|Stage 12: 199.5 km from Lannemezan to Plateau-de-Beille. Yesterday had the first serious climbs, with a Cat 4, Cat 1, and HC climb over 158 km. Today will make yesterday look downright easy, as the race covers 199.5 km and takes in five catagorized climbs. Here is an overview of today's route:
- Km 30: Intermediate Sprint
- Km 56: Cat 1 - Col de Mente (9.4 km @ 9.0%)
- Km 71.5: Cat 2 - Col de Porte-d'Aspet (4.3 km @ 9.9%)
- Km 81.5: Intermediate Sprint
- Km 107.5: Cat 1 - Col de la Core (14.3 km @ 5.8%)
- Km 155.5: Cat 2 - Col de Port (12.6 km @ 4.9%)
- Km 199.5: HC - Plateau-de-Beille (15.9 km @ 7.8%)
Podofdonny describes the route as follows: "This could be a pivotal stage in the race, its parcours are of simple beauty, two category one and two category two climbs before an epic finish up the legendary Plateau de Beille - where Marco Pantani soared to glory in 1998."
It will be interesting to see if U.S. Postal will try to dominate from the gun like yesterday. It's unlikely, as the race is much longer; more likely is that a group of non-threatening climbers will be allowed up the road. Look for some of the very low-placed Euskaltel-Euskadi riders to mix in with any break today.
Also, today is the real day of truth for the Polka-Dot Jersey. Patrice Halgand (DEL) has the lead, but Laurent Jalabert (CST) and Oscar Sevilla (KEL) will likely go for it today too, along with Richard Virenque (DFF).
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We join the race in progress.
80km to go, and there are several riders off the front. Jalabert (CST) is 3' ahead of a chase group and 4' 30" ahead of the peloton. Two other riders are with Jalabert.
Jalabert is now the virtual Polka-Dot Jersey on the road. He has won points on every climb so far.
Earlier in the stage, Carlos Sastre (CST) and Christophe Moreau (C.A.) got in a fist fight on their bikes at the front of the pack. Looks like Moreau started it.
Remember that Robbie Hunter (MAP) called Moreau a "dumb ass" who thinks he owns the road and doesn't respect the space of other riders. Moreau will likely get a nice fine today. Both riders are still in the race on their bikes.
McEwen (LOT) came in first and Zabel (TEL) second in the first intermediate sprint of the day. Zabel will now lead that competition by a single point at the end of the day.
Laurent Dufaux (ALS) and Nozal (ONE) are with Jalabert.
Virenque (DFF) and Mazzoleni (TAC) were off the front with two others in pursuit of the Jalabert group. They are being reeled in by the Postal-led peloton, so Mazzoleni has tried to go it alone.
Virenque certainly does not look good so far in the mountains. Also disappointing so far is Euskaltel-Euskadi, who have done nothing serious in the mountains.
David Etxebarria tried something again today, but it didn't work. The men in Orange must certainly be ready to strike. Maybe they just don't have the legs. Yet.
8 Posties lead the race. Ekimov had the peloton strung out. He's followed by Padrnos and "Gorgeous" George Hincapie, the mountain lion who did such a great pull at the bottom of the final climb yesterday.
Landis is with Armstrong at the back of the Postal train today. He looks fine. He finished over 21' back yesterday, but he was billed to be Lance's support rider in the mountains. Whatever was going on yesterday, it looks different today for Landis.
They have covered two Cat 1 and one Cat 2 climbs so far today. Impressive that 8 Posties are still there. The peloton is now swallowing back Virenque.
Sandstod of CSC broke several ribs in his crash yesterday, and had to retire. Vaughters (CA) also continued his legendary bad luck, crashing out on a descent yesterday. His injuries are not as serious as Sanstod's, fortunately.
Kirsipuu (AG2) and his sprinter legs couldn't take the climbs either, as usual, and he pulled out.
Pena, Hincapie, Joachim, Padrnos, Landis, in that order, lead the Posties at the front on their charge towards the Col de Port, the fourth climb of the day.
Jalabert, Dufaux, and Nozal are 4' 51" ahead with around 70km left. Mazzoleni is alone at 3' 50", then the peloton...thinned of quite a few riders...snakes along at a stiff clip.
6:01 PDT. McGee (FDJ) looked over his shoulder on the descent yesterday, causing his own crash. He ended up in a barbed-wire fence. He came out of it okay, well enough to joke about it yesterday.
Landis said that his horrible ride yesterday was simply a bad day. This is his first Tour, and his body didn't adjust well from the flying attacks of the flats to the slow grind of the mountains. He looks much better so far today.
Americans Hamilton (CST) and Leipheimer (RAB) also didn't have great days yesterday, but they didn't do that poorly either. They are both looking to do something better today. Of course Armstrong is also likely to launch a much more serious attack to try to shed the wheelsucking Joseba Beloki (ONE) and his teammate Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano.
Hamilton's wife came to the race along with Leipheimer's wife Odessa Gunn and Sanstod's wife and son. It was a truly sad day for the Sanstod family, as Sandstod's crash left him with the broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken collarbone. He is reportedly doing well this morning given the serious injuries.
On a lighter note, Gunn brought Rabobank pom-poms and cheered on the side of the road.
Gunn took her cheering duties a bit to far, as when Eric Dekker of Rabobank came struggling up a climb, Gunn gave him a push to try to help him out. Dekker of course is still struggling with his leg injury from Milan-San Remo.
When Gunn was giving the push, Hamilton reports that her pom-poms became entangled in Dekker's wheel so badly that a mechanic had to help disentangle it. Dekker found the whole thing amusing.
6:19 PDT. Hincapie and Landis lead the peloton up the Cat 2 Col de Port about 50km from the finish.
This is a beautiful day in the Pyrenees, the weather is clear for Jalabert's second long attack in two days. His group is 5' off the front.
Stuart O'Grady (CA) is off the back of the peloton, but seems not too bad off. He is pacing himself up the climb, but will likely rejoin on the descent. Not bad for Stuey to be in contact this late in a serious mountain stage.
Jens Voigt (CA) is also going off the back. He has a very bad gash on his knee, and he had several stitches put in last night after a crash yesterday. He has a large bandage on his knee today.
So Moreau and Sastre join Karsten Kroon (RAB) as the pugilists of this year's Tour (what some have called the "Belli Squad" following the Fassa rider's punching of a fan last year in the Giro). Kroon had a nasty crash, and then remounted only to get hit by a team car. He then had a couple of swings for the driver. Who knew there was so much fisticuffs in cycling?
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6:34 PDT. Jalabert is leading Dufaux and Nozal towards the summit of the climb to get maximum points. He is building a huge lead in the King of the Mountains competition. For the second year in a row.
Jalabert has taken maximum points at the top, and the riders grab some newspaper and stuff them up their shirts to protect their chests from the chill of the descent.
Still a large bunch of Posties leading the peloton around 4' 30" back. Landis is in the lead, and Hincapie is still hauling his big rig up the climbs at the front! An amazing display of his improved climbing form, which made him such a threat in the classics this year.
Virenque attacks to take fourth on the top of the climb. He's still far behind his compatriot Jalabert in the KOM competition that he ruled for so many years before the Festina drug scandal.
6:43 PDT. Virenque's teammate Axel Merckx has jumped and he is off the front of the peloton on the descent. He joins Virenque and couple of others in the attack.
Jalabert, Dufaux, and Nozal are 35km from the finish. They are flying down the descent. The peloton has finished two Cat 2 and two Cat 1 climbs. The big one is still to come, the HC Plateau-de-Beille (15.9 km @ 7.8%).
Nozal is a passenger on the Jalabert group, doing no work. The ONCE rider is protecting his leader Beloki. Meanwhile, Merckx is flying off the front down the descent with Sastre and Peron (CST) and Virenque. They will likely all hit the final climb together to try to stay away from the U.S. Postal train.
All nine Posties are there on the front as they hammer across the descent and the false flat towards the final climb. Zabel is still in the peloton. The peloton is still huge relatively, as many have rejoined on the descent.
6:55 PDT. Domo-Farm Frites' Merckx and Konecny (not Virenque) lead the peloton by a bit on the descent. No sign of the CSC riders who were with them.
Postal's Ekimov is a bit off the front stretching his back, clearly just preparing for the final climb and not attacking. "The Pensioner" Ekimov is riding a great race so far, especially for a man who is retired.
It doesn't look like Postal is going after JaJa's breakaway. They are simply going to set up the attack for the final climb. Postal looks to be poised to do what they did yesterday, hammering the peloton into submission with their intense pacing up the final climb.
7:00 PDT. Jalabert, Dufaux, and Nozal are still over 4' ahead of the peloton. They are on the false flat that leads to the final climb, and are about 6km away from the foot of the climb itself.
The Domo riders are re-absorbed by the cruel, predatory peloton led by U.S. Postal. The pace and the long false flat will dissuade other attackers as they approach the final climb. Once the group hits the climb, the peloton will explode in both directions...off the front and off the back.
Landis, then Rubiera, are lined up directly in front of Armstrong, and Heras is right behind him. This is the likely order of Armstrong's final line of defense for the climb. After the turns of Rubiera and Heras yesterday, it looks as though the only men who could challenge Armstrong on the climbs are on his own team.
7:10 PDT. With Dufaux's assistance, Jalabert will have a better chance to stay away. Nozal has been sitting on, so he may have the legs to take it from both of them if it comes to a that. The gap is only 3' 17" now, so Postal has the hammer down.
The breakaways hit the bottom of the Plateau de Bielle. Crowds are thick at the bottom, and will likely be insane at the top. So far, the fans are in a variety of colors with only a few Orange shirts. That will likely change towards the top with the Euskaltel faithful.
The Big Rig, the Mountain Lion, "Gorgeous" Geoge Hincapie hits the front to set the pace for the Posties. They are rotating through still, not going "au bloc" and then pulling off yet. That will come on the climb, which they haven't reached yet. They will reach it in the next minute or so.
Some are coming off the back on the climb. Olano (ONE) is gone. So are a lot of Posties. Landis is on the front, followed by Rubiera. Then Armstrong.
An ONCE rider has launched an attack. The Posties haven't countered. Heras is nowhere near the front. Could be a problem.
THERE is Heras...he just rides up to Lance's wheel. Still three Posties with Lance. A lot of men are off the back. Frigo (TAC) is gone. The Jalabert group still has over 3 minutes.
Julich (TEL) has been shelled. The gas is on, with Landis on the front. They have brought back Serrano, the ONCE rider who attacked. Jalabert has attacked! He attacks and drops his companions after the gap drops to under 2'.
7:20 PDT. JaJa has 12km to the finish. It is unlikely he will stay away with Armstrong, Beloki, and Heras still to play their cards. Still, another brilliant ride from a great man in his last Tour!
Many have complained that Beloki has never attacked, and that he is simply a world-class wheel-sucker. The fact that he was able to hang onto the wheel of Armstrong when Heras put in his blistering leadout/attack yesterday shows his talent, however.
Rubiera is on the front now, putting the hammer down. Belli (FAS) is gone off the back, as is Moreau. Few are still with the Armstrong group. The plan of yesterday is repeated today. Kivilev (COF) is still with Armstrong.
Nozal (ONE) is getting swept up by the Armstrong group. Leipheimer is struggling, but Hamilton is still with Armstrong!! Go TYLER!!
JaJa is still 1' 15" ahead. He is simply riding tempo. It's all he can do now. Rumsas is still with Armstrong! As is Beloki, and Botero, and a couple of other ONCEs. Tyler is now in difficulty!!
Sevilla (KEL) is off the back of the Armstrong group now. Looks like Basso and Mancebo are still there in the Armstrong group as well.
Sevilla and Hamilton will likely ride tempo and try to rejoin, like the rest of the men who have been dropped. The going is very slow right now, as everyone looks like they will fall over if they stop pedaling for even a moment. Truly a steep part of the climb!
7:30 PDT. Jalabert has the devil running next to him. Armstrong is still following Rubiera. Heras is there. There has been a slight regrouping.
Dufaux gets caught by the Armstrong group. Garcia Acosta (BAN) is off the back. Azevedo (ONE) is gone. Sevilla is off the back again. Hamilton is tacked onto the back of the Armstrong group still.
Gonzalez de Galdeano is still there in the group. JaJa gets caught! HOW SAD!! A noble ride for a brave rider, who will have the KOM Jersey to console him tonight.
Armstrong looks like nails as he sits on Rubiera's wheel. Bad, bad news for the others, perhaps.
Sevilla is chasing hard as the climb levels a bit. Tyler is out of the saddle to stay in touch. Good to see him do that...his injury prevented it in the Giro.
Leipheimer is not far off the back. Wait, it's not Hamilton on the back of the group! It's SASTRE, his teammate! Sorry about that!!
Hamilton is back with Sevilla, chasing hard.
Jalabert rides next to Dufaux sharing a laugh. They had a great go today, these two experienced riders!
Hamilton is with JaJa, who seems to be trying to pace him back to the group. He's not that far behind, but it will be hard to catch the flying Armstrong group now. Botero is on Armstrong's wheel, with just about 8 others left in the group.
Heras is sitting back in the group, riding comfortably. Postal looks like they are waiting for an attack so that they can counter.
Rubiera is still on the front! A huge effort from the talented Spanish climber.
Three Posties in the main group, with three ONCEs. Plus Rumsas, Botero, Sastre, Kivilev.
Rubiera picks up the pace! Looks like Kivilev is gone! Here goes Heras!! Rubiera is pulling off the front. Here we go again! There goes Serrano, and Gonzalez de Galdeano is gone too!!!
Beloki is once again the only one who can stay on the wheel of Armstrong, who is following Heras. There goes Armstrong!! He's attacked!! Beloki is trying to counter with Heras on his wheel!
And Lance is flying up the mountain like his ASS IS ON FIRE!
Beloki is riding hard to counter, and Armstrong's gap is still not that big, about 50 meters. But if Beloki does catch back on, Heras will surely counter.
Armstrong is out of the saddle, back in the saddle, out of the saddle again. About 5km left on the climb. Botero, Gonzalez de Galdeano, and Serrano, and Rumsas are in a group chasing.
Virenque looks horrible at the bottom. He's getting a bath from a water bottle. He's exhausted on this very hot day.
7:45 PDT. Armstrong is alone, hammering in the saddle with his characteristic high cadence. He is 15" clear of Beloki. Heras is still sitting on Beloki...maybe Heras will attack towards the top when the gap is big enough?
Armstrong is delivering the definitive blow. And now Heras has attacked!! He's trying to join Armstrong! If he catches him, Armstrong will surely give him the stage win!! Armstrong seems to be sitting up a bit trying to wait for Heras.
The Terrible Tinkerbell, the Flyweight Flyer, Roberto Heras is riding up to his teammate Armstrong. He's not there yet, but he's closing.
Armstrong rides under the 4km banner. Heras is just about 10 seconds behind. Beloki is sprinting out of the saddle on a flatter section of the climb, trying to catch Heras!
If Beloki catches Heras, the Postie will sit up. Beloki is not sitting up, he's fighting hard. Now it looks like Armstrong is not waiting for Heras, who is slipping back. But Armstrong will want Heras in 2nd to take the time bonus at the top.
Heras is sitting up to wait for Beloki, to sit on him for awhile. He's going under the 3km banner.
Beloki catches Heras, who grabs his wheel. Psychological warfare this...as Armstrong puts the hammer down on a steeper section 35" ahead of the group. Botero and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano chase a ways back, working well.
7:53 PDT. Beloki is struggling now on the steeper section. Heras will jump him again soon, no doubt.
Armstrong rides through the insane fans at the top...lots of Orange, as expected. He's in the last 1.5km.
Armstrong is about 35" up as Beloki and Heras go under the 2km banner. Beloki is suffering. Armstrong still looks fresh. Amazing.
7:57 PDT. He's in the barriers now, and his lead has grown to 51" to Beloki. He's going under the 1km banner.
The steeper final section has helped Armstrong and hurt Beloki. Heras still sits on Beloki's wheel. Lance is the Boss. His team is dominant. He's really putting the hurt on everyone now.
7:59 PDT. Beloki and Heras go under the 1km banner now. Armstrong's lead is 1' to the first chase, almost 2' to the second chase of IGG and Botero.
Here Lance comes. He zips up his shirt, punches the air with both arms as he crosses with another great victory.
Heras is gearing up and sprinting!! He's flown past Beloki! Heras will take 2nd, and climb far up the GC.
Rumsas comes across 1' 24" back. Botero and IGG came in just around 1' 10" back so the earlier timecheck given above must have been inaccurate.
Basso (FAS) comes in over 6' back today. He's had a harder day today.
Jalabert is coming closer to the line finally, to the grateful cheers of the fans. Many riders come up to him and pat him on the back as they come up to him, still pedaling away. Julich is riding with him now.
Jalabert crosses the line around 11' 40" back, getting applause from the fans and the cyclists riding at his side as he crosses. He smiles, embarrassed.
Lance is on the podium, shaking the hand of fellow great, Bernard Hinault of France.
Sorry, server difficulties there for a minute...
In his interview with Andreu after the finish, Armstrong said the biggest goal was to get the stage for Heras. Beloki coming back hard thwarted that goal.
He says Rubiera and Heras really made the race. Armstrong attacked to set up the counterattack by Heras. He says that he really wants to get Heras a stage win and a high GC placing.
He says that Mont Ventoux is much harder than today.
Stage 12 Final Results
1. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal 6h 00' 29"
2. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal @ 1' 04"
3. Joseba Beloki, ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 04"
4. Santiago Botero, Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 1' 11"
5. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 11"
6. Raimondas Rumsas, Lampre-Daikin @ 1' 23"
7. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Tiscali @ 1' 33"
8. Marcos Serrano, ONCE-Eroski @ 1' 37"
9. Oscar Sevilla, Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 2' 07"
10. Andrei Kivilev, Cofidis @ 2' 39"
11. Axel Merckx, Domo-Farm Frites @ 2' 47"
12. David Moncoutie, Cofidis @ 2' 47"
13. Levy Leipheimer, Rabobank @ 2' 47"
14. Stephane Goubert, Jean Delatour @ 2' 47"
15. Francisco Mancebo, iBanesto.com @ 3' 17"
16. Christophe Moreau, Credit Agricole @ 3' 17"
17. Dario Frigo, Tacconi Sport @ 3' 32"
20. Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 4' 21"
24. Kevin Livingston, Team Telekom @ 5' 18"
28. Richard Virenque, Domo-Farm Frites @ 5' 51"
31. Ivan Basso, Fassa Bortolo @ 6' 47"
32. Laurent Dufaux, Alessio @ 6' 47"
38. Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali @ 8' 06"
39. Michael Boogerd, Rabobank @ 8' 20"
43. Floyd Landis, U.S. Postal @ 9' 15"
49. Laurent Jalabert, CSC-Tiscali @ 11' 36"
GC Results after Stage 12
1. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal @ 46h 47' 47"
2. Joseba Beloki, ONCE-Eroski @ 2' 28"
3. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano ONCE-Eroski @ 3' 19"
4. Raimondas Rumsas, Lampre-Daikin @ 5' 15"
5. Santiago Botero, Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 5' 44"
6. Marcos Serrano, ONCE-Eroski @ 7' 14"
7. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal @ 8' 01"
8. Jose Azevedo, ONCE-Eroski @ 8' 24"
9. Oscar Sevilla, Kelme-Costa Blanca @ 9' 05"
10. Francisco Mancebo, iBanesto.com @ 9' 10"
11. Carlos Sastre, CSC-Tiscali @ 9' 32"
12. Levy Leipheimer, Rabobank @ 10' 21"
13. David Moncoutie, Cofidis @ 11' 10"
14. Axel Merckx, Domo-Farm Frites @ 11' 26"
15. Andrei Kivilev, Cofidis @ 11' 39"
16. Ivan Basso, Fassa Bortolo @ 12' 29"
19. Dario Frigo, Tacconi Sport @ 13' 34"
22. Tyler Hamilton, CSC-Tiscali @ 14' 04"
31. Laurent Jalabert, CSC-Tiscali @ 17' 43"
King of the Mountains competition after Stage 12
1. Laurent Jalabert, CSC-Tiscali 142pts
2. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal 84pts
3. Joseba Beloki, ONCE-Eroski 66pts
4. Laurent Dufaux, Alessio 66pts
5. Richard Virenque, Domo-Farm Frites 59pts
Points competition after Stage 12
1. Eric Zabel, Team Telekom 217
2. Robbie McEwen, Lotto-Adecco 216
This concludes our live coverage of Stage 12 of the Tour de France. Check back for analysis, the daily Jambon awards, Tour Notes...and please join us again tomorrow for more live coverage. Thanks for reading!