 500m here are possibly the hardest
on the climb in terms of steepness."
14:50 CEST 136km/69.5km to go
A sprinters bus
is starting to form on the Portillon as CSC's Luke Roberts sets a hard tempo.
McGee is still here, and should be able to find the bus. Moncoutié is also here,
and Cioni and Garzelli are suffering.
The gap is down to 17'20 -
still a little large given the distance to the finish.
Bertolini is in trouble in the break,
but is hanging on as Kroon drives it towards the summit.
Bertolini drops off with 500m to
the summit, but should catch them on the descent. 16'30 is the gap as Sorensen
does the tempo making for CSC.
Astarloza, Pineau and Bertogliati
are together, fighting their way up the Portillon. No sign of Dekker, who dropped
14:53 CEST 137km/68.5km to go
Pereiro and it looks like Davis were first over the top of the Col de Portillon.
catches on on the descent, which is nicely paved.
Those left in the break: George Hincapie
(Discovery Channel), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile Team), Michael Boogerd and Karsten
Kroon (Rabobank), Oscar Pereiro Sio (Phonak Hearing Systems), Allan Davis (Liberty
Seguros-Würth), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Laurent Brochard (Bouygues
Telecom), Alessandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze), Iker Camano (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
Chasing them at 1'20 are Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Jérôme Pineau
(Bouygues Telecom), Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r-Prevoyance), then Erik Dekker at an
unknown distance, then the peloton at 16'20.
14:57 CEST 139km/66.5km to go
The results of
the climb: 1. Karsten Kroon, 2. Michael Boogerd, 3. Oscar Pereiro, 4. Pietro
Caucchioli, 5. Allan Davis, 6. Oscar Sevilla.
to hammer the peloton on the climb.
15:02 CEST 145km/60.5km to go
The peloton is
slowly thinning down under the impetus of CSC. Maybe 40 riders left now, with
bits and pieces chasing and/or going backwards. Beat Zberg, Garzelli (again),
Mayo, Da Cruz, Noval, Padrnos, Hushovd are all gone.
has become the first rider to abandon from Euskaltel.
15:06 CEST 146km/59.5km to go
The leaders pass
through Saint-Mamet with 16'00 plus on the peloton, which is led by Sastre and
Sorensen of CSC. Popovych is at the back of this group, getting bottles.
Sastre drops off the front of the
peloton, work maybe done for the day. At the back, Steinhauser is getting bottles
for his T-Mobile teammates.
15:09 CEST 149.7km/55.8km to go
The leaders are
starting the cat 1. Col du Peyresourde. Bertolini looks to be in a bit of difficulty
and goes back to his team car for refreshments. He's back on now. Alan Davis
is sitting second-from-back in the break while, up front, the two Rabo boys
are driving it onwards.
Back in the bunch, Savoldelli (Discovery)
15:14 CEST 151.7km/53.8km to go
up some interesting stats about the Col du Portet d'Aspet stage of the Tour.
Every time the race has visited the climb since Lance Armstrong starting winning
his Tours de France, the Texan has been fired up by the chance to pay tribute
to his fallen team-mate Fabio Casartelli. The race passed over the climb in
2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Armstrong has won all bar one of those stages, with
Simoni's victory in 2003 being the exception.
Lance was below form
that year, so that one slipped from his grasp.
riders were first to the top of the climb on each of those four years. Laurent
Roux, Laurent Jalabert, Richard Virenque and Sylvain Chavanel were the riders
15:17 CEST 152.8km/52.7km to go
With today being
the tenth anniversary of Casartelli's death, Armstrong might have been expected
to go for today's stage. Especially as he hasn't won one yet. However, the gap
is still over 16 minutes so it looks extremely unlikely today.
has blown. He smiles at the camera but his time at the front is done. Bertolini,
Davis, Camano went before he did, leaving six up front. They are Hincapie, Brochard,
Sevilla, Pereiro, Caucchioli and Boogerd.
15:20 CEST 153.6km/51.9km to go
Sevilla is now
at the back of the break. He was seen as a possible future Tour winner a few
years ago but hasn't been anywhere near that level for a couple of seasons.
He's 34th overall, 37'27 down on Armstrong.
CSC are still driving
the bunch along while, up front, Boogerd goes back to his team car for a chat
and a drink.
15:24 CEST 155.3km/50.2km to go
and Camano are 0'26 down. The bunch are heading through Luchon now, with Sørensen
leading Azevedo, Savoldelli and Popovych.
Pereiro is at the front
of the break, with Boogerd next. Hincapie is sitting at the back, looking comfortable.
He's under no real obligation to contribute as his team-mate is leading overall.
Davis is now leaving Bertolini and Camano behind.
15:29 CEST 156.8km/48.7km to go
Sastre is digging
in now, driving the bunch along and putting those down the back in trouble.
Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) is second in line, waiting his turn. There are only
about 20 riders left in the peloton now.
Kessler takes over, then
swings off quickly. Sastre didn't get much of a break. He's hurting now but
he'll drive it as long as he can.
Ullrich is sitting about ten back,
impassive behind those shades. Armstrong's fifth in line, sitting behind the
white jersey of Popovych.
15:32 CEST 157.3km/48.2km to go
been dropped. It's all go now...the screw is being turned.
are approximately 22 guys left, although this is prone to change ; )
They are, in no real order: Armstrong, Popovych, Azevedo, Rubiera, Ullrich,
Klöden, Vinokourov, Basso, Landis, Leipheimer, Rasmussen, Mazzoleni, Moreau,
Piepoli, Moreau, Kashechkin, Horner, Mancebo, Contador, Jaksche, Evans, Sastre.
No sign of Julich.
15:40 CEST 159.3km/46.2km to go
Back to the front...if
that makes sense. Pereiro is leading, then Caucchioli comes through. Davis is
50 seconds back and looking rather lonely, chasing on his own.
looks focussed. Basso's on his wheel, showing a fraction more discomfort. The
leaders are 3.28 km from the summit of the Peyresourde.
gone backwards now...he did a lot of work there. Now Discovery take over. Evans
is in trouble and also goes south. Further back, Guerini is some way down on
the Armstrong group, so Ullrich, Klöden and Vinokourov are missing a good team-mate
today. He probably did too much yesterday.
15:44 CEST 161km/44.5km to go
Davis is 0'56 back
and the peloton are 12'30. Azevedo is setting the pace with Rubiera, Popovych
and Armstrong in close attendance.
Davis is doing pretty well for
a sprinter. He gets some grub in..some hard kilometres lie ahead.
Hincapie is at the back of the break again. Dekker's been caught by the bunch,
making him the first of the original break to do so.
15:47 CEST 161.6km/43.9km to go
The break pass
by someone playing the bagpipes. They don't seem too disturbed by it ; )
Armstrong's looking impassive. Landis is looking wet, coz he's just emptied
a whole bottle over his head. Ullrich is shadowing Armstrong and also has his
best poker face on. He and Basso have their tops open to the waist...it's pretty
hot out there again today.
15:52 CEST 166.5km/39km to go
The six leaders
crest the top of the climb together. Brochard sprints for the points, followed
by Boogerd, Pereiro, Sevilla, Hincapie and Caucchioli. Davis is next, 1'09 behind.
He looks stuffed.
The Discovery-led peloton are still down the mountain
and can see the summit in the (far) distance. It's going to be hard to take
back the leaders.
Horner and Vinokourov are sitting at the back
of the bunch, which contains all of the top ten riders on GC. Jaksche, 11th
this morning, has been dropped but he isn't too far back.
has ridden up alongside Ullrich and has given him bottles. Looks like he has
forgiven him for the chase yesterday ; )
15:57 CEST 170.8km/34.7km to go
No sooner said...
Jaksche gets back on with Evans.
The break are speeding down the
descent, led by Pereiro and Brochard. If Armstrong can't win, he'll be hoping
that Hincapie does the job instead. He's been riding strongly in the mountains,
despite being known as a Classics man.
Wilfried Cretskens of Quick.Step
has called it a day and packed the race.
Rasmussen is alongside
Armstrong while further back, Leipheimer signals for his team car. Their group
is pretty bunched, suggesting the pace has eased somewhat.
16:04 CEST 174.1km/31.4km to go
from Azevedo. They have just crossed the summit of the Peyresourde and are 11'28
behind the Boogerd group.
The Col de Val Louron-Azet and the final
climb of Saint Larry Soulan are all that remain today.
are rolling through nicely (except Hincapie). They are passing by the picturesque
Lac Genos-Loudenvielle, and have just started the penultimate climb. It is 7.4
kilometres in length, 8.3% average steepness and is a Cat 1. Pereiro leads and
16:10 CEST 176.8km/28.7km to go
in trouble but has clawed his way back on. Hincapie doesn't seem so comfortable
Brochard attacked but got brought back. He leads from Caucchioli.
Pereiro goes through and gets a small gap. The break regroups but Sevilla's
definitely under pressure, drifting a few lengths off the back.
16:14 CEST 177.5km/28km to go
The six leaders
are five kilometres from the top of the climb. The peloton has swelled in size,
somewhat, and are over 12 minutes back. So one of these leading riders looks
certain to win the stage.
Pereiro leads from Boogerd. The Phonak
rider looks strong, doing a lot of turns on the front.
16:16 CEST 178.4km/27.1km to go
back on and is now riding on the front of the Armstrong group. They haven't
started the climb yet... ah, here we go.
Julich and Guerini are
back too. Sastre leads on the climb now.
16:21 CEST 179.7km/25.8km to go
cracked and is going backwards now. Meanwhile, at the front of the group, Guerini
is driving it. He's dropped Klöden.
Zubeldia's lost contact, as
has Goubert (Ag2R). Contador is next to succumb, then Jaksche.
and Moreau are at the back of the group, the latter with his tongue hanging
out. He's known as 'The Dog' (or rather, Le Chien) for this reason.
Vinokourov is leading the bunch and looking energetic. Guerini's now blown,
as has Rubiera.
16:22 CEST 180.3km/25.2km to go
Evans and Moreau
have blown. Popovych has gone. Vinokourov did the damage, but now Basso goes.
He has a small gap on Ullrich and Armstrong. The race leader zips around the
German and gets across, with the T-Mobile rider following suit.
Ullrich has blown! Basso is flying...
16:24 CEST 180.8km/24.7km to go
leads, the CSC rider on his wheel. He looks back, then swings over for Basso
to come through.
Ullrich is coming back, but is hurting to do so.
Is this the podium in Paris?
16:28 CEST 181.1km/24.4km to go
Ullrich is doing
a turn now, looking strong again. They are being chased by a group of seven:
Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Michael Rasmussen and Karsten
Kroon, (Rabobank), Alex Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier), Floyd
Landis (Phonak Hearing Systems), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).
Mancebo's leaving that group and trying to bridge..no joy. He's brought back.
The Armstrong-led group are 9'04 behind the leaders, with the chasers a further
Up front, Pereiro leads the break as they near the top.
16:31 CEST 184km/21.5km to go
Vino is under pressure
in the chasing group but holding on.
Pereiro's doing it all up front.
Brochard swings by and takes the points at the top, with Pereiro, Boogerd and
Hincapie next over.
Armstrong leads out of the saddle, with Ullrich
now looking good on his wheel. Basso third.
Ullrich really seems
focussed now. He's coming into form...ah, if only the Tour was four weeks long...
16:34 CEST 186.5km/19km to go
Ullrich leads again,
then Basso come through. The group behind them are 0'50 back.
front, Sevilla's clipped out of the pedals and is stretching his right leg.
Brochard is leading down the descent, swinging through a hairpin corner made
slippery by melting tar.
The Armstrong group are 7'36 down with
19 kilometres to go.
Davis came over the top in seventh
at 4'00, then Camano at 6'00, Astarloza at 6'25, then the other survivors of
the early break. The yellow jersey has 1'10 on Rasmussen.
16:41 CEST 191.7km/13.8km to go
Ullrich is driving
it.. Just hope he doesn't do too much on this climb, trying to get time on the
other GC contenders. The three have picked up Bertogliati (Saunier Duval), who
was in no-mans land for quite a while.
Armstrong, Ullrich, Basso
and Bertogliati crested the climb 7'37 behind the six leaders. They pick up
Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom). The Rasmussen-led group were 1'10 further
16:42 CEST 193.5km/12km to go
The six leaders
are nearing the foot of the final climb to Pla d'Adet, while the various groups
chase behind them. Davis, Astarloza and Bertolini are still surviving, but Armstrong's
group (now five) will catch them on the last climb.
in Val Louron to try and get an advantage before the last climb. But Hincapie
pulls the other five back.
16:44 CEST 194.5km/11km to go
The six leaders
fly through St Lary Soulan and prepare for the last ascent to Pla d'Adet: It's
a 10.3 km climb at 8.3 %, rated as Hors Categorie. Who has the legs? Pereiro?
Boogerd? Caucchioli? Hincapie? Sevilla? Brochard?
The maillot jaune
group has 1'10 over the Rasmussen group, so Basso is effectively second overall
and Ullrich is very close to third.
16:45 CEST 195.5km/10km to go
The climb starts,
and it's Pereiro who leads with Brochard on his wheel. Big crowds are at the
foot of the climb, many clad in the Basque orange.
Boogerd now moves up alongside Pereiro,
as does Brochard. Then Sevilla attacks! Impressive - he's looked the tiredest
16:47 CEST 196.5km/9km to go
Sevilla sits up
and opens his jersey completely. He rides a big gear, and Pereiro comes by and
counters. Pereiro is now alone. But Boogerd and Hincapie close to Pereiro. Then
Caucchioli and Sevilla chase, then Brochard in sixth.
It's Hincapie, Boogerd, and Pereiro
in front, with Caucchioli and Sevilla being caught by Brochard. Hincapie looks
16:48 CEST 197.5km/8km to go
The two main chasing
groups (Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel), Ivan Basso (Team CSC), Jan Ullrich
(T-Mobile), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank),
Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier), Floyd Landis (Phonak Hearing Systems), Levi Leipheimer
(Gerolsteiner), Alex Vinokourov (T-Mobile), Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery), Mazzoleni
(Lampre), Moreau Credit Agricole), are 1'00 apart. But still 7'40 behind the
16:49 CEST 198km/7.5km to go
Pereiro gets out
of the saddle, as does Boogerd, but Hincapie remains solidly seated. He's big,
but he's strong. Pereiro looks back and checks on the American.
Caucchioli is now riding away from
Brochard and Sevilla, but he's 30 seconds behind the leading three.
The Armstrong group rides through St Lary Soulan, as the maillot jaune signals
for some help from the team car. He gets it.
The chasers have gained
Azevedo and Zubeldia.
The climb starts for the maillot
jaune, and the three strong ones put Bertogliati and Pineau in trouble. Ullrich
looks a bit better than he did before. Still 1'10 between the two main GC groups.
The stage win will surely be out of Pereiro, Boogerd or Hincapie.
Armstrong reacts, and Ullrich is
left with Bertogliati and Pineau. Armstrong is now with Basso.
Basso looks back and sees Armstrong
on his wheel. The yellow jersey is solid today. Ullrich follows behind the race
director's car, maybe 10 seconds behind the other two. Bertogliati and Pineau
are gone, of course.
Camano has been caught and dropped.
Ullrich keeps fighting and drives
past Camano, through the massive crowds on this climb. An American fan runs
up beside Ullrich.
Basso is doing most of the work with Armstrong
16:57 CEST 199.5km/6km to go
Armstrong is riding
a smart race, once again. He and Basso are 7'03 behind the three leaders, who
have about 6 km to the summit. Ullrich is at 7'15, and Rasmussen's group is
16:59 CEST 200km/5.5km to go
the Rasmussen group, and gets Mancebo for company.
Basso and Armstrong
are really making inroads into the front riders, but they should be able to
hold them off. Armstrong nearly gets taken out by a random spectator.
Caucchioli is back with the three leaders.
17:00 CEST 200.5km/5km to go
Pereiro and Boogerd
continue to lead the race, with Hincapie and Caucchioli in tow. Hincapie hasn't
done a turn yet. Maybe all day.
Vino has caught Mancebo, Mazzoleni
and Popovych. Rasmussen, Leipheimer and Landis follow this group.
Ullrich goes past early breakaway
Bertolini, who gives him a small push. He's 12 seconds behind Armstrong and
Basso, with the Italian doing all the work. Another fan runs up, trying to get
a pic of the two.
17:03 CEST 200.5km/5km to go
Back down the mountain,
Mancebo, then Vino goes past Mazzoleni and Popovych, just as Rasmussen comes
up to them. The polka dot jersey is in trouble today. No sign of Landis and
Leipheimer, who seem to be further behind Mancebo.
The four leaders
go under 5 km to go with 6'00 over Armstrong and Basso.
Ullrich has not given in, chasing
Armstrong and Basso at 15 seconds. Strong riding by him. He could be getting
himself onto the podium.
Armstrong and Basso pass Allan Davis. Just
six riders ahead of them now.
17:05 CEST 201km/4.5km to go
the leaders! It's slightly flatter here, and he gets a gap. But Pereiro comes
up to him at great speed, then Hincapie in the big ring. Boogerd and Caucchioli
are together, just behind.
Hincapie does his first turn.
17:06 CEST 201.5km/4km to go
Pereiro tries a
mini-attack but he can't get ride of Hincapie that easily. George is unshakeable.
He chats to Pereiro.
Under 4 km to go, Pereiro looks back
to see where Boogerd and Caucchioli are.
Meanwhile, back down the
mountain at 5'49, Armstrong and Basso have 20 seconds on Jan Ullrich. Rasmussen
and Vino are now together, but at 7'14.
17:08 CEST 202km/3.5km to go
Rasmussen now rides
away from Vinokourov. He might be able to save his third place on GC from Ullrich.
Admittedly, the German will blow him away on the final time trial.
Pereiro and Hincapie are chased by a mad fan, who gets run over by a TV moto.
Ouch. The TV moto gets up again, and hopefully the spectator is ok.
Armstrong now does a turn.
17:09 CEST 202.5km/3km to go
Pereiro and Hincapie
are under 3 km to go, they're not going to be caught by Armstrong and Basso.
No way. They reach a small descent as they ride through another crowd of mad
Ullrich hammers, trying to gain back
the time on Armstrong and Basso, but he's slowly losing it. 23 seconds. Rasmussen
is 1'03 behind Ullrich.
17:11 CEST 203.5km/2km to go
to lead through the orange wave, with Hincapie not doing much. But George looks
good, and might be able to take a dream stage win, a present from his Discovery
team and Lance Armstrong?
17:12 CEST 204km/1.5km to go
It's steep here
as George looks back to see where Caucchioli and Boogerd are. They're not.
Ullrich is now with Sevilla, at 6'00
behind the two leaders. Ullrich is a bit stuffed. Sevilla tries to nurse him
17:13 CEST 204.5km/1km to go
Ullrich tells Sevilla
to go a bit more, which will help him keep Rasmussen at bay.
is now working hard with Basso on his wheel, 5'20 behind George and Pereiro.
17:13 CEST 204.5km/1km to go
The two leaders
fight their way through the crowd with 1km to go. Incredible. Amazing that there
are not more accidents.
Pereiro has led for the last few
kilometres, but it looks like Hincapie has the strength today. He keeps checking
Hincapie stays glued to Pereiro's
wheel as Pereiro continues to ride a hard tempo.
follow Armstrong/Basso at 35 seconds, with Rasmussen still 1'00 back from Ullrich.
Pereiro doesn't seem too interested
in making Hincapie lead out.
Hincapie stays on the wheel until
400m to go, then gets out of the saddle, watching Pereiro, who is tired.
Hincapie waits and at 300m, he's
still on the wheel.
17:17 CEST 205.5km/0km to go
at 250m but Hincapie is way, way too strong and wins the stage on Pla d'Adet!
Incredible!! He puts his arms up almost in disbelief.
Caucchioli is third, at 37 seconds,
then Boogerd fourth at 56 seconds, grimacing. Then Brochard for fifth.
Basso and Armstrong fight it out
for fifth, and a determined Basso rides across the line ahead of the maillot
jaune. Armstrong has no need to sprint, as there are no bonus seconds to be
had. Basso is in incredible pain, but he has a steely look in his eyes. 5'03
at the end. They didn't pull much time back from the leaders.
Sevilla and Ullrich come up to the
line, being caught by Rasmussen and Mancebo, who have ridden very well to catch
up. Sevilla has done a great job, but Ullrich just wasn't quite good enough
today. Rasmussen only lost 3 seconds to Ullrich in the end! Vino comes up for
12th at 7'03.
Well that's it for today - a very
emotional victory by George Hincapie almost 10 years after the death of his
Motorola teammate Fabio Casartelli. The whole team is very happy for him, especially
yellow jersey wearer Lance Armstrong, who showed no signs of weakness today
to keep his 2'46 lead over Ivan Basso. Rasmussen lost time, but Ullrich did
too, and is nearly 3 minutes behind the Dane. Maybe he can get that back in
the last TT? We'll see next Saturday.
Tomorrow is a rest day, so
we'll be back with more Live Tour de France action on Tuesday, with a hard but
not super tough Pyrenean stage between Mourenx and Pau over 180.5 km, via the
Col d'Aubisque. Until then!
1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 6.06.38
2 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.06
3 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole 0.38
4 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank 0.57
5 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 2.19
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 5.04
7 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
8 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team 6.28
9 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team
10 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 6.32
11 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
12 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 7.33
13 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 7.54
14 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 8.14
15 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 8.47
16 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
17 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 8.54
18 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 9.32
19 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 9.34
General classification after stage 15
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 62.09.59
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 3.09
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 6.31
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 7.35
7 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 9.33
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 9.38
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 11.47
10 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 12.01
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