Welcome to live coverage of Stage 15 of the Tour de France!
Stage 15: Lézat-sur-Lèze-Saint-Lary Soulan (Pla d'Adet), 205 km
Today is the hardest day of the Tour. The riders face a 205.5 kilometers, including a Cat 2 climb, then four Cat 1 climbs, and then finally go up the Above Category Pla-d'Adet. Brutally hot, brutally steep, today will see some huge time gaps.
Jumping right into the race action, there is a huge break of fourteen men off the front with a monstrous lead on the peloton. The group includes George Hincapie (Discovery Channel).
The 14 escapees swoop down the Col de Mente; Rabobank did indeed get the top 3 men over the mountain, keeping their chicken cooped up. Unless they are using Hincapie as a stepping stone, as we saw T-Mobile use Nardello yesterday.
Of course Sevilla is also in the break for Ullrich, but with the gap at 18.10 maybe the break will stay away. The Phonak team will be pleased to have Pereiro in the break, this morning they said they wanted someone in the break to help Floyd Landis later. They are still determined to get Landis in a strong position after today's stage.
The men in this break are Mikel Astarloza (AG2r), Iker Camano (Euskaltel Euskadi), Allesandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze), Oscar Pereiro (Phonak), Laurent Brochard and Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros - Wurth), Michael Boogerd, Karsten Kroon, and Erik Dekker (Rabobank), Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile), and the Big Hink, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel). Oh, and Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole) and Rubens Bertogliati (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
That's a lot of guys to have off the front.
1401 CEST - 95 km left. The peloton, still on the Col de Mente, sees Brad McGee drop off the back, while 18 minutes up the road the escapees are at the feed zone. Still four big climbs left... it's nothing but up and down after this valley.
Bouygues Telecom have veteran Laurent Brochard and the fighting Jerome Pineau in the break; they will be hoping to get a famous stage win today; of those in the break probably the best climber is Pietro Caucchioli, though Camano and Pereiro can climb a bit too.
Good tactics from Rabobank, three men in the break - they can snatch the mountain points for Rasmussen, maybe help their leader Rasmussen later, while Boogerd must fancy his chances for the stage.
Armstrong has an extra motivation today: the widow of Fabio Cassartelli told him to win, and the race passes the monument to Fabio Casartelli. The peloton is being led by Discovery Channel. Their pace is moderate, but stiff enough to be shedding guys left and right on the climbs.
Still Discovery tap out the pace at the front of the peloton, Popovych now alongside Armstrong, Hincapie up the road - they will be hoping to use him as a steppng stone, since Armstrong has said he would like to win this stage.
The Yellow-jerseyed Texan has not won a race all season, and would like to change that today.
1407 CEST - 18.00 minutes ahead the peloton finally reach the Col de Mente. 85 km to go for the 14 men in the break.
Pereiro is the highest placed man in the break, 24th on GC at 24' 40". However, Hincapie is 25th at 24' 59", and he's been climbing very, very well in this Tour. He could be way up the GC if this break stays away. With the Yellow Jersey behind him, Hincapie will just have to sit on and mark the others in the break.
The Discovery boys won the team time trial, but that is not an individual win... and Armstrong really wants to actually win a stage in his final Tour.
The Rabobank boys, the two men from Bouygues Telecom, and Pereiro all take turns pulling in the break. Hincapie and Sevilla are sitting on.
Voeckler's got a flat rear wheel. He's gotten a new one and is off again.
A reader asks if we think Rasmussen will figure today - our guess is that Hincapie will drop off the break on the Col de Peyressourde, in order to help Armstrong; that is probably the climb when the major attacks will start. T-Mobile will probably use Sevilla in the same way - but the Rabobank boys will keep going.
The peloton finally reach the feed zone. Pavel Padrnos empties his musette - he has been doing the majority of the work at the front and must be getting tired.
1423 CEST - Back in the pack, Lance Armstrong is in a playful mood, chatting with the cameraman and talking to his teammates. Armstrong tells the cameraman that he feels good. Like he would say anything different to the TV guys during the stage.
T-Mobile said yesterday (as reported here) that the race is now for 2nd and 3rd places, and that Armstrong looks like he's well on his way to another victory. Of course that could have been a bit of psychological gamesmanship.
It would be some early birthday present to "allow" his most long-serving domestique, George Hincapie, the queen stage in his own valedictory race. His birthday is in some twelve days time. Still, let's not get ahead of ourselves, a long way to go.
1429 CEST - 77 km left. The gap of the break is still 19' 15", but there are still four nasty climbs to come.
Of course if Armstrong were to win this Tour without winning a stage, he would not be the first to do that. Firmin Lambot was not only the oldest winner ever, but did not win a stage of the race when he won in 1922.
That race is remembered for the exploits of Eugene Christophe, who seemed to spend a lot of time breaking and repairing his forks, which he did again that year, and Heusghem, who was docked an hour for an illicit bike change - ah, those were the days.
Sevilla sets the pace in the break up the climb of the Cat 1 Col du Portillon (8.4 km at 7.3%).
Karsten Kroon spins the pedals on the front of the break - the last time he and Dekker were together in a Tour breakaway on Bastille Day 2002, Dekker was still suffering from a crash in Milan-San Remo, and was yo-yoing off the back near the end. However, the former World Cup winner dug deep and stayed in there to lead out Kroon to a fine victory. Something tells me it won't quite be the same today, considering both are leaden climbers...
Bertogliati has also had great success in the Tour: a few years back, he won an early stage of the Tour with a solo attack up a stiff little climb in the final kilometer of the race. The victory also put him in the Yellow Jersey.
1436 CEST - CSC now pick up the pace at the front of the peloton, Bobby Julich near the front, working for his captain Ivan Basso. By the way, we are now officially in Spain. I bet there's some comical French road sign near the border saying 'Caution - Spaniards.'
Basso has a flat!
It's a rear puncture, which takes CSC off the front of the peloton. He's gotten a change of wheel and is being paced back by 2 teammates. Discovery takes over the pacemaking again for the moment.
Just outside the village of Pontaut - 73km to go - 18'06" is the gap now. Basso shouldn't have any problems with Discovery on auto pilot at the front.
Of course if this had been the old days, Basso would have had to dig up some ore, smelt it, craft it into a new wheel, chop down a rubber tree and boil up some new rubber for the wheel, etc., etc.
Then he'd be fined by the officials for accepting illegal help... halcyon days, eh?
Exactly, Eugene Christophe must be pedalling in his grave, of course Heusghem would have just pinched a bike from a passing farmer. It just blows my mind what the Tour riders used to have to go through...
Mikel Astarloza seems to be having trouble in the escapees now, as is Jerome Pineau. A surprise - the tall Spaniard is riding well for Ag2r, in thirty-first overall. I'd have expected him to be up there with the best today, but the heat effects different people in different ways.
Bertogliati is struggling at the back of the group.
I want to see the riders invade a local Quickie Mart... descend en masse, eat up all the twinkies and chips and drink all the beer and sports drinks...
Kroon sets the pace in the break. Kroon at one time a few years back wore the climber's jersey in the Giro d'Italia. Kroon taps his head and points to the "Fabio" (Casartelli) band on his wrist. It is a wide white bracelet that has the word "FABIO" on it in large letters. This is nice by Kroon.
Maybe more of an armband than a bracelet, worn on the lower arm.
1446 CEST - 70 km left. The gap of the ten men left in the break is down to 18' 22". Bertogliati, Pineau, Dekker, and Astarloza have been dropped by that break, though they could reintegrate on the descent. Maybe.
CSC has raised the pace in the peloton along with Discovery... on the climb of the Col du Portillon. The gap 17'37" now.
McGee is off the back again, in a group with Robbie McEwen and several others. In the autobus, the camera shows the Australian champion McEwen; he's on the wheel of teammate Vansevenant, with Wauters and Voeckler in close quarters. Looks like Sevilla is struggling in the break. Garzelli, obviously feeling the effects of yesterday, too is struggling; maybe it was his birthday party last night.
Sevilla just helps Bertolini to close a gap at the back of the breakaway. Sorenson sets the pace for CSC in the peloton.
Well the break is over the top of the Col de Portillion ... about ten men, including Hincapie and Sevilla, were in that group over the top. I think a Rabobank led over... Kroon or Boogerd, 50-50. 16'50'' the gap, CSC making the pace for the peloton, 70 km to go.
It was Kroon taking the points over the top of the Col du Portillon.
1458 CEST - So the ten men still in the break over the top: Kroon, Hincapie, Sevilla, Boogerd, Pereiro, Davis, Caucchioli, Brochard, Bertolini, and Camano.
So at the top of the hour, in the peloton it's Sorensen and Sastre for CSC setting the pace. Then it's Savoldelli and a couple of other Discovery riders, with Lance and Popovych at the end of the train. Ullrich is behind Popovych. The pace is up, the big men sharpening their legs and their expressions.
Per usual, the French producers show the camera-moto shot of the break as several of the riders take a nature break on the fly. Lovely.
Totschnig is now off the back of the peloton, paying for his efforts of yesterday. Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) is off the back too.
1506 CEST - 57 km left. The gap of the break is now down to 16' 10".
On to the Col de Peyresourde for the escapees, this climb will reduce the escape bunch still further.
Well, well, the break is experiencing the hell of the tired cyclist in the mountains: the descents are cruelly quick and short, while the climbs go up seemingly forever - 55 km to go for the escapees as they tackle the 8.4 km @ 7.3% of the Peyresourde...
Kroon and "Dr. Teeth" Boogerd set the pace in the break. Bertolini is grimly hanging on to Davis' wheel at the tail of the break, but it looks like he'll be dropped soon.
Boogerd won a hard mountain stage similar to this a few years back. His teammate is doing a lot of work for him to set up his effort that is sure to come soon.
54km to go - 16'15" to the bunch. As Kroon whips up the pace a bit, Davis and Bertolini slide off the back while Camano also looks to be having a few problems holding the wheel in front.
It's a long haul up to the summit of this climb. A friend of mine went to watch the Tour pass here in 2003, in his words: "I went to the summit, but there were Basques everywhere, in the middle of the road, smoking and playing cards. So I went 1.5km down the road..."
Well this lead group is breaking up a bit. Kroon bonked, and now it's only Brochard, Caucchioli, Boogerd, Pereiro, Sevilla, and Hincapie. Six strong men here.
1518 CEST - 52 km to go, 16' 58'' the gap. CSC still driving the peloton along the valley floor. They have 60 km to go. They have four men driving the chase. They feel confident about Basso's chances on these final climbs.
So a 17 minute gap is about 8km - in the mtns, that is... Yes, but tactically Discovery have again played very well; once again they have forced the hand of other teams to take up the pace. Hincapie still sits easily on the back of the break. You know, the way he's climbing, he could win this stage. It's doubtful, though, that he'll do anything other than help Armstrong if and when the GC men begin to fire up the road.
The peloton head through Luchon, the crowds out to cheer the riders on from their doorsteps. As the great Geoffrey Nicholson said, "Apart from war itself, the Tour is the only international conflict that takes place on the doorstep."
1624 CEST - 50 km left. The gap is now listed officially as 15' 22". The CSC chase is having an effect. Kessler of T-Mobile is setting the pace in the peloton after Sastre took a turn. Just behind him, CSC and T-Mob gather forces for an attack.
Basso (CSC), Ullrich (T-Mobile), Rasmussen (Rabobank), and Jaksche (Liberty Seguros) sit behind Armstrong and Popovych in the peloton, Discovery in strength there. The peloton starts to split as Kessler and Sastre force a wicked pace. You get the sense that the pace is rising to the point where the whip will soon come down.
Could we see the GC battle between the big hitters take place over the last three climbs today? It came early and happened over the last two climbs yesterday. Fascinating, this pace. Still Sastre working very hard, the favourites like vultures on his shoulder. The peloton is down to only about 25-30 riders. Savoldelli is now struggling at the back of this peloton!
The pace is telling - Landis, Mancebo, Jacksche, Horner, Evans, Moreau, still there. Horner (Saunier Duval) is in trouble as well near the back, but he's hanging in there for now. Azevedo, Rubiera, and Popovych are still with Armstrong. And Hincapie is still up the road, sitting in the break.
1532 CEST - Kloden and Vinokourov are still with Ullrich, and they also have Sevilla up the road. So it's looking good for both Discovery and T-Mobile... they've got some great cards to play still. Sastre continues forcing the pace, the peloton all over the Col de Peyresourde. 48 km left. The gap is coming down fast. It's now just above 14'.
Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) is in the Yellow Jersey group still. In the break, Sevilla has been doing a lot of work and Hincapie has just been sitting on. That could be important later in this stage. Levi Leipheimer still in the group Armstrong; Basso, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Landis, Kloden, Botero, Vinokourov all there, as Discovery take up the pace.
Now it's Azevedo and Rubiera making the pace for Discovery with CSC gone. Basso is isolated. Kashechkin still going very well for the young jersey competition. He will not wait for Moreau today.
Savoldelli is off the back in the cars now. He can descend like a demon... maybe he'll catch back on?
Guerini is gone... surprising that the T-Mobile climber is off the back. It shows how hard this stage is, and how high the pace is in the Yellow Jersey group. Kashechkin now right on the wheel of Popovych - this will be a great battle between the two. For the white jersey, that is.
Sevilla pulls through, still working in the break. Geez, he still looks like a twelve-year old mixed in with grown men. He has that baby face...
Sevilla smiles for the camera. Not sure how he can do that... they are on a very steep section of a very hard climb.
1541 CEST - 45.5 km left. The gap has dropped to 12' 45".
Up the hill, Sevilla, Hincapie, Pereiro, Brochard, Boogerd all digging deep, they still have a good lead and one of these riders may yet take the stage. Caucchioli is there too. Behind them Davis has been dropped, but he is digging deep as well, and hoping to limit his losses.
Pereiro forces the pace slightly as the escapees have just 1 km to the summit.
Armstrong, Ullrich, and Basso all have their game faces on. Azevedo still sets the pace, Rubiera 2nd wheel, Popovych third wheel, then Armstrong, Ullrich, and the rest. The gap is down under 12'.
You know, Hincapie is riding effortlessly in that break... he's been conserving his energy, and looks much fresher than the others up there.
Brochard is first over the top of the Peyresourde.
Davis is 1'10'' behind - an interesting ride for the Liberty Seguros rider.
1549 CEST - 42 km left. The gap down now to about 11' 30". Thankfully, the UCI rules now stipulate that riders have to wear their helmets at all times during the race, including on the finishing climbs. This means that we don't have to see much of "Le Mullet" Brochard's horrible hair... only the straggling trails hanging out the back of the helmet.
Behind, Moreau has battled back to the Armstrong group. Piepoli is also there.
There are only about sixteen men in the Yellow Jersey group. Vinokourov brings up some water and energy bars to Ullrich. Kloden is there too; the pace has dropped out of the front now and the front group is, er, regrouping.
Jaksche and Evans get back on. Leipheimer is having to drop back for his own drinks and food. That's the disadvantage of having no teammates in the group.
So the only climbs remaining for the men in the break are the Col de Val-Louron (Cat 1, 7.4 km at 8.3%) and the Pla-d'Adet (Above Category, 10.3 km at 8.3%). These are some steep beasties, and the riders will already have 173 kilometers in their legs on this hot day by the time they get there.
1558 CEST - 34 km to go, the gap 11 minutes.
Rubiera leads the peloton on the top section of the Peyresourde. The gap has come down by a good 5' on this climb. About 23 men are now in the Yellow Jersey group as they crest the climb. There will likely be a bit more regrouping on the descent.
Miguel Indurain was the first to the top of this next climb (the Col de Val Louron) in 1991, but Claudio Chiapucci "won" the stage that day - Bugno was 1'29'' back. Le Mond finished 7'18 down and so began the Indurain years.
1604 CEST - 31 km left. Pereiro and Brochard set the pace in the break as they head up this penultimate climb.
Was that the day that Le Mond was hit from behind by the Zed team car on a climb? That was the first Tour I watched... bad timing for an American... at the end of the Le Mond years.
Well not quite the end - he did ride again, the last time I saw Le Mond was in the '94 Tour when he climbed into the broom wagon - a sad end, really, to a charismatic career.
Le Mond was struggling and then got hit by his team car, I remember... I doubt he would have come close to Indurain anyways, but that mishap pretty much put him out of the race. Yeah, that was the end of his riding at the top.
Hmmm... Sevilla is tailing off that break. Now he's back up to the break. The gap has gone up to 12' 04". Interesting. Sastre has regained the Yellow Jersey group, so Basso has a teammate there again. Savoldelli is back again as well... he's on the point of the Yellow Jersey group!
This break is starting to look like it might work... it'll be close. Will Hincapie be allowed to ride for the stage win? We'll see. Hehe, we would be able to hear Crazy Jane's screams from across the Atlantic...
Julich is now back to Armstrong's group again too... another ally for Basso.
The Col de val Louron, once again wooded slopes, home to brown bears and mountain climbers - Pereiro still leading the escapees up the slopes, Discovery still leading the peloton behind.
1616 CEST - 27 km left. The gap is back down a bit to 11' 55". Savoldelli is setting the pace, followed by Azevedo, Rubiera, Popovych, and Armstrong. Sastre now comes back up to help set the pace for CSC. What a day's work he is doing, as the road again goes up hill!
Both Savoldelli and Sastre had to fight back on, and are now doing what they can for their leaders before they get dropped again. Awesome.
Julich is dropped. Now Guerini for T-Mobile at the front of the peloton, Kloden dropped. Sastre dropped. Guerini is doing the same as Sastre and Savoldelli... he was dropped, regained the pack, and is now setting a fierce pace. Amazing. Zubeldia dropped.
That's too bad, with such a sea of orange along the roads in support of the Basques. Contador dropped. Jaksche dropped. Whew, this Yellow Jersey group is really getting whittled down.
Moreau is still there, as is Evans. Horner is still there. Vinokourov accelerates! Moreau and Evans digging deep to hang on as Discovery again take charge of the peloton, and Vino starts to wind it up.
1621 CEST - Guerini gone again. Good work, Giuseppe! Rubiera gone too. Moreau is gone! Vinokourov's acceleration at the front of this pack has blown this group up again. Vinokourov and Ullrich together at the front of the peloton.
So it's Vino, Ullrich, Basso, Armstrong, Azevedo, Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Landis, Mancebo.
Vino and ullrich working well together as Basso attacks - Basso has a gap!
Ullrich and Armstrong on his wheel. Ullrich is in trouble! Armstrong is up to Basso. Ullrich struggling to catch on, Basso accelerates again to keep Ullrich off the wheel. The whip has come down, folks, and the horses are out of the gate and running.
1623 CEST - Armstrong and Basso together, Ullrich maybe 50 metres back. Armstrong and Basso working together trying to distance Ullrich further. He is grinding out that bigger gear and comes back on inch by inch - Ullrich is really a tough fighter, and he's not giving up.
He gets back up to that wheel of Armstrong, only to have Basso up the pace again. Behind, it's Rasmussen, Landis, and Leipheimer chasing. 24.5 km left. Mancebo is really in trouble today. He is trying desperately to fight back but he is caught by the Rasmussen group.
Ullrich, Basso, and Armstrong are once again in their three-way battle, just like yesterday. Friggin' great! Ullrich now ups the pace, Armstrong on his wheel, Basso behind him. Vinokourov has been dropped by the Rasmussen group. 24 km to go, 9 minutes the gap. With these accelerations, the gap has plummeted!
1628 CEST - Pereiro sets the pace, and Hincapie sitting at the back. Perfect for him. Michael "Bone Machine" Rasmussen is trying to fight back up to the Armstrong-Ullrich-Basso group. Rasmussen has Landis, Leipheimer, Mancebo, and a few others on his wheel.
Landis now accelerates in that group, and Rasmussen has to respond. We are seeing big battles for the whole top ten of the GC today. Hincapie, Sevilla, Boogerd, Caucchiolli, Brochard, Pereiro, now reach the top of the climb. Brochard takes the points again. And Horner attacks Armstrong! He's going to win the stage! (Just kidding...)
Ullrich, Armstrong, Basso still locked together on the climb.
1633 CEST - The Armstrong-Basso-Ullrich trio has about 40" on the chasing Rasmussen-Landis-Leipheimer group. 20 km left.
Some patches of the pavement on the climb are just black, looking melted and sticky... the riders always love climbing such mountains while their tires are sticking to the pavement, literally.
7' 40" lead for the break, and now the Armstrong group has a 54" gap on the Rasmussen group.
Bertogliati gives the American commentator a heart attack... I saw the Saunier Duval-Prodir kit and thought for a second that Horner had managed to catch the Armstrong group, but no... it was Bertogliati coming backwards from the break. Armstrong, Ullrich and Basso over the top of the climb.
So up the shirts with the newspapers for the men in the Rasmussen group. They crested 1' 05" behind the Armstrong group.
1640 CEST - Heading into the final climb, it is Boogerd, Sevilla, Pereiro, Caucchioli, Brochard, and Hincapie with a rather large gap. It is looking like the stage winner will come from this group. The last check had them at 7' 38" ahead of the Armstrong group.
The Pla d'Adet, today's final climb, was climbed in 1974 - the winner that day Raymond Poulidor, but he kept to true form and finished the race second to the little known Eddy Merckx. A good second too - 8'04 behind Eddy.
(Wasn't he, like, Axel Merckx's uncle or something?)
Brochard attacks the escapees. He is brought back and the 6 leaders are together.
It's looking to me like Discovery should let Hincapie go for the win. Why not? Armstrong has the GC situation under control, for now at least.
10 km left. Pereiro leads the pace up the climb for the break. The attacks will start coming thick and fast in this break at any time now. It looks like one of the 6 escapees will win today - soon they will attack each other.
Hincapie sits in the saddle while the other men are out of the saddle... he looks good. Sevilla goes - El Nino on the charge. He has a gap! Pereiro is leading the chase back. Now Pereiro counterattacks, Boogerd and Hincapie close him down.
1647 CEST - So only three men off the front in the break now, the others have been shed. It's Boogerd, Pereiro, and Hincapie.
Hincapie was a teammate of Casartelli's for a couple of years, though George wasn't on the Tour team for Motorola the year of the tragedy. His first Tour was 1996.
Pereiro tapping out the pace, Boogerd on his wheel, Hincapie just behind. 13% climb now.
That is a brutal gradient. 8 km left.
Ullrich, Armstrong, Basso have picked up Pineau and Bertogliati from the break. Ullrich sets the pace on the front of the group.
The gap is 7' 30" to the Armstrong group. Pereiro still forcing the pace, Boogerd and Hincapie getting no suntan on this climb. Basso attacks! Lance waits, then responds. Armstrong chases him down. Well, Armstrong is really having a hard time getting up to Basso... the Italian saw him coming and started to sprint, but to no avail. Ullrich is gone though.
This is some great riding by Basso. Could he be the man to beat next year? Will next year see a Basso-Ullrich dogfight?
Ullrich sets the pace behind, steady but not closing Basso and Armstrong down. There is a sea of humanity on this climb... half of it clad in orange. Basso determined effort now, Armstrong stuck to him like a limpet.
Honestly, I thought this stage would crack Basso what with his ride in the Giro. Nothing of the sort has happened, however.
Behind, Ullrich hanging on, 14 seconds down. Landis leads the other chasers. 6 km to go for the leaders. Basso and Armstrong are picking off the remnants of the break. Vinokourov drops Mancebo.
Vinokourov is behind, trying to get away from the Landis group. Caucchioli has regained the leaders! Yes, four men at the front now. So it's Hincapie, Boogerd, Caucchioli, and Pereiro.
Hincapie has been a passenger all day in this break. Popovych is now trying to reach Ullrich! He is racing for the White Jersey. Popo has put Vinokourov in difficulty, and he has Mancebo in his wheel.
1501 CEST - Basso and Armstrong still locked in their mountain duel, Ullrich not giving up. The leaders: Boogerd, Hincapie, Caucchioli, and Pereiro. Chasing at about 7' back: Armstrong and Basso. Behind them, Ullrich is chasing solo. Then it's chaos as small groups try to make it back into the race. 5 km left.
That's 5km for the 4 escapees. Hincapie still in the saddle, looking cool and easy.
Pereiro still doing all the work at the front of the 4 escapees. Cauccioli attacks! He has a good gap Pereiro goes with him, Hincapie responds too.
The Armstrong-Basso duo is 6' back, and Ullrich is 17" back of Armstrong and Basso. Hincapie is now on the front with Pereiro - he comes to the front for the first time. Pereiro and Hincapie together now. Pereiro doesn't like having the Big Hink on his wheel. They are chatting, and George is shaking his head.
Hincapie refuses to work. Pereiro wanted help, and George probably just said, "My boss is behind me in Yellow. Sorry dude."
Rasmussen is about 1' 15" behind the Armstrong group. No clue as to where Landis and Leipheimer are.
A supporter is run down by a moto - serves him right for running next to Pereiro like that. The idiot was putting his hand on Pereiro, he (the fan) fell over, and then the moto just went over him. 3 km left.
Now Pereiro and Hincapie are over the worst of the climb - could Hincapie get his first ever Tour win on the hardest mountain stage of the Tour? Who would have ever thought this was a possibility? Crazy, just crazy!
Ullrich is now about 20" behind Basso and Armstrong. Armstrong and Basso are about 5' 15" behind the lead duo of Pereiro and Hincapie. Basque flags are everywhere!
Hincapie still in Pereiro's shadow, he still refuses to work. 2 km to go. Pereiro or Hincapie? Hincapie or Pereiro? Hincapie takes a look over his shoulder. No word on how close the men behind Hincapie and Pereiro are... You can bet that Boogerd and Caucchioli are chasing like mad.
Sevilla has slowed and is trying to help Ullrich. 5' behind, Armstrong picks up the pace with Basso on his wheel.
Still Pereiro leads Hincapie... Final Kilometer. They are in the barriers... Hincapie in the perfect position on Pereiro's wheel. Pereiro is doing too much work, Hincapie refuses to go through...500 metres.
Hincapie scans the finish, waiting for his moment... still Pereiro. Pereiro out of the saddle... Hincapie out of the saddle, Hincapie will take it.
Hincapie is going to win the stage! He is clear! Holy crap, George Hincapie wins the mountains Queen Stage of the Tour de France! Pereiro second, Cauchiolli third, 37 back, Boogerd 4th.
What next? Is Iban Mayo going to win Paris-Roubaix? Is Rasmussen going to win the final time trial? Boogerd is 56 seconds back for fourth. Brochard, 37 years old and 5th spot, 2'19 back.
Basso and Armstrong are taking turns trying to take time from Ullrich, Rasmussen, and the others behind.
Sevilla still sets the pace for Ullrich. The horns honking like mad, but the fans still only part when they see fit. Basso and Armstrong are in the barriers. A great attacking day of racing for Basso, a magnificent display. He just couldn't shake The Boss. Basso and Armstrong now, 5'04 down. Lance give Hincapie a big hug! They put their arms around each other and pose for the cameras.
Meanwhile, somewhere in a bar in Europe, everyone is looking at Crazy Jane and saying, "Damn woman, it's just a race."
Sevilla - great team work today, dragging Ullrich but Mancebo and Rasmussen is closing him down.
Rasmussen has put in a great ride to almost catch Ullrich, and Rasmussen saves his podium place.
Hincapie says he is in shock right now. He said he came across the line in disbelief. He says he got into the breakaway to help Lance up the road if needed. Then when they got 18', his managers started saying, "hey, this could work." When Lance was okay, they told him to go for it near the end.
As he crossed the line, George put his hands up to his face in disbelief, then looked over his shoulder to be sure. Then he raised his arms in victory.
Looks like Leipheimer had a decent day, Landis struggled a bit.
1. Hincapie (Discovery Channel)
2. Pereiro (Phonak) @ 6"
3. Caucchioli (Credit Agricole) @ 38"
4. Boogerd (Rabobank) @ 57"
5. Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) @ 2' 19"
6. Basso (CSC) @ 5' 04"
7. Armstrong (Discovery Channel) @ 5' 04"
8. Sevilla (T-Mobile) @ 6' 28"
9. Ullrich (T-Mobile) @ 6' 28"
10. Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) @ 6' 32"
11. Mancebo (Illes Balears) @ 6' 32"
12. Vinokourov (T-Mobile) @ 7' 33"
13. Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) @ 7' 54"
14. Moreau (Credit Agricole) @ 8' 14"
15. Zubeldia (Euskaltel Euskadi) @ 8' 47"
16. Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) @ 8' 47"
17. Mazzoleni (Lampre-Caffita) @ 8' 54
18. Popovych (Discovery Channel) @ 9' 32"
19. Landis (Phonak) @ 9' 34"
20. Davis (Liberty Seguros) @ 10' 37".
Hincapie is all big smiles on the podium. He is still in disbelief. You don't think Lance and George won't be drinking some champagne tonight? The only man who has been with Armstrong for all six (and now, probably seven) Tour victories, Hincapie has won the biggest, hardest stage of the Tour.
Discovery Channel manager Bruyneel jokes that a stage win, the Yellow Jersey, and the White Jersey is not bad for a supposedly weak team.
2. Basso @ 2' 46"
3. Rasmussen @ 3' 09"
4. Ullrich @ 5' 58"
5. Mancebo @ 6' 31"
6. Leipheimer @ 7' 35"
7. Landis @ 9' 33"
8. Vinokourov @ 9' 38"
9. Moreau @ 9' 38"
10. Kloden @ 12' 01"
11. Evans @ 12' 57"
12. Popovych @ 14' 27"
13. Zubeldia @ 15' 26"
14. Mazzoleni @ 17' 56"
15. Jaksche @ 18' 16".
Armstrong says that the last position for the 1995 Tour team on Motorola was down to Casartelli and Hincapie. Casartelli ended up going. This is a great tribute for Casartelli's family. Hincapie's victory is a great tribute.
So tomorrow is a rest day, though I don't know why these riders need a rest. What have they done to be tired?
Armstrong now onto the podium for his Yellow Jersey. He's smiling confidently.
Well, the stage on Tuesday also has some hard climbs... the Cat 1 Col de Marie-Blanque and the Above Category Col d'Aubisque... but there is about 70 kilometers of downhills, flats, and a little baby Cat 4 climb after that, so it shouldn't have any impact on the GC. Here is the altimetry:
And the Big Hink, "Gorgeous" George Hincapie, finally gets his stage win headed into the rest day. Awesome. That will do it for us today, and we thank you for joining us. See you again on Tuesday for more great racing!
Commentary today by Locutus, Andy McDobbin and podofdonny.