Moncoutie rises on Bastille Day

French 1, 2, 4

Armstrong keeps lead, loses Beltran

Tour De France

July 15, 2005|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

DIGNE-LES-BAINS, France - The signs on the autoroute announced it clearly: Driving into Digne-les-Bains was "impossible" without a pass. But on this Bastille Day, French cyclists were exempt from the rules of the road.

David Moncoutie of the French team Cofidis went to the front early and fought off a series of attacks to finish an emotional first in the 116.2-mile 12th stage of the Tour de France yesterday.

Sandy Casar of team Francaise des Jeux outsprinted Spain's Angel Vicioso for second. Another Frenchman, Patrice Halgand, was fourth. A year ago, Frenchman Richard Virenque, a climbing legend, won the July 14 stage in his last Tour.

Lance Armstrong, who claimed the leader's yellow jersey Tuesday, finished 41st. There were no changes among the top 10 in the overall standings, so Armstrong still leads Denmark's Mickael Rasmussen by 38 seconds, France's Christophe Moreau by 2:34 and Italy's Ivan Basso by 2:40.

It was hard to pick out Armstrong, even in his bright shirt, because he was so well protected in a silver-and-blue Discovery Channel cocoon. Even so, his team did suffer a loss.

Climbing expert Manuel Beltran, a quiet Spaniard who was being counted on to help take care of breakaways by contenders in the two Pyrenees stages this weekend, had to abandon the race after crashing hard early in yesterday's stage. He suffered a concussion.

It was the first time Armstrong's team has lost a rider since Christian Van de Velde crashed in 2001 and broke a shoulder. And it will be only the second time in Armstrong's history of Tour victories that his team will not finish intact.

"It's a big loss," Armstrong said. "Everybody has his role on the team, and you just don't replace that."

Johan Bruyneel, Discovery Channel's team director, said he didn't know exactly what happened to Beltran. "He told me something happened to the guy in front of him. He hit his head really hard, then went on another 10 or 15 kilometers, but he didn't know where he was."

"It was pretty bad," Armstrong said. "And now we've got to be mentally tough. When you lose a man, everybody has to pick up the slack."

Still, Armstrong, 33, who is aiming for an unprecedented seventh straight title before retiring, was relaxed and smiling as he was draped with the yellow jersey in the daily podium ceremony. When questioned by a French television announcer about how he could beat himself, Armstrong laughed and said, "I don't know. Ask me next Sunday."

Going into the 12th stage, Moncoutie was in 44th place and 42 minutes 59 seconds behind Armstrong, so the peloton was happy to let the 34-year-old speed away. Casar was 31st and 17:29 behind the leader.

Discovery Channel riders spent most of the day leading the peloton, but the team was not inclined toward energy-zapping chases on a day that often belongs to French riders.

As thousands of his countrymen lined the roads for hours in temperatures that rose to well over 90 degrees, Moncoutie was able to begin celebrating in the final kilometer as he rode alone.


Tour de France

12th stage

116.2 miles from Briancon to Digne-les-Bains

1. D. Moncoutie, Cofidis, 4 hours, 20 minutes, 6 seconds. 2. S. Casar, Francaise des Jeux, 57 seconds behind. 3. A. Vicioso, Liberty Seguros, same time. 4. P. Halgand, Credit Agricole, same time. 5. J. L. Arrieta, Illes Balears, same time.

6. F. Pellizotti, Liquigas-Bianchi, same time. 7. A. Merckx, Davitamon-Lotto, same time. 8. J. M. Garate, Saunier Duval, same time. 9. T. Hushovd, Credit Agricole, 3:15. 10. S. O'Grady, Cofidis, same time.

11. M. Giunti, Fassa Bortolo, same time. 12. S. Schreck, Germany, T-Mobile, 3:18. 13. G. Lombardi, CSC, 3:21. 14. R. McEwen, Davitamon-Lotto, 10:33. 15. P. Wrolich, Gerolsteiner, same time.

16. J. Tombak, Cofidis, same time. 17. S. Hinault, Credit Agricole, same time. 18. F. Rodriguez, Davitamon-Lotto, same time. 19. Y. Krivtsov, AG2R Prevoyance, same time. 20. P. Gilbert, Francaise des Jeux, same time.

Overall standings

1. L. Armstrong, Discovery Channel, 46 hours, 30 minutes, 36 seconds. 2. M. Rasmussen, Rabobank, :38 behind. 3. C. Moreau, Credit Agricole, 2:34. 4. I. Basso, CSC, 2:40. 5. A. Valverde, Illes Balears, 3:16.

6. S. Botero, Phonak, 3:48. 7. L. Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, 3:58. 8. F. Mancebo, Illes Balears, 4:00. 9. J. Ullrich, T-Mobile, 4:02. 10. A. Kloden, T-Mobile, 4:16.

11. F. Landis, Phonak, same time. 12. A. Vinokourov, T-Mobile, 4:47. 13. J. Jaksche, Liberty Seguros, 5:33. 14. C. Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, 5:55. 15. Y. Popovych, Discovery Channel, 6:25.

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