Tour de France News Extra for July 17, 2004
Edited by Anthony Tan
Armstrong pours cold water on doubters
By John Trevorrow in La Mongie
No doubts for Armstrong
Photo ©: Jon Devich
In between brilliant sunshine at the start and end of today's stage,
rain poured down on the remaining 166 riders in this year's Tour. More
importantly, perennial favourite Lance Armstrong poured cold water all
over suggestions an ending was nigh to his place at the top of general
On the final ascent of the course, Armstrong smashed into submission
main rivals Jan Ullrich and Tyler Hamilton, though stage winner Ivan Basso's
strong showing thrusts him into the role of the man second-most likely.
Ullrich and Hamilton, whilst not out of contention, would need a dramatic
reversal of form if they are to deny Lance a record sixth Tour victory.
The most disappointing aspect of today's final 10 kilometres was that
most of Lance's rivals were dropped when George Hincapie, not at the upper
echelon of climbers, was driving the peloton. One has to wonder how much
Jan would have appreciated having team omission Cadel Evans in the final
An early break of three meant that Aussie green jersey hopes Stuart O'Grady
and Robbie McEwen did not need to worry about the two intermediate sprints
on offer before the taxing finale. O'Grady ploughed away at his own pace,
crossing the line in 71st position 15'08" behind Basso. McEwen was expectantly
further back, but was satisfied with a restrained 160th placing.
Riding high with Ullrich
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon) delivered impressively on his pre-Tour
bid to make a stance as a legitimate general classification rider, crossing
the line in La Mongie in the same group as Jan Ullrich in 22nd position.
Whilst team-mate Richard Virenque launched an assault on the peloton during
the first category one climb, it was Rogers who was able to keep pace
with some more proven peers.
The Quick.Step rider expressed a reserved contentment: "At the bottom
of the climb, I couldn't quite go with them, but I was pretty satisfied
with my race," he told Cyclingnews.
"Yeah, I'm pretty happy with finishing with Jan Ullrich. At the bottom
of the climb you could see US Postal lining up in place and then they
hit the gas. Jeez, they were strong when they hit the gas; there was nothing
you could do. I could see Ullrich struggling and obviously so did Lance
and he went for it. It was a serious mountain stage, so two minutes wasn't
bad. If you can't go with the front group there is nothing you can do.
You just get into your own rhythm and make your own way up.
"I am sure Armstrong and Postal will keep it a tight race now," said
Rogers about the remainder of the race. "I will look for opportunities
to get away, but you have to go with the right guys."
Other Aussies exhausted
O'Grady did not try to hide his exhaustion after the difficult day: "Oh...
just got through. It was really tough out there. That weather was terrible;
I've just got to try to recover tonight because tomorrow is going to be
When asked how his 'rest day' was [see morning banter below], a smiling
Baden Cooke lamented, "Yeah, it was easy. Two punctures and one hunger
flat, other than that it was easy."
An exhausted Matthew Wilson did not have the energy for such joviality,
nor even to speak.
Photo ©: Bettini
Looking comfortable in his maillot vert, Robbie McEwen was lively
enough to perform another mountaintop mono. "I rode within myself today.
Once we hit the mountains I just stayed with the gruppetto. Tomorrow's
going to be a bit tougher."
Scott Sunderland finished in the middle group and looked to have a bit
in reserve. "I just did what I had to do and looked after Caucchioli until
we got into the mountains. Then it was just a matter of getting to the
finish with the most reserves," he said.
Liberty Seguros' Allan Davis seemed to be travelling well ahead of the
duo of category one climbs in today's stage, and said post-stage: "I'm
feeling alright at this stage, not too tired. The legs are okay, no worse
than a lot of other riders. Obviously there's still a lot ahead of us."
'Alby' reiterated his one and only role at this stage of the Tour. "My
focus is entirely on Roberto. Just carting him along for as much of the
trip as I can. As long as a couple of us are there each day, he'll go
well. I guess whoever is going the best on the day does the job. Hopefully
I can do my fair share."
Stage 13 preview: Harder and longer
By Anthony Tan
Time to attack, Tyler
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
The thirteenth stage of the Tour de France and the second day in the
Pyrénées bears a strong resemblance to Stage 12 of the Tour two years
ago, which also began in Lannemezan and finished at the Plateau de Beille.
It was also where Lance Armstrong repeated his triumph from the previous
day to inflict a double dose of damage on his closest rivals, making the
Tour look like a one-horse race with a week's racing still to go.
Featuring five categorised climbs, comprising two Cat. 3s, two Cat. 2s
and two Cat. 1s, before culminating in the hors categorie or out-of-category
(translation: mind-bogglingly painful) Plateau de Beille, an 18.5 kilometre
climb with an average gradient of 6.4 percent, the riders' second day
in the Pyrénées is both harder and longer - in fact, at 205.5 kilometres-long,
it's the most lengthy mountain stage of the entire Tour de France.
Harder and longer
Photo ©: CN/AFP
Where will the real action occur? Probably not until the final 50 kilometres,
and probably not until the final climb, since summit finishes tend to
have a deadening effect on earlier action. The first four climbs - Col
des Ares (km 49.5; 9 km at 3.8%), Col de Portet d'Aspet (km 71; 10 km
at 5.4%), Col de la Core (km 107.5; 14.5 km at 5.8%) and Col de Latrape
(km 139; 18 km at 3.3%) - contain over 50 kilometres of uphill, but for
the GC contenders, it's just too far out and far too early in the Tour
to risk blowing up on the last two climbs. However, this being the final
day in the Pyrénées and with overall honours still balanced on a knife's
edge due to a rather uneventful first week and a half, aggression will
be the order of the day.
One possible scenario could see a well-placed rider from T-Mobile, CSC
or Phonak attack before the penultimate climb of the short but steep Cat.
1 Col d'Agnes (9.5 km at 8.4%), forcing Armstrong's US Postal/Berry Floor
team to chase; another could see a repeat scenario of the stage to L'Alpe
d'Huez from last year's Tour, where Armstrong was isolated and repeatedly
attacked by riders from several different teams.
But with Armstrong looking as strong as ever yesterday and US Postal
proving strength in unity, it's hard to imagine Sir Lancelot being dethroned.
With the majority of the team spared much of the legwork the last few
days when Lance flick-passed the maillot jaune to Thomas Voeckler,
the Blue Train should be fresh enough to keep at least three men in the
front group until around 5-7 kilometres to go - by which point Armstrong
can quite easily take care of himself, as he's shown already.
TdF Retro: Vintage Pantani
The Pyrénées has hosted some magnificent battles in both the pre-WWII
and modern era of cycling, and the inclusion of the stage finish to the
Plateau de Beille six years ago set to continue that tradition.
That year - the 1998 Tour de France - the race was set to follow the
harder, anticlockwise route; riders would begin the mountains with two
stages in the Pyrénées before the shorter but generally steeper Alpine
passes. The Pyrénées, therefore, would most likely decide not who would
win the Tour, but who would lose.
Look out for the full story to be posted on Cyclingnews later
Morning banter at the Village Départ
By John Trevorrow in Castelsarrasin
Baden Cooke continued on his theme of gradual improvement after his initial
problems. "I'm feeling better and better as we go along, mentally and
physically. All going well, that can continue today and through next week."
The FdJeux.com rider had an interesting view on a stage that would contain
two difficult climbs in succession: "I think today will actually be a
bit of a rest day. Aspin's not too hard a mountain. There's a lot of flat
to start the stage, so at the bottom of the first Cat. 1, we can just
let go in the gruppetto. It's not as if we will be in trouble of missing
the time cut in the last 50 k's. But tomorrow is going to be really bloody
Quick.Step's best general classification chance, Mick Rogers, looked
upon the next two stages as very difficult, aiming to be setting the pace
on the steep inclines. "Today and tomorrow are going to be really hard.
I'm feeling pretty good though, looking forward to it. I think a lot of
other riders seem tired. I expect a few gaps to really open up with the
two climbs so close together."
Matty Wilson's condition seemed to have slightly improved by this morning,
though he has an ongoing battle with illness. "I don't really know how
I'm feeling. A bit shitty I suppose. This morning shouldn't be as hard
as the last couple of days; we can't go along for 75k at 50k an hour again."
The reigning Australian champion concurred with Cooke regarding his take
on today's stage: "It will be a bit like a rest stage today... as long
as we can cruise to the bottom of the first climb, I suppose. I'm going
to need it because tomorrow's going to be pretty bad."
Basso asks for privacy
Team CSC issued a statement today, asking everyone to respect Ivan Basso's
privacy concerning his mother's hospitalisation after being diagnosed
with cancer shortly before the Tour.
"I am here to race, but I will be doing it all the way, thinking about
my mother," said Basso. "All my emotions are with her, and I will dedicate
my efforts to her and my family in this difficult situation."
Brian Nygaard, Team CSC's Press Relations Manager, added: "In this moment
of grief and hope, we ask everyone to respect Ivan Basso's privacy concerning
this matter. Neither the team nor Ivan Basso wish give further specific
comments on this subject."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)