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July 12th, 2001

Jul. 12th, 2001

any other austin film nuts out there want to help me start a film company? eh? eh?

Long update...

Stage 3

A hot start to today's Stage - around 91F on the road. Certainly it will be cooler in the climbs at the end, but the milder temperatures won't help those who aren't in good form. Three Cat 3 climbs at around a 6% avg are near the race end - surely to separate a lot of the riders from any GC hopes. Almost as soon as the race got started, USPS's Christian Vande Velde was involved in a small crash but was soon back on the bike and in the pack.

At 22kms 20 riders went off the front, but an ONCE / USPS driven peloton captured 12 of the escapees within half an hour, and then the remaining 7 were scooped up about 45 minutes later. At 65 kms GC leader Marc Wauters had another special moment as the Tour literally drove through his home town of Lummen and he stopped to say hello to his family - the pack stopped entirely for 1 minute as he enjoyed the day.

The peloton seemed like it had enough of letting riders off the front, the pace was intense and anyone moving forward was quickly chased down. Even before the halfway point, serious GC hopeful Francesco Casagrande seemed in real trouble, suffering at the back of the pack and 1'12" back in the GC. Despite the assistance of 3 other Fasso Bartolo riders, Casagrande was off the back and eventually rejoined as the peloton pressed forward.

With 100km to go (approx halfway and no serious climbing yet), Nicolas Jalabert (CST) and Frederic Guesdon (FDJ) were off the front and quickly built up a 2 minute lead.

The two escapees continue to build their lead to 2'20" as Rabobank drove the pack in support of Wauters' yellow jersey. While the duo got the 1-2 spots in the final sprint, Green Jersey leader Jaan Kirsipuu came to the front and took 3rd to hold onto his lead at least until the finish. The short steep climbs now loomed ahead...

On the 1.2k second climb the main pack really started to come apart - Lance ensuring he was on point with the front men and looking strong. Ullrich and Beloki came along as well, but it was the GC leader Wauters looking the worse for wear now off the back by 42". There would be a new race leader for sure.

As the pack came back together in an 80 man group, Telekom was leading the pack for Ullrich, Lance right on his wheel with 12k to go as they cleared the final summit. The trio was soon absorbed as the finish line became more and more prominent.

Telekom continued to lead the pack into the final unrated 2km climb to the line. 3 USPS riders came to the front as well: Tyler, Steffen and Lance - the 2 teams literally side by side, 3kms to go! As they hit the climb in earnest the true climbers started the attack, 5 Telekoms still there as was Lance. With 1km it was still Telekom, then the attacks started coming, and now no clear lead out - as they hit the final few meters Erick Zabel gets his second stage - and 10th total - as the final surge came across! Lance was in the top 10 finishers and looked very strong today - and CA's Stuart O'Grady will be in yellow tomorrow...

Stage 4

The hardest part of the route was in the first third of the course, and it quickly took its toll on Fasso Bartolo's Francesco Casagrande. He abandoned the race barely 30 minutes into the stage following an attack by 10 men off the front. This group was soon brought in by yet another USPS / ONCE driven peloton.

Nine riders managed to get away and put a substantial lead into the peloton - Bolts, Perez, Boogerd, Julich, Agnolutto, Halgand, Vidal, Mengin and Lamouller. The group at one time had over 10 minutes to the pack before USPS took over the chase and started to whittle away at the lead. The driving Postal pace soon split the peloton into 3 distinct packs, GC leader O'Grady, and GC hopefuls Moreau, Beloki, Armstrong and Ullrich all at the front in pursuit of the break away group - their lead now down to 8'20".

The chase was doing its job, ONCE coming up to help Postal as well, and with 90 kms to go the former huge lead was now only just over 2 minutes to Lance and O'Grady.

The nine men were finally reeled in a little over 2 hours after they first broke away on the descent of the second climb of the day. As the pace began to drop off a little up front there was another large group 10k back trying to bridge up and working hard...Zabel and Laurent Jalabert included.

As the race rolled into the final climb and kms attacks and counter attacks were coming from within the lead group regularly. The front groups pace had apparently devastated the chasers, the gap now a huge 6' between the bunches. Laurent Jalabert and 2 others (Dierckxsens and Mancebo) launched off the front. Jaja and Dierckxsens attacked off the front at 2kms, but the pack was right behind them...

Under the 1km banner and the pack could now see the duo up front - but they have timed the gap and Jalabert sprints past Dierckxsens on the right for the stage win.

Stuart O'Grady - Credit Agricole - Yellow Jersey
Erik Zabel - Team Deutsche Telekom - Green Jersey
Patrice Halgand - Jean Delatour - Polkadot Jersey
Florent Brard - Festina - White Jersey

Telekom showed some incredible riding as a team in stage 3, but to see Lance with them was awesome. then then end, i got goosbumps when Lance cut to the right and tried for the stage victory. i wasn't able to catch a lot of stage 4, but USPS kept the pace damn hi...at one point, the peleton was traveling over 75km/h. that's over 50mph! wow...50mph on tires that have less than a square in contact with the road....

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