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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for July 17, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
ONCE leaders discuss their hopes
By Chris Henry in Bordeaux
On the Tour's first rest day on Tuesday, July 16, the ONCE team's two principal leaders, Joseba Beloki and yellow jersey holder Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, held a press conference to discuss the race so far and their hopes for the next two weeks. The Spanish duo continued to exhibit the confidence that spurred them to victory in the team time trial and propelled Gonzalez de Galdeano into the race lead. Beloki and Gonzalez de Galdeano fielded questions from the assembled press at the team's hotel after the airplane transfer south from Lorient.
In light of defending champion Lance Armstrong's second place in the individual time trial yesterday, and Gonzalez de Galdeano's impressive fourth place (only 8 seconds slower than Armstrong), the ONCE leaders seemed to have every reason to exude confidence as the Tour's first mountain stages draw near. The following are excerpts from today's press conference.
Q: Do you consider Lance Armstrong to be your only true rival?
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano: I've already spoken about Botero, Sevilla, Rumsas...it's a totally different Tour, it's more open.
Q: Galdeano has previously named Beloki as the leader of the team. Is this still the case?
Joseba Beloki: It's logical that we'll work as a team. The individual time trial is a specialty of Galdeano's, and he performed very well. But there are several other candidates for the Tour on the team.
Gonzalez de Galdeano: The key is that we think of each other during the race. We'll have the advantage if we ride for each other.
Q: Are you any less afraid or do you have less respect for Lance Armstrong after yesterday's time trial?
Gonzalez de Galdeano: I'm not sure that he's the super Armstrong of the past few years. But there is not necessarily any less respect or any more.
Q: Will ONCE work with other teams to beat Armstrong?
Gonzalez de Galdeano: That's difficult. Everybody wants to win the Tour, so it would be difficult to work with other teams.
Q: Are you expecting big things to happen on the Col d'Aubisque on Thursday?
Beloki: I think this year the Pyrenees will be tougher than last year. I think the racing will be faster. We'll see what happens in the mountains in the first and seconds days, certainly there will be many attacks. Since the beginning of the Tour the average speed has been very high. Without doubt it will be the climbers who show their form during these first mountain stages.
Q: Is there a strategy for attacking Armstrong this year? Each year it seems he makes his mark on the first mountain stage and demoralizes the others.
Gonzalez de Galdeano: We have to pay attention and stay alert, because Armstrong will undoubtedly attack. Last year, particularly on l'Alpe d'Huez, I was unable to follow his attacks. This year, along with Beloki, I hope we will truly be in form and we'll be able to follow when he attacks. The key is that each of us thinks of the other rider.
Q: For the first part of the Tour ONCE has been riding hard and you have been riding well. Do you think this could prove counterproductive or too tiring for the next two weeks?
Gonzalez de Galdeano: The team is happy at the moment. There is still work to be done, as we've just passed the first week. The principal objective remains the podium, but if we can go one step higher, all the better.
Q: Do you feel greater pressure, or more responsibility with the absence of Jan Ullrich?
Beloki: This year we see plenty of climbers who are in good form, whereas last year there weren't as many. Ullrich is not here, but there are plenty of others.
Q: Is it still possible to attack early in the mountains? Notably on a day like Stage 12 to Plateau-de-Beille?
Beloki: Surely it's possible, and a rider could escape and gain three or four minutes, which could change the whole Tour. We could do a thousand things tactically. We're a strong team, with other riders like Serrano and Azevedo.
Q: You've said since the beginning that the podium is your primary objective. Why not think of victory?
Beloki: I can't say that the highest step of the podium is the sole objective, because I am not the absolute favourite. I've finished third on two occasions but I was nine minutes behind.
Q: Joseba, are you satisfied being 57 seconds behind Armstrong before the Pyrenees?
Beloki: Perhaps today I am the happiest person. Last year I lost 2:30 to Armstrong in the time trial, this year only 1:30. Furthermore, I made a difference relative to the other riders who are in the same category as me.
Q: Igor, this is the first time you've had this much attention from the press during the Tour. How is it affecting you?
Gonzalez de Galdeano: I feel content and very calm. If you had asked me before I had the yellow jersey, I wouldn't have known. But today I can answer. Yesterday and the first nights, it was hard because it's an enormous sensation. The presence of all the journalists affects me a little because I'm not used to it, and from time to time it's crazy because a journalist asks a question, and later another asks the same question.
Jalabert to retire in October
By Jeff Jones in Bordeaux
Laurent Jalabert (CSC-Tiscali) has announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, contrary to earlier reports that he would continue through 2003. Jalabert made the announcement at a press conference in Bordeaux velodrome during the first rest day of the Tour de France.
When asked why, he replied, "Last year I told myself that to finish on a high level, with the Tour de France that I had done, would be formidable. Everyone dreams of that. But I still wanted to race. I felt in good form at the beginning of the season. I was full of morale. Then I had some health problems."
"I believe that the decision is wise. I've had a long career and my wish is to stop whilst being a respected and respectable racer. I was used to playing the top roles, I do not see myself in a secondary role. I had the spirit to continue at the beginning of year, I was sincere. But, today, this decision is irrevocable. This is a choice in my life."
"I spoke about it with my wife Sylvie, who never asked me to do it but was very happy with my decision. I spoke about it with my brother Nicolas who was on my side, and three days with Bjarne Riis, my directeur sportif, whom I was anxious for to be at my side for this announcement, because there is no funny business."
Jalabert described himself as "ready to turn the page...not at all depressed, even if the moment is a little hard for me. The bicycle, has been my whole life up to now. I would like to rediscover a little more calm in my life but the bicycle always has a big place in my heart."
In future, "I envisage a career as a directeur sportif. But I would like very much to be present at a number of events in the season, the races that everyone dreams of doing."
Jalabert is not sure whether he will remain in Switzerland, or return home to France. "I am very attached to my home but it is true that I have found a balance in Switzerland."
He has few regrets in his very successful career, "I maybe had the potential to win a Tour, I can regret not being the World Champion in Benidorm (1992), but at that moment I was not quite capable. There aren't many regrets."
When asked whether he was motivated for the rest of the Tour, he answered "I don't think I am any less motivated - you saw it in the prologue. My decision was taken at the Midi Libre. I told myself that it was not necessary to regret anything. My aim is to make the sacrifices in the final three months."
In his 14 seasons as a pro, Laurent Jalabert did not consider himself 'unlucky'. "I had some terrible crashes, but in comparison with all the kilometres I rode at all times... It is necessary to have the capacity to come back, rebound, to face the great difficulties when one encounters them. That will serve me well in future."
The future of French cycling is good according to Jalabert, who will leave a big hole when he departs the scene. "There are a lot of French riders with the right qualities, the temperament. I have the impression of discovering my roots when the stars were Fignon, Mottet, Bernard. Just wait a little for the likes of Chavanel, Casar."
Finally at the World Championships in Zolder in October, "I will do the Championships to win them or to help the French team win. If by chance I win, it would be fantastic but that would not change my decision. I would then be the first retired World Champion."
Jalabert is 33 years old, and has won 135 races including a World Time Trial Championship, a Vuelta Espaņa, three editions of Paris-Nice and many, many more.
FdJeux.com tops prizemoney lists after first week
The FDJeux.com team has come out on top in the prizemoney stakes after the first 10 days of racing in the Tour. Marc Madiot's squad has earned 29,347 euros, courtesy of a Brad McGee's stage win, Baden Cooke's numerous top placings, Christophe Mengin's mountains jersey, and Jacky Durand's breakaway riding.
The next best team is Telekom, with 27,211 euros, from Zabel's stage win, yellow and green jerseys. Then comes ONCE with 21,367 euros, followed by Lotto-Adecco (20,645) and US Postal (19.851).
Prize money earned at the Tour so far
Team Euros FDJeux.com 29,347 Telekom 27,211 ONCE-Eroski 21,367 Lotto-Adecco 20,645 US Postal 19,851 Bonjour 18,696 Lampre-Diakin 18,065 Mapei-Quick Step 18,008 Ag2r-Prevoyance 17,817 CSC-Tiscali 17,523 Rabobank 17,333 Kelme-Costa Blanca 15,732 Tacconi Sport 12,191 Domo-Farm Frites 11,043 Credit Agricole 10,685 Cofidis 8,549 Fassa Bortolo 8,141 Alessio 7,016 Jean Delatour 5,869 iBanesto.com 4,358 Euskaltel-Euskadi 1,124
Vierhouten to leave hospital soon
Aart Vierhouten (Lotto-Adecco), who was forced to quit the Tour due to a severe stomach and gut infection, will be able to leave the hospital in Rennes by Thursday at the latest. Vierhouten lost over 20 minutes in Saturday's seventh stage, and did not start on Sunday.
According to Lotto doctor Daniel De Neve "It's going very well with Aart. We are still waiting for the results of a few tests, but I think that he will be able to go home on Wednesday, or at the latest Thursday."
More car problems for De Rooij
Rabobank's team leader Theo De Rooij is not having much luck with cars on this Tour de France. During the time trial yesterday he was driving his Tour issue Fiat behind his top man Levi Leipheimer, when the motor dropped out. It lasted some minutes before it kicked in again, and he was able to catch up to Levi.
"I asked for a new car on Monday because this one was no good," he said to Algemeen Dagblad. "But three of my colleagues have also had car problems. Therefore there are no more reserve cars. But now I really need a good one, which is not like this one!"