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By VeloNews Editorial Staff
5:30 p.m. local timeSo 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.
For the rest of you today’s winner was …
5:12 p.m. (local time) Jalabert earns his fourth Tour de France stage win, but he will not make it into the yellow jersey.
Stuart O’Grady managed to finish close enough to keep the overall lead.
Dierckxsens earned second and Nazon edged out Fast Freddie Rodriguez for third.
5:12 p.m. (local time)It’s Jah Jah!!
Jalabert beats Dierckxsens in the sprint.
Back in the field Fred Rodriguez and Damien Nazon (Bonjour)battle for third.
5:11 p.m. (local time) One kilometer to go and the two are eyeing each other….
5:11 p.m. (local time) With 1.5km to go, Jalabert and Dierckxsens have 23 seconds.
5:10 p.m. (local time) With 2.5km to go, Jalabert is off on his own.
Now Dierckxsens is moving up to Jah jah.
5:09 p.m. (local time) With 4km to go, the lead is 37 seconds.
5:06 p.m. (local time) The gap is now at 45 seconds and more riders are sharing the work at the front. We are at 6km remaining.
5:03 p.m. (local time) The gap is now under a minute, but there are only 8 kilometers remaining.
This could be close.
5:01 p.m. (local time) Bonjour is still working hard at the front, though they have made little progress. The gap is now 1:03.
While the chase group is huge — nearly 100 riders — there is major 12:00 gap back to the rest of the field.
We have one correction to make. The Green Jersey, Erik Zabel, is in that second group way in the back.
4:56 p.m. (local time) As ther peloton passes the war memorial of Douaumont, the three leaders still enjoy an advantage of 1:12.
4:52 p.m. (local time) Bonjour is not having a great deal of success in the chase as they crest the hill near the World War I battlefield of Douaumont.
The three leaders have an advantage of 1:20.
4:48 p.m. (local time) With 20km to go, the Jalabert, Dierckxsens, Mancebo trio has a 1:24 advantage.
Is Jah Jah gonna pull one off? If these guys stay away, he becomes the overall race leader, a position he had after last year’s team time trial.
4:40 p.m. (local time) Laurent Jalabert, Francisco Mancebo and Ludo Dierckxsens are now 1:15 up.
Bonjour are chasing, but they are not making a lot of progress.
4:40 p.m. (local time) The Jalabert group is now 40 seconds ahead of the main group.
There doesn’t seem to be much interest in chasing and O’Grady doesn’t have a lot of teammates around him.
4:36 p.m. (local time) Laurent Jalabert, Francisco Mancebo and Ludo Dierckxsens are off the front with an advantage of 15 seconds.
4:31 p.m. (local time) There are attacks from the front, but none have really come to fruition.
We are about 33km from the finish.
4:23 p.m. (local time) With 35km remaining, the chase group is closing in on the lead group. This has been a tough, tough one-minute gap to shut down. The chase — once made up of nearly 100 riders — is now down to 45.
We will now have a lead group of nearly 90, with the rest of the field shattered off the back.
Rodriguez, Zabel and Jalabert are now joining up with the lead group.
4:18 p.m. (local time) O’Grady has taken the day’s final intermediate sprint. He’s earned more time, pading his hold on the yellow jersey and added valuable points in his real fight for the green sprinter’s jersey.
Later on we’ll be coming up to one of the most historically significant areas of the Ardennes region.
About 15km before the finish we will be climbing up the unrated climb at Douaumont the site of a brutal two-year battle in World War I. There are the graves of more than 150,000 French and German soldiers.
4:16 p.m. (local time) We’re coming up on the third sprint of the day at km 175.5.
The leaders still have an advantage of 1:05.
4:10 p.m. (local time) With 46km to go, still no progress… the lead group is holding on to its 1:10 advantage.
The chase — with Fassa Bortolo, CSC and Domo at the front — are still working hard, but they are having little success.
4:04 p.m. (local time) The lead group now has an advantage of 1:10. That front goup is being driven by ONCE, Postal and Telekom. Stuart O’Grady — the yellow jersey — is aiming for the upcoming sprint, where he can grab a few extra points, while Zabel is in the chase group.
In the back, Domo, CSC and Cofidis are working hard to close the gap, but they are having little luck and are now losing time.
4:01 p.m. (local time) John Wilcockson reports that the skies are clearing, the threat of rain has disappeared and temperatures are in the high 60s.
3:59 p.m. (local time) The average speed of the fourth hour of this stage was a brisk 49.9kph, giving us a four-hour average speed of 39.1kph.
With 55km remaining, the lead group of 45 has a 53-second advantage over the main field.
3:55 p.m. (local time) The gap is still holding.
ONCE, Telekom and Postal are driving the front bunch, while Domo, CSC and Cofidis are leading the chase.
3:51 p.m. (local time) We are now at the 150km mark. The lead group has less than a minute and the Cofidis squad is leading the chase.
The leaders have shed three riders, so it’s clear that the pressure is on up front. Still, with 65km remaining, we can imagine that the gap will eventually close down.
The sun is out and temperatures are in the low 70s.
3:46 p.m. (local time) The lead group of 48 — with Armstrong, Ullrich, Julich, O’Grady and more — has still has a 55-second advantage over the rest of the field.
3:41 p.m. (local time) The main field — now led by Axel Merckx — is just 1:05 behind the lead group of 48.
3:37 p.m. (local time) The main group is working hard to reconnect with the leaders. The gap is still at 1:25.
The Tour is again on home turf, by the way. The peloton has crossed back into France.
3:36 p.m. (local time) At 141km, the lead group of 48 riders has an advantage of 1:25 over the main field.
Wilcockson reports that the wind is quite strong and coming from straight on. We have a strong headwind.
3:31 p.m. (local time) Caught. Julich and company have been caught by the Armstrong group. They now all have a one-minute advantage over the main field.
3:27 p.m. (local time) These fellas are about to be caught. The Julich/Bolts group has just a 58-second advantage over the group of 39 that includes Armstrong, O’Grady, Ullrich, Moreau and others.
3:20 p.m. (local time) The leaders passed through the sprint at the 125km mark with only a 2:40-advantage over the Armstrong-Ullrich chase group.
The winners of the sprint wereMengin, Agnolutto and Halgand.
Now at kilometer 129, the leaders’ advantage is down to 1:25.
The main field is another 1:40 behind the first chase group.
3:13 p.m. (local time) The leaders are nearing the day’s second intermediate sprint at 125km.
The leaders’ advantage is now down to 2:40, with the second chase — the main field — at 4:25.
3:09 p.m. (local time) The lead group of nine — with Julich, Bolts and Boogerd — has an advantage of 4:00.
Our VeloNews car has just pulled past the lead group and John Wilcockson reports that Bolts is still riding at the back and Julich is up front working.
The chase group of 39 has an advantage of 1:30 over the main field.
3:04 p.m. (local time) The break of nine with Julich now has an advantage of 4:35 over the first chase group of 39 riders. The leaders are at km 114.
Bolts (Telekom) has stopped working… this could be a sign that the leaders are easing off and expecting to be caught by that first chase group.
That group includes O’Grady, all of the ONCE squad, all of the Postal team except for Jose Luis Rubiera, all of the Telekom team except for Livingston, Zabel and, of course, Bolts (he is in the lead group.) there are also riders from Rabobank, La Francaise, Bonjour, Kelme and iBanesto.
2:50 p.m. (local time) The leaders are now at kilometer 108 — about halfway into today’s stage. Their advantage has now been cut back down to 6:40.
The first chase is made up of 30 riders, including Ullrich, Armstrong, Beloki, Moreau and O’Grady.
2:46 p.m. (local time) This is gonna be a tough day in the saddle.
ONCE is now pushing the pace in the front and working with Postal to reel in the leaders. The field is continuing to break apart, withonly about 38 riders in that front chase group.
AND it’s beginning to rain.
2:37 p.m. (local time) Now they’re getting serious. The Postals are driving this chase hard. The gap is now down to 8:20 — the leaders are at km 103 and the chase group is at 96km.
With help from ONCE now, the speed in the chase group is such that the peloton has fractured into five groups.
2:37 p.m. (local time) VeloNews’s John Wilcockson is following the break now and the leaders have just passed the 99km mark — the peloton is just passing through the feedzone at 91km
The leader’s advantage is now down to 9:30 and word over the race radio is that the Postal team now has eight of its riders at the front of the peloton.
They are driving it so hard that the main field has broken into three groups, echeloning in the strong cross-wind. 2:30 p.m. (local time) The leaders still have an advantage of more than 10 minutes. While the Posties are doing their part at the front, the nine leaders know that this is a rare opportunity and are working very well off the front.
This could be good.
2:23 p.m. (local time) When we gave that last time gap of 10:10, the leaders were at kilometer 86, but the peloton was back at km79.
The Postal team has now moved to the front of the main field and is giving chase.
2:18 p.m. (local time) Just to review the current situation: At kilometer 86 there are nine riders with a lead of 10:10 on the main field. Those riders are Udo Bölts (Telekom); Luis Perez (Festina); Michael Boogerd (Rabobank); Bobby Julich (Credit Agricole); Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2R-Prevoyance); Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour); José Angel Vidal (Kelme); Bradley McGee (Française Des Jeux) and Loïc Lamouller (Bigmat Auber 93).
With this advantage Julich, teammate of race leader Stuart O’Grady, becomes race leader on the road, since he started the day in sixth place, 23 seconds out of first.
There is obviously a lot that can still happen since there are still 129km to go to the finish in Verdan, but this is a dangerous break, with Julich, Boogerd and Bolts in there. Not only are those three a formidable bunch, their teams — Credit Agricole, Rabobank and Telekom — have little or no reason to chase.
This chase is up to the Postal and ONCE teams — whenever they decide to kick it in.
2:09 p.m. (local time) The time gap at the top of the Cote de Redu (kilometer 72) was 9:25.
2:00 p.m. (local time) At the top of the Category 3 Cote de Redu the top finishers werePatrice Halgand (Jean Delatour); Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2R-Prevoyance); Michael Boogerd (Rabobank); Bobby Julich (Credit Agricole); and Udo Bolts (Telekom).
1:58 p.m. (local time) At the base of the climb the leaders have an advantage of 7:40.
The average speed of the peloton for the first two hours today was 35.5kph.
We’re sure that will increase as Julich’s group continues off the front.
1:51 p.m. (local time) Wow… the leaders now have an advantage of 6:00 as of kilometer 65.
VeloNews’s Senior Writer Bryan Jew has made something of a brash promise that if this break sticks and Julich finishes with a 10-minute advantage, he’ll just fly home and come to the office in Colorado.
We’re sure, though, that Bryan will be enjoying another two-and-a-half weeks in France.
1:41 p.m. (local time) The leaders now have an advantage of 3:50 at kilometer 62.
They crested the Cote de Rochefort with an advantage of 2:38.
The winners of the climbers points were Halgand, followed by Rabobank’s Boogerd and Christoph Mengin (Française Des Jeux).
1:37 p.m. (local time) With their 1:45 lead on the main group, the leaders now have the Tour’s overall race leader — on the road at least. Bobby Julich, who started today in sixth place would earn the yellow jersey if this break were to stay out and maintain its lead.
But we all know that the big teams aren’t going to sit back and let that happen, eh?
1:33 p.m. (local time) The nine leaders are: Udo Bölts (Telekom); Luis Perez (Festina); Michael Boogerd (Rabobank); Bobby Julich (Credit Agricole); Christophe Agnolutto (Ag2R-Prevoyance); Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour); José Angel Vidal (Kelme); Bradley McGee (Française Des Jeux) and Loïc Lamouller (Bigmat Auber 93).
At the base of the climb the leaders have 1:45. You can imagine, though that with Julich in the bunch, there will be a serious chase.
The are now on the Cote de Rochefort, a long straight climb of about six percent.
John Wilcockson reports that the crowds are light here in this sparsely populated region of Belgium… though there are a few Rabobank fans who should be thrilled by Boogerd’s presence in the break.
1:31 p.m. (local time) We have a new break of nine riders that formed at kilometer 50. They now have a lead of 45 seconds. Hold on for identification of the break.
1:27 p.m. (local time) The field is all back together and we are now looking forward to the day’s next climb, the Cote de Rochefort at kilometer 59.
1:19 p.m. (local time) And in rapid succession, the day’s first climb was followed by the Cat.4 Cote de la Marquisette and the finishing order is identical. Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour); the mointain points leader Benoit Salmon (Ag2R); and Felix Cardenas (Kelme).
1:19 p.m. (local time) The winners of the day’s first climbing points were in order: Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour); the mointain points leader Benoit Salmon (Ag2R); and Felix Cardenas (Kelme).
1:14 p.m. (local time) We’re now moving on to the day’s first climb, the Category 4 near Celles.
1:08 p.m. (local time) We’ve reached the 40km mark (24.85 miles for the metrically challenged) and the peloton is all together again.
John Wilcockson reports that the clouds are actually easing up a bit and the sun is making its first real appearance of the day. If it does rain, it may not be all that serious.
12:58 p.m. (local time) The average speed for the first hour of racing was just 34.1kph. Given the amount of action and the winds, it is a deceptively slow speed. The winds in fact are coming off the right side of the road at nearly 40kph at times, so that is having a dramatic effect on the overall speed.
To recap, we had a break of 11 riders take off at kilometer 31. That group included the yellow jersey Stuart O’Grady. They wee caught within a a couple of kilometers and and another group of seven charged off.
They were joined by three and then by two riders. That group built a lead of no more than 12 seconds before also being reeled in by the main field.
12:49 p.m. (local time) The two escapees have been caught at kilometer 29. The group is now back together, except as we noted earlier, Casagrande — Fassa Bortolo’s team leader and one of the favorites for a top-five spot in Paris — has left the race.
12:46 p.m. (local time) At kilometer 27, just one K before the first intermediate sprint, the 10 leaders were caught.
But Durand and Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) managed to elude the field ands stayed off the front. Durand won the sprint, Hianult was second and back in the field, Credit Agricole’s Thor Hushovd took third.
12:43 p.m. (local time) At km 23 the two parts of the peloton are back together. Vaughters is in back in the main group.
But Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo) has now abandoned the Tour de France.
12:35 p.m. (local time) Wow… this is busy.
The leaders still have 12 seconds. Now, at kilometer 19, two of the three parts of the main peloton have regrouped.
Credit Agricole’s Jonathan Vaughters has flatted. He has been given a wheel by a teammate and is now stuck in the chasing group — that third part of the main peloton that never managed to rejoin.
And now Francesco Casagrande has been dropped.
12:20 p.m. (local time) The ten riders in the lead group are: Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom); Jörg Jaksche (ONCE); Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo); Michele Bartoli (Mapei); Jon Odriozola (ibanesto); Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole); Angel Castresana (Euskaltel-Euskadi); Laurent Jalabert (CSC-Tiscali); Jacky Durand (Française Des Jeux) and Alexei Sivakov (Bigmat Auber 93).
Behind, the peloton has broken up into three groups. The lead is still only 12 seconds, but the wind is a big factor. 12:28 p.m. (local time) A ten-rider break has formed. At kilometer 13, they have about a 10-second gap. Laurent Jalabert is in the lead group and the Postal team has five riders leading the chase.
12:20 p.m. (local time) Well, that didn’t last. Just as we posted the last “everything is quiet” update, there was an attack off the front from a rider we have yet to I.D.
He was joined by Marco Serpellini (Lampre-Daikin) and the two stayed off for about a kilometer-and-a-half before being caught at km10.
12:19 p.m. (local time) We’ve covered 8km and things still appear to be relatively casual.
Up ahead at the finish line, Lennard Zinn reports that winds are kicking up and they could be a serious factor in the race today.
Temperatures seem pretty mild — hovering around the high 60s/low 70s.
12:10 p.m. (local time) Everything is rolling along nicely. The peloton is still bunched up and race radio reports that the Postal team’s George Hincapie has had a flat.
He’s made the switch and his back in the bunch.
The man in yellow today is of course, Credit Agricole’s Stuart O’Grady. He’s enjoying his time in the leader’s jersey though he is most seriously a contender for the final green sprinter’s jersey, which is currently on the familiar shoulders of Telekom’s Erik Zabel.
12:01 p.m. (local time) And we’re underway, rolling away from the start and through a relatively short neutral zone before we hit the official rolling start today. It’s not quite as long as that 12km neutral we had yesterday in Antwerp.
Looking ahead we have intermediate sprints coming up in the village of Ciney (28km), one in Florenville (125km) and another in Damvillers (175.5km).
There are a total of three Cat. 4 climbs today, the first at at Celles (43km), then at La Marquiesette (46.5km) and Abe-et-Auffe (59km), and a Cat. 3 climb at Redu (72km).
11:48 a.m. (local time) Good morning. It’s about 2 minutes until the peloton rolls away from the starting village here on the Avenue Delchambre in Huy.
We’re in for another long stage today. We’ve got 215km to cover before we arrive in Verdun today.
Right now the weather is still a bit cloudy and very windy. Winds are kicking along between 30 and 40kph and the skies look threatening, though there has not been any rain yet.