213 km break succeeds for Totschnig
34 year-old Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) has won the first Pyrenean stage of the Tour, which finished in the ski station of Ax-3 Domaines after 220.5 hot, hard kilometres. The Austrian crossed the line with 56 seconds to spare over maillot jaune Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel), who left Ivan Basso (CSC) and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) behind on the final slopes of the climb to claim second. Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) finished 8th at 1'47 and lost a minute to Armstrong on the general classification, but held onto his second place overall.
Totschnig's win came out of a long breakaway, which started with 10 riders at kilometre 7. In the break with Totschnig were Nardello (T-Mob), Moos (Phonak), Garate (Saunier), Garzelli (Liquigas), Beneteau (Bouygues), Da Cruz and Gilbert (FDJ), Grivko (Domina Vacanze) and Krivtsov (Ag2r). On the day's first major climb of the Port de Pailhères (km 191), Totschnig, Garzelli, and Beneteau rode away from the rest, with Totschnig going over the top with a minute's advantage over Garzelli and 3'47 over the groupe maillot jaune, which had split under the impetus of some aggressive racing by T-Mobile and contained just Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich and Landis.
Totschnig descended like a stone and came to the foot of the final climb with an extra minute's bonus on the Armstrong group, which reformed then broke up again as Armstrong, Basso, and Ullrich dropped the rest. Totschnig had enough to survive to the top and win the stage, while Armstrong gapped Ullrich and Basso in the final kilometres to show that he is indeed the strongest rider in the race, even if his team were not with him today.