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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 (auto-refresh)     Results

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

Stage 8 - Sunday, July 13: Sallanches - L'Alpe d'Huez, 219 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: 11:20 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

08:47 CEST    
Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of stage 8 of the Tour, brought to you in association with T-Mobile. Today's stage between Sallanches and L'Alpe d'Huez is the second mountain stage, and probably the most important in terms of the overall classification, although it's quite possible that the final yellow jersey wearer won't be determined until next week.

L'Alpe d'Huez is the most renowned of all Tour mountaintop stage finishes. Fausto Coppi won the first ever Tour De France stage to finish on L'Alpe in 1952, and in the last half-century of racing, many a career has been made with a victory on L'Alpe d'Huez. After Saturday's barbeque, Stage 8 will be even hotter, with temps in the mid-30's. Richard Virenque's Quick.Step-Davitamon team will try to defend his lead, while Lance Armstrong and his USPS-Berry Floor squad won't have to control the race. But two questions are still open: whether Armstrong will go for his second stage win on l'Alpe and whether Virenque's Quick.Step team will defend his Maillot Jaune. There is certainly no love lost between USPS director Johan Bruyneel and Quick.Step-Davitamon manager Patrick Lefevre so this might condition the outcome of the stage

In addition to the finishing climb, this stage also contains the notorious Col du Telegraphe/Col du Galibier combination, a total of 30 km of climbing with a short downhill section to Valloire in the middle. The Galibier is a tougher climb than l'Alpe, but its position in the stage (with 70 km to go) means that the decisive attack will probably not go on its unrelenting slopes.

Climbs for stage 8

Kilometre 10: Cote du Megeve (9.9 kilometres at 5.1 percent)
Kilometre 30: Côte des Rafforts (2.7 kilometres at 8.5 percent)
Kilometre 133.5: Col du Telegraphe (12.1 kilometres at 6.8 percent)
Kilometre 157: Col du Galibier (18.5 kilometres at 6.7 percent)
Kilometre 219: l'Alpe d'Huez (14.1 kilometres at 8 percent)

Sprints for stage 8

km 52 Albertville
km 121 Saint-Michel-De-Maurienne

11:25 CEST    3 km/216 km to go
They're racing in the eighth stage, departing in bright sunshine from Sallanches. The peloton is somewhat reduced however, with three Fassa Bortolo riders not starting: Aitor Gonzalez, Sven Montgomery and Volodymir Gustov. After Alessandro Petacchi and Marco Velo pulled out yesterday, Fassa is down to just four men!

The reason given for their non-start over radio Tour is food poisoning. And Nicola Loda is being dropped on the first climb out of Sallanches.

Gilberto Simoni is also at the rear of the bunch, which is being led by Quick.Step-Davitamon.

11:33 CEST    5 km/214 km to go
The start of the stage has been quite steady, as the Quick.Step led peloton leads up the Cote de Megeve, a Cat. 3 climb. There is a long day ahead, and no-one is in a hurry just yet.

In a television interview following stage 7, new maillot vert Baden Cooke (FDjeux.com) was asked what he thought of Alessandro Petacchi packing it in for the 2003 TdF on the first major climb of the mountain stage.

"It just shows he's a bit soft, really," said the young Australian sprinter. "Apparently yesterday on the last climb he was actually dropped and two of his team-mates pushed him for a kilometre to get back on, and then he won."

"It's like putting (world sprint champion) Sean Eadie in the race, pushing him to the finish and then he blows your doors off. Like, of course he's going to win."

11:37 CEST    7 km/212 km to go
The first attack of the day has been made by Alberto Lopez de Munain (Euskaltel). He is chased by Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola) and the pair are now together with three km to go until the top of the climb.

Juan Antonio Flecha leads a counter attack, but Quick.Step start to ride harder and close it down. Flecha goes again, and catches the two leaders, but there are another five riders close behind who close the gap. The peloton isn't eager to let them go either.

11:40 CEST    9 km/210 km to go
It's all back together again, with 1 km to go until the top of the climb. Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) sets a strong tempo on the front of the bunch, with Virenque in third wheel. The peloton is stretched out.

11:44 CEST    10 km/209 km to go
Bettini winds up the pace at the top for Virenque to take the 10 points, despite an attempt from Halgand to steal them. It's a rare sight to see the yellow jersey sprinting for mountain points!

Second over the climb was Eddy Mazzoleni (Vini Caldirola) followed by Halgand, Lopez de Munain and Angel Casero (Team Bianchi).

Nick Gates (Lotto-Domo) has been dropped off the back.

Angel Casero (Team Bianchi) leads the way down the other side, getting a small gap as he negotiates the roundabouts. The peloton is right behind him.

11:51 CEST    15 km/204 km to go
Jens Voigt has joined Angel Casero and Juan Antonio Flecha on the descent of the Megeve, as the peloton splits into two trying to chase them.

12:00 CEST    23 km/196 km to go
Mikel Artetxe (Euskaltel) has attacked with Nicolas Portal (Ag2r) on the descent now, and have a 15" gap to the first peloton. Didier Rous (Brioches la Boulangere) is in pursuit. The descent is extremely technical, and Rous takes the corners perfectly to close the gap. The second peloton is reported at nearly a minute behind the first. And they haven't even reached the hard climbs today...

12:11 CEST    30 km/189 km to go
Rous, Artetxe and Portal have been caught as Virenque takes the points on the climb of Côte des Rafforts (Cat. 3). Hincapie took second in front of Armstrong and Moreau. Brad McGee was also right up there, looking better than yesterday when he suffered from a bad case of hunger flat.

12:18 CEST    38 km/181 km to go
Nicolas Portal (Ag2r) has attacked for the second time, and is now on the descent of the Côte des Rafforts. The peloton, is still split in several places, is descending quickly, led by green jersey wearer Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com). Nicola Loda has given up, another victim of the Fassa Bortolo food poisoning. That leaves them with just three riders in the race. Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo) attacks the peloton once it hits the valley. However Quick.Step-Davitamon and US Postal won't let him go clear. Portal is still in front.

12:30 CEST    45 km/174 km to go
Verbrugghe is caught, as McGee does a big turn on the front of the peloton. The sprint is approaching in 7 km and the lone leader Nicolas Portal could well take the 6 points.

12:34 CEST    52 km/167 km to go
Nicolas Portal rides through Albertville in the lead, and takes the 6 sprint points. Behind him, the peloton is strung out but is only going for 4 points.

McGee leads out Cooke, but it's Hushovd who attacks first. Cooke gets his wheel but doesn't quite get there and takes two points. O'Grady was fourth.

12:38 CEST    55 km/164 km to go
The peloton slows for Virenque, who stops for a nature break. But a Brioches la Boulangere rider attacks. He gets yelled at by the Quick.Step team. That is not considered the done thing. Bettini catches the young Brioches la Boulangere rider and gives him a total serve. I think he got the full character reference from the feisty Italian.

12:45 CEST    60 km/159 km to go
Pierrick Fedrigo (Credit Agricole), Maryan Hary (Brioches) and Andy Flickinger (Ag2r) attack, and Portal is all but caught. The peloton is lined out again in pursuit, with Quick.Step leading the way. Virenque is by now back to the front again.

There is a second peloton, with Simoni in it, chasing back on. However it's had a tough time as the pace has been so high (45 km/h, including two climbs). Simoni has been in the second peloton from the first climb.

The Brioches riders are now being quite aggressive, and Frank Renier has now caught Fedrigo in front. Axel Merckx joins them, and they finally catch Portal. There are four leaders now.

Daniele Nardello (Telekom) is trying to close the gap.

12:57 CEST    66 km/153 km to go
Nardello is caught, leaving the four leaders, Merckx, Fedrigo, Renier, and Portal with a 44" gap to the peloton. There are still a lot of counter attacks, but Quick.Step is setting a high enough tempo so that they aren't staying away.

It seems to have settled down at last now, and the leading four should get a decent gap. There is a tailwind through the valley which is helping the pace along. The best placed rider on GC in the break is Franck Renier, who is 94th at 18'14 down, so the break is no threat to any of the GC riders.

Cyclingnews spoke to Tour de France competition director Jean-Francois Pescheux this morning and asked his opinion of the stage. "On one hand you could expect to see Armstrong ride en patron like the boss. But I think the Spanish riders are also ambitious today so it's going to be really hard to predict."

13:15 CEST    81 km/138 km to go
The pace is still high in the Quick.Step controlled peloton, but the four man break is gradually pulling clear. Merckx, Renier, Fedrigo and Portal have 2'00 now after 81 kilometres.

Lance Armstrong's US Postal-Berry Floor team is also very well placed near the front of the peloton. This situation will suit them perfectly, after a long day yesterday. They won't have to work until much later in the race.

13:23 CEST    
The situation is still stable, with Quick.Step-Davitamon leading the peloton 2'30 behind four breakaways: Nicolas Portal (Ag2r), Franck Renier (Brioches), Pierrick Fedrigo (CA), Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo).

Behind Quick.Step, is US Postal, and behind them is Vini Caldirola. It all looks quite organised for the time being.

13:32 CEST    95 km/124 km to go
As the race continues along the flat valley towards the Col du Telegraphe (km 125), the four breakaways are inching away from the peloton. The latest gap is 2'50, so it's unlikely that Quick.Step will relax its pace too much to let them get completely clear. However, they'll have to get 18 minutes plus before Renier threatens Virenque's yellow jersey...

13:34 CEST    98 km/121 km to go
Cyclingnews spoke with ONCE's director Manolo Saiz this morning, to find out the tactics for today. "Azevedo, Beloki, Serrano and Jaksche were all in the first group yesterday and that's as much as I can ask for now," he said. "They're all going well. It's hard to predict the tactics today. An opportunity might suddenly open up and we'll take it."

His comments were echoed by Jorg Jaksche, who said "I'm tired but I think everybody is. We've had all these long stages on the Tour and it's killing us. Postal Service looked very strong yesterday. Our plan today is no plan. We're just watching and will see what happens in the race. That's kind of our idea."

Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano added, "It's a tricky stage because the flats in the beginning will allow a lot of chances for a break to go. It will be a really hard job if ONCE tries to control the stage so we'll see how it goes. Beloki is very keen on the win. When we get to Alpe d'Huez we'll all just stay very close to Beloki."

13:47 CEST    105 km/114 km to go
The four man break has stabilised at 3'30 in front of the peloton, which is being led all the time by Quick.Step for Richard Virenque.

Nicolas Portal was the first attacker in the break, getting clear on the descent of the Côte des Rafforts after 35 km. He was joined by Merckx, Renier and Fedrigo after 60 km.

The peloton is travelling quickly, but most of the GC favourites are in it, despite some problems for Simoni and Millar at the beginning (they were caught in a second peloton).

There are now four teams in blocks at the front of the peloton: Quick.Step, followed by US Postal, ONCE and Team Bianchi. It still looks quite orderly. A few ONCE riders are dropping back to the team cars for bottles. Saeco's Bertagnolli has about 10 bidons stuck under his jersey, as he takes them back to his teammates!

14:00 CEST    114 km/105 km to go
Merckx, Fedrigo, Renier and Portal will hit the Col du Telegraph with about a 3'30 lead, as the peloton hasn't let them get completely clear. The breakaways are all looking quite relaxed, cruising along on the tops of the bars, eating, drinking but perhaps not making merry.

Behind them, the peloton looks like a dart, with the narrow point of the Quick.Step team followed by the main body, which is somewhat wider.

14:07 CEST    121 km/98 km to go
The four leaders reach St Michel de Maurienne with 3'18 to the peloton. The intermediate sprint is not contested, and Axel Merckx takes first place, from Fedrigo and Reiner. Portal is in fourth spot. Now the climb begins - they've got 30 km of uphill in front of them, separated by about 5 km of descent.

The peloton is sitting up a bit now, eating and drinking and getting ready for the climb.

The weather today is still incredible - bright blue skies, warm sun and a light breeze.

14:13 CEST    123 km/96 km to go
Fedrigo and Reinier get a little gap to Merckx and Portal on the lower slopes of the Telegraphe. They start to pull away, but still look quite relaxed.

The peloton is now on the climb, still led by Quick.Step. But Telekom and ibanesto jerseys start to move forward now. Virenque's yellow jersey is easy to spot, about 10 riders back.

Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) is dropped at the foot of the climb, as are Bramati (Quick.Step), Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) and Cuesta (Cofidis). Sandy Casar doesn't look too good either, as he cruises out the back with O'Grady and Hushovd.

14:17 CEST    125 km/94 km to go
Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) is the first rider to attack the peloton, and no-one chases him.

In front, Fedrigo (CA) and Renier (Brioches) have definitively dropped Merckx and Portal.

At the back of the peloton, Santi Botero is in trouble again.

14:21 CEST    126 km/93 km to go
The pace of Kurt Van de Wouwer in front of the peloton is gradually shedding riders out the back. Baden Cooke, Erik Zabel, Davide Rebellin...

Fedrigo is now alone in the lead, followed by Renier, Portal, Merckx, and Glomser (who is over 3'00 behind).

14:27 CEST    128 km/91 km to go
The Fassa Bortolo team has issued a press statement saying that the reason for six of its riders abandoning in the last two days is a virus that has hit the team. Marco Velo was one of the first to get it, followed by Petacchi who retired yesterday. Then Gonzalez, Gustov, Montgomery and Loda succumbed. That leaves only Basso, Bruseghin and Cioni in the race.

Fedrigo is still 3'17 in front of the peloton, while Glomser has closed to within 2'30 and has caught Merckx, who is standing still nearly.

14:30 CEST    129 km/90 km to go
Pierrick Fedrigo is making good progress on the Telegraphe, with 4 km to go until the top. Behind him are Franck Renier, Nicolas Portal and Gerrit Glomser, who is just about to catch Portal.

The peloton is still being led by three Quick.Step riders, with Virenque in fourth wheel. Bettini is doing a lot of work.

Simoni is at the rear of the peloton, but hanging in there. Glomser will be Saeco's leader now, as he's been in good form this year, winning the Tour of Austria. He can sprint well too.

14:35 CEST    
Fedrigo is greeted by large crowds as he nears the top of the Col du Telegraphe. He'll take the points of course, with Renier and Glomser following behind him.

Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour) is right at the back of the bunch, which is still fairly large. Nicolas Portal is caught by the peloton, leaving just three riders in front.

14:40 CEST    132 km/87 km to go
Renier is caught by Glomser a couple of km from the top of the climb. The Austrian is now on his way up to Fedrigo, who has 1 km to go to the summit.

Angel Casero (Team Bianchi) gets some bottles from the car to give to his teammates.

14:43 CEST    133.5 km/85.5 km to go
Pierrick Fedrigo (Credit Agricole) finally reaches the top of the Telegraphe, with a 1'00 lead over Gerrit Glomser, who is bridging up after attacking at the base of the climb. Franck Renier (Brioches) is the third man on the road, followed by the Bettini led peloton. Virenque takes the fourth place on the climb in front of Garzelli, then the rest of the peloton, which is 2'15 behind Fedrigo at the top. Now there is a short descent into Valloire before the 18 km Galibier begins.

14:52 CEST    139 km/80 km to go
Fedrigo has now started the Galibier, cheered on by thousands as he makes his way up the flatter, lower part of the climb. Glomser is closing in on him, wearing his helmet in the non-UCI approved manner (no strap under the chin). A number of riders do this, even though they're supposed to keep them on until the final climb of the day (if it's the finish climb).

14:56 CEST    141 km/78 km to go
The peloton is playing a waiting game at the moment, with Quick.Step setting tempo for Virenque. Jan Ullrich is well placed on the yellow jersey's wheel, with Lance Armstrong close behind. On the right hand side of the road, Christophe Moreau shows his face.

US Postal has now taken over the tempo making. The pace increases, with the Czech rider Pavel Padrnos in front.

14:59 CEST    143 km/76 km to go
The Postal train has increased the tempo substantially, and has already carved 20" off Fedrigo's 2'20 lead. Glomser is closing in on the Frenchman at 35".

15:02 CEST    144 km/75 km to go
French TV shows the heart rate of Russian climber Alexandre Botcharov (Ag2r). It's sitting at 158, which is well below his maximum of 195. That's a pretty comfortable working rate on a climb like this.

Bettini and Paolini have dropped off the back of the peloton, their job done for today. Virenque could well hang onto yellow, and certainly he'll keep the polka dot jersey.

15:06 CEST    146 km/73 km to go
Glomser can now see Fedrigo just ahead of him, and will close the gap soon on this long and formidable climb. He does so with 11 km to the summit.

The peloton is fragmenting all the time, and Simoni is off the back again. Padrnos has pulled off, having finished his work.

15:11 CEST    
Glomser catches and passes Fedrigo, who is flagging a bit in the heat on this climb. The Austrian is now on his own in front, with the peloton about 1'30 behind him.

Floyd Landis is leading the blue train at the moment. Ullrich is right near the front next to Armstrong.

Simoni fights hard and gets onto the back of the (still 40 strong) bunch again, together with Halgand. But they don't last too long.

15:13 CEST    148 km/71 km to go
Fedrigo gives it up, having been away for 85 km or so. Five US Postal riders (including Armstrong) lead the peloton. There are a lot of pink ONCE and Telekom jerseys there, a few Euskaltels (Iban Mayo), Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Georg Totschnig, and David Millar. Simoni fights his way onto the back, yet again.

15:18 CEST    149 km/70 km to go
Virenque is a fair way back in the peloton now, as the Postal train keeps the pressure on. There are still around 35 riders in the bunch, with all the favourites. There are six USPS men at the front now, as one had gone back to get bottles (not in yellow this time).

Glomser is being caught by the peloton.

15:21 CEST    150 km/69 km to go
Millar is dropped from the peloton as Glomser is absorbed by the boys in blue. Landis is still leading the bunch, with 7 km to go until the top of the Galibier.

Jorg Ludewig is at the back of the bunch, where teammate Simoni is. Simoni is in the company of Botcharov, whose heart rate must be a little higher now.

15:26 CEST    151 km/68 km to go
Simoni seems to like riding 10m behind the peloton, while Jorg Ludewig behind him is suffering greatly. Richard Virenque is towards the back of the bunch, but will have to find his sprinting legs soon to take the points and the €5000 prize (Souvenir Henri Desgranges) on top of the Galibier.

Hamilton is still in the peloton, suffering as usual but hanging on ok.

15:28 CEST    
Hincapie takes over the tempo making now in front, with Rubiera behind him. Armstrong, Ullrich, Moreau, Beloki and Garzelli are all in close contact.

15:32 CEST    153 km/66 km to go
Simoni starts to lose the dwindling pack with 4 km to go until the top, but he should be able to fight his way back on. The pace is high, but there are no attacks. This is how US Postal dominates the Tour, because it takes a really good climber to break their rhythm.

Simoni comes back for the nth time.

15:35 CEST    154 km/65 km to go
Paolo Bettini's group is 2 km behind the leading group which is approaching the summit of the Galibier. Bettini did most of his work on the Telegraphe to ensure Virenque got some mountain points.

George Hincapie is still on the front of the peloton, pedalling easily with his teammates in tow.

Simoni is dropped again, and is now 30m behind. A teammate drops back to help him.

15:41 CEST    156 km/63 km to go
Fans on l'Alpe d'Huez
Photo: © C.Henry/CN
The top part of the Galibier is steep, and the peloton slows as it crawls its way to the top. The crowds aren't really thick here, but on L'Alpe d'Huez they're huge.

Simoni and Ludewig are trying to limit the damage to the peloton.

Hincapie and Landis have dropped off, but they should get back on on the descent. Beltran takes over the pace making in front.

15:45 CEST    157 km/62 km to go
The sprint for the 40 points and €5000 is won by Garzelli, then Mancebo, Moreau and Virenque. Garzelli really wanted that. The rest of the peloton comes over in bits and pieces, still 30 plus riders strong.

Simoni catches Landis and Hincapie right at the top, and is 1'00 down. That should help him on the descent.

Chavanel, Rogers and Garcia Casas come over the top of the Galibier at 2'35, but the leaders are long gone.

15:53 CEST    165 km/54 km to go
Simoni and Ludewig are chasing the peloton on the descent of the Galibier, and closing the gap it looks like. Hincapie and Landis are also back on.

An Ag2r rider - Astarloza - has attacked the bunch.

Victor Pena and Pavel Padrnos cross the summit of the Galibier nearly 11'00 down on the leading bunch. They are just in front of a sizeable peloton, and they wait.

15:57 CEST    168 km/51 km to go
French champion Didier Rous has caught Astarloza, and the pair are hammering down the descent of the Galibier. There is no real urgency to chase them by US Postal, as they're not too dangerous. The gap is 0'30. Simoni has caught on.

16:01 CEST    173 km/46 km to go
David Millar and Michael Boogerd have made their way back on to the peloton, as have Menchov, Bruseghin and a few others.

In front, Didier Rous and Mikel Astarloza are increasing their lead: it's up to 50" now.

Rous started the day 4'20 behind Virenque (about 2'00 behind Armstrong), while Astarloza is at 5'19. It's unlikely that they'll be able to take that out of the peloton with just over an hour to go. Not to mention the climb of Alpe d'Huez.

16:07 CEST    179 km/40 km to go
The laughing group (last group on the road) comes over the Galibier 22'30 behind the leaders. They should make the time cut. Di Luca, Zabel, Wauters, Cuesta, Milesi, Mengin, Aldag, O'Grady, McEwen and his good buddy Hasbelbacher are all in it.

Axel Merckx looks totally knackered as he crosses the summit, 26'00 down. He is alone.

The peloton is being led by Floyd Landis and George Hincapie again. Heras, Rubiera, Beltran and Armstrong are all there for USPS. The showdown on L'Alpe looms. So far, it looks as though Armstrong is in complete control. There have been no games of poker today.

16:14 CEST    187 km/32 km to go
Landis and Hincapie continue to lead the bunch, on this long descent into Bourg d'Oisans before the final climb. You can read all about Landis in his own words in his latest Cyclingnews diary.

The gap to Rous and Astarloza is 1'40 to the peloton, which is growing. Many riders are dropping back to the team cars for refueling.

16:18 CEST    190 km/29 km to go
Jimmy Casper is over the Galibier, 33'30 down on the leaders. Surely there can't be many more behind him...

US Postal's blue train is rumbling along, now 1'40 behind Rous and Astarloza with 16 km to go until the foot of the Alpe.

Lance Armstrong has stopped after riding into the gutter on the right side of the road. That's bad timing.... It looked like he touched wheels with Heras.

16:20 CEST    193 km/26 km to go
The peloton loses its momentum, as all the Postal riders stop and wait for Armstrong to get a new bike. Heras and Armstrong are on their way back to the peloton. Patrice Halgand is well behind him, so we won't have a repeat of the Dauphine incident.

16:24 CEST    195 km/24 km to go
Armstrong and Heras are back in the bunch, with no serious injuries, and the blue train gets going again.

The two leaders, Rous and Astarloza, are now 2'31 in front.

16:28 CEST    197 km/22 km to go
The finish at Alpe d'Huez
Photo: © C.Henry/CN
Didier Rous and Mikel Astarloza have pulled off a nice coup on the descent of the Galibier, attacking and gaining a 2'59 lead, which will come in handy on L'Alpe d'Huez.

Things have settled down now after the Heras/Armstrong 'crash'. The bunch is some 40-45 riders strong, and contains all the GC favourites. Tyler Hamilton has looked good all day, sitting in the middle of the bunch.

16:32 CEST    202 km/17 km to go
Rous and Astarloza have settled down, with 3 km to go to the foot of the Alpe. They have 2'50 lead at the moment to the peloton, which is controlled all the time by US Postal.

16:36 CEST    205 km/14 km to go
Didier Rous and Mikel Astarloza have nearly reached Bourg d'Oisans, and will commence the climb of l'Alpe d'Huez shortly. Rous gives his helmet to the team car, the first rider in this stage to do so. Astarloza follows suit.

The crowds are huge now on the sides of the road. The leaders start the climb.

16:38 CEST    206 km/13 km to go
The leading pair ride side by side at the bottom of the famed climb. Rous nearly loses it trying to undo his jersey.

US Postal set the pace with six men all the way to the foot. Heras and Rubiera sprint at the foot of the climb, with Armstrong in tow. Ouch.

Virenque is one of the first dropped. Vinokourov holds Armstrong's wheel. Where are the others?

16:40 CEST    
Armstrong looks back at the damage. It's fairly significant. Rubiera takes over the work in front.

Armstrong, Moreau, Vino, Hamilton(!) are all there.

16:42 CEST    207 km/12 km to go
Virenque is well back, and Ullrich and Beloki don't look to be there either.

Mayo and Zubeldia(?) join Armstrong, Hamilton, Heras and Vino in the front chasing group.

Astarloza and Rous are losing time rapidly.

16:44 CEST    207 km/12 km to go
The situation: Astarloza and Rous are together, 1'00 in front of a group containing Armstrong, Vinokourov, Heras, Hamilton, Mayo, Zubeldia, Beloki. Behind them are Mancebo, Boogerd, Garzelli, Ullrich...

Armstrong takes over in front, with Hamilton on his wheel. Moreau has dropped off the next group a bit.

16:46 CEST    209 km/10 km to go
Vinokourov attacks the Armstrong group, in pursuit of Rous and Astarloza. Beloki counters! Ooh lala. Armstrong stays with Heras and Hamilton. The two Basque boys, Mayo and Zubeldia are with him too.

16:48 CEST    
Beloki is now in the lead! Rous and Astarloza are dropped.

16:50 CEST    
Heras keeps making the tempo for Armstrong, with Hamilton, Mayo and Zubeldia right on his wheel. Only Beloki is in front now, with a small gap. It's do or die for Beloki, and he has not disappointed.

Richard Virenque has already lost 2'10, and is with Rogers.

16:51 CEST    210 km/9 km to go
Armstrong accelerates, with Hamilton and Mayo only able to hold him. Beloki is still in front however. He only has 12"

Beloki looks back and is caught by Armstrong, and now there are four leaders. Mayo counter attacks!

16:54 CEST    
Mayo keeps riding strongly, as Hamilton takes over the pace making. But Beloki attacks once again. Armstrong waits. Zubeldia comes back to them. What a stage!

Hamilton goes again, always in the saddle. But he can't shake Armstrong, Beloki and Zubeldia.

Iban Mayo has 0'22

Beloki attacks again, with Armstrong on his wheel. Hamilton and Zubeldia suffer to hang on.

16:57 CEST    213 km/6 km to go
Mayo is increasing his gap to 43" as Vinokourov and Heras close the gap to Armstrong's group. That makes six, for those keeping count.

Basque fans are going mad with Iban Mayo's fantastic attack.

Mancebo also makes his way back to the chasing group, as does Laiseka. Heras has taken over the pace making again.

17:01 CEST    214 km/5 km to go
5 km to go for Iban Mayo, who is no real threat to Armstrong for the yellow due to his team's rather poor team time trial. Mayo will need a gap of 3'30 plus to take yellow. It looks like he'll win the stage though, with Armstrong in yellow. The Tour is not over yet!

Armstrong's group has consolidated its pace, until Vinokourov attacks again!

17:04 CEST    215 km/4 km to go
Basso has come back to the Armstrong group, and it's now seven riders strong with Basso, Armstrong, Heras, Beloki, Mancebo, Laiseka, Zubeldia.

Vinokourov is 1'00 behind Mayo, who is hammering in the final 3.5 km.

17:05 CEST    215 km/4 km to go
Iban Mayo is on track to a strong win on Alpe d'Huez, unless he gets caught by Vino in the final 4 km. Armstrong's group is all the time being led by Heras.

Further down the mountain, Rogers is doing great work for Maillot Jaune Virenque.

Hamilton attacks again. Collarbone, what collarbone? Zubeldia goes with him.

17:07 CEST    
Mayo continues, 1'15 in front of Vinokourov, and increasing. Armstrong's group has separated again, with Hamilton, Zubeldia, Armstrong, Beloki and Basso there.

Beloki forces the pace, through the crowds. But they are 25" behind Vinokourov and 1'47 behind Mayo.

They still have 4 km to go, as the kilometres aren't quite in synch...

17:11 CEST    216 km/3 km to go
Mayo is now inside 3 km to go, and increasing his lead over all the rest. Vinokourov follows at 1'30, with Armstrong's group at 1'50. 25 year old Mayo is on track for his biggest win. Vinokourov is doing his GC chances no harm either.

Beloki, Armstrong, Basso, Hamilton and Zubeldia are chasing still. But there is no cooperation.

17:13 CEST    217 km/2 km to go
There's a lot of watching and not much chasing in the Armstrong group. They won't catch Vino, and certainly not Mayo, at this rate. Beloki accelerates, with Armstrong and Zubeldia right on his wheel.

Ullrich is catching up too.

Mayo has 2 km to go...

17:14 CEST    
Mayo is now 2'01 in front of Armstrong's group, and 1'42 in front of Vino. Ullrich is 3'17 behind Mayo, and not doing too bad. He's with Caucchioli.

17:15 CEST    218 km/1 km to go
Mayo has now got 1 km to go, and has really pulled off a coup today. He's been climbing for 37'15.

The Armstrong group has Hamilton, Zubeldia and Beloki in it. Basso is just off the back.

17:17 CEST    219 km/0 km to go
Mayo powers over the final kilometre, and zips up his Euskaltel jersey in time for the finish. He waves to the crowd each side, and wins the stage!! Brilliant performance.

Vinokourov has also ridden excellently to take the second place, 1'44 behind.

Beloki and Armstrong sprint for third, and Armstrong takes it at 2'15.

Ullrich comes across at 3'40 with Caucchioli. Garzelli is another minute behind, with Boogerd, Beltran and Totschnig.

Armstrong takes yellow, with 40" lead over Beloki, 1'10 over Mayo and 1'17 over Vinokourov. It's an interesting situation and there'll be more to come in the next mountain stages. Certainly Armstrong was well off his best today, climbing l'Alpe some 3 minutes slower than in 2001 (unofficially).

Simoni comes in over 12'00 down, looking a bit better than yesterday but fairly spent. His faithful teammate Ludewig is still with him.

That's all from the live team from today's stage. We'll have the full results, report and photos to follow, and of course we'll be back with more tomorrow for stage 9 between Bourg d'Oisans and Gap at 11:48am CEST. Adieu.


1 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                5.57.30
2 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom             1.45
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor         2.12
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                  
5 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi               
6 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                       
7 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                         
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                        
9 Roberto Laiseka (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi               
10 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Alessio                    3.36
11 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole              
12 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor            
13 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                       

General classification after stage 8

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor      35.12.50
2 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE-Eroski                      0.40
3 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                    1.10
4 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom              1.17
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                 1.37
6 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                        1.52
7 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor            1.58
8 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                       2.10

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