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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for July 28, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones & John Stevenson
Stage 19 wrap up and post stage comments
Lance Armstrong took his fourth stage win in this year's Tour, gaining the 19th stage time trial from Regnie-Durette to Macon. The Maillot Jaune clocked a time of 1:03:50, an average speed of 47 km/h to beat an excellent but unlucky Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre) by 52 seconds, and Hungarian specialist Laszlo Bodrogi (Mapei) by 1'06. Rumsas experienced problems with his handlebars coming loose during the stage, and had to be content with second place and third overall.
Thus, Armstrong goes into tomorrow's grand finale on the Champs Elysées with a 7'17 lead over Joseba Beloki and 8'17 on Rumsas, a bigger winning margin than in the previous two years.
Lance Armstrong (US Postal, stage winner & race leader)
I wasn't totally convinced that I could win, especially after the first time check I thought that perhaps Rumsas was really going strong and was super motivated at the opportunity to pass Beloki in the GC. But I tried to stay calm and come home strong. If I did my best and got to the finish line and got second today, it wouldn't be an empty Tour de France.
I was disappointed after the first time trial, as I said. But I wasn't out for revenge and I wasn't angry that people said, "oh look, he's lost his skills in the time trial, he's lost his ability to win the big time trials or the long time trials in the Tour de France." I wasn't out for any sort of vengeance.
Full transcript of Lance Armstrong's post-race press conference
Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali, 11th at 2'46")
"I'm pretty sick right now, so I don't feel so hot. It was a hard course, hot, a hard stage... I'm having some chest problems and I have a lot of congestion. If this wasn't the Tour de France, normally I wouldn't have even started today.
"The team was very supportive. Anything I could do here in the Tour was icing on the cake. I did a good Giro, and I've never done back to back tours. So it was really a question mark whether I could handle both. It's hard doing GC for both tours back to back, because that means you have to have six weeks without a bad day. Who's done that recently? I think the last guy to do it was Pantani. I got sick during the most crucial part of the race, last week, which in this year's Tour de France was by far the most difficult."
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank, 14th at 3'13")
"It was really tough, not a lot of rhythm to it. You had to accelerate on all the little uphills and then recover and do it again. It was hard to get into a rhythm, and my legs just didn't feel that great today, and I just suffered really.
"The climb was pretty hard. Usually I never really start very strong, so it was hard for me.
Leipheimer started the Tour as a strong favourite for a podium place. He had this to say on the race overall: "I probably could have been a couple places higher, looking back, but I could have also have been fifteen places lower. I can be content with this. It's difficult to finish third in my first (three week) tour in the Vuelta, and everybody expects a lot. To come and get 8th in the Tour de France, I think that's a pretty good confirmation. I know that I have the potential to be higher.
"I never really felt super (throughout the Tour). I felt solid and strong, but... the last part of Mont Ventoux and Les Deux Alpes and La Plagne, those three stages. I really hit my peak there. That was great timing because those were some pretty hard stages.
"Besides today, I felt stronger in the second half of the race, which I think is good. That makes me a good three week rider, because in the first part I did well, but I wasn't super. Then I could feel everyone else slow down a little bit and I just went better.
"In the Vuelta I just stumbled upon third place. I knew I was good going into it, but I didn't know I would come out in third place. I went in with nothing to lose, and just went for it 100 percent. Here I came in with something to lose and more pressure, and I survived that, so I think that's a positive sign that my first time under pressure I came out all right. It'll only get easier, I think.
"(This year I'll do) some world cups and the Tour of Holland, and some smaller races. I'll probably stop by the third week of September.
"Sometimes people expected a lot, like the Dutch press expected a lot. It's tough when you ride well once, then they expect more of you. Like Erik Dekker was saying, if he doesn't win a stage in the Tour people are disappointed.
"I am very satisfied. Like I said, if I had ridden perfectly looking back, I could have placed two, at the most three spots higher. I don't think I had the legs to be three or four in the Tour. But to come close to riding, not a perfect race, but consistent..."
Belgians react to stage win drought in Tour 2002
For the first time since 1997, no Belgian rider has won a stage in this Tour de France, and despite a couple of strong days, Axel Merckx is the Tour's top Belgian in 28th place and 45 minutes adrift. Nevertheless, the race's other Belgian riders are putting a brave face on it, more or less.
Marc Wauters (Rabobank) told the Belgian press, "I ride for Rabo and I'm happy with our success here. Michael Boogerd, a very good cyclist, had to wait for 6 years to get that stage-win. I won last year."
An obviously tired Nico Mattan (Cofidis), on the other hand, has had enough, saying, "I don't know if I'll be back. This circus has no use for spring riders. Look at the names of the winners. Today (Friday) I wanted to try something but I was in trouble right away. Also Baldato and Bortolami did it tough. The team management came and asked me how I'm going. I told them I'm getting close to race day number 82. I already rode 62 races before the start of the Tour. Botero might have 17 or something. I'm not fresh anymore, not in the head, not in the legs. Hopefully I will reap the rewards of three weeks suffering afterwards. Otherwise this has all been for nothing."
Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre-Daikin) has been just doing his job: "I had to protect the third spot of Raimondas Rumsas on Friday. And in the mass-sprint I worked for Jan Svorada. I have no problem with that; I worked for the team because that was my mission. It does niggle a bit when you have the right legs and you can't try something, I have to admit that. I think I'm among the fresher riders in the peloton." Ludo grins: "It's a pity the Tour doesn't last another week; preferably with flat stages!"
Serge Baguet (Lotto) admitted he was disappointed with his lack of a stage win "[Friday's] stage was the only chance for me in these three weeks. Not one moment I got given the opportunity to go for a stage win. After four kilometres, it was over for me. For riders like me, this was a rotten Tour. I knew that the moment I saw the schedule. For Lotto-Adecco things did work out just perfectly. A stage win and the Green Jersey, for which I worked very hard too. My personal ambition hasn't been filled in. This is not a good year for me. In 2001 everything went my way, now everything is going wrong," said the winner of the 2001 stage to Montluçon.
No post-Tour criteriums for Mario Aerts
Mountains jersey runner-up Mario Aerts (Lotto-Adecco) has told Gerrie Van Gerwen, the Dutch criterium promoter not to count him in for any of the post Tour criteriums.
In contrast to, for example, Robbie McEwen, who will be riding virtually every criterium on the agenda, Mario has chosen not to take any risks.
"I refuse to ride that type of race this year. I want to do well in the second part of the season. Riding over those types of parcours, the cobbles, etc... it's no good for your form. My behind is hurting enough as it is. I don't know how much money I'm saying no to; didn't even ask. But I'm not risking anything for some quick bucks. My only problem is that I'll be without competition for two weeks. My first race will be San Sebastian. I want to prepare there for the Championships of Zürich. I hope that the team directors lift the boycott."
"A dreamlike good-bye" for Jaja
Laurent Jalabert will be enjoying every metre of racing that takes him to the final finish line of the Tour de France this year. The French star is extremely happy with the Polka dot jersey.
"I've never been a winged climber. I regard this climber's jersey as a symbol of my combativeness. This shirt is the one for the strategist. The bold one. Two years in a row I have proven that you don't need to be the first on the Tourmalet or Galibier to win this jersey. Anyone who can ride offensively can obtain this jersey. Like my last rival in the Alps, Mario Aerts.
"I leave this last Tour with a trophy. That was what I was aiming for at the start in Luxembourg; even though I didn't get that stage-win. I'm looking forward to the final podium underneath the Arc De Triomphe on the Champs-Elysées. I've always hoped to finish my career with something as tangible as this jersey. Fit for a winner. Until the World Championships I will keep on racing focused. But even a rainbow jersey won't make me change my mind. It is time to share the life of my family. I truly hope I will be spoken to as "Jaja" in thirty years from now; like Poulidor is still named "Poupou" by the public. That is the nicest proof of having done something good on the bike."
Virenque kids as tired as Papa
Behind the scenes, in the Tour village, there were plenty of rider's spouses and girlfriends present. Among them is Richard Virenque's beautiful and very fashionable wife, Stéphanie. She is here to support her husband but the children are her main concern.
"The children are just as tired as Richard" said Stéphanie Virenque, "It's been really nice but today we are going home."
Dario (3) and Clara (5) have been enjoying watching their dad Richard " Lion Heart" Virenque regain his throne in the Tour.
"It was fantastic to see him win the stage to the Mont Ventoux, the nicest stage of this Tour" said Stéphanie proudly. "I was at 5 km from the summit; with my mum and the two kids. I was intensely happy when I saw Richard pass. It's a pity he didn't get that climber's jersey a sixth time, but he can still do that in the years to come. I have known Richard for twelve years now, he was still racing as amateur then. I didn't care about cycling one bit before I met him.
"Now, that's different. Until the children were born; I came to the Tour every year. With a small baby it's crazy, not good for them. Even now it's still a bit much. I notice that Dario and Clara are exhausted. But they thought it was great to see daddy. We stayed at the Domo hotel all the time, that was a real boost to Richard's morale."
"I haven't got a clue whether Dario wants to be a cyclist later." Stéphanie laughs: "He does have the style; he imitates his dad's victory sign perfectly: raises the finger in triumph, so who knows..."
Stage 20 - Sunday July 28: Melun -Paris-Champs-Elysées, 140 km
By Tim Maloney, European editor
Starting at 1:25 in Melun, the final stage of the TdF always offers a jaunt through the Paris suburbs, this time entering the City Of Light from the east and missing that famous shot along the quay with the Eiffel Tower in the background. No matter; once the peloton hits the Champs-Elysées for the final criterium laps, they will fight to the finish for the honour of winning the final Tour stage in Paris.
It's a safe bet that the stage will be animated by the final battle in the Tour 's race within the race for the green points jersey. Just one point separates holder Robbie McEwen from arch-rival Erik Zabel. If the points contest were just a mano a mano struggle then McEwen's superior speed so far this Tour would be all it takes to put him on the top of the points podium in Paris. But Zabel's Telekom team has shown before that it can deliver him to the front of a charging peloton better than any team in the Tour, and that tactical strength may be decisive. Before the Champs Elysees, the duo will also duke it out in what McEwen has already tipped as the most important intermediate sprints of the Tour. This one looks set to go right to the wire.
Cyclingnews' live coverage of the final parade into Paris will start at 13:30 CEST (21:30 Australian EST)