Tour de France News for July 18, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Closer to yellow
Lance Armstrong (USPS)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
In winning today's 13th stage to Plateau de Beille, Lance Armstrong moved
tantalisingly close to the maillot jaune, which is still held by
the gutsy Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Brioches), who finished in 13th place,
4'42 behind Armstrong. US Postal's execution of today's stage was perfect,
just like in 2002 when the boys in blue rode a ferocious tempo from the
word go to reduce the peloton to less than 40 riders by the final climb,
where Jose Luis Rubiera and Jose Azevedo finished off the job for Lance,
leaving their captain alone with Ivan Basso with 7 km to go.
After that, Armstrong and Basso combined well to put as much time as
possible into their rivals, distancing Totschnig, Klöden, Mancebo and
Ullrich by minutes. "Well it really wasn't very tactical," Armstrong explained
in his post-race TV interview. "We basically agreed to work together on
the climb. When I went, Ivan was strong enough to follow. I couldn't get
rid of him. He deserved to be there."
Asked whether he thought Basso would attack, Armstrong replied, "No.
He's strong but I could tell that he was on his limits. I couldn't drop
him so it was better to work together."
Armstrong paid credit to his team, which rode the rest of the peloton
of its wheels. "It was really perfect teamwork. We wanted Eki and Pavel
for the valleys and Benjamin and Triki for the early climbs. We did that
perfectly until we got to the next climbs, then Floyd and George took
over, and then Chechu and Azevedo for the final climb."
After the abandons of Tyler Hamilton, Haimar Zubeldia, Denis Menchov
and the near abandon of Iban Mayo, Armstrong commented that, "It's a surprise
that some of them dropped out of the race...It's probably not that great
for the race either."
As for speculations that he wasn't up to scratch in the Dauphine Libéré
last month, Armstrong replied, "I don't put a lot of stock in what people
say in June. The difference between being on top in the Tour and in June
13 full results, report & photos
By Tim Maloney and Chris Henry on Plateau de Beille
Armstrong leads Basso
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Although there were some doubters about his climbing form following the
TT up Le Mont Ventoux in the Dauphiné Libéré, Lance Armstrong has likely
silenced the doubters after his performance in the two mountain stages
so far this Tour de France. But Lance doesn't take his ascending prowess
for granted, saying after his Stage 13 win that, "The day that I show
up and I'm convinced that I'm going to be in the front on the climbs is
the day that I lose. I think perhaps you could say that happened last
year; I was perhaps overconfident, but this year, for the Tour, obviously
in the Dauphiné, I was not in the front and before the Tour this year,
I was insecure. But I think that's what all great champions are...that
they're worried about their place, of losing their place on top and that's
what keeps them there. I'm happy that I'm climbing as well as I am; I
felt better today than yesterday (La Mongie). I was able to sit down more
and was more comfortable on the bike."
Back in black
Cyclingnews asked Lance Armstrong what was up with his black
socks today after his win on Stage 13. He told us that, "I didn't have
white sox in my bag today, so I put on the black ones...I know the black
socks are a little bit controversial, but I sort of like them. I gave
a pair to George and he likes them too. If the weather's a little cloudy,
they fit the day. I'll probably wear white socks from now on."
Stage winner Lance Armstrong
Photo ©: CN
Certain privileges await the stage and jersey winners atop certain mountain
finishes in the Tour de France, notably the helicopter evacuation after
podium ceremonies and obligatory press conferences. No man in the yellow
jersey wants to sit in the traffic jams descending from mountains like
the Plateau de Beille, where thousands of rabid cycling fans will try
to funnel down the same road, into the same small town, toward the similarly
small destinations. If you're five-time winner Armstrong, a quick trip
in the sky is to be expected.
Saturday was no exception, and after his podium appearance for his stage
win, media chat after, and a short appearance on France 3's Vélo
Club program, Armstrong was escorted to his flying chariot by a hefty
crew of Tour security men and gendarmes. Not to mention a few excitable
American and even...Basque fans. Armstrong's companion Sheryl Crow carried
the bouquet du jour as they headed across the field to their waiting helicopter.
Bruyneel the tactician
By Chris Henry on Plateau de Beille
Considered by Lance Armstrong to be the driving mental force behind
the US Postal Service team's success in the past five editions of the
Tour de France, directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel takes a certain pride
in his ability to read the race and plan the team's strategy. As Armstrong
claimed his first stage win in this year's Tour (after the collective
victory in the team time trial), Bruyneel was happy with the day's effort
and his leader's placement relative to the danger men, particularly perennial
challenger Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile).
"I think he's six minutes down already," Bruyneel said of Ullrich, who
lost another 2'42 to Armstrong on stage 13. "That's a lot after two mountain
Bruyneel, who early in the season tipped Ivan Basso as perhaps the most
dangerous rider to watch in this year's Tour, confirmed "I was right"
about the Italian.
"I think there are other riders now who are more dangerous," Bruyneel
said. "We have Basso, who yesterday and today was the only rider who could
stay with Lance. Then there's Klöden, who's been showing some good
form and he's a good time trialist. Mancebo has been showing some good
form... I think they're going to be the main rivals for now."
As for his own tactical sense, Bruyneel has proven his ability to direct
the team and Armstrong to victory in the Tour, but credited his riders
for their own efforts throughout the stage.
"I think I have a good vision of the race and on the competition," he
said. "I think it's important to have the ability to analyse the race
and each situation. I'm in communication a lot with the riders within
the race. They see a lot more than I see, so it's really teamwork."
Basso brilliant again
Ivan Basso (CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Although it was the turn of Lance Armstrong to take the victory today
on Plateau de Beille, CSC's Ivan Basso showed that yesterday's win on
La Mongie was not a once off as he traded turns with Armstrong all the
way to the summit, eventually taking second to the American. Thus far
in the Tour, Basso is the only rider who has been able to match Armstrong
in the mountains, and looks the goods for a podium finish.
"I'm happy with what I've achieved in the Tour de France so far," Basso
was quoted on CSC's website (team-csc.com) as saying. "After my victory
yesterday I felt brilliant, and that gave me strength for today as well.
It was a very tough stage, and for Lance and me, it was all about keeping
a fast pace all the way, in order to gain as much time as possible. We
both heard over the radio, that a lot of the other favourites were having
difficulties, and we had to take advantage of this. Now I'll take one
day at a time, but naturally I have high ambitions for the remainder of
the Tour. It's a long way to Paris yet, but up until now it looks promising
for me and my team."
Unfortunately for CSC, Bobby Julich crashed on one of the first descents
and finished over 42 minutes behind Armstrong. Julich injured his right
hand and had x-rays this evening.
Pietro Caucchioli was again the best rider for Alessio-Bianchi in the
mountains, finishing ninth on the stage and moving into 9th on GC. Caucchioli
was always with the lead group until the final climb, when Armstrong and
Basso rode away from the rest.
"I'm really satisfied with my performance in the Pyrenees," said Caucchioli.
"I'm waiting for the decisive stages in the Alps where I'm sure I will
be able to better my ranking. My condition is alright."
Leipheimer runs out of gas
By Chris Henry on Plateau de Beille
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank)
Photo ©: CN
Although Levi Leipheimer was well positioned in the first kilometres
of the final ascent to Plateau de Beille, he faded in the final phases
and ended up 19th on Stage 13, 6'39 behind Armstrong. A disappointed Leipheimer
told Cyclingnews post-stage that "US Postal was so strong and you
could tell Lance wanted to win the stage. I felt really good until about
10 kilometres to go, and then unfortunately, it was over. I felt fine,
but little by little I ran out of gas and I had nothing left. This was
probably the hardest stage I've ever done. (Rabobank) didn't really get
anything out of the stage, but we tried."
Currently sitting in 14th on GC at 10'47", we asked Levi whether he
still had any aspirations for a Tour podium or top five, he replied frankly
"I think I lost that today."
As for US Postal's incredible team time trial performance today, Leipheimer
remarked that on the Cat. 1 Col d'Agnes that, "It was unbelievable...I
counted 22 riders in the group, with seven US Postal guys in front. I've
never seen anything like that, it was unbelievable."
Tyler Hamilton (Phonak) was the biggest name to abandon in today's tough
13th stage, pulling out at the feed zone after 79 km and climbing into
the team car. Phonak team spokesman Urs Freuler told Cyclingnews that,
"Tyler crashed badly in Angers and we didn't talk much about it, but he
had a large and painful bruise on his lower back and was just in too much
pain to continue. Tyler couldn't get out of the saddle when he was climbing...it's
really too bad."
Before the stage started, Hamilton explained how much he was being affected
by the crash. "All the muscles around [my back] are swollen," he said.
"It's basically blocking my lower back, which when you're climbing, you
need to use your lower back a lot. Yesterday it put a limit on my power.
The team did a fantastic job for me, it's just that I wasn't ready.
Hamilton rode the Tour last year with a broken collarbone, but back
pain is much harder to cope with for a cyclist. "It's definitely a disappointment
for me, I had the team, I had the legs, but this crash has affected me,"
Somewhat ironically, Hamilton's abandonment coincided with the day that
the Tyler Hamilton Foundation arranged for movie theaters across the USA
to screen today's stage live.
Crash at km 65:
Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r-Prévoyance) - contusions on left knee
Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) - cuts on lip and forehead
Crash at km 110:
Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) - Multiple contusions
Crash at km 185:
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) - contusions on both knees
Dariusz Baranowski (Liberty Seguros) - Left knee pain
Christophe Rinero (RAGT Semences-MG Rover) - minor indigestion
Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak) - eye irritation
Santos Gonzalez (Phonak) - minor indigestion
Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio-Bianchi) - headache
Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) - Pain in left thigh
Christophe Laurent (RAGT Semences-MG Rover) - cramps
Jakob Piil (Team CSC) - Right knee pain
Bobby Julich (Team CSC) - Pain in right wrist and elbow following crash
Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) - insect bite
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)