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Wed, Jul.14.2004:09:36 PM

Stage 10: Limoge- Saint-Flour

07-14-04.stage10 profile

The mountains are here! The mountains are here! Just look at that stage profile -- isn't it beautiful? The Tour de France is starting to heat up, and with the backloaded design this year, there should be a lot of exciting mountain stages for the remainder of the race. I have been advising Tour de France newbies to wait until the mountains to start watching, and that time is now. The peloton got to see their first real mountains today, though it will be the next three stages that should start splitting apart the field and showing us who the real competition is.

As much as I hate seeing Richard Virenque out front (over 200km this race!), he rode an amazing race today and delighted the French by giving them a Frenchman on top of the podium for Bastille Day. In addition to a stage victory, Virenque racked up an impressive 68 King of the Mountain points, vaulting him into first. Teammate Paolo Bettini, relinquishing the polka dot jersey, was there to scoop up remaining to points to make sure that Virenque got a healthy lead in the competition. Everyone is still trying to figure out why Moreau was trying to get points.

The field sprint at the end of the day added some excitement to the race. Voeckler made a surprise showing in the sprint, staying in a lead sprint of six riders along with Armstrong. T-Mobile finish at the front of this group of six and earned a two-part goal: they got Zabel some more sprint points and also made sure that the finish line time bonuses stayed out of Armstrong's hands. The final sprint also lead to a small break, with Hamilton, Heras, and Leipheimer all losing 7" to Armstrong, Ullrich, and Mayo.