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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 17 - Wednesday, July 20: Pau - Revel, 239.5 km

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan and Hedwig Kröner

Live report

Live coverage starts: 11:10 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Stage 17 profile
Click for stage map

11:08 CEST   
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the Tour's longest stage through the attract. No Pyrenean peaks today, but instead a stage that combines distance with an apparent total absence of any flat road at all; although there are only four listed climbs in minor categories, they hardly stand out from the rest of the day's profile course. This is going to hurt a lot of tired legs, and looks the sort of terrain where a bunch of unthreatening riders go clear and don't get chased down too hard. That said, the race for the green jersey at least is still very open and the sprinters' teams will still be after what they can get.

Signing on is winding down now and the race convoy will soon be leaving the centre of Pau with the race neutralised for a few kilometres to the city limits.

11:42 CEST   
Today's climbs are the Cat. 3 Cote de Baleix (km 22.5), Cat. 4 Cote de Betbeze (km 88.5), Cat. 4 Cote de Capens (km 159.5) and Cat. 3 Cote de Saint-Ferreol (km 232.5). The latter could provide the springboard for a winning attack.

Today's intermediate sprints are at Rabastens-de-Bigorre (km 44.5km) and Gardouch (km 198).

11:43 CEST    7km/232.5km to go
The flag has now gone down, with the first vain attempt to break away coming from Antony Geslin (Bouygues) and Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R). No dice, though.

It's a fine, sunny day, warm but not hot, practically windless. Nice day for a little ride in pleasant countryside, really. Such a nice day that there are no non-starters, with yesterday's crash victim Andreas Klöden turning out with his wrist in plaster using a specially gear-change-friendly design.

12:05 CEST    22km/217.5km to go
The pace is pretty brisk and there have been a whole series of attacks but none have succeeded in getting more than a few metres clear of the bunch so far.

Sadly the pain of riding with a broken wrist is too much for Andreas Klöden and he has just climbed into the T-Mobile team car; he managed to ride most of yesterday's stage with it anaesthetised by the initial shock and the adrenalin from the race, but crash injuries mostly hurt more the next day than they did when you did them.

After the short but sharp third cat climb at Baleix (the four spotty jersey points going to Bobby Julich) an attack finally goes clear, and it is Pierrick Fedrigo going on the attack.

12:34 CEST    43km/196.5km to go
French champion Fedrigo has been joined first by Kurt-Asle Arvesen and then by Erik Dekker and Carlos Da Cruz. They hovered off the front of the peloton for a while and now a larger group has formed around them and gone clear. So we now have Jose Luis Rubiera and Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile Team), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC), Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros-Würth), Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole), Dario Cioni (Liquigas-Bianchi), Stéphane Augé (Cofidis), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Caffita), Carlos Da Cruz and Thomas Lövkvist (Française Des Jeux), Andrei Grivko (Domina Vacanze) and Samuel Dumoulin and Simon Gerrans (Ag2r-Prevoyance) away, and their lead is increasing briskly towards two minutes. This looks to the moderately informed eye like la belle, the good breakaway for the day.

12:44 CEST    55km/184.5km to go
Not for the first time in this Tour, Carlos Da Cruz took a bonus sprint, the first of the day at Rabastens-de-Bigorre. The lead is now out to over three minutes, with an average speed over the first hour of the race of 47.6 kph; the bunch seem content to see this one go. The best placed of the riders away is Oscar Sevilla, who is more than half an hour down on Armstrong, and no major contenders for the other jerseys are involved either.

12:45 CEST   
Chris Brewer, from Behind the Blue Curtain, has checked in with his pre-stage reportage:

I spoke with Discovery Channel Asst DS Dirk Demol before the start. "Today's all about staying safe, it's a long day today for sure. We'd of course like to see an escape go down the road like yesterday, but we have to be very aware of who's in the break and control the race until it works out. And if it's a very big group we have to have somebody in it as well so the other teams will work. [that seems to be the case now with two Discovery riders in the break]

I asked him if the team was aware of that Phonak had publicly criticized George Hincapie's win atop Pla d'Adet - in a word, yes. "Why would they criticize George? When you have a teammate who is leading the race behind you, why would you work? Nobody would... Pereiro had lots of chances to drop George but he didn't. I was behind George all day and I can tell you he was the strongest and he won the day."

13:12 CEST    67km/172.5km to go
The break are still pulling away, with the lead now over 8 minutes over a bunch who mostly seem to have other things on their minds. The most notable absentees from the break are Davitamon-Lotto, who are probably the only team who will be bothered to chase the break down unless its lead reaches absurd proportions. We spoke to their workhorse Johan Van Summeren this morning: "I'm feeling alright. Starting to be tired but I guess that's normal. Most riders have that problem. Will you be on the front today? "It's going to be difficult today. It's not completely flat and there are just too many kilometres to ride with one team only. We can ride only with four guys and that's not enough to chase a breakaway." Is it mentally hard doing that all the time? "Oh no. When you see Robbie throwing his hands in the air afterwards then it's no problem. But if you have to do it every day for nothing, then I think it's more difficult."

13:25 CEST    75km/164.5km to go
The lead has settled down a bit now, falling back under 8 minutes for a few kilometres before starting to climb again; Lotto and Gerolsteiner are doing their bit behind.

If this break stays away and stays together, the best sprinter on the block is clearly Allan Davis, but he has no team-mates for support and is likely to need to respond to a lot of attacks. Otherwise the stand-out rider for this sort of stage is Erik Dekker, who has won here in Revel before, the second of his hat-trick of stage wins in the 2000 Tour.

13:31 CEST   
The leaders are now approaching the second of the day's official climbs at Betbèze, but really it's barely any bigger than the other climbs in the endless succession of ups and downs we have today. The lead is up to nine minutes now.

13:40 CEST    88km/151.5km to go
The sawtooth profile of this section of the stage is taking its toll, as evidenced in an average speed for the second hour of "only" just over 36 kph despite which the break are still pulling away.

13:48 CEST   
For the record and not much else, it is Andrei Grivko who takes the mountains points on the 2.2 km Betbèze climb ahead of Dumoulin and Righi.

13:54 CEST    100km/139.5km to go
The bunch climb the cat 4 climb more than ten minutes down on the breakaways with Discovery riders at its head, although with Rubiera and Savoldelli in the break they won't be putting too much effort into the chase.

14:13 CEST   

14:14 CEST    113km/126.5km to go
The gap is up to 12 minutes now, as the break enjoys some more freedom from the peloton.

14:27 CEST    120km/119.5km to go
We're just past half distance now, and this middle 50km of the stage is a bit less lumpy than the preceding couple of hours, so the pace has picked up a bit again. The gap is steady at 12.20 with all 17 breakaway riders working together.

14:37 CEST    128km/111.5km to go
It is still a rather uninterested (and indeed largely disinterested) Discovery Channel team who are heading the bunch, with Armstrong in sixth wheel, and Basso and Rasmussen close behind him. They have now let the break out to over fifteen minutes ahead.

14:49 CEST    134.5km/105km to go
The seventeen leaders take the feed with over sixteen minutes lead (Arvesen actually dropped his musette and stopped to pick it up); it doesn't look like it's going to come back now. That would still leave a few points for the sprinters to fight over, but otherwise they will only be in the hunt for a few bonus sprints and the win on the Champs Elysées in this Tour.

14:59 CEST    144km/95.5km to go
Born-again mountain goat George Hincapie leads the chase; the gap has dipped slightly but that is probably because the break are eating and the bunch hasn't got up to the feed yet, rather than the determination of the chase. T-Mobile are passing around a piece of paper with some air of amusement - probably next season's contract...

15:08 CEST    148km/91.5km to go
The peloton are something like 12 km back down the road from the break, and passing through the feed zone as the leaders go back to a steady rhythm; their body language shows that they are clearly a lot more interested than anyone behind.

15:20 CEST    158.5km/81km to go
Discovery have upped the pace of the bunch a fraction, but there seems very little doubt now that the stage winner will come from the seventeen riders up the road and the lead has just nudged over 20 minutes now.

The leaders are now onto the 4th-cat climb at Capens that marks the end of the flatter 50 km section that I mentioned above. They are still working steadily together, no fireworks.

15:23 CEST    159.5km/80km to go
Once again it is Andriy Grivko who jumps clear to pick up the prime money at the top of the climb; a few more euros in the kitty.

15:37 CEST    169.5km/70km to go
The bunch has gone into early holiday mode, with Hincapie and Armstrong joking with the TV cameras. The lead is still stretching - at this rate Sevilla will be getting a sniff at a top ten place, although T-Mobile are likely to be the losers today - their team classification lead is under threat as they have only Sevilla in the break against Rubiera and Savoldelli, and the break has made up the 19 minutes deficit that Discovery had on them.

With the climb and descent in the last few kilometres today, master descender Paolo Savoldelli could also be a prime candidate could for the stage today, as well...

15:45 CEST    173.5km/66km to go
With the bunch on the climb, Salvatore Commesso is sporting sleeves rolled up for that macho look, as the temperature rises under clear blue skies. The bunch look quite frankly bored, and the lead is up over 22 minutes; at this rate Discovery will need to start worrying about Sevilla's lead soon. Well, probably not, but it would make a diverting change.

15:51 CEST    177.5km/62km to go
On the descent after the 4th-cat climb (where the bunch had an impromptu cavalry escort for a while) Stuart O'Grady comes up to the front for a word with Armstrong, who is momentarily right at the front.

Sevilla looks to be taking it easy in the break now, presumably with an eye to preventing the Discovery team classification advantage from getting too big.

16:03 CEST    185.5km/54km to go
With the lead now up to 24 minutes and still no sign of a reaction behind, the matter of the time limit for the stage arises. At the current speed it looks as though the limit will be 8% of the winner's time, which should be around half an hour. Although the main bunch will be exempted should they come in outside the limit, it does mean that it could be very unfortunate for any rider who gets dropped from it in the closing stages.

Crédit Agricole have now moved to the front of the bunch, presumably to protect Moreau from Sevilla's advance up the placings. Hushovd will want some help over the last climb, though, with points still to be won and lost at the finish even for 18th place.

16:09 CEST   
To clarify, the team classification is based on the aggregate times of the first three of a team's riders on each stage, so at the moment Discovery's time for the day would be 2x the time of the break plus 1 x the time of the bunch, while T-Mobile would count their one man in the break and two from the bunch, so the difference here is the same as 1x the advantage of the break. Which has just fallen below 24 minutes as CA chase.

Dekker attacks out of the break and Bram Tankink goes with him. there is some confusion behind - it's a bit early for this, maybe.

16:10 CEST   
Grivko is trying to get across to the two Dutch riders while behind there is a bit too much waiting for other riders to take up the chase.

16:14 CEST   
Landaluze has been dropped from the bunch, with signs of a crash.

Gerrans is up with Grivko

16:18 CEST    198km/41.5km to go
After a series of counter-attacks and bridging moves, it's now settled down with the break splitting into two separate groups, the front eight are Andrei Grivko (Domina Vacanze), Simon Gerrans (Ag2r), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile Team), Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Caffita), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC), Sébastien Hinault (Credit Agricole); they steam though the day's second bonus sprint at Gardouch. With both FDJ riders missing the split, it looks like they have to chase.

16:22 CEST    201.5km/38km to go
The front group are working well together and have picked up half a minute already on the less organised chasers. Savoldelli, Grivko and Sevilla look particularly strong.

Behind them the bunch have closed fractionally to 23.10.

16:26 CEST   
The chasers have got their act together now, with Dumoulin and Rubiera sitting on the back because of their team-mates in front. The gap is up to 40 seconds with both groups riding hard, while the big gap back to the bunch is now shrinking slightly.

16:33 CEST    208.5km/31km to go
The eight leaders are still pulling clear of the nine who missed the cut, nearly a minute now. The sprint was taken by Gerrans, by the way, although mainly just because he happened to be doing a pull on the front at the time. They're working steadily, moving up on the right and dropping back on the left; there's a bit of a breeze coming from the riders' left.

Landaluze has made it back to the bunch, which is being towed along by Laszlo Bodrogi.

16:37 CEST   
Grivko takes a long pull on the front; he is making himself a marked man here.

The bunch are lined out now, but with the stop-start stuff disposed with for the moment ahead, the 8 leaders are now back up to 23.21 ahead of the break. The second group look a bit resigned to not getting back.

16:43 CEST    215.5km/24km to go
The leading octet are now approaching the 20 km banner which marks the last point that they can receive food and drink from their team cars, so they are taking it in turns to collect a bottle or two. The terrain is still rolling, largely wooded; the bunch are still a province or two behind.

16:49 CEST   
The truce continues, but the leaders are still going quickly enough to pull away from their 9 chasers.

A level crossing starts to close on the tail of the bunch, but the riders all seem to have made it through, although all the team cars are stuck behind it. Hope nobody punctures in the bunch...

16:55 CEST    225.5km/14km to go
Mario Kummer was just interviewed on German TV about what T-Mobile would do to defend their team classification lead. His answer: nothing. They are not in a position to do anything about it - Klöden is out, Kessler and Steinhauser are
not feeling well, they simply don't have the manpower for it.

The train passes the crossing (where the barriers nearly beheaded Janek Tombak) and the team cars and commissaires are now speeding up the road to get back with the bunch.

The front group are still working together, all coming through to take turns on the front, as they drop into Revel; the course does a 12 km loop over the final climb of the day to come back to the finish here.

T-Mobile are, the above notwithstanding, now working on the front of the bunch; if they can pull the second group back by a few minutes they can save their team position.

16:58 CEST    227.5km/12km to go
The break should be able to make it around this loop before the bunch get here for the first time; they don't actually pass through the finish area twice, though, so they won't be lapped as such.

16:58 CEST    229.5km/10km to go
The break should be able to make it around this loop before the bunch get here for the first time; they don't actually pass through the finish area twice, though, so they won't be lapped as such.

17:01 CEST    231.5km/8km to go
And the first attacker on this closing section is Bram Tankink, and again there is far too much looking at each other behind him

Grivko tries to chase but Tankink is clear on the lower slopes of the 3rd-cat climb.

17:02 CEST   
Sébastien Hinault goes straight by Grivko and then up to and past Tankink. Then it's Savoldelli's turn and he is up and past Hinault, who latches on his wheel.

17:04 CEST    232.5km/7km to go
Grivko, Tankink and Arvesen are next behind Hinault and Savoldelli; the Giro winner goes over the top of the climb ahead of the Frenchman with a few seconds advantage.

17:06 CEST   
Hinault is not working, just hanging on Savoldelli who is know in full flight on the descent, his favourite terrain. Gerrans is hanging on to Arvesen with difficulty, and Grivko is dropped.

17:07 CEST    235.5km/4km to go
Hinault is coming through now - despite being clearly pretty stuffed - but Arvesen and Gerrans are only a handful of seconds behind.

17:09 CEST    236.5km/3km to go
Savoldelli and Hinault are watching one another but working, while Arvesen has some trouble getting Gerrans to come through. He does, and the four come together.

Savoldelli jumps clear as they come together though...

17:10 CEST   
Back together again, and it's cat and mouse now, We are off the descent onto flat road running onto the finish

Arvesen goes!

17:10 CEST   
Gerrans counters, Savoldelli sits on him then jumps under the flamme rouge

17:11 CEST   
Savoldelli is towing Hinault back; Gerrans is cooked

17:13 CEST   
Savoldelli has the legs and drops Hinault, but he has a long way to go to get up to Arvesen on the finishing straight, the Norwegian going flat out. But Savoldelli has grand tour winner's legs, and he can just close Arvesen down in the closing 30 metres, and he takes Discovery's third stage win of this Tour. Gerrans gets past the shattered Hinault for third; Grivko and Sevilla come in alone in fifth and sixth, and then the remnants of the seventeen who were away all day all come in in ones and twos

17:21 CEST   
The last time check for the main field was 24 minutes; they're not going too fast but there is a group of 20 off the back as they come into Revel for the first time. T-Mobile are setting the pace still.

17:22 CEST   
A crash at the back under the 10 km banner - Mancebo is down, along with Tombak and Matt White.

17:24 CEST   
On the climb it's Vinokourov setting the pace in his celeste Kazakh champion's jersey., with Armstrong well up behind Ullrich.

It was not Mancebo who fell, but Arroyo; he is up but hurting and in danger or elimination.

17:26 CEST   
Ullrich goes with Armstrong on his wheel, then Rasmussen and Popovych. Leipheimer is having trouble getting across, but is helped when Basso comes up. Landis is missing from this little all-star break that has a significant-looking gap, possibly caused by that crash.

17:28 CEST   
Vinokourov and Mazzoleni are also up with Armstrong and Ullrich et al, but Phonak are chasing hard for Landis, enough seconds behind to maybe move the Kazakh a couple of places on GC..

17:29 CEST   
Evans and Moreau are also dropped; the Armstrong group is now at 5 km to go on the descent.

17:31 CEST   
Vinokourov comes up to take a long pull, but now it's mostly Hincapie and Popovych pulling them along. 2 km to go, 20 seconds back to Landis.

17:37 CEST   
We had anticipated action from the green jersey contenders; O'Grady and Hushovd are back with Evans and Landis, but not likely to be up in the remaining 8 places that have points on offer.

Armstrong leads his group into the finishing straight and Popovych leads the group of favourites in, 20 minutes and a bit behind Savoldelli; Moreau finishes alone and then Hushovd and O'Grady have a go at the front as their group comes in but it is academic because they are out of the points. They are 17 seconds down on the Armstrong group and Vinokourov has picked up more than the 9 seconds he needed to leapfrog Evans and Landis.

More riders are coming in in groups up to five or six minutes further back. According to our calculations the elimination time on this stage will be 30.43, which may be touch and go for some, although riders involved in the late crash may be allowed a greater margin; the bulk of the field has made it inside that with no problem, however.

Thanks for following us here on cyclingnews.com; we'll be back tomorrow to bring you the interesting-looking stage across the bottom of the Massif Central to Mende with a vicious little summit finish that could still upset a few apples in this seemingly fairly stable cart.


1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel                5.41.19
2 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC                               
3 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r-Prevoyance                        0.08
4 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole                    0.11
5 Andrei Grivko (Ukr) Domina Vacanze                         0.24
6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile Team                          0.51
7 Bram Tankink (Ned) Quick.Step                                  
8 Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                         0.53
9 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance                      3.14
10 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros-Würth                       
11 Pierrick Fédrigo (Fra) Bouygues Telecom                       
12 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi                            
13 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel                     
14 Carlos Da Cruz (Fra) Française Des Jeux                   4.09
15 Erik Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                                    
16 Stéphane Augé (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone          
17 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Française Des Jeux                      
18 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel                22.28
19 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                      
20 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel                       

General classification after stage 17

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel                72.55.50
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                  2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank                           3.09
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                            5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne     6.31
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner                         7.35
7 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                   9.38
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                          9.49
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                  9.53
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole                  12.07


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