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Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Botero claims Alpine glory
Botero and Armstrong
Botero and Armstrong swap tips at the start of stage 14
Colombia's Santiago Botero was the surprise winner of the Tour de France's 14th stage on Saturday.

The 27-year-old Tour debutant hit the front half-way through the marathon 249.5 kilometre stage from Draguignan to Briancon as part of a small breakaway group of eight.

The Kelme rider took the lead on his own at the foot of the daunting Col d'Izouard and then held off a chasing group led by Lance Armstrong, Marco Pantani and Richard Virenque.

Armstrong finished in seventh place - two minutes 51 seconds behind Botero - and maintained his almost five-minute lead over Jan Ullrich, who claimed ninth place in Briancon.

  Overall classification after stage 14
1. Armstrong (US Postal), 61 hrs 2 mins 33 secs
2. Ullrich (Telekom), +4:55
3. Beloki (Festina), +5:52
4. Moreau (Festina), +6:51
5. Virenque (Polti), +8:26
6. Heras (Kelme), +8:33
Botero, ranked just 823rd in the world, served a six month suspension for doping last year but was a deserving winner on the Tour's first day in the Alps.

Saeco's Paolo Salvodelli, another member of the original breakaway group, finished two minutes, 30 seconds behind Botero to claim second place.

Pantani challenge

1998 Tour winner Pantani sprinted away from the chasing group of elite riders, including Armstrong, to snatch third place, two minutes, 46 seconds adrift.

As Botero was over 13 minutes behind Armstrong at the start of the stage, the US Postal rider's yellow jersey was never in danger.

The Colombian's brave performance, however, did win him the top climber's polka dot jersey, and he now leads the King of the Mountains category from Javier Ochoa and five-time winner Richard Virenque.

Lance Armstrong
Armstrong responded to climbers' attacks
Although Armstrong can be well pleased with his day's work - he matched every attack from the specialist climbers Pantani and Virenque - he admitted that the mountains were taking their toll.

"It was very difficult, very long, very windy. I didn't have much left in my legs," the 28-year-old Texan said.

"But the team worked really well for me. I'm really tired."

Postal power

Responding to recent media criticism of his team, Armstrong backed his team-mates.

"I think this is the best team in the race. We had eight guys (in the leading pack) at the bottom of Col d'Izouard, who else can say that?" he said.

Botero was clearly delighted with his victory, and dedicated the triumph to his country.

Jan Ullrich
Ullrich cannot shake off Armstrong
"I'd like to offer this win as a gift to Colombia, which is going through difficult political times. It's an incredible moment for me," he said.

The stage started in sunshine and warm temperatures with 145 riders still on course for the finish in Paris.

The day's severe climbs claimed two victims, however, as Stephane Heulot and Rik Verbrugghe retired from the race.

But it is not going to get any easier for those left in the Tour. Sunday's 15th stage includes the fearsome climbs of Galibier, Telegraphe and Madelaine.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Simon Brotherton
"This isn't sport, it's sado-masochism"
See also:

15 Jul 00 | Tour de France
15 Jul 00 | Tour de France
14 Jul 00 | Tour de France
14 Jul 00 | Tour de France
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