First Edition News for July 22, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones
Lance Armstrong: What goes around comes around
By Gabriella Ekström in Luz-Ardiden
The stage to Luz-Ardiden was expected to be the king stage of the Tour de France, and it was looked upon as likely to be the decisive moment of the entire three week race. Lance Armstrong held the yellow jersey, but only by fifteen seconds. Some serious action was predicted, and the millions of worldwide spectators watching the final climb got more than they had asked for. With just over nine kilometres still to race, Lance Armstrong followed the attack of Iban Mayo when a spectator's 'musette' got tangled in his brake lever. Lance went head first over his bars, and landed heavily on his left side, and Mayo, who had just been caught and passed by Armstrong, couldn't avoid the crash, and fell on top of him.
Saved by his slower acceleration, Jan Ullrich was a few metres behind, and just missed the bike tangle. Unhurt, Ullrich continued up the road. He clearly had the chance to go after the jersey that waited for him at the top, but that was not the way Jan Ullrich wanted to win his second Tour.
"I knew they would wait," Lance said after stage. "I would do the same for him, and in fact, I have done the same for him in the past. I was in a group with a few guys going down the Col de Peyresourde in the Tour two years ago, when Ullrich crashed. I saw that it was a bad one and told them that we couldn't go on before we made sure he was alright. I am grateful that Jan remembered that today, and decided to do the same. I think I did the correct thing two years ago, and Ullrich did the same thing today. I appreciate that, and you know that what goes around comes around."
Mayo thinking of stages
Having already suffered the damage in the general classification, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Iban Mayo is thinking more of a second stage win in this year's Tour de France than the overall place in Paris. Mayo was the king of l'Alpe d'Huez, attacking several times before dropping Lance Armstrong and the other favourites on the famed Alpine climb. Monday he hoped for the same result on the road to Luz Ardiden, this year's Alpe d'Huez of the Pyrenees.
"I was riding only for the stage win, not the general classification," Mayo explained after the race. "I don't think I'm a dangerous rival anymore for Lance Armstrong."
Mayo, along with race leader Armstrong, nearly saw his stage- or his Tour- come to an untimely end as Armstrong was taken down by an errant spectator on the final climb. The exciting Basque rider had nowhere to go as Armstrong tumbled, and he himself went over the bars as he hit the fallen yellow jersey. Even as Armstrong started his chase back to the leaders, a slipped gear almost caused him to fall again, with Mayo once more on his wheel.
The two stayed upright, and Mayo quickly went on the offensive once they were back in contact with Jan Ullrich and the other leaders. However it was Armstrong and Armstrong alone who countered Mayo's move, and Iban had no answer to the American's adrenaline-charged attack.
"With Armstrong we have found once more the champion of the past years," Mayo said. "When he's in this sort of form, there's nothing to be done."
Chavanel offers first Tour opus
By Chris Henry
Sylvain Chavanel of Brioches La Boulangère is one of several French cyclists to bear the burden of being the country's next great hope. In the wake of Laurent Jalabert, who retired at the end of last season, and in the waning days of the ever popular Richard Virenque's career, France is anxiously awaiting a new talent to capture the hearts of the country, which has not produced a winner of its national tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985. Today on the road to Luz-Ardiden, Chavanel was in no position to make a play for the Tour classification, but his gutsy ride over two of the biggest mountains of the Tour was enough to spark hope for the future.
Chavanel positioned himself in the day's early break, and along with Santiago Botero (Telekom) he was able to forge a nearly ten minute lead on the main field and show his colours on the daunting climb of the Col du Tourmalet. After the enigmatic Botero dropped off behind, Chavanel carried on with his move, knowing full well that the race for the yellow jersey would soon be raging behind him.
"I wanted to be in the first break," Chavanel told French television after the tough stage. "I pushed the pace with Botero, but he wasn't having a great day, so I kept going at my own tempo."
By the time he was caught by an attacking Lance Armstrong in the closing kilometres to Luz-Ardiden, he had achieved enough glory to have salvaged what has been an otherwise difficult Tour. "A day like this is good for the morale," he explained. "I have to admit, two days ago I was ready to head home."
Aside from plenty of "TV time" during his escape, and 5,000€ for crossing the summit of the Tourmalet in the lead, Chavanel received recognition from the "patron" of the Tour, Lance Armstrong, as he charged toward the stage victory. Armstrong acknowledged Chavanel's day long escape with a pat on the back, but no words were spoken.
"He made a small gesture, which was really nice," Chavanel said with a smile. "But at the speed he was going, there was no time to say anything..."
Rejuvenated by his ride, which took him to 10th on the stage, Chavanel now promises to attack anew after Tuesday's rest day in Pau. "I'm going to try to shine in the next few stages and try to win one," he promised. "It's my nature to attack. I make mistakes, but that's how I learn."
Daniel Becke: Lance will win the Tour
By Jeff Jones in Luz-Ardiden
In his first Tour de France, German rider Daniel Becke is one of the seven domestiques doing their job for team captain and yellow jersey candidate Jan Ullrich. Lying 145th on GC at three and a half hours down, Becke is hanging on each day, if necessary working for the team in the early part of the stage before finishing at his own pace.
In Bagnères-de-Bigorre just before the start of stage 15, Becke was looking surprisingly relaxed, but uncertain as to how he would finish up today. "It's been really hard and a fight for survival and I hope to catch the final time cutoff today," he told Cyclingnews [he did make it]. "In the first part of the race I have to work, and then I'll see how to get to the finish."
With Jan Ullrich's excellent position on GC, Team Bianchi is very happy with its Tour so far, given that the team in its current state didn't even exist two months ago. "The team morale is very good," said Becke. "Jan is satisfied with his form, and to see him happy is a pleasure for us as well."
Speaking about today's 15th stage, Becke said, "I think today is another important stage, and with the rivalry on the mountain maybe it's the day of the general classification. I think it's not a question of tactics - the legs will decide in the last few kilometres. You have two climbs that are not so easy before the final climb. I think Jan will listen to his own legs and we'll see how it goes in the final."
We also discussed the tactics on stage 14, where Jan Ullrich did all the work on the Col de Peyresourde after Vinokourov and Mayo attacked with 8 km to go to the top. Although Lance Armstrong risked losing yellow to Vinokourov, he didn't contribute to the chase until the group crested the summit. "I think the strongest rider and the biggest favourite is Lance Armstrong," said Becke. "So sometimes Lance also has the possibility to make the race, and in stages like yesterday the decision is hard."
Becke was frank with his conclusions however: "Yeah, Jan did the right thing, and I also think that Lance will win the Tour."
Beloki heads home
Joseba Beloki, tragic victim of a crash on stage 9 which ended his most promising Tour de France bid yet, has been released from a Basque clinic five days after undergoing surgery for his fractured elbow, hip, and wrist. Beloki left the Esperanza de Vitoria clinic in the Basque region of Spain, but will continue to undergo physical therapy in the coming weeks. Team director Manolo Saiz commented during Monday's 15th stage that it will be at least a month to six weeks before Beloki climbs back on the bike.
Prize money update
Quick.Step-Davitamon 48,597 euros
Decisions of the Commissaires:
Axel Merckx (Lotto Domo): Finished in a time of 5:23:30 and was eliminated
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)