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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for July 23, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
Rest Day 2 wrap up
On Monday, July 22, there was some much needed rest for the riders before their final six days in the Tour, which includes three tough stages in the Alps, a very hilly transition stage followed by a time trial, and then the grand finale in Paris. This edition of the Tour has really been run in two halves, with the sprinters enjoying the action in the first 10 stages, and the climbers coming to the fore in the final 10. Factor in the July heat and the high average speed (41.478 km/h) so far, it's been one of the fastest and toughest Tours to date.
Once again, Lance Armstrong has shown himself to be the best climber in the Tour, and has more than made up for his surprise loss in the Stage 9 time trial, and his crash in Stage 7. He now leads the race by 4'21 to Joseba Beloki, who simply has had no answer to Armstrong's explosiveness on the climbs. His one and only attempt to attack the Maillot Jaune ended in disaster on Mont Ventoux, as Armstrong immediately countered and put nearly 2 minutes into the Basque rider by the top. However, at least Beloki was not afraid to try.
With Lampre's Lithuanian strong man Raimondas Rumsas moving into third on GC, the race in the Alps will be tough for Beloki to hang on to second place. Rumsas is a good time trialist too, and could well overhaul Beloki by the finish.
Other standout performances have included Ivan Basso's consistent riding to claim the white jersey of Best Young Rider, and he now has a 6'05 lead over French champion Nicolas Vogondy. The battle for the Maillot Vert is poised between Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen, who are both on 229 points with McEwen in green at the moment by virtue of having more high stage placings than Zabel. That competition will go down to the wire on the Champs Elysees, as it did last year.
For the mountain points competition, Laurent Jalabert is leading with a total of 167 points, compared to Lance Armstrong's 114 points. Although Lance is obviously the best climber in the race, Jalabert is the best opportunist, and has done some incredible rides in the Pyrenees to take the lead in the Maillot Pois, which have also given him the Most Combative Rider classification. This is not given a special jersey, but the leading rider gets to wear a special red number.
More comments from Ventoux
Richard Virenque (Domo-Farm Frites, 1st)
"To win on the Ventoux, that feels heavenly. I admit I got the shivers while riding up there every now and then. When I knew Armstrong had started to chase, I thought: He's going to eat me alive! But luckily I found a bit more courage in those final kilometres. I think I gave my supporters a nice Sunday afternoon. Also my sponsors and manager Patrick Lefevre. They kept faith in me. This is my thank you."
Joseba Beloki (ONCE, 8th at 4'05)
"I fought on the moon and lost to an astronaut! Very few times before I have made so many mistakes on one and the same mountain. It's over now. When I thought the time was right, I sent Azevedo forward. But when the Americano countered I was powerless. I tried to follow my own team mate Pradera in vain; I had no more strength left in my legs. I will now try and hold on to second place...To be the best after the greatest, that's something too."
Christophe Brandt (Lotto-Adecco, 34th at 9'23)
"I know it might sound overly modest but really, I still don't know myself," young Christophe Brandt told the press after he finished first Belgian on top of the Mont Ventoux on Sunday. The Lotto rider finished 34th at 9'23'' and is now ranked 42nd on the classification at 31'31". This is not bad for a Tour debutant who has been preparing the sprints for McEwen for the last two weeks, and who was waiting for Aerts on the Aubisque, the first of the Tour cols.
He has been noticed as being an extremely hard working and very talented young rider, able to finish in the Tour of Italy after doing an immense load of work for Rik Verbrugghe.
"I always feel stronger after the stage is finished. The second week of the Tour is going a lot better than the first one. In the mountains, I feel fitter than what I do pushing the big gear on the flat," says Brandt, who is currently ranked fourth in the Young Rider Classification. "I think I'm most fitted to ride Tours," he admits shyly "But I really don't dare to predict that I'll be going for GC one day. A top Top-10 finish? You won't even hear me say that. My first Tour de France isn't finished yet! And by the way, do they call this a stage with a flat start until the first and only climb of the day? I haven't seen one bit of flat road!"
Stage 15: Vaison-le-Romaine - Les deux Alpes preview
By Tim Maloney, European editor
After a rest day to recover from Ventoux, this 7 hour stage concludes in a mountain top finish at Les deux Alpes, Stage 15 starts at 10:20 in the quaint town of Vaison-la-Romaine and heads east across the mountains of Haut-Provence, then up into the Vercours region to the Cat 3. Col de Prémol (2.2 km/5.5%), up the Gorges du Gats to the cat. 2 Col de Grimone (11.5 km/4.8%) after 116 km, then after two more Cat 3. climbs, Stage 15 climbs into the rugged Massif des Ecrins via the Cat. 2 Col d'Ornon (9.8 km/4.8%) and the final assault up to the Cat 1. Les Deux-Alpes (11.5 km/6.1%).
Marco Pantani took charge of the Tour here with his stage win in 1998.
54 controls made on rest day
During the Tour's second rest day in Avignon (and its surrounds), 54 riders from seven teams were subjected to health controls by the UCI. The teams tested were Ag2r-Prevoyance, Domo-Farm Frites, Mapei-Quick Step, Lampre-Daikin, Lotto-Adecco, Credit Agricole and Rabobank. All riders were declared healthy enough to continue the race.
Robin Williams on Tour
By Jeff Jones in Lodeve
American comedian Robin Williams is one of Lance Armstrong's good friends, first getting to know him five years ago while he had cancer, and remaining in contact ever since. He has been to the Tour de France several times to watch Lance in action, and during the rest day went for a spin around Vaison-la-Romaine with the Maillot Jaune.
Williams was a popular figure in the village depart in Lodeve, before the start of the Tour's 14th stage that finished on Mont Ventoux. He was by no means media shy, and was happy to give his thoughts on cycling, the Tour and Lance. All in his very best franglais, much to the amusement of the French, who could barely control their laughter while throwing him questions.
Williams had never seen the legendary 'Geant of Provence' before, "Today will be the first time. Last year I saw Alpe d'Huez. It's incredible it's like this [vertical slope with his hand]," he said. Although his favourite Armstrong did not win yesterday, you can be sure that Robin Williams enjoyed the action as it unfolded.
What do you prefer? Lance, or the Tour de France, or cycling...? "All of them together. For me coming here to see him in the Tour de France it's the best. Meilleur event sportif pour moi. But that's for me. I love the Coupe Mondiale. But for cycling the Tour is just an incredible superhuman effort, not just one day like the New York Marathon. This is 21 days, chaque jour, five marathons, the mountains, and you add to that extreme sport. Comme la Raid Gauloise. Alors, c'est nécessaire pour moi, le Raid Gauloise, c'est le Français. C'est nécessaire pour moi un bouteille de vin, un cigarette, cyclisme..."
In spite of the parody and the bad French, there is no doubt that Robin Williams is a big fan of the Tour de France. "I love it. It's carnival here. I love the ladies, who are sitting on the cars going up the mountains, 'alors!' and they start taking the turns and you see them [starts swaying]...it's amazing. You have the Louvre, and then you have Freddo pommes frites. It's Disney on wheels. 'Alors Mickey, alors. Alors ici, alors. C'est nécessaire..." [becomes le Raid Gauloise again].
What about Lance Armstrong himself, he seems to have this aura around him, people are attracted to him? Why?
Williams thinks that his recovery from testicular cancer has a big part to play. "It's like that article in USA Today - Lourdes on Wheels. Because of what he did, because of overcoming that. I think it's like a healing aura but it's more a motivational aura. If he did that then you can too. If you go to the Ride for the Roses you see the people who have, survivors, people who have beaten cancer and go on to do extraordinary things like he's done. That's where you get it. That's the aura, it's an energy, like a life force. You see it - it's a physical thing."
"It is amazing but it's more important for us to be here and see all of this. Every one of these guys riding today - they are all extraordinary athletes. It's just that he has that extra thing."
"If you see a guy riding 120 miles in the mountains you've got to take a moment and go 'alors, c'est formidable. C'est fantastique, chaque cycliste.'"
"It's amazing stuff. And riding bikes - it's fun to do but when you get this level it's way beyond that. They've been in a seat for a long time and after a while your testicles go [whispers] 'Finished. I gotta go now. I can't feel my ass.'"
Williams rides "about 110 miles [175 km] a week. I live in San Francisco so there's a lot of mountains and hills and things you can go up. It's easy to ride in San Francisco because you can go over the Golden Gate Bridge. For me it's fun. A lot of celebrities play golf - that's their silent time. For me getting on a bike is peace, it's very calm. It's also great because you can go 'seul' for so long. Pour moi c'est nécessaire.
But isn't cycling in America a lot less popular than it is in France? "No, they love it. They're really knowing it and they're starting to build up programs like in France where they've got La Jeunesse. Quinze annees before, soccer was like - 'good luck'. And the little kids who played soccer 15 years ago are the Americans who beat Mexico and went to the final 16. C'est nécessaire pour les Americains to build a program and that's what they're doing in cycling. Young kids are coming out and competing in cycling and long distance racing and they're building teams the same way."
What about the Lance Armstrong movie? "I'm 51 I can't do that movie. Pour moi, c'est un spectateur. I hope there is a movie for Lance, about Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France. It would be a great film for me. If you get someone great to do it, it would be great. But you don't want a movie of the week..."
Maybe we could see Williams in the role of Johan Bruyneel? He'll have to brush up on his Dutch though.
Voet on Tour
Former Festina soigneur Willy Voet is on holidays in the Alps and saw his 'son' Richard Virenque winning the stage to the Mont Ventoux on television. "But one kilometer before the finish line I couldn't watch it any more and took a jump in the swimming pool. Do you understand? I still think often about the good things we had together. I spent more time with Richard than with my own kids."
Voet told Belgian radio: "In September I start my new job, as a bus driver, bringing kids to school. I'm glad I have work again after four years. I could support my family from the royalties of my books; but I needed money too for the lawyers and the fine. And I had to pay 54 percent as tax. But I don't complain, my wife worked too."
Since the Festina affair Willy Voet hasn't spoken to Virenque. Maybe Willy Voet will see Richard on Tuesday, as he will be a spectator on the parcours.
Seven teams still with nine riders
With six stages to go in the Tour, there are now 163 riders left in the race from 189 starters. The Pyrenees claimed a number of victims, while the Mont Ventoux stage only claimed one (Peter Luttenberger of Tacconi, who was suffering from ankle problems).
US Postal, Rabobank, iBanesto, Telekom, Domo-Farm Frites, Cofidis and Jean Delatour still have the maximum complement of nine riders, while at the other end of the scale, Mapei-Quick Step, Kelme-Costa Blanca, Tacconi Sport Alessio have lost three riders apiece. Bonjour, Lotto-Adecco, Lampre-Daikin and Euskaltel each have seven riders, while ONCE, CSC-Tiscali, Crédit Agricole, Fassa Bortolo, FdJeux.com and Ag2r have eight riders.
US Postal top the prize money stakes
After a strong second week, the US Postal team is now leading on the prize money standings. The Posties have accumulated a total of 46,844 euros through the efforts of Lance Armstrong (three stage wins, one second and one third place and four days in yellow). They are followed by ONCE, who have 39,043 euros, then first week leaders FDJeux.com, with 32,275 euros. The Euskaltel-Euskadi team have not done too well so far, languishing in 21st place with 8,901 euros.
Armstrong to ride two post Tour criteriums
Lance Armstrong will ride two post Tour criteriums in the Netherlands. On the rest day Armstrong signed contracts to appear in Stiphout and Chaam, on July 30 and 31.