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Stage 17 – Thursday, July 25: Aime – Cluses

Preliminary stage results1. Dario Frigo (Ita), TAC, 142 km in 4:02:27(35.141 kph)2. Mario Aerts (Bel), LOT, at 00:00.3. Giuseppe Guerini (Ita), TEL, at 00:02.4. David Moncoutié (Fra), COF, at 02:55.5. Thor Hushovd (Nor), C.A, at 02:58.6. Laurent Lefevre (Fra), DEL, at 02:58.7. Unai Osa (Sp), BAN, at 02:58.8. Marcos Serrano (Sp), ONE, at 02:58.9. Jorg Jaksche (All), ONE, at 02:58.10. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CST, at 02:58.11. Santiago Botero (Col), KEL, at 02:58.12. José Enrique Gutierrez (Sp), KEL, at 03:14.13. Laurent Brochard (Fra), DEL, at 04:36.14. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), BAN, at 04:36.15.

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Preliminary stage results1. Dario Frigo (Ita), TAC, 142 km in 4:02:27(35.141 kph)
2. Mario Aerts (Bel), LOT, at 00:00.
3. Giuseppe Guerini (Ita), TEL, at 00:02.
4. David Moncoutié (Fra), COF, at 02:55.
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor), C.A, at 02:58.
6. Laurent Lefevre (Fra), DEL, at 02:58.
7. Unai Osa (Sp), BAN, at 02:58.
8. Marcos Serrano (Sp), ONE, at 02:58.
9. Jorg Jaksche (All), ONE, at 02:58.
10. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CST, at 02:58.
11. Santiago Botero (Col), KEL, at 02:58.
12. José Enrique Gutierrez (Sp), KEL, at 03:14.
13. Laurent Brochard (Fra), DEL, at 04:36.
14. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), BAN, at 04:36.
15. Levy Leipheimer (USA), RAB, at 04:36.
16. Tyler Hamilton (USA), CST, at 04:36.
17. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONE, at 04:36.
18. Andrei Kivilev (Kzk), COF, at 04:36.
19. José Luis Rubiera (Sp), USP, at 04:36.
20. Stéphane Goubert (Fra), DEL, at 04:36.
21. Michael Boogerd (Nl), RAB, at 04:36.
22. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Sp), ONE, at 04:36.
23. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 04:36.
24. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at 04:36.
25. José Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 04:36.
26. Roberto Heras (Sp), USP, at 04:36.
27. Ivan Basso (Ita), FAS, at 04:36.
28. Isidro Nozal (Sp), ONE, at 04:55.
29. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), BJR, at 04:56.
30. Massimiliano Lelli (Ita), COF, at 05:21.
31. Ivan Gotti (Ita), ALS, at 05:21.
32. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra), FDJ, at 05:21.
33. Dariusz Baranowski (Pol), BAN, at 05:21.
34. Christophe Brandt (Bel), LOT, at 06:41.
35. Nicki Sorensen (Dan), CST, at 06:41.
36. Richard Virenque (Fra), DFF, at 06:41.
37. Cédric Vasseur (Fra), COF, at 06:41.
38. Ludovic Turpin (Fra), A2R, at 06:41.

Preliminary overall results after 17 stages1. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at 72 h 50:25.
2. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONE, at 05:06.
3. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 07:24.
4. Santiago Botero (Col), KEL, at 10:59.
5. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 12:08.
6. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Sp), ONE, at 12:12.
7. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), BAN, at 12:28.
8. Roberto Heras (Sp), USP, at 12:54.
9. Levy Leipheimer (USA), RAB, at 13:58.
10. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CST, at 14:49.
11. Ivan Basso (Ita), FAS, at 15:04.
12. David Moncoutie (Fra), COF, at 17:12.
13. Michael Boogerd (Nl), RAB, at 17:32.
14. Richard Virenque (Fra), DFF, at 22:40.
15. Massimiliano Lelli (Ita), COF, at 24:56.
16. Unai Osa (Sp), BAN, at 24:57.
17. Stephane Goubert (Fra), DEL, at 25:04.
18. Tyler Hamilton (USA), CST, at 25:50.
19. Andrei Kivilev (Kzk), COF, at 26:39.
20. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra), FDJ, at 26:43.
5:10 p.m. The Armstrong group finishes about five minutes back, with all of the big players, including Leipheimer, Hamilton, Beloki and Rumsas.

5:06 p.m. Moncoutie is off of the front of the chase group and riding to fourth place.

5:04 p.m. This time its Aerts… but Frigo gets it.

Frigo wins.

Botero joins the second group with 2km to go.

5:04 p.m. Guerini attacks again and he is caught again.

5:04 p.m. Guerini attacks with 1km to go. He is caught by both.

5:03 p.m. The leaders are still together with 2km to go. Frigo is leading the trio.

5:01 p.m. The leaders are together with just 3km to go.

The second group with Sastre and Moncoutie. Botero is closing in fast.

5:00 p.m. With 4.5km to go, the three leaders are back together again.

Armstrong and Beloki are together on the descent about 5 minutes back.

4:58 p.m. Aerts is trying his luck off the front again. He is flying through the descent and leaving the other two behind.

4:53 p.m. The Sastre group is down to five riders — Jakshe, Serrano, Moncoutie, Lefevre and Sastre. They are 3:00 behind the leaders.

Behind them, Botero is about 1:30 back.

4:51 p.m. On a short flat section, Frigo and Guerini are back with Aerts, but with 11.6km to go, the tough part of the drop is coming up.

4:49 p.m. The Armstrong group has crossed 5:52 behind the leaders.

Ahead, Aerts is pulling out all the stops and charging down the descent, well ahead of Frigo and Guerini.

4:42 p.m. The leaders are still together at the top of the climb. They now face the a 21-kilometer drop to the finish.

But first they have to work their way through the lunatic asylum in the closing meters of the climb.

Aerts crosses first.

4:39 p.m. The three leaders are still together on the climb. They have 4:15 on the Sastre group, which has just lost Nozal.

Botero is chasing well and has just passed Nozal. He is 1:30 behind the Sastre group.

4:32 p.m. The three leaders are 3:54 ahead of the Sastre group; Boterois at 6:19 and the yellow jersey group is at 7:00.

4:27 p.m. Botero is now moving up and has 45 seconds on the yellow jersey group.

The leaders are 3:45 ahead of the Sastre group.

4:24 p.m. Botero is now attacking off the front of the yellow jersey group.

The gap to the leaders from the Armstrong group is still well over 7:00.4:24 p.m. The three leaders are about one-third of the way into the climb. They remain 3:40 ahead of the Sastre group.

The main field is charging now, with Leipheimer’s Rabobank team driving the pace, in an attempt to bring back Sastre to eliminate his threat to Leipheimer’s hold on ninth in GC.

To see what is ahead as we approach the end of the stage, take a look at thedetails of today’s course.

4:13 p.m. The three leaders are at km 115 and still together as they work their way up the Col de la Colombière.

They are 3:47 ahead of the Sastre group.

4:12 p.m. The three leaders are crossing through the day’s second intermediate sprint. They don’t care, though and are just riding through as they approach the lower slopes of the Cat. 1 Col de la Colombière, 11.8 km of 5.6 percent grade.

4:09 p.m. The race is now on the descent of the Col des Aravis. The leaders are 3:22 ahead of the Sastre group and 7:55 ahead of the Armstrong group.

4:06 p.m. The Armstrong group — which is now quite large — crosses the top of the Col des Aravis at 7:52 behind the leaders.

4:05 p.m. Jalabert is approaching the top of the climb. There are no more points available, but Jaja seems unconcerned. He has a 102-point advantage on that contest.

Just as Jalabert gets close to the top, the Armstrong group connects with him.

4:03 p.m. The second group crosses the top of the climb at 3:15.

The Armstrong group is at 7:35. Jalabert is with Laiseka and Gutierrez about 40 seconds ahead of the peloton.

4:00 p.m. Again, we would like to apologize for the confusion regarding Azevedo. We have the composition of that second group figured out now.

Ahead, Aerts crossed the climb at the front of the lead group.

3:57 p.m.The three leaders are 3:11 ahead of the second group and are nearing the top of the climb.

That group is made up of Jörg Jaksche (G) ONCE
Isidro Nozal (Sp) ONCE
Marcos A. Serrano (Sp) ONCE
José Enrique Gutierrez (Sp) Kelme-Costa Blanca
David Moncoutié (F) Cofidis
Carlos Sastre (Sp) CSC-Tiscali
Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
Unai Osa (Sp) iBanesto.com
Laurent Lefèvre (F) Jean Delatour.

The growing yellow jersey group is at 6:15.

3:52 p.m.We have a bit of mis-identification going on here.We do not believe that Azevedo is in that second group after all. We apologize for the confusion and hope to have this straightened out quickly.

3:48 p.m. The leaders are at km 93 and have an advantage of 3:35 over the Sastre group — three of which are from ONCE.

3:42 p.m. That Sastre group is moving along well. The group is coming apart. In addition to dropping Jalabert, the group has shed Casar and Laiseka.

3:42 p.m. Laurent Jalabert has eased off of the second group on the road and is slipping back to the Armstrong group.

He looks relaxed and doesn’t seem to concerned. He seems happy with the fact that he has locked up the climber’s jersey.

3:38 p.m.The three leaders — Aerts, Frigo and Guerini — are at 90km and 6km from the top of the climb. They are still about three minutes up on the Azevedo/Jalabert/Sastre group of 13 riders. That group has shed Eddy Mazzoleni. The Armstrong group is at 5:10.

3:35 p.m.The leaders are 3:07 ahead of the Jalabert group which now includes ONCE’s Jose Azevedo.

The Armstrong group includes Rumsas, Beloki and Basso.

3:29 p.m.The leaders are now on the lower slopes of the Cat. 2 Col des Aravis (85km to 96.5km).

They are now 3:03 ahead of that large 14-rider Jalabert/Sastre group. The yellow jersey group is at 4:43 and includes 17 riders. Armstrong, Leipheimer and Hamilton are there, as are Beloki, Heras, Pena, Basso, Rumsas are also there.

3:23 p.m. The three leaders are at 80km. They are now 1:50 ahead of Gutierrez and 2:49 ahead of the Jalabert/Sastre group, which has grown to 13.

The Armstrong group is at 4:07.

3:13 p.m. The peloton is now cresting the top of the climb.

Ahead, the 14km descent down the Col des Saisies.

Things have settled down in that group.

The time gap between the three leaders is 1:50 to Gutierrez; 2:49 to the Jalabert/Sastre group and 4:03 to the Armstrong group.

3:08 p.m. The attacks in the Armstrong group are shaking things up.

Azevedo attacks off the yellow jersey group, following a charge by Unai Osa.

Armstrong, Leipheimer responded. The field has split apart. Armstrong has Heras with him. Rumsas and Beloki are up there with him.

3:08 p.m. Frigo, Aerts and Guerini are approaching the top of the climb. They have 40 seconds on the next two riders — Gutierrez and Laiseka.

The Jalabert group is another minute back.

An update… we need to correct our last update. As the Sastre group was being pulled back by the Armstrong group, Sastre actually escaped and he is with the Jalabert group.

3:04 p.m. The lead group of Guerini, Aerts and Frigo are already 25 seconds ahead of Gutierrez and Laiseka. Jakshe, Casar, Hushovd and Jalabert are at 1:40.

Meanwhile the next group that included Sastre is now back with the yellow jersey group.

3:00 p.m. With Frigo setting the pace at the front, Laiseka and Gutierrez have been dropped.

Behind them, the Jalabert group is slipping away from Sandy Casar.

2:59 p.m. The leaders are at 64km, and have a lead of 1:24. Roberto Laiseka appears to be in trouble in that lead group and is falling off of the pace being set by Frigo.

2:48 p.m. The lead group is at 62km (8km from the top of the climb) and 1:17 ahead of the Jalabert group and 2:25 ahead of the Sastre group.

The group that includes the yellow and green jerseys is at 3:37.

2:48 p.m. The leaders are 54 seconds aheadof the Jalabert group.

The 13 riders in the next group include a couple of dangerous riders, including Carlos Sastre (11th place at 16:27) and David Moncoutie (13th at 18:53). That is largely the reason the Rabobank team is at the front of the yellow jersey group, hoping to protect Levi Leipheimer’s 9th place position on GC and perhaps to help him move up the overall standings.

2:44 p.m. The Guerini group is now 50 seconds ahead of the Jalabert group.

The 13 chasers in the next group are at 1:40. The Armstrong group is about 3:23 back. That group is being paced by Rabobank.

2:39 p.m. The peloton is now on the climb, led by the Postal and Rabobank teams.

That is a fairly strong group up front. Recall that Frigo was in a position to challenge for the win at the 2001 Giro when the police raids in San Remo ruined that for him. Meanwhile Guerini won the stage to L’Alpe d’Huez in 1999. (remember the idiot with the camera?)

2:36 p.m. The five leaders are now on the slopes Col des Saisies, 15.3km of six-percent grade. The leaders are 50 seconds ahead of the Jalabert group; 1:25 ahead of a group of nine chasers and 3:20 up on the peloton.

2:33 p.m. Jalabert has been caught by a group of three — Thor Hushovd, Jorg Jakshe and Sandy Casar. This group is now 49 seconds behind the five leaders.

2:30 p.m. Jalabert has caught and passed Casar and is now closing in on the lead group.

2:26 p.m. At 45km on this long descent off of the Cormet de Roselend, the five leaders have 48 seconds on a single pursuer – Sandy Casar (Fdjeux.com) and another 10 seconds on Laurent Jalabert.

A group of eleven is 15 seconds behind Jalabert.

2:25 p.m. A reminder to our American viewers with Outdoor Life. The live coverage of the Tour kicks in an hour earlier than usual, so you can watch all the action and enjoy full commentary from Bill Patrick, too, coming up in five minutes.

2:19 p.m. After the descent of the Cormet de Roselend, the course almost immediately begins the day’s second climb, the Cat. 1 Col des Saisies, 15.3km of six-percent grade.

2:13 p.m. The situation on the road:

Five leaders hit the summit of the climb in the following order: Aerts, Frigo, Gutierrez, Laiseka and Guerini.

They were followed at 1:15 later by a group of 12 riders.

The Armstrong group followed over another 20 seconds back. 2:12 p.m. Actually there are now 11 riders in that group.

The highest placed of the bunch is Cofidis’s David Moncoutie, in 13th overall at 18:53.

2:11 p.m. A new group of nine riders has formed off the front of the peloton, including the Tour’s most aggressive rider, Laurent Jalabert.

They lead the Armstrong group by about 30 seconds and trail the Frigo group by about a minute.

2:09 p.m. The lead group has grown to five — Guerini; Gutierrez; Aerts; Laiseka and Frigo. They now have a minute on the Armstrong group and are about 2km from the top of the climb.

2:05 p.m. The four riders — Gutierrez, Aerts, Laiseka, Frigo — are 25 seconds ahead of Guerini. The Armstrong group is another 15 seconds back.

The rest of the peloton — including Richard Virenque — is spread out over about 700 meters behind.

2:05 p.m. Though caught by the Armstrong group a few minutes ago, David Etxebarria is not one to give up. He and Giuseppe Guerini are off the front of the Armstrong group of 50 riders.

As John Wilcockson said on the phone “All hell has broken loose on this climb.”

1:54 p.m. The bulk of the break has been swept up by a group of 50 riders that includes Lance Armstrong.

Guiterrez, Aerts, Laiseka and Frigo are a few seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group. Behind the Armstrong bunch, the peloton is spread down the road for a long stretch.

1:53 p.m. Guitierrez and Aerts have moved off the front of the lead group. They are eight seconds ahead of Nozal and Menchov. The rest of the lead group is nother seven seconds back, but the peloton — led by U.S. Postal — is just seven seconds behind them.

1:47 p.m. The 21 riders in the lead group are as follows:
Roberto Heras Hernandez (Sp) U.S. Postal
Rolf Aldag (G) Telekom
José Azevedo (Por) ONCE
Isidro Nozal (Sp) ONCE
Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme-Costa Blanca
José Enrique Gutierrez (Sp) Kelme-Costa Blanca
David Millar (GB) Cofidis
David Moncoutié (F) Cofidis
Carlos Sastre (Sp) CSC-Tiscali
Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank
Addy Engels (Nl) Rabobank
Denis Menchov (Rus) iBanesto.com
Unai Osa (Sp) iBanesto.com
Mario Aerts (B) Lotto-Adecco
David Etxebarria (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Iban Mayo (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
Dario Frigo (I) Tacconi Sport
Eddy Mazzoleni (I) Tacconi Sport
Thierry Loder (F) Ag2R Prevoyance
Stephane Goubert (F) Jean Delatour

1:45 p.m. Aldag has been caught by the group and Botero has joined up again. The 21 riders now has an advantage of 45 seconds over the field. The highest placed rider in the group is Jose Azevado (ONCE), who is in fourth place at 12:08.

There are other dangerous riders in the group. We’ll post a full rundown in a minute.

1:43 p.m. This chase group is changing in composition as we speak. It is down to 19 riders, after a couple were dropped. And now Santiago Botero is attacking out of the field in an attempt to join up.

1:38 p.m. Race radio reports that Reubens Bertogliati – the 23-year-old Swiss rider who had the yellow jersey early in the Tour – has been dropped by the peloton and is struggling on the climb.

This is no easy climb, by the way. The Cormet de Roselend averages 5.9 percent for 19km.

Aldag still has a lead of about 1:30 over a group of chasers that has now swelled to 21 riders. The peloton is now just 17 seconds behind this bunch.

1:34 p.m. The men in that second group include some of the Tour’s better climbers and they have already made some progress on reeling in the members of the first chase group. Piil and one other rider have been caught.

1:33 p.m. These two chase groups (the second has grown to 13 riders) are quite close to the Postal-led peloton and things are likely to close back up again.`

1:32 p.m. Aldag is now at 16km and well into the climb up the Cormet de Roseland.

He is 1:37 ahead of a group of eight riders – Piil, Bessy, Engels, Pineau, Aerts, Mazzoleni and Loder.

A group of nine – Heras, Gonzalez de Galdeano, Nozal, Kivilev, Casar, Latasa, Etxebarria, Laseka and Goubert – is coming fast.

1:24 p.m. Jocob Piil and Frederic Bessy take the second and third spots at the sprint. Of course the major importance of that is that neither of them is Erik Zabel or Robbie McEwen. The top of the points race remains tied for now.

Coming up almost immediately now is the Cat. 1 the Cormet de Roseland (from 12.5km to 31.5km).

This climb may trigger a twitch of recogntion from the inside of the U.S. Postal team car. It was in 1996, while descending the stretch of road the Tour is now climbing, that Johann Bruyneel had the famous crash that made a lot of people think he was one of the toughest characters in the peloton.

Bruyneel flew off the road at full speed, fortunately maneuvering his bike between two stone markers. He then fell 20 feet down a rock-strewn embankment, crawled back up the side and immediately asked for a new bike. He was back up and riding within 40 seconds.

That, by the way, was in 1996 on the Stage to Les Arcs, when Miguel Indurain cracked on the final climb and lost the Tour, breaking his five-year streak.

1:20 p.m. Aldag gets his six points at the sprint.

Another group of eight riders is between him and the peloton.

1:17 p.m. With Aldag well off the front, Tacconi Sport’s Eddy Mazzoleni attacks out of the field. Six riders jumped in right on his heels.

This Zabel-McEwen battle may not make much progress today after all.

1:15 p.m. Aldag is now 1:55 ahead of the peloton and closing in on the day’s first sprint.

1:07 p.m. Rolf Aldag attacks at kilometer four. He has a one minute at six kilometers. The Telekom rider will deny McEwen a grab at the six points at the sprint.

1:07 p.m. Just in case you’re wondering, here are the current points standings in the Tour:Points – Overall
1. Robbie McEwen (Aus), LOT, 229 pts
2. Erik Zabel (Ger), TEL, 229
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), C.A, 180
4. Baden Cooke (Aus), FDJ, 162
5. Jan Svorada (Cze), LAM, 129
6. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, 104
7. Laurent Brochard (Fra), DEL, 86
8. Pedro Horillo (Spa), MAP, 81
9. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, 80
10. Santiago Botero (Col), KEL, 79

1:03 p.m. And they’re off. There were 156 riders starting today’s stage.

We should be seeing a battle forming between the three top contenders for the points jersey. O’Grady scored 10 hard-earned points yesterday, and McEwen and Zabel remain tied for the top spot.

1:03 p.m. The peloton should be rolling out of Aime any time now.

We have our sprints kicking in early today, the first is at Bourg-St. Maurice (10km) and then the second at Le Grand-Bornand (109.5km).

The climbs: Three Cat. 1s, the Cormet de Roseland(from 12.5km to 31.5km), Col des Saisies (54.5km to 70km) and Col de la Colombière (109.5km to 121.5km); one Cat. 2, Col des Aravis (85km to 96.5km).1:01 p.m. If you haven’t had a chance yet, take a look at thedetails of today’s course.

The weather is quite nice today, high 70s and low 80s. And the mood, now that all of the hors categorie days are past, is much lighter. John Wilcockson said that most of the riders he spoke with this morning looked almost relieved to be this far into the race.

1:00 p.m. Good morning and welcome to our coverage of the 17th stage of the Tour de France — a 142km ride from Aime to Cluses.

Thye riders are about to leave the village departe, and then course through a very short neutral stretch. Racing should begin in about five minutes.