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Tour de France News for July 28, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Armstrong goes five out of five

By Tim Maloney, European editor in Paris

The big three
Photo: © AFP

When Lance Armstrong climbed the podium of the Centenary Tour De France Sunday afternoon in Paris for the fifth consecutive year, the strains of America's national anthem once again wafted across France's Main Street, the Champs-Elysées. Adorned with the red, white and blue of France's tricoleur, America's Stars and Stripes and the Lone Star flag of Texas, Lance's Maillot Jaune shined brighter than ever before as he joined the elite club of cyclists who have won five Tours de France. And Armstrong's performance this year at the Tour finally endeared the American to the French public, who embraced the more human dimension of a somewhat diminished but never beaten champion.

Armstrong said on the Champs-Elysées after that, "It's a dream, really a dream to win my fifth Tour. Now it's difficult to think about it...this year, the Tour was very very hard, the hardest but now I'm very happy because it's finished and I'm really tired. But for sure, I'll be back next year I love cycling. I love my job and next year I'll come back to go for a sixth win. We'll change my program a little bit for next year and we'll hope for a little good luck next year since we had some bad luck this year."

Armstrong declared that "this was my hardest win - we dodged some bullets; it was a rough year at the Tour and I don't plan to make the same mistakes twice. But my win feels more satisfying; more than the others because of that. The crashes and near crashes takes it out of you."

Armstrong explained that "during this Tour, I started with some little physical problems; before the Tour, I had diarrhoea and stomach problems and then tendonitis in the hips from new shoes and cleats. I wasn't feeling normal on the bike."

Click here for the full results, report and photos.

Ullrich very satisfied with second place

Thank you, Jan
Photo: © C.Henry/CN

Despite crashing in yesterday's rain slicked time trial while in the lead, Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) has declared himself very satisfied with his sixth Tour de France. Ullrich came into the Tour a little underprepared, but rode better as the race progressed to eventually finish 1'01 behind Lance Armstrong on the general classification, by far the closest margin between the pair in their three clashes.

"The thrill of my second place in the general classification again outweighs everything," wrote Ullrich on his website, janullrich.de. "Two months ago I didn't think this would be possible. For that reason I'm completely satisfied. I rode one of my best races ever. This time I was very close to Armstrong. Next time, without the Coast chaos, I will be even better prepared. Lance had better look out!"

Ullrich added that in the first few hours after yesterday's time trial, where he finished fourth, "I was a little bit down. When I looked out of the window in the morning and saw the rain, I knew I wouldn't be able to win this Tour any more. But I did want to win the race against the clock. I think that would have been possible."

Jan Ullrich
Photo: © Jeff Tse

"I was increasing my lead over Armstrong when I crashed on the roundabout," Ullrich described. "It had to be a mix of oil, rubber and sand that made the road so slippery at this point, in the first rain period after a dry spell. Of course I took a risk - without that you don't win races. But I didn't risk any more on this roundabout than on any other, before or after. Luck is a part of it. I didn't break anything after my fall. That is the most important."

Ullrich finished by saying that he's looking forward to seeing his partner Gaby and their newborn baby Sarah Maria.

Cooke gets green on the line

Close on the line
Photo: © AFP

Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) carried the green jersey through this year's Tour with last year's winner Robbie McEwen nipping at his heels. Both riders survived the mountains, and they knew it would most likely come down to the final stage on the Champs-Elysées.

Prior to the stage, FDJeux.com director sportif Marc Madiot told his riders that they had ridden well in the Tour and to enjoy the final stage. The effect was to keep the team focused and relaxed, so much so that they provided Cooke with perfect lead-outs for two of the intermediate sprints on the final stage.

Cooke took the first but McEwen bounced back to win the second and go back into the lead in the points competition by only two points. "I think the spectators have been offered a really nice spectacle today," he told French TV. "There was a bit of stress for us today but I remained calm the whole time. I think it was a more nervous day for McEwen than it was for me. I stayed in the wheels of my teammates. After the first intermediate sprint I gained confidence. The team has done such nice work for me today. In the second sprint I was not that good. I've had a super team working for me today!"

As they barreled onto the Champs-Elysées for the last time, Cooke recalled, "I thought he might have had me, but I stayed calm. I had a huge gear on and I kept cranking it over, but it seemed like it took forever. After we crossed, Robbie said 'you got it'."

Cooke felt the sprint was hard fought but fair, an opinion shared by UCI commissaire Smijers, who analysed the images of the final sprint and declared there was nothing wrong with it. After McEwen had asked the jury to look at the images carefully again, Smijers told Belgian TV1. "We looked at it seven or eight times. There is no reason to disqualify Cooke. On top of that we saw clearly that McEwen actually went looking for Cooke."

Cooke said that his perseverance paid off during the Tour. "I think I came into the Tour with average form, but I kept doing the work each day, and Brad (McGee) inspired me," he said of his teammate who won the prologue and provided numerous leadouts. "I didn't believe I would be in this form right now," he said modestly, but then brightened, "we're going to wild tonight".

Lotto-Domo not too happy

Koos Moerenhout summed up Lotto-Domo's performance in the Tour de France to TV1. "Well, this Tour hasn't exactly been a success for us. I wouldn't call it a complete disaster, but the goal we came here with wasn't reached. No stage win, no Green jersey. Of course that is disappointing."

Serge Baguet added, "It would have been a better Tour for us if Robbie would have taken the green, but yeah, we'll have to accept the outcome, that's racing."

Team sprinter Robbie McEwen was short in his comments after the race, visibly disappointed but accepting defeat in a sporting way. "Last year it was the other way around and that was fantastic," he told TV1. "Now I am the one to see the other side of the medal. I was beaten fairly by a stronger Cooke."

Lotto director Marc Sergeant said "Robbie went and asked the jury to review the images. When I looked at it, first all I saw was how Cooke swerved to the left of the road a little bit, with Robbie in his wheel and he leaned against Robbie on the line; but then when I was looking at the images more concentrated, you can see Robbie actually went looking for Cooke. So yeah, the results weren't altered."

O'Grady takes Centenaire classification

Stuart O'Grady
Photo: © C.Henry/CN

"I got another hand for it," said a happy and relieved Stuart O'Grady, displaying his Centenaire trophy for winning this special classification (as well as a cheque for €50,000). Despite winning this classification, O'Grady tried to win a stage but was frustrated by either faster sprinters in bunch finishes, or break-away companions unwilling to lead - ironically - a proven fast-finisher to the line. "It was a frustrating Tour for me, personally," he said.

However, O'Grady felt that team performed well, particularly Christophe Moreau being the highest placed Frenchman at eighth on GC."The Aussies have been flying," he said of his countrymen contesting the points competition.

O'Grady handled the mountains better than most sprinters and also ran a creditable 11th in the second ITT on Saturday, 1.38 behind David Millar. "I've found new strength, but I'm definitely lacking speed in the sprints," he said.

As he develops as a rider, O'Grady said he is likely focus on the Spring Classics such as the Tour of Flanders (he finished third this year), as well as Paris-Roubaix. "They will be major objectives, and (in the Tour) I'll go for stage wins and not the points. I think winning the polka dot jersey will be easier than the green," he added, smiling broadly.

Communique

The US Postal-Berry Floor team was fined SFR 4,500 for wearing irregular jerseys during Sunday's final stage. Each team member was also fined SFR 200 each, after they came to the start dressed in grey jerseys, bearing the U.S. Mail logo. The retro jerseys were a throwback to the early years of the postal service, and were worn to reflect the whole retro theme of the centenary Tour.

Evgeni Petrov (iBanesto.com) was fined 100 Swiss Francs for failing to sign in at the start.

Medical communique

Gerrit Glomser (Saeco): Left knee pain
José Enrique Gutierrez (Kelme-Costa Blanca): Left knee pain
Julian Usano (Kelme-Costa Blanca): Left knee pain
Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole): Insect bite on neck
Frédéric Finot (Jean Delatour): Digestive troubles

Post Tour criteriums in Austria

After the Tour de France there are a number of criteriums held in Austria: The first one is in Graz on July 29, where Armstrong will ride. That will be followed by Wels (July 30), Innsbruck (July 31), and Vienna (August 1). Wels will see Gilberto Simoni and Gerrit Glomser, Alessandro Petacchi, Pavel Padrnos, while local hero Georg Totschnig will start in Innsbruck. Vienna will announce the riders soon.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)

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