Tour de France News for July 14, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones & Gerard Knapp
French can't hold the Mayo
Translated by Melanie Leveau
How did the French media view yesterday's dramatic
stage and the all-important team
time trial? Melanie Leveau checks out some leading French outlets
on the eighth stage, as well as Petacchi's withdrawal and the blue train's
performance in the team time trial.
About l'Alpe d'Huez - stage eight
Iban Mayo shines in l'Alpe d'Huez, Armstrong is a raged (baited) leader
Photo: © AFP
The American had a hard day. He conceded more than two minutes showing
he is not invulnerable in the mountains after four years of absolute domination.
It happened as if the Tour 2003 outsiders, aware of the decisive importance
of the stage, leagued together to sap the boss' energy and authority.
Le Monde, 14 July
Meanwhile, "Armstrong is not in the same dominant position as the last
few years," reported www.lequipe.fr, while www.france2.fr
said "Mayo tamed Armstrong in l'Alpe d'Huez".
About Petacchi's withdrawal
Alessandro Petacchi did not make the effort to get over the first difficulty
of the Tour. If Mario Cipollini was in front of his TV sure he would have
enjoyed it. The World champion has obviously found his dignified successor.
Ouest-France, 13 July
About the team time trial
Photo: © J.Devich/CN
Is the Tour over yet? Has it been achieved at the top end of a long straight
street in St Dizier? Has it already found its man just after stage four?
Has Lance Armstrong already been enthroned? The question is judicious.
It was said the American was more vulnerable and his opponents more
motivated, more united, more skilled than in the last few years. The team
time trial proved the four-time TdF winner has never had so many trump
cards in his hand. It is very true that he does not yet wear the yellow
jersey. But just for one short second he let Victor Hugo Peña become the
first Colombian yellow jersey.
It is really true, too, that his opponents are only a handful of seconds
late: 32 for Beloki and 38 for Ullrich. But on Wednesday, Armstrong added
one new card to his pack: eight brave companions. Neither the US Postal
team neither the Texan had won this event before. Spaniard Manuel Beltran
joined the American team this winter weakening Ullrich's team and completing
the US Postal climbers trio (Peña, Heras and Rubiera). And with experienced
Ekimov and Hincapie who did a great job as well as their leader, Lance
Armstrong now knows he can count on tireless riders.
A great performance
Result: on Thursday morning, the "postmen" took over the top eight of
the GC. "It is the best team in the world" said the new yellow jersey.
Who could dispute this? If US Postal flew over the team time trial, it
might be because nothing is left to chance. The stage profile had been
reviewed three times: once in May, once the day before and once the morning
of the race. For the occasion, the nine riders were wearing a new skin
suit concocted by Nike.
Two years of work and about 50 tested materials for a new aerodynamic
skin suit that, according to Nike, allows to win 1min and 10 sec for 55
km with 53 kph as an average speed. With or without skin suit, American's
opponents have been impressed by the collective strength performance of
the US Postal squad.
With "sherpas" as Peña, Heras, Beltran and Rubiera, the American looks
well shepherded to get over the Alps.
Le Monde, 10 July
The spectacular attack of the US Postal train
Lance Armstrong is punctual. The team time trial was the first rendezvous
before the mountain. With an average speed of 52 kph, the American lead
his squad to the victory and imposed seven of his teammates in the CG
top ten. In an ideal waiting position Armstrong can take out the telescope
Le Figaro, 10 July
Knowing the attention Armstrong turns to the team cohesion, it is easy
to guess the moral benefit as well as chronometric he got after his stage
victory in the team time trial.
www.sport24.fr, 10 July
Beloki finds renewed confidence
Photo: © C.Henry/CN
Joseba Beloki (ONCE) is in second on GC at just 40" behind Lance Armstrong,
who he was not afraid of attacking in yesterday's Alpe d'Huez stage. The
Basque rider intends to continue, as he wants to win the Tour this time,
not finish second or third.
"The new Beloki is born," he said following the stage. "I have been
able to keep my word and I'm happy about that. To finish second or fifth
again doesn't interest me. Saturday evening [after stage 7] I had a discussion
with my team director Manolo Saiz. He didn't like it that I hadn't attacked.
But I was the one in the race and I felt what was happening, on top of
that I didn't have a good day. I thought it was poor that Armstrong only
followed me and didn't have any ambitions to attack himself. He should
be very grateful to Heras. Until the moment he fell he did a great job
for his team leader."
Armstrong's main mountain lieutenant Roberto Heras crashed on the run
in to Bourg d'Oisans, causing Armstrong to run into the gutter as well.
Once they returned, Heras was still able to do his job for Armstrong on
the final climb, however it wasn't the same Heras that towed Armstrong
and Beloki to the top of La Mongie last year.
Simoni not recovered from TTT
"The Team Time Trial killed me," Saeco's Gilberto Simoni told the press
after yesterday's stage, in which he finished 12 minutes down. "Before
that I felt good. After, I couldn't shake those heavy legs. At first I
thought that the US Postals were dictating a devilish speed. But I was
wrong. It was just me going really badly. In the end Virenque fulfilled
the dream I had."
"It's hard to stay motivated now," said a visibly tired Simoni, stress-cold
sores on the lips. "I did everything to stay with the big guys. Don't
say I didn't fight, it's just been hopeless. The future? I don't know..."
Ullrich admits Stage 5 stomach trouble
Photo: © J.Devich/CN
Jan Ullrich has revealed that he almost dropped out of the Tour de France
last Thursday. According to a story on German website www.radsport-aktiv.de,
Ullrich had a stomach infection and a temperature of 39.5 degrees (103
F) on Wednesday night (after the team time trial) last week, and was complaining
of severe pain in the joints.
Ullrich's team manager Rudy Pevenage said he had kept the problem secret
to prevent revealing Ullrich's weakness to his rivals. "Jan woke me around
midnight [on Wednesday}" said Pevenage. "He was complaining of shivering
and had a fever of 39.5." Ullrich's temperature had dropped to 37.9 by
the morning, but that was still too high for him to start the stage. Nevertheless
he took the bus to the start and at 10 o'clock the fever had dropped to
37.1 degrees. Despite developing a severe headache 80km from Nevers, he
was able to finish with the bunch.
"He had probably eaten something bad," said Pevenage, "because he was
still suffering with stomach and intestine problems on Friday. But now
everything seems fine."
Ullrich admitted he had been worried about being unable to start the
stage, but added, "In the heat of the last few days I have probably sweated
Belgians criticised at home
"Belgium is in a deep valley as far as the big Tours are concerned,"
says Belgian IOC chairman Jacques Rogge, who shook Armstrong's hand on
the podium yesterday. "I was very happy to be able to accept the invitation
Jean-Marie Leblanc sent me, to follow the big Alpine stage to Alpe d'Huez
at his side. I really enjoyed it. I'm a big cycling fan, from when I was
a kid. On top of that I saw a fellow countryman attacking, Axel Merckx.
I think it's terrible we don't play a significant role in the big tours
at the moment. We are in a deep valley I'm afraid. Of course we have a
few riders who can't perform at their true level because of different
circumstances but anyway..."
The Lotto-Domo team counts most Belgians in the Tour. Baguet, De Clercq,
Merckx, Brandt have been working very hard the first week to keep things
together for their sprinter McEwen. They all have worked very hard and
of course that takes its toll. Although the riders have been told by manager
Sercu that he still expects them to work for McEwen in every flat stage
to come, he has also mentioned that they now get the chance to show their
qualities in the Alps...a bit demanding?
In the first mountain stages, where riders like Baguet (winner of stage
17 Brive-la-Gaillarde to Montluçon, 2001), and Merckx normally are able
to show themselves, we have only seen Merckx. Axel attacked strongly yesterday
but two very sore knees messed up his plans and he finished in the last
bus, over 40 minutes down from winner Iban Mayo.
Only Verbrugghe, (who won stage 24, Pau to Lavaur, 2001), who got "Carte
Blanche" for this Tour, and does not have to worry about the sprints or
the Green Jersey, has not pulled his weight so far.
This certainly can't be said about Marc Wauters, domestique to Michael
Boogerd in the thinned out Rabobank team. Van De Wouwer is part of the
very successful Quick Step-Davitamon team, and is doing his bit for the
team leaders, in particular Richard Virenque.
Mario Aerts is not at his best level as yet but is expecting to improve.
We should see more of him in the coming weeks.
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