Tour de France: French score big on Bastille Day
14 July 2004 , SAINT FLOUR - It was a big day for the French on Bastille Day as popular Richard Virenque won Wednesday's tenth stage of the 2004 Tour de France, and his compatriot Thomas Voeckler held on to the race leader's yellow jersey.
14 July 2004
SAINT FLOUR - It was a big day for the French on Bastille Day as popular Richard Virenque won Wednesday's tenth stage of the 2004 Tour de France, and his compatriot Thomas Voeckler held on to the race leader's yellow jersey.
Two Germans with the T-Mobile team, Andreas Kloeden and Erik Zabel, finished second and third respectively, as the peloton came in 5:19 mins behind the winner.
Virenque broke away from the pack with Belgian Axel Merckx at the 35-km mark of the 237-km course from Limoges to Saint Flour and then pulled away from his fellow escapee on the seventh of the day's nine climbs.
The winner covered this year's longest stage in 6:00.24 hrs, and became the 14th French rider to win a Tour stage on July 14, the French national holiday.
Voeckler retained his lead in the overall standings, with five-time champion Lance Armstrong in sixth place, 9:35 adrift. The American, who is going for an unprecedented sixth Tour de France title, finished sixth behind Virenque.
This first mountain stage of the 2004 Tour de France was tailor-made for the 34-year-old Frenchman, who has won the Tour's competition as best climber six times, including last year.
Virenque scored enough points in Friday's climbs to take over the polka-dot jersey denoting the leading climber from his Quick Step teammate Paolo Bettini and looks the favourite to win the title a seventh time.
After the race, a weeping Virenque dedicated the victory, the seventh Tour stage win of his career, to a friend and a grandmother who recently passed away.
"I had cramps everywhere, but I thought about these two people and found the strength to go on," he said.
Virenque is still immensely popular with the French despite his admission, during the famous Festina doping trial in October 2001, that he had taken banned substances.
He was subsequently banned from cycling for nine months and missed the Tour in 2001.
Thursday's 11th stage remains in the mountains, offering five moderate climbs and setting up Friday's stage, the first in the Pyrenees Mountains.
The Tour de France ends 25 July in Paris.
Subject: German news