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Live updates – Stage 5 – Soissons – Rouen 195km

5:08 p.m. -- Estonian national champion Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2R) won the fifth stage of the Tour de France Thursday after he and the other members of a five-man break managed to hold off a hard charging peloton at the end of a 195km stage from Soissons to Rouen. ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano retained the race leader's yellow jersey. Former Danish champion Michael Sandstod of the CSC team came second in the stage with Belgian Ludo Dierckxsens, who rides for Lampre, third following 199.5 km of racing from Soissons to here. The main peloton arrived around 20secs later. Preliminary stage

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5:08 p.m. — Estonian national champion Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2R) won the fifth stage of the Tour de France Thursday after he and the other members of a five-man break managed to hold off a hard charging peloton at the end of a 195km stage from Soissons to Rouen.

ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano retained the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Former Danish champion Michael Sandstod of the CSC team came second in the stage with Belgian Ludo Dierckxsens, who rides for Lampre, third following 199.5 km of racing from Soissons to here.

The main peloton arrived around 20secs later.

Preliminary stage results: 1. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est), A2R, 195 km in 4:13:33 (46.145 kph). 2. Michael Sandstod (Dk), CST, at 0:00. 3. Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel), LAM, at 00:00. 4. Stefano Casagranda (Ita), ALS, at 00:03. 5. Christophe Edaleine (Fra), DEL, at 00:08. 6. Robbie McEwen (Aus), LOT, at 00:33. 7. Baden Cooke (Aus), FDJ, at 00:33. 8. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), C.A, at 00:33. 9. Erik Zabel (G), TEL, at 00:33. 10. Andrej Hauptman (Slo), TAC, at 00:33. 11. Arvis Piziks (Lat), CST, at 00:33. 12. Jan Svorada (Cz), LAM, at 00:33. 13. Nico Mattan (Bel), COF, at 00:33.

There has been no change among the top ten in GC.

5:05 p.m. Here’s what we know about Italian rider Marco Pinotti, who was forced to retire from the Tour de France on Thursday after he was injured in a fall involving around 20 riders 20km from the finish line.

The 26-year-old Lampre rider is thought to have suffered a serious cut to his chin in the fall, which involved a number of riders from the Spanish Euskaltel team.

Pinotti, 52nd in the race last year, lay immobile on the ground for a few minutes as the rest of those involved got back on their bikes. He was taken to hospital for treatment.

4:53 p.m. The field comes in 30 seconds after the winners and McEwen wins the field sprint ahead of Zabel.

4:52 p.m. In the final kilometer…

The leaders keep forcing Kirsipuu to the front.

Sandstod attacks…

Kirsipuu counters, Dierckxens challenges, but Kirsipuu wins.

4:51 p.m.The chase is shutting down. The five will make it.

The leaders are together…

Casagrande is off the front. Kirsipuu is chasing.

4:50 p.m. With 2km to go, the leaders are beginning to battle for position.

4:49 p.m.Three to go. 40 seconds advantage.

4:46 p.m. The leaders are within 4km and the advantage is down to57 seconds.

4:44 p.m. With 5km to go, the leaders are now on the long descent into town. They have an advantage of about 1:00.

4:44 p.m. These guys may pull it off! The five leaders — Jan Kirsipuu (AG2R), Michael Sandstod (CSC-Tiscali), Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre), Stefano Casagrande (Alessio) and Christophe Edalaine (Jean Delatour)– are with 6km of the finish and are still more than one minute ahead of the field.

Dierckxsens is likely to gamble with an attack, to counter the sprinting prowess of Kirsipuu.

4:41 p.m. Marco Pinotti is hurt badly enough to force his withdrawl from the Tour. He is on his way to the hospital in Rouen.

The current time gap is 1:40.

4:39 p.m. With 10km to go, the leaders have an advantage of 1:45.

The chase behind is hard and the peloton is coming apart.

4:36 p.m. FDJeux is not involved in the chase, as Baden Cooke was caught behind the crash as he was getting a replacement wheel after a flat. Credit Agricole is driving the chase at the front of the field.

The leaders’ advantage is down to 1:0 with 13km to go.

4:32 p.m. There has been a crash, involving about 25 riders. Some big names, including Rik Verbrugghe. Most are up and chasing, but Lampre’s Marco Pinotti is still lying on the road and being attended to by physicians.

Ahead, the leaders are 2:00 ahead of the field, with 15km to go.

4:30 p.m.The time gap at the 20km mark was 2:35.

4:27 p.m.The leaders have passed under the 20km to go arch.

4:24 p.m. This may be close.

The leaders are 25km from the finish. Their lead is now at 3:00.

4:17 p.m. The teams of the sprinters are taking over the lead at the front of the peloton: Credit Agricole, Lotto and FDJeux.com. Actually not only are they teams of sprinters, they are the teams of Australian sprinters — O’Grady, McEwen and Cooke.

4:16 p.m. The leaders — Jan Kirsipuu (AG2R), Michael Sandstod (CSC-Tiscali), Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre), Stefano Casagrande (Alessio) and Christophe Edalaine (Jean Delatour) — are 29km from the finish and they continue to hold a lead of 3:11.

4:12 p.m. With 33km to go, the leaders’ advantage is down to 3:30.

4:02 p.m. The last time check gives the leaders an advantage of 4:05. We have 38km remaining.

4:01 p.m.The peloton has passed through Forges-les-Eaux, location of the sprint. The leaders advantage is down to 4:14.

3:55 p.m. The three leaders have passed through the third sprint mark at 150.5km. Michael Sandstod rolled through first, ahead of Casagrande and Kirsipuu, but the sprint was not contested.

The chase is beginning to work the lead is down to 4:30. There are 42km remaining.

3:49 p.m. The leaders are moving into dangerous territory, upping their advantage to nearly five minutes, which would make Christophe Edalaine overall leader on the road.

The leaders in the break are: Jan Kirsipuu (AG2R), Michael Sandstod (CSC-Tiscali), Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre), Stefano Casagrande (Alessio) and Christophe Edalaine (Jean Delatour).

ONCE is chasing and the gap should not stay that high for long. We are 47km from the finish.

3:43 p.m.ONCE is leading the chase. The leaders have an advantage of 4:15.

Here’s an update on Tom Steels’ decision to pull out of the Tour:

Belgian sprinting ace Steels became the first casualty of the Tour de France Thursday when he retired during the 195km fifth stage from Soissons to Rouen.

The 30-year-old Belgian champion had never threatened to add to his nine stage wins in the world’s greatest cycling race and after 91km of the stage he decided enough was enough for this year.

“Tom hasn’t been feeling well for the last four days,” his Mapei sports director Serge Parsani said.

“He told me he had no energy and that he had to ride flat out in order to stay with the peloton.

“He felt it wasn’t worth carrying on under those conditions.”

3:40 p.m. With 56km to go the Kirsipuu group has a lead of 4:15.

3:35 p.m. The Kirsipuu group is 3:40 ahead of the main field.

3:25 p.m. With 67km to go to the finish in Rouen, the five leaders — Jan Kirsipuu (AG2R), Michael Sandstod (CSC-Tiscali), Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre), Stefano Casagrande (Alessio) and Christophe Edalaine (Jean Delatour) — have an advantage of 3:20 over the field.

3:15 p.m. The leaders are at km 122, with an advantage of 2:30.

They passed through the day’s second sprint mark at 117km, with Casagrande taking first, Sandstod second and Edaleine rounding out the top three.

3:15 p.m. The break is approaching a two-minute advantage.

A quick review of the GC, shows that Christophe Edaleine (F), Jean Delatour, at 04:47, in 111th place, is the best-placed rider of the break.

3:09 p.m. This one might stick. No one in the break poses a threat on GC (Seefor youself).

The leaders now have more than 1:00 and there is no real chase developing.

3:03 p.m. We are at the 110 km mark. We 85km remaining. The Jalabert group was caught and their capture immediately triggered a counter-attack.

Five riders — Jan Kirsipuu (AG2R), Michael Sandstod (CSC-Tiscali), Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre), Stefano Casagrande (Alessio) and Christophe Edalaine (Jean Delatour) — have a lead of 20 seconds over the field.

2:56 p.m.Well, one of the folks in that break is Laurent Jalabert… so you can imagine ONCE is going to chase.

2:52 p.m. Fully satisfied by lunch, Frederic Bessy (Credit Agricole) has attacked off the front. He was quickly joined by another 19 riders — all of whom we have yet to I.D.

They have a gap of no more than 5 seconds at this point.

By the way, for those of you who despise the self-refreshing window, youcan go to the standardpage and read through the day’s updates. Just do us a favor and don’thit the refresh like crazy in the final few km. It bogs down our serversand we can even update the page.

2:48 p.m. The pace has finally settled down a bit. The peloton is all together… perhaps filling up after the feedzone.

The rain, by the way, has stopped again.

2:38 p.m. Tour radio reports that the 2002 race has had its first abandonment: Belgian national champion Tom Steels (Mapei) who has pulled out at the feedzone.

The average speed for the first two hours today has been 47.3kph. We can credit a bit of a tailwind for some of that.

2:37 p.m. We are coming up on the 95km mark. The break has been reabsorbed and we are facing another 100km of, what has been up to now, very fast racing.

2:32 p.m. Bertogliati is back on. Ahead, there has been an escape of a fairly sizeable group — at least 15 riders. They include Floyd Landis of the U.S. Postal team. They are, however, not getting a lot of wiggle room and have been unable to build much of a lead beyond 25 seconds.

2:25 p.m. The pace is still quite high. There has also been a crash in the field. No one seems the worse for wear, though and a small group of riders — including Lampre’s man who was once in yellow, Reubens Bertogliati — are chasing back on.

2:10 p.m. The attacks are continuing to come off of the front, but they are also being reeled in just as quickly. Mapei’s Miguel Martinez was just part of a two-man break that went off, and lasted all of two km.

1:58 p.m. We are at the 64km mark already. This stage has been fast, averaging 48.7kph over the first hour of racing.

One note is that we wanted to congratulate the French weather service. After predicting heavy rains for several days and only seeing a slight spatter along the roads, the predicted no rain today and — you guessed it — it’s starting to pour. So if the reamin this consistent, we should be able to offer accurate weather predictions, simply by reversing their forecasts.

1:44 p.m. The Ekimov break us back in the fold, after never having gained more than 11 seconds over the field.

1:24 p.m. The riders in the break are Viatcheslav Ekimov (Postal); Jakob Piil (CSC); Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto); Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi); Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com); . Marco Serpellini (Lampre Daikin) and Massimo Apollonio (Taconi).

The have 20 seconds’ advantage at the 39km mark. ONCE is leading the chase.

1:22 p.m. A group of six riders — including the U.S. Postal’s Ekimov and Lotto’s Rik Verbrugghe — have a nice 15-second gap on the field.

1:15 p.m. We are coming up on the 30km mark. The speeds have been quite high, but as of yet, there have been no successful attacks.

1:08 p.m. There has been a lot of activity at the front of the field, with several attempted escapes, but none of them have amounted to much. It seems every team wants to get a rider into a break and no one wants to see anyone else get into one.

1:00 p.m. Rabobank really did pull that break in quickly. Do you suppose they know their Tour history?

The last three times that a Tour road stage has finished in Rouen, the winner has been a Dutchman: Gerrit Solleveld in 1990 after a long solo break; Jan Raas in 1980, in a mass sprint ahead of teammate Leo Van Vliet; and Fedor Den Hertog in 1977, after a late solo attack to hold off the pack by 20 seconds. This will be the 16th year that a Tour stage has finished in the city where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

12:59 p.m. Yup. They’ve been caught.

12:59 p.m. Still no time gap, but Rabobank is leading the charge and it looks as though these three may be caught.

12:56 p.m. I really dislike it when reality disproves our expert analysis…but Jacky Durand did try another break. He attacked at 8km and was reeled back in.

At 10km, two riders — Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com) and Emmanuel Magnien (Bonjour) — attacked. They were joined by Stefano Casagrande (Alessio).

We have no time gap yet.

12:52 p.m. Well as we were rambling along about blood tests, we missed an early attack by six riders. One of the potential escapees was Leon van Bon, the olf Mercury rider, now on Domo. Anyway, the effort didn’t really get far and the peloton is still together.

12:48 p.m.At 6m, still no attacks. Jacky Durand may be saving himself for tomorrow, since we pass through his home region on the sixth stage.

The UCI “Vampires” conducted unannounced morning blood tests this morning, hitting four teams at their hotels. All riders on ONCE, iBanesto, Fassa Bortolo and Cofidis were tested. None of them were shown to have “unsafe” hematocrit levels.

The UCI still conducts blood tests, despite the presence of a urine test purportedly able to detect the presence of artificial erythropoietin. The hematocrit test shows if other methods are being employed to boost the red blood cell count.

12:44 p.m. Okay, all 189 riders began this stage. We are at the 4km mark and there have been no attacks.

The roads are full of fans and lots of them are carrying signs for Mr. Jalabert — “JaJa – We believe in you.” The great French hope is just 37 seconds out of the yellow jersey, though today might be tough for him to make that up.

12:38 p.m. Good morning to our American readers. The fifth stage of the 2002 Tour de France is underway.

Stay tuned, there should be attacks in the opening kilometers in this, the flattest stage of the Tour until we reach Paris.