Virenque Posts Stage 10 Bastille Day Win
Frenchman Richard Virenque (Quick Step) won the first mountain stage of the 2004 Tour de France Wednesday, Bastille Day, edging out the rest of the peloton and posting one of the longest successful escapes in Tour de France history. The 148-mile course from Limoges to Saint-Flour is the longest stage in this year’s Tour and has nine rated climbs. Virenque won each and every climb, putting him in first place in the climbing, or King of the Mountain, classification and in fourth place overall. Virenque has in fact won the climbing classification at the Tour six times before.
Richard Virenque: Stage 10's King of the MountainRichard Virenque: Stage 10’s King of the Mountain
It was a complete day for France with French National Champion Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangère) holding on to the yellow jersey for the sixth consecutive day. Andréas Klöden (T-Mobile), Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto), and Voeckler rounded out the day’s top five positions.
Five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong finished sixth on the day, allowing him to hold on to sixth place in the overall standings. Rivals Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) are currently ranked 11th, 17th, and 26th in the general classification standings.
The day found many riders falling off the main peloton with the primary field whittled down to around 45 to 50 riders over the course of the stage.
After a number of attacks by various riders and a few failed attacks by Virenque, the Frenchman escaped the peloton about 21 miles into the race along with Lotto-Domo’s Axel Merckx and Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangère). Soon after though, Chavanel was dropped and Virenque and Merckx were able to garner a lead of about 10:30 before Virenque dropped Merckx on the seventh climb of the stage, pulling out ahead of the Belgian.
Merckx ultimately fell further and further back from Virenque and was caught by the peloton with about18 miles to go in the race.
Virenque, who had a 6:59 lead over the peloton with 14 miles to go, was able to hold on to his lead and cruise into Saint-Flour with no one on his heels, setting up the final attacks by the peloton for the remaining top spots.
Riders will resume their mountain attacks Thursday as the race travels 102 miles from Saint-Flour to Figeac.