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Stage 14 – Sunday, July 21: Lodève – Mont Ventoux

5:23 p.m. PRELIMINARY STAGE RESULTS1. Richard Virenque (Fra), DFF, 221 km in 5:43:26. 38.610 kph) 2. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), A2R, at ˆ 01:58. 3. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at 02:20. 4. Marco Serpellini (Ita), LAM, at 02:54. 5. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 03:36. 6. Ivan Basso (Ita), FAS, at 03:39. 7. Francisco Mancebo (Esp), BAN, at 03:51. 8. Joseba Beloki (Esp), ONE, at 04:05. 9. Dariusz Baranowski (Pol), BAN, at 04:10. 10. Ivan Gotti (Ita), ALS, at 04:16. 11. Levi Leipheimer (USA), RAB, at 04:25. 12. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 04:45. 13. Stephane Goubert (Fra), DEL, at

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5:23 p.m.

PRELIMINARY STAGE RESULTS
1. Richard Virenque (Fra), DFF, 221 km in 5:43:26. 38.610 kph)
2. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), A2R, at ˆ 01:58.
3. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at 02:20.
4. Marco Serpellini (Ita), LAM, at 02:54.
5. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 03:36.
6. Ivan Basso (Ita), FAS, at 03:39.
7. Francisco Mancebo (Esp), BAN, at 03:51.
8. Joseba Beloki (Esp), ONE, at 04:05.
9. Dariusz Baranowski (Pol), BAN, at 04:10.
10. Ivan Gotti (Ita), ALS, at 04:16.
11. Levi Leipheimer (USA), RAB, at 04:25.
12. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 04:45.
13. Stephane Goubert (Fra), DEL, at 05:25.

5:11 p.m. Beloki finishes in eighth and barely holds on to his second place in the overall, but he has lost almost two more minutes to Armstrong.

5:09 p.m. Armstrong takes third at 2:19.

5:08 p.m. Botcharov takes second at 1:57.

5:07 p.m. It looks like Botcharov may hold off Armstrong, too.

But the American continues to put time on Beloki.

5:07 p.m. Now the clock is ticking off.

5:06 p.m. Virenque gets it.

5:04 p.m. Virenque is now 500 meters from the line.

5:03 p.m. Now Beloki has been dropped by the chase group. Rumsas is driving that group and Beloki is slipping.

Virenque is coming toward the finish. He is in the last kilometer of a break that has kept him off the front for 202 kilometers.

Armstrong is closing in, but he won’t catch the Frenchman.

5:01 p.m. Virenque is now 1.6km from the finish. He is still 3:05 ahead of Armstrong.

The Beloki group continues to lose time.

4:59 p.m. Virenque is now under the 2km-to-go banner. He is still 3:15 ahead of Armstrong. The Beloki group is another 1:15 back.

4:57 p.m. Virenque is 2.75 km from the finish. Botcharov is still 1:25 behind the French climber and Armstrong is 3:20 back, the Beloki group is at 4:40.

4:56 p.m. The first time check back to the Beloki group gives Armstrong a 1:06 advantage. He is 3:25 behind Virenque.

4:55 p.m. Virenque is 3.3 km from the finish. Armstrong is 3:39 back.

4:53 p.m. Virenque is 4.5 km from the summit. Armstrong is flying up the hill. He is closing in on Bothcharov and putting time on the Beloki/Rumsas group.

4:51 p.m. Armstrong has cut the gap to Virenque to less than four minutes.

We still don’t have a time check between him and the Beloki/Rumsas group.

4:49 p.m. Armstrong is off on his own. Now that he is cranking up the climb, it will be interesting to see the time gap between the American and Mister Virenque.

4:47 p.m. Oooooo…. bad move. Apparently Beloki has gambled and lost.

Armstrong has counter-attacked and done it hard.

Beloki is dropped.

4:47 p.m. Now Beloki attacks.

4:46 p.m. The Armstrong group appears to have slowed. Virenque has mantained his pace and Levi Leipheimer has rejoined.

4:44 p.m. 7.5km from the finish, Virenque is continuing a fairly strong pace. And he is holding on to a 4:00 minute lead on the Armstrong group.

4:41 p.m. The Armstrong group is down to five:

Armstrong, Beloki, Azevedo, Basso and Rumsas.

Ahead, Virenque is 4:10 ahead of the yellow jersey group and he is now 8.5km from the summit.

4:37 p.m. The Armstrong group is down to seven riders and he is the only Postal man in the group. Beloki and Azevedo are there for ONCE, as is Rumsas, from Lampre.

Kelme’s Sevilla and Botero have been dropped.

4:34 p.m. Say what you will about his spotted past — and we have said plenty — Virenque is turning in quite a performance today. He has been on the attack since kilometer 19 and may well win this stage, if he continues to hold his current pace.

4:35 p.m. Virenque is already one minute ahead of Botcharov. He is just crossing under the 10km to go banner.

4:34 p.m. Well, we were wrong about Virenque. He is not suffering so badly that he didn’t have the legs to attack.

He has a gap of about 10 seconds on the Russian rider.

4:32 p.m. The two leaders — Virenque and Botcharov — are 5:00 ahead of the Armstrong group.

Behind, the group of the yellow jersey is continuing to shrink.

4:29 p.m. The leaders are 11.5km from the top. Virenque and Botcharov are moving ahead of their partners.

Behind, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, the man who had the yellow jersey earlier in the Tour has slipped off of the Armstrong group.

4:28 p.m. The Armstrong group is now 5:40 behind the Virenque group of four.

4:26 p.m. Virenque is appearing to be in some difficulty on his way up the climb and may be the next one to be dropped from the group.

Behind, the Postal team is driving the pace and continuing to drop off one at a time. The biggies, though, Beloki and Gonzalez de Galdeano and Botero, are still there.

4:25 p.m. Correction that was Baranowski who was dropped. Botcharov is still among the leaders.

4:24 p.m. The leaders have dropped Batcharov and are now down to four men.

4:21 p.m. Dari Frigo has been dropped from the Armstrong group, as has George Hincapie. Having done his work, the big man on Postal is going to ride a steady pace up the Ventoux, just to finish within the time cut.

4:19 p.m. George Hincapie is driving the Postal charge up the Ventoux.

The leaders are down to a group of five riders:Mikel Pradera (Sp) ONCE
Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites
Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) iBanesto.com
Marco Serpellini (I) Lampre Daikin
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance

They are now 14km from the top.

4:17 p.m. The leaders have dropped Cristian Moreni.

The peloton is down to about 40 riders. Stragglers are trailing all the way along the route.

4:15 p.m. The leaders are continuing ahead, now about 30 seconds ahead of the chase group of four.

Behind, the peloton is beginning to break up. Included in the dropped riders are Erik Zabel and Laurent Jalabert.

The peloton — or what’s left of it — is now 6:10 behind the Virenque group.

4:12 p.m. That lead group of six is made up ofMikel Pradera (Sp) ONCE
Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites
Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) iBanesto.com
Marco Serpellini (I) Lampre Daikin
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
Cristian Moreni (I) Alessio

They are being chased byStephane Augé (F) Jean Delatour
Christophe Edalaine (F) Jean Delatour
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Marco Velo (I) Fassa Bortolo

Anthony Morin is chasing behind those four. The peloton is just 7:10 back.

4:10 p.m. The lead group is splitting up. There six riders, including Virenque, Botcharov and Baranowski, are clear.

4:08 p.m. The leaders have just passed by the 20km to go mark.

The crowds are huge all the way up the Ventoux. John Wilcockson says the number of American flags is greater than he has ever seen before. American fans are all through the crowds up the Ventoux — which is a heartening sight for old bike geeks like JW and for the fella doing the updates.

4:04 p.m. So, as we begin the climb up the Ventoux, the situation on the road is that 10 men lead the field by about 7:45.

They are –Mikel Pradera (Sp) ONCE
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites
Marco Velo (I) Fassa Bortolo
Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) iBanesto.com
Marco Serpellini (I) Lampre Daikin
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
Cristian Moreni (I) Alessio
Stephane Augé (F) Jean Delatour
Christophe Edalaine (F) Jean Delatour

Behind them, their former breakaway partner, Anthony Morin (F) Crédit Agricole, had pulled out to take a nature break. He is now, back on course and climbing on his own.

4:00 p.m. The leaders are in Bedoin and the climb is about to kick in. Virenque is at the head of the group, which has a lead of 7:45.

3:57 p.m. The leaders are within a kilometer of Bedoin and the group has had its advantage cut to 8:10. The goup is down to 10 as Morin has dropped off.

3:56 p.m.The leaders are coming up to Bedoin and the group of 11 is beginning to already come apart, just as the climb is beginning.

3:49 p.m. The leaders are at 193km and coming up to Bedoin in five kilometers.

3:45 p.m. At km 187, the leaders’ advantage continues to be trimmed. They are now 8:54 ahead of the main field.

These guys have been out fron since km 19 and a nearly nine-minute buffer may not be enough for any of them — even Virenque — to make it to the top first.

3:43 p.m.We are now 34km from the finish, 13km from the start of the climb.

3:38 p.m.Our last time check at km 183, the leaders have an advantage of 9:12.

3:28 p.m.The average speed for the fourth hour of racing today was 43.5kph.

Going up the hill, about 2km into the climb, our intrepid crew ran across a huge sign painted nicely on the road that said “TREK- Go LANCE!”

It is painted right in front of a small restaurant and Trek honch Dick Moran was there enjoying his lunch. He’s hoping to see his bike scooting up the hill first, but that isn’t going to be the case on the lower slopes unless there is a big effort to reel in Poor Richard and the rest of the break.

3:25 p.m. At 175km, the time gap is still coming down. The leaders have an advantage of 9:40.

3:19 p.m.Word from the road is that the crowds are massive all the way up the Ventoux today.

Indeed, some have been there for quite some time… entertaining themselves with the products of the local vineyards in many cases. Andrew Hood, at the wheel of the VeloNews car, has been trying to maneuver his way up the climb. Several of the spectators are already a bit on the tipsy side. Hopefully they will have settled down as the race hits the climb.

3:18 p.m.The three escapees have been caught. The peloton passed through the sprint mark 9:50 behind the lead group.

3:14 p.m. At km 166, Virenque, Hushovd and Botcharov have attacked off the front of the lead group.

3:10 p.m. Slowly but surely, the leaders’ advantage is coming down a bit.

Coming through the sprint at Châteauneuf-du-Pape at 160km, the lead was down to 10:15.

Credit Agricole’s Thor Hushovd won the sprint, beating Stephane Augé and Cristian Moreni to the line.

More importantly, the leaders passed across a small bridge after the sprint and came up over a small rise and saw the Mont Ventoux for the first time today.

2:58 p.m.At 153km, 68km from the finish and 47km from the base of the Ventoux, the 11 leaders have an advantage of 10:30.

2:46 p.m.At 146km, the leaders have finally seen their advantage slip below the 11:00 mark.

They are now 10:53 ahead of the field.

Just a reminder, the 11 men up front are:

Mikel Pradera (Sp) ONCE
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Anthony Morin (F) Crédit Agricole
Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites
Marco Velo (I) Fassa Bortolo
Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) iBanesto.com
Marco Serpellini (I) Lampre Daikin
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
Cristian Moreni (I) Alessio
Stephane Augé (F) Jean Delatour
Christophe Edalaine (F) Jean Delatour

2:36 p.m. At 137 kilometers, the 11 leaders have an advantage of 11:17. Postal, Rabobank and CSC are setting tempo at the front of the field.

2:28 p.m. The leaders have covered 41.5 kilometers over the last hour of racing today, giving us a three-hour average of just under 43kph.

At km 133, the gap was still around 11:40.

2:23 p.m.At 130km into today’s stage, the 11 leaders are still 11:33 ahead of the main field.

We have 91km remaining… and 70 before the climb starts.

2:15 p.m.At 124 kilometers, the 11 leaders are still about 11:30 ahead of the field.

2:00 p.m. Our latest time check gives the leaders an advantage of 11:50 again.

Just to review, the leaders have been off the front since km 19.

The men in the break are:

Mikel Pradera (Sp) ONCE
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Anthony Morin (F) Crédit Agricole
Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites
Marco Velo (I) Fassa Bortolo
Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) iBanesto.com
Marco Serpellini (I) Lampre Daikin
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
Cristian Moreni (I) Alessio
Stephane Augé (F) Jean Delatour
Christophe Edalaine (F) Jean Delatour

Serpellini, whose teammate Raimondas Rumsas is in fourth place overall at 5:15 back, is the only one of the group not working. He has no reason to, as it will likely be his team doing the lions share of the chasing in the coming kilometers, trying to protect that fourth spot on GC.

1:53 p.m. The 11 men at the front are at the 115km mark. Their lead is coming back a bit and is currently at 11:18.

We realize that the race reports are a bit spotty today. We usually rely on a combination of phone calls from John Wilcockson and Andrew Hood from the VeloNews car and updates from official Tour radio. Well, John Andy and Rupert Guinness are having a nice lunch in a nice cafe along the road.

Feeling a bit guilty for taking a break, they figured they were okay when they spotted Jean-Marie Leblanc crusing through town looking for a restaurant himself. So the race director’s car is not at the front of the race right now.

Anyway, this cuise through Provence will all change in a while when the race turns upward.

1:33 p.m. The latest time check at 95km still gives the leaders an advantage of 11:50.

Postal is at the front of the peloton, but obviously not driving the chase. Perhaps, the team is relying on the logic that dictated their performance yesterday and will leave the chasing up to the teams with riders facing a more immediate threat. Yesterday it was Lampre that finally chipped away at the break’s advantage. Perhaps ONCE today?

Stay tuned.

1:31 p.m. The latest time gap at km 82, gives the leaders an advantage of 11:50.

1:28 p.m. The average speed for the second hour of racing today was 42.5kph.

1:23 p.m. The eleven leaders are now at km 89. They have 132 kilometers remaing, 21 of which are to the top of the Ventoux. The time check still gives the leaders 11:45 over the peloton.

1:17 p.m. The peloton remains at around 11:50 behind the lead group of 11.

1:02 p.m. The 11 leaders have crossed through the intermediate sprint at Sauve with an advantage of 11:45.

The sprint was not contested, but Morin was the first to cross, followed by Edaleine and Hushovd.

The two men that were in pursuit of the break — Pineau and Casar — are now back with the field. Of te men in the break, Virenque is the best-placed, in 28th place at 15:44. He is also the biggest threat of the bunch for a stage win, having won the climber’s jersey five times — albeit some of those were “earned” when he was an admitted doper and he says he’s clean now. So, maybe he won’t climb as well. Anyway, of the bunch, he is also the only one to have a stage win to his name. He has four, though….

Clearly, clean or not, Virenque poses the biggest threat of the bunch and sitting only 15:44 out of first place, it is likely that the peloton will soon be picking up the pace to reel that break back a bit.

12:57 p.m. The latest time check gives the Virenque group an advantage of 11:50 over the field.

12:52 p.m. The two chasers are slipping back to the peloton. They have apparently given up the attempt at chasing down the 11 riders ahead of them. They are already within a minute of the peloton.

The average speed for the opening hour today was 44.9kph.

12:47 p.m. For those of you have not seen it, you should really take a look at today’s course profile. There’s only one rated climb, but ….

Anyway, ahead today, we also have intermediate sprints at Sauve at 71.5 km — which is in about 10km and Châteauneuf-du-Pape at 160km (and yes, I had to double-check the spelling).

There is only one climb at that is the hors-categorie up Mont Ventoux(from 200km to 221km) — it averages 7.6 percent for those 21 kilometers, too.

12:39 p.m. The time checks on race radio have been spotty today. Our guys are already down the road, but our last time check came in with a much bigger gap. The 11 leaders have an advantage of 3:10 on the two chasers and 9:25 on the field.

With Virenque in there, however, it can’t stay that big.

12:38 p.m. We are 50km into today’s 221-kilometer stage.

There are 11 riders off the front with a gap of about 5:00 over the peloton. Those riders are:

Mikel Pradera (Sp) ONCE
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Anthony Morin (F) Crédit Agricole
Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites
Marco Velo (I) Fassa Bortolo
Dariusz Baranowski (Pol) iBanesto.com
Marco Serpellini (I) Lampre Daikin
Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Ag2R Prevoyance
Cristian Moreni (I) Alessio
Stephane Augé (F) Jean Delatour
Christophe Edalaine (F) Jean Delatour

These riders are being pursued by Jerome Pineau (F) Bonjour and Sandy Casar (F) FDJeux.com – the gap to the two chasers is 3:10.

12:28 p.m. Good morning to our American readers and welcome to VeloNews.com’s coverage of Stage 14 of the 2002 Tour de France: 221 km from Lodève to Mont Ventoux.