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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

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

Main Page    Stage Profile    Start List    Latest live report

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

Stage 1 - Sunday, July 6: Saint-Denis/Montgeron - Meaux, 168 km

Complete Live Report

Time conversion guide: AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs

Start time: 13:15 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:15 CEST

Place de la Bastille
Photo: © Chris Henry/CN
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Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage, powered by T-Mobile, of the first road stage of the Tour de France, perhaps the most historic of all the stages in this year's Tour. It starts in Saint-Denis in Paris and meanders its way through the suburbs for 28 km until it reaches the Cafe Le Réveil Matin, where the first Tour started back in 1903. There the riders will stop briefly until 13:16, when the flag will drop for the official start. After that, it's a flatt(ish) 168 kilometre journey eastward of Paris to the Brie cheese city of Meaux, where the first stage will end.

There are three intermediate time bonus sprints on offer today, at Corbeil-Essonnes (km 19), Avon (km 72), and Mauperthuis (km 132). There are also three Category 4 climbs, Côte de Champcueil (km 31), Côte de Boutigny-sur-Essonne (km 45) and Côte de Barbeau (km 85). These will determine the first wearer of the polka dotted climber's jersey in this year's Tour.

The weather today is 23 degrees and overcast, with some humidity but not too much wind. It should be a fast day.

13:16 CEST

Au Reveil Matin
Photo: © AFP
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They're off in the first stage, after Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc, dropped the flag at 13:15 to signal the start. A massive crowd was on hand outside the Le Réveil Matin café to see the riders off, with the French national anthem playing as they left.

Wearing the yellow jersey for the first time in his career is FDJeux.com's Brad McGee, who won the prologue yesterday in sensational fashion. McGee could surprise a few people at this year's Tour, as his climbing has been steadily improving over the years - a top 10 finish is not out of the question, but it's early days yet.

The FDJeux.com team's plan is to keep the jersey, but to try and get Baden Cooke to take it over by winning bonus seconds in the intermediate and final sprints. "I will have a go at the stage win," Cooke told Cyclingnews today. "With five riders able to take over the jersey in case of the stage win, and one of them being me, they might just as well go for me. We're going to put Brad up there to help me try and take it."

13:25 CEST - 7 km
The stage has gotten off to a brisk but calm start so far, with the peloton keeping together early on. The first sprint is after only 19 km, and there are time bonuses of 6, 4 and 2 seconds for the place getters. There are three such intermediate sprints today, as well as the finish which is worth 20, 12 and 8 seconds for the top three. It's quite likely that the yellow jersey will change hands.

13:34 CEST - 12 km
The peloton is approaching the first sprint at Corbeil-Essonnes, having started the stage at a pace of around 36 km/h. The sprint is at the top of a long uphill drag, and plenty of riders will be up for it. Don't be too surprised if US Postal's Victor Pena has a go at it - he's in fifth place at just over 6 seconds down on McGee, having ridden an excellent prologue yesterday. Also Stuart O'Grady and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) will be interested in the points and time bonuses. These two riders will do separate sprints at the end of the stage, as both have a chance at yellow.

O'Grady and Millar have moved to the front in anticipation of the sprint.

13:44 CEST - 20 km

Brad McGee
Photo: © Chris Henry/CN
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Several teams tried to get their riders in position for the sprint, but in the end it was Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) taking the points and the six second bonus ahead of Maillot Jaune Brad McGee, who doesn't intend on giving up the golden fleece without a fight. McGee gets four seconds for his efforts, while McEwen, who rode a 7'58 yesterday (compared to McGee's 7'26) will move a few places up the GC. Third place in the sprint went to Jean Delatour's Jean-Patrick Nazon.

Robbie McEwen told Cyclingnews that he had a good prologue yesterday. He went under 8 minutes, which was his goal. He looked happy about the fact that Erik Zabel was three seconds slower.

After the sprint, several riders have attacked: Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Andy Flickinger (Ag2r) and Walter Beneteau (Brioches).

13:52 CEST - 26 km
The three breakaways, Christophe Mengin (FDJeux.com), Andy Flickinger (Ag2r) and Walter Beneteau (Brioches), have a lead of around 25" on the peloton as they pass the airport at Orly. It's an all French break, with all French teams, which is not surprising.

14:00 CEST - 34 km
The three leaders tackle the Cat. 4 Cote de Champcueil, with Christophe Mengin taking the 5 points ahead of Flickinger and Beneteau. Behind them, Mederic Clain (Cofidis) has attacked the peloton in an attempt to bridge the gap.

14:10 CEST - 42 km
The three leaders, Mengin, Flickinger, and Beneteau, are passing through Boutigny-Sur-Essonne (km 40.5) with a 1'24 lead on the peloton. The crowds are huge through this town, and the three Frenchmen get a big cheer. The peloton is quite relaxed at the moment, with a couple of FDJ riders at the front keeping the pace steady.

14:14 CEST - 45 km

David Millar
Photo: © Chris Henry/CN
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The leaders are on the second climb of Côte de Boutigny-sur-Essonne. Beneteau sprints for the points and takes them ahead of Mengin and Flickinger. That puts Beneteau and Mengin on equal points for the climber's jersey. The gap is now up to 2'30.

A Kelme rider - Julian Usano - has a problem with his chain. He stops and puts it back on. It won't be as critical as David Millar's chain loss yesterday, which probably wasn't helped by the lack of a front derailleur on his bike. Five Cofidis riders had mechanical problems yesterday however.

14:19 CEST - 51 km/117 km to go

Flickinger, Mengin and Beneteau are riding through Milly-La-Forêt to the cheers of another large crowd. The peloton is quite relaxed at the moment, letting them get out to 3'00. McGee can relax, as he has a teammate in front.

Gilberto Simoni
Photo: © Chris Henry/CN
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Gilberto Simoni and the Saeco team are spotted briefly at the front of the peloton. Simoni was quite happy when we saw him this morning.

Simoni's teammate Joerg Ludewig told Cyclingnews that they might have a go with Salvatore Commesso or Gerrit Glomser close to the finish. "We're not going to have anyone in an early break. The major goal is just to protect Simoni," said Ludewig.

14:29 CEST - 58 km/110 km to go
Andy Flickinger, Christophe Mengin and Walter Beneteau are riding 4'41 in front of the peloton through the forest of Fontainebleau. The best placed rider in the break is Flickinger (32nd at 18"), followed by Mengin (51st at 21") and then Beneteau (127th at 36"). The time bonuses will change all of that if they get to the finish still in the lead.

The peloton is being led by a couple of Lotto-Domo riders, but there is no desire to chase yet.

14:40 CEST - 66 km/102 km to go
The gap to the three leaders is continuing to grow, as the peloton slowly cruises along, eating, drinking and carousing (well, not too much). Moerenhout and Van Bon are on the front row for Lotto-Domo, but sitting on the tops of the handlebars.

Flickinger, Beneteau and Mengin are working a bit harder, and are 6'24 in front.

14:47 CEST - 72 km/96 km to go
After a very long leadout by Christophe Mengin, it's Andy Flickinger who takes the 6" bonus at Avon, followed by Beneteau and Mengin. The sprint was at the top of another long steady drag, lined by thousands of fans. The gap to the peloton is now 7'52".

Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) is one of the candidates for the stage win today, although he does have a teammate up the road so he doesn't need to chase. Kirsipuu told Cyclingnews that he did the last 15 km of this stage two days ago and it certainly looks good for him.

14:57 CEST - 79 km/89 km to go
As the gap gets up towards 9 minutes, five Lotto riders put themselves on the front. Now the chase begins: 9 minutes in 90 km.

Credit Agricole and Fassa Bortolo have put a few riders on the front to help the Lotto-Domo chase. Fassa's sprinter Alessandro Petacchi is another big candidate for today's stage. He told Cyclingnews today, "The stage is looking really good for me. I'll be up for it of course."

The gap has come down to 8'22.

15:06 CEST - 85 km/83 km to go
The leaders are on the last climb of the day, the Côte de Barbeau. It's another Cat. 4 climb, and there are a mass of spectators along the side of the road. Flickinger drives the pace, but it's Mengin who gets it in front of Beneteau, meaning he will also get the first mountains jersey.

The peloton, driven by Lotto-Domo, Credit Agricole and Fassa Bortolo, crosses the Seine some 7'33 behind. Lance Armstrong is near the front too, protected by his US Postal - Berry Floor teammates. The peloton goes through the feed zone, but the front riders don't bother getting their feed bags.

Tobias Steinhauser (Bianchi) gets a puncture, and a fairly fast wheel change. He has to chase alone, but gets help from the caravan and will have no problems regaining the bunch.

15:16 CEST - 93 km/75 km to go
The peloton is flying along the flats now, in pursuit of the three leaders: Andy Flickinger, Christophe Mengin and Walter Beneteau, who attacked at km 20. The bunch has brought back the gap to around 6'20 with 75 km to go, which means the break should be caught well in time for the sprint. Koos Moerenhout and Christophe Brandt are doing a lot of work in front for Lotto-Domo, with Fassa Bortolo and Credit Agricole riders also there.

The leaders have covered 89.4 km in the first two hours, which is not slow.

15:28 CEST - 100 km/68 km to go
100 kilometres have been covered by the three leaders, as the peloton continues its pursuit. The gap is now 5'33, with three teams chasing still.

15:38 CEST - 108 km/60 km to go
With 60 km to race, the gap is down to 4'54, as the peloton gradually closes to the gap to the three leaders. Credit Agricole is working hard in front, as they want O'Grady and Hushovd in good positions for the finish.

15:46 CEST - 113 km/55 km to go
Christophe Mengin, Andy Flickinger and and Walter Beneteau are now less than four minutes in front of the peloton, which has set its sights on a bunch sprint it seems. The gap is coming down a little faster than 1 minute in 10 km, and so the break should be caught with around 20 km to go. Lotto-Domo is doing a lot of work for McEwen, who is favourite to take the stage, although Petacchi might give him a run for his money.

As for the Maillot Jaune, it looks like if the stage finishes in a regulation bunch sprint, then Brad McGee will hold onto it, as he picked up four bonus seconds in the very first sprint.

15:57 CEST - 123 km/45 km to go
From a maximum of 8'49 at the 72 km mark, the three leading Frenchmen are now just 2'58 in front of the still compact peloton, all the time led by Credit Agricole, Fassa Bortolo and Lotto-Domo (with the most riders in front). The break is definitely doomed, and the Mengin, Flickinger and Beneteau are just swapping off smoothly, hoping to stave off the bunch for as much as possible.

Race leader Brad McGee is at the back, very distinctive in his yellow jersey and shorts, eating an energy bar that is stuck to his stem. In case you missed it, Brad described his win yesterday in his Tour diary, as well as a Post-prologue interview.

16:06 CEST - 128 km/40 km to go
Less than an hour of racing to go, and the peloton has slowed slightly as it gets closer to the break. If it catches them too early, then there are more opportunities for counter attacks, and the sprinters teams want to prevent this. Besides the Lotto/Fassa Bortolo/Credit Agricole chase in front, US Postal (Armstrong), and Team Bianchi (Ullrich) are also very close to the front of the bunch, protecting their leaders. So far (touch wood) there have been no crashes.

The latest time check is 2'06 between the peloton and the three leaders.

16:12 CEST - 132 km/36 km to go
Beneteau leads Flickinger and Mengin up the hill for the final intermediate sprint at Mauperthuis. Flickinger takes it (and the 6") easily in front of Mengin and Beneteau. With his win in the second sprint, Flickinger has gained 12" today, which moves him to within 10" of Brad McGee's jersey (McGee took 4" in the first sprint).

The peloton passes the sprint at 2'03 behind the break, with Fassa Bortolo's Dario Cioni leading the way.

16:21 CEST - 138 km/30 km to go
The leaders pass through Coulommiers with 30 km to go, through yet another large and appreciative crowd. The finale will start soon, as the peloton closes down the gap once and for all. It's now 1'49, as the pace has increased slightly. McGee is now near the front.

Candidates for the stage win, if it ends in a bunch sprint, are many. Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo), Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Erik Zabel (Telekom), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Romans Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola), Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r), Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com), and several more.

16:27 CEST - 144 km/24 km to go
Walter Beneteau attacks the break, but can't get clear. The bunch is now just 1'10 behind, and closing rapidly. Flickinger counter attacks, and gets a gap.

The weather is still overcast, but there is no threat of rain.

16:31 CEST - 145 km/23 km to go
Flickinger, the tallest man in the peloton at 1.93m, is now 1'09 in front of the bunch and 15" in front of his breakaway companions Christophe Mengin and Walter Beneteau.

16:35 CEST - 150 km/18 km to go
The peloton is working harder now, to try and mop up the breakaways. They catch Beneteau and Mengin, who have been in front since km 20. Fassa Bortolo and Lotto-Domo are still responsible for the pace setting. Jan Ullrich and Brad McGee are also near the front.

Flickinger is now 49" in front of the bunch.

16:40 CEST - 153 km/15 km to go
Flickinger is working hard, and will at least get the most combative prize today. He has 45" lead on the bunch as he gives it everything to stay away in the last 15 km.

Fassa Bortolo and Lotto-Domo are the only teams working, but plenty of other teams are lurking right behind them. FDJeux.com has a few riders up there now. Danilo Di Luca (Saeco) is at the back of the bunch, suffering from sickness.

16:43 CEST - 156 km/12 km to go
Erik Zabel punctures with 12 km to go - he'll have a tough time getting back on, with the pace high at the moment.

Flickinger is caught with 11 km to go, as Zabel gets help from his teammates to get back on. He can make it in time.

16:45 CEST - 157 km/11 km to go
Zabel regains the back of the bunch quite quickly, and will now have to make his way to the front through 198 riders. The pace has slackened a little as the bunch climbs a little hill.

Vini Caldirola riders are quite visible near the front now, but it's still Fassa Bortolo (for Petacchi) in the front.

16:48 CEST - 159 km/9 km to go
The Fassa Bortolo train has three riders now, followed by Serge Baguet (Lotto-Domo) and a Credit Agricole rider. Marzio Bruseghin is in front, having done a massive job for his team. Christophe Moreau is right up there, as Axel Merckx tows McEwen to the front.

16:50 CEST - 161 km/7 km to go
It's downhill now and the momentum is building for the bunch sprint. Bruseghin is still on the front, doing his job. The Vini Caldirola boys are right behind him.

16:51 CEST - 162 km/6 km to go
Bruseghin does his last turn and Baguet takes over, followed by Moreau. Then the Vini Caldirola train, with a few more Lotto riders up there too. FDJ make a big move to get Cooke up in position.

16:53 CEST - 163 km/5 km to go
Moreau pulls off at 5 km to go. Now Vini Caldirola, Rabobank, Lotto, FDJ and Fassa are all fighting to be in front. Ullrich gets to the front row, and looks quite relaxed. O'Grady is in about 7th position.

16:55 CEST - 165 km/3 km to go
There is no real organisation yet for this sprint, as Moreau gets back on the front. Mederic Clain (Cofidis) accelerates a little, but there is a lot of watching. It's very nervous. Freire(?) puts his shoulder into a few Fassa riders.

16:56 CEST - 166 km/2 km to go
The bunch takes the tricky corner with 2 km to go, as Vini Caldirola put three men on front. Zabel is right up there now, as are Petacchi, McEwen and O'Grady.

16:57 CEST - 167 km/1 km to go
Final kilometre. Rodriguez takes a turn in front, but Vainsteins and Hauptmann aren't there. Fassa take over the leadout.

16:58 CEST - 168 km/0 km to go
Fassa leads out Petacchi, but he has to go early. He wins, just, in front of McEwen and Zabel. There is a massive crash with 500m to go when Jose E. Gutierrez (Kelme) crashed, and most of the peloton has stopped.

McGee comes across eventually, but he looks quite shaken. He shouldn't lose any time as the crash happened in the final km. His teammate Casper is lying on the ground with a neck brace though.

Olaf Pollack (Gerolsteiner) has to walk across the line with his bike on his shoulder. There were many riders down in that crash, but it looks as though the main GC candidates survived. However, Tyler Hamilton (CSC) has been taken to hospital for examinations after falling on his left shoulder - we'll have more news on that later.

The jerseys: Brad McGee (yellow), Robbie McEwen (green), Christophe Mengin (polka dot) and Andy Flickinger (white). Thanks for following the live coverage of the first stage with Cyclingnews. We'll be back tomorrow at 12:15 with stage 2, from Seine-et-Marne to Sedan.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo     3.44.33
2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Telekom
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon
5 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com
6 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step
9 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Vini Caldirola
10 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Ag2r

General classification after stage 1

1 Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com                    3.51.55
2 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis, Credit Par Telephone     0.04
3 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi              0.06
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                               
5 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) US Postal-Berry Floor         0.10
6 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                                
7 Andy Flickinger (Fra) Ag2r
8 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor          0.11
9 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                      0.13
10 Santiago Botero (Col) Team Telekom 

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