Totschnig opens Gerolsteiner's account

While the main contenders fought each other behind him, Georg Totschnig recorded an emotional victor

While the main contenders fought each other behind him, Georg Totschnig recorded an emotional victor

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

Georg Totschnig won the first of two tough stages in the Pyrenees, finishing alone at the summit of Ax 3 Domaines having been at the front of the race since kilometre seven, when a group of 10 riders went clear. The Austrian, who became his Gerolsteiner team's first-ever stage-winner at the Tour, was the only one of them not to be caught by the yellow jersey group going over the final two climbs and finished 56 seconds clear of Lance Armstrong, who was attacked repeatedly during the latter half of the stage but was more than equal to his rivals' attempts to loosen his grip on the yellow jersey.

Totschnig's companions in the break were Daniele Nardello (T-Mobile), Alexandre Moos (Phonak), Spanish champion Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval), Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas-Bianchi), Walter Bnteau (Bouygues Telecom), Carlos Da Cruz and Philippe Gilbert (both Francaise des Jeux), Andriy Grivko (Domina Vacanze) and Yuriy Krivtsov (Ag2r).
At the foot of the super category Port de Pailhres, this group had a lead of just under 10 minutes on the peloton. Moos was the first to attack on the 15km climb, and was joined by Totschnig, Garzelli and Bnteau. Moos was the first of them to fall back, followed by Bnteau and, with 5km to the summit, Garzelli. Almost a minute clear of the Italian at the summit, Totschnig had the long descent into Ax les Thermes and the 9km climb to the finish between him and a first Tour win.

That was always, of course, as long as the attacks from the yellow jersey group behind didn't get to him before he reached the finish. T-Mobile set the pace on the early ramps of the Pailhres and Alexandre Vinokourov launched the first offensive from their ranks. Most of the leading contenders got across to him, but none of Armstrong's Discovery team-mates managed it. The American was isolated, as he had been in the Vosges last weekend.

Several attacks whittled the group down even more until only Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and the surprise figure of Andrei Kashechkin were with Armstrong. Floyd Landis got across to them with Levi Leipheimer, although Kashechkin fell back before the summit, which they crossed 3-50 down on Totschnig. Second-placed Michael Rasmussen was chasing 40 seconds behind with Paco Mancebo and Cadel Evans, with Vinokourov just behind them.

All of these riders got back to Armstrong's group by the foot of final climb, where Totschnig had an unassailable lead of more than four minutes over them. Vinokourov was the first to attack here, with Ullrich surprisingly leading the response with team-mate Andreas Kloeden - a case of too many leaders becoming apparent?

Kloeden set the pace for a couple of kilometres, before Basso attacked, and after some more flurries only Armstrong and Ullrich were with the Italian. The three of them shared the pace-making, clearly hoping to distance second-placed Rasmussen. The cooperation continued until just inside the final kilometre, when Ullrich upped his pace, making his final effort. But Armstrong responded instantly, then went to the front and set a pace that Ullrich could not follow. Basso did until they were almost at the summit, where the victorious Totschnig had fallen to the road, overcome with emotion.

Tomorrow's stage is tougher, with six climbs including the super category finish at St Lary Soulan, but the omens are not good for Armstrong's rivals based on what we've seen today. His team may have been absent for all the crucial sections of the stage, but he seemed to cope comfortably without them. Basso may well be his biggest threat now, but Armstrong looks to have his measure and must now be odds on for a seventh title.

Stage 14, Agde-Ax 3 Domaines

1 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner 220.5km in 5.43.43 (38.49kph)
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 0.56
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC 0.58
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile 1.16
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 1.31
6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
7 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 1.47
8 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
9 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile 2.06
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel 2.20
11 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 3.06
12 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 3.35
13 Jrg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros 4.03
14 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
15 Walter Bnteau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 4.16
16 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 4.18
17 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 6.01
18 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 6.04
19 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval
20 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 6.06

24 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole 6.47
40 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 13.28
63 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 21.25
80 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval 29.08
97 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 32.15
100 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r
113 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 32.21
137 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 35.50
138 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
145 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
155 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
158 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
159 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC 36.28

Overall standings

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 55.58.17 (43.32kph)
2 Rasmussen 1.41
3 Basso 2.46
4 Ullrich 4.34
5 Leipheimer 4.45
6 Landis 5.03
7 Mancebo
8 Klden 5.38
9 Vinokourov 7.09
10 Moreau 8.37

12 Evans 9.14
16 Julich 11.54
25 Hincapie 24.59
27 Rogers 29.51
36 Horner 43.44
69 O'Grady 1.22.43
87 McGee 1.37.39
113 White 2.09.58
114 Roberts 2.10.26
117 Davis 2.13.01
123 Rodriguez 2.16.14
133 McEwen 2.25.13
142 Cooke 2.28.50
143 Gerrans 2.29.10

Points

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 164
2 O'Grady 150
3 McEwen 142
4 Vinokourov 86
4 Frster 84
6 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 79

King of the Mountains

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 175
2 Moreau 89
3 Botero 88
4 Armstrong 76
5 Vinokourov 71
6 Totschnig 53

Young rider: Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel
Team: T-Mobile

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