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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

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

Main Page    Stage Profile    Start List    Latest live report    Results

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

Stage 7 - Saturday, July 12: Lyon - Morzine, 230.5 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

10:49 CEST    
With the first mountains looming in the distance east of Lyon, tension will be high at the start of Saturday's Stage 7. Finally, the mountains begin! This is a long, tough stage and there should be an early break, but with the hard 14.3km climb up the Col de la Ramaz with 40km to go, this is where the selection will happen among the favourites. Expect a 20 rider group of Tour favourites to contest a tight sprint on the narrow roads of the ski resort of Morzine-Avoriaz.

Stage 7 climbs:

km 56: Col De Portes (14.8km@5.5%)
km 113.5: Cote du Mont des Princes (6km@7%)
km 140.5: Cote de Cruseilles (8.5km@4.2%)
km 205: Col de la Ramaz (14.3km9@6.9%)
km 218.5: Cote des Gets (4.2km@4.6%)

The riders are already on the road for a long neutralised section out of the city of Lyon.

11:14 CEST    
The flag drops and immediately there is an attack: Benoit Poilvet (Credit Agricole), Mederic Clain (Cofidis), Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) and Rolf Aldag (Telekom) power away from the bunch.

They're clearly very keen to get away, as they all take even turns as they head out of Lyon. The front part of the peloton is lined out in pursuit.

11:39 CEST    22 km/208 km to go
The Bettini quartet is motoring along, 55" in front of the bunch. Nicolas Portal (Ag2r) has attacked the peloton, and is trying to bridge up on his own. Victor Hugo Pena in yellow is also prominent at the front, chasing down breaks. But the break is very serious about staying away.

11:44 CEST    27 km/203 km to go
There are only two intermediate sprints today: At Anglefort (km 102.5), and Mieussy (km 193.5). There's not really much in it for the green jersey wearer Alessandro Petacchi today.

Jose Enrique Gutierrez, who earned some notoriety by being the first rider to crash in stage 1, has taken off the front of the peloton. He gets a Credit Agricole rider with him as a policeman, but then some support from his Kelme teammate Toni Tauler. The gap has come down to just under a minute, having reached 1'08.

11:47 CEST    30 km/200 km to go
US Postal-Berry Floor has now got to the front of the peloton, setting a controlling tempo. But that doesn't stop Ignacio Gutierrez (Kelme) from counter attacking, in pursuit of his teammates. He sits up though, as there is a danger that he'll bring the peloton back to the break.

Weather today: hot and sunny, but not too strong a breeze.

11:52 CEST    34 km/196 km to go
There is a crash near the front of the peloton! A Kelme rider is down (Tauler), and an FDJeux rider (Cooke), and Bertolini (Alessio). They're not seriously hurt, although Tauler's bike is pretty twisted. He waits for another one, and is really annoyed, hitting the team car while Vicente Belda personally gives him a new one.

In the front of the peloton, US Postal has slowed down the tempo. It is interesting to see the yellow jersey doing some work though.

The break is slowly getting away now, and has 1'52. They're safe for the time being.

12:13 CEST    46 km/184 km to go
They're on the first climb of the day, the Col des Portes, a Cat. 2, 15 km climb. Bettini and Aldag's pace is a little high at the start, dropping Clain and Poilvet. But he waits a little while and Poilvet gets back on.

4 minutes Behind them, Richard Virenque (Quick.Step) and Jesus Manzano (Kelme) have attacked the peloton.

12:17 CEST    45 km/185 km to go
On the first climb now, the long draggy Col de Portes. The leaders, with Bettini driving hard, have dropped Médéric Clain who is now in no man's land, and are still moving away. At the back of the race, the green vest of Angelo Petacchi has lost contact with the race already.

Jésus Manzano (Kelme) and Richard Virenque (Quick.Step) are trying to bridge the gap, but are not making up a lot of ground.

12:27 CEST    50 km/180 km to go
This morning Quick.Step - Davitamon boss Patrick Lefevre told us that the team would try to attack today, particularly David Cañada, Paolo Bettini and Richard Virenque. He thinks that Virenque is in much better shape than this time last year - "His legs are good, but sometimes it's not just about the legs; you also have to play it very cool."

Half way up the climb Bettini is still leading the break with his Italian champion's jersey fully unzipped; it's hot out there. Aldag too is flapping in the breeze, while Poilvet is looking more dapper.

Virenque has jumped clear of Manzano now. At the back of the race, Petacchi has a couple of team mates with him to help nurse him through what will obviously be a very tough day.

12:31 CEST    52 km/178 km to go
Petacchi is looking very wobbly, signalling for his team car, and having trouble. Nope, he's waiting for the broom wagon, by all appearances.

Manzano, riding alone, has crashed and is prone by the roadside receiving medical attention. It appears that he may just have flaked out with the heat, which is worrying.

Petacchi has had enough, and is into the team car. He looks pretty rough and was all over the road. Despite not wanting to be compared to another certain Italian sprinter, Petacchi's out on the first climb of the first mountain stage, having won four stages of the Tour.

12:40 CEST    56 km/174 km to go
At the top of the col Bettini sprints through to take the points ahead of Aldag and Poilvet. Virenque is closing gradually on his team-mate, and crests the summit in fifth place around three minutes down.

The descent is fairly gradual and Bettini is stamping a big gear as he takes a feed. He is now the leader in the mountains competition, as Mengin was outside the points. However, Virenque, who has now caught up Clain, may have something to say about that.

13:09 CEST    80 km/150 km to go
Both the break and the chasers pushed it fairly hard on the steeper parts of the descent, with Clain in particular being slightly too cavalier about some of the corners.

The bunch has not really reacted seriously to the attack yet. We heard from US Postal-Berry Floor directeur sportif (that's the American for "team manager") Johan Bruyneel this morning. There was palpable tension around the US Postal team bus on the day of the first mountain stage. Although most observers expect a fairly inconclusive result today, the real question is, how is Armstrong? Well, the first day... it's a hard stage, you know. The Col de la Ramaz is a hard climb and it's a very hot, long stage. The team plan is to stay together as well as possible. We're ahead so it's not up to us to attack. We'll wait for the attacks and see how everyone is. Are you talking to Lance a lot on the radio? What's Lance's mindset? The first two days he was a little quiet but now he's back on the radio...

Virenque and Clain are closing on the three leaders, although Bettini is not making it easy for them; they are still pulling away from the bunch, but there is a long way to go yet. The US Postal team is now starting to react and is riding en masse at the front of the bunch,

13:24 CEST    92 km/138 km to go
Aldag and Bettini have a quick chat, with Bettini gesturing behind him, so it looks as though he wants to wait for Virenque now. The Quick.Step team car comes up to talk to Aldag as well; presumably some interpreting is required.

The US Postal team, with a seven rider train including yellow-clad domestique Victor Hugo Pena, have the bunch lined out and are now holding the gap steady at around 7 minutes.

The break do indeed ease up and allow Virenque and Clain to join them just before the feed at Béon.

13:40 CEST    100 km/130 km to go
The gap comes down to the six minute mark, but possibly more as a result of the reorganisation at the front than the chase, which is containing rather than hunting down the leaders.

The first of two bonus sprints is coming up soon; probably the only rider in the break with any serious interest in it will be the virtually spotty Paolo Bettini, although his 43 points is still a way behind the virtually-green-by-default Baden Cooke.

13:45 CEST    102 km/128 km to go
Bettini does indeed take the sprint ahead of Clain, although no obvious sprinting took place. The leaders are edging away from the chasing bunch, which is still led by a US Postal train, but is not as strung out as it has been; the posties are not getting any assistance from the other GC contenders' teams.

We are now approaching the second of the day's climbs, the Côte du Mont des Princes, shorter and sharper than the first one but ranked equally as a second category climb.

13:54 CEST    112 km/118 km to go
Approaching half distance, at the foot of the climb, the five leaders have a few seconds under seven minutes' lead. Early on the climb Virenque puts in an acceleration and quickly loses everyone except his teammate Bettini; Poilvet and Aldag grind back up to them, but Clain looks to be distanced.

Behind them, Jaan Kirsipuu too will not be featuring in the sprint finishes; he has packed. He is joined by crash victim Olaf Pollack and Marco Velo.

14:10 CEST    115 km/115 km to go
On the climb ONCE and Bianchi vests are now visible behind the US Postal team; there is not a lot of flat between here and the finish now.

Floyd Landis, one of that US Postal train, told us this morning "My job today is to work for Lance at the beginning and keep the situation under control", and that's just what he's doing.

In front Virenque leads up the final stretches of the climb and takes the points ahead of Bettini, with Poilvet and Aldag just about hanging on. Bettini is virtually spotty with 40 points.

The bunch crests the climb together with only a little flurry of action for the minor placings at the prime, but Halgand and Beneteau get a little way clear and then decide to push on ahead with something of a counterattack. Nope, they've sat up again.

14:33 CEST    134 km/96 km to go
Nothing major to report on the descent, apart from a flurry of visits by domestiques to team cars. The next climb is the third-category côte de Cruseilles, an 8km drag with a fairly modest gradient; after the descent there is a long false flat up to the second sprint and then the day's biggest climb. The break have stretched the gap out to eight minutes, but it is still a manageable gap for the teams behind.

As yesterday, we see the maillot jaune himself going back to the cars to get bottles, which seems a bit like lèse-majesté to the traditionalist.

Both the break and the bunch are rolling up the shallow climb pretty steadily; it looks as though the fireworks from the other climbers' teams will have to wait until the first-cat Col de la Ramaz. Our roving reporters heard from Saeco manager Giuseppe Martinelli this morning:

Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) signs autographs.
Photo: © C.Henry/CN
"We'll wait today and see what happens. We failed our first objective, the TTT; we're hoping we don't fail our next tests, which are today and Sunday. Simoni is feeling good but is anxious to see how things are going to go today. Certainly there are a lot of people who want to do well today. So we'll have to wait and see how the mountains go. Glomser is feeling good - he had a good first week; he had good legs and I think he can be a big help to Gilberto in the mountains. His job will be to stay close to Simoni on the climbs and to give him as much support as possible."

15:00 CEST    141 km/89 km to go
Richard Virenque again takes the climber's points ahead of his Quick.Step team-mate Paolo Bettini; it looks as though Bettini will only be leading the competition for another few kilometres, if Virenque has his eyes on the maillot à pois.

Médéric Clain (Cofidis) is still soldiering on with cheerful resignation but drifting back towards the bunch. The team has also lost Luis Perez today, but they do have hopes for Millar and Moncoutié today. This morning Millar told us "I'm very excited and positive about today's stage. I don't know quite what's going to happen but I'm really focused on doing well. I think there's going to be a lot of action."

Brad McGee is in a bit of trouble on the climb.

15:21 CEST    150 km/80 km to go
Clain has been caught. At La Sappey, at the beginning of a bit of a descent, the lead is more or less steady around 8 minutes.

The race so far is a bit behind the slowest scheduled speed (36 kph average), so there is clearly some fairly measured riding going on behind - when the action really starts that lead may come down very quickly indeed.

Again Pena is back amongst the team cars, his pockets and every available space stuffed with bottles. This morning he told us "I'm feeling very good today. It's such a very nice dream to still have the yellow jersey, but today I'm going to start to work for Lance."

15:32 CEST    162 km/68 km to go

The peloton is flying down the descent of the Cote de Cruseilles, with US Postal still on the front, as they have been all day. The gap to Bettini's group is still around the 8 minute mark, with 68 km to go.

Virenque took the 10 points on the climb, followed by Bettini, Poilvet, Aldag and Clain, the latter being caught by the peloton shortly afterwards.

Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) has abandoned.

15:36 CEST 167 km/63 km to go
Victor Hugo Pena is doing domestique duties again, going back to the USPS team car for bottles. He returns to the peloton laden with red bidons. The peloton slows for a while, with some general feeding going on.

Bettini, Virenque, Aldag and Poilvet are looking tired, but still have a handy eight minute lead.

15:39 CEST 171 km/59 km to go
Michael Blaudzun (CSC) has crashed on the descent, but he looks relatively unhurt as he gets a bike change from his team car. He's on his way again,through the caravan.

The peloton has to stop to wait for a train. That'll give the break another 30" or so. The bunch get going again, with yellow jersey Pena leading out.

15:43 CEST 175 km/45 km to go
Clain has been caught. At La Sappey, at the beginning of a bit of a descent, the lead is more or less steady around 8 minutes.

The race so far is a bit behind the slowest scheduled speed (36 kph average), so there is clearly some fairly measured riding going on behind - when the action really starts that lead may come down very quickly indeed.

Again Pena is back amongst the team cars, his pockets and every available space stuffed with bottles. This morning he told us "I'm feeling very good today. It's such a very nice dream to still have the yellow jersey, but today I'm going to start to work for Lance."

15:52 CEST 178 km/42 km to go
The status quo is being maintained as the leaders approach the Col de la Ramaz, with 8'10 to the peloton. They've been out there from kilometre zero, and are looking good. US Postal have been leading the peloton from almost the beginning, setting a controlling pace all day.

16:05 CEST    186 km/44 km to go
The long main road drag, climbing almost (but not completely, I'm sure) imperceptibly sees the Postal-led peloton gradually regaining the ground on the four leaders that they lost at the level crossing. They aren't really stretching it; the bunch is still in arrowhead formation.

Allowing Virenque 8 minutes at the foot of the main climb of the day might well be a rash move for US Postal in the medium term, but is it a wise expenditure of energy this early in the mountains?

The sprint at Mieussy (37 km to go) marks the beginning of the serious climbing. We are into the business end of the race now.

16:14 CEST    193 km/37 km to go
Bettini leads Aldag through the points sprint (again, without any opposition) and the leaders are now onto the foot of the 14 km Col de la Ramaz. Bettini sets the pace for the moment; behind the bunch has changed shape, with riders massing at the front for the beginning of the climb.

Virenque takes up the pace from Bettini and the Aldag and Poilvet are quickly dropped, left to climb at their own pace. Nice move by the Quick.Step pair, but will Virenque be waiting for Bettini for long?

As the bunch tackles the lower slopes Victor Hugo Pena hits the front in yellow, a glorious sight even if he's just riding tempo for Lance. Riders are in trouble at the back already, including Stuart O'Grady, who must be well stuffed from yesterday.

16:23 CEST    197 km/33 km to go
A surprising Rolf Aldag grinds his way back up to Virenque and Bettini. Virenque looks a touch miffed, and then it is Bettini's turn to blow, and Virenque just has Aldag for company. And then Aldag attacks Virenque...

16:28 CEST    199 km/31 km to go
Virenque holds Aldag at a steady gap, but it's not quite the Virenque of old, clearly. He comes back up to Aldag and sets the pace.

Behind Pena is in trouble and dropped from the front group as the bunch splits up. He won't be in yellow tonight.

16:32 CEST    200 km/30 km to go
George Hincapie is leading a trio of US Postal riders ahead of Armstrong who looks not entirely at ease, but then again he's played that game before.

Ahead Richard Virenque is displaying his not particularly hairy chest , vest flapping in the wind. Behind, Axel Merckx is among those in trouble.

16:35 CEST    
Hincapie has done his job, and drifts off the back of the seriously diminished bunch.

Simoni is reported as being in trouble... And then we have the first attack on Armstrong - it's Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) who jumps clear - and he has a strong team-mate up ahead in Aldag, who is still riding bit and bit with Virenque.

16:38 CEST    204 km/26 km to go
I typed too soon there - Virenque attacks Aldag on the steepest section of the climb, a kilometre of 10% or so with another 4 km to the summit.

16:42 CEST    204.5 km/25.5 km to go
Botero too is in real trouble holding the pace set by the US Postal boys, who are closing on Virenque. He has blown badly and is passed by a lot of other dropped riders. Garzelli too is not enjoying himself much.

Vinokourov catches Bettini and flies straight past him.

16:46 CEST    25 km/205 km to go
Virenque is through the steepest section and is climbing steadily on the big ring, 3 km from the summit. The Armstrong group is barely large enough to be called the bunch now. The orange jersey of Iban Mayo has moved up to ride alongside the US Postal train. No news of Vinokourov for a while. We haven't seen Hamilton yet; may still be in there.

16:51 CEST    208 km/22 km to go
Vinokourov is back in the Armstrong group. The French public are ecstatic at the sight of Virenque alone in front as he crests the col alone. He will be using all his descending skills to keep his remaining gap open.

Aldag is just over a minute down over the top. Behind, it looks as though the Postal tempo - Beltran leading now - has discouraged any more attacks.

Poilvet comes over three minutes down.

About thirty riders come over with Armstrong, just around the four minute mark. The brave if unwise Hamilton is definitely among them.

With Bettini having gone backwards fast, Virenque is now clear in the lead in the spotty jersey competition.

17:04 CEST    217 km/13 km to go
Virenque is quickly down the winding descent and has started on the last climb, the third category Côte des Gets.

The bunch is definitely taking it more steadily on the descent, with the US Postal riders having a chat. Looks as though they're happy to let Virenque go for today, and perhaps have the hassle of defending the jersey for the next few days.

17:12 CEST    221.5 km/8.5 km to go
Coming up to Les Gets, Virenque is stretching the lead out a bit again. Simultaneously the laughing group comes over the top of the Col de la Ramaz with almost a full complement of Australians (apart from Michael Rogers, who is in the Armstrong group).

Virenque is putting everything into it now on the descent to the finish, mouth open and rocking and rolling on the bike. He looks a cert for the yellow as well as the spotty jersey now - he needs to finish about 2 minutes up on Armstrong. Aldag too is still out there in no-man's land.

17:15 CEST    228 km/2 km to go
Virenque is going to win barring accidents, as he comes into the outskirts of the ski resort of Morzine. He will take the yellow jersey - which he has only worn for one day in his career hitherto; can he defend it tomorrow?

17:19 CEST    
Virenque takes the stage, pushing it to the line, and does the kiss-and-one-finger trademark salute. Behind Sylvain Chavanel has attacked from the Armstrong group as Virenque is being swamped on the line.

Aldag comes in at 2.30 in second, an excellent ride for the big non-climber.

Chavanel's coup d'orgueil brings him third place at 3.49, and Michael Rogers gets in a few seconds ahead of the Armstrong group at 4.06. Armstrong himself rolls in in 15th spot. Hamilton, Millar and Van de Wouwer are all among that group, while Santi Botero has struggled in over 10 minutes down in company with Paolo Bettini.

Virenque takes the lead on both general classification and in the mountains competition (the first time anyone has done that on one day since Merckx in 1971); his son and daughter accompany him for the first of his podium appearances. When he gets in, Baden Cooke should inherit the green jersey from the now absent Petacchi.


1 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick.Step-Davitamon     6.06.03
2 Rolf Aldag (Ger) Team Telekom                      2.29
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches la Boulangere      3.45
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick.Step-Davitamon          4.03
5 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Vini Caldirola              4.06
6 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                       
7 Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Alessio                          
8 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis, Credit Par Telephone      
9 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                    
10 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom     

General classification after stage 7

1 Richard Virenque (Fra) Quick.Step-Davitamon

2 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor        2.37
3 Rolf Aldag (Ger) Team Telekom                      2.48
4 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor      2.59
5 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor          3.03
6 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                    3.09
7 Jorg Jaksche (Ger) ONCE-Eroski                     3.14
8 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor         3.15

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