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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest News for June 12, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Armstrong takes control

Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

In Wednesday's stage 3 individual time trial at the Dauphiné Libéré, Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service) assumed the overall race lead after beating David Millar (Cofidis) by 1'07", and yellow jersey Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) by 1'26".

"The most important thing was to show myself and the other members of the team that I was in good shape," Armstrong explained. "[Wednesday] morning I had a talk with Johan. He told me that it would do some good for the team if I tried to do a good race. It's good for their morale to see that the leader is ready."

Armstrong offered a blistering ride over the 33km course, but his choice of equipment wasn't an obvious one. Bruyneel suggested that Armstrong use his road machine, as he did in the prologue, after driving the course Tuesday night and noting its difficulty. In the light of day, however, after seeing the course again Wednesday, he wavered. Finally, Armstrong followed teammate Floyd Landis, one of the early starters, in the team car.

"Frankly we didn't know what do to,"Bruyneel told l'Equipe, referring to the choice of equipment. "I decided to wait again until afternoon and follow Floyd, who was our first rider. He had a normal bike and he wasn't riding all out, but when I saw the speed I knew that we should use the time trial bike."

Armstrong concurred, after his own deliberations. "We hesitated a lot, but I think we made the right choice," he said, adding that he would have preferred to have more rolling portions on which to test the bike. This was only the second time this season that Armstrong competed on his low profile time trial bike, after the Vuelta a Murcia.

A special podium appearance

Photo: © Jeff Tse
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After his winning ride, Armstrong was greeted on the podium by a special invited guest, Natalia Kivilev, widow of Cofidis rider Andrei Kivilev. Armstrong smiled on the podium, and held young Leonard Kivilev in his arms. Later he offered his own praise for the rider who died after a crash in Paris-Nice in March.

"The death of Andrei is a tragedy," Armstrong said in Het Nieuwsblad. "He was an opponent who we appreciated for the way he rode; from the bottom of the climb he attacked."

Both Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel had long admired Kivilev's riding, and had made efforts to recruit the Kazakh at US Postal, but eventually lost out in the bidding to Ag2R-Prévoyance. Nonetheless they remained friendly and Armstrong was happy to honour Kivilev once again at the Dauphiné.

Bruyneel pleased with TT test

US Postal Service directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel was more than pleased with Lance Armstrong's dominant ride in the stage 3 time trial of the Dauphiné Libéré. Armstrong had already said he was not desperate for a win in the Dauphiné, but the time trial was clearly an important litmus test for the American's fitness.

"I knew beforehand this was a very important race," Bruyneel commented after his leader's victory. "It was to be the only long time trial Lance will have raced all year. It was a hard circuit and we wanted to go for it and it worked out well."

The time trial win was Armstrong's first victory of the 2003 season, and just the right reassurance for Bruyneel and the Postal team. "Winning takes some luck, but in a time trial the strongest usually wins," he explained. "Personally, I think Lance at Amstel and Liège-Bastogne-Liège was good enough to win but the circumstances of the race changed that. But that's cycling, you can't always plan for what will happen."

"The fact that Lance won by such a large margin was definitely something to be very happy about," Bruyneel added. "It was probably one of the most impressive time trials I have seen from Lance."

Millar still satisfied

David Millar put in another solid time trial performance Thursday, placing second once again but this time behind Lance Armstrong and ahead of Iban Mayo. The Cofidis leader was equally satisfied with his latest test, run on a difficult course and under a hot sun.

"After the first long climb it was just up and down the whole way and it was very difficult to find a good pace," Millar explained on his web site. Although he lost 1'07" to Armstrong, his ride was good enough to put him back into second place in the overall classification on the eve of the first big climbing day of the Dauphiné.

"I took it a bit too easy at first and after the first climb I was 47 seconds down on Lance already," Millar commented. "I had to really go for it after that but Lance was really flying so he still made more time on me. It was another boiling day as well, around 34 degrees, which just added to the pain. I'm really pleased with the result though because it was such a hard course."

"I'm glad that Lance is in the leader's jersey though, because it will mean that the peloton will be well controlled," he added. "I'm going to sit on his wheel and see how I go."

Tough ride for Moreau

Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole), third place on the final podium in last year's Dauphiné, had a solid but tough ride in the stage 3 time trial. "It was a tough time trial and you needed a lot of power and concentration," he told l'Equipe.

"I'm disappointed in my time (14th at 3'26"), but I gave it everything. Now there are four days left and I hope to stay with the leaders. Last year it was the same thing. I had a so-so time trial, and finished well in the end."

Hamilton suffering

Tyler Hamilton has not enjoyed the best start to the Dauphiné, suffering from a stomach ailment that has sapped his strength in the two important tests against the clock. "I'm not really up to these efforts," he said after the time trial. "I used it as a big training ride. I'd like to be able to finish the race on Sunday, but I'm not sure."

Of greatest importance for the CSC team leader is to remain on track with Tour de France preparations. "I want most of all to be able to do all the work I need to do to have good legs before the Tour de France," he noted.

Boonen to ride Vuelta

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) will skip the Tour de France this year in favour of the Vuelta, where he hopes that he will gain "five to ten percent" in strength afterwards. In the meantime, he will ride Brussel-Ingoogigem and the Route du Sud in the lead up to the Belgian championships on June 29. Next year, the Tour is a possibility.

Verbrugghe looking for stages

Plagued by injury and illness in the spring, Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo) will enter the Tour de France with plenty of ambition, but not for the general classification. Directeur sportif Claude Criquielion explained that the team will be ready to go on the attack in July. "It's best to set some realistic objectives," he told La Dernière Heure. "We're going to the Tour with a team of fighters who are also capable of working for McEwen in the sprints."

Verbrugghe had a good return to competition after his stage 3 crash in the Giro d'Italia which forced him out of the race. The Belgian raced the Tour of Luxembourg, where he was able to keep pace despite the lack of racing in his legs. But, as Claude Criquielion explains, "if he starts the Tour at 80% of his ability, he would likely have to forget the general classification."

Verbrugghe spent the past week training in the south of France, testing his climbing legs at a training session based in Perpignan. He will line up for Lotto-Domo at the Belgian national championships at the end of the month, along with Axel Merckx and the rest of the team's Belgian contingent.

Van Moorsel in the wind tunnel

Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel is currently in full preparation for her second attack on the World Hour Record in Mexico, scheduled for October this year. The Dutch star tried to beat Jeannie Longo's mark of 45.094 km in September 2001 in Manchester, but came up short. This year, Van Moorsel has spent most of the season preparing with a view to bettering Longo's record, and recently underwent wind tunnel testing in Apeldoorn.

She was surprised with some of the results, which showed that with small changes to her position, helmet and even hairstyle, she could save up to eight percent of her power. "Normally I don't believe in such things," said Van Moorsel to ANP. "But I'm happy that I have done so. We have now discovered things that we would not have come up with."

One of the more surprising things was the optimal helmet design for Van Moorsel. It was found that a 30 year old helmet resulted in a better aerodynamic advantage than a modern one [ed: this must make the UCI happy on several counts]. "I look like crazy Lowietje [a comic book character] with that helmet," she said. "But we must realise that it's for a good purpose."

Van Moorsel will do more tests on June 17 in conjunction with the Free University in Sloten.

Echavarri unsure of iBanesto's future

After over twenty years in the professional peloton, the team of José Miguel Echavarri could be coming to a close. Title sponsor iBanesto.com will end its support for the team at the end of the 2003 season, and the team's fate remains unknown. The team, which began as the Reynolds formation in 1980, has seen its share of champions, including Tour de France winners Pedro Delgado (1988) and Miguel Indurain (1991-1995).

Although negotiations with potential title sponsors are ongoing, Echavarri has yet to seal a deal. "Nothing is definite," he said in an interview with Marca. "There are good companies that are studying our proposal, and that gives us confidence, but at the moment nothing is settled."

"I've taken the situation with both tranquility and optimism," Echavarri explained, "although I know this is a bad time to be looking for support. I've told my riders that I am not negotiating until after the Tour. If in August we don't have anything then I will tell them the situation, but until then we must concentrate on the Tour."

Echavarri also knows that if the team can't carry on in its current form next year, a substantial period of time will be required to rebuild and create a new formation. "A proper investment would be at least five years," he said. "That's what's needed to create a new generation [of riders]. One thing I know is that we would have to return to the amateur ranks to develop our own riders."

Hondo on the mend

German national champion Danilo Hondo (Telekom) is mending slowly after his crash in stage 3 of the Tour of Germany. Hondo suffered injuries to his arms, legs, and face after hitting a guard rail at speed. Hondo is back on the bike, but the recovery is far from complete.

"Yesterday I rode for two hours easily, but braking and changing gears is still painful," he explained on the team's web site. "I had a lot of bad luck. I was in the hospital in bed for four days and had to rest completely, but now I think the injuries are starting to heal."

(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)