Tour de France News for May 10, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Bruyneel: No reason to worry
After a successful outing at the Tour de Georgia in the United States
last Month, US Postal Service-Berry Floor director Johan Bruyneel is confident
as usual as the Tour de France comes into view this season. Team leader
and five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong walked away from Georgia with
two stage wins and the overall title, and will return to Europe for two
more stage race appearances before his quest for an unprecedented sixth
Tour title in July.
In a Marca interview, Bruyneel commented on Armstrong's current
condition, and that of his rivals, including the American's closest rival
to date, Jan Ullrich. To many critics, Ullrich appears far from his best
form after a quiet spring at the back of the peloton. Bruyneel and Armstrong
aren't likely to underestimate the T-Mobile leader, however, given his
track record of never finishing below second place at the Tour.
"What we see now doesn't mean much," Bruyneel said of Ullrich's poor
spring results. "We don't doubt that he'll be good at the Tour. Everyone
is going to arrive in peak form for the Tour, though Beloki is a bit more
of an unknown since his crash last year.
"Lance's form is good, though not super, and the team too, so we don't
have any reason to be worried," he added.
Bruyneel expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance in Georgia,
and the race in general, which offered a rare opportunity for US Postal
to field its top riders on home soil.
"I found that race to be a very pleasant surprise, first because of the
difficulty, but also because of the level of competition," he said. "Lance
needed to race there, because he hadn't done a stage race in his own country
since 1998. Now, leading up to the Tour, we'll do the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon
(formerly Midi Libre) and then the Dauphiné Libéré."
Also included in the final Tour preparations will be continued inspections
of the key mountain stages in France, though some of the reconnaissance
may come after the Dauphiné in June. Armstrong himself has commented
recently that he hopes to climb the Alpe d'Huez at least ten times in
preparation for the crucial uphill time trial on the Alpe in this year's
Mayo on target
Popular Basque rider Iban Mayo, leader of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team
for the Tour de France, took his turn to show that his condition is improving
steadily in the months before July's big test. Mayo won the first two
stages and the overall title at the Clásica
Alcobendas, Spain's answer to the mini-stage race format of the Critérium
"I found myself going well in each stage and I felt strong, so I decided
to attack," Mayo told Marca. "I don't think it's much of a threat
to my rivals because there's still a lot of time before the Tour. The
important thing for me is not to have any problems and to keep improving
for the biggest objective of my year, which is France."
Although he expressed some reservation after his stage 1 win, noting
the short but demanding time trial to come the next day, Mayo still managed
to place second in the test against the clock behind Liberty Seguros'
Luis Sanchez. He took the final victory by a margin of two minutes ahead
of Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme's Eladio Jimenez and Cofidis' David Moncoutié.
Mayo adds himself to the list of likely Tour protagonists steadily riding
into top form, alongside Tour de Romandie winner Tyler Hamilton (Phonak)
and Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who has had a less spectacular season
thus far than in 2003 but nonetheless has taken several victories and
finished with the leaders in the major spring outings.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)