|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
Wednesday, July 22: Rest day, Pau
Tour wrap-up, Part II
Overall still undecided
After five days of very dramatic racing, the Tour de France stopped on Tuesday for its second rest day. With sixteen stages behind them and just five to go, there are now 151 riders in the race of the 198 starters. As usual, the Tour has shown itself to be a race of elimination, and there are now realistically only two riders able to win the race in Paris next Sunday, as Jeff Jones writes.
Pre-race favourite Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor) has shown himself to be a champion, overcoming less than perfect form and a couple of bizarre but potentially disastrous crashes to lead the race by 1'07, an advantage that he will more than likely carry with him until the final time trial on Saturday.
Once again, Lance's closest rival is the German powerhouse Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi), who overcame his own problems and injuries in 2002 to start the Tour this year with a clean slate and plenty of ambition. Ullrich has already realised his goal in this Tour which was to win a stage. However that crushing victory in Cap' Découverte, followed by another strong performance on Plateau de Bonascre the next day brought him within 15 seconds of Armstrong's Maillot Jaune. However he lost 52 seconds (including time bonus) on Luz Ardiden, and will have to pull out another brilliant time trial performance next Saturday if he is to dethrone Lance - an unlikely possibility, but not completely out of the question.
In third place on GC at 2'45 is Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom), who limited his losses in the time trial, then stayed with the Maillot Jaune on Plateau de Bonascre, before putting in a fine attack in Stage 14 on the Peyresourde to take 43 seconds out of Armstrong and move to within 18 seconds of the yellow. However, Vinokourov paid for his efforts in Stage 15, when he was dropped on the Col du Tourmalet and had to fight his way back on the descent to the leaders, eventually losing 2'07 to Armstrong on Luz Ardiden. Vino should hold onto third place, as fourth-placed Haimar Zubeldia is over 2'30 behind the Kazakh, who normally handles himself well in a time trial.
For the Euskaltel-Euskadi riders, the stages in the Pyrenees have left them without a win on their home ground, despite hundreds of thousands of orange-clad fans cheering them all the way to the tops of the climbs. A combination of smart tactics by other teams and a strong Lance Armstrong yesterday put paid to their hopes. Zubeldia and Iban Mayo still hold fourth and fifth positions on GC, and should keep those all the way to Paris.
Stage summary after Rest Day 1
Stage 11 from Narbonne to Toulouse was a quiet day for the GC riders, who were happy to let an eight-man break go away and take the stage honours on the runway of Toulouse's Montaudran airport. The stage was won by Juan Antonio Flecha (iBanesto), who put in a powerful attack with 14 km to go that no-one could follow. Bram de Groot (Rabobank) and Isidro Nozal (ONCE) took second and third.
The Stage 12 time trial from Gaillac to Cap' Découverte saw Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) deliver a crushing performance to beat race leader Lance Armstrong (USPS-Berry Floor) by 1'35 in the "race of truth". That put Ullrich within 0'34 of the Maillot Jaune, and all of a sudden he was a serious contender for the jersey.
Stage 13 between Toulouse and Plateau de Bonascre resulted in victory for CSC's Carlos Sastre, who attacked on the Port De Pailhères and stayed clear on the Plateau to beat Jan Ullrich and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) by just over a minute. Armstrong lost 19 seconds to Ullrich (including the time bonus) after the German pulled away from him with 2 km to go, and Ullrich was now within 15 seconds of the Maillot Jaune.
Stage 14 from Saint-Girons to Loudenvielle was a long sought after victory for Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), who up until then had done nothing but suffer in this Tour de France. He was part of the early 17-man breakaway, and attacked with Laurent Dufaux (Alessio) and Richard Virenque (Quick.Step-Davitamon) on the second last climb to stay clear for the win. Behind, Alexandre Vinokourov found his legs on the last climb, the Col du Peyresourde to take 0'40 out of Armstrong and Ullrich and move himself up to 18 seconds from the Maillot Jaune.
Stage 15 was from Bagnères-de-Bigorre to Luz Ardiden, via the Col d'Aspin and Col du Tourmalet. Santi Botero (Telekom) and Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches) got in an early break with Chavanel staying away until 4 km from the finish. The peloton exploded on the Tourmalet when Ullrich attacked, but it came together for the final showdown on Luz Ardiden. It was here that Armstrong showed that he still had what it takes, overcoming a crash with a spectator to attack for the stage win and a valuable 0'52 (including bonus) back to Iban Mayo and Jan Ullrich.