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Stage 5

Frankie’s Diary: One tired puppy 

                   This report filed July 8, 1999

                   By Frankie Andreu
                   U.S. Postal Service rider

                   Moses Maloney, I am one tired puppy tonight.  Today was the second longest day of the Tour and after a record-breaking ride yesterday I figured we might just cruise a little. It started off that way but only for a measly three kilometers.  I think it took Jacky Durand (Lotto) that long to talk someone into attacking with him. 

                   At kilometer three, Jacky and one of his teammates launched one of Jacky's patented attacks. Jacky is known for attacking at the gun and going long for the suicide break. In the neutral zone I even told Kevin to go find Jacky and sit on him, that way for sure he would make the break. Jacky's attack took 10 guys with him and no one in the peloton cared. 

                   We went from riding 27km/hr to riding 28km/hr as the break went away from us. There was no interest by anyone to race or chase the break down. We just let it go while everyone tried figuring out which teams had a guy there and who did not. Everyone was gambling; waiting to see who would have to work first, as the break went from two, four and then six minutes up the road. The losers at this poker game were the teams going for the G.C. in the race. It was too long to the finish for the sprinter teams to work and whoever had a guy in the break didn't have to work. 

                   The agreement was that each team with G.C. hopes would put three guys on the front to start chasing. Mapei for Pavel Tonkov, ONCE for Abraham Olano, Cofidis for Bobby Julich, and us for Armstrong. The team that didn't participate was Polti -- who had no guy in the break and for some stupid reason wouldn't ride. Man, I hate Virenque. I hope he gets killed in the mountains. Oops, my filter must have malfunctioned. 

                   We hit the front at about kilometer 25 and rode in a head wind for 180 kilometers. It was not a fun day at the office and I'm sure pretty boring to watch on TV. Finally, for the last 20 kilometers the sprinter teams took over to polish off the job.  Cippo was in true form again winning the sprint a bike length in front of Steels. 

                   The battle for the Green Jersey is heating up.  It's a contest between Tom Steels and Jaan Kirsipuu; there is only a three-point difference.  Each mid-sprint carries points of six, four and two. On top of that, Steels is still 17 seconds out of the lead and Cippo a measly 32 seconds from the Yellow. Tomorrow is a short stage of 175km's so the mid-race sprints will be important to anyone going for the Yellow Jersey or Green Jersey. The pressure is mounting for Erik Zabel to win and Jimmy Casper to win because he won't be riding many more stages.  Last year Zabel did not win a stage either, but he did manage to win the Green Jersey. 

                   For Cofidis one of the best things that could have happened to them is the crash on the causeway a couple days ago. Actually, it's the best thing for Bobby. Now that Rinero and Meier have lost heaps of time there is one leader on the team. There was a question about who would work for whom when the Tour hit the mountains. With Christophe Rinero and Roland Meier far down on G.C. it should be no question who the leader is for the mountains and the Tour. 

                   Tomorrow we have a late start and that means a late wake up. I'm sure I'll wake up like lead in the bed, but at least I'll have as many hours as I need to get up and going. GOOD NIGHT! 


                   VeloNews Editor’s Note: 

                   If you want to send a message to Frankie, we’ll forward your e-mail to him. Please include your e-mail address within the body of your message. Remember, he’s in some sort of race in France and may not have all the time in the world to reply immediately. 

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                   Every day Frankie Andreu will be filing stories from France. If you don't see today's stage posted yet, check back. Due to the time difference and his racing schedule Frankie Andreu's stories may be posted later in the day than the VeloNews correspondents' stories.

Cipo' makes it two 

                  This report filed July 8, 1999

                  By Charles Pelkey
                  VeloNews technical editor

                   It always helps to have a good resume when you’re in a job search, and Mario Cipollini’s professional credentials got another welcomed boost when he took his second consecutive stage win at the 1999 Tour de France. The 32-year-old Saeco-Cannondale sprint specialist, who is apparently looking for a new sponsor for 2000, can credit good timing, patience and a spectacular leadout for a win on the streets of Amiens, the capital of Picardy. Meanwhile, Jaan Kirsipuu -- edged out at the line by Cipollini and this Tour’s other double stage  winner, Tom Steels (Mapei-Quick Step) –  continued his hold on the overall lead as he and his Casino squad benefited from a strong chase that neutralized yet another long-but-futile  breakaway effort. 

                   If any of the 177 riders starting this 233.5-kilometer stage this morning had dreams of sitting in for a restful jaunt to Amiens, after yesterday’s record-setting pace, their hopes were soon dashed on the outskirts of Bonneval.  Within minutes of the start, the attacks began – accelerations that were quickly neutralized and then just as quickly repeated by others. The top teams – Kirsipuu’s Casino squad, Saeco-Cannondale, the U.S. Postal Service, ONCE-Deutsche Bank, Mapei-Quick Step and Telekom – were having a hard time controlling the action, as teams eager for a stage win or a chance to overcome a time deficit continued to send riders up the road. 

                   Just four kilometers into the long stage, Lotto-Mobistar’s Jacky Durand and Thierry Marichal moved up the road. While neither posed a significant threat in the overall standings, having suffered from stage 2’s pivotal split, the two were soon joined by eight more riders – Francesco Secchiari (Saeco), Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole) Frederic Bessy (Casino) Thierry Gouvenou (BigMat-Auber ’93), Laurent Brochard (Festina), Telekom’s Kai Hundertmarck, Leon Van Bon (Rabobank) and climbing points leader Mariano Piccoli (Cantina Tollo-Alexia). 

                   Of that group of 10, two, Bessy and Voigt – at about one minute behind the overall leader -- posed real General Classification threat to the Tour’s top contenders. But there was hesitation in the field. With Bessy ahead, Casino had no need to instigate a chase and plenty of reason to let more powerful teams do the work of reeling in the break. Taking advantage of the situation behind them, the lead group worked quickly to build what they hoped was an insurmountable lead: more than six minutes by the 36-kilometer mark. 

                   Casino – faced with the likelihood of keeping the yellow jersey whether the group was caught or if the leaders stayed away – continued to bide its time. But teams much more concerned about the long-term impact of the break began to move to the front. The U.S. Postal squad, with an eye on the Tour’s overall prize, took up the chase. Cofidis, whose leader Bobby Julich stands a strong chance of improving on his third-place finish in last year’s Tour, joined in, as did Mapei and Telekom. The lead began to dwindle…. 

                   By the time the leaders crested the Category 3 Cote de Limay, at the 106-kilometer mark, the lead had been cut to less than four minutes … and down to 2:25 by 126 kilometers. 

                   In the approach to Amiens, the break began to disintegrate and the probability that the group would be reabsorbed was increasing. With the advantage dwindling to around 90 seconds at the 175-kilometer mark, Piccoli attacked. Only Van Bon and Marichal joined him, as the others drifted back toward the peloton. As they did, a new pair of aggressors – Credit Agricole’s Magnus Backstedt and BigMat’s Carlos Da Cruz – launched a successful effort to join the trio at the front, catching them about 30 kilometers before Amiens. 

                   Their arrival offered something of a needed boost. Indeed, the group of five, newly energized by a powerful Backstedt, looked like it now stood a chance of success. But Backstedt also posed a new G.C. threat and without Bessy in the mix, Casino had ample motive to chase. When Marichal faded back to the field. Only four were left in the lead … and now the sprinters’ teams saw their chance.  Soon Telekom, frustrated by Zabel’s series of narrow sprint losses in recent days, took up the chase. 

                   With 15 kilometers left, Backstedt began accelerating hoping for a stage win. Behind him, Zabel flatted but quickly regained his position near the front. At the front, the 24-year-old Swede rid himself of his breakaway companions and set off on his own. But, as has been the case throughout this opening week of the Tour, Backstedt was reeled in – again, painfully close to the finish. 

                   With less than six kilometers remaining, the day’s finish had a familiar ring to it. The red Saeco express took the point position at the head of the peloton, with a similarly strong Telekom train forming nearby. And coming into the final, narrow, 1.7-kilometer-long finishing stretch, it was clearly a battle between those two powerhouse squads. 

                   Unlike yesterday’s wide boulevard of a finish in Blois, the road in Amiens was a narrow passageway all the way to the line. Charging at the front, Saeco and Telekom largely dominated the action, moving their stars – Cipollini and Zabel – toward the front. As Saeco and Telekom riders completed their pulls and let the next in the train led the charge, other riders from other teams struggled to work their way forward. Mapei’s Steels and Casino’s Kirsipuu appeared caught behind the fracas at the front. 

                   With 150 meters left Zabel charged to the front, passing Cipollini and his leadout man, Fagnini.  But in testament to the Lion King’s patience and savvy, he wasn’t distracted by a seeming threat from the three-time points jersey winner.  Cipo’ kept his cool and stayed glued to his teammate’s wheel until the leadout was finished. Then, and only then, did Cipollini make his final charge against a now-fading Zabel.  Cipo’ passed the German, and from out the mix behind, so did Steels and Kirsipuu. Zabel, frustrated yet again, finished in fifth, finally passed by Rabobank’s Robbie McEwen. 

                   The day’s potential threats nullified, the impact of today’s stage on the overall standings was minor – Kirsipuu remains in yellow, Armstrong, Julich, ONCE’s Abraham Olano and Polti’s Richard Virenque remain in strong contention for the overall. But for Mario Cipollini, the long-term benefit of today’s stage might only be felt this fall when he signs on the dotted line of a new contract. 

                                                                       Friday 9 July 1999

Tour de France: Cipollini can bolster his case for cash 
By Phil Liggett

                           MARIO CIPOLLINI, the self-proclaimed fastest sprinter in the world, won his second stage in as many days in the Tour de France yesterday when he raced to his 13th win of the season along the Boulevard de Beauville in Amiens.

                           It was another magnificent demonstration of rapid finishing by the Italian, who on Wednesday won the fastest stage in the race's history at Blois. In 1993, the last time the race finished a stage in Amiens, Cipollini was second to Belgian Johan Bruyneel, who then set the previous Blue Riband speed of the Tour.

                           Cipollini is still arguing about his future contract with his Italian Saeco team.  He wants more than £600,000 a year for the next two years to take him into retirement, but his team have offered him only one.

                           Today he will try to make his point more strongly by winning three stages in a row to equal the record of fellow Italian Gino Bartoli, who did it in 1948.

                           This is Cipollini's seventh Tour and he has never reached the finish in Paris, but his reputation is such in these early, flat stages that he has always been the man to beat in the final dash.

                           Tom Steels, himself a double stage winner this week, accelerated too late yesterday, declaring that the sprints are very dangerous. Steels is more likely to finish the race, so his second place moved him closer to his real target, the green jersey for the race's most consistent sprinter.

                           Estonian Jaan Kirsipuu, who took the lead from American Lance Armstrong on Monday, is still ahead by 17 seconds. Steels has second position while Australian Stuart O'Grady slipped back to third.

                           Time is running out for Cipollini, something that happened in 1993 and in 1997, but in two days he has climbed from 36th to fifth overall and is now only 32 seconds behind Kirsipuu.

                           Each win is worth 20 seconds in time bonus, as well as £5,000, but after Sunday's time-trial, the sprinters will fade as the handful of riders who think they can win make their move.

                           Best placed of these are Armstrong (fourth), and Abraham Olano, from Spain, who is seventh. Yesterday Olano lost a valuable team-mate, Marcelino Garcia, after he gave up early on. This puts Armstrong and Olano on more equal terms again, as the American's US Postal team have also lost a strong climber, Jonathan Vaughters, when he crashed near Nantes last Monday.

                           Yesterday, the second-longest stage of 147 miles from Bonneval, south of Chartres, to the Picardy capital, was animated for most of the way by a group of 10 riders. The field of 167, however, always kept within striking distance. By Chartres (18 miles) the leaders were over six minutes clear.

                           In the group was Italian Mariano Picolli (Lampre) who is building a lead in the King of the Mountains competition even before the race reaches the Alps next week. He won both small hill climbs yesterday, outsprinting former world champion Laurent Brochard (Festina) and Italian Francesco Secchiari (Saeco).

                           After leading for more than 100 miles the pacesetting group broke up and were all caught, apart from Sweden's Magnus Backstedt (Credit Agricole) with five miles to go. Backstedt gave up two miles later.

                           Today's sixth stage of 106 miles between Amiens and Maubeuge, near the Belgian border, will remain favourable to the sprinters and, as Steels said yesterday: "Everyone will be following the wheel of Cipollini."

                            The Tour rider found with corticoids in his system was yesterday cleared by cycling's anti-doping chief, Leon Schattenberg.  Corticoids are derivatives of cortisone and riders are obliged to declare if they are using such medication, or face sanctions.  Schattenberg said: "One rider showed up, but he had a valid medical certificate."

                           Yesterday's details

                           5TH STAGE (Bonneval to Amiens, 147 miles): 1, M Cipollini (Italy, Saeco) 5h 36m 28s; 2, T Steels (Belgium, Mapei-Quick Step); 3, J Kirsipuu (Estonia, Casino); 4, R McEwen (Australia, Rabobank); 5, E Zabel (Germany, Telekom); 6, S O'Grady (Australia, Crédit Agricole); 7, N Minali (Italy, Cantina Tollo); 8, C Capelle (France, Bigmat-Auber 93); 9, D Nazon (France, La FranŸaise des Jeux). 10, J Svorada (Czech Rep, Lampre-Daikin); 11, J Casper (France, La Francaise des Jeux); 12, C Moreau (France, Festina); 13, P Padrnos (Czech Rep, Lampre-Daikin); 14, D Etxebarria (Spain, ONCE); 15, G Hincapie (US, US Postal Service); 16, S Martinello (Italy, Team Polti); 17, S Hinault (France, Crédit Agricole); 18, F De Waele (Belgium, Lotto-Mobistar); 19, L Michaelsen (Denmark, La Francaise des Jeux); 20, S Barthe (France, Casino) all same time.  GB: 124, C Boardman (Crédit Agricole) same time.

                           OVERALL: 1, Kirsipuu 22h 47m 00s; 2, Steels at 17s; 3, O'Grady at 24s; 4, L Armstrong (US, US Postal Service) at 32s; 5, Cipollini same time; 6, Zabel at 40s; 7, A Olano (Spain, ONCE) at 43s; 8, Hincapie at 46s; 9, Moreau at 47s; 10, A Vinokourov (Kazakhstan, Casino) at 53s; 11, S Gonzalez (Spain, ONCE) same time; 12, A Peron (Italy, ONCE) at 55s; 13, C Vandevelde (US, US Postal Service); 14, L Dufaux (Switzerland, Saeco) all same time; 15, A Casero (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) at 58s; 16, P Tonkov (Russia, Mapei-Quick Step) at 1-00; 17, F Simon (France, Crédit Agricole); 18, J Voigt (Germany, Crédit Agricole); 19, B Julich (US, Cofidis); 20, A Gonzalez (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) all same time. GB: 126, Boardman at 16-04.

                           Points: 1, Kirsipuu 157pts; 2, Steels 154; 3, Zabel 136. King of Mountains: 1, M Piccoli (Italy, Lampre-Daikin) 24pts; 2, L Brochard France, Festina) 15. Team: 1, US Postal Service 68-23-27; 2, ONCE at 4s; 3, Crédit Agricole at 19s.