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Stage 13 – Saturday, July 20: Lavelanet – Béziers

5:24 p.m. With the sprint starting with a lead-out from Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd for O'Grady. Telekom comes to the front. The traffic is heavy and it's a mess at the front. The two main points contenders do not win the field sprint, but McEwen nis Zabel at the line, giving him a one-point advantage for the day and putting the two men in a tie on the points standings. 5:23 p.m. We are in the final kilometer. 5:22 p.m. The peloton is heading in to town. The gap is still large. McEwen is active and antsy near the front. Zabel is close by. 5:28 p.m. Now the next big contest will be

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5:24 p.m. With the sprint starting with a lead-out from Credit Agricole’s Thor Hushovd for O’Grady.

Telekom comes to the front.

The traffic is heavy and it’s a mess at the front. The two main points contenders do not win the field sprint, but McEwen nis Zabel at the line, giving him a one-point advantage for the day and putting the two men in a tie on the points standings.

5:23 p.m. We are in the final kilometer.

5:22 p.m. The peloton is heading in to town. The gap is still large.

McEwen is active and antsy near the front. Zabel is close by.

5:28 p.m. Now the next big contest will be the expected Zabel – McEwen sprint to the line.

Those two are separated by just one point and there are still points available for finishing in the field today.

5:26 p.m. It’s Millar!

Cofidis’s David Millar, winner of the Tour de France prologue in 2000, earns another stage win.

5:25 p.m. Latasa is caught. All five are together….

Brochard attacks, Millar follows.

5:24 p.m. Latasa charges… Etxebarria is on his wheel.

5:23 p.m. Latasa attacks.. It is countered by Millar. We are 1km from the finish.

5:21 p.m. Brochard is attacking and attacking, but no one is letting the man from Jean Delatour get away.

5:20 p.m. With three km to go, the five leaders are still together. The race is clearly down to these men.

5:19 p.m. With 4km to go, Brochard attacks, but Millar and Boogerd quickly react and neutralize the move.

5:18 p.m. The gamesmanship is starting in the lead group. It is clear that Mazzoleni won’t cover the 40-second gap and Jalabert is now 1:00 behind.

Boogerd is staying at the back of the lead group, pulling through lightly when he does hit the front.

5:16 p.m. Mazzoleni is not going to make it.

With 6km to go, the race is now down to the five leaders: Millar; Boogerd; Latasa; Etxebarria and Brochard.

Jalabert is now a minute back.

The peloton is about 11:00 behind Jalabert.

5:15 p.m. With 7km to go, the Jalabert continues to lose time. He is now 44 seconds behind the five leaders.

Mazzoleni and Pascual are moving up.

5:11 p.m. The leaders are 9km from the finish. The gap back to Mazzoleni and Pascual is 10 seconds. Pascual’s arrival will mean that iBanesto will have two riders up there.

Jalabert/Julich/Zberg and Martinez are another 24 seconds back.

5:11 p.m. With 10km to go, the leaders are now 27 seconds ahead of the Jalabert group, with Mazzoleni moving chasing with Pascual on his tail.

5:08 p.m. The five leaders are working well together. In the back, the six are chasing, without the help of Zberg, who has his teammate Boogerd ahead.

The gap is 22 seconds, with Pascual and Mazzoleni chasing.

5:07 p.m. There are five riders at the front: Millar, Brochard, Boogerd, Etxebarria and Latasa.

They have a 15-second advantage over the other six.

5:04 p.m. With 16km to go, the lead is down to 12:08. Lampre is beginning to make up some time.

Now the leaders are beginning to try each other out. Millar is attacking and Boogerd and Etxebarria are coming along…. The group is split and Jalabert is not in the front.

5:02 p.m. The leaders are 17.3km from the finish and the peloton is just crossing under the 25km to go banner.

The lead is down to 12:20.Check the VeloPoll on the main VeloNewspage and vote on who you think might win the stage.

4:59 p.m. With less 20km to go, the leaders are holding their lead at 13:00 minutes.

By the way, all of you velo prognosticators can take your best guess as to who might win the stage.

Check the VeloPoll on the main velonews page (https://www.velonews.com) and vote on who you think might win the stage.

4:55 p.m. The 11 men up front are finally seeing their gap shrink. The Lampre team is seriously driving the chase and, with 21km remaining, the gap is down to 12:57.

4:51 p.m. The leaders are now within 25km of the finish. The last time check gives the leaders an advantage of 13:50.

Lampre — concerned about Raimondas Rumsas spot in the top five — is driving the chase.

4:48 p.m.Lampre is now doing the bulk of the work at the front. The lead has moved back up to 13:55 with 26km remaining.

Postal has eased off and slipped behind the more worried teams.

The 11 men in the break are:

Bobby Julich (USA) Telekom
David Millar (GB) Cofidis
Laurent Jalabert (F) CSC-Tiscali
Michael Boogerd (Nl) Rabobank
Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank
Miguel Martinez (F) Mapei
David Latasa (Sp) iBanesto.com
Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp) iBanesto.com
David Etxebarria (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Eddy Mazzoleni (I) Tacconi Sport
and Laurent Brochard (F) Jean Delatour

4:45 p.m. At 29km to go, the Lampre team is moving forward to work the chase. The gap has come down to 13:33.

4:44 p.m. With 30km to go, the time gap is now 13:55.

Postal is still at the front, but they are simply monitoring the break and keeping the gap out of the danger zone.

4:40 p.m. The pace has picked up in the main field and riders are already beginning to pop off the back.

Ahead, the leaders are 32.5km from the finish and have a lead of 13:45.

4:37 p.m. The Lampre team is moving up to help out the Postal squad. It may be clear to Lampre that Raimondas Rumsas’s spot in fourth on GC is under threat by the gap which has grown to 13:45.

By the way, the wind of which we spoke earlier, is beginning to force the main field into echelons.

This final 35km will be quite interesting.4:30 p.m. The lead is now up to 13:18 with 39km remaining.

The Postal teamis now picking up the pace, though it seems the ONCE boys should be a bit more concerned than the Postal squad.

4:22 p.m. We are now 44km from the finish. Our latest time check gives the leaders an advantage of 13:05.

The peloton is still led by Postal and the chase is obviously still not a big issue for the American squad.

4:12 p.m. We are 51km from the finish, and the leaders are now almost 12:00 up on the field.

Looking ahead to the finish, we are, of course, all hoping for a stage win by Laurent Jalabert. Of the men in the group, Jalabert may be the emotional favorite, but Brochard has to be one of the most capable of snatching the win. It’s a technical finish and Brochard has actually done quite well on finishes like that.

4:08 p.m. The leaders are 54km from the finish and they have an advantage 11:30.

3:59 p.m.The wind has actually calmed down on the stretch of road to the finish.

The leaders are now 60km from the finish and they have an advantage of 11:05.

3:54 p.m. We are 64km from the finish and the leaders are 11:00 minutes ahead of the field.

Back in the peloton, the Postal team is still setting tempo, but the level of concern is not high, though if this gap gets much larger, you might see ONCE forced to the front to maintain their positions in the top five.

3:52 p.m. The leaders are now coming up on an 11:00 advantage over the main field.

3:47 p.m. The leaders are still adding to their lead. At 105km, the advantage is 10:25.

3:44 p.m. The leaders continue to build their advantage to 10:23. They are now at 102 and 69km from the finish.

3:42 p.m.The leaders are at 100km and are heading into the winds we spoke of earlier. Their lead is now 10:15.

3:38 p.m.The Postal team is still leading the peloton and the chase is obviously not a big issue with the team. The leaders are now enjoying a lead of 10:00.

3:36 p.m.At 96km, with 75 to go, the lead is 9:43.

3:35 p.m.At 95km, the leaders are 9:39 ahead of the peloton.

3:31 p.m.Man, they weren’t kidding. The gap has grown to 9:15.

We are at the 93km mark and we are 78km from the finish.

3:27 p.m.Race radio reports that the peloton has eased off considerably, so we might see this time gap expand again.

3:23 p.m. Our latest time check, gives the leaders 8:30.

Those head/crosswinds we were talking about really will be kicking in at km 95, right after the feedzone at Carcassone. The leaders are now 11km from the feedzone.

A reminder from our friends at the Outdoor Life Network: Live coverage of this stage kicks in for American viewers in about five minutes. Of course, gun fans will be disappointed to see their broadcast come to an end, only to be replaced by a bunch of guys on bikes.

3:17 p.m. The Postal team is still setting a moderate tempo at the front of the field. The gap is remaining steady at 8:25 or so. We have yet to see an active chase.

Up front, a reminder that the best-placed rider in the lead group today is Laurent Jalabert, who sits in 31st place, 17:43 behind race leader Lance Armstrong.

3:10 p.m. Just to review, the 11 men in the break are:

Bobby Julich (USA) Telekom
David Millar (GB) Cofidis
Laurent Jalabert (F) CSC-Tiscali
Michael Boogerd (Nl) Rabobank
Beat Zberg (Swi) Rabobank
Miguel Martinez (F) Mapei
David Latasa (Sp) iBanesto.com
Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp) iBanesto.com
David Etxebarria (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Eddy Mazzoleni (I) Tacconi Sport
and Laurent Brochard (F) Jean Delatour

The last time check gave these guys an advantage of 8:20.

We are now 80km into today’s stage and there are 91 km remaining.

3:05 p.m. The time check at the sprint was 8:30.

The wind is picking up. It’s brisk at 25 to 30 miles-an-hour and coming in across as a head-cross wind.

John Wilcockson called in and talked about the wind and its potential effect on the race. While the wind will be a pain for anyone out there, the 11 men up front may actually have an advantage, in that they are about a perfectly sized group to form a nice echelon.

Meanwhile, this could be one of those stages where a team in the peloton may try to get a time gap going when the main field is forced into echelons, too.

We may see some gaps, perhaps one created by what is quite clearly the strongest team out there, the U.S. Postal Service.

2:59 p.m.At the 69km mark, the 11 leaders remain 7:30 ahead of the field.

The leaders rolled through the intermediate sprint mark at 67.5, not interested in contesting it, as they seem more intent upon cooperating and working to ensure that one of these men gets a stage win. But, in case you’re wondering, Michael Boogerd took the first points. He was followed by Bobby Julich and David Etxebarria.

There will, of course, be no points left when Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen roll through about 7:30 later.

2:55 p.m. The 11 leaders are now at the 67km mark. Their advantage is still around 7:20 to 7:30.

The peloton is being led by the Postal team, which seem sless intent upon catching the leaders as it does keeping the gap down to manageable levels. They certainly don’t want to see a 35-minute gap created like that one last year.

2:51 p.m.Sorry folks… we had a system crash here at VN central, though we are not experiencing the same problems we were the other day when the servers went down.

Just to update you since our last contact with John Wilcockson and Andrew Hood:

The four leaders slowed and waited for the seven pursuers to join them. We now have an eleven-man break at the front of the field. They quickly set about to expand their lead, and built it up to 8:05 before the Postal team decided that was a bit too much and moved to the front of the field to manage the margin. At last check, it was down to 7:20.

2:34 p.m.And the results of the climb are a repeat of the last one:JalabertMazzoleniBoogerdand Millar.

The Julich-led group crossed just 44 seconds behind the leaders.

2:33 p.m.Actually, it’s only about half a kilometer to the summit.

2:32 p.m.The latest time gap gives the Jalabert group a 7:25 advantage over the main field. The group of seven is still about 50 seconds back. We are 1.5km from the summit.

2:30 p.m.The four leaders are approaching the summit of the climb. The top spot will earn the winner 10 KOM points. I can’t imagine anyone will challenge Jalabert for that.

2:24 p.m.The leaders are maintaining that gap of about a minute or so on the seven chasers, but both groups are continuing to make time on the main field.

At 45.2 km — on the slopes of the day’s third climb — the last time check gives the Jalabert group a 1:00 advandtage over the Julich group and 6:39 over the main field.

2:18 p.m.The race has covered 40.6km in the first hour today. At 40km, the four leaders have a 58 seconds on the chase group and 5;50 on the main field.

2:16 p.m.Our most recent time check — John Wilcockson at the side of the road — gives the Jalabert group a one-minute advantage over the seven pursuers and another 5:00 over the main field. The leaders are now at km 39.

2:09 p.m.Jalabert again took the top spot at the top of the climb. He adds another five points to his total, having earned a total of 15 so far today. There are another 10 climber’s points awaiting him in 17km, atop the Cat. 3 Col de Saint-Benoit, 4.5km of slight, 4.7-percent grade that peaks out at 48.5km.

Of course, if this break stays away, it will negate the battle for the intermediate sprint at km 67.5, leaving Zabel and McEwen to either leave it for another day or worry about the sprint at 134.5km in Aude and the finishing points at the end of the stage.

2:08 p.m.The leaders are now nearing the summit of the day’s second climb, the Cat. 4 Col de la Badourade. Jalabert is likely to add to his KOM point total.

2:03 p.m.At 28km, the leaders have increased their advantage to a minute. The peloton is another 2:15 behind the seven chasers, so Jalabert is now 3:15 ahead of the main field.

Of the four men in the break, Jalabert is the best-placed, 31st overall, 17:43 behind race leader Lance Armstrong.

2:00 p.m. On the road, the four leaders have reached the 26km mark – the lower slopes of the Col de la Badourade, a 6.7km climb that averages just 2.4 percent.

They lead their seven pursuers by 50 seconds. The peloton is now another two minutes back.

1:57 p.m. Some 500 people attended the funeral today of the young boy killed last Wednesday in another tragic accident involving the Tour de France caravan.

The boy was trying to cross the road in Le Poteau, near the town of Retjons at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains in southwestern France, when the accident occurred.

500 people attended the service today in the small village of Marmande including three representatives of the Tour de France lead by vice-president, Daniel Baal, former president of the French Cycling Federation.

Witnesses said the car was travelling at a “very moderate” speed and the road was wide where the child was struck. His grandmother was waiting on the other side of the road.

An enquiry has been opened into the incident. A similar accident occurred during the Tour de France two years ago, when a 12-year-old boy was killed.

1:53 p.m. We are now at km 21 and nearing the bottom of the gradual descent off of the Col dde Monsegur. Up next, the Cat. 4 Col de la Badourade.

The time gaps have widen since our last time check. Jalabert and Co. are now 45 seconds ahead of the Julich group and the peloton is another minute back.

1:49 p.m. We are 17km and the four leaders have 15 seconds over the seven chasers. The peloton is another 10 seconds back.

1:47 p.m. Correction. There is one more rider in that chase group, making it seven riders. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp) iBanesto.com is also there.

1:44 pm. The four men are up and over the climb. There is a chase group behind them — Beat Zberg, Bobby Julich, David Latasa (iBanesto.com), Miguel Martinez and David Etxebarria and the peloton’s best mullet haircut, Laurent Brochard.

They are 15 seconds behind the four leaders and the peloton is another 15 seconds behind them.

1:41 pm. Jalabert takes the 10 points on the Cat. 3. He took the climb ahead of Mazzoleni and Boogerd and Millar.

1:39 pm. Boogerd has been caught, just as he neared the summit of the day’s first climb.

We’ll get the KOM results right away.

1:36 pm. Boogerd has now about a 10 second lead on the three men chasing him. David Millar is the third rider in that group with Jalabert. The peloton is another 25 seconds back.

1:33 pm. Boogered is trying to get away from Jalabert and Mzzoleni. He leads his two partners by a few seconds. The peloton is another 25 seconds back.

1:32 pm. Now Laurent Jalabert is on the offensive. He is joined by Mazzoleni and Michael Boogerd of Rabobank.

1:32 pm. Mazzoleni, who has been quite active in these past two mountain stages, has been caught.

1:31 pm. Eddy Mazzoleni has attacked off the front of the field on the climb to Montsegur.He has a small lead of a hundred meters or so.

1:29 p.m. Ahead is the climb to Montseegur. As you can see, Laurent Jalabert has a comfortable hold on the climber’s jersey:

King of Mountains:
1. Laurent Jalabert (F), CSC-Tiscali, 142 pts
2. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal, 84
3. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONCE, 66
4. Laurent Dufaux (Swi), Alessio, 66
5. Richard Virenque (F), Domo-Farm Frites, 59
6. Isidro Nozal (Sp), ONCE, 58
7. Roberto Heras (Sp), U.S. Postal, 57
8. Patrice Halgand (F), Jean Delatour, 57
9. David Etxebarria (Sp), Euskaltel, 52
10. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), Kelme, 50

But coming up, is the sprint at Limoux (67.5km) and that contest is a little tighter, to say the least.

Points – Overall
1. Erik Zabel (G), Telekom, 217 pts
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Lotto, 216
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Credit Agricole, 159
4. Baden Cooke (Aus), FDJeux.com, 148
5. Jan Svorada (Cze), Lampre, 119
6. Pedro Horillo (Sp), Mapei, 81
7. Franck Renier (F), Bonjour, 70
8. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal, 67
9. Nico Mattan (Bel), Lampre, 64
10. Fred Rodriguez (USA), Domo-Farm Frites, 63

1:25 p.m. We are four kilometers into the stage and, thus far, no attacks.

We are already approaching the Cat. 3 climb at Montségur. The climb crests at 8.5km.

1:17 p.m. And the 13th Stage of the 2002 Tour de France is underway. The peloton is down to 166 riders. Of course one of the more notable absences is that of Jacky Durand, who was ejected from the race after it was determined he had hung on to his team car to get help up a climb.

1:17 p.m. We are still in the neutral zone before the start. This gives us a chance to look ahead at the detailsof today’s stage.CLIMBS: Cat. 3 climbs at Montségur (8.5km) andSt. Benoît (48.5km). Cat. 4 climb at Col de Badourade (31km).INTERMEDIATE SPRINTS: Limoux (67.5km) and Pouzols-Minervois(134.5km).
 

1:11 p.m. We are approaching the start of today’s 171 stage from Lavelanet to Béziers.