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87th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 1 - 23, 2000


Previous stories

Tour News for July 25

More post Tour comments and views

By Tim Maloney, cyclingnews.com correspondent

Zabel's record fifth

The jersey winners
Photo: © AFP

"For me and the Telekom team, it was a great Tour this year. We want to thank the fans in Germany and France," said Erik Zabel (Telekom), who took his 5th consecutive Maillot Vert in winning the points classification over Robbie McEwen (Farm Frites) and Romans Vainsteins (Vini Caldirola). Zabel also won a stage in a sprint finish and continued to show his power in bunch sprints.

Telekom enjoyed a few days with Le Maillot Jaune on the back of the popular Italian Alberto Elli, and as for Tour runner-up Jan Ullrich, there must be some satisfaction in finishing 2nd. In fact, three weeks before the Tour, Ullrich's form was questionable. So questionable, in fact, that he was worried about his ability to even finish a tough three week race. But in the end, Ullrich's tenacious nature and his class as a rider saw him improving daily.

"I can't be anything but satisfied with my second place," said Ullrich after the conclusion of Le Tour 2000. " I'm already thinking of 2001; anything will be possible (then)."

French and Spanish success (or not)

French hopes soared with two stage wins in this Tour; a gutsy solo effort from Momo Agnolutto (AG2R Prevoyance) in Limoges and dramatic, emotional win from Richard Virenque (Polti) in Morzine. Virenque was an excellent 6th on GC, the 2nd Frenchman, while his Polti teammate Herve was 12th. Christophe Moreau (Festina) also had an excellent Tour to finish 4th, as many observers thought the lanky Frenchman would crack along the way, but his solid ride to Courchevel and an excellent 3rd place in the final TT showed that Moreau was the real deal.

As was his surprising Festina teammate Joseba Beloki. After a win in the TT at the Tour de Romandie, the Basque Beloki looked to be a young man on the way to the top, and his 3rd place overall in this year's Tour De France had his Festina team director Juan Fernandez smiling. Beloki didn't show himself much in this Tour; he just stayed on the wheels, rode a smart, conservative race and protected his third spot on GC. Is the 26 year old Beloki a threat for the future in the Grand Tours? Probably, but he'll need to confirm his Tour performance going forward for the top men like Armstrong and Ullrich to take him more seriously.

Another young Spaniard emerged at Le Tour this year - Francisco Mancebo (Festina). His top 10 GC finish and climbing and TT talents put Mancebo in the same category as Botero and Beloki. But despite Cente Garcia-Acosta's Bastille Day stage win in Draguignan, Banesto had a major disappointment this year with Zülle. The powerful Swiss stankovite just didn't have it when it counted. Nor did his Banesto teammate El Chaba Jimenez. In fact, after El Chaba dominated the Volta Catalunya in late June, he looked like he would be a real dangerman at Le Tour, but it was not to be.

Even more disappointing at Le Tour was the performance of O.N.C.E. They had one moment of glory in the St.Nazaire team time trial, but after taking over the Maillot Jaune for Laurent Jalabert, O.N.C.E boss Manolo Saiz let it go after one stage in a fit of pique. But Jaja and his co-O.N.C.E leader Olano finished the 2000 Tour.

"I'm happy to be here," Jaja said in Paris. "But I've no regrets; the (lost) Maillot Jaune happened so long ago that it's forgotten." As likely the Grand Tour ambitions of both Jalabert and Olano must be; both riders could not compete on the top level at this year's highly competitive Tour De France and probably need to look elsewhere for their big wins in the future.

Kelme - number one

Unquestionably, the best team in the race was Kelme, who won the Team GC competition; every day as the race progressed, one, two and sometimes four Kelme riders were up the road, attacking hard and making an impact. Although Fernando Escartin didn't make it pack to the podium this year, Maillot Pois Santi Botero has emerged at 26 as a man to watch in the future. Winning the Best Climber's jersey and winning Stage 14 win was a major breakthrough for the Colombian. As for Kelme's Javi Otxoa, he was runner-up in the Climber's classification and won stage 10. Kelme was focused and their all for one, one for all approach to the 2000 Tour De France was admirable.

Stage winning teams

Some teams like Mapei and Rabobank came with few GC illusions and just wanted to win as many stages as possible. Despite some internal issues, Mapei ended up on top with 4 stage wins; two by sprinter Tom Steels, one from Paolo Bettini and the prestigious final stage in Paris. On the Champs-Elysées, Mapei teamwork thwarted Erik Zabel and delivered the biggest win of his career to Stefano "Zaza" Zanini.

"It's too great," a delighted Zanini told cyclingnews.com after the win.

Combativity

Rabobank's Erik Dekker was awarded the marketing prize as the most combative rider; his amazing three stage wins at Le Tour 2000 and the overall attacking style of the boys in orange did liven up Le Tour. Combined with Leon Van Bon's win in stage 6, Rabobank also came away with four stage wins.

Toto Commesso (Saeco) was rewarded for his attacking at long last on stage 18 into Fribourg. In front of massive crowds, the stocky little puncher slugged his way to a win over another young talent Alex Vinokourov (Telekom).

Pantani: Quo Vadis?

What can one think of Marco Pantani? The Mercatone Uno rider, winner of the '98 Tour De France came in after a weird re-entry to cycling at the Giro d'Italia. He suffered at first in Le Tour due to his lack of base conditioning. But as Pantani came into shape, he began to emerge as a major player. In a controversial "gift", Pantani took the mountaintop finish in perhaps the toughest stage at Le Tour 2000 atop Le Mont Ventoux. Following this, Pantani's brilliant climb to win his 2nd stage in Courchevel showed what he was capable of when the Italian reaches his top level of fitness.

However, his strange aggressive race on Stage 16 and the verbal jousting with Armstrong may have set the stage for an overly exaggerated rivalry with Lance in the years to come. Let's hope for the sake of the stability of Le Tour that Armstrong and Pantani can make their peace and come back to race without the polemics in Le Tour 2001.

A rebuilding year

So if the 1999 Tour De France was a year of re-birth for the worlds greatest cycling show, 2000 must be considered a rebuilding year. There was renewed enthusiasm among the French public, the massive crowds in Germany, a new influx of fans from America coming to support their hero Lance and the future excitement to come from the impending bike battles between Armstrong and Ullrich. Like Lance and Jan, we can't wait until next year!

Blijlevens DQ'd

Bobby vs. Jeroen
Photo: © AFP

Polti's Jeroen Blijlevens was disqualified after the finish in Paris after he started a fight with Bobby Julich and struck him several times in the head. The Tour jury disqualified him not only in the last stage classification, but also in the overall classification. So there were only 127 finishers in this year's Tour.

"Julich hindered me intentionally several times, the same as Backstedt did on Saturday. I wanted to talk to him after the race, but he keep nagging me. I gave him some friendly taps," said Blijlevens afterward.

Leblanc: most beautiful since '89

Tour director, Jean-Marie Leblanc was full of enthusiasm about this year's event, calling it the "most beautiful Tour since 1989" when Lemond won by 8 seconds over Fignon in the final time trial. "I'm very glad about the motivation of the riders and the team leaders. I saw a new awareness within the peloton regarding cycling and racing, as well as for doping too."

Next year, Leblanc has decided do cut the numbers in the Tour even more, but allow more teams to start. He has said that there will be 22 teams next year, of 8 riders each for a total of 176 riders.

Prizemoney - who got what

The final division of the FF 12 million ($US 1.7 million) in prizemoney that the Tour de France had on offer this year has been made. The yellow jersey team of US Postal came out on top as expected with $US 335,000 for the win. They were followed by Telekom with $US 260,000 and then Festina and Kelme with approximately $US 200,000 each. Bottom of the list was wildcard entry, Memorycard-Jack&Jones, who still managed to come away with $US 11,700.

The following is the final breakdown in US Dollars.

1 US Postal Service       360,315
2 Telekom                 261,800
3 Festina                 205,658
4 Kelme-Costa Blanca      202,525
5 Rabobank                 83,610
6 Banesto                  76,883
7 Mapei-Quick Step         72,463
8 Polti                    60,448
9 Lotto-Adecco             44,243
10 Vini Caldirola          41,378 
11 Farm Frites             37,298
12 Cofidis                 34,468
13 Saeco-Valli&Valli       34,098
14 Ag2r-Prevoyance         32,198
15 ONCE-Deutsche Bank      31,008
16 Credit Agricole         29,453
17 Mercatone Uno           29,155
18 Francaise des Jeux      28,288
19 Bonjour-Toupargel       24,480
20 Memory Card-Jack&Jones  11,688    

Stay tuned...

Le Tour 2000 is not over yet for cyclingnews.com. In the coming days, we'll be posting more views, news, analysis and a few little surprises. Don't go away!

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