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Stage 11: Courchevel-Briançon, 173 km
Today the riders will face just the three big Alpine monsters: the climb up Col de la Madeleine (25.4 km at 6.1%), the Col du Telégraphe (12km at 6.7%), and the Col du Galibier (17.5 km at 6.9%). The stage started with the descent of the Courchevel, where the race ended yesterday.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic), who was already suffering a bad back from an earlier crash, went down again on the descent of the Courchevel. Before Boonen crashed, his big rival for the Green Jersey, Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), decided to go on the attack on the opening descent. Hushovd was joined by Samuel Dumoulin (AG2r-Prevoyance), and together they built a solid lead on the field of 1' 30". Boonen is back up, but is receiving treatment from the doctor at the back of the race.
A developing story today is that of Dario Frigo (Fassa Bortolo). Apparently the Italian is no longer in the race due to a drug investigation, as his wife was found by French police to be in possession of the banned substance EPO. More on this as the story unfolds.
140 km left. Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) has attacked the peloton at the beginning of the climb up the Col de la Madaleine. Discovery Channel is setting the pace at the front of the peloton. Dumoulin has now been dropped by Hushovd, who is attempting to take the Green Jersey today. The first intermediate sprint is on the other side of the Madeleine, so Hushovd will have to hold off the pack over the climb.
So now Botero (Phonak), Vinokourov (T-Mobile), and Mancebo (Illes Balears) are in that attacking group led by Pereiro. That's a very dangerous break. Riders apparently are going to keep taking whacks at Lance all the way to Paris. Whoa! Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Heras (Liberty Seguros), and Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) are now in this attack! This is an attack of climbing all stars! At the back of the peloton, riders are coming off in bunches now as Discovery raises the pace.
Horner takes a turn at the front of the break, now giving way to Heras. The two Phonak men, Botero and Pereiro, are now coming through. Of these men, only Mancebo was able to keep up with Armstrong up the Courchevel yesterday. So these climbers are clearly trying to get back what they lost yesterday. This group now has 1' 05" on the peloton, and trails Hushovd by 3' 05". Now Valverde is off the back of the peloton! He looks to be talking to the race doctor.
So it is not Iban Mayo in that attack, it is Egoi Martinez, the former Tour de l'Avenir winner. Beloki (Liberty Seguros), meanwhile, is going the other direction... off the back of the peloton.
Nine kilometers to the top of the Madeleine for the big breakaway group of climbers. The peloton has raised the pace and men like Sevilla and Chavanel are being dropped. The Heras/Vinokourov/Horner group is 1' 20" behind Hushovd now, and the peloton is at 2' 40".
At the front of the peloton, Lance in Yellow is there marshalling his troops. Savoldelli is behind him, Hincapie is next to him, and Rubiera and Beltran are pushing the pace.
1346 CEST - 126.5 km left. Hushovd is having a hard time, about 6 km from the summit. He's about to get caught by this flying group of climbers. Poor Hushovd! A noble effort, that, but the big battle behind is going to swallow him up.
That climber's group is sorting out a bit... Vinokourov is pushing up a very steep section on the front of this break. Heras has been shelled by this group! It's Vino, Horner, Pereiro, Botero, Martinez, and Mancebo.
Well, the fact that the hammer has been down from the beginning of the Madeleine will put many riders near the elimination time by the end of the day. Garzelli (Liquigas-Bianchi) is now off the back of the peloton. Lance, meanwhile, looks comfortable in the peloton. Now Heras has been dropped by the peloton!
Now on a flatter section of the climb, Hushovd accelerates and recatches that group of climbers. Seven men off the front: Horner, Botero, Pereiro, Vinokourov, Martinez, Mancebo, and Hushovd with a 39" lead on the peloton. Whew! Discovery is chasing hard, clearly. Valverde, by the way, is back in the peloton.
"Peloton" is a relative word... it might be more accurate to call it the Yellow Jersey chase group... so many men have been shed! Of course there will be lots of regrouping on the long descent before the Telegraph and Galibier. Those monsters are going to be just that much harder with everybody racing up the Madeleine. All the sprinters and flatlanders who aren't Hushovd must be thinking, WTF?!?
1356 CEST - 122 km left. The peloton is now at 43", but they can see the break on this stretch of road. They have this break under control, clearly. Those men in the break may pay bigtime up the next climbs. Perhaps those in the peloton like Ullrich and Klöden will launch attacks later. We can hope!
Horner and Mancebo have sat up to wait for the peloton. Vino is still driving on with Martinez and the Phonak duo of Botero and Pereiro, but they won't be gone long. Hushovd has now been spit out the back of the peloton. Boy, when guys blow on this climb, they are gone in a hurry!
I got my picture taken with Egoi Martinez at the Tour last year... very nice guy.
So the peloton is up to Horner and Mancebo. Only the Vinokourov group is away still. Azevedo is the man setting the pace. There are five Discovery riders with Armstrong on the front of the peloton, looking very strong.
Martinez has been dropped... and the cameraman gets too close to him as he's dropped, and he gives the cameraman an earful in Basque! You tell him, Egoi!
Botero has now been dropped... Vinokourov is still driving the break, and only Pereiro is still with him... but Botero is recovering, digging to try to catch the two leaders over the top. Botero is back on the break. The crowd is getting huge, so they must be near the summit.
1405 CEST - 119 km left. The peloton is listed as still at 39", but the gap doesn't look like much when you see it. It's because it is just damned steep right now near the top. The Vinokourov group looks like they could reach out and touch the sky... they are almost at the summit.
Botero comes through to take maximum points on the climb, and now they grab some water and head into the descent.
Rasmussen, followed by Moreau, nears the summit ahead of the peloton. Moreau jumps to take fourth, Rasmussen lets him go and takes fifth. Rasmussen knows that he still has a monstrous lead in the King of the Mountains standings, and there are two hard climbs to come.
On the descent of the Madeleine, Pereiro has gone off the road! He was taking a drink and overshot a corner... and road off into the grass. He's back on the road and chasing Vinokourov and Botero.
Some big corners on this descent, but thankfully it is dry and comfortable for racing.
Both Botero and Vinokourov lost big time yesterday, so Discovery won't worry about bringing them back too much. They were more concerned with Mancebo. Now that Mancebo has been brought back... well, they'll keep an eye on the break, but won't kill themselves chasing.
1418 CEST - 109 km left. No word for a while on Boonen, who suffered that crash early on. He appears to be in the rather large grupetto of sprinters off the back.
The peloton of about 25 riders that crossed the summit is growing again. Pereiro is back up to Botero and Vinokourov. So is Martinez. So the break of four is attacking this descent.
The peloton looks to have swelled to about 45 men now. It will keep growing until the next climb. On the front of the peloton on the descent is the Discovery train.
Vinokourov is backing off a bit... letting the others have a big gap so that he can see and follow his own line through the corners. After watching Pereiro go sailing off the road, that's probably a wise move.
The break has pushed its lead to 1' 15" on this descent.
The four leaders, Vinokourov, Botero, Pereiro, and Martinez, are getting their feed bags. The still-growing peloton will reach the feed zone soon.
96km to go - The gap to the peloton is still only 1'23". Discovery Channel, acutely aware of the quality of the men in front, are keeping this one on a tight leash so far.
Of course, the French producers show Ullrich digging into his bag... they always seem to show Ullrich stuffing his face. Accidental? You decide...
So here is the beast that awaits next, the Télégraphe, which has some mean sections near the bottom and the top: http://www.salite.ch/telegrap.htm
For a full view of both monsters that await, visit here: http://www.salite.ch/galibier2.htm
Jorg Jaksche and Eddy Mazzoleni, both prominent figures yesterday on the climb to Courchevel, are on the wheel of Lance Armstrong.
There is only about a 4.5 km descent between these two climbs, which is about enough time to take a drink, blink, and go, "oh crap, you've GOT to be kidding me..."
It says a lot about the difficulty of this stage that the Télégraphe is the "easy" climb of the stage, the leg-loosener ahead of the "Giant of the Alps."
Along with the infamous Mont Ventoux, the climbs on the route today are the most feared monsters in France. I went up the Ventoux on the rest day last year, a magnificent climb. It was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, 13.1 miles long, and has that long section in the middle that is about 10%. Every time I think about it I just want to drink a cold beer and take a nap.
1442 CEST - 87km to go, and the gap is holding firm at 1'30" now.
The Phonak boys are working to drive the pace of the break. It is relatively flat here, but that won't last for long. There is about 10 km of false flat uphill before the Télégraphe hits for the break. Pavel "The Gavel" Padrnos sets the pace for Discovery on this false flat section.
Egoi Martinez may sound familiar to some - he finished third from the transition stage breakaway last year to Figeac in which David Moncoutié scored victory. He also won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2003.
Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) is in the pack riding well. He is still in 4th on GC, and has the French folks bouncing around with hope that they will have a homeboy on the podium in Paris. The French press is salivating at the idea. Horner is still in the peloton, riding next Garzelli. Disco uber-domestique Jose Azevedo - the only Portuguese man in the race - comes back through the cavalcade of vehicles, presumably with some provisions or information to give to his Boss.
Francisco Mancebo and Pietro Caucchioli are near the rear of the peloton, while Michael Rogers is last man, right at the back.
1454 CEST - 79 km to go, 1'40" is the gap. At the back of the peloton - which is still rather truncated in number - Beat Zberg (Gerolsteiner) raises his hand, clearly looking for his team car for assistance.
The riders are headed through a beautiful river valley right now. All around them are steep mountains. But one of the steepest awaits them at the end of the valley.
Vino takes his turn in the break driving it. The Phonak car comes up to give Botero and Pereiro some encouragement. Vinokourov leads through the sprint, ahead of Pereiro and Martinez; none of them contested it. Martinez helpfully swung off at the last moment to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to ascertain whether he came second or third. Thanks, Egoi! Always a pleasure...
That's the last bit of flat road they'll be seeing for quite a while...The riders will now hit the Télégraphe.
The peloton goes through the sprint line and heads onto the climb. They don't look too far behind. Now to see if the break can hold their advantage up these monsters.
Turns out Martinez was second in the intermediate sprint, Pereiro third. Basque trickster...
Of course, there is about 40+ km of descending after the Galibier, so any breaks on the climbs will have a hard time staying away to the finish. As the gradient kicks in - around 8% - Martinez is distanced. There are six Discovery riders in front of Armstrong at the front of the peloton. The gap is now only 55".
Santiago "The Beast" Botero goes off the back, but he's keeping the distance to the two in front respectable. Pereiro isn't going to do a lick of work while his Colombian teammate is still in close quarters.
1510 CEST - Basso is right on Armstrong's wheel, Ullrich is right on Basso's wheel in the peloton. Pereiro is setting the pace now in the break with Vinokourov.
Beltran sets the pace in the peloton. He's followed by Rubiera, Popovych, Savoldelli, Azevedo, Hincapie, and Armstrong, in that order.
The peloton is already thinning rapidly. Garzelli is gone now. The peloton is down to just over thirty men. Valverde, the White Jersey wearer, is riding high up in the peloton. If it comes to a sprint, he'll likely smoke everyone again today.
The gap is 1' 40" for Vinokourov. Landis is near the back of the peloton! Could be in trouble... hopefully he's just visiting the team car, though. Horner still in the peloton, looking comfortable.
Rogers, Mayo, Julich, Evans, Rasmussen, and Leipheimer are all here. Good to see Mayo recovering and up with the leaders today... yesterday he was off the back, looking more like a whipped condiment than the real Mayo we know and love.
Ullrich, Klöden, Jaksche, Valverde, and Basso are all near the front of the pack, peeking over the shoulders of the Discovery riders.
1519 CEST - 68 km left. Botero has fought back to the wheel of Vinokourov... he's quite a battler, that Botero. Pereiro sets the pace in the break with Vino second wheel.
The peloton is at 1' 52", riding a good tempo waiting for the Galibier. They'll probably start to pick it up a bit there, but unless there is a big attack, the Discovery boys will probably just continue to ride tempo to the finish.
Savoldelli is dropping back to the team car for some bottles. The Giro Champ is looking great today, as Michael Boogerd also gets some bottles and energy gels from the team car, then heads for the front of the pack.
The T-Mobile car pulls up to Vinokourov to give him some fresh bottles. A ways behind, Martinez looks about ready to be caught by the peloton. Vino makes a grimace suggesting "Two Phonak riders? But they'll double-team me!"
Vinokourov is one of those riders who just looks weird with a helmet on. It looks like he is wearing the thing way too back on his head. I just want to fly to France and help him adjust the thing.
1525 CEST - 65 km to go, 2'20" to the trio in front. The advantage is rising ever so slightly.
Chris Horner and Alberto Contador are at the back, but it looks like both are acting as dutiful domestiques.
Just under 2km to the summit of the Télégraphe for the three leaders. Zanini (Quick Step) abandons the race. Not surprising. I would do the same thing. The gap is up to 2' 45".
But the Galibier is still ahead, and the 40+ km descent to the finish. Long road ahead for the break still. Now just 1km to the top of this Cat 1 climb for Vinokourov, Botero and Pereiro. I reckon the Colombian will make a little burst to keep his King of the Mountains tally ticking over.
They are into the "whack-job sprinter" part of the climb, where crazy people run next to them shouting slogans in their ears whether they like it or not.
There is a large and friendly crowd here at the top of the climb. Botero takes maximim points again at the top of the Télégraph. Yes, just in front of Vinokourov. Pereiro actually loses a few seconds churning over the summit, but nothing a long descent can't fix. Rasmussen and Moreau will likely have another little sprint for the top of the climb when the peloton gets there.
Now the cruelly short 4.5 km descent before the Galibier. Rubiera is setting the pace for Discovery now. Moreau is bobbing near him, getting ready to race for the mountains points. Rasmussen is there too... here it comes. Moreau takes fourth, Rasmussen fifth.
Rasmussen let him have it again... I mean, he has over twice as many points as Moreau, and everybody else for that matter. By the way, Francisco Mancebo is lying nearer the rear end of the peloton, alongside men like Horner and Mourey. Has yesterday's effort taken a lot out of him?
57 km left. After a brief respite on the short descent, it's uphill business as usual for the three leaders. The gap is 3' 00". So, the Col du Galibier. The founder of the Tour, Henri Desgrange - never one to mince words - called the other mountains "gnat's piss" in comparision to this mighty one. It's 17.5km long, bringing the riders to the highest point of the Tour at 2,645 meters. With an average gradient of 6.9%, this is one of
the race's mythical mountains. Oh, and if that's not enough, the gradient rarely stays below 8% in the last eight kilometres. I'm salivating already at the prospect...
Horner is still hanging on to the back of the peloton, which has yet to hit the Galibier. Beltran leads the Discovery train onto the climb.
If you want to try to experience the joy of climbing this mountain while reading along at home, punch yourself in the groin and stomach every minute or so for the next half hour. Or better yet, have a friend do the punching for you.
The gap was up to 3' 30", but it's now down to 3' 19". Beltran, followed by Rubiera and Savoldelli, still pushes the pace in the peloton. It's too much for Mayo, who gets dropped. Rubbing my eyes, I do beg your pardon - (the real) Iban Mayo WAS with the peloton but has just gone off the back. Back to the whipped condiment shelf, alas! Leipheimer and Boogerd are visible near the front of the peloton. Basso and Julich are looking good on Lance's wheel.
Pereiro has been dropped! It's Botero and Vinokourov off the front now. Deja-vu for Oscar Pereiro - dropped from the break on the lower slopes of Courchevel yesterday too!
Well, well, the success of Rasmussen is having an impact on the nutters on the climbs... a man wearing a Danish flag like a superman cape is running crazy screaming next to the riders.
Boy, Pereiro is really cracking... the gap is pretty big now. Beltran and Rubiera keep swapping turns at the front of the pack. Behind the Disco train, Rasmussen, Basso, and Ullrich lurk and bide their time. Most of the contenders are visible, barring Mancebo, who still seems to be sitting at the back. Mayo is still only about ten meters off the back of the pack. Horner is in the peloton, but still near the back.
Francis Mourey goes off the back - still, a good performance from the young Frenchman, who is an able cyclo-cross rider come the winter.
Vino is really pushing the pace. Botero is sucking on his wheel now, just trying to keep up.
1456 CEST - 50 km left. What a lovely view - darkened scree slopes to the left, while unspoilt stony peaks rise majestically in the distance and on the horizon line. If you're not on the verge of puking from pain and exhaustion, that is.
Yes, Mancebo is still near the back, with Michael Rogers for company.
Beltran is gone now... his work done, he sits up and begins to just try to make it in by the end of the day.
Vino has dropped Botero! He's riding away from the Colombian as if he's standing still! The Phonak man churns on, his oxygen-starved brain
barely registering the fact that he has no company.
Just under 10km to the summit now. While the Kazakh champion somewhat capitulated yesterday, he still has that underlying talent that
Discovery Channel have to be wary of. Savoldelli now drives the Discovery train.
Vinokourov wipes the sweat from his eyes and honks for a few seconds, just to stop the growing pain in his back from staying in the saddle.
Vino has 15" to Botero, and 3' 15" to the peloton.
"Teeths" Boogerd is now dropped off the pack. The pace is coming up as they start to chase Vino. Garzelli is dropped too. Goubert and
Contador are also among those to fall off the pace.
Landis is looking a bit pained in the peloton, but he's hanging in towards the front. That peloton is slowly disintegrating again. Mancebo has
moved to the front now, hovering on Basso's right flank. The gap has come down to 3' 00" now. Savoldelli and Rubiera are doing good work on the
point of the pack.
47 km left. Only 7 km of climbing left, but it is some nasty steep climbing. Botero is 27 seconds behind Vino, and that gap is
growing. Vino is on the section that range from 7.5% to over 9%... very stiff. The crowds are big already... it will be a zoo near the top of this
climb. Vino is still flying along.
Rubiera is now popped and off the back, his work for Discovery done. Carlos Sastre is just hanging on to the yellow jersey group. Pereiro is
caught by the peloton. Vino is now laboring a bit on a steeper section, but he still looks strong. Botero is still hanging in there at 38". Could he
catch him on the descent? Totschnig is now tailing off the peloton, as is Illes Balears mountain worker Zandio. Klöden is in trouble! As is Guerini!
Not good for T-Mobile. Totschnig is on Kloden's wheel!
So about 25 guys left in this peloton. Five of them are Discovery riders. 5km to the summit for Vinokourov - then, the day's climbing will be all
but done. The Big Hink now brings the pain in the peloton. That dude, it must be said, is now a world-class climber. I mean, look at where he is right now! Hincapie has been improving his climbing for years, and now he is a far cry from the sprinter he used to be.
Rogers (Quick Step) is now struggling at the back of the pack, Klöden is off the back in a small group, with men like Totschnig and Casar.
Xandio, Kashechkin and Zubeldia are the latest men to lose the peloton. Discovery Channel are setting a relentlessly-fast pace.
The gap is down to 2' 51". Still a big gap, but it is coming down. Only about 16 men left with Lance now, four of them his teammates. Jaksche and Julich still look to be riding well in there. Hincapie continues to bring the hurt, laying down the law. If there were cobbles on this climb, he'd really do some damage. So it's Hincapie, Savoldelli, Azevedo, Armstrong, and Popovych on the front of the pack (in that order).
Vinokourov is riding like a champ, trying to make amends for his big bonk yesterday. With 2.5km to the summit of the Galibier, Vinokourov has 40 seconds on a resilient Botero with the peloton still 2'51" down the road.
Landis, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Basso, and Leipheimer are all in this group, as is Moreau and Evans and Mancebo and Valverde. Julich is in this group. Great riding by Bobby!
41.5 km left. Vino is nearing the top of the climb. Can he hold his 2' 50" advantage to the finish? If he does, it will be a very well-earned victory.
Vinokourov started the day sixteenth at 6'32"; Botero eleventh at 5'20". The road, courtesy of some hairpin bends, forms a perfect Z - that's what happens when you take roadbuilding lessons from Senor Zorro...
1km to go to the summit for Vinokourov, and the road is kicking up on this final, 8.5% section of the climb. Horner is still in the Armstrong group. Seems like about a third of that group is Americans. Hincapie, Armstrong, Horner, Landis, Julich, Leipheimer... all in that group.
These crowds are insane! So many people, parting at the last moment to let the lone leader churn past.
Vino crests the climb, but Botero is only 45" back... he could catch him. Rasmussen has now attacked from the pack... he's likely chasing mountain points.
No response to the Rasmussen attack. Discovery is just continuing to set the tempo, knowing they can catch him on the descent. So okay,
I don't see Horner in the group...Moreau is poised on Armstrong's shoulder, ready to pounce for some KOM points.
Rasmussen is 3rd over the top, only about 2' 25" behind Vinokourov. The pack goes over in 2' 42". Vino is now bombing this crazy descent.
Leipheimer and Julich, two Americans, are noticeable at the back of the group.
Well, it's all downhill now to Briancon, which is still the highest town in the world. The locals pride themselves on that fact; there's a little sign at the entry which states exactly that in French - 'la plus haute ville d'Europe'.
Alejandro Valverde has been dropped on the descent. He should really get back on though. Botero gets into an aerodynamic tuck, as the mountain scenery streaks past in a blur. These guys are going on the rivet, 80km/h plus.
Botero catches Vinokourov! That was quick! There are a lot of fans on this descent. Not sure I would be on the outside of a corner on descents like this. If a rider doesn't make the corner, he's going to smack into you at speed.
31 km left. Botero now in the lead, Vino about 10 meters behind, bombing to the finish. These two powerhouses are both strong time trialists, and might be able to keep the peloton at bay to take the win. The Kloden group is latched back onto the yellow jersey group. Those 31 km are going to fly by.
Rubiera stops at the top of the Galibier, stuffing a newspaper up his jersey to keep his chest warm for the descent. He's happy to just roll to the finish. He's still about 20 minutes ahead of the sprinters. Rubiera might also be waiting for his teammates who are off the back to help them to the finish. 12'48" behind Vinokourov, Beloki, Astarloza and Iglinskiy cross the summit.
Popovych takes over from Il Falco Savoldelli on the descent, pumping his legs like pistons to keep the pace high. Holy crap, on the descent at speed, Azevedo pulls his foot out of the pedal, grabs his foot, and pulls it back to stretch his thigh. I would end up in the ditch if I tried that. Or off into the canyon, in this case.
22 km left. Savoldelli is helping lead this descent... good guy to have in front of you on a descent, that guy. He leans into a corner with expert nonchalance at some crazy speed. But two former stage winners and world class studs look like they will now fight it out for the stage win today. Both Botero and Vinokourov are popular, and known for their incredible strength. They've both won mountain stages in the Tour before as well.
Moreover, these two will know each other - Botero had two ill-fated years at T-Mobile (Telekom) in 2003 and 2004 before the Swiss squad "rescued" him.
Discovery is now in team time trial mode at the front of the pack. Popovych, Savoldelli, Hincapie, and Azevedo are taking turns driving the
pace in the peloton. They won't necessarily want to catch the break, but they do want to limit their time gains as much as possible. Vinokourov and Botero are screaming down this descent, really eating away the kilometres into Briancon.
Now an Illes Balears rider comes up to help set the pace. He's riding for Mancebo and Valverde, trying to defend their GC positions. Valverde would also destroy everybody if the break was caught and there was a sprint.
Vinokourov's transponder - the yellow box which electronically times his arrival at the finish - is moving around a bit, barely hanging on. There could be problems if that falls off...His mechanic gives it an adjustment while hanging out of the team car. Sketchy... he could lose a finger that way...
12km to go - 2'10" now, as the Disco boys peg the lead back a bit.
10km to go. The pace still being set by the Discos and the lone Illes Balears worker. Lance sits behind with Rasmussen and several other big guns on his wheel. The gruppetto reaches the top of the Galibier. They won't care what their deficit is to the stage winner as long as they make the time limit.
The gap is down to 1' 50". 7 km left. When will Botero and Vinokourov start to play games? They will stay away, but who will take the sprint?
The gap is now 1'46" as the leading pair shoot under the 5km to go banner. The two leaders on a slight downhill, but the finish is a slight uphill.
4km to go - down to 1'40". Lightweight Italian climber Piepoli is clinging to the back of the chasing group; Discovery Channel are stringing things out now.
2.5 km left. Vinokourov and Botero are still working well together.
Under the 2km sign now. These guys are still cruising at about 60 kph, but that will change in the final kilometer.
Now just 1km to go! Whoa, a tricky roundabout at 1.5 km...Now Botero leads out up the right barriers, looking over his shoulder.
We've seen in previous races like Paris-Nice that Alexandre Vinokourov has good acceleration from small groups. He should be the favourite in a sprint. On the other hand, Botero is so powerful that if he turns on the gas, the Kazakh could be distanced. Vino isn't drafting, just riding a bit behind him. This is a clean sprint. Here goes Vino! He's going to win it.
Textbook Vinokourov! He punches the air, happy with his vindication. From 500m, Botero was just in front, constantly looking back to see when his rival would start his sprint. When Vino started it, there was still nothing the Phonak man could do! The Disco boys are driving the train all the way to the line. There will be a time bonus for 3rd... will there be a sprint for it?
Here comes Moreau, and Lance is sprinting too. Moreau gets it. 1'15" behind Vinokourov. A CSC, possibly Julich, was fourth, while Evans and Armstrong were also thereabouts. So Vino gets a great win and forces Discovery into a very hard, day-long chase. That could be important down the road. Vino is still way back in the rearview mirror on GC, but with Discovery spending all that energy in the chase they could be vulnerable later.
2. Botero 1"
10 Totschnig (all 1'15")
I think Botero lost two seconds or so in the sprint, but perhaps that won't come up.
GC: 1. Armstrong, 2. Rasmussen @ 38", 3. Moreau @ 2' 34, 4. Basso @ 2' 40"... 5. Valverde @ 3' 16", 6. Botero @ 3' 48", 7. Leipheimer @ 3' 58".
So with that time bonus, Moreau climbed over Basso on GC. Botero is up into 6th on GC with that ride as well. Have to say, a good ride by Xavier Zandio - he finished on the same time as teammates Valverde and Mancebo alongside much more illustrious names.
So, some interesting GC changes - Botero climbed up a bit on GC with that ride. Great job for him! More GC: 8. Mancebo @ 4' 00", 9. Ullrich @ 4' 02", 10. Klöden @ 4' 16".
Tomorrow is a medium mountain stage, with a couple of Cat 4s, a Cat 3, and two Cat 2s. It should be a good day for attacking strongmen like Voigt and Flecha again. Maybe Horner could do well too. A break will certainly go out and make it to the line.
Hinault helps Armstrong don his 73rd Yellow Jersey... he and Hinault share some kind of joke in French with the podium girl.
Thanks for being with us today. Full results to come, as well as our regular Tour features. See you tomorrow!
Commentary today by Locutus and Andy McDobbin.