Tour de France Cycling News for July 2, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
Armstrong: Not a legend just yet
Lance Armstrong realistic going for sixth consecutive Tour victory
By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Liège, Belgium
Photo: © AFP
In his Tour de France pre-race press conference in Liege, Belgium Thursday
afternoon, a calm, relaxed yet determined Lance Armstrong told the assembled
media that he was ready to go for an unprecedented win number six. When
asked right off the bat about how winning a sixth straight Tour De France
would make him a cycling legend, Armstrong downplayed the legendary aspects
a possible victory might bring.
"To me, (legend) is more than just six letters. I'm not sure I'm ready
to talk about that right now... The Tour isn't a one day race; it's very
difficult to win and there are a lot of things that can happen. I can
just flat out lose the race to another rider so I prefer to face it one
day at a time beginning on Saturday and every day is important. So if
we end up on the 25th of July and I'm the one in the yellow jersey, if
we can talk about a total of six, then I can talk about (being a cycling
legend) and think about it. For now, it's a daunting task and for now,
I prefer to basically focus on this year and focus day by day."
Armstrong is optimistic that he's on the right track fitness-wise to
win six Tours. "Right now, I feel good. I might have a different answer
in three weeks... I think if you show up at the Tour on day one at 100%
of your form, it's difficult to maintain that for three weeks.
"Jan Ullrich is a perfect example (of that)," Armstrong noted. "He comes
in (to the Tour) perhaps sometimes a little behind but he's incredibly
strong in the final week or ten days. With that model, (the Tour) will
be very dangerous this year, because the final week is incredibly hard
and crucial with the time trials and the mountains. Honestly, I don't
know where I am. I feel strong and I feel healthy... I would even say
that I feel stronger and healthier than last year; we'll know a little
bit on Saturday. I think that the prologue while it's not a true test,
a hard test, it's at least some indication. And also, we'll know more
as the race goes on with the team time trial and the first mountains."
Eyeballing the competition, Armstrong as always named Jan Ullrich as
his main rival in the year's Tour de France.
"Jan is better prepared then we expected and better prepared than other
years (this year)...he's the biggest rival. Beyond Ullrich, there's a
list of six to ten that are very close: Iban Mayo, Hamilton, Zubeldia,
Basso... Unfortunately we lost Vinokourov. But I think the (Tour) will
be tight and very tough to win."
Armstrong had several somewhat contentious exchanges with several journalists
today in Liège. When a French journalist asked Armstrong about
the possibility that he could beat Pantani's record up l'Alpe d'Huez and
proceeded to talk about the American's power output in watts, Armstrong
asked "how do you know the watts?" and went on to debunk the journalist's
supposition that "we can calculate your watts" by saying "the only way
for anybody to know the wattage is to weigh the rider and weigh the equipment
before the start. The last time I checked my weight I was the only one
in the room," Armstrong sardonically joked.
When asked about his former Motorola teammate Steven Swart's unsubstantiated
allegations about the use of EPO on Armstrong's former team, Lance's response
was a terse "no comment", but when asked to talk about the controversial
French tattle tome "LA Confidentiel" in general, Armstrong replied, "I'll
say one thing about the book, especially since the esteemed author (David
Walsh) is here. In my view, I think extraordinary accusations must be
followed-up with extraordinary proof. And Mr. Walsh and Mr. Ballester
worked for years (on LA Confidentiel) and they have not come up with extraordinary
Armstrong's indignation was palpable as he explained clearly to the assembled
media in general but most pointedly at LA Confidentiel co-author David
Walsh that "This case is now incredibly complicated and will be a long
one. I've engaged lawyers in both France and England. I will spend whatever
it takes and however long it takes to bring justice to the case.
"I will also say that I have received many many calls and messages from
journalists in this room who've read the book, people who've read the
book and have said to me 'OK what's the big deal; there's nothing there.'
And I appreciate the support; you all know who you are and I just want
to say publicly to you 'thank you' for reaching out to me at a time when
I think there was a lot of expectation, but there wasn't a lot of delivery."
The race route
Although Armstrong didn't believe that the Tour de France organizers
had developed this year's parcours especially to make it hard for him,
but rather to make it "interesting", he did lament the new TDF rule for
2004 that will limit a team's loss to 2'30" in the team time trial.
"I still to this day have a hard time understanding that regulation,
where a team can lose two and a half minutes in the first half of a team
time trial and then just sit up," he said.
"As I've said about a variety of other issues regarding the Tour de France
organization, it's their race and they are very good at organizing it
and promoting it and I'll leave it up to them to make those decisions.
The other mountain days I can't complain about. I've won a lot of those
stages in recent years. (The organization) designs the courses, the athletes
prepare, and I still believe the best man wins in paris, and for me that's
all that matters, even if I'm second. As long as the best man wins."
Millar placed under investigation
David Millar (Cofidis) was formally placed under investigation following
his meeting with judge Richard Pallain in Nanterre, France on Thursday.
Millar's meeting with Pallain, who heads the investigation into drug use
and trafficking surrounding members of the Cofidis team, is a result of
a confession that he used EPO made during nearly 48 hours of police interrogation
in Biarritz last week. A police search of Millar's Biarritz residence
also revealed two empty vials of Eprex, a brand of EPO.
"David Millar was heard for two hours by the judge and there was a lot
of emotion," Millar's lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins told the Associated
Press. "He spoke of his own doping and he did not point the finger
at any other person implicated in this case."
Millar was placed under investigation for the acquisition and possession
of a banned substance as a result of the police search which produced
the two syringes. Millar's lawyer did confirm, however, that his client
confessed to the usage of EPO during his interrogation last week.
"He said that he took three courses of EPO, one week each, during 2001
and 2003," Mr. Iweins explained.
Millar, who has not yet faced any formal consequences from his Cofidis
team, has been banned from this year's Tour de France. The Tour organisers
adopted a policy of rejecting any rider currently under police or judicial
investigation. The decision forced Millar's teammate Cédric Vasseur
out of the Tour, along with several Italians facing investigation in Italy.
Speaking in the Tour de France press centre in Liège, Belgium
Thursday, five-time runner up and 1997 winner Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) put
on a relaxed air when asked about his preparation and his chances for
overall victory in this year's race. Ullrich has three times finished
second behind defending champion Lance Armstrong, and the two men have
never wavered from their mutual admiration and respect as top competitors.
Ullrich tips Armstrong as the man to beat once again, but did his best
to keep the pressure on the American, downplaying his own level of anxiety
about the race.
"It's the same situation as in the last few years; Armstrong has to win
to continue his great record," Ullrich said of the five-time champion.
"For me, my objective is to win, but it's not an obligation."
Ullrich is a fierce competitor in the individual time trial, but the
Tour de Suisse winner isn't expecting victory in the short prologue through
the streets of Liège. That's not to say he considers the opening
"The time gaps will be small once again in this year's Tour," he said.
"It's important not to lose one second in the prologue. Then during the
first ten days the objective is to not lose time in the team time trial...
and to avoid crashes.
"I haven't looked at the prologue course yet, I've only seen the race
book," he added. "Even if I'm at 100%, I don't think I can win the prologue.
But it would be good to take some time from my rivals."
Johan Bruyneel: Cool, calm & collected
US Postal Service team directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel always seems
calm and confident and when Cyclingnews spoke to him in Liège
on Thursday, Bruyneel was positive- but not overconfident- about guiding
Lance Armstrong and the USPS-Berry Floor team to victory in the 91st Tour
"I think it looks good for Lance (to win his sixth consecutive Tour),"
Bruyneel said. "We did our preparation as we wanted to and with two days
to go to the Tour de France I think we can saw we are ready."
Speaking of US Postal's training camp in the Pyrénées last
week, Bruyneel explained that "It went well. We did two hard stages in
the Pyrénées and some team time trial training and it was
good. Good to see the way the team worked and good to have some more climbing."
Prior to the team medical check Thursday, George Hincapie told Cyclingnews
that "the training camp was really hard. The stage to Plateau de Beille...
man! We did (Stage 13) and it took us seven and a half hours and we did
thirty kilometres less."
Speaking about Benjamin Noval, the new addition to the US Postal squad
for this year's Tour, Bruyneel seemed pleased with his choice. "He's a
good, strong, young rider and I think he's going to surprise a lot of
Di Luca out
Saeco's Danilo Di Luca, himself under investigation in Italy for possible
doping offenses, tempted fate by making the journey to Liège, Belgium
for the Tour de France start but found himself firmly rejected by the
race organisation. Di Luca, with the support of his Saeco team, refused
to accept the Tour's decision to prohibit riders implicated in an investigation,
but the Tour remained steadfast in its decision. Di Luca will be replaced
by Swiss rider David Loosli.
Photo: © Cyclingnews
Blending in with the media mosh today at her significant other Lance
Armstrong's pre-Tour de France press conference, rock star Sheryl Crow
confirmed to Cyclingnews that her current passion for cycling is
paying off with performance.
"Yes, it's true", Crow told us when we asked her to confirm the rumour
that her time up l'Alpe d'Huez was 90 minutes from Bourg d'Oisans to the
summit aboard her Trek Madone.
"It wasn't easy," she joked good naturedly.
Top tips for the Cyclingnews Fantasy Tour de France game
It's time to select your own team for this years Tour de France Fantasy
Cycling game. What lessons can be learnt from last year?
Last year's 1st place winner Matt from New Jersey, USA shares with us
some of his hot tips:
"Usually I like to play my cards close to my chest, but since lady luck
was good to me last year, I'll try and share what strategic insight I
have to give. The big difference between the Giro game and this year's
tour game should become obvious to anyone looking at the UCI points chart.
All of the big favourites are right up at the top of that list... For
last year's game, there were some obvious 'bargain buys' for GC like Ullrich,
who was somewhere in the sub-350 point range."
"Last year, I won on a gamble: I bet against Beloki and left him off
my team, using the 1400 UCI points he would have cost to buy other riders
like Zubeldia, Basso & McGee, who paid off handsomely in GC and stage
points. Beloki further hedged my bets by crashing out, thus handicapping
anyone else who'd chosen him. It may be worth thinking about who to bet
against this year. As much as I hate to say it, it's not unreasonable
to ask if Tyler can stay upright for 3 weeks. Who would you buy with his
1160 pts. if he crashed out?"
"Given how 'pricey' this year's GC favourites are in UCI points, anyone
who wants to win will have to strike a similar compromise."
"Last year, I picked two Euskaltels: Zubeldia and Mayo (I usually don't
pick two GC riders from the same team), because of their strong lead up
performances and prologue results. This year, it may well be worth "doubling"
up on riders from a team with multiple top-10 potentials (Julich, Voigt,
Sastre) or Phonak (Hamilton, Sevilla, Pereiro) because of the relative
strength of these squads. CSC in particular will be riding on the 'multiple
"One final word of advice: Pick potential GC and stage winners and if
you win Green or Polka-dot jersey points with them fine but concentrate
on the stages and GC teams first. Good luck, Matt."
Hans Jacob from Norway, the 4th place winner last year, had this to say:
"I think I will go for 9 GC riders and 6 sprinters. I feel that this
combination gives you the best team structure in the end. There are plenty
of good GC riders and they all have high point values so the trick is
the find the ones that will do well this year. Voigt, Heras, Basso and
Moreau should place well in the overall classification. These GC contenders
will also normally be good climbers, so the MTN team will consist of the
"My fellow countryman Hushovd has also had quite a few victories this
year and is looking very promising after his Norwegian double (TT and
road). The first few days of the race should give a good indication of
who is on form and who is not, and a fine tuning of the team until stage
6 will be essential."
Alistair from Scotland, the 2nd place winner last year wraps it up:
"I feel this year more than any before that Lance is not a certainty
for the overall. Who is?? My final advice is to watch the first stages
carefully before making any final team selection. Some riders will obviously
be going well and others obviously not. On top of this there is always
accidents in the early stages that will disadvantage some riders. You
want to be going into the second week of the Tour with a full complement
of riders that have had no misfortune to that point."
back to Le Tour last year I was fairly lucky that only one of my riders
(Caucchioli) dropped out. However losing just one GC rider really hampers
your chance of winning the overall competition (ask anybody who selected
"I hope the Tour's a cracker!"
To take part this year all you need to do is pick a team of 15 riders
to race and select 9 riders each day during the tour. You can join up
until stage 6 begins. It's a great way to follow the tour. To register
go to fantasy.cyclingnews.com.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)