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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

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

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Thanks for joining Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour de France. This page provides the complete description of today's stage to bring you up to date. Click here for our faster, auto-refreshing Latest Updates page.

Stage 17 - Thursday, July 24: Dax - Bordeaux, 181 km

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

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

Start time: 12.45 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:05 CEST

12:05 CEST    
It's a likely to be a long slog north through the flat piney woods of Les Landes on the way to wine capital Bordeaux, the traditional appointment for sprinters and another original stage stop for the 1903 Tour. At least the heat has broken so temps will be in the upper 20's with partly cloudy skies. With 1999 stage winner Tom Steels absent from this edition of the Tour, Aussies Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen will be renewing their ding-dong battle for the Maillot Vert. Watch Erik Zabel and Roman Vainsteins, who will be strong factors in any sprint finish.

12:55 CEST    5 km/176 km to go
This year the action has started very early on each stage and today is no exception. 10 riders have gone clear right from the gun but the bunch is chasing hard, led by Crédit Agricole and Brioches La Boulangère.

Today's stage counts (like all those finishing in the six 1903 stage towns) towards the special Centenary classification, decided by simply adding the stage placings - lowest total wins. The current leader is Baden Cooke on 22 points, but he will be more concerned with the green jersey. His closest rival, however, is Damien Nazon of Brioches La Boulangère on 26 points, which could explain their interest.

13:09 CEST    18 km/163 km to go
The break are moving clear and now have something like a minute's lead. It will not be the easiest of terrains to stay away on, however, should the sprinters' teams really get going.

The breakaways are:
Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) iBanesto.com
Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank
Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Saeco
Médéric Clain (Fra) Cofidis Le Crédit par Telephone
Christophe Mengin (Fra) FDJeux.com
Ivan Parra (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca
Servais Knaven (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon
Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo
Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Vini Caldirola-So.Di
Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Team CSC

There is quite a way to go before the day's first (of two) bonus sprint, which is at kilometre 102.5. Although we can expect the general classification riders to sit tight in the bunch and try and stay out of trouble, the tight time gap between Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich means that neither would be particularly averse to a few extra seconds were they available. Today should be all about the green jersey, rather than the yellow one, however.

13:21 CEST    29 km/152 km to go
To recap, the top placings in the points classification at present are:

Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com (156)
Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo (148)
Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom (143)
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole (134)
Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Crédit Agricole (128)
Luca Paolini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon (119)
Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) Jean Delatour (111)

With 6 points at each of two bonus sprints and 35 for the stage win, any of them could theoretically take the green jersey tonight.

After spending a while with the gap hovering around 55 seconds, the break is now moving away as the peloton eases up.

13:39 CEST    42 km/139 km to go
US Postal are now leading what might loosely be deemed a chase, as the break stretches out to five minutes. Presumably because none of the other teams can be bothered.

We spoke to one of the breakaways, Quick.Step's Servais Knaven, before the start this morning. "Paolini was strong yesterday but we ride to win. The aim today is to get in a break. He might be a decent sprinter, but he can't do anything against sprinters like McEwen and Zabel."

The weather today is cooler than it has been, with a bit of rain in the air, but no serious precipitation expected.

13:58 CEST    50 km/131 km to go
Well, it looks as though nobody's chasing at all, as the lead goes over 10 minutes. However, there is a long way to go yet, and the sprinters' team will be perfectly happy if they don't see the breakaways again until the outskirts of Bordeaux. Of course, there was that stage to Pontarlier in the 2001 Tour where nobody ever got around to organising a chase, and the break finished 35 minutes up, but that was (a) in very bad weather, (b) before the mountains. A lead of 26 minutes and a bit would put Peter Luttenberger in virtual yellow, which may yet happen, but you can be sure that it won't be anything like that at the finish even if they succeed in staying away.

14:09 CEST    65 km/116 km to go
The break is still moving clear, although the gap is not opening as fast as it was at one stage.

Another rider that our newshounds managed to corner this morning was green jersey Baden Cooke, whose FDJeux.com team are sitting pretty, with the lead and a man in the break. "From here on in it's flat out to Paris", he observed. What's the plan? "It's not our job to chase anything because we've got the lead. We're going to try and race today for the stage win. I don't want to worry about marking guys at the finish."

14:25 CEST    83 km/98 km to go
Credit Agricole has now got a couple of riders on the front of the peloton, as the gap has gone out to over 16 minutes. They're going to have a hard time bringing it back unless they get a lot of help from the other teams.

We spoke to Stuart O'Grady this morning about his chances for the points jersey. "I feel pretty good today. I got over the mountains ok. I didn't expect to be in the first group yesterday but once I was there I was happy although I wasn't really satisfied with my sprint for 10th."

"I think it's pretty much impossible to reach Robbie or Baden. If there's a crash then maybe, but I don't think it's possible."

14:35 CEST    90 km/91 km to go
The 10 leaders seem to be holding a steady gap of just over 16 minutes in front of the peloton, which is being led by Credit Agricole. The best placed rider in the break, Peter Luttenberger (CSC) is now virtually in 8th on GC, ahead of Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), hence the chase. Also Euskaltel-Euskadi and Gerolsteiner have a rider on the front of the peloton, as they stand to lose GC positions too.

The riders are at halfway, and are enjoying the cool but still dry conditions.

14:43 CEST    93 km/88 km to go
The peloton is picking up speed, and has brought the gap back to 13'58 with 88 km to go. The high pace and the crosswinds are creating some gaps towards the back of the peloton.

The average speed after two hours is over 47 km/h as the peloton rides through the feed zone. Riders take their time to pick up their musettes, as they will need plenty of fuel for the finale. The front riders don't bother slowing down, but they will get food from their teammates later presumably.

14:53 CEST    103 km/78 km to go
Credit Agricole's Poilvet and Hinault are sitting on the front of the peloton, some 13'30 behind the 10 man breakaway, which has just reached the sprint at Saint-Symphorien. Bram de Groot takes the points uncontested ahead of Bossoni and Knaven.

This break has a good chance of staying clear to Bordeaux, unless Telekom get organised in the bunch to set something up for Zabel. In the break, Salvatore Commesso is probably the favourite if it comes down to a sprint, but it will probably break up by then.

O'Grady comes up to the front of the peloton bearing drinks for his two hard working teammates, which they appreciate.

15:03 CEST    
Gerolsteiner are now helping the chase along the long, straight roads through the pinewoods of the Landes, and the bunch is, if not exactly lined out in the gutter, at least a bit more strung out than it was earlier. Euskaltel as well are visible near the front; they have no sprinters, but a strong interest in the team classification, currently lying second behind CSC at 9.08, but with Luttenberger's presence in the break stretching that out a bit.

15:18 CEST    122 km/59 km to go
A few spots of rain are falling as the break approaches the second sprint in the village of Villagrains, still all riding smoothly together. Toto Commesso has rolled up his quarter sleeves for that tank-top look.

Another of the sprinters who we may yet see if the race comes back together is former world champion Romans Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola). This morning he told us "I hope very much that I'll be able to do something today. But you can't expect it to come down to a bunch sprint at this point in the race but we will watch the sprinter's teams to see what they will do. If they bring it together in the end then it's perfect but I might have to get in a break before the end." At the moment he has Paolo Bossoni in the break, so they won't be helping in the chase.

Leon Van Bon takes the second sprint ahead of the ever-hungry Bram De Groot (who seems to have been in every long breakaway this Tour, one of the highlights of a rather lacklustre race for Rabobank) and Christophe Mengin. The lead is still falling, but not fast enough for the bunch to catch them yet.

15:33 CEST    128 km/53 km to go
The first signs of friction appear in the break; Vicente Garcia Acosta is sitting on the back and not taking turns, and getting a bit of verbal for it; it looks more as though he is contemplating an attack than that he is too stuffed to come through...

The race is now within a few kilometres of the edge of Bordeaux, but the course loops around the outside of the city to approach it from the west; the roads are still arrow-straight and more or less flat through this great pine forest, and stay that way until the last 20 km or so.

Jean Delatour are now helping the chase.

15:42 CEST    137 km/44 km to go
Banesto now have a man up in the chase, which is a little strange given that they have Garcia Acosta in the break; it can only be assumed that it is a tactic to break up the rhythm of the chase by coming though at uneven speeds and leaving gaps, which does not usually happen at this level...

15:51 CEST    
Commesso - who is looking one of the more fluent of the riders in the break still - is sporting the new style strapless helmet, it appears, to complement his sleeveless top.

The break has lost half their maximum advantage, but it looks as though they have enough of a margin to stay away now; in fact it looks as though the chase has eased back to just hold the margin steady at around 8 minutes.

16:02 CEST    154 km/27 km to go
The break are now clearly going to stay away, and the bunch have settled down to a damage-limitation sort of speed, with Crédit Agricole still leading.

In front Garcia Acosta has started coming through again, but we are now close to the point when they will be starting to assess each other's sprinting abilities...

16:14 CEST    162 km/19 km to go
Gerolsteiner and Crédit Agricole are keeping the pace in the bunch moderately high; Bianchi have moved up en masse to a point just behind then, while the yellow jersey too is in a keeping-out-of-trouble spot; the gap is still pretty stable at around 9 minutes, which isn't going to be made up in the last 20 km (they are some 5 km behind on the road).

The weather is clouding over a bit as the action starts in the break.

16:17 CEST    164 km/17 km to go
A flurry of attacks in the break end up with Servais Knaven going off the front and a luckless Ivan Parra going off the back.

16:20 CEST    167 km/14 km to go
Clain is having difficulty in the somewhat disorganised chase; Knaven is still only just ahead, anything but clear yet. Bram De Groot, who has second and third stage placings to his name already this Tour, is trying to bridge the 12-second gap. Knaven is digging deep but looking close to the limit. De Groot's effort is unsuccessful.

16:24 CEST    171 km/10 km to go
The chasers ease up and start looking at each other, which could be fatal; Knaven ploughs on, trying to get every possible advantage from the photographer's motorbikes. It will be a long 10 km, but the urban roads get him out of sight a bit quicker, and as his win in Paris-Roubaix showed, he can do this sort of finishing effort.

16:26 CEST    
Knaven is clear and has the race director's car and a neutral service car behind him now, a sign that the gap is significant. The uncoordinated chase is helping him - he should do it from here.

Garcia Acosta is trying to jump clear to bridge the gap, but the others aren't having that. Then it is Leon Van Bon's turn, but Mengin goes with him and Commesso leads up the others.

16:31 CEST    176 km/5 km to go
Knaven is time trialling in, head down, hurting but keeping up the speed. The chase is getting going now, but it must be too late. Acosta is getting dropped, but there is another pause as the chasers start looking each other over, and that is virtually game over.

16:34 CEST    179 km/2 km to go
Knaven has 24 seconds under the 2 km banner as Van Bon has another go behind; he is not the smoothest of riders, but it's the result that counts here. Van Bon sits up and there are 8 chasers again.

16:38 CEST    finish
Flamme rouge, and we have a first Dutch stage winner for the year coming in now.

He looks back, grins, shakes a fist in the air, and relaxes to wave at someone in the crowd before he sits up to take the salute over the line.

Bossoni leads the eight chasers across is a tight sprint for second, ahead of Mengin, and then Parra limps in nearly 2 minutes down in 10th place.

US Postal lead the bunch through the outer suburbs with Armstrong fifth wheel (and Ullrich right behind him), keeping the pace up to prevent anything too silly happening. A Brioches La Boulangère train comes up, presumably for the centennial Damien Nazon.

FDJeux.com lead out for Cooke on the right; Nazon D. goes in the middle a touch too early, and then McEwen gets through, coming off Cooke's wheel and takes 11th ahead of Zabel and Cooke to close the gap on the green jersey by the odd point or two. Cooke is still in green for today (and leading the Centennial classification on the side), but only by 6 points, or one bonus sprint's worth; the competition is still wide open.

Thanks for following the stage with Cyclingnews; join us again tomorrow at 12.15 CEST for another flat stage to Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole.


1 Servais Knaven (Ned) Quick.Step-Davitamon                3.54.23
2 Paolo Bossoni (Ita) Vini Caldirola-So.Di                    0.17
3 Christophe Mengin (Fra) FDJeux.com 
4 Leon Van Bon (Ned) Lotto-Domo 
5 Salvatore Commesso (Ita) Saeco 
6 Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) iBanesto.com 
7 Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Team CSC 
8 Médéric Clain (Fra) Cofidis Le Crédit par Telephone 
9 Bram De Groot (Ned) Rabobank 
10 Ivan Parra (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca                        1.55
11 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto Domo                             8.12
12 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
13 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com

General classification after stage 17

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor              74.40.28
2 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                               1.07
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom                      2.45
4 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                      5.16
5 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                            5.25
6 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                                6.35
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                               8.08
8 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                     11.12
9 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                        16.05
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC                               16.12 

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