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Thursday, July 18: Pau – La Mongie

Preliminary Stage Results1. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at , 158 km in 4:21:57. (36.190 km)2. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONE, at ˆ 00:07.3. Roberto Heras (Sp), USP, at 00:13.4. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), BAN, at 01:16.5. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 01:16.6. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), KEL, at 01:23.7. Ivan Basso (Ita), FAS, at 01:23.8. Andrei Kivilev (Kzk), COF, at 01:34.9. Laurent Jalabert (Fra), CST, at 01:49.10. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 01:52.11. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Sp), ONE, at 01:54.12. Christophe Moreau (Fra), C.A, at 01:57.13. Massimiliano Lelli (Ita), COF, at 01:57.14. David Moncoutie (Fra),

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Preliminary Stage Results

1. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at , 158 km in 4:21:57. (36.190 km)
2. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONE, at ˆ 00:07.
3. Roberto Heras (Sp), USP, at 00:13.
4. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), BAN, at 01:16.
5. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 01:16.
6. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), KEL, at 01:23.
7. Ivan Basso (Ita), FAS, at 01:23.
8. Andrei Kivilev (Kzk), COF, at 01:34.
9. Laurent Jalabert (Fra), CST, at 01:49.
10. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 01:52.
11. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Sp), ONE, at 01:54.
12. Christophe Moreau (Fra), C.A, at 01:57.
13. Massimiliano Lelli (Ita), COF, at 01:57.
14. David Moncoutie (Fra), COF, at 01:59.
15. Unai Osa (Sp), BAN, at 01:59.
16. Haimar Eubeldia (Sp), EUS, at 02:02.
17. Stephane Goubert (Fra), DEL, at 02:23.
18. Marcos Serrano (Sp), ONE, at 02:24.
19. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CST, at 02:24.
20. Santiago Botero (Col), KEL, at 02:24.

OVERALL, after 11 stages

1. Lance Armstrong (USA), USP, at 40 h 47:38.
2. Joseba Beloki (Sp), ONE, at ˆ 01:12.
3. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Sp), ONE, at 01:48.
4. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit), LAM, at 03:32.
5. Santiago Botero (Col), KEL, at 04:13.
6. Serhiy Honchar (Ukr), FAS, at 04:29.
7. Jose Azevedo (Por), ONE, at 04:31.

4:51 p.m. Jalabert crosses the line 1:47 behind the winner. Igor Gonzales de Galdeano, the man in yellow, finishes about 2:00 down.

Lance Armstrong has taken over the yellow jersey. Joseba Beloki is now in second place in the overall standings.

4:48 p.m. The three leaders are together in the closing meters. With the line in sight, Armstrong attacks.

Beloki tries to respond… Heras is spent.

Armstrong takes his 13th Tour de France stage win and takes over the yellow jersey.

4:47 p.m. Heras is still setting pace.

4:45 p.m. The three leaders are passing under the 1km to go banner.

Beloki is still hanging in there. Heras is still setting pace. The time check back to Gonzales de Galdeano is 1:10.

4:43 p.m. The three leaders are approaching the final kilometer. The time check back to the yellow jersey is 1:06.

Jalabert has been caught by Ivan Basso.

4:42 p.m. With 2km to go, the three leaders are together.

Jalabert is still in fourth place.

4:41 p.m. Heras continues to set pace. Of the three men, Armstrong looks the most relaxed. Beloki looks to be suffering, but he is hanging on.

4:40 p.m. Back with the yellow jersey, Leipheimer has slipped off the back of that group.

At the front, Armstrong, Heras and Beloki are 3km from the finish. He is staying on Heras’s wheel. Beloki is still hanging in there.

Time check to the yellow jersey is 58 seconds.

4:38 p.m. As the three chasers catch Jalabert, the gap back to the man in the yellow jersey is more than a minute.

4:37 p.m. With 4km to go, Armstrong, Heras and Beloki are within a few seconds of Jalabert.

Gonzales has lost about 45 seconds to Armstrong.

4:35 p.m. Heras is still setting tempo for Armstrong. Beloki is holding on. The three men are less than a minute behind Jalabert.

Armstrong is now leader on the road and will likely wear the yellow jersey tonight.

4:33 p.m. The pace is tough. Gonzales has now slipped off. Leipheimer is off the back now, too.

Armstrong and Beloki are still there and that is it. Heras is still setting the pace. ONCE has blown almost completely.

4:31 p.m. Richard Virenque and Tyler Hamilton have slipped off the back of the yellow jersey group. The pace is still being set by the two Postal team climbers.

Botero has flatted.

Jalabert has 5km to go.

4:29 p.m. Jalabert is 5.5km from the finish. His lead is down to 2:25. Lefèvre is back with the main group. That group continues to shed riders. It is down to about 15 riders. Moreau is off the back.

4:27 p.m. Man, for a guy who has been off the front since before the Col d’Aubisque, Jalabert is still looking good.

Bobby Julich has slipped out of the main group. Now Dario Frigo is off the back, as has iBanesto’s Menchov.

4:25 p.m. Ekimov has slipped off the back of the group. Laurent Lefèvre (F) Jean Delatour has attacked out of the group, but the big players don’t seem to care.

Jalabert is still 3:00 ahead, with 6 tough km to go.

4:22 p.m. Postal still has a good group up there, with climbers Roberto Heras and José L.Rubiera among them.

4:22 p.m. Jalabert is still 3:15 ahead of the Postal-led peloton. George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Ekimov are still working at the front of the group.

4:20 p.m. The tenacious Brad McGee has slipped off the back of the peloton. Cofidis’s David Millar is also slipping out of the main group.

4:18 p.m. With 9.75km remaining, Jalabert has upped his lead to 3:19.

4:17 p.m. Jalabert is making his way up the climb, 3:00 ahead of the Postal-led peloton. He has 11km to go.

4:15 p.m. The yellow jersey group is on the climb. Victor Hugo Pena has slipped back out of the group. He has been putting in a tough effort for miles.

Jens Voigt is off the back of the group, too.

4:13 p.m. Jalabert is on the final climb to LaMongie. Even though he his riding through crowds of orange-clad Basque fans, the Frenchman is being wildly cheered. The gap is 3:13.

4:07 p.m. The yellow jersey group continues to be driven by the Postal team. All of the biggies are up there: Armstrong, Beloki, Gonzales, Leipheimer, Botero, Hamilton and even Moreau.

4:04 p.m. You may think covering the Tour de France is easy, but the VeloNews car has just been “attacked” by a horse on the climb.

We have 17km to go, Jalabert has now upped his lead to 3:25. He is about 3.5km to go before the climb really starts.

John Wilcockson reports that the Basques have turned the roads along the final kilometers of the climb into “a sea of orange.”

3:59 p.m. Jalabert has passed under the 20km to go banner. His lead is 3:15. We’ll see that lead cut down as the attacks begin on the final climb. The real climbing begins in about 7km.

3:58 p.m. Jalabert is not giving up. With 21km to go, his lead is back up to 3:19.

3:54 p.m. After a nice lead-out from his teammate Gian Matteo Fagnini, Zabel takes the sprint for second and now has the points jersey.

Jalabert’s time gap at the sprint mark was just 2:45, with 25km to go and half of that is straight uphill.

3:51 p.m. Laurent Jalabert takes the second sprint.

The time gap is still around 3:00.

3:49 p.m. Laurent Jalabert is on his way to taking the day’s second sprint, but the next question is who will take second.

Erik Zabel has his eye on that second spot, which will put him into the points jersey again.

3:42 p.m. Jalabert is still holding on to an advantage of 3:10.

The yellow jersey group is on its way to the second sprint of the day. It looks like Erik Zabel will be wearing green tonight. Aldag is driving the peloton and Zabel is moving up to take on that points sprint. McEwen’s group is not likely to rejoin the yellow jersey group.

3:37 p.m. If he does win today, Jalabert will move into the climber’s jersey, which he won last year.

Another man who is aiming for that jersey is Domo’s Richard Virenque, who won five King of the Mountains jerseys for the Tour’s best climber prior to his ban for doping while he was a part of the controversial Festina team, knows all about the pain climbing at altitude brings.

However the 33-year-old climber, who is aiming for a record-equalling sixth polka dot jersey on his return to the world’s biggest bike race, says he has God on his side.

“I’ll be like a gazelle on the climbs, and a snake on the descents,” Virenque said prior to the start today.

Quite a quote. There are some who might suggest that he was like a snake when he was on Festina.

3:34 p.m. Jalabert continues to ride on his own, bringing his lead back up to 3:15.

Looking ahead, we will be taking on the climb to LaMongie, which is 13km, averaging 6.8 percent.

3:32 p.m. Jalabert is working his way up the narrow roads of a small, unrated, climb. He will soon be on the descent to Bagneres.

More importantly, so will Erik Zabel and his teammate Rolf Aldag. If Zabel takes the sprint for the second spot and McEwen doesn’t catch back on to contest, the German will have the jersey again.

3:23 p.m. Jalabert’s pace has slowed slightly, and his gap is down to 3:00. While his speed may be dropping, but the group of 30 with Robbie McEwen is chasing and hoping to rejoin the main peloton. Zabel may not be in the prime position to regain the points jersey we thought he was. We’ll try to get you a gap.

3:23 p.m. Jalabert’s gap is shrinking bit-by-bit. With 44km remaining, the CSC man has 3:15 on the field.

3:20 p.m. With 45km remaining, Jalabert has seen his advantage drop to 3:23.

ONCE’s Joseba Beloki had a flat tire, but was able to make the switch and rejoin the peloton.

3:13 p.m. For the tech weenies among us, Jalabert has made an interesting wheel choice. He’s using the same ADA wheels favored by his CSC squad and the same model of wheel that Tyler Hamilton had break on him in the Giro.

You might want to read the article about that particular wheel written by our own tech guru Lennard Zinn.

3:11 p.m. Race radio reports that Sandstød’s injuries are not serious or life-threatening.

With 50km remaining, Jalabert has an advantage approaching 4:00.

3:06 p.m. Michael Sandstød of CSC has crashed on the descent from the Col du Soulor and is being transported to the hospital. We will try to update you as soon as we get more information.

Ahead, Sandstød’s teammate, Laurent Jalabert is holding on to a lead of 3:40. We have covered 105 km of today’s stage and have 53 remaining. Of course, the last 13km are the Cat.1 climb to La Mongie.

3:03 p.m. The peloton has crossed through the feedzone — Ayros-Arbouix at 99km — 3:35 behind Jalabert.

Mazzoleni has come back to the peloton.

2:58 p.m. Jalabert continues to ride ahead of the main field with an advantage of 3:30.

An interesting note on the points contest. Telekom’s Erik Zabel is in the yellow jersey group, Lotto’s McEwen, however, is more than 4:00 back. The Aussie only has a two-point lead in the points race, so Zabel may be in a position to re-take the jersey today.

2:51 p.m. Jalabert is 3:10 ahead of Mazzoleni (who has now shed Etxebarria) and 3:35 ahead of the yellow jersey group of about 50 riders.

2:48 p.m. Etxebarria is slowing. He has been joined by Eddy Mazzoleni (I) Tacconi Sport and the two are chasing Jalabert together.

Jalabert is now 2:20 ahead of the two chasers and 3:00 ahead of the peloton.

2:47 p.m. Bradley McGee has crashed. He appears to be okay after being checked by the race doctor.

He is now back in with the peloton, missing out on that partnership with Etxebarria.

2:43 p.m. Our friends at Outdoor Life wanted us to remind you that they have three hours of live coverage going on in the U.S. right now. Enjoy race fans… well, except for those of you without OLN and thant bunch of you following from work.

On the road, Jalabert is continuing down the 22km descent. He is holding on to a healthy lead, having crossed the Col du Soulor 1:30 ahead of McGee and Etxebarria and 2:40 up on the peloton.

2:36 p.m. Jalabert is now on the long descent to the feedzone at 99km.

Behind him Etxebarria is about 1:15 back and McGee is another 20 seconds back.

The peloton, which includes the yellow jersey, Armstrong, Beloki, Hamilton, Leipheimer and others is at 2:40.

2:32 p.m. Jalabert is climbing again.

Here are the KOM results of the Col d’Aubisque
1. Jalabert 40 points; 2. Etxebarria 35 points – 1:17 back; 3. Halgand 30 points — 2:10 back; 4. McGee 26 points; 4. Virenque 22 points – 2:18 back; 6. Sevilla 18 points; 7. Pena 16 points;

8. Armstrong 14 points; 9. Moreau 12 points; 10. Beloki 10 points; 11. Kivilev 8 points; 12. Basso 6 points; 13. Dufaux 4 points; 14. Lefevre 2 points;

2:28 p.m.Jalabert is nearing the bottom of that first downhill stretch and will soon hit the short climb up the Col du Soulor. He is still well ahead of Etxebarria.

2:24 p.m. The peloton crossed over about 2:30 after Jalabert and 1:30 after Etxebarria. Three riders — yesterday’s stage winner Patrice Halgand (F) Jean Delatour; Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com and some guy named Virenque — were off the front of the field by about 10 to 15 seconds.

2:22 p.m. He’s up an over.

Coming up is an 8km descent and a brief climb up the Col du Soulor, which on any other day would be at least a Cat. 3, but is unrated on this stage. After that a long descent to Ayros-Arbouix and the feedzone and then a long 59 kilometers of mostly uphill road to the finish.

2:21 p.m. Jalabert is within a couple hundred meters of the top.

2:18 p.m. Jalabert’s last time check gave him nearly a minute on the fading Etxebarria and 3:00 on the field.

He has this climb in the bag, but is he seriously going to try to ride the remining 92km on his own?

2:14 p.m. Voigt and Bodrogi are back in the field. Jalabert is actually extending his lead and is 2:30 up on the main field and 50 seconds ahead of Etxebarria. He is about 2.5km from the summit of the climb.

2:11 p.m.Jalabert continues to ride up the road and through the crwds lining the climb. Our last time check gave the CSC-Tiscali team leader a 35 second advantage over Etxebarria.

Tyler Hamilton fans can expect another race diary from Hamilton today. It should be interesting to see what he has to say about this performance by his teammate. By the way, as he said he would, Hamilton is staying with the big guns in the main group.

2:09 p.m. Jalabert is still ahead. Etxebarria is about 11 seconds behind him. Bodrogi and Voigt are 1:45 behind JaJa and Cuesta is back in the main group.

Armstong, Botero and Galdeano are all in there, too.

2:06 p.m. Jalabert is within 4km of the top. The crowds are — as is to be expected on a climb of this caliber — HUGE. The fact that one of France’s most popular riders is now soloing up this Tour’s first major climb, is cause for celebration out there on the road.

Jalabert is making his way through the crowd and will soon be earning the first major climber’s points of the Tour. He may be getting that climber’s jersey again this year.

2:03 p.m. Jalabert is now off on his own. Etxebarria, who was having trouble maintaining pace with the Frenchman, finally cracked and his now drifting back toward Cuesta.

2:00 p.m. Jalabert and Etxebarria are still 1:55 ahead of the main field. The Postal-led field is pulling in the stragglers from the break. Zaballa and Horillo have just been caught.

1:59 p.m. The Postal team is still setting the pace at the front of the field. The pace has been high, too. ONCE’s Abraham Olano has been shed by the main group, as has Postal’s young phenom’ Floyd Landis.

One of the original men in the break Ludovic Turpin, has been caught and is struggling to keep pace.

At the front, Etxebarria and Jalabert are a full minute ahead of Cuesta and another minute ahead of the field.

1:58 p.m.We are at about the half-way mark on this 16.7km climb and Jalabert and Etxebarria have dropped Cuesta.

1:52 p.m. Our last time check — looking down on the race leaders and the peloton and timing the gap by hand — gives the three men up front an advantage of 2:08, with 10km of climbing to go.

1:48 p.m. This is a perfect group for these crowds lining the climb. Jalabert is making all the French fans happy and the Spaniards and Basques are thrilled to see Cuesta and Etxebarria in the mix.

Behind the three leaders, Voigt and Bodrogi are working to catch back on. Behind them Zaballa and Magnien are about 20 seconds back, with Horrillo on his own about 40 seconds behind the three leaders.

1:42 p.m. The Col d’Aubisque is taking its toll up front. The lead group has been trimmed to three riders — Jalabert, Cuesta and Etxebarria.

1:42 p.m. The leaders are still together, some 13km from the top of the climb.

Race radio reports that some of the men who have been noteworthy in this opening week are slipping off of the back of the peloton on the climb. Jaan Kirsipuu, who won Stage 4, is already off of the back.

1:39 p.m. The Postal-led peloton has hit the slopes of the climb. Our last time check gave the Jalabert group an advantage of 2:11.

1:37 p.m. The nine leaders are on the base of the “Beyond Category” Col d’Aubisque –an average of 7.1 percent for 16.7km. They are still about 3:00 ahead of the field.

John Wilcockson reports that the crowds on the climb are large and quite happy to see Jalabert among the leaders.

Behind, the Postal team has assumed chasing duties.

1:33 p.m. Emmanuel Magnien (F) Bonjour was caught on the approach to the sprint. He took the points at the sprint, followed by Cuesta and Jalabert.

The leaders now include Magnien, Constantino Zaballa (Sp) Kelme-Costa Blanca; Inigo Cuesta (Sp) Cofidis; Jens Voigt (G) Crédit Agricole; David Etxebarria (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi; Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Mapei; and Pedro Horillo (Sp).

They have built their lead to 2:55. Of the group up front Jalabert is the best placed rider, 4:18 out of first and in 20th overall.Mapei; Ludovic Turpin (F) Ag2R Prevoyance

1:26 p.m. We’re having some difficulties reaching the VeloNews car… but the picture is now clearer.

Magnien continues to solo off the front. He has an advantage over the field of about a minute. He is being chased by a group of 8 that includes Jalabert, Jens Voigt (G) Crédit Agricole; Inigo Cuesta (Sp) Cofidis and David Etxebarria (Sp) Euskaltel-Euskadi.

We are now at km 47 – one kilometer from the day’s first intermediate sprint.

1:21 p.m. Jalabert has attacked again and has joined up with the leaders. We’ll get you the composition of the lead group and the fractured chasers ASAP.

By the way, Jalabert’s attack reminded me of last year and thefact that we have all of our 2001Tour coverage archived. Check it out in case you want a good referencefor this year’s race.

1:15 p.m. Cote de Louvi-Juzon at km 35.Emmanuel Magnien (Bonjour) took the Cat. 4 climb, ahead of Inigo Cuesta (Cofidis) — 10 seconds back — and David Etxebarria (Euskaltel).

1:12 p.m. As we continue toward the first ranked climb of the day, a chase group of 11 riders is about five seconds off of the main field. Included in the chase are Francisco Cabello (Sp) Kelme-Costa Blanca and the man with the rainbow jersey, Oscar Freire (Sp) Mapei.

1:11 p.m. The three leaders are 20 seconds ahead of the peloton. We are now at 31km and approaching the day’s first rated climb of the day at km 35.

1:02 p.m. Some of the remnants of the original break did manage to escape. Michael Sandstød (Dk) CSC-Tiscali; Sergei Ivanov (Rus) Fassa Bortolo; and Emmanuel Magnien (F) Bonjour have a small lead over the main field.

1:00 p.m. The leaders were caught by the chase group. At one point we had a total of 29 riders at the front, but — despite having three riders in the lead group — U.S. Postal drove the chase and at km 25, the peloton is all back together.

12:59 p.m. Jalabert’s group is now 30 seconds ahead of the peloton, but the leaders are being chased by a group of 20 riders who are now just 10 seconds behind them.

12:55 p.m. There is a new break off the front of the group. They are:Benoit Joachim (Lux) U.S. PostalLaurent Jalabert (F) CSC-TiscaliFranck Rénier (F) BonjourSantiago Blanco (Sp) iBanesto.comJosé Vicente Garcia Acosta (Sp) iBanesto.comand Ludovic Turpin (F) Ag2R Prevoyance

We will try to get a time gap for ASAP

12:51 p.m. Jalabert is not giving up. He continues to attack off the front. Behind him, the peloton is strung out in single file. JaJa wants to make as much of an impression on this race as he did last year.

12:50 p.m. And it’s smaller than that now. The break has failed and Jalabert and company are back in the peloton. We are at 15km.

12:48 p.m. The chasers have joined up with jalabert’s group, though we still don’t have a time gap. From the looks of it — John Wilcockson is viewing this one from up the road — the gap is still quite small. Perhaps no more than a hundred meters or so.

12:47 p.m. Jalabert is being joined by several riders. At this point, he is in the company of eight others and a group of six is working to join up.

12:44 p.m. Now Jalabert has slipped off the front. He has been joined b a rider we have yet to I.D.

12:43 p.m. That went no were either. Chavanel and company are back in the fold.

12:42 p.mThe seven riders have been reabsorbed and there is a new attack from number 114. Sylvain Chavanel (F) Bonjour. He is being joined by others.

12:40 p.m Ohhhh this embarrassing. Guess who is attacking off the front? Stephane Auge attacked at the 6m mark and he was joined by six riders, including CSC’s Michael Sandstod and… none other than Jacky Durand.

12:34 p.m. The peloton is at 5km and the pace is quite easy. We shouldn’t be seeing the flurry of attacks that have characterized the stages in the opening week. No Jacky Durand off the front this afternoon.

12:27 p.m. And they’re off! 181 riders – a larger than expected group at this point – are on their way to take on the first mountain stage of the Tour. This should be good.

12:19 p.m. The peloton has left Pau and riders are covering the 6km neutral section before the official start at Mazerès-Lezons, D. 37, av. du Général-de-Gaulle.

Ahead today, the Cat. 4 Cote de Louvi-Juzon at km 35, an intermediate sprint at Laruns (Km48), right before the long climb up the beyond category Col d’Aubisque which crests at 66.5km. After that, the riders hit the feedzone at km 99 and encounter another sprint at Bagneres de Bigorre at km 132 and then face a finishing climb to Lamongie.

12:05 p.m. Good morning to our U.S. audience. We are coming up on the start of the toughest stage in this year’s Tour de France, so far, the 158km race from Pau La Mongie. Take some time to check thecourse profile on this one. It’s quite an introduction to the mountains.

VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson tells us the weather is quite warm in Pau. It’s now in the high 80’s and quite humid. That will, of course, be different at the finish.

There were a lot grim faces at the sign-in this morning. And mechanics were still paying around with gear combinations. From the looks of it, Armstrong is using those ADA wheels, the all carbon/kevlar wheels from Dutch maker Cees Beers, though we still have to confirm that.

Oh yes, and before we go any further, we would like to apologize for yesterday’s server problems. We believe we have the problem solved and remain guardedly optimistic that we won’t run into the same problems again in this Tour.

The riders will soon be leaving Pau and we will see a flying start at around 12:30.