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This long stage across the plains and hills of Provence should have a spectacular conclusion. After racing downhill into the sprawling port city of Marseille, the race heads to the Vieux Port, the old dockside quarter, and then makes a 13km circuit around the city streets.
7/15/2003 Start Time: 11:46:00am
7/15/2003 Estimated Finish Time: 5:16:00pm
Looking at the mostly downhill profile of this stage, one is reminded of the dramatic 1971 stage from the ski resort of Orcières-Merlette (just above Gap) to Marseille. Two-time defending champion Eddy Merckx had suffered one of his worst defeats at Orcières, conceding 8:42 to stage winner Luis Ocaña of Spain. Stung into action, Merckx attacked with two teammates (with some hangers-on in tow) on the tricky descent from Orcières with 250km to ride. Riding in team-timetrial formation, the Molteni team trio looked as if they would regain most of Merckx’s loss, and although they did manage to hold off the peloton, the time gap at the end (where Merckx took second place) was less than two minutes. The two Marseille finishes since 1971 have produced solo stage winners in Frenchman Vincent Barteau (1989) and Italian Fabio Roscioli (1993).