Tour de France News for July 18, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Flecha hits his target
By Gabriella Ekström in Toulouse
Juan Antonio Flecha
Photo: © Olympia
With the patron teams of the Tour tired and reluctant to chase, a nine
man break could finally ride clear in the strong head winds on the road
to Toulouse. Among the riders sat Stuart O'Grady, short of a stage win
so far, and hungry to win at his home away from home, Toulouse. But iBanesto.com
rider Juan Antonio Flecha, who became known for his aggressive riding
style when he started his career with the Fuenlabrada team, had no desire
to come into the airport runway in Toulouse together with the Australian
"I knew the last part of the stage very well, because my girlfriend Lourdes
lives in Toulouse, and I often visit her here. I had a strong desire to
win today, and knew that I had to continue to attack if I wanted to win.
My victory today comes from the heart, because for every meter I rode
in the break, I got closer to her."
Approaching the line, Flecha sat up and looked behind, and when he saw
that he wouldn't be caught he reached behind his back and picked up an
arrow. With a smile of satisfaction he aimed and shot. "My name Flecha
means arrow, and I picked up that gesture after my friend made a pun about
my name," he said. "I used it for the first time when I won the Vuelta
Aragón, and after that I haven't had an opportunity to do it again. I
really enjoyed doing it today, and I think and hope that my friend saw
it on TV."
the full interview here
Stage 11 quotes
Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo, 2nd points classification)
"I had a puncture and after that I didn't have good legs anymore. It
was impossible to bring the break back... who won anyway?"
Belgian TV1: "Flecha."
McEwen: "Ha, that's really good!"
TV1: "Strange to hear you say that as there were two Australians in the
front group too!"
McEwen: "Yeah, I know, but Flecha is a friend; we train together in Spain."
Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon, 8th on stage 11)
"I had the feeling that they were all watching me; it was impossible
for me to move. It's a pity, I felt really good."
Belgian TV1: "Did you talk to O'Grady about working together?"
Rogers: "This is the Tour. We are good friends off the bike, but in this
race there is no room for friendship."
Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom, 2nd GC)
"To beat Lance in the time trial... phew, that's heavy. Tough my form
is really great and the area (of the time trial) suits me. Plus 47 kilometers
isn't too long. I will have to try to limit the time losses and then attack
again in the Pyrenees."
Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi, 6th GC)
"Today the race was not very hectic, a good day for rolling easy. We
didn't have to work at all which is a good base for tomorrow's time trial.
Time trials are always important, but this year's Tour will be settled
in the Pyrenees. Anyway, the top men of the GC will have to give their
Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo, 7th GC)
A smiling Ivan Basso spoke to Cyclingnews in Narbonne this morning. "I
had a good rest day," said the Fassa Bortolo ride who is 7th on GC at
the moment. "I want to do well in the upcoming stages in the Pyrenees.
This is the most important moment of the Tour now. I really want to win
a stage but I'll see what happens in the race."
Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole, 12th GC)
"Jens Voigt had been really ill for two days. The rest day didn't help
him at all. He appeared very pale already in the start area, so it was
clear to us what was to come. It's a great pity since he is the big motor
of our team, especially for me. I'm really sorry, our thoughts are with
Daniele Nardello (Telekom, 40th GC)
"I've been suffering from stomach problems in the last few days, but
I'm happy with the way that Alexandre Vinokourov is riding. We'll see
what happens in the time trial and then decide our strategy."
Floyd Landis (US Postal-Berry Floor, 83rd GC)
"The rest day went well," Cyclingnews diarist Floyd Landis said at the
start in Narbonne. "I hope the others are not too rested though!"
Jens Heppner (former Telekom pro and German Eurosport commentator)
"Vinokourov has a very good chance in tomorrow's time trial. It's a good
area for him, since it's not flat but runs continuously up and down. That's
more a goal for him than for Armstrong."
Heras relaxed and ready
By Jeff Jones in Toulouse
Once the race hits the mountains again on Saturday, Maillot Jaune Lance
Armstrong will be relying on his Spanish teammate Roberto Heras to shepherd
him as far as possible up the climbs. Heras has had a bit of a slow start
in the Tour, and still bears the marks of a crash in stage 8 where he
injured his knee. However after the rest day he was looking a little more
relaxed in Narbonne, before the start of stage 11.
Heras told Cyclingnews that he and the US Postal-Berry Floor boys trained
for "only two hours" on the rest day, just enough to keep the legs ticking
over but not overdo it. He missed seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger at the
team bus this morning, as he was out warming up and signing on.
Roberto remained non-committal about what stage he was looking forward
to in the mountains. "I don't know," he said. Maybe after tomorrow [time
trial] we'll see."
Stage 12: Gaillac - Cap' Découverte, TT, 47 km
Starting in the tiny Tarnois village of Gaillac, Stage 12 finishes in
the theme park of Cap 'Decouverte, converted from an open-pit coal mine
that has become a popular vacation destination in Europe. The 47km test
is crucial to Armstrong's success in this year's Tour De France. Lance
has focused on his time trialing this year, as he and team director Johan
Bruyneel have developed a strategy designed to gain maximum time against
the watch in the Centenary Tour.
"I've seen the course and I know it pretty well," Armstrong
said. "I'll see it again the morning of the race... we'll see. I've
been focusing a lot on the time trials this year in terms of my training
and I had a good TT this year at the Dauphiné." Armstrong
will be seeking every advantage to gain time on his rivals, riding a new
lighter version of his Trek time trial rig and a special high-tech Nike
Spin Cycle skin suit.
Although the Stage
12 profile appears moderately easy, the heavy, narrow winding roads,
hot conditions and about 50% of the parcours going uphill will render
the Tour's first time test more difficult than it looks. Look for the
final climb of the day to make the difference. Coming after 39km, the
road rises from 218m at the village of Monesties up the 2.5km climb up
the Côte de Bascoul to 335m.
Armstrong will be looking to put major time into Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi),
Alex Vinokourov (Telekom) and Tyler Hamilton (CSC). But once again at
the Tour de France, Armstrong's key adversary is emerging as German powerhouse
Jan Ullrich (Bianchi), who is determined to ride an excellent time trial
on Stage 12. With temps expected to be in the upper 90's and a windy afternoon
predicted, Lance will need to ride an exceptional time trial to solidify
his lead at the 2003 Tour de France.
The weather for Friday's time trial between Gaillac and Cap' Decouverte
is expected to be hot and sunny, with temperatures expected to reach 35
degrees Celsius by 17:00, when the last rider is due to finish. The wind
will be mainly from the north east/west, between 10 and 20 km/h, meaning
that it will be a cross/headwind for much of the day.
Roche slams Hamilton
Feat or folly?
Photo: © CN
Former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche may not have any doubts that
Tyler Hamilton's collarbone is fractured, but he pulled no punches in
saying that Hamilton's insistence on soldiering through the Tour is a
discredit to the sport. Hamilton has become one of the biggest stories
of the Tour, not only surviving with a cracked collarbone from his stage
1 crash, but remaining one of the principal contenders in the general
classification, even daring to attack on the fearsome climb to l'Alpe
What many see as an incredible display of determination and perseverance
is seen by Roche as poor judgment on the part of the American and his
"If the doctor says it's broken or fractured then he shouldn't be racing,"
Roche said in an AFP interview. "It's as simple as that. And if he falls
off the bike then his shoulder could be severely damaged."
Ever under the cloud of doping scandal and questions about propriety
in the professional peloton, cycling's image could be tarnished by feats
such as Hamilton's, according to Roche.
"People watching what's happening are going to be asking themselves,
'is this guy for real' or they are going to be saying 'what kind of shit
[drugs] are they giving him?'," Roche quipped. "Sitting in the saddle
with a fractured collarbone is hard enough, getting up out of the saddle
is even harder, and attacking is almost impossible."
Roche added that the race's passage near the holy city of Lourdes could
help Hamilton's chances, which he still rates as being quite good for
a top five finish, despite any misgivings. "We'll be passing nearby Lourdes
soon," Roche added, "so maybe he should light a candle."
Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto-Domo):Wounds and contusions to the forearm and
the right knee
Anthony Geslin (Brioches la Boulangère): Superficial contusions
and a bruised little finger on right hand
Evgeni Petrov (iBanesto.com): Sore right Achilles tendon
Grischa Niermann (Rabobank): Breathing problems
Remmert Wielinga (Rabobank): Sore right Achilles tendon
Matthew Wilson (FDJeux.com): Breathing problems (finished outside time
Tobias Steinhauser (Bianchi): Breathing problems
The Terminator meets Lance
By Jeff Jones in Toulouse
"I know who you are."
Photo: © Olympia
Movie mega-star Arnold Schwarzenegger came to the Tour de France today
to promote his new movie, Terminator 3, which hits theatres in France
this summer. The movie has floats in the publicity caravan, and today
Arnold himself appeared to promote it in Narbonne. At the village depart
today, he was the subject of considerable attention. Once he left the
safety of his campervan, Schwarzenegger strode down right through the
centre of the village in his typical imposing manner, surrounded by a
mass of minders and media, all eager to get a comment from The Terminator.
His target: the US Postal-Berry Floor bus.
After he made the "walk of fame", Arnold eventually gained the sanctuary
of the bus, where he greeted the boys in blue. The presence of Lance and
Arnold in the same vicinity made the usually fanatical public outside
go completely wild as they tried to get a glimpse of the two big stars
Lance Armstrong greeted Arnie with a polite, "Hi, I'm Lance" to which
Schwarzenegger replied, "I know who you are."
Cyclingnews spoke to George Hincapie shortly afterwards about the 'visitation'.
"That was cool man!" grinned Hincapie. "Really, to see a superstar like
that... Arnie said he was a big cycling fan and a big fan Lance's. He
chatted to us for a couple of minutes in the bus."
After posing for photos with the Tour's Maillot Jaune, big Arnie left
the Postal bus for his next appointment. He might have even said "I'll
be back", as he returned after the stage to present Lance Armstrong with
the Maillot Jaune. The mountains at the speed of a motorcycle?
Tour organisers defend themselves
Aside from Jimmy Casper's seemingly superhuman feat of climbing Alpe
d'Huez with the 55th fastest time, suspicions have been raised in the
French press about the speed of the riders in the Alps. "Les Alpes la
vitesse d'une moto? Bizarre..." was the title of an article in French
daily "Libération", written by former Festina trainer and now outspoken
anti-doping activist Antoine Vayer.
The direction of the Tour de France reacted with a statement that the
speed of the race has been slower than in previous years, pointing to
times ridden by the fastest riders up the big climbs:
Time taken for the Galibier:
49'52 by Pantani in 1998, 52'14 by Garzelli in 2003.
Time taken for l'Alpe d'Huez:
37'46 by Pantani in 1998, 38'01 by Armstrong in 2001, 39'06 by Mayo in
2003 (Armstrong in 41'20).
Overall leader's average speed after the first rest day:
43.737 km/h in 1999
41.621 km/h in 2000
41.568 km/h in 2001
43.845 km/h in 2002
41.409 km/h in 2003
The statement added that "As M. Vayer is not present at this year's
Tour de France, his 'observations' are consequently without serious foundation,
since they cannot take into account the context of the race: the wind,
the climate, the strategies of the teams, the road quality and so on."
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