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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

Main Page    Stage Profile & Start Times    Start List    Latest live report

Produced by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting by Tim Maloney, Chris Henry, and Gabriella Ekström

Prologue - Saturday, July 5: Paris, Prologue TT, 6.5 km

Complete Live Report

Start time: 15:50 CEST
Estimated finish time: 19:15 CEST

Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's live coverage of the Tour de France, with this year's 90th edition marking the 100th anniversary of the world's greatest race. Held over 21 days plus two rest days, the Tour will start in Paris, make its way north east towards the Belgian border, then head south to the Alps, west to the Pyrenees, then back north to Paris for the finale. It's a very traditional route that takes into account all the main cities that were used in the original 1903 Tour: Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Nantes. In addition, the great climbs such as the col du Tourmalet, Galibier, Izoard, Alpe d'Huez, and Luz Ardiden all feature in this year's route.

The climbs have to wait however, as today's opening stage is a short, 6.5 kilometre long prologue time trial to sort out the first Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey) in this year's race. The stage starts underneath the Eiffel Tower, then crosses the Seine, climbs up Trocadero, then descends along the rive droit of the Seine to Place de la Concorde, then back over to the rive gauche of the Seine to finish at the Champs de Mars, behind the Eiffel Tower.

Tour favourite and defending champion Lance Armstrong will start last in this stage, leaving the starting gate at 19:07 local time, wearing the yellow jersey as is his right. 197 riders will have gone before him, with the likes of Jan Ullrich (Bianchi), Tyler Hamilton (CSC), Joseba Beloki (ONCE), David Millar (GBr), Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner), Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com) and Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon) all tipped as favourites for the short test against the clock.

15:57 CEST
And they're racing in the 2003 Tour de France. After Austrian skier Hermann Maier started at 15:47, Swiss rider Pierre Bourquenoud (Jean Delatour) was the first Tour rider to leave the start house. He was followed by Alessio's Alessandro Bertolini and Gerolsteiner's Olaf Pollack, at one minute intervals.

Weather report from the start: 25 degrees and partly cloudy. The riders couldn't ask for a more pleasant way to begin the centenary Tour.

16:01 CEST
Bourquenoud is home in 8'11, a respectable average of 47.65 km/h. Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole) is out on the course now, having just started, while Olaf Pollack has gone through the first time check (3.2 km) in 3'54, 14 seconds quicker than Bourquenoud.

Pollack smashes Bourquenoud's time with a ride well under 8 minutes. His finishing time is 7'43, an average of 50'54 km/h!

16:11 CEST
Jens Voigt doesn't quite break Pollack's time, clocking 7'45.70 at the finish to land himself in second overall. Thomas Leise, from Team Bianchi, sits in third place after doing 7'46.53.

Cyclingnews spoke with Thor Hushovd at the start today, and the big Norwegian said he's hoping for a good ride. "I'm going to have a serious go today." Hushovd starts 120th.

16:18 CEST
18 riders have completed the 6.5 kilometre prologue, and it's still Germany's Olaf Pollack in the leading position, with a time of 7'43.70. He is closely followed by French former track specialist Philippe Gaumont (Cofidis), with Jens Voigt and Thomas Liese filling the third and fourth spots.

16:28 CEST
38 riders have left now - close to 20 percent of the field. The fastest time is still held by Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner), who could be in with a chance to take the yellow jersey in the first week as he's a good sprinter. Gaumont and Voigt round out the top three.

Weather: The clouds are increasing, but there is no rain, nor is there likely to be any.

Start times of the riders are available here.

16:38 CEST
Another German track rider, Daniel Becke (Bianchi), has gone under Olaf Pollack's time. Becke has finished in 7.42.39, an average of 50.60 km/h.

George Hincapie (USPS) is now out on the course. The tall American is a good rider against the clock, but his aim today will be to get through the prologue with a minimum of fuss, as he'll need his energy to protect Armstrong in the opening week.

16:45 CEST
There is no saving of energy for Hincapie today: He posts a time of 7'37 to smash the mark of Daniel Becke by 5 seconds. That's an average of 51.2 km/h.

16:49 CEST
After posting a good first time check, Austrian Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) comes in 5th with a 7'45. German Tobias Steinhauser (Bianchi) is also having a good ride, passing through the 3.2 km mark in 3'50, the quickest so far.

The first 60 riders have now left the starting house.

16:54 CEST
Despite a fast intermediate time, Steinhauser couldn't quite finish it off and finished in 7'40, second best so far.

We're still waiting for Herman Maier's time...The Austrian skier started in an all-purple skinsuit, and looked a little uncomfortable on his TT bike, but punched the air as he crossed the line.

16:57 CEST
Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) has just started. The big German TT champ has an excellent chance today. His compatriots have been tearing up the course, but George Hincapie still holds the quickest time.

Marc Wauters (Rabobank) finishes in 7'42, third best - a good ride by the hard working Belgian.

17:01 CEST
Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) is looking more relaxed and happier than ever, even giving us a 'bonjour' at the start. He sets off on his ride, in the Estonian TT champion's jersey.

17:04 CEST
Michael Rich has done a great ride, finishing in 7'37.06, just a little faster than Hincapie. That's an average of 51.2 km/h, which is fast but not fast enough to threaten Chris Boardman's prologue record of 55.152 km/h (in 1994).

It goes without saying, but the crowds lining the route for the first stage of the Tour are huge, especially at the start/finish. There are points along the parcours where there are only a few people, but not many.

17:09 CEST
Kirsipuu finishes in 7'45, putting himself in 9th overall. He is a candidate for yellow too, if he takes some bonus seconds in the first few stages.

Servais Knaven (Quick.Step-Davitamon) is on the parcours, as is Nicolas Vogondy (FDJeux.com).

17:13 CEST
Knaven's final time is 7'49, which is enough for 16th so far. Not so lucky was Christophe Brandt (Lotto-Domo), who broke his TT bars and had to finish on his cowhorns.

Jesus Manzano, one of Kelme's top men, finishes in 7'46 for 12th place. Not bad at all. He is followed by Vogondy in 7'51.

It should be pointed out that much of the course is cobbled - not big Paris-Roubaix cobbles but the fairly smooth type that grace the centre of Paris. Still, the best time is over 51 km/h, with the big powerful riders having done well. Maybe a good course for David Millar?

17:18 CEST
Andrea Noe (Alessio), who finished fourth in the Giro, is on his way. He's not a noted rider against the clock, but look for him in the climbs. Some minutes in front of him, Robert Hunter (Rabobank) is making his way to the finish. Hunter is good against the clock, but doesn't look super smooth today. He powers home to finish in 7'53.

Jorg Jaksche (ONCE) has continued the German tradition to set the fastest time at the 3.2 km point in 3'48.

Denis Menchov (iBanesto) acquits himself well in a time of just under 7'47.

17:23 CEST
Jaksche can't finish it off though, and ends with a good time of 7'40.86, third place overall. Jean-Patrick Nazon, a good sprinter, has done a 7'44.9, which puts him up there as one of the best sprinters in the TT.

17:27 CEST
Laszlo Bodrogi (Qiuck.Step) starts, but not in his Hungarian TT Champion's jersey. He is good against the clock, but normally not in the short races.

Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) started extremely well, setting the best time at 3.2 km, and he has been able to finish it off: His final time is 7'28.26. That is very impressive - 52.2 km/h.

17:35 CEST
Bodrogi doesn't do too badly, finishing in 7'39, 11 seconds slower than Zubeldia's time. That's good enough for fourth overall at the moment.

17:38 CEST
Victor Pena (USPS) has left the starting gate under the Eiffel Tower, to the cheers of a big crowd of fans that have collected there. He is handy against the clock and has won a time trial stage in the Giro.

So far, 99 riders have finished - half the field.

17:43 CEST
Thomas Voeckler, sporting Brioches la Boulangere's new white sleeved jersey (to save confusion with Saeco), sets off at a very high speed. He is out of the saddle for a long time, despite the fact that it costs him a huge amount of power.

Out on the course, Cyclingnews' Tim Maloney reports that it's clouding over and cooling down, but the conditions are still dry.

Victor Pena has done a good ride, sprinting up the final straight to finish in 7'32.24, second best so far.

17:47 CEST
Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) sets off in a green helmet and in a very big gear. He doesn't look as though he's going for a good time though, but we'll see soon enough.

Thorsten Schmidt (Gerolsteiner) finishes just under 7'44, which gives him 10th on the standings.

Voeckler is now suffering as he nears the finish, a lot slower than he started. His time is 8'18, proof that you can't sprint for 6.5 km.

17:51 CEST
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) has started, and is capable of a good time on this course as he indicated earlier. He crosses the Seine and heads back towards the Eiffel Tower for the finish.

Eddy Mazzoleni (Vini Caldirola) finishes in 7'45, for 17th so far.

17:55 CEST
Hushovd hasn't done too badly, but ends in 7'39, a 6th place so far. Robbie McEwen's finishing time is 7'58, which is fast but not in the league of the specialist. He said he wants to save energy for the first few stages.

17:59 CEST

Hermann Maier
Photo: © CN

Erik Zabel (Telekom) looks good in his new German champion's jersey (which he won by attacking solo with 40 km to go!) and sets off for his 6.5 km up and down the Seine. His aim is the green jersey, and there is a possibility of yellow this week if he stays in contact with the top times.

For those interested, Hermann Maier's unofficial time in the prologue was 8'45 for the 6.5 km, a respectable average speed of 44.6 km/h. So far, that puts him 13 seconds behind the slowest time of Alessandro Bertolini (8'32).

18:07 CEST
It's still the Basque rider Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) holding down the best time in the prologue, with his 7'28. He is trailed by four seconds by Armstrong's teammate Victor Hugo Pena, with Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) sitting in third.

18:11 CEST

The tension is mounting as the start time for the top riders approaches...the sky is getting darker with no wind...

Zabel has finished in 8'00, a little slower than McEwen. Now one of the favourites for the stage (but in his first Tour) Michael Rogers has left. What can the winner of the Route du Sud, Tour of Germany and Tour of Belgium do? He is followed by compatriot Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com).

18:16 CEST

Hamilton warms up
Photo: © CN

Rogers has lost six seconds to Zubeldia at the 3.2 km check, so is a little off the pace. David Plaza (Bianchi) finishes in a good time of 7'46.35, and Bianchi looks like a strong team.

One of the Cofidis riders - Luis Perez - has to get a bike change at the start. That will cost him a lot of time.

Rogers is home in 7'39.18 - good for seventh and by no means a bad performance.

18:21 CEST
Baden Cooke is home in 7'46, followed by Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) who finishes in a relaxed 8'01.94. He is looking for stage wins this week.

Roberto Heras (USPS) is on his way.

18:27 CEST
Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner), second in the German TT championships behind Michael Rich, is on his way. The Gerolsteiner rider is another favourite for this prologue, although he does better over longer distances.

Laurent Dufaux (Alessio) has 2 km to go for his ride, as Roberto Heras (USPS) finishes in 7'59. Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangere) is also on the course.

18:31 CEST
Bianchi's Angel Casero has now set off from the Eiffel Tower. Bianchi has done reasonably well so far, with two riders in the top 10.

Dufaux's finish time is 7'48.63, not quick enough to threaten the top 10. Peschel is not brilliant either, finishing in 7'44.

Stuart O'Grady, in his distinctive Australian champion's jersey, starts his ride. He'll be giving it full gas to try and get as close as possible to yellow.

Lance Armstrong is warming up.

18:34 CEST
Paolo Bettini, sporting his red, white and green Italian champion's jersey, is on his way. Meanwhile, O'Grady is up to full speed, as he's encouraged by his directeur sportif.

Sylvain Chavanel finishes in 7'59.

18:37 CEST
Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r) has a very good ride to finish in 7'38 which puts him in 5th place provisionally. The Basque riders are also on form today.

Casero finishes in 7'47.92, which is top 35 at the moment. Danilo di Luca (Saeco) sets off in his first Tour de France.

Stuart O'Grady is suffering, and finishes in 7'48.98, for 39th so far.

18:41 CEST
Paolo Bettini, who started quite well, faded towards the end to finish in 7.48.12, 36th place overall. We'll see a bit more of him in this Tour no doubt.

Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme) had a very quick start, and finishes in 7'38.76 for 6th place so far.

Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) sets off.

18:43 CEST
Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) is also on the course, but is not the quickest at the 3.2 km mark. He's normally a good time trialist, but hasn't done a brilliant time and finishes in 7'50.

Viatcheslav Ekimov (USPS) has left the gate under the Eiffel Tower now.

For Floyd Landis fans - the US Postal rider finished in 8'00, which puts him just outside the top half of the field at the moment.

18:48 CEST
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has a respectable ride to finish in 7'44, 20th overall. Now it's Didier Rous (Brioches) setting off in his red, white and blue French champion's jersey.

Vladimir Karpets (iBanesto)is home in 7'38.36 - another good track rider. Ekimov has lost 2 seconds to Zubeldia at the 3.2 km.

Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) has started his ride. Can he do better than Zubeldia?

18:51 CEST
Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) has just started. He's not a time trialist, but can hold his own as he showed in the Giro's final stage.

Ekimov has a very good ride to clock 7'37, just a few seconds behind teammate Victor Pena, but enough to put him in third overall.

18:53 CEST
Der Kaiser, Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) has left the start house under the Eiffel Tower. Not a prologue specialist, he is still a good chance of a top 10 finish here.He is followed by Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole).

Next up on the block is Richard 'allez' Virenque (Quick.Step). He is definitely not a time trialist and will wait for the mountains. He won the stage to Mont Ventoux last year.

Didier Rous (Brioches) rocks to the finish in 7'45.13, not enough for the top 10.

18:56 CEST

Levi Leipheimer
Photo: © CN

Iban Mayo takes the final corner tightly, and finishes in 7'45. Definitely not his best ride - teammate Zubeldia is still the leader with his incredible 7'28.

Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) leaves the start gate - he is primed for the win. Jan Ullrich has done the best time at 3.2 km, with 3'46.

19:03 CEST
Jan Ullrich almost beats Zubeldia's time at the finish - clocking 7'28.28, just 0.02 slower than the Basque.

Brad McGee is equal to Ullrich at 3.2 km. He powers home in 7'26 - the new top time!

19:07 CEST
David Millar has gone even quicker than McGee, with a very brisk 3'41 at the halfway check.

Lance Armstrong has now started his ride. He is the biggest favourite for this stage, but what can he do against the specialists?

19:11 CEST

Lance Armstrong
Photo: © CN

After losing his chain, Millar is 0.08 seconds slower than McGee at the finish - so close, but so far. McGee still holds the top time. Terrible luck for Millar.

Lance Armstrong (in the yellow jersey) is a little off the pace at the 3.2 km, losing 9 seconds to McGee for 13th.

19:13 CEST
Beloki finishes in 7'37, as Armstrong sprints home in 7'34, 7th place in the prologue. McGee wins the prologue! This is a dream come true for the Australian track specialist, who also won a stage of the Tour last year. Millar was so close, while Haimar Zubeldia and Jan Ullrich were also very respectable. Pena, Hamilton, Armstrong, Beloki, Botero, and Ekimov round out the top 10.

Right after he finished a clearly disappointed Armstrong, jumped in his team car and headed back to the hotel to a smattering of boos.

An interesting finish to the opening stage, but the time gaps are small - the real race starts in the mountains.


Finish - 6.5 km
1 Bradley Mc Gee (FDJeux.com)                     7.26
2 David Millar (Cofidis, Credit Par Telephone)    0.00
3 Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi)             0.02
4 Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi)                      0.02
5 Victor Hugo Pena (US Postal-Berry Floor)        0.06
6 Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC)                       0.06
7 Lance Armstrong (US Postal-Berry Floor)         0.07
8 Joseba Beloki (ONCE-Eroski)                     0.09
9 Santiago Botero (Team Telekom)                  0.09
10 Vjatceslav Ekimov (US Postal-Berry Floor)      0.11
Intermediate check - 3.2 km
1 David Millar (Cofidis, Credit Par Telephone)    3.41
2 Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi)                      0.05
3 Bradley Mc Gee (FDJeux.com)                         
4 Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi)             0.06
5 Jorg Jaksche (ONCE-Eroski)                      0.07
6 Victor Hugo Pena (US Postal-Berry Floor)            
7 José Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme-Costa Blanca)     0.08
8 Vjatceslav Ekimov (US Postal-Berry Floor)           
9 Joseba Beloki (ONCE-Eroski)                         
10 Tobias Steinhauser (Team Bianchi)              0.09

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