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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for July 28, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

A different Tour with the same result

Armstrong still on top
Photo: © J.Devich/CN

Lance Armstrong showed the world in this year's Tour de France that he is human, that he can have bad luck and bad days, but he can still emerge victorious. Deemed by many the most exciting Tour in since 1989, this year's race saw Armstrong put under pressure by his rivals, the race conditions, and as he put it, a number of strange occurrences that made his road to Paris more difficult than in previous years.

Armstrong this year also appeared more willing to acknowledge the fact that not everything went according to plan during the race. In an interview with l'Equipe, conducted Sunday morning during the transfer from Nantes to Ville d'Avray, Armstrong revealed several key moments during his fight for a fifth consecutive Tour victory.

"Nobody likes stress, and I wouldn't want to relive a Tour like this one," Armstrong said of the numerous factors which complicated his bid for victory. "I was worried this year, because nothing was going as we had planned."

The first major defeat for the defending Tour champion came in the individual time trial at Gaillac. While Lance may not have dominated the Alps, he did not suffer to the point of compromising his overall classification. On the hot roads to the Cap' Découverte, however, Jan Ullrich dominated the individual time trial and took an incredible minute and a half from Armstrong, which had not been done since the American began his string of Tour victories in 1999.

"The worst moment on the Tour, the moment when I really hit bottom, was at the second time check in the time trial to Cap' Découverte," Armstrong explained. "When I heard the time splits to Ullrich, I told myself the Tour was over. At that moment, I was in a major crisis."

Having always considered Jan Ullrich his greatest rival in the Tour, Armstrong also confessed that his biggest tactical error was not to have taken more time from the Bianchi leader on Alpe d'Huez. "Ullrich could have been eliminated on Alpe d'Huez," Armstrong said. "He was sick that day, and up front we didn't know to take advantage of that. But you learn from your mistakes."

For any moments of doubt, however, the second half of the Tour provided Armstrong with the moments- and motivation- to turn the tables and assume control once more of the race that has been his since 1999. Specifically, Jan Ullrich's early attack on the the Col du Tourmalet, which put Armstrong in some early difficulty but did nothing to shake him by the final, dramatic climb to Luz-Ardiden.

"I told myself, big mistake... Very big mistake," Armstrong said of Ullrich's attack, adding that Bianchi's directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage showed himself to be overconfident by letting Ullrich attempt such a risky manoeuvre."It was their arrogance that lost it for them, since they were certain that I wouldn't be able to follow. They said that all the time, that they would attack and I'd be dropped. But I'm not just anybody, I'm not a stupid rider. True, I was dropped on the Bonascre, but for what? He was at his maximum, but not me. I kept a steady distance and I came back."

From this point on, Armstrong joins the elite few who have won five Tours de France, and next year will tackle the elusive sixth victory. Unlike Jan Ullrich, who has now finished five times in second place (but never lower), Armstrong can't see himself coming back after defeat in the Tour. "I would never come back," he said bluntly. "I would try my hand at the Giro, or the world championships, or the classics."

For Lance Armstrong, the Tour remains the number one focus in the sport. "It's what gets me up in the morning, the only thing that matters," he noted. "If I win, the season is a success. If I lose, it's a disaster. To finish second is no consolation. It's a failure, for me, for the team, for the sponsor."

As he treads the tricky ground of attempting a sixth Tour victory, Armstrong insists that his dream is to exit the sport without having been beaten. "A lot of athletes try, but don't know the right moment to stop," he said. "I hope I know that moment. I want to win and go out on top, but one thing is sure: I won't me making a farewell tour."

Mixed emotions for reborn Ullrich

Jan Ullrich
Photo: © C.Henry/CN

Jan Ullrich completed his comeback to the highest level of cycling with his second place to Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. Out of competition for the 2002 season due to a knee injury, and under the cloud of the failed Team Coast and his own suspension in the first half of 2003, Ullrich surpassed all expectations by pushing Lance Armstrong to the narrowest victory margin since 1996. The Team Bianchi leader, however, holds mixed emotions after coming so close to a possible second Tour win of his own.

"I feel like I did a big Tour de France, but at the same time there's a little regret since [Saturday] night," Ullrich told l'Equipe. "I really wanted to win the final time trial and move closer to Lance in the general classification. Maybe it was a bit crazy to want to beat him, but I truly believed I could do it."

Ullrich does not have regrets about his riding in the mountains, including the final mountain stage to Bayonne, won by Tyler Hamilton, when the top three riders rode defensively. "That last mountain stage scared everybody," Ullrich explained. "Lance and I both plenty to lose on that day in the Basque Country. At that point we were already thinking of the time trial and the finish in Paris on the Champs-Elysées."

Ullrich and Armstrong share a mutual respect, and Ullrich is quick to praise the American after his fifth consecutive Tour victory. "With all the pressure on him, he really had a great performance," Ullrich said of his chief rival. "When you find yourself up against him, there's a completely different motivation [after the difficulties Armstrong lived through]. He is the biggest rider of our generation."

Ullrich entered the 2003 Tour with modest ambitions: to represent his new Bianchi team, and prepare for an eventual showdown with Armstrong in 2004. He emerged after having returned to his best level, finished second, and is now more motivated than ever to win in 2004. "We arrived at the Tour with an unbelievable amount of stress," Ullrich said about his hastily prepared Bianchi team. "I'm convinced that next year will be much smoother and a better experience. We'll be in a better position to beat Lance."

Vinokourov dreams of yellow

Alexandre Vinokourov, awarded the most aggressive rider prize at the Tour de France on top of his third place overall, expressed his immense satisfaction with his first grand tour podium appearance. "I had dreamed of the podium, but frankly I didn't expect to get there this year," Vinokourov said after the Tour's final stage in Paris.

"Now I feel like I can do a good Tour, and perhaps be able to win the yellow jersey eventually," Vinokourov added. "I tried this year but it would have taken a few more seconds. I took the "Prix du Super-Combatif," and that makes me very happy."

Vinokourov came within 15 seconds of the yellow jersey before losing ground in the Pyrenees and the individual time trials. Nonetheless, the gritty Kazakh assumed the leadership of his Telekom team and was never afraid to attack Armstrong and the other favourites to gain time at any opportunity. His third place at the Tour builds on what has already been a stellar season with victories in Paris-Nice, Amstel Gold Race, and the Tour of Switzerland.

Armstrong continues fight against cancer

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Paris
LA talks
Photo: © J.Devich/CN

This morning at the prestigious Hotel Crillon, five time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong attended a press conference presented by the U.S. President's Cancer Panel. Entitled "Life After Cancer: A Celebration Of Life", Armstrong was joined by Dr La Salle D. Leffall. Jr, president of Bush's Cancer Panel and French Dr. David Khayat, well known for his initiatives to combat cancer in France. Also present was Dr Andrew C. Von Eschenbach, Director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Armstrong joined other leaders and cancer survivors in the global fight against cancer, and he was celebrated as an example to cancer victims and how they can fight and overcome it. Lance told the assembled media that "Cancer is a global problem and it will be solved's an honour to be win the Tour de France but even more so as a cancer survivor. When I think about a crash on Luz Ardiden or a cyclocross in Gap, and then think back to 1996 and being in a hospital bed in Indianapolis, its easy to choose."

Today Show on Champs-Elysées

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Paris
Currying favour
Photo: © T.Maloney/CN

Cyclingnews caught up with US TV personality Anne Curry, who was in Paris to interview Lance Armstrong for NBC's #1 rated morning chat program, the Today Show. "This is my 2nd time at the Tour De France. I was here last year to interview Lance. I'm always glad to talk to Lance...he's not only a champion, a real fighter. And I also know that anything he says about competing can be a such an inspiration for so many people, especially for people who are suffering from cancer. I love bringing Lance's message to the American people!"

"I am a cycling fan now from watching from afar. I actually have a date to cycle with Lance for a cancer ride and I'm freaked out, because while I work out...well, I hope he goes his slowest!"

Anne Curry lost her mother to cancer and her sister is a cancer survivor. The popular Today show host will participate in one of Lance's upcoming Tour Of Hope events in Texas. "I just think it's not very often you see someone who can rise above such a challenge as Lance has. I think that's something to be supported."

Curry sent props to American Tyler Hamilton as well, saying "I think that Tyler Hamilton has shown so much courage in this year's Tour. He was so resilient and I think he'll become famous for what he had to put up with at the Tour this year and finish in the top four."

Curry will have an exclusive interview with Armstrong Monday morning on NBC's Today Show.

Rookies comment on tough Tour

By Günter Krause-Friebertshäuser

The Centenary Tour was the fastest Tour de France ever with an average speed of 40.940 km/h, causing many riders to state that it had been unusually tough for them. The heat and the crashes combined with an increase of illnesses among the riders saw over a quarter of the peloton abandon before the finish.

If experienced riders suffered during this year's Tour, how did the rookies manage to survive? A number of riders told Eurosport TV about their views and emotions. Telekom's Matthias Kessler has twice finished in the top 30 in the Giro d'Italia. This year the 24 year old Franconian made it for the first time to the Tour de France. And his first conclusion was: "faster, harder and much more beautiful. It's been incredible always riding at full speed on the flats as in the mountains in front of those crowds of spectators. You can't afford one single bad day. It's a daily fight to survive and I'm happy I've made it."

Austrian Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) started the Tour de France as the recent winner of the Tour of Austria. Aged 28, he had to wait some years and so, "I expected more of my participation at the Tour. But it became clear during the race that my form was going down. Okay, it was my first Tour and, whatever remains this time, I will improve. But I had a nice experience I would say, and I hope to be back next year."

Glomser's team mate Jörg Ludewig is in his third year with Saeco. The 27 year old German was the last rider from his team to be invited just a few days before the Tour start, in order to help his Captain Gilberto Simoni. In the end he turned out to be their best ranked rider on GC at 38th. "I think I got through it better than I expected, just being the ninth wheel. I just started in order to help Simoni which turned out not to be such a big deal. Anyway, Gilberto saved the team. We had much greater intentions for this Tour, now we have at least a stage win. My batteries are very low now. I'm beginning to understand why the Tour de France is called a myth."

Uwe Peschel of German team Gerolsteiner started his first Tour de France at the age of 34, although he is known as a very successful rider in the individual time trials at the World Championships, where he finished fifth several times. He stated (before Saturday's time trial), "It was tough, much tougher than I expected since the speed was unbelievably high right from the start. And now I'm happy that I will see Paris which had not been my aim at the beginning of the Tour. But in the meantime it became a fix point to get there."

It was bad luck for Peschel, as after this statement he was the last to crash out of the race in the Stage 19 time trial. He slipped twice on the wet roads, broke two ribs and punctured a lung. Nonetheless, he insisted on finishing in Paris. But his director Hans Michael Holczer and the doctors refused.

Good Tour for Belgian directors, but not the riders

The Belgian team directors seem to be part of the overall success story in this year's Tour: Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol are in charge of the winning US Postal-Berry Floor team with Lance Armstrong; Rudy Pevenage is Jan Ullrich's director with Bianchi; Walter Godefroot has the very impressive and strong Alexander Vinokourov in his team Telekom; and Quick.Step's Wilfried Peeters and Patrick Lefevre can call their Tour a big success, having two stage wins and the climber's trophy to show for it.

But what about the Belgian riders?

"It's a crying shame," comment the VUM newspapers harshly. Indeed, a Belgian victory in this year's Tour was not really within reach.

Serge Baguet came the closest, finishing seventh in Marseille. Even though the Lotto-Domo riders can hide behind the fact that they had to work their lungs out to keep McEwen in the running for the Green Jersey and protect him during the day so he could contest the sprints, the Belgian critics are having a field day in the press this morning.

Lotto-Domo director sportive Marc Sergeant submitted the report card for his riders: "Christophe Brandt did the most work of all for McEwen. He was at the front riding to keep or bring things together for the sprint and came across the climbs really well."

"Serge Baguet did a reasonable job for McEwen in the first week. He also did do a lot of the work on the last Friday, so that Robbie could take back the Green jersey."

"Hans De Clercq actually finished this Tour stronger than he started it; he worked harder the last week than he did in the first two. He still has got some power left."

"Axel Merckx came short just that one bit. he got into trouble for the first time in the Alps and then dragged himself to Luz-Ardiden purely on character. It's a pity for him, a pity for us."

"After this Tour, we'll have to have a serious talk to Rik Verbrugghe!" concludes Sergeant. "He quit with some bruised ribs. Clain went on with the same thing and Hamilton even rode with a broken collarbone!"

Quick.Step Davitamon team director Wilfried Peeters was more positive about his Belgian rider. "Kurt Van de Wouwer did a good job as a domestique in the tour. A 20th spot in the final time trial shows that. He just needed some time to adjust to our team. He understood on the way to Bayonne that he had to ride more aggressively." (Van De Wouwer rode for Lotto last year and didn't get selected for the Tour).

Rabobank team director Theo de Rooij was neutral in his comments. "Because we lost Leipheimer so early, the team lost its structure right away. Bettini was one of the best riders in this Tour, but he didn't get closer than a second placing. It's really hard to evaluate the riders that got to Paris." (Belgian Marc Wauters was one of them).

Telekom's team manager Walter Godefroot commented, "Mario Aerts knows that there is nothing to be gained in the back of the peloton. He did his job appropriately, but in our team the level is high. Mario was the first rider of the team to have to ride at the front of the peloton."

Baden Cooke in Aalst tonight

The Australian Green Jersey winner Baden Cooke is one of the big names on the starter's list of the first post-Tour criterium in Belgium tonight. Together with the best sprinter of this season, Alessandro Petacchi, and Australian-Belgian Robbie McEwen, Cooke will more than likely dish out a fast and furious finale.

Local Serge Baguet was voted the most popular rider by the internet visitors to the criterium's website and said it is nice to be present, feeling the recognition of the fans. Lotto-Domo will also have Lanterne Rouge De Clercq starting, while Axel Merckx and Rik Verbrugghe are still recovering at home.

The team's greatest star won't sign on. Peter Van Petegem starts his second half of the 2003 season today in the Belgian Tour de la Région Wallonne, as is Lotto-Domo's local boy Kevin Van Impe. The lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw is riding this stage race as well.

Tour podium girl kicked out

Only three of the four Credit Lyonnais podium girls made it to the Champs-Elysées yesterday. Blond podium girl Alicia was thrown out of the Tour this week. The official version has it that she "kept stacking up the mistakes". But behind the scenes, the story is that she kept smiling and kissing off the podium too, with a cyclist that never came close to wearing the Yellow Crédit Lyonnais jersey. It's in the girls' contracts that they can't socialize with the riders in that way.

It's not an isolated case of butterflies kicking in during a big tour. There's always a good gossip for grabs after the Tour has left the Champs-Elysées. "Alicia wasn't kicked out because of that," her visibly offended ex-colleagues told the Belgian Press. "And even if she was, is it forbidden to fall in love? Christophe Moreau fell in love with one of the Tour Misses years ago, and they are still together!"

"Of course we get looked at," the interviewee continued. "But not only by the cyclists, mostly by the journalists! Three weeks away from the wife, hey!"

Cyclingnews awaits Podium Girl Gone Bad's opinion on this...

No World's for Museeuw and McEwen

After Lance Armstrong made it clear that he won't compete in the World Championships in Canada at the end of the season, Belgian Johan Museeuw and Australian Robbie McEwen have chosen to join him in that decision.

"It's going to be too hard a race for me, there's nothing I can go and do there, so I will tell the National Team I won't ride. After Paris-Tours I'll stop racing for this season," Robbie McEwen told Het Nieuwsblad after the last stage of the Tour.

Barcelona gold medallist bounces back

By Anthony Tan

Still got the Watts
Photo: © Mal Sawford

Last weekend's De Bortoli Wines Tour of the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia, witnessed the return to form of 1992 Olympic road race champion Kathy Watt, on the comeback trial in an attempt to qualify for next year's Olympic Games in Athens.

The 38 year-old faced tough competition in her home state, particularly against Australian criterium champion Elisabeth Williams, who happens to be half Watt's age. On the opening stage, the 19 year-old Victorian Institute of Sport rider managed to drop Watt and ride clear of the field to take the leader's jersey, but veteran Watt soon found her legs in the afternoon time trial, posting a time nearly two and a half minutes faster than her nearest competitor. Watt went on to win the next two road stages the following day in her classic breakaway style, shattering the bunch early on and soloing home for the win on both occasions.

"Carey [Hall, Watt's husband and coach] said to have a really good workout and just go for it on the last day," said a chirpy Watt when asked whether her breakaway moves were premeditated. "I guess that's always been one of my strengths, that and good recovery."

After a three year absence from racing and at times not always see eye-to-eye with Australian cycling authorities, the Victorian appears to be truly enjoying her cycling, likening her comeback to how she felt when she first threw her leg over a bike over a decade ago. "I've got a good bunch to train with [Watt has her own coaching clinic], and we've been doing some long rides in the Dandenongs, but really I'm just enjoying riding the bike again."

Doing the daily double
Photo: © Mal Sawford

Watt's aim is to ride the individual pursuit on the track and the road time trial at the Athens Olympics in 2004, but realises there's still plenty of work to be done before she qualifies for a berth in both events.

"Obviously the girls [at the Yarra Valley tour] haven't experienced the competition that I have in Europe in races like the women's Giro or the Tour de France, but it's all a building process for next year," she said.

Selection criteria for the individual pursuit requires Watt to ride under a time of 3.36 for the 3000 metres, a time she managed to achieve in her heyday as Australia's premier women's cyclist. Qualification for the road time trial will prove equally challenging, especially with the likes of Australian Institute of Sport riders such as Sara Carrigan and Olivia Gollan experiencing regular international competition in Europe.

Tour de la Region Wallonne preview

The Tour de France is over for another year, the attention of the press and public can once again be turned towards the other UCI races on the calendar. In Flobecq (Belgium) the tough five day stage race Tour de la Region Wallonne will start today. The race takes the riders to the heights of Chaudfontaine, where the last stage on Friday will top off a hard week's work.

Quick Step Davitamon has a strong line up, with Van Goolen, Boonen and Museeuw. Cofidis riders Nico Mattan and Jo Planckaert are out to show their sponsor that it's a big mistake not to renew their contracts for next year. Landbouwkrediet-Colnago has selected Dierckxsens, Popovych and Steels for what promises to be a very hard and animated race which will prepare the riders for a busy second part of the 2003 season.

"The stage towards Bouillon is something that I like," a motivated Dave Bruylandts (Marlux) told the press before the start of the first stage.

Lotto-Domo's goal is to prepare Van Petegem for the upcoming one-day races. In this race, Peter gets the assistance of his team mate Kevin Van Impe. Van Petegem's other training partner Scott Sunderland (Team fakta) is also starting with the aim to freshen up the form after a big mid-season break.

In addition there will be CSC (Van Bondt, Tafi), US Postal-Berry Floor (van Heeswijk), Telekom (Julich, Savoldelli), Rabobank (Dekkers), Fassa Bortolo (Pozzato, Bartoli, Cancellara), and AG2r making up the list of first division teams.


Stage 1 - Monday, July 28: Flobecq-Charleroi, 160.4 km
Stage 2 - Tuesday, July 29: Waterloo-Nijvel, 169 km
Stage 3 - Wednesday, July 30: Namur-Bouillon, 200.3 km
Stage 4 - Thursday, July 31: Houffalize-Auble, 189.3km
Stage 5 - Friday, August 1, Amay-Chaudfontaine, 146.4km

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