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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

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

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

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

Stage 14 - Sunday, July 20: Saint-Girons - Loudenvielle, 191.5 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: 11:10 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

10:13 CEST    
Welcome to the live coverage of stage 14, brought to you in association with T-Mobile. On today's menu is a more or less non-stop series of climbs as the race runs along the spine of the Pyrenees; none are giants, but the repetition is sure to do some damage.

The climbs:

  • Kilometre 35: Col de Latrape (5 kilometres at 7.4 percent)
  • Kilometre 67: Col de la Core (13.4 kilometres at 6.6 percent)
  • Kilometre 103: Col du Portet d'Aspet (5.9 kilometres at 6.8 percent)
  • Kilometre 118.5: Col du Mente (7 kilometres at 8.2 percent)
  • Kilometre 156: Col du Portillon (8.3 kilometres at 6.9 percent)
  • Kilometre 180: Col du Peyresourde (13 kilometres at 7 percent)

The stage profile has "Richard Virenque" written all over it, and he will certainly be out there collecting points for his beloved spotty jersey (which, incidentally, is rather less spotty than in previous years because of the volume of advertising on it), one way or another. The last stage winner in Loudonvielle was Virenque's then Festina team-mate Laurent Brochard and Le Broche will certainly be trying to repeat six years later for his Ag2r squad. However, the overall race situation means that there are bigger prizes to be played for; with two riders within 61 seconds of the yellow jersey and Armstrong apparently the most vulnerable he has been in years, the final climb or two are almost certain to be hotly contested, although it also means that lower placed riders will probably be ignored by the big teams if they attack early on the road to Loudonvielle with its quaint Romanesque architecture, although Quick Step will be policing the moves, you can be sure. This stage will cross into Spain for a few kilometres before the final two climbs of the Portillon and the Peyresourde.

11:17 CEST    
The temperatures today are comfortably warm, in the high 20s Celsius, with clear skies to start with but the off-chance of a bit of cloud or even a thunderstorm later; there is not a lot of wind about.

There are two bonus sprints today, although the green jersey contenders will only be in contention for the first of them, at Erce after 21 kilometres, before the first climb. The second, at Luchon at the foot of the Peyresourde could even have a bearing on the overall positions, as could the time bonuses at the finish.

11:27 CEST    
As has been the pattern now for a while, the attacks start as soon as the flag drops. The first attempt today came from ONCE's Mikel Pradera, who is quickly joined by Nardello and Bettini. The trio are caught however, but shortly afterwards a bigger group forms, with 17 including Richard Virenque (Quick.Step-Davitamon).

He has Bettini and Rogers in support; US Postal have again got someone in there, in the form of Manuel Beltrán; Telekom have Rolf Aldag and Angelo Nardello; Bianchi have Fabrizio Guidi, so all the three leading GC contenders have men up the road; Giro winner Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) is up there as well, as are Laurent Dufaux (who was going strongly yesterday), Walter Béneteau, Andrea Peron (CSC).

Santiago Botero (Telekom) and Maryan Hary (Brioches La Boulangčre) are also trying to get across. The peloton is being led by US Postal, with four riders ahead of Armstrong, but they are letting the break go away for the moment.

11:46 CEST    21 km/170.5 km to go
At the first bonus sprint Jakob Piil picks up the six points ahead of Paolo Bettini and Christophe Mengin, so we can pretty much assume that there will be no changes at the top of the points classification this evening unless anyone packs or doesn't make the time limit, both quite real possibilities. The group are now 2 minutes up; Botero's effort to bridge the gap came to nothing.

Like yesterday, US Postal have the best placed rider on GC in the breakaway; Manuel Beltrán is currently lying 13th, 11.57 down on his boss.

12:03 CEST    30 km/161.5 km to go
The leaders are now starting the climb of the Col de Latrape with a five minute advantage. US Postal seem content to let them go - content enough, indeed, that Beltrán is, unlike Rubiera yesterday, doing his share of work at the front. This is maybe a smart move, since as he starts to threaten the placings in the middle of the top 10 it will force other teams, not least Euskaltel, to take up the work of the chase.

Predictably, on the climb Bettini and Rogers are setting the pace for Richard Virenque, who already has a fairly substantial lead in the mountains competition; he will probably be right out of sight by the end of the day.

12:18 CEST    35 km/156.5 km to go
Despite all the best intentions, Christophe Mengin pips Virenque for the 20 points on offer at the top of the col, with Bettini in third spot. The lead is over 7 minutes now, so Beltran is now up with Zubeldia on "virtual GC". Long way to go yet, though.

At the back of the bunch Santiago Botero seems to be in trouble on the climb; first rider out the back however is our old friend Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner), still with one elbow bandaged up from his sprinting exploits.

12:23 CEST    
Rene Haselbacher has called it a Tour, abandoning the race. In trouble on the first of six climbs, it seems the writing was on the wall for the Austrian.

12:26 CEST    49 km/142.5 km to go
Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) has gone down at the back of the field, but he should be back up and riding again.

Up front the break is still charging away, as US Postal keeps a calm tempo in the main field with Hincapie and Landis in control.

12:36 CEST    56 km/135.5 km to go
The break is 11km from the summit of the Col de la Core, riding a steady tempo and working reasonably well together. US Postal continues to set the pace in the peloton, with no concerns about the break's early progress. The speed has picked up a bit, and so has the break's gap, now over ten minutes.

Simoni has moved to the front of the break with Rogers on his wheel.

Sebastien Hinault has seen the race doctor to clean his cuts from the crash, but he is back in the field without major problems.

12:46 CEST    60 km/131.5 km to go
As the lead stretches out over 12 minutes, Manuel Beltrán is now the race leader on the road, maillot jaune virtuel. The leaders are now at about midway up the climb of the Col de la Core, on the steepest section.

The US Postal riders in the bunch look pretty cheerful with the situation; it looks as though the move with 'Triki' Beltran is a deliberate plan that is working out well...

13:02 CEST    65 km/126.5 km to go
Virenque is setting a steady pace for the breakaways on the exposed upper slopes of the col; the lead is now more than 14 minutes which means that Virenque too is virtually up there with Armstrong, Ullrich and Vinokourov.

Concerning Beltran's presence in the break, and the fact that he is not just following the wheels, US Postal Service director Johan Bruyneel has explained that "Today is a very hard day for the team to control, so the best defense is to attack."

"We knew that Virenque would attack because he's going for the mountain points," Bruyneel added. "So for us it's good to have someone up front." And logical to have a rider who is in front of Virenque on GC, of course.

Big Rolf Aldag and Steve Zampieri are finding it hard to hang on to the break on the climb; the elastic hasn't snapped yet, though. At the back of the bunch, Rob Hunter (Rabobank) is also not finding the gradient and speed to his liking.

13:16 CEST    67 km/124.5 km to go
The pace lifts for the summit and a few people have trouble hanging on to the pace. This time Virenque hits the target, crossing in front followed by Dufaux and Bettini.

In the race convoy, Bianchi and Euskaltel directors Rudy Pevenage and Julian Gorospe were having a discussion between team cars, perhaps concerned with this latest tactical development in the race.

Beltran and Virenque are now out in front on virtual general classification. At the back of the bunch, David Millar and Brad McGee look as if they are having a particularly uncomfortable time. Millar is dropped. At the front, Euskaltel have moved up in the form of Alberto Lopez de Munain and Iñigo Landaluze and the gap has started to steady and close fractionally at 15.30.

13:27 CEST    79 km/112.5 km to go
Mikel Pradera is going fastest on the descent, and has a bit of a gap open. The bunch come over the top of the col with the gap down to 14.35, the two Euskaltels leading.

Millar is suffering a long way down, and unless there is a good bus he can catch, he will have trouble finishing today.

13:37 CEST    87 km/104.5 km to go
Millar hasn't given up yet and is using his descending skills to get back with the bunch after being a couple of minutes down at the summit. He is working his way up through the convoy now.

The breakaways are at the foot of the descent now, in Argein, with a bit of a flat section before beginning the Col de Portet d'Aspet. Before that they will reach the day's main feed at Illartein. In the bunch Bianchi have a man up to help the Euskaltel duo.

13:51 CEST    97 km/94.5 km to go
The leaders are working steadily as they hit half distance on the stage. The gap is coming down slowly, with two Bianchis and three Euskaltels doing the work. Behind them Armstrong is surrounded by blue US Postal vests; Ullrich and Vinokourov can't be far off behind him.

13:57 CEST    
David Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) is in trouble at the back of the bunch and looks as though he is going to climb off at the feed. He does.

With the gap down to 13.05 Virenque is no longer ahead of Armstrong on virtual GC.

14:06 CEST    102 km/89.5 km to go
The leaders are coming up to the final kilometre of the climb of the Col de Portet d'Aspet, one of the longest-used climbs in the Tour, first used in 1910, and the gap is coming back steadily. Millar is having trouble hanging on again, and Brad McGee has punctured. Raffaele Ferrara (Alessio) has also retired at the feed.

The race will be taking the same descent on which Barcelona Olympic champion Fabio Casartelli was killed in the 1995 tour.

14:08 CEST    103 km/88.5 km to go
Michael Rogers leads Virenque up the last stretches of the climb to set him up for another 20 spotty points. The leadout works and Virenque takes it ahead of Dufaux.

14:18 CEST    
The rhythm set by Bianchi and Euskaltel - Lopez de Munain, Artetxe, Landaluze, Liese and Becke seem to be the main culprits - is doing some damage at the back of the bunch and it looks as though a something of a bus is forming. It doesn't at this point look as though Virenque's break is going the distance.

14:21 CEST    109 km/82.5 km to go
The leaders are quickly down the descent and already onto the Col de Menté; Rolf Aldag is rapidly in difficulties and dropped. The lead is down to 10.28 and Beltrán's time in virtual yellow is over.

Hushovd punctures on the descent near some of the concrete block crash barriers of the sort that did for Casartelli.

14:31 CEST    113.5 km/78 km to go
The break are down to 11 men with 5 km still to climb on the Col de Menté behind them, Bianchi have left the chasing to Euskaltel, although US Postal's George Hincapie seems to be lending a hand and there are a mass of Telekom jsereys near the front as well.

Michael Rogers was dropped from the front bunch briefly but is now back up there pushing the pace for Virenque. The bunch is now in meltdown, and significantly US Postal look to have lost Pena, Padrnos, Ekimov and Landis already.

14:41 CEST    116.5 km/75 km to go
Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto) has just retired. We have also lost Andrzej Hauptmann (Alessio) and, we think, Rob Hunter (Rabobank).

14:45 CEST    118.5 km/73 km to go
In front Rogers is winding it up once again, with Virenque on his wheel; again the Frenchman comes through to take the points ahead of Dufaux and Beltrán. Virenque is now 148 points up on Bettini who in turn is being caught by Dufaux. It's not quite a mathematical certainty for Virenque yet, but it's looking pretty good.

The bunch is down to 60 or so riders now and still a way from the summit. Ullrich is now riding near the front, with Vinokourov not far behind, while Armstrong has dropped back a bit. Euskaltel lead the bunch over 9.20 down.

Walter Beneteau overcooks a hairpin corner on the descent, but fortunately there is a minor road going straight on and he just has the hassle of getting 54x11 rolling again after he screams to a halt and goes back up to the course.

14:57 CEST    128 km/63.5 km to go
At the foot of the descent in Saint-Béat the break regroups with a certain amount of discussion going on; they are down to about eight riders as Botcharov tries to push the pace a bit while the others look to wait for some of the dropped riders.

15:04 CEST    133.5 km/58 km to go
The break is now together on the flat and working steadily with about a dozen, including Bettini and Rogers. Behind them Fabrizio Guidi, dropped from the break, is setting the pace on the descent for the bunch.

15:13 CEST    139.5 km/52 km to go
The leaders are still riding steadily but there is a lot of going back to team cars for food and tactical discussions. They have now crossed the border into Spain for the only foreign excursion of this year's Tour; they come back into France at the top of the Portillon.

Four riders formerly in the break are in a second group half way between the leading dozen and the bunch: Aldag, Petrov, Piil and Mengin.

In the bunch Bianchi are now riding en masse at the front. There has been some coming together on the climb, but there are clearly still groups behind whose interest is merely in survival.

15:24 CEST    147.5 km/44 km to go
The leading dozen reach the foot of the Portillon with 9 minutes lead; the gap has stabilised a bit now. To recap, we have Manuel Beltrán (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor, Mikel Pradera (Spa) ONCE-Eroski, Daniele Nardello (Ita) Team Telekom, Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco, Paolo Bettini (Ita), Michael Rogers (Aus) and Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick.Step - Davitamon,
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R-Prévoyance, Andrea Peron (Ita) Team CSC
Steve Zampieri (Swi) Vini Caldirola-So.Di, Walter Beneteau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangčre and Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Alessio. Bettini drops off as soon as the climbing starts, however.

Behind, Bianchi have the much reduced bunch lined out, with Telekom behind them. Armstrong is a way back in the line, but he is not above lulling his opponents into a false sense of security. He has three US Postal riders with him.

15:29 CEST    151.5 km/40 km to go
Dufaux attacks 5 km from the summit and only Simoni and Virenque are able to go with him. Peron, Bocharov, Nardello, Beltran and Zampieri are riding together to limit their losses. As the bunch start to tackle the climb there are 5 Bianchi vests at the front; they have almost caught the group of four riders dropped out of the break. heras is reported to be in difficulties, maybe sick.

15:44 CEST    154.5 km/37 km to go
The lead trio are still going steadily; Dufaux (helmet straps undone and tucked under the helmet) is doing most of the pace setting but Simoni (flapping straps) and Virenque (fastened) are taking some of the load as well. They still have 7.40 from the bunch and a minute or more to the nearest chasing group.

Riders are drifting of the back of the bunch in some numbers; there is not much time for recovery from here onwards, except for the best descenders.

15:46 CEST    156.5 km/35 km to go
Virenque sprints back into France to add to his mountain points tally, with Dufaux and Simoni following over. That makes Dufaux second in the mountains classification, but 130 points in arrears.

The Bianchi team leads the bunch up to the top of the Portillon without any fireworks from anyone yet; with a lead of jsut over 7 minutes still, it looks as though the three leaders might still be able to stay away. They are already at the foot of the very fast descent and approaching the bonus sprint in Luchon.

15:58 CEST    166 km/25.5 km to go
Beneteau gets across to the leading trio on the descent, catching them just as Dufaux takes the 6 points in an uncontested sprint. They are now onto the lower slopes of the long climb of the Peyresourde.

16:05 CEST    169 km/22.5 km to go
The leaders seem to have stretched their advantage by a few seconds on the descent. Virenque and Dufaux, who are good friends in real life even if they're on different teams, don't seem terribly pleased with Simoni, although the Italian is coming through. Beneteau's decending abilities are impressive, but when Simoni lifts the pace on the climb he can't stay with the others.

The Bianchi train starts on the climb, mopping up Bettini in short order.

Virenque looks the least comfortable of the three leaders.

16:09 CEST    
David Moncoutie (Cofidis) attacks out of the bunch and the change of rhythm shells a few riders out of the back, including Heras.

16:12 CEST    171.5 km/20 km to go
The three leaders have settled to a steady pace again, all coming through to take turns at the front.

Moncoutie is still hovering a few metres off the front of the groupe maillot jaune; Denis Menchov (Banesto) in the white jersey attacks.

Moreau is accelerating and slowing down repeatedly on the front. They catch and drop Moncoutie. Ullrich and Armstrong react to one of Moreau's moves, but he eases off again; the next time Mayo jumps across to him and rides clear.

Vinokourov tries to get across and Ullrich and Armstrong are not reacting...

16:16 CEST    
Moreau, Vinokourov and Mayo are riding clear of the Armstrong-Ullrich group (down to a dozen riders) now.

16:19 CEST    174.5 km/17 km to go
Simoni is setting the pace for the three leaders. Behind, the Armstrong-Ullrich group has slowed down a bit and more riders are trying to get clear - Basso and Mancebo.

Moreau has been dropped by Mayo and Vinokourov.

16:22 CEST    
Ullrich is now leading the chase, with Armstrong on his wheel; they hve lost most of their company already - just Zubeldia and Basso are still with them. Vinokourov is driving on, with Mayo coming through. Vino still has some team support in front as well, with Nardello.

16:26 CEST    176.5 km/15 km to go
Vinokourov is a good minute clear of Amrstrong and Ullrich now, putting him in virtual yellow; the top two must have decided that they can make back anything they lose today on the steeper finishing climb to Luz-Ardiden tomorrow.

The three leaders are still together under the 15 km to go banner.

Vinokourov winds up the pace and Mayo has a bit of trouble staying with him. Behind Ullrich is still setting the pace; none of the others can/will come through.

16:28 CEST    
Ullrich has stabilised the gap at just under a minute, and his quartet catch Moreau, who tags along.

16:33 CEST    
The threat of thunderstorms appears to have passed, and the riders are up on the exposed top half of this climb in slightly hazy sunshine.

Beneteau is hanging on at 45 seconds behind the three leaders; Vonio is now only 2.10 behind him, though, so there could yet be a coming together.

Mayo has still not taken a turn at the front; it may well be that he can't get past the storming Kazakh. They catch Nardello who puts in a strong pull at the front. He has sat up and waited so he has a bit of spare energy to use, burying himself for Vinokourov's yellow jersey chances.

16:38 CEST    180 km/11.5 km to go
As the crowds narroe the road towards the top of the climb, Simoni leads the front trio. A way behind them, Ullrich is slogging along, in the saddle, while Armstrong is out of the saddle behind him.

Simoni crosses the summit first ahead of Virenque and Dufaux; Beneteau is just over a minute down and Peron is not far behind him.

Vinokourov and Mayo are less than 2 minutes down; Armstrong finally comes past Ullrich to take the summit ahead - they are just under a minute behind Vinokourov, so the Kazakh is still a few seconds off the lead.

There is a small climb that doesn't really show on the race profile in the final couple of kilometres which could make a bit of difference yet.

16:43 CEST    
The three leaders are taking it relatively steady on the descent. Armstrong is leading his group and clearly stretching it as far as he can. This is a fast descent on a wide main road without many hairpins, not too technical. They are pulling Vinokourov back by a few seconds.

16:47 CEST    189.5 km/2 km to go
At the foot of the descent the three leaders are onto the little pitch. They still have a minute and a bit on the three chasers - Nardello still pulling.

Ullrich and Armstrong are limiting the damage sensibly.

16:48 CEST    180.5 km/11 km to go
Under the Flamme rouge an unexpected Peron cathes the three leaders, who were looking at eadh other, and tries to jump them. Not that easy, though.

16:51 CEST    
The four sprint, and Simoni takes it ahead of Dufaux, Virenque and Peron. The Giro winner has finally justified his presence here in the best way possible after a disappointing start. Third-placed Virenque is all but home and dry in his favourite jersey with 300 points in the bag, 147 clear of Dufaux.

Beneteau comes in just out of reach and then Vinokourov and Mayo 40 seconds down.

Armstrong leads Zubeldia, Basso and Ullrich through 42 seconds behind them; Armstrong remains in yellow, but the top three on GC are now within 20 seconds of each other!

Hamilton and Menchov finish in a group 4.26 down. Riders will be coming in for an hour or so yet...

Armstrong tells the TV interviewers that he is feeling better than he has for a while, and that 15 seconds is not enough of a margin for the final time trial, which we already knew; tomorrow's stage with the big summit finish at Luz Ardiden promises more fireworks, but not necessarily to be decisive in this exceptionally close-fought Tour. Ullrich seems monstrously strong, while Armstrong is showing a new side of his strength in a situation which has not been a familiar one for him in recent years. Join us here on Cyclingnews for that tomorrow at 12.20 CEST...


1 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saeco                     5.31.52
2 Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Alessio
3 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick.Step-Davitamon
4 Andrea Peron (Ita) Team CSC                        0.03
5 Walter Beneteau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere       0.10
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom            0.41
7 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
8 Steve Zampieri (Swi) Vini Caldirola-So.Di
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi            1.24
10 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
General classification after stage 14
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor    61.07.17
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                     0.15
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom            0.18
4 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi            4.16
5 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                  4.37
6 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                     7.01
7 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                      7.32
8 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com              10.09
9 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                     12.40


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