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  Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Botero climbs to the top
Santiago Botero powered away from the oppostion in the Alps
The opposition could not match Botero's power
Santiago Botero bounced back to form by winning the longest stage of the Tour de France with an awesome display of power and determination.

The Colombian had a terrible time on Sunday's 14th stage, slipping back from fifth to 18th as he found himself simply unable to cope with the pace.

But he moved back up to seventh after an impeccable ride on the Tour's longest stage, overpowering his rivals with his incredible stamina on the gruelling 226.5km climb to the ski resort of Les Deux Alpes.


Les Deux Alpes is not a very hard climb - Stage 16 is much harder and has the classic climbs of the Tour
Lance Armstrong

Botero was part of a group of seven which made a decisive break shortly after the 80km mark of the stage.

The group held together, gradually increasing their lead over the peloton to around 10 minutes, until the final category one climb to Les Deux Alpes.

It was at this point where Botero made his final push, tracked by Belgians Mario Aerts and Axel Merckx.

But Botero was determined to repair the pride damaged during his disappointing 14th stage, blitzing his way to victory ahead of the Belgians by two minutes.

"Two days ago in the Ventoux, I had a very bad day but today I felt fine and I decided to go for a stage win," said Botero.

"I had mechanical problems in the Ventoux and dehydration. This is a good revenge," he added.

Christophe Moreau presses a bandage to his bloodied nose
Christophe Moreau had to retire after picking up an injury

It was the second Tour stage win for the 30-year-old, who made his name as a climber with victory at Briancon on his way to being crowned king of the mountains in 2000.

Aside from Botero, no riders were able to make significant inroads into overall leader Lance Armstrong's lead, with the American retaining the yellow jersey.

Second-placed Joseba Beloki rode alongside Armstrong in the peloton for the majority of the stage.

But despite making a break during the final kilometre, he ended up crossing merely metres ahead of the American.

"Today was a bit long, but we had no problems," Armstrong said.

"Les Deux Alpes is not a very hard climb, it's not a climb on which you can break away. Tomorrow (stage 16) is much harder, it's the classic climbs of the Tour."

The stage saw Christophe Moreau forced to quit early on after a crash.

The ill-fated Frenchman has suffered more than his fair share of mishaps on this year's Tour.

But he was unable to bounce back from the facial injury he picked up after an accident in the aftermath of Dave Bruylands' crash.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton
"Botero attacked on the final ascent"
Lance Armstrong
"It was not a super-difficult stage"
All the actiion from the world's greatest bike race

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See also:

23 Jul 02 | Cycling
23 Jul 02 | Photo Galleries
Links to more Cycling stories are at the foot of the page.


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