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Welcome to the last "flat" day before the Tour gets to the mountains. Flat
is, of course, a relative term here. Podofdonny describes the stage this
"The sprinters know that they must make the most of this stage - tomorrow
the mountains of the Pyrenees loom. The riders will set off from the Place
de la Sean Jean Cathedrale. Once again the town is full of excitement as the
Tour hits town. The town is famous for its cattle and in the past the
herders used stilts to watch their herds over the surrounding flat
countryside - expect to see traditional stilt dancers at the start of the
The stage is short, only 147km, starting in Bazas and ending in Pau. There
are sprint bonuses at 43.5km, 80km, 114km, and at the finish line. Look for
Lotto-Adecco's "Rabid" Robbie McEwen to go head-to-head with Erik Zabel at
the intermediate sprints and the finish line in the battle for the Green
Jersey today. Zabel leads the competition over McEwen by only 2 points (193
to 191), so they will sprint for any point bonuses, even if a breakaway
beats them to the finish line. Baden Cooke of FDJeux.com has had good
sprinting legs all race, and it is likely that he will save himself during
the intermediate sprints and just try to take out a stage win. Stuart
O'Grady of Credit Agricole and Fred Rodriguez of Domo-Farm Frites seem to
have finally found their legs, and will likely be there at the finish line
There are also Category 4 climb bonuses at 93.5km, 113km, and 126km.
Undoubtedly Christophe Mengin will defend his Polka-Dot Jersey and take as
many points as possible before getting blown away in the serious mountains
in Stage 11. If he rides well, he could hold his lead through the first
couple of days in the mountains.
With the last climb 21km from the finish, and the climbs not that
challenging, the sprinters teams should control the race and chase down
everything. But anything can happen, as we've seen.
The points today on offer are as follows:
King of Mountain points for Cat 4 climb - 1st: 5 pts, 2nd: 3 pts, 3rd: 1 pt. As already mentioned, there are 3 such climbs on today's stage.
Sprint points on offer for the three sprints: 1st: 6 pts, 2nd: 4 pts, 3rd: 2 pts.
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano tested positive for a drug, salbutamol, that he has a prescription for. See the story in our Main headlines. So while there was some consternation momentarily, everything is all right. It would truly be a shame for a race leader of his quality to go down for a drug test. We got enough of that in the Giro this year.
So far there have been numerous attacks, including some from Nicola Loda (FAS), Jacky Durand (FDJ), and Jacob Piil (CST). So far, none have succeeded.
Now a lead group is away. Some of the riders: Floyd Landis (USP), O'Grady (C.A.), Fagnini (TEL), Mattan (COF)...
Also Nozal (ONE), Zaballa (KEL), Cassani (DFF), Ivanov (FAS), Dierckxsens (again!!) (LAM)...
Unai Etxebarria (EUS), Flickinger (AG2), Loder (AG2), and Halgand (DEL), and 3 others. 16 men off the front with a small lead of around 40".
Pineau (BJR), Oriol (AG2), and Vogondy (FDJ) are the other riders. They now have 1' 30" on the field.
O'Grady has done well to get himself into the break to get points, to try to get back into the points jersey race.
At the second sprint bonus, Flickenger just takes O'Grady, who waited too long to come around in the sprint.
The break has the right makeup of riders to stay away. Lotto and Mapei are teams with sprinters that might chase, but both have lost riders and so may not have the manpower to chase.
Mapei sprinter Robbie Hunter came to the Tour to support his teams big guns, Belgian Tom Steels and Spaniard Oscar Freire. Both have left the race now, so Hunter has on opportunity to go for some wins himself.
Botero (KEL) flatted, and is being paced back to the peloton by two teammates. There is no urgency, as the peloton isn't exactly hammering right now.
At the first sprint, McEwen won ahead of Zabel, so they are now tied at 197 points each right now. Interesting to see what will happen if the break stays away.
The breakaway is now 2' 10" away with only 63km to race. The pace is high today, due most likely to the shortness of the stage.
ONCE is on the front setting an easy tempo. The Yellow Jersey Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is 4th wheel. Postal will be happy about this.
Despite the fact that ONCE hasn't been chasing hard, this is their fifth straight road stage (not counting the ITT of Stage 9) on the front of the peloton. Frankie Andreu used to comment about the effect of this on the team.
Just the fact that it is ONCE riders always in the wind, regardless of their effort, means that they are burning up more energy than their rivals. This will really start to affect them later on, especially if they have to protect the Jersey for long in the mountains.
Now Jalabert (CST) has had to change bikes, and is now behind a couple of teammates on the way back to the tail of the peloton. He easily rejoins.
The breakaway is now at 11 riders. Landis and Nozal are back in the peloton. The breakaway includes Horillo (MAP).
Ivanov (FAS) has also fallen back to the peloton, along with Loder (AG2) and Fagnini (TEL).
Alvaro Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONE) retired from the race today with a quadracep problem. This could be a big factor for the ONCE boys if they have to spend much more time on the front. He pulled out during the stage.
O'Grady (CA) and Horillo (MAP) are both outstanding sprinters. O'Grady could really get himself back into that Green Jersey competition with a win.
Levi Leipheimer (RAB) commented that he is still feeling good despite his relatively lackluster performance in the ITT on Stage 9. He is still only 4' 39" behind the leader, and he is a great climber. And there are a lot of mountains on the horizon...
The riders can now see the mountains as they pedal towards Pau. The Pyrenees loom, and I'm sure that is a depressing sight for most of the riders. Not for the Euskaltel or Kelme boys though.
Despite not having a rider in the break, and despite the fact that O'Grady could make inroads into the points competition, Lotto and Telekom are not chasing.
That is really difficult to understand. They'd better come to the front soon if they want this last day of glory before they sit in the gruppetto for a week.
This is good for U.S. Postal though. They love seeing the ONCE boys out of the saddle on the front without help. For their part, ONCE is just letting the leaders go.
The lead is now 3'.
Robbie Hunter (MAP) has apparently become good friends with Armstrong in the race. In fact, when Armstrong got caught up by that crash at the end of Stage 7, Hunter helped him chase to the finish to limit his time losses.
7:11 PDT. The lead is over 3' as the ONCE-led peloton continue into the increasingly undulating part of the course. After the last CAT 4 climb, there is 21 km to the finish. They are still 40km from the finish. Right now, this is the fastest ever tour stage, so the undulations haven't hurt the pace so far.
The last 21km is flatter. If the breakaway is still close enough, perhaps the sprinters teams will come to the front then.
Mario Cipollini won the fastest stage of the Tour in 1999. If today's stage ends up faster, Mario will have to come out of retirement to reclaim his record! If he hasn't permanently alienated Jean-Marie Leblanc, that is...
Of course if Leblanc would dress up in Tiger striped skinsuits like Cipollini, we wouldn't miss the Tuscan so much. Or maybe we still would...can't see JML pulling off an outfit like that the way the fabulous Mario could. Would be amusing to see, though. For about a minute.
7:20 PDT. Halgand (DEL) took the second mountain prize, and is on the front to win the final mountain prize. Halgand has the talent to take the Polka-Dot Jersey tomorrow and keep it for awhile. He has a smart gap on the breakaways...will he try to keep it once over the top?
Halgand has seemed in good form all race. Speaking of form, DP's own Jaime Nichols has finally finished her thoroughly researched and long-awaited article on the subject. It has thoughts from some of the peloton's best, including "Gorgeous" George Hincapie. You can find it in our main headlines.
O'Grady goes off the front to get the final intermediate sprint points. Right after I predicted yesterday that he was out of this competition, he pulls off a brilliant move like this. I've rarely been this happy to be proven wrong.
7:28 PDT. O'Grady and Halgand both came back to the group after their brief attacks for points. They are working well as they fly towards the finish. The lead is now at 2' 43".
So how long will the breakaways work together? As they get closer to the finish, many will not want it to come down to a sprint with riders like O'Grady and Horillo in the group.
The peloton is now all strung out. The hammer isn't exactly down, but it seems to be slightly depressed. Some of the FDJeux.com and Telekom boys are massing at the front, perhaps thinking about helping if the chase looks like it can be caught. Where's Lotto?
7:35 PDT. The breakaway is flying on a downhill. Some of the riders are sitting on in the back now. Ludo Dierckxsens (LAM) attacks, but is caught. He has so much power, and so little sprint! But he is a very very popular rider. So the breakaway is now letting the games begin...
Since Dierckxsens emerged a few years back, he has earned a reputation as a hard-working attacker with an enormous motor. He was a paint factory worker until his 30s, when he finally got his chance to be a pro cyclist. He's made the most of it.
7:39 PDT. If the breakaway starts to play around too much, they may get caught. They seem to have settled back down now, for the moment.
Dierckxsens was born on Oct. 14, 1964. At 37, he's one of the old men of the peloton.
The attacks are going fast and furious in the break now. O'Grady, Dierckxsens, Pineau, and Halgand are off the front working hard. They are chased by Horillo, Mattan, Cassani, and Vogondy.
7:45 PDT. The group including O'Grady looks like it is going to stay away. The others are chasing hard, but there is too much power in the riders off the front.
So there are 16kms to go, and the O'Grady, Dierckxsens, Halgand, and Pineau have 15" on the chasers.
Mattan is doing a big turn in the 1st chase group. The lead group is four minutes ahead of the peloton. The peloton have turned it off. If they're not careful, O'Grady could take yellow!
O'Grady is 5' 59" down, and has already won about 10" of time bonuses today. With the bonus at the end, he could squeek into the top five, maybe even into the Yellow Jersey. What a one-day coup that would be!!
7:51 PDT. Etxebarria (Unai) of Euskaltel is off the back of the chasing group. His day is over. Only 12km to go for the leaders.
The first 25 places get points towards the Green Jersey, so there will be a nasty sprint between Zabel and McEwen at the end regardless. The man who finishes ahead will win the Green Jersey at the end of the day.
7:57 PDT. 9km to go. Dierckxsens will likely attack soon, as he knows he won't win if it comes to a sprint. Halgand attacks!! The others have sat up, O'Grady is looking at the others...Dierckxsens finally picks up the chase, but it may be too late!
Now the 3 left behind are working together, but Halgand has flown the coop! O'Grady was on the front, but didn't make a move to chase. Could be a big mistake.
6.2km to go, and Halgand is hammering about 100m ahead of the three chasers. Halgand has a decent time trial, so he could stay away. The three chasers look like they aren't working real hard. Halgand could have won the psychological battle already.
This would be a big coup for Jean Delatour! The last team included, at the expense of superior teams like Coast and Acqua e Sapone, is finally going to get a result it looks like. Jean Marie Leblanc will be smiling tonight.
8:01 PDT. The three chasers look to have given up. Really, Halgand looks to have done it. Unless there is a final flurry of effort by the O'Grady group, that is.
Halgand has 14" on the others. There is about 4km to go. It may be close...Dierckxsens accelerates the chase.
The peloton is around 4' 30" behind now. O'Grady may have missed a shot at the Yellow. Halgand is in the curves of Pau, with around 2km to go now...
Barring a crash, Halgand will win. The three chasers are now jockeying for second place, looking at one another.
8:04 PDT. Halgand goes under the 1km banner. The French crowds are loving it.
Halgand is still hammering, looking over his shoulder to make sure. He will likely start to celebrate soon.
He is crossing the finish line arms raised! Halgand made the final break of 4 with his attack, and then made the winning move with under 9km to go. Pineau of Bonjour comes across in second for a 1-2 finish for the French!
O'Grady and Dierckxsens sprint for third and fourth...Looks like O'Grady took it...
McEwen takes out the sprint over Zabel as the peloton comes across!! He takes the GREEN JERSEY from Zabel!! A huge victory for the Aussie!!
It looks like Cooke (FDJ) actually beat both McEwen and Zabel at the line. But the important thing is that McEwen beat Zabel, to take a slim lead in the points competition.
As he crossed the line in second, Pineau made a number of very humorous gesticulations and gestures, a mixture of happiness, surprise, and frustration at having come in second, but missing an opportunity to win...
It's confirmed that O'Grady came in third, Dierckxsens fourth, Horillo came in at the front of the 1st chase group to take fifth.
Cooke looks to have finished 11th, McEwen 12th, Zabel 13th.
The DP Site Goddess takes a hit, as her Fabio Fantasy Cycling team, at the top of the standings yesterday, takes a precipitous slide today. But she's still probably far ahead of me. I picked Steels and Rodriguez as my sprinters. DOH!!
Stage 10 final standings:
1. Patrice Halgand, Jean Delatour @ 3h 00' 15"
2. Jerome Pineau, Bonjour @ 27"
3. Stuart O'Grady, Credit Agricole @ 33"
4. Ludo Dierckxsens, Lampre-Daikin @ 33"
5. Pedro Horillo, Mapei-Quick Step @ 1' 00"
6. Andy Flickinger, AG2r @ 1' 00"
7. Nicolas Vogondy, FDJeux.com @ 1' 00"
8. Nico Mattan, Cofidis @ 1' 00"
9. Constantino Zaballa, Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 1' 00"
10. Enrico Cassani, Domo-Farm Frites @ 1' 02"
11. Unai Etxebarria, Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 3' 29"
12. Baden Cooke, FDJeux.com @ 3' 57"
13. Robbie McEwen, Lotto-Adecco @ 3' 57"
14. Eric Zabel, Team Telekom @ 3' 57"
15. Jan Svorada, Lampre-Daikin @ 3' 57"
16. Robert Hunter, Mapei-Quick Step @ 3'57"
17. Fred Rodriguez, Domo-Farm Frites @ 3' 57"
40. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Service @ ST
42. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, ONCE-Eroski @ ST
Note: This stage did not break the record for the fastest Tour stage, so Cipollini doesn't have to come out of retirement now.
GC After Stage 10:
1. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, ONCE-Eroski @ 36h 25' 35"
2. Lance Armstrong, U.S Postal Service @ 26"
3. Joseba Beloki, ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 23"
4. Serhiy Honchar, Fassa Bortolo @ 1' 35"
5. Santiago Botero, Kelme-Costa Blance @ 1' 55"
6. Andrea Peron, CSC-Tiscali @ 2' 08"
7. David Millar, Cofidis @ 2' 11" (Millar retains White Jersey for best young rider)
8. Stuart O'Grady, Credit Agricole @ 2' 15"
9. Raimondas Rumsas, Lampre-Daikin @ 2' 22"
10. Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali @ 2' 30"
Points Competition After Stage 10
1. Robbie McEwen, Lotto-Adecco 210pts
2. Erik Zabel, Team Telekom 209pts
3. Stuart O'Grady, Credit Agricole 157pts
4. Baden Cooke, FDJeux.com 148pts
5. Jan Svorada, Lampre-Daikin 119pts
Climber/Mountains Competition After Stage 10
1. Christophe Mengin, FDJeux.com 42pts
2. Patrice Halgand, Jean Delatour 27pts
3. Stephane Berges, AG2r 26pts
4. Ludo Dierckxsens, Lampre-Daikin 18pts (!!)
This will change radically tomorrow, with one Cat 4 climb, one Cat 1 climb, and one HC climb.
This concludes our live coverage of Stage 10. Join us tomorrow for the first mountain stage. Stage analysis and news to come later here. Thank you for reading!