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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

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

Main page    Stage profile and start order    Teams and riders    Latest live report (auto-refresh)    Results

Commentary by Roger Hughes and Chris Henry, with additional reporting by Jeff Jones, Tim Maloney, and Gabriella Ekström

Stage 12 - Friday, July 18: Gaillac - Cap' Découverte, TT, 47 km

Complete Live Report

Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs

Start time: 10:46 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

10:21 CEST    
Welcome to the first individual time trial stage of the Tour, where Lotto's Hans De Clercq will have the honour of starting proceedings at 10.46 by virtue of his last place on general classification.

Logically, the main contenders for final victory in Paris will be off at the end of the field, while many of the earlier riders will be content to get round inside the time limit (which is fairly generous) and save their energy for the forthcoming mountain stages. However, there are a few riders who are no slouch against the watch who have been taking it (relatively) easy in the mountains and are thus a way down the overall standings - the names of former German TT champion Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) and Brad McGee (FDJeux.com) stand out.

It has been noted that the winners of the last two stages both have names meaning "arrow" in their respective languages. We have set our team of trained linguists to work, but we don't think we can find any more of them...

11:01 CEST    
The course today is fairly flat and not particularly technical, although there is a bit of a bump coming up to the third intermediate timecheck. It's a beautiful day. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and very little wind. It's not as hot this morning, but temperatures could still reach 35 degrees by the time the favourites start this afternoon. Riders will be starting at two-minute intervals in reverse order of general classification - you can find the full order of start here.

This is the first time for many years that the first individual time trial has fallen so late in the race; it has almost always preceded the first mountains. The result of that is that the times are still pretty close - and a good thing that is for the neutral spectator - with less than four minutes covering the top 10 places; that is unlikely to be the case by the end of this afternoon.

11:16 CEST    
First time of the day: Hans De Clercq has reached the first checkpoint in 18.49.

Nancy Pratt points out that if we extend the semantic field for stage winners' names from "arrow" to any sharp pointy type of weapon, then "lance" might well fit the equation. She could be onto something there.

Fastest of the early starters so far is Torsten Schmidt with 18.04 for the 13 km. Robbie McEwen has come through in an unhurried 18.56; the sprinters will be treating it as another rest day today.

11:37 CEST    
Uwe Peschel comes through the first check in a new fastest time of 17.14.

The time limit for time trials is pretty generous - riders need to finish within 125% of the winner's time, so the riders with no direct interest in the stage or GC can take it fairly steady, but that still means they need to do 40 kph if the winner is going to be doing around 50 (Peschel's time is just over 45 kph). Not a problem for a pro, but a bit more than clubrun pace, all the same.

11:59 CEST    
Marco Milesi has set the best time so far at the second check at Salles; my calculator says he's doing 42.5 kph.

De Clercq finishes in 1.09.13 to set a standard for others to beat.

12:15 CEST    
Uwe Peschel is leading at all time checks; at 42 km he has upped his pace to around 46 kph.

Brad McGee comes through the first check 32 seconds down on Peschel.

12:25 CEST    
Peschel roars in to the finish (in the Allée Laurent Jalabert in the Cap'Découverte theme park, no less) in 1.01.58, more than 3 minutes clear of anyone else so far, although he faded slightly in the closing kilometres, dropping back to 45.5 kph average.

12:44 CEST    
The big pizza
Photo: © J. Jones/CN
Time trial specialist Laszlo Bodrogi (Quick.Step-Davitamon) has just come through the first time check, 14" slower than the fastest time so far set by Uwe Peschel.

Equipment choice is always crucial in an individual time trial, and today ONCE has opted for FSA 54 tooth big chainrings. Although the course is not entirely flat today, it is well suited to low-profile TT machines.

12:56 CEST    
Brad McGee has also posted a strong intermediate check, 32" behind Peschel, although he'll have to put the hammer down in the second half of the course today. After a quick start he looks to have slowed a bit by the second check, perhaps due to mechanical difficulties.

McGee stormed to a proglogue win this year in Paris, and also won the individual test at the Tour de Suisse last month. After a quiet passage through the Alps, and work in the service of green jersey leader Baden Cooke, McGee may be looking for a another big result later in the Tour.

13:02 CEST    
The 47km time trial today starts in very technical fashion, with around eight turns in just the first kilometre of racing. The road is also very narrow, making bike handling skills essential as riders try to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

The sun is also starting to beat down harder, and the temperature is already over 30 degrees. It'll be an ever hotter ride for the late starters.

13:21 CEST    
US Postal Service's Victor Hugo Pena is out on the course now, hoping to set a fast tempo. Pena's job is to set an early marker for Lance Armstrong, who will start last wearing the yellow jersey.

This was a task performed by another time trial ace, Tyler Hamilton, during his days at US Postal. Now as team leader for CSC, Hamilton will be facing a serious test to see just how close he can stay to the leaders given his lingering injury from stage 1.

13:28 CEST    
Thor gets ready
Photo: © J. Jones/CN
Bodrogi has come across the line in second place, unable to match Peschel's early marker. The nearly two minute gap is impressive considering Bodrogi's talent against the clock, but the difficulty of the first half of the course seems to be a significant factor.

Another rider dropping down the standings as the race goes on is Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd, a solid time trialist but unlikely to be a contender for a stage like this in the Tour.

13:36 CEST    
The slowest rider so far is Rob Hunter (Rabobank) who has finished the course in 1.11.19, around 39.5 kph, which means he has to hope that the winning time is no faster than 57.02. He is no threat to Hans De Clercq's GC lanterne rouge, however - De Clercq is 9 minutes behind his nearest "rival", his Lotto team-mate Nick Gates.

13:42 CEST    
US Postal now has Ekimov on the course, setting the third best time at the first intermediate time check. Teammate and former yellow jersey holder Victor Hugo Pena is up ahead, finding his rhythm after a slower start than expected.

Pena now has the 3rd best time at the second check point. The Colombian hit over 80km/h on the first major downhill, then a few kilometres later caught Jakob Piil (Team CSC).

Meanwhile, a challenge may be brewing, as Yuriy Krivtsov (Jean Delatour) has come through the first check just 8" behind Peschel's time.

13:55 CEST    
French national champion Didier Rous commented on the time trial parcours, saying it's a tougher course than many seem to think, with some rough roads and the risk of a strong wind.

"Jean-Rene Bernadeau (Brioches La Boulangere team director) asked me to ride the time trial all out, and after that we'll see what happens. Either I'll continue to think of the general classification, or start looking for a stage win."

14:00 CEST    
Pena at the start
Photo: © J. Jones/CN
Victor Hugo Pena continues to hold onto third place at the next intermediate check, although he is still over two minutes down on Peschel.

Team director Johan Bruyneel knows how important today is for Lance Armstrong, particularly given the smaller than usual time gaps between the American and his closest rivals.

"But a time trial is always the same," Bruyneel told l'Equipe. "It's man vs. man, and man vs. the clock."

14:08 CEST    
Belgian Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo), normally a strong rider against the clock, has passed through the second time check in only 21st position. Early crashes and less than ideal form coming into the Tour have put Verbrugghe on the sidelines this year.

Victor Hugo Pena has finished his time trial with the third best time thus far, 2'46" behind Peschel.

Krivtsov, who started with a bang, has faded to 7th place at the 33km mark, 2'34" down.

14:14 CEST    
The biggest challenge of the parcours will be the final climb, coming at the 39km point. The climb is 2.5km long at an average gradient of 7-8%. The time splits have been opening up well before this climb, but the hill will surely seal the deal for any riders not on a good day.

14:34 CEST    
Santiago Botero (Telekom) has now hit the first check; he is 17 seconds adrift from Peschel's time, but is a strong contender who is more likely to speed up than slow down from here.

Some updates on riders who haven't made it onto the leader boards: Slava Ekimov started fast but cruised in at the end to finish 5.09 behind Peschel, whose times are still the benchmark. Stuart O'Grady is best of the Aussies so far at 5.51, while Brad McGee and Robbie McEwen were just over a minute slower.

With the Pyrenees on the horizon, many of the middle-ranking riders who might under other circumstances be capable of doing a decent time are likely to be under strict team orders to save themselves to help their team leaders in the next few days.

14:36 CEST    
Haselbacher shows his scars
Photo: © J. Jones/CN
Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) warms up in the heat, revealing his scars from his crash in the first week. Gerolsteiner has had a very quiet Tour so far, although Georg Totschnig has been steadily moving up the GC. Designated team leader Davide Rebellin, on the other hand, has been virtually invisible.

14:44 CEST    
Christophe Moreau, leader of Credit Agricole and the top Frenchman so far at 12th place overall (4'04"), was calm heading into today's important test.

"The time I do relative to the Spanish riders will be important," he said yesterday. "I need to make up time against the climbers, and if I can move up in the general classification I can attack the Pyrenees in a better state of mind. Time trials in the Tour de France have generally been good to me."

14:54 CEST    
The UCI conducted blood tests this morning for Jean Delatour, Bianchi, Gerolsteiner, Alessio, Kelme and FDJeux.com. All 42 riders tested were deemed fit to race.

15:00 CEST    
Santiago Botero has passed through the second time check in second place behind Uwe Peschel (52" down). Botero has moved ahead of Bodrogi, but is still off of Peschel's pace.

After a dismal first week, the world time trial champion seems to be having a better day today. Botero caught and passed Gerrit Glomser (Saeco), who immediately latched onto Botero's back wheel.

That, of course, is not permitted in a time trial, and Glomser eventually left a bit of daylight between himself and Botero, but not much. In fact, he's still sticking pretty close to Botero after several kilometres.

15:07 CEST    
Botero has caught another rider, Andrea Noe of Alessio, on a climb. The road is looking rather crowded with Glomser still hanging tough behind and Noe trying to keep pace with the passing duo.

Botero has now finally dropped his companions and is pressing on with his strong ride.

15:16 CEST    
US Postal's TT fleet
Photo: © J. Jones/CN
Cyclingnews spoke to US Postal's George Hincapie this morning, who revealed that this year he will race the Vuelta a Espana. "I'm really excited about doing the Vuelta," Hincapie said. "I think it should be a good race for me. My main objective is the world championships. I need to do the Vuelta to get fit for that, and it's a real good course this year."

Hincapie is on the course now, and will likely be looking to conserve as much energy as possible for the difficult mountain stages to come.

At the finish, Botero has just crossed the line in second place, but 1'33" behind Peschel, who looks set to pose a real challenge to the favourites to come.

The heat is only getting worse, and the conditions will be difficult for the riders to come.

15:21 CEST    
Australian Michael Rogers of Quick.Step-Davitamon has passed the first time check just 12" behind Peschel. However it's the second half of the course which is proving to be decisive. Rogers has said openly he wants to win this stage, so he will have to maintain a fast pace and still pull back time on Peschel in the second half.

15:31 CEST    
Jerome Pineau (Brioches La Boulangere), who has just finished, commented that the heat is playing an enormous role.

"I wanted to take it easy, but it's impossible," he told French television. "If you take it easy you'll lose too much time. The first part of the course was very difficult. Anyone who starts too quickly, with too big a gear, is going to pay."

15:36 CEST    
Ag2R's Inigo Chaurreau has hit the second time check one second faster than Botero, and 51" down on Peschel, whose winning splits are still holding. Charreau started quickly and so far has been able to hold his fast pace.

15:43 CEST    
Italian national champion Paolo Bettini is having a solid ride considering he is not a specialist at the discipline. Bettini has gone through both the 2nd and 3rd time checks in 5th place.

David Millar (Cofidis) is about to begin his ride. Millar has made the time trial an objective, and could challenge for the win today. He was second in the prologue time trial behind Brad McGee.

George Hincapie has also finished quite strongly, finishing with the 4th best time, but bumped to 5th just now as Bettini comes across the line and takes the 4th spot.

15:52 CEST    
Inigo Chaurreau is the first rider to come within a minute of Uwe Peschel's time. He's finished 35" back of Peschel, but almost a minute ahead of Botero, who is now pushed to a provisional third place.

Christophe Moreau, 12th overall, is preparing for his start. Just ahead of him, Austrian champion Georg Totschnig launches from the start ramp.

15:57 CEST    
After a busy start, the parcours today is not very technical after the first 2km. There are plenty of curves but hardly any corners. The road surfaces are generally OK, with some newly resurfaced parts and some "dead" back country roads.

There are a number of false flats, which make it tough to get a rhythm. Interestingly, the crowds aren't too big today until the final climb, but even there there aren't masses of people like in the mountains. The temperature has, as expected, climbed to at least 35 degrees, but the wind remains quite calm.

16:02 CEST    
Roberto Laiseka has begun the Basque charge for Euskaltel, with Zubeldia and Mayo to follow. Laiseka sits in 11th place overall.

Meanwhile, David Millar has finally cracked Peschel's intermediate time, and has gone through the first check 29" faster than the Gerolsteiner rider.

Michael Rogers, on the other hand, finishes his ride well off the pace of Peschel, just 6th best for the moment.

16:08 CEST    
Jan Ullrich begins his time trial charge. Ullrich has been steady and has not lost substantial time in the first mountain stages. He typically gets better during the Tour, and today will be a very important test of his form to determine how closely he can challenge for the podium in Paris.

16:11 CEST    
Next up is Tyler Hamilton, another rider facing an important test. Hamilton has been tough as nails so far, and there's no reason to doubt he can put in a good time today, but his injured collarbone will always remain a factor of some sort.

Millar is looking very smooth out on the course. He has caught and passed Peter Luttenberger and looks to be on his way to a good performance.

16:13 CEST    
Francisco Mancebo (iBanesto.com) is out on the course. Mancebo is in good position, 4th overall and just 1'37" behind Armstrong, but he is not as strong in a time trial as Armstrong, Ullrich, Hamilton, and the others.

"For me to reach the podium will be tough, but I still have high hopes," he said after yesterday's stage. "Armstrong is still, for me, the favourite for the time trial."

16:16 CEST    
We're into the top three now, as Iban Mayo hits the road for Euskaltel. Mayo put up a good challenge with Armstrong at the Dauphine in June, and showed there that he can time trial quite well. On a longer parcours such as today's, Mayo might not have quite the same success, but he's surely motivated by his high overall place and his stage win at l'Alpe d'Huez. He sits just over one minute down on Armstrong at the start.

Second placed Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) is in the start house. He sits just 21" behind Armstrong in the overall classification.

16:18 CEST    
Many questions could be answered by the time Lance Armstrong finishes his ride today. Widely reported to be below his best condition, Armstrong remains a heavy favourite for the stage win and the overall classification. Today's time trial could have some lasting impressions on the GC.

The concentration is written on Armstrong's face as the clock ticks down, and he licks his lips as he surges from the start house.

16:24 CEST    
Zubeldia has come through the first time check just 7" behind Millar. The top GC contenders look set to battle it out for both the stage win and the overall classification heading into the Pyrenees.

Hamilton looks to be riding well, and is resting on the aero bars without too much difficulty. Hamilton has always looked more powerful than graceful in a time trial, and if his legs do the talking today he should finish among the favourites.

Ullrich is on a slight rise along the course, powering away in an extremely low slung position.

16:25 CEST    
Millar has lost time relative to Peschel at the second time check. He is 0.64 seconds behind Peschel.

Ullrich has come through the first check in first place, 19" ahead of Millar!

16:27 CEST    
Johan Bruyneel spoke to Belgian television before Armstrong's time trial start, explaining the team's approach.

"I followed Ekimov. I taped it on video so we could watch it together- Lance and I- in the bus and look at some last details, as it's different to ride the course in the race then what it was on training."

"Everyone thinks Lance will win, but Hamilton and Zubeldia are doing great times now. The most important is that he takes time on the 2nd and 3rd places on GC (Vinokourov and Mayo). I don't think Lance will make the mistake of last year; he will ride with 55 are the front."
"Lance's form isn't any different to the previous years, it's just that the race itself is different. The Tour starts today. In this Tour the serious challenge lies in the Pyrenees, not in the Alps. Tomorrow and the two days after are very difficult stages, and what is to come are the hardest days in this Tour."

16:31 CEST    
Armstrong looks to have his high cadence pedaling style working well, and he's staying in the saddle more than other riders.

Ullrich looks perfect, legs powering away and with an upper body that doesn't budge.

Ullrich is catching and passing Ivan Basso. No contest...

16:34 CEST    
Vinokourov is riding well, and is posting the same time as David Millar. Hamilton is limiting his losses, 35" behind Ullrich at the first check.

16:36 CEST    
Armstrong has done the same time as Ullrich at the first check! The Armstrong-Ullrich race is on.

16:37 CEST    
Iban Mayo is not having a great ride, out of the saddle and having trouble finding the right gear while climbing. He is over a minute down from the time set by Ullrich and Armstrong at the first check. Mancebo is also well over a minute down at the early check point.

Vinokourov looks steady, a rider who doesn't look particularly fast but packs a lot of power.

16:42 CEST    
Vinokourov is pulling away from third place overall Mayo, who is not capable of challenging the leaders today. Mayo has lost 1'15" so far against Armstrong.

Ullrich's teammate David Plaza has set the third fastest time at the finish.

16:45 CEST    
Ullrich has now passed Roberto Heras with the same speed he passed Basso. Heras is clearly not a time trial favourite, and Ullrich has come and gone in no time at all.

Millar has come into the finish, having lost time from his quick start. Peschel's time holds as Millar gets second place, 28" behind the German but ahead of Chaurreau.

16:47 CEST    
At the 33km check, it's Zubeldia with the best time, 7" faster than Peschel. He has already kept pace with Armstrong in the mountains, and now the Euskaltel rider is proving himself once more in the time trial. As Mayo fades, he could become the number one rider for Euskaltel.

16:51 CEST    
Ullrich has blown away Zubeldia's time at the check, going through the 33km mark with a 1'52" advantage! The Bianchi leader is back to his best, it seems.

David Millar was clearly disappointed at the finish, refusing to speak to the waiting journalists. However close the gap to Peschel, he may find he was nowhere near the likes of Jan Ullrich.

16:52 CEST    
Armstrong is looking fast as he passes through the 20km to go banner.

Meanwhile, Hamilton has come through the second check in second place, but 1'47" behind Ullrich.

16:56 CEST    
Ullrich has averaged 48.9 km/h so far, setting the time to beat at each check.

Vinokourov continues to lose some time against Ullrich and Armstrong, but he's pulling away from Mayo. In fact, he's catching Mayo on the road now.

Georg Totschnig has just come through the finish for 6th place at the moment, while the polka dot jersey of Richard Virenque comes in 33rd.

17:00 CEST    
Lance Armstrong has come through the time check behind Ullrich! Armstrong passes the second check in 2nd place, but 39" behind Der Kaiser!

17:02 CEST    
Zubeldia continues to looks strong up front, powering out of the saddle as he passes under the 1km to go banner. He won't rival Ullrich and Armstrong, but his place in the general classification will surely improve.

17:04 CEST    
A new best time for the Euskaltel rider Zubeldia. Peschel's time has fallen at last.

Armstrong is under the 10km to go banner.

17:08 CEST    
Here comes Ullrich, and he's extended his lead over Zubeldia! An incredible ride by Ullrich, who gets more than two and a half minutes on Zubeldia.

Amrstrong is climbing, in the saddle, to an enormous cheer from the crowd. His cadence is still quite high, but it appears he can't match Ullrich's pace.

17:11 CEST    
Vinokourov looks to be having more trouble on the climb, with a much more laboured style. Mayo is well behind, out of the hunt today and perhaps for the race to come.

Ivan Basso is coming in now, 5'59" behind Ullrich.

Hamilton is in the final metres and holding onto second place for now.

17:12 CEST    
At the last check, Armstrong is an incredible 1'09" behind Ullrich.

Ullrich, who has never finished lower than 2nd place overall in the Tour, is quickly throwing himself back into the fray this year.

17:17 CEST    
Mancebo has come across the finish now, taking 7th place, 4'59" behind Ullrich.

Now it's Vinokourov coming home, taking second position as Mayo struggles home behind. Mayo has lost five minutes to Ullrich.

17:19 CEST    
Armstrong has come home now with a time of 1:00:04, 1'36" behind Ullrich! He keeps his yellow jersey, but today he was clearly not the strongest.

checkpoint 1 (13 km)


checkpoint 2 (33 km)


checkpoint 3 (42 km)


finish (47 km)


Jan Ullrich (BIA)



Jan Ullrich (BIA)



Jan Ullrich (BIA)



Jan Ullrich (BIA)



Lance Armstrong (USP)



Lance Armstrong (USP)



Lance Armstrong (USP)



Lance Armstrong (USP)



David Millar (COF)



Alexandre Vinokourov (TEL)



Alexandre Vinokourov (TEL)



Alexandre Vinokourov (TEL)



Alexandre Vinokourov (TEL)



Tyler Hamilton (CSC)



Haimar Zubeldia (EUS)



Haimar Zubeldia (EUS)



Haimar Zubeldia (EUS)



Haimar Zubeldia (EUS)



Tyler Hamilton (CSC)



Tyler Hamilton (CSC)



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