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July 22, 2004

Stage 17 underway

Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Ludovic Martin (RAGT), Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze), Michele Bartoli (CSC), and Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile) went off the front almost immediately today.

They were the first 5 over the Col du Glandon, with Simoni taking max points, AG2R's Mikel Astarloza taking 6th place in no man's land between the leaders and peloton, and Richard Virenque defending the polka-dots and taking 7th at the front of the peloton. His teammate, Paolo Bettini, denied 8th-place points to any of Virenque's competitors.

Heading up the 2nd big climb of the day, the Tour's highest, Richard Virenque and Christophe Moreau bridged up to the leaders on the climb to the highest point on the 2004 Tour

When Moreau couldn't close the gap fast enough, Virenque rode at an incredible pace to close down the four leaders, and sat on Simoni's wheel, looking for the summit points. As they approached the summit, the pace increased, until Simoni and Virenque were sprinting it out for the points at the top of the Col de la Madeleine! Simoni pipped Virenque, and took 5,000 euros in the process.

On the Col de Tamie:
1) Virenque
2) Moreau
3) Simoni

On the Col de la Forclaz:
1) Virenque
2) Moreau
3) Simoni
4) Aldag
5) Rasmussen

With that, Virenque has pretty much sewn up a record 7th King of the Mountains title.

Virenque, Simoni, and Moreau are about 2 minutes ahead of Armstrong's group. They've crossed through the 2nd intermediate sprint, to the relief of Robbie McEwen, whose rivals won't get any points there.

Armstrong's group is growing: a few riders, including Michael Rogers and Thomas Voeckler have chased back in. Armstrong has Rubiera, Hincapie, Landis and Azevedo; Basso has Sastre and Julich; and Ullrich has Guerini, Klöden, Aldag, and Ivanov. Levi Leipheimer and Mikael Rasmussen are in there, and about 8-10 others.

Bartoli has abandoned just before the feedzone.

The autobus is the group of riders seeking to avoid elimination, and it's formed very early this morning, including early yellow jersey Thor Hushovd, Matthew Wilson, Jimmy Casper, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Frederick Finot, Salvatore Commesso, Filippo Pozzato, Robbie McEwen, Tom Boonen, and Laurent Brochard.

Janeck Tombak of Cofidis abandoned on the road this morning, after cutting his fingers in his rear spokes while trying to adjust his bike's yellow timing sensor.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2004 | Permalink

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