92nd Tour de France - GT
France, July 2-24, 2005
Results & report
Stage 18 - Thursday, July 21: Albi - Mende, 189 km
Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and
Live coverage starts: 12:10 CEST
Estimated finish: 16:45 CEST
Stage 18 profile
Good afternoon and welcome to the
Cyclingnews online dirigible for our live coverage of Stage 18 of the
Tour de France. We're starting in Albi, home of the Cathar heresy, for the first
of the two Massif Central stages that are the sting in the tail of this Tour.
We're expecting a lively start, not just because the stage has "long breakaway"
written all over it, but also because there is a bonus sprint at kilometre 13,
which should interest the teams that are chasing the green jersey.
The riders are now in the neutralised procession leading up to the start proper.
Today' stage contains several medium difficulty climbs, which will probably
seem like major cols to the tired legs of the peloton.
Côte de la Béssède (km 53, Cat. 4, 8.3 km climb at 2.9 %)
Côte de Raujolles (km 99, Cat. 3, 2.7 km climb at 5.2 %)
Côte de Boyne
(km 131.5, Cat. 2, 9.2 km climb at 5.3 %)
Côte de Chabrits (km 180, Cat.
3, 1.7 km climb at 7.1 %)
Côte de la Croix Neuve (montée Laurent Jalabert)
(km 187.5, Cat. 2, 3.1 km climb at 10.1 %)
The sprints are at Villefranche-D'albigeois
(km 13) and Le Massegros (km 138).
It's about 24-25 degrees, sunny,
with a 20 km/h wind blowing from the northwest, which will be across the riders
for much of the day as they head northeast.
A minute's silence was
held at the start of the stage for Australian national team rider Amy Gillett,
who was killed on Monday when a car ploughed through the Australian team who
were out reconnoitring the opening stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt. All five
of her teammates are still in hospital as a result.
Frederic Bessy (Cofidis) is the first
to attack, and is being chased by Daniele Nardello (T-Mobiel), Stefano Garzelli
(Liquigas), Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel).
Another five riders come across and the group have a scant ten seconds lead
over the peloton.
12:29 CEST 8km/181km to go
Garzelli keeps going
hard, with Botero and Commesso joining him. But the peloton reacts and it's
all back together again at km 7.
12:36 CEST 10km/179km to go
Now it is the turn
of Christophe Moreau to have a try. He is marked by Lotto's Johan Van Summeren
and Michele Albasini.
An attack by a rider as highly placed
as Moreau isn't going to go unnoticed, and the ever-attacking and contract-hunting
Alexander Vinokourov jumps across. This is probably unlikely to last long as
Discovery aren't going to want to let them go off all day...
12:43 CEST 16km/173km to go
Brad McGee, whose
tour has been disappointing and uncomfortable so far, tries to bridge the gap
now to the breakaway, who have mopped up the points available for the bonus
sprint without affecting the green jersey classification - Van Summeren took
it ahead of Vino and Moreau, who will have picked up a few bonus seconds for
the tight battle for the lower GC places.
The break and McGee are
all mopped up by the Discovery-led peloton, but the Australian tries again on
his own. It doesn't last too long, though, and the race is all together once
12:50 CEST 21km/168km to go
The pace is unremittingly
high, with Phonak also up the front, but not enough to stop the attacks - now
it is Roberto Heras in company with Juan Antonio Flecha who get a gap, with
a few more trying to get across to them.
12:58 CEST 27km/162km to go
The big chasing group
- 23 of them - have got across to Flecha and Heras, and they now have 25 seconds
on the main field. Among them is green jersey Thor Hushovd, and a few other
13:02 CEST 30km/159km to go
Julich, Arroyo, Menchov, Moos, Bernucci, Flecha, Horner, Heras, Contador, Hushovd,
Garzelli, Moncoutié, White, Sinkewitz, Tankink, Fedrigo, Voeckler, Wegmann and
Casar are the men ahead, but it's probably too big a group to maintain momentum
and the unrepresented Davitamon-Lotto in particular won't want to let it go.
13:04 CEST 32km/157km to go
Flecha, White, Fedrigo
and Casar have gone away from the group now, which was being reeled in by the
peloton after getting almost half a minute clear. But it is in vain, and the
race comes back together once again.
13:10 CEST 38km/151km to go
You may have noticed
that the last failed attack was the first significant move in about a week that
didn't have Carlos Da Cruz in it; he's now making up for that, going clear in
company with Sébastian Joly.
Franco Pellizotti tries to get across
to them. He can't.
13:15 CEST 40km/149km to go
Joly started that
move but was unable to hold Da Cruz, who is now riding alone in the lead.
We spoke to one of the earlier breakaways, Chris Horner, this morning:
"There's going to be a break. Who's going to control the field all day for 120
miles? I'm sure they'll race it out for GC on the last climb, but it's only
three kilometres. You're not going to lose Lance in three kilometres. Maybe
they'll get lucky and have something like yesterday, where they gained time
on Floyd or something like that. T-Mobile did a hell of a drive yesterday, bringing
it into that climb. I'm telling you, even before we started that last hill,
they were opening up gaps left and right on the false flat. My own chances?
Well there's going to be a break and it's going to go early. So either I get
in the early move or there's not going to be any chance of winning anything.
13:18 CEST 47km/142km to go
Da Cruz's move has
come to nothing, and it's back to peloton groupé once more.
13:22 CEST 49km/140km to go
That is just an invitation
to new attacks, of course, and this time it's Luke Roberts and Franco Pellizotti
(again) who are having a dig, with Xabier Zandio, Marcos Serrano, Egoi Martinez
and Axel Merckx trying to get across to them. The gaps are still all in single
figure numbers of seconds, though.
13:26 CEST 51km/138km to go
We are on the long
but very gentle climb at La Bessède (4th category) now. The chasers have joined
the two leaders and Thomas Voeckler and Cédric Vasseur have got across now,
and the resulting group of 9 have a lead around 25 seconds. With no big names
in there and a lot of workers, this looks more likely to be allowed to get away.
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue
Curtain, has checked in with his pre-stage 18 report:
I spoke with
Discovery Channel Assistant DS Dirk Demol and asked him about the last third
of the day, and specifically about the final 10kms. "Like yesterday today is
hot and we expect a break to go up the road. The final third of the stage will
bear watching, but it is not too hard. The last 2 climbs are steep, but they
are short, so the man to watch especially is Basso and we'll mark him closely."
13:35 CEST 57km/132km to go
The points on the
climb were taken by Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears) who is also the best placed
rider in the break, 25th 39.40 behind Lance Armstrong. Best placed for the moment,
that is, because persistent tryer Christophe Moreau (10th at 12.07) is trying
to bridge the gap solo; he is 25 seconds down on the break and the same ahead
of the bunch. That wouldn't be such good news for them, since it would get the
other teams with contenders for the minor GC placings riding.
13:37 CEST 61km/128km to go
Moreau gives up the
chase, however, but the nine leaders have still not opened the gap past a minute.
To recap, they are Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile Team), Luke Roberts (Team CSC),
Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto),
Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros-Würth), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Bianchi),
Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues
Telecom), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
13:44 CEST 66.5km/122.5km to go
The chase has
now eased off and the break are now moving clear with the gap up to 2.35.
13:55 CEST 75km/114km to go
After the frantic
start the race has now settled down, with a lot of rather relieved riders in
the peloton able to take it steady and the ten men up the road moving away.
We asked one of the riders who will probably be happier with this state of affairs,
Michael Boogerd, what his plans were for today: "We will see." This stage looks
like it could suit you? "Yeah but you also have to have the legs. Yesterday
I had some antibiotics, so it's a little bit of a problem with the throat."
14:26 CEST 97km/92km to go
The race has been
averaging something over 46 kph so far, which is quite brisk for the terrain.
Matthias Kessler's presence in the break means that T-Mobile are now virtually
back in the lead in the team classification. They are now through the feed with
a lead in excess of nine minutes and heading for the second categorised climb
of the say, the cat 3 at Raujolles.
14:30 CEST 99km/90km to go
Speaking of T-Mobile,
we heard from their top riders this morning. Jan Ullrich told us "Everyone is
tired, so now it's all about who recuperates the best at night. I have pretty
good legs actually. Today is another hard stage, especially after the one yesterday.
It's a hilltop finish with a very steep three kilometres. Surely there'll be
a break today. Lance's team will control everything, and in the final climb,
everybody needs to give all of themselves."
was also optimistic: "Another good day. We'll try to do something in the finale.
Jan wants to take some time off Rasmussen and me off Mancebo." And what team
would we be seeing him with next year? "I've got three offers. We'll see which
of those will be the one." Are they French teams? "I can't say."
14:37 CEST 105km/84km to go
Carlos Cruz takes
the summit of the climb in the shadow of the impressive new Millau viaduct.
The lead is over ten minutes now and still climbing.
14:52 CEST 115km/74km to go
The lead is still
stretching out, more reliably than the trivial technical problem that lost about
15 minutes worth of commentary earlier, in case you were wondering.
So, to recap, we have ten men working steadily and looking pretty likely to
stay away unless Discovery decide that they really want that team classification
back. We have two former maillots jaunes in the break, in the persons of Thomas
Voeckler and Cédric Vasseur, plus Carlos Da Cruz who seems to have picked up
the mantle of Jacky Durand, Axel Merckx representing Belgium on its national
holiday, Luke Roberts as obligatory token Aussie, Franco Pellizotti who seemed
to try to get into every break this morning before finding the right one, Egoi
Martinez trying to salvage something for the Euskaltel team, Matthias Kessler
chasing the team standings, Xabier Zandio about whom I know shamefully little
and the decidedly useful Marcos Serrano. The bunch are nearly 12 minutes down
and not looking worried by that fact.
15:01 CEST 121km/68km to go
Discovery are (noblesse
oblige) leading the bunch with a bit of help from Rabobank. We are on a long
flattish section here leading up to the first of the two second-category climbs
today, a 9 km grind up from the village of Boyne, which is probably too far
from the finish for anyone to want to break up the break, but could be hard
for the riders who are just hanging on in the bunch if anyone puts the hammer
15:04 CEST 123km/66km to go
The break are now
on the climb, riding a steady tempo, with Kessler and Merckx looking more comfortable
than some of the others, Pellizotti in particular having a bit of trouble.
15:12 CEST 125km/64km to go
The situation is
unchanged, with the leaders working together well, even if some are coming through
with more difficulty than others, and Discovery leading the chase with just
two riders; the bunch are now approaching the foot of the second-cat climb around
15:25 CEST 129km/60km to go
Still 2 km of this
climb to go for this breakaway, and it's still pulling away. The possible effects
of the two climbs in the final few km is probably going to put any of the GC
riders teams off doing anything too serious too early in the stage (much as
more serious summit finishes often seem to dampen the action in the early parts
of mountain stages).
Cofidis seem to be massing at the back of the
bunch; there are a lot of riders going back to their cars, but nobody having
any real difficulty in following.
15:27 CEST 131km/58km to go
Da Cruz nicks the
points at the top of the climb, as he is inclined to do. There is no descent,
as the race has basically climbed onto a plateau here.
15:37 CEST 138km/51km to go
The road on top of
the plateau is decidedly rolling; Luke Roberts manages to unship his chain but
gets it back on without losing too much time to get back on. They have a slight
crosswind here, echeloning a bit onto the right hand side of the road.
Discovery have now put more men on the front of the bunch now in the closing
kilometres of the Boyne climb, and the gap has fallen by a few seconds.
Prime-hunter Da Cruz nips off the front to take the second bonus sprint. Could
be seen as greedy by some...
15:52 CEST 149km/40km to go
On a sartorial note,
Vinokourov seems to be wearing an amended version of his Kazakh champion's jersey,
bearing the sponsor's name in black on white rather than the lower contrast
yellow on blue. He is riding with the other GC contenders, just behind Armstrong
who is at the back of a four-man Discovery train. Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile
vests are also up there in reasonable numbers. The break is still going away,
however, and look pretty much safe and sound now. Yesterday's winner Savoldelli
is back on bottle-fetching duty today.
The roads here on the Causses
are open and fairly empty, with scrubby pine woods on the thin soil not providing
much shelter from either wind or sun.
16:00 CEST 152km/37km to go
The lead moves over
14 minutes and the riders in the break and bunch alike will have stopped worrying
about each other entirely and now be thinking about their chances and what their
opponents are likely to be doing on those finishing climbs. Still no moves,
16:08 CEST 156km/33km to go
The bunch have now
settled down to a clubrun tempo; this break isn't coming back and there's nothing
to chase for. Ahead the ten are still riding a well-disciplined through-and-off,
with riders dropping back to team cars for advice and bottles intermittently.
The roadsides are mostly deserted up here in this sparsely populated region,
except close to the odd holiday campsite here and there and through the villages
and small towns.
16:20 CEST 169km/20km to go
The race is now dropping
off the plateau with about 10 km to go before the leaders hit the two final
climbs. There are a couple of level crossings here - the break have just crossed
the first - so we can wait with bated breath to see if the SNCF put any trains
in the way of the chasers again today.
16:24 CEST 171km/18km to go
Still no move from
the non-climbers in the break, which is still riding as a well-disciplined unit.
16:27 CEST 174km/15km to go
The break crosses
the second of those level crossings, which has tracks crossing the road at a
fairly awkward angle, like the one that brought several riders down on the run
in to Karlsruhe a couple of thousand kilometres back. Still all together as
they come into the little town of Barjac.
16:29 CEST 175km/14km to go
This is where the
penultimate climb, the côte de Chabrits starts, and now the riders in the break
have started looking at one another.
And Carlos Da Cruz opens proceedings
with a jump up the right hand side of the road...
Da Cruz has a gap - 15 seconds -
but the other riders aren't too concerned yet, still riding tempo.
Serrano counters and the others do chase him, and he sits up.
16:33 CEST 177.5km/11.5km to go
Da Cruz is climbing
like a non-climber, all over a big gear. Pellizotti and Voeckler are sitting
at the back of the line, Merckx and Kessler staying near the front.
16:38 CEST 179km/10km to go
Da Cruz looks to
be struggling, but he's still in front a kilometre from the summit. Martinez
is looking fairly limber, more so than the naked fan who runs alongside them
for a few yards.
Way back down the road, CSC have taken up
the riding at the front of the bunch and the pace has risen.
accelerates but not for long but it starts a general disintegration, and Merckx
is clear on his own, and past Da Cruz.
Voeckler jumps away behind
16:39 CEST 180km/9km to go
Voeckler comes up
to Merckx just after the Belgian takes the summit in first place, and now it's
straight down into Mende and the foot of the final climb.
16:41 CEST 181km/8km to go
Serrano, Zandio and
Vasseur look as though they are going to catch the leading pair on this descent,
which is a steady run down on wide roads, not too steep to pedal a big gear
most of the way.
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue
Curtain, reports from the finish:
"We just drove the final 20kms.
The run into the first cat 3 climb is a non-technical descent, and the cat 3
itself is easy with only one switchback. The final cat 2 effort is 3k long,
and the first 1k nothing remarkable. But the road really kicks up - no switchbacks,
just up up up. The crowds are very thick on the final 2k and will be pressing
down onto the peloton, room for single file climbing only. Over the summit and
it's a quick 1k drop to the airport finish in Mende."
16:42 CEST 183km/6km to go
The five come together
on the outskirts of Mende; behind them Pellizotti is alone, then Kessler (surprising;
he looked pretty strong earlier), Roberts, Da Cruz and Martinez.
In the bunch, Discovery are back at the front; it will be a while before they
get to the two climbs though.
16:45 CEST 184km/5km to go
The five leaders come
to the foot of the climb up to the airfield on the plateau above Mende, now
named the Montée Laurent Jalabert after the Frenchman's epic Bastille Day stage
win there a few year back. Pellizotti has got across to them in the town, but
that will have cost him energy.
16:46 CEST 185km/4km to go
as the climb kicks up, then Merckx moves up and Zandio and Vasseur seem to be
finding it hardest. The Belgian eases up and it comes together again
Merckx jumps again from the front,
harder this time; the others respond but Zandio and then Pellizotti are dropped.
16:48 CEST 187km/2km to go
Serrano takes the
front for a while; Voeckler is in trouble on this 11% gradient, so it's just
Merckx, Vasseur and Serrano together now.
Serrano accelerates again and Vasseur
stays with him but Merckx is dropped briefly, but grinds his way back.
Serrano jumps again on the steepest pitch of the climb.
The bunch are now on the previous
climb, and Kashechkin has attacked the bunch.
Serrano is still a
few metres clear while Merckx and Vasseur ride tempo behind him to stay in touch.
800 metres of climbing and a kilometre
of descent for Marcos Serrano, who kicks again. Here we really do have some
thick crowds, opening up in front of the riders but putting Serrano briefly
out of sight.
Serrano looks to have broken the
back of the climb as he comes up to the barrier lined section just before the
mountains prime; he should be able to do it from here...
16:54 CEST 188km/1km to go
Serrano crests the
climb with the best part of 20 seconds lead on Merckx and Vasseur, and he has
it in the bag.
Serrano comes in with nobody for
company but the neutral service motorbike, punches the air, taking his fifth
professional victory. Merckx leads Vasseur down the finishing straight and mouths
something probably best left untranslated at the Frenchman when he jumps past
him for second.
Back down the road, Carlos Sastre
is stretching the front of the bunch at the foot of the final climb
Sastre's efforts have created a split
at the front of the bunch, then Basso attacks. Armstrong counters, then Cadel
Evans on his wheel, Ullrich on his.
Vino tries to get there and blows.
Rasmussen is a way further back with Mancebo.
Rasmussen and Leipheimer are picking
up Vino - they've passed him; the Armstrong group are 100 metres in front -
the gaps here are only going to be in seconds, but it could change a bit yet.
Armstrong is setting the pace in front now.
Vino comes back to Rasmussen and
Leipheimer. Ullrich is looking a bit stretched at the front as BAsso moves to
the front again
Ullrich is dropped but holding a
ten-metre gap; he claws his way back to Armstrong, Basso and Evans at the summit.
Rasmussen, Leipheimer and Vino come
over the top 40 seconds down. WE have completely lost touch with Landis, Moreau,
Mancebo and the other GC contenders...
Mancebo has got back to Rasmussen
et al; they come in 35 seconds down, with Landis and Mazzoleni about 55 seconds
further back, then dribs and drabs - Popovych a couple of minutes down, behind
a group with Moreau.
A fine win by Marcos Serrano to make
up some way for a fairly disappointing tour for Manuel Saiz's Liberty Seguros
team; rock-solid defence by Armstrong, a good ride to hang on to him by Evans
who moves up the GC table a place or two; further evidence that Rasmussen and
Vinokourov are finding this third week of the Tour a bit too far for comfort.
As the autobus comes in some 22 minutes down, thanks for following the stage
with us here on cyclingnews; we'll be back again tomorrow to bring you the final
lumpy road stage from Issoire to Le-Puy-en-Velay.
1 Marcos Serrano (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth 4.37.36
2 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 0.27
3 Axel Merckx (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
4 Xabier Zandio (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 1.08
5 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi
6 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 1.28
7 Luke Roberts (Aus) Team CSC
8 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile Team 1.44
9 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 2.03
10 Carlos Da Cruz (Fra) Française Des Jeux 2.38
11 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 11.20
12 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
13 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC
14 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team
15 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 11.57
16 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
17 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
18 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne
19 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 12.07
20 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
General classification after stage 18
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 77.44.44
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 3.46
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 7.08
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 8.12
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 9.49
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 10.11
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 10.42
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 13.15
Back to top