90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
2003 Tour de France rider journals
Photo: © Sirotti
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano finished fifth in last year's Tour de France and
was expected to be major protagonist in the centenary edition, but a combination
of a broken collarbone and French bureaucracy has kept him at home, where he
is keenly watching the Tour and sharing his insights on Cyclingnews.
Igors diary is translated from Castellano by Martin Hardie
Tour de France entries
Stage 20 - It's all over
Finally, this Tour has arrived at its end.
It has been a fascinating Tour, and to start with you have to congratulate
all the riders who have been able to finish this centenary Tour. It was a Tour,
but as it was the centenary Tour it had to be different, and it has lived up
to its promise.
Perhaps the result was no different than we expected, as the winner was the
great favourite, and also the second place getter went to the one we presumed
it would. And from the start in Paris everything happened. The first leader
gave us a surprise, and with it launched a race that wouldn't stop until it
returned to its starting point... Paris.
This Tour has crowned Armstrong and placed him in the group of the chosen
ones, in that group that I catalogue as being extraterrestrial, since after
haven ridden two Tours myself, to think that somebody has the capacity to win
five consecutively, is simply incredible.
Now I want to congratulate Armstrong, after winning this tour he has demonstrated
that he still a champion, since this time perhaps he was not so superior, but
it was with his knowledge that he has been able to recover from all of the incidents
along the route and go on to win such a difficult Tour, as he declared he would.
Lance, I invite you to continue riding the Tour since I believe that you are
still you are able to win it a sixth time.
Well done and congratulations to Ullrich for being able to leave behind you
that difficult situation that you have had during the season and to return to
be the great rider that you have always been. Jan, Cycling thanks you for it!
To Vinokourov, you have been the surprise of Tour, congratulations and well
done, not only for finishing on the podium but because of your great season.
Your performance reminds us that it is still possible to go out and be competitive
in more of the season than many of the great riders do.
To the rest, I must mention the great performance of Euskaltel-Euskadi, with
Zubeldia and Mayo who have relaunched the team towards higher things. Euskaltel-Euskadi
are a team that continues growing, and they will have much more to say in the
Also CSC with Hamilton at their head, have had an excellent Tour, winning
the team's classification, winning three stages and obtaining fourth position
in the general classification. Congratulations.
Even without any more in this Tour it would have been more than enough. We
are now waiting for the 2004 Tour, mainly as there have been people who by circumstances
or for other reasons were not able to demonstrate great things in this Tour.
They can try and demonstrate their potential in the next one, a safe one.
I hope to enter that group of riders in 2004, although this year I still have
the Vuelta left, for which I am preparing well, and where I hope to be one of
Until next time and thanks for joining me in watching this great Tour.
Stage 19 - It had to happen
Perhaps I was waiting for this. I'd say that the surprise is that Millar has
won. Not because he does not have the ability...but because after all of the
gambling, the winner was not Armstrong or Ullrich. Armstrong knew how to protect
his advantage. Ullrich fell but still with everything he wouldn't have been
able to close the gap. The chrono did not help him. It was fast, and the differences
between first and tenth were not great.
I give my congratulations to Armstrong. He has been the strongest, although
people will agree with me when I say that he has not been as strong as other
years. But he has demonstrated that he is the most intelligent, and with that
intelligence he has had the strength to win his fifth Tour. I have seen him
enjoy the podium. Possibly, it has cost him more than any other.
As far as the rest are concerned, Zubeldia and Mayo go away with a bad taste
in their mouths. A great Tour but a bittersweet ending. What seemed to be heading
for the podium, has ended up as 5th and 6th.
In the Tour you don't forgive others. And if you forgive, at the end you will
pay for it.
Nevertheless, congratulations to all the cyclists. We needed a Tour like this.
It was all about cycling. The rest has been left behind.
Stages 17-18: The breakaways that hurt
One can see that the relentless march onward of this Tour just doesn't stop.
Yesterday we saw an escape that commenced at the start, but today it was harder
to produce the escape, and perhaps that is what caused the average speed to
be so high.
When it takes so much for the break to come together, the kilometres are agonising
for those riders who are disputing the general classification, or for those
who are very tired, since all they want is some tranquillity after all the stress
they have endured. You sit there and see that everyone seems to want to get
into the escape...that nobody cares about...and it doesn't stop...it just continues
on...and with it the peloton is strung out...and you just sit back and say:
"Will you please get away already!"
These are the kilometres that you do not see on TV, but for the riders these
are the worst types of stages.
Tomorrow it is a special day, it is going to decide the Tour. In favour of
whom? It is not easy. But perhaps if you analyse previous Tours and seeing that
Armstrong has recovered towards the end of the race...well it gives me an idea
of who the winner is going to be.
Ullrich has not yet been able to win one chrono against Armstrong when they
both have equal physical condition...for that reason I believe that aside from
gaining his fifth tour Armstrong is going to be the winner after the chrono.
It is certain that Ullrich is very good, but perhaps he will not take as much
time as he did in the previous, harder chrono. But there will not be much difference
The rest of the positions are now pretty well determined. Perhaps the only
one that will lose out will be Mayo. Surely Hamilton will pass him.
This Tour now is about to arrive at its end. And in the best possible way...with
great suspense as to who will be the winner.
Stage 16 - Wednesday, July 23: Pau - Bayonne, 197.5 km
This Tour does not rest
Each rider has sought his moment in this Tour. Hamilton no less than anyone
else. And what a stage he rode today and as a result he got the most important
reward - the stage victory.
But having the stage doesn't mean things stop there. Now he has put himself
in a position to threaten Vinokourov's third position, and as a result Telekom
had to put almost all the team to work. This Tour does not rest. Hamilton knew
to take advantage of the fatigue that reigns supreme in the teams at this point
of the Tour and until Telekom organized themsleves at the front his time could
not be brought down.Euskaltel, who independently of this are having a great
tour had to really put in an effort to try and maintain their positions in the
general. The Tour does not pardon ayone and all those who aspire to the primary
positions in the overall are great riders.
As I had hoped, this was such a hard stage, but at this point of the Tour these
types of stages don't usually determine much between the strong men. All are
dedicated to defending what they have and to keeping their strength for the
race against the clock this coming Saturday. All believe that will be their
day. The day to defend their positions, and if they have a good day, to improve
their positions. It is normal. They have got many kilometres in their legs,
and unless you are very far off in the general or you have a big day as Hamilton
did, it's better to keep a low profile as you really feel that you would rather
be finished and that it was all over.
Now two stages come that will allow those who fight out the general to recover
and again we will see enter the game those that they want to be protagonists
for a day. There will also be the sprints. They are not going to have an task
easy to try and keep control since in this race at this point, as I have said
before, you have barely any strength and the teams are weakened.
Now we must wait until Saturday. And a fascinating Saturday it will be for
Stage 15 - Monday, July 21: Bagnères-de-Bigorre - Luz-Ardiden,
It was incredible again today!
Falls, attacks, fadings. What more could you ask for? What's more, you could
throw a handkerchief over the lot of them.
Armstrong was intelligent. On the Tourmalet, he kept his cool when Ullrich
attacked and knew not to show how he was feeling, later he did show it when
he was on Luz Ardiden. Look at how strong he was! When he fell, and was left
behind at the tail of the group...and then, in the end, it was he who won!
Perhaps, in the last kilometres of the puerto, Ullrich believed he could reduce
the gap by about 20 seconds. And what we have now is a Tour that is still open
until the final chrono.
But the game is also for 2nd and 3rd position. Vinokourov has been strong
but he had a bad day and he knew enough to maintain his calm so as not to lose
too much time. Perhaps neither Euskaltel did not know enough to take advantage
of the situation, since if they did they didn't work to distance to him more.
Maybe taking into account the bonus time at the end, Mayo has gained some seconds
to move closer to his companion, and they could be important in the end.
From now on, I don't think much will happen and everybody is going to dedicate
themselves to defending until the chrono. But this Tour is different, I have
been wrong and therefore, we will continue to have expectations.
Stage 14: Saint-Girons - Loudenvielle, 191.5 km
How naive I was!
How naive I was... I thought that there would be a decisive move today, a
final outcome after the Peyresourde! Madre mia - how different the Tour seems
from home! But with everything we have seen, we can't help wanting more. But
I think that more might be impossible.
I still cannot forget Beloki. It's a pity. Each day I am more sure that this
would have been his Tour. I am not going to deny to you that I also am sad,
but if somebody could have made a statement here it would have been Beloki,
partly because of his three podium finishes. I have spoken with him and he is
better. Come on Beloki!
Talking of today's stage, you have to emphasise the bravery of Vinokourov.
He is going for the podium, and today he even wanted the yellow jersey. And
it only stayed where it was by a fraction. I still believe in Armstrong but
do not see him as super - he gave no help to Ullrich on the ascent and this
indicates that he is just fair. But as I have commented over the days everything
The podium has moved further away from Zubeldia. Perhaps those attacks of Laiseka
and Mayo prompted the attack of Vinokourov and that in turn has caused Zubeldia's
drift away in the general classification. If Euskaltel-Euskadi want to reach
the podium in Paris they will need to clearly work out which rider has the most
potential to do it.
Tomorrow the Tour may possibly remain as is [on the overall classification],
but it will be necessary to wait for the chrono to ultimately decide the first
By the way, Ullrich to me looks very good.
Stage 13: Toulouse-Axe 3 Domaines (Plateau de Bonascre),
A new rider to succeed Armstrong?
I always have said that when the day arrives in which Armstrong does not win
the Tour, his successor was going to be a new rider. And perhaps I haven't been
completely mistaken. I see this Ullrich as a new rider. Don't you all think
To me he is like he was when he began. A centred, ambitious man who each day
has more options to win this Tour. After winning yesterday, I saw an emotional
Ullrich, like he was when he obtained his first Tour victory. That demonstrates
that he has put his bad times- that case of the positive test and his knee injury
- behind him. A demonstration that he is a champion on and off the bike on which
he has recovered both as a cyclist and person. Cycling has recovered a champion,
and we all have to be happy about that.
Today's stage followed the set script for these types of days. And this Tour
has us hooked. Today we saw the climbers who are not that far off in the general
come into play, and who, aside from looking to improve in the general, are looking
for that stage victory. Today Carlos Sastre was the one awarded with the victory.
But we have seen Armstrong demonstrate again some signs of weakness. The truth
is that at the moment he is defending himself very well, but I must pose a question:
Will he have a bad day? What will happen then? It is necessary not to forget
that in previous Tours he was so superior that the bad days maybe were not noticed.
Today's bad day was for Mayo, however his team mate Zubeldia is looking very
good. Haimar wants to move closer to the podium, although ahead he has a hard
nut to crack. In front of him by 3 minutes, and at the moment looking good to
me, is of course Vinokourov.
The coming stages are very hard and recovery is going to be important.
Mañana mas - Tomorrow more
Stage 12 - Friday, July 18: Gaillac - Cap' Découverte, ITT,
Ullrich shows his candidacy to win the Tour
Did anybody think it was going to happen the way it did? The ride of Ullrich,
incredible! A dream chrono. Differences that we have not seen since the era
of Induráin. What was it? The heat? The hardness of the route? I don't know.
What is clear is that Ullrich has been the best Ullrich of recent years. A Ullrich
that has put himself completely in the race, and has shown his candidacy to
win tour. Take care with Ullrich! A rider with a lot of character and very brave.
And now what? What is Armstrong thinking? It is clear that he has received
a strong psychological blow. He has always been superior at this point of the
Tour, but now he is not. Anyway, Amstrong is a man who in other races, who without
being strongest, has demonstrated to be intelligent and to work very well tactically.
Therefore, the tactics are going to be important in this tour. The climbers
have lost a lot of time. Now it is their turn. I hope that they are not waiting
for somebody to fail, but they provoke any failure. That will give the Tour
a lot of life and vibrancy.
Hacia los Pyreneos - onwards towards the Pyrenees.
Stage 11 - Thursday, July 17: Narbonne - Toulouse, 153.5
The Tour has arrived at its important part.
Today has been a day more of recovery for the men who will dispute the general.
Active recovery. Because it is active, it also clearly serves to wear some of
Today was given back to those that play the game of looking for the glory of
one day. The chosen one was Flecha, and he demonstrated a great conviction to
obtain it. It was a victory that I hope helps a little in their search for a
sponsor for the next few years.
I have seen with joy that my team is recovering from the blow we received from
the loss of Beloki. Today it was Nozal who has been fighting for the victory.
It was not his day but this effort will help liven up the team as they face
the rest of the tour.
Tomorrow, another decisive stage arrives. The individual time trial, which
will be so crucial in the face of the Pyrenees. In principle, I believe that
Armstrong hopes to create some good differences between himself and the climbers
such as Mayo. However, he is going to have two tough competitors. One is going
to be Hamilton, and the other Ullrich, two men who handle themselves well against
the clock and whom I believe still have not said their last word. Vinokourov
is going to be the hidden factor. He is not bad against the clock, but we need
to see how he handles one of this length.
After them will be the Euskalteles, who with Mayo at their head are making
this a great tour. They could be the most prejudiced by the chrono, where it
is assumed Zubeldia will defend better. Although Mayo is not in his terrain,
he will do pretty well. We will see.
For the stage victory, surely good time trialists like Millar and Bodrogui
will enter into the game.
...mañana, the result.
Stage 10 - Tuesday, July 15: Gap - Marseille, 219.5 km
Cheer up, Joseba
I apologise for not writing yesterday but it was not a good day.
I was writing my impressions of the stage when ...Crash!! My companion Beloki
fell. I was shocked, sad and without any power to react. I left everything I
was doing and just stopped still. My mind went back to my fall in Germany, and
I won't deny it...tears fell from my eyes as I cried. You think of what it cost
to prepare yourself, the hard work of training, and so quickly a fall takes
away from you all of your dreams. But sport is like that. I can only say: cheer
up Joseba! You have demonstrated that you are worthy, the best of you is still
to come and you have achieved so much.
Of the others...Armstrong has got rid of an important rival, but for sure
he is not alone in this. We have Hamilton, Mayo and Vinokourov who have earned
a lot of points towards standing on the podium in Paris. But one that we should
not forget is Ullrich. Maybe this is the one man of all of them with the most
intent to aspire to the podium. Firstly, remember that the Tour is a race of
elimination, there remains many difficult stages, and we could see Ullrich go
to the maximum. Both Ullrich and Hamilton could come out of the shadow that
falls behind Armstrong. Mayo will be the man to make the moves in the mountain
as in the first place he has the disadvantage in the chrono, and it is these
changes that will cause to make the race continue to be fascinating.
The Tour continues. Today we have seen a typical stage after such hard ones,
in which the riders that have lost so much time in the general are allowed to
come into the play and with it a victory for Jacob Piil of CSC. Congratulations.
Tomorrow, a day to recuperate strength, as everyone is going to need it.
Stage 8 - Sunday, July 13: Sallanches - L'Alpe d'Huez, 219
An incredible spectacular
Well I wasn't disappointed with this stage!
Today we witnessed an incredible spectacular. I congratulate all the riders
for their effort and for demonstrating to us once again that cycling is a most
Armstrong has demonstrated that he is the dominator, but perhaps the Tour,
at this moment, has a chance of taking a different course. The differences are
not that big. We saw a Beloki who was more attacking, similarly Hamilton.
But the greatest surprise has been Mayo. With strength and rhythm he has taken
a grand victory and in turn profited favorably in relation to Beloki, Armstrong
and Hamilton. It has been years since we have seen a stage that was so interesting.
Today we saw that perhaps Armstrong wanted to sentence the Tour to the same
finale that he did two years ago; he wanted to attack at the bottom of the climb
in an attempt to clear away those behind that challenge him in this Tour, but
his intentions did not culminate with success.
But it is clear that Armstrong has been the only rider who has been capable
of going further in a Tour, unlike his rivals - or those that have maintained
they are his rivals. Now this Tour, after the last four years, appears that
to be more open than ever. Tomorrow, no doubt, we will see how they all recuperate
from this effort.
What is clear is that after today we can expect a vibrant Tour and one overall
much more tactical, and now that their are no great differences at the top of
the general, the possible escapes could worry some more than others. We will
see how the teams move.
Don't miss it!
Stage 7 - Saturday, July 12: Lyon - Morzine, 230.5 km
Hot and Hard
Not as hot and hard as is possible, but what we have seen has been sufficient
to give us an idea of who is now out of the running for the general classification.
First Simoni, later Botero...and that was without even any of the important
riders attacking. Maybe after the first hard week, men like Botero paid dearly
for it in today's first day of the mountains, but I don't think that this is
what has happened to Simoni. In his case it is difficult to ride two grand tours
in the same year and I think that he is now paying for his effort to win the
Taking into account the others, today four teams have demonstrated their good
form: Euskaltel-Euskadi, iBanesto.com, ONCE-Eroski and U.S. Postal.
U.S. Postal will have to defend but the others will have to start thinking
about attacking now that they have riders who could count in the general, but
for others, following my experience, it may be better for them to start looking
for a stage win rather than the general. Although today was the premiere contact,
tomorrow will be a day to look for these attacks. I wait with some anxiety tomorrow's
stage, and I hope that I don't get disappointed.
Virenque has surged back to the top in the Tour. Congratulations, a great
stage and a deserving leader's jersey. As leader he can lift the work off the
shoulders of U.S. Postal and that is good for Armstrong, although in the end
it will be Armstrong who will have to continue to control the Tour. I hope that
tomorrow Armstrong is not going to do what he has usually done on the first
day in the mountains. Attack and leave everyone behind. Not for him, but for
us, the fans, so that it will leave the Tour open and interesting for us to
follow. Because of this, I hope that if anyone creates differences they will
not be too big.
Mañana veremos - Tomorrow we will see.
Stage 5 - Thursday, July 10: Troyes - Nevers, 196.5 km
Forget Mario; Petacchi the next dominator
The Tour doesn't rest. After the team time trial the day before, we saw there
was no time left on the road today for reflection. And with this, the riders
continue in an unstoppable fashion on the road towards Paris.
From the start, there were numerous attempts to get away. All riders in the
Tour seek to be one of the protagonists in one stage or another, and today there
were five valiant riders. Five men who the others must not allow too much time;
they were all good rollers and above all, the synchronisation between them as
they headed towards the finish was always good.
Behind, the peloton had to enlist practically all of the teams in order to
make sure that the possibility of a sprint finish wasn't diminished. Surely
the teams that still haven't gained themselves a win are starting to get nervous,
although when we see the power of Petacchi there seems little that his adversaries
can do at the moment about that. Petacchi has become the next great dominator
of the sprinting world, and its almost as if you could nearly forget the great
Mario and his hegemony in this speciality.
But also another day, another crash; this one has hurt my team-mate Angel Vicioso.
We hope as always that it will prove to be nothing, although the sight of him
coming to the finish without his right hand on the handlebar didn't give me
Tomorrow and the day after are two marathon stages. They will serve to cause
some more wear and tear on the peloton before they confront the Alps. Hard,
of course - but that is what it is like for the cyclists. And without the need
to mention, it will be great cycling.
Hasta la proxima en los alpes - see you soon in the Alps,
Stage 4 - Wednesday, July 9: Joinville - Saint-Dizier, TTT,
A beautiful race
Photo: © Yuzuru Sunada
It's beautiful, isn't it?
I personally love this form of racing. The teams working as a block looking
to take the victory. A different type of victory, one that you can win as a
team and not simply one member in particular. Maybe what we do least in cycling
is achieve more triumphs together.
Congratulations to U.S. Postal for their great time trial. It's known that
together they are a team full of good climbers and pacemakers, but as a team
today they have achieved a great moment. Of course I don't want to lose the
opportunity to congratulate Victor Hugo Peña, my old team mate during my years
at Vitalicio and with whom I have a good friendship. Well done and enjoy the
I don't want to deny my sadness concerning ONCE-Eroski not taking the win.
Of course the leader would have been Beloki and an important victory for all
... but second place is second place. It is almost winning, but in the end you
end up without anything.
But let's try and draw some conclusions: the most positive is for Armstrong,
he has now created some important gaps between himself and his rivals, and he
goes with his team to the front of the race. The second beneficiary is my comrade,
Beloki, in that he is following U.S. Postal in taking time out of his rivals.
But the differences are not great, although the one who was most disadvantaged
is Simoni ... he lost more than three minutes.
The surprise came at the hands of iBanesto.com, who with a renewed team achieved
the highest mark of the day.
However, from now on, U.S. Postal has to defend, and the rest ... well now
we'll see what happens.
Stage 3 - Tuesday, July 8: Charleville-Mézières - Saint-Dizier,
The script continues & TTT predictions
Photo: © Sirotti
These days the script continues ... Yesterday was a fast stage where the race
entered into a fight for the yellow jersey and where it was decided that Nazon
has been elected to wear it until tomorrow.
At the moment I am missing Zabel a little bit, and I hope that soon he will
take his first win in this Tour, but what a phenomenal start for Petacchi! With
the work of his team and his turn of speed we are left in no doubt as to who
controls the sprints at the moment.
Today will be an important day. For me it is less so than last year as it was
on a day like today that I was able to wear the leader's jersey. It is something
that I will never forget in my life, and I assure you all that it still sends
shivers down my spine.
On a day like today it is important that the whole team completely connects
mentally and physically, both riders and the technical crew. The mindset of
everyone has to be to win and the whole team has to work well in order that
each one can give their maximum. The difference between one team and another
is simply that. It is important that the riders do not lose their concentration
as if they do fall behind, they could hold up the whole chrono. But even if
it is difficult to believe it happens with teams, as some can work very well
as a group but still end up in a position that is not as high as they could
And to finish I will predict the outcome of the team time trial only once.
I will say that the candidates to win tomorrow are: US Postal and ONCE-Eroski.
They both fit the bill. But of course you will understand if I tell you that
I would like it if my team wins. But whoever wins will be the best on the day!
Stage 2 - Monday, July 7: La Ferté-sous-Jouarre - Sedan, 204.5
Crash recovery, the CPLD & a tranquil day
Photo: © C.Henry/CN
Talking of crashes... As I commented yesterday, these types of crashes always
result in victims and sometimes the injuries can have a long-term effect. I
feel sorry for Leipheimer, Casper and equally for Hamilton; although he decided
to continue he must have a very painful body.
It makes you furious that after having prepared for the Tour over such a long
time a crash can see months of hard work disappear leaving you with only the
result of having to go home. I have had some experience this year with this.
Well, I am having a few 'experiences' this year...
I am now starting to recover from my
crash. I am training relatively normally after having three weeks without
even touching the bike. I had to go from practically zero and because of that
it is difficult for me to give 100 percent, but I will be in good form for the
Vuelta a España.
On the subject of my second 'experience', it's about, as you may know know,
last year's Tour. The
CPLD (Conseil de Prévention et de Lutte contre le Dopage - the French Council
for the Prevention and Struggle against Doping) decided that my level of salbutamol
was too high. High for them that is, even though to this day the UCI still says
that it was within the rules.
Maybe, after some time has passed I will give my account of the problem, but
for now suffice to say that it shows a problem with the structure of our sport.
We are supposed to be under the rules of the UCI, and so that's what it says
on our licences. But what actually happens is that you have cases before many
different committees, each with its own rules. The criteria have to be unified
so that what governs this sport are the rules of only one governing body. That
way these sorts of injustices would not occur. Not to me, nor to any other sportsperson.
Now today's stage was something atypical for the Tour. In the two Tours I have
ridden I have never seen a tranquil stage. And today was a tranquil stage where
what we saw was a race different to all others, with an escape which was at
1 minute 40 seconds with less than 7 kilometres to go and then was captured
by the peloton at the 4 kilometre mark. Maybe it was that last short steep hill
that took its toll.
Today, victory for Baden Cooke. The Australians have made a very strong start,
and that's even without McEwen taking a stage. Tomorrow's seems pretty safe,
they will ride it faster, but with the strong teams trying to conserve their
strength for the day after tomorrow.
Agur eta bihar arte - goodbye and until tomorrow,
Stage 1 - Sunday, July 6: Saint-Denis/Montgeron - Meaux, 168
Authoritative victory; Unnecessary crashes
Photo: © Sirotti
The days in which are maybe the most attractive for the spectactor have arrived,
and coming with them are these potential crashes, that sadly today have provided
a spectacular show, but also always end up leaving one or more fewer in the
The cause of this type of crash is usually the presence of determined riders
that try to go for the sprint without actually having any companions who can
help them, and without really any options to take the victory. This is what
happens when you have these non-experts who haven't got total control. These
zigzags that they produce in the final kilometres are the things that cause
the crashes: the sprinter to the sprint, the climber to the mountain...and each
rider to his assigned job. That way we would avoid many crashes like that of
Congratulations to Fassa for finishing off their great work with the victory
of Petacchi. A victory achieved with authority. But, today was the first day
in which the sprinter's teams spent a lot of energy working to prevent any early
breakaways. Maybe it is because of a lack of confidence, or maybe it is for
reasons of strategy. We saw how good Zabel, Freire or McEwen all are, and with
the possibility that from tomorrow they will start to work more with these victories
in mind that they all seek so anxiously.
Finally for today, I feel that Zabel will prove to be the strongest man in
the sprint during the length of this Tour. I saw him today after his puncture
and he had the capacity to fight his way back to the front, although in the
end he finished without any luck in the sprint.
Mañana será otro día - Tomorrow wil be another day
Prologue - Saturday, July 5: Paris, Prologue TT, 6.5
The first psychological strikes are made
Paris, Saturday July 5, and at last the nerves of the last week have disappeared,
and then in only six fast kilometres. In the Tour Prologue what is important
is not the difference that you can create between you and your rivals or what
they can take out of you, but it is far more of an initial psychological strike
that you can give to them or they can give to you.
Here to lose five, seven or 30 seconds clearly doesn't matter that much either
way, especially when we see that the Tour is in the end the race is resolved
by a matter of minutes. But the fact is that the differences of today may quite
possibly give us a clue as to what sort of form those who are in the running
to dispute this Tour have brought with them to Paris.
There are always surprises and Euskaltel's Haimar Zubeldia has to be mentioned in this regard. He is a man that maybe in recent years has not performed to the level that was expected of him. But as you say about a friend: if he had it once, he will always have it. Haimar had great results as a neo-professional and it is no surprise nor strange to see him deliver such an excellent result in the Prologue.
Photo: © Jeff Tse
But coming to the strongmen; first of them was Ullrich, he finished, with Zubeldia
and after McGee ... and this was a surprise. Ullrich was better than many had
expected him to be. But the others who are considered to be in the running are
were we thought they might be. My companion Beloki is in a good position in
respect of his adversaries.
The winner, McGee, is someone that has always been a good against the clock
and in the end he took the victory. Even if maybe it was thanks to the misfortune
of Millar, but that is how cycling is.
But to finish up for today I have to underline the performance of Simoni as
very few expected that he would perform as he did in the Prologue. After seeing
him do so well we should, when we are placing our bets, keep his name in mind.
He is mentally strong and always rides with a hunger to do well.
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