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July 21, 2005

Stage 18 underway

Alexandre Vinokourov attacked ahead of the day's first sprint, and took 2nd for 4 pts, and a 4-second time bonus. After a number of early breakaways, all pulled back, a group of 10 has gotten away and built a lead, now at 12:45. In it are Davitamon-Lotto's Axel Merckx, CSC's Luke Roberts, Cofidis' Cedric Vasseur, Bouyges Telecom's Thomas Voeckler, T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler, Illes Balears' Xabier Zandio, Carlos da Cruz of Française des Jeux, Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas, and Marcos Serrano of Liberty Seguros. Kessler's presence in this breakaway, and the absence of Discovery Channel, would likely give T-Mobile the team lead, since they trail Discovery by 37 seconds. In the break, Kessler is wearing his race number upside down: He's highly superstitious and riding in number 13. With the gap at 15 minutes, Discovery has put all its riders at the head of the peloton. Armstrong apparently predicted Axel Merckx for today's stage, being run on Belgium's National Day. On the second-to-last climb, Carlos Da Cruz has attacked. He's gotten out to 25 seconds on the 9 other breakaway riders. Now Merckx counters, and goes right over the top of Da Cruz. Serrano is trying to come back up. And there goes Voeckler trying to bridge up. Zandio, Serrano, and Vasseur are just a few seconds behind Mercx and Voeckler, and chasing on the descent. Zandio, Serran, Vasseur, Merckx, and Voeckler are joined by Pellizotti on the descent, and they're starting up the very steep, short final climb. Inside of 4 km, and Merckx has picked up the pace. Zandio and Pellizotti are dropped. Serrano pushes it, and Voeckler is dropped. It's Serrano, Vasseur, and Merckx. Merckx is gapped, but not yet really dropped. As the climb steepens, Serrano pulls away, and Merckx tries to counter, but Serrano has a gap. They're 1 k to the top, 2.5 to the finish. At the top, Serrano has 14 seconds on Merckx and Vasseur. The peloton is now at 12 minutes plus, with Andrey Kashechkin holding a 20 second advantage: he's looking to get back into the white jersey. Marcos Serrano has taken the first stage for Liberty Seguros! As they roll in, Vasseur comes off Merckx's wheel for 2nd. Zandio is 4th, then Pellizotti. Back with the peloton, there's been another big selection on the 2nd-to-last climb of the day, with Sastre, Popovych, Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich, Rasmussen, Evans, Landis, Leipheimer. Now they've dropped Rasmussen, Vinokourov and Leipheimer. Basso, Armstrong, Ullrich, and Evans are riding together. Vino, Rasmussen, and Leipheimer are the first chase group. Don't know about Landis. Ullrich is at the back of the leaders, falling back. Now he's clawed his way back onto the other three! Armstrong leads over the top. They've got 1.5 kilometers to go. He leads the group up to the line, and there comes Cadel Evans, who pips him at the line for 11th, with Basso and Ullrich behind. Mancebo has rejoined Leiphemer, Rasmussen, and Vino for the finish. A Saunier Duval is in between, then Landis comes in with Eddy Mazzoleni.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rasmussen, Thomas Voeckler, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink