Tour de France, Grand Tour

France, July 3-25, 1999

Stage 19, Futuroscope ITT, 57 kms:

American Lance Armstrong showed his domination of this Tour once again when he won the final Time Trial over 57 kms around futuroscope, near Poitiers. In doing so he complete the "treble" - Prologue and two time trials. He is the first rider to achieve this result since Miguel Indurain performed the feat in 1992. Armstrong has now won 4 of the 19 stages and if he wins tomorrow will be the first person to do that since 1984 when French rider Laurent Fignon in 1984. It is likely that he will become the second American (after 3-times winner Greg LeMond) to win the Tour de France.

Armstrong rode the course in a blistering average time of 50.085 km/h and narrowly beat Switzerland's Alex Zülle with his US Postal team mate Tyler Hamilton a distant third. Hamilton too has been strong in the ITTs in this Tour. But not as strong as his team captain.

The only significant change in the standings was the dropping of Fernando Escartin to third place and the elevation of Alex Zülle to second. Escartin lost nearly 4 minutes to Zülle (who was 1.14 down on him before the start). The roads were flat and suited the pure time triallers. The podium looks to be decided: Armstrong first, then Alex Zülle at 7.37 with Escartin achieving his best Tour finish in 9 times at 10.26 in third.

The race could have been much closer had Alex Zülle not lost over 6 minutes on Stage 2 when he become entangled in the crash. While Lance Armstrong has been the dominant rider throughout, that crash and time loss to Alex Zülle (and others) places the American's performance more squarely in the strong category rather than "out of this world". This is emphasised by the relatively close ITT performances that Alex Zülle and Lance Armstrong have put it. The French have still to win a stage and it is likely that they will not do so - the first time since 1926.

The big loser of the day was world time trial champion Abraham Olano who finished at 2.19 in 6th place. He has been without form in this Tour.

Armstrong said afterwards: "It's a very special day with my mother and lots of friends being here. This was my last tour de force in this Tour de France. Tomorrow, all the team will look after me. It's almost won."