Quite a few of you have asked that we not reveal the winner in the headline or first paragraph, so if you don’t want be surprised as you work your way through our now-not-so-live updates click HERE to work up from the bottom and follow the race from the start.
Here is a provisional top-ten list for the day.
1. ZABEL Erik GER TEL In 3:12:27; 2. O’GRADY Stuart AUS C.A; 3. VAINSTEINS Romans LAT DFF; 4. TEUTENBERG Sven GER FES; 5. SVORADA Jan SLO LAM; 6. PETACCHI Alessandro ITA FAS; 7. NAZON Damien FRA BJR; 8. SIVAKOV Alexei RUS BIG; 9. CAPELLE Christophe FRA BIG; 10. CASPER Jimmy FRA FDJ.
O’Grady leads Zabel on the points contest by 2 points — 212 to 210.
4:59 p.m. [local time] O’Grady actually finished in second place, so the Aussie holds on to the green points jersey…. whoa. He now leads Zabel by just points. This is an amazingly tight green points jersey contest.
4:56 p.m. [local time] Zabel!
Erik Zabel takes the stage win and the green points jersey.
A quick glance shows that O’Grady has finished in third.
4:54 p.m. [local time] With three km to go, the Domo team, the Festina team and Lampre are all jockeying for position at the front of the field. There are a lot of sprinters hungry for a stage win.
4:52 p.m. [local time] With five km to go, there has been a crash at the back of the field.
It has had no effect on the sprinters vying for a stage win, nor on Lance Armstrong, who is wisely staying near the front.
4:50 p.m. [local time] With 8km to go, the Telekom is leading the field. O’Grady is still stuck to the wheel of Erik Zabel.
4:44 p.m. [local time] The Telekom team is driving the pace at the front.
There are now just 10km to go. O’Grady is up near the front, shadowing the wheel of Erik Zabel.
4:38 p.m. [local time] O’Grady has reportedly had a mechanical problem and been forced to exchange bikes with a teammate.
As of now, it looks like he may be contesting this final sprint on someone else’s bike, because he may not be able to risk another bike switch as the race comes to within 13km of the finish.
4:36 p.m. [local time] With 16km to go, the pace is continuing at a high speed.
In case you are wondering, the points distribution at the finish is as follows: 1st – 35pts; 2nd – 30; 3rd – 26;4th – 24; 5th 22;6th – 20;7th – 19;8th – 18;9th –17;10th- 16;11th-15, and so forth, all the way down to 25th place, which gets a single point.
4:32 p.m. [local time] With 22km to go to the finish, it looks like we may actually see a big field sprint into Evry.
There are 35 points awarded to the stage winner and O’Grady leads Zabel by just 7 points.
4:28 p.m. [local time] Sebastian Hinault has tried to jump with 1 kilometer before the sprint.
The Credit Agricole team is sending its riders off the front — but Telekom is chasing them down.
O’Grady has stuck by Zabel’s wheel.
Though Jens Voigt tried another attack, it was quickly countered by Vinokourov and Zabel.
Zabel sprinted across the line, just inches ahead of O’Grady.
O’Grady now leads the sprint contest by just 7 points.
4:23 p.m. [local time] The leaders have given up and will be brought back into the peloton.
There are less than four kilometers to go before the sprint.
4:21 p.m. [local time] As the leaders come within five kilometers of the intermediate sprint, the peloton is closing in on them.
Agnolutto has attacked off the front of the leaders.
4:18 p.m. [local time] A correction – the sprint is at 125.5 — not 122.5 as we previously stated.
The lead group of five is at km 118 and 17 seconds ahead of the peloton.
4:17 p.m. [local time] With 6km to the sprint, the peloton has cut into the five leaders’ advantage. It is now down to 17 seconds.
4:15 p.m. [local time] We are at km 115 and just 7.5km from the sprint.
Even though several teams are working at the front of the peloton, the five leaders are maintaining their 25-scond lead.
4:10 p.m. [local time] 4:10 p.m. [local time] The five leaders — Guillaume Auger (Bigmat Auber 93), Johan Verstrepen (Lampre-Daikin), Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2R-Prevoyance), Maarten Den Bakker (Rabobank) and Laurent Roux (Jean Delatour) — still have an advantage of 25 seconds.
They are now at km 111, about 12km from the intermediate sprint.
4:05 p.m. [local time] In case you’re wondering, the second sprint will be contested on a very straight section of road, outside of the village of Budeliere.
There is a slight crosswind at the site of the sprint, but it will not be a factor.
Right now, though, the leaders have an advantage of 28 seconds.
4:02 p.m. [local time] The leaders are now less than 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.
Telekom is putting in a good effort along with Bonjour. The Telekoms are doing all they can to help Erik Zabel score as many points as possibel and reeling in the breakaway group before the day’s second intermediate sprint is an important part of that.
3:57 p.m. [local time] At km 102, the five leaders have lead of 58 seconds.
The Bonjour, Telekom and Postal teams are at the front of the peloton.
3:54 p.m. [local time] The leaders now enjoy an advantage of 1:30.
The average speed for the second hour of today’s stage was 44.4kph. The two-hour average was 46.85kph.
3:49 p.m. [local time] The five leaders have an advantage of 1:20.
The Bonjour team is leading the chase in the peloton, with the Postal squad hanging out at the front as well.
3:46 p.m. [local time] The leaders are 57km from the finish and have an advantage of 58 seconds.
The leades are about 25km from the day’s second sprint. Of course, O’Grady would be happy to see the break go and swallow up sprint points all the way to Evry.
3:41 p.m. [local time] Correction — that isn’t Guido Trentin in the break. He’s number 79. Race radio has issued a correction, it was 179 in the break — Johan Verstrepen (Lampre-Daikin).
They have a 35-second advantage.
3:37 p.m. [local time] The five leaders are on the only climb of the day. This is (in VeloNews speak) the penultimate climb of the Tour de France. There is one more rated climb on tomorrow’s stage.
The five leaders have an advantage of 20 seconds.
3:35 p.m. [local time] Jacky Durand and Servais Knaven (Domo-Farm Frites) have tried to chase, but they are being reeled in by the field.
3:30 p.m. [local time] We are now at the 81km mark. Guillaume Auger (Bigmat Auber 93), Guido Trentin (Cofidis), Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2R-Prevoyance), Maarten Den Bakker (Rabobank) and Laurent Roux (Jean Delatour).
At km 83, they have a lead of 8 seconds.
3:22 p.m. [local time] The pace is still moderate. We are at 77km, with 71km remaining. All is together.
The climb comes up at 84km and then the next sprint comes up at 125.5km.
3:18 p.m. [local time] We are at 74km and the pace has finally slowed. The peloton has passed through the feedzone and we are now on the way to the Cote de Gironville.
Of course as far as climber’s points go, there is no contest any more. Laurent Jalabert (CSC) has that race locked up.
By the way, you may not have read our earlier post, so to repeat: Tyler Hamilton has confirmed that he will be riding for CSC next year. Jalabert has already said he plans to retire after the 2002 season.
3:11 p.m. [local time] Jacky Durand has tried a small attack, but he was soon caught.
The peloton is all together again and we look ahead now to the next item on today’s agenda, the feed at km72. After that the course goes into a very narrow winding single-lane road for about 14km. A rider could get out of sight if he had a lead of more than 10 seconds.
It stays that way until the town of Gironville where we come across the the Cat. 4 Cote de Gironville a steep little 700-meter climb.
After the climb, the course crests onto a plateau — where there is a brisk side wind this afternoon. We could see things break up there a bit.
3:03 p.m. [local time] Voigt made it to sprint first, taking the six points.
He was soon followed by Zabel who earned 4 points and O’Grady was right on his wheel, taking 2 points.
Voigt sat up right after crossing the line for the sprint.
O’Grady now leads Zabel by 9 points.
3:00 p.m. [local time] At km 60, Voigt is still ahead of the peloton by about 100 meters.
The sprint is coming up in 2.5km
2:59 p.m. [local time] Well no, Voigt continues to hover ahead of the field by about four seconds.
He keeps trying. Remember he’s already been caught once and attacked again when he was reeled in the first time.
2:55 p.m. [local time] Atkm56, Voigt has been caught.
2:54 p.m. [local time]At 53km, Voigt now leads by 20 seconds.
2:47 p.m. [local time] The first hour’s average speed was 49.3kph — so much for my abilities to predict average speeds.
Voigt still has a 30 second lead on the field.
2:42 p.m. [local time] Voigt now has a lead of 35 seconds. The pace is still quite high and we will be hitting the one-hour mark soon. The average speed has been well above 50kph for this first hour.
2:38 p.m. [local time] At Km 45, Voigt has a small lead of about 200 meters. He’s already been caught once, but is tenacious enough to try again.
Meanwhile ONCE’s Alvaro González de Galdeano has withdrawn from the Tour. He set early standards in the Time Trial yesterday and turned in a good performance, finishing 16th. His brother Igor González de Galdeano is currently in fifth place overall.
2:35 p.m. [local time] The peloton has passed the 40km mark and Jens Voigt is off the front. The Credit Agricole rider has a small margin, but Telekom isn’t going to let those sprint points get away.
2:29 p.m. [local time] At km 36, the Telekom and Postal teams are at the front. Now that the course has moved on to narrow twisty roads, the two powerhouse teams are reluctant to leave their fates in the hands of others, so they are the ones at the front. One tapped wheel at these speeds and a five-minute advantage could evaporate. It makes sense.
2:28 p.m. [local time] Durand is back in the field and we are now 35km into today’s stage.
2:24 p.m. [local time] Jon Odriozola Franck Renier (Bonjour) and good ol’ Jacky Durand (Française Des Jeux) have tried an attack. Thjey were soon caught, but Durand has tried to go off on his own. This guy never stops trying. They are at km 33.
2:19 p.m. [local time] We’ve been racing for just over half-an-hour (start time was 1:46 p.m.) and we’ve already covered 28.8km — (well not we unless you count our time behind the wheel of the car).
2:15 p.m. [local time] The peloton is at the 26km mark. The pace is still high and the Postal team is making an occassional appearance at the front. That may just be motivated in part to keep Lance Armstrong up ahead of the rest of the field where a mistake could be costly.
2:09 p.m. [local time] The peloton is now 21km from the start. They are flyin’!
One thing to keep in mind today is that Stuart O’Grady may be suffering from the effects of a bee sting he received during yesterday’s time trial. It may or may not affect his sprint, but when one goes up against Erik Zabel, it pays to be at 100 percent.
Zabel of course is looking to do well in the intermediate sprints, but is really aiming for a stage win today. It would be his third of this Tour.
2:07 p.m. [local time] The speeds are high and the attacks unsuccessful at the 15km point.
We have long way to go before the day’s first intermediate sprint at Puiseaux (62.5km) .
2:05 p.m. [local time] The peloton is at 14km (52.5kph) Baldato is back and attacks are continuing — Rabobank is at the front trying to get team members away.
1:57 p.m. [local time] Fassa Bortolo’s Fabio Baldato attacked just as we posted our last update.
He has a small gap on the field, but the pace is still quite high 1:57 p.m. [local time] The errant Agnolutto is back in the pack and the field is coming up on the 10km mark.
1:54 p.m. [local time] We’re not sure how someone has managed to accelerate out of a peloton moving that fast, but Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2R-Prevoyance) has attacked at the 6.5km mark.
1:49 p.m. [local time] The pace is high — conditions great to set a record today. They did the first five kilometers in 4:30 — about 62kph or 40 MILES per hour. The opeing fifteen kilometers are on a flat 2-lane road through the Forest of Orléans — benneath the canopied archways of old trees. It’s beautiful and the crowds are huge.
1:45 p.m. [local time] Racing is underway for the 145 riders remaining in the Tour de France.
Looking ahead: DETAILS OF STAGE 19: Orléans to Evry, 149.5km.Intermediate sprints at Puiseaux (62.5km) and Itteville(125.5km).One Cat. 4 climb at Gironville (87km).1:40 p.m. [local time] It’s time leave Orléans.
As you might see from the points standings, today’s going to be a biggy in the Green points jersey contest. Stuart O’Grady leads that race, but only by a scant 11 points and Telekom’s Erik Zabel is hoping to lock in his sixth successive points victory.
O’Grady starts the day with 176 points and Zabel with 165. There are two intermediate sprints ahead and, of course the 35 points awarded at the finish in Evry.
1:25 p.m. [local time] Good afternoon from Orléans. The village departe is on the Place St. Croix in the center of Orléans. Riders are scheduled for a downright civilized late start today and should be departing from town at 1:40 and passing through the official start at 1:44.
It’s hot — in the upper 80s and 90 percent humidity — and there is potential for a thunderstorm later on today. There is a slight favorable breeze today.
The big news of the day is that Tyler Hamilton has confirmed that he is leaving the U.S. Postal team at the end of the season and signing on with CSC-Tiscali in 2002. Asked what he might be able to do for the team, he said that with good luck and proper preparation, he might be able to pull out a top-five Tour finish some day “but I would prefer not to predict and just let my legs do the talking.”
We wish him well and hope he keeps writing for us.