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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Stage 10: As it happened
A guide to stage 10

Stage 10: Limoges to Saint-Flour - 237km

Action from day 12 of the Tour de France. All times in BST.

Stage result:
1 Richard Virenque
2 Andreas Kloden
3 Erik Zabel
4 Francisco Mancebo
5 Thomas Voeckler


1551: Andreas Kloden comes in second, ahead of team-mate Erik Zabel, with yellow jersey-wearer Thomas Voeckler just a whisker away. Armstrong is also within striking distance.

1550: Patrice Halgand, the first breakaway rider of the day leads the peloton into the final straight, with Laurent Brochard.

1546: He crosses the line after just over six hours in the saddle. Focused to the last, he points to the skies and delights in his seventh Tour stage victory.

1543: Rapturous applause greets Virenque as he starts the final climb at the 1km barrier.

1540: Just one mini-climb into Saint-Flour awaits Virenque but it won't trouble him. He has two kilometre left.

1534: This looks set to be a great Bastille day for the French. Voeckler will remain in yellow, while Virenque will become the first Frenchman since Laurent Jalabert in 2001 to win a stage on France's national day. He has just seven kilometres to go to the finish.

1527: Hamilton, Armstrong, Ullrich, Mayo and Voeckler are all in the peloton, so there's unlikely to be any major shake-ups in the overall lead, barring Virenque of course.

1520: Virenque pelts under the 20km-to-go-barrier still well clear. Victory looks a certainty barring an accident or technical problems.

1510: Merckx makes it to the top but Juan Miguel Mercado - at the head of the peloton - is just seconds away. Merckx is immediately sucked up by the group.

1504: Virenque, who will be wearing the King of the Mountains jersey at the end of the stage, tops the final climb of the day and pins his ears back for the 30 kilometres into Saint-Flour.

1500: The French crowds are going crazy for their man Virenque, who is giving his all up the climb. But Merckx's challenge is diminshing by the metre.

1451: The peloton starts the final climb - but there's a further 30 kilometres left after the peak - enough time possibly to catch Virenque, who's gunning for a seventh Tour stage victory.

1443: Remarkably Voeckler has stayed with the leaders on the latest ascent - he was not expected to. Moreau takes third place on the Col de L'Entremont, leading over the top Tour contenders. There's one climb left of the stage - the Plomb du Cantal.

1435: Another climb - they're coming thick and fast. Virenque tops it once more almost a minute clear of Merckx. Sebastian Hinault flies into a verge as he descends the previous climb. A stretcher comes out for him but he is at least moving. His race, though, is over.

1426: Matthias Kessler has an alimghty fall on the descent and flies into the ground and some fencing. He looks in serious pain. He's back on his bike within five minutes but his back looks to be causing him problems.

1424: Mayo now has almost a minute to make up on Armstrong after his bike problems. Virenque remains out front on his own.

1416: Virenque soars up over the Col du Pas de Peyrol clear of Merckx. Meanwhile, Iban Mayo slips out of the peloton because of mechanical problems. He quickly rejoins as the lead to Virenque closes a little. The peloton is properly stretching out now.

1406: The serious end of this stage has now properly kicked in. Virenque and Merckx are showing very different styles up the first-category climb - the Col du Pas de Peyrol. Merckx rests in the saddle, while Virenque - known as the housewife's favourite in France - is well out of the saddle. Virenque's style seems to be working a little better, as he pulls a few bike lengths clear.

1359: The climbing recurring theme continues. The top four on the Neronne is:
1 Virenque
2 Merckx
3 Bettini
4 Moreau

1349: Virenque tops the Col de Neronne to take 10 points in the King of the Mountains competition.

1346: Vicioso, of Roberto Heras' Liberty-Seguros team, has decided to retire from the race. Some crashes earlier in the race forced an unhappy end for him.

1335: This is very much the calm before the storm with the Col de Neronne and the Col du Pas Peyrols tocome.

1320: If Virenque and Merckx continue in this vein, Virenque will be the leader of the Tour de France on the road before too long. He started the stage 12 minutes 35 seconds behind overall leader Thomas Voeckler and 22 seconds clear of Merckx.

1306: The more serious climbs of the stage are yet to come but the top contenders - Armstrong, Mayo and Ullrich - are all moving their way to the front.

1254: The peloton is becoming increasingly stretched out now on the latest climb. Sprinters like Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd are among the first to slip back as the gradient takes its toll. As they crank it up to the top, Bettini takes third and Moreau once again fourth.

1245: More points for Virenque as he adds six more to his polka dot jersey tally.

1236: For the third climb in a row it's the same one-to-four over the top - Virenque, Merckx, Bettini and Moreau.

1150: Lance Armstrong causes a brief panic in his team as he stops briefly with a punctured tyre. He is joined by three US Postal riders, who keep the peloton in sight and close up in no time.

1143: Virenque tops up his climbing points by going over the latest ascent in front, with Merckx still in tow. Once more Bettini sneaks two further points at the head of the chasing pack.

1121: Virenque launches his King of the Mountains bid by taking the points at the top of the third-category climb, with no objections from Merckx. Bettini, current wearer of the polka dot jersey, nets third on the climb, with Christophe Moreau fourth.

1050: Virenque and Merckx have stolen a march on the peloton and are edging almost a minute clear.

1040: Things are settling down. US Postal have reeled in the bunch but for two leaders who are now clear in front - Richard Virenque and Axel Merckx.

1020: Richard Virenque is going like the clappers, and having stretched the peloton to breaking point he has broken free in a group of a dozen or so.

0955: Everyone is back together but riders are having a go of breaking clear by the minute.

0945 BST: The longest stage of this year's Tour de France officially gets under way. Patrice Halgand is the first man on the attack - one of many anticipated French attacks on Bastille Day. Massimiliano Mori joins him.





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