Tour de France News for July 20, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Where have all the favourites gone?
Armstrong in control as Basso and Klöden step forward
By Chris Henry in Nîmes
Photo ©: Jon Devich
The second phase of the Tour de France produced a number of surprises,
but not the sort most people expected. As the first major climbs came,
nearly all of the top favourites went...backwards or out of the race.
Gone are Tyler Hamilton, Haimar Zubeldia, and Denis Menchov, among others.
Meanwhile, Jan Ullrich failed to keep pace in the Pyrenees and dropped
to nearly seven minutes behind the man to beat. Iban Mayo and his
Euskaltel-Euskadi team imploded as the race hit the Pyrénées,
practically home court for the Basques, and Spaniard Roberto Heras failed
to reproduce his fierce climbing talent he showed on the same two mountain
finishes two years ago.
Two 'new' faces emerged atop the leader board, one expected, one less
so. Ivan Basso, GC leader for Team CSC, has thus far confirmed his potential
as Italy's next great stage race rider. A former winner of the white jersey
of best young rider, Basso has come into his own in the first mountains
of this year's Tour and on the first two mountaintop finishes he was the
only man capable of matching the pace of defending champion Lance Armstrong.
Basso took a stage win and a second place, and set himself up to be Armstrong's
closest challenger for the remainder of the race. T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden
leapt ahead of his faltering leader Jan Ullrich and he too could carry
on for a podium finish in Paris if he can maintain his form through the
next set of mountains.
Armstrong isn't in yellow yet, but the American and his dominant US
Postal Service team once again made the Tour their own, dispensing of
their rivals systematically through perfect tactics and an unforgiving
collective strength. After 14 stages, Armstrong sits just 22 seconds out
of the race lead. Next stop: the Alps.
Click here to read
the full rest day 2 wrap up.
By Tim Maloney, European editor in Nimes
Jose and Chechu, Lance's go-to guys
Jose Azevedo (USPS)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Cyclingnews spoke to Chechu Rubiera and Jose Azevedo at the US
Postal team hotel before they went for a ride on Monday's rest day. Azevedo
is feeling at home on US Postal, saying "I feel happy here...We've had
two good days in the mountains, the team did a very good job and Lance
is in good position. But we still have one week more to go; the Tour isn't
Chechu Rubiera has become one of Armstrong's most reliable team riders
since coming to USPS three and a half years ago and his comments to Cyclingnews
echo the tone of cautious optimism at the Postal squad for a sixth consecutive
win by Armstrong. "Things are going really, really well...we are really
happy, but there is still a week of racing left to go. So we have to be
really focused on the coming days, because we have to defend attacks,
avoid crashes, a lot of things...Paris is still far away."
We asked Chechu how former rival, now teammate Azevedo was fitting in
at Postal. Chechu responded, "Azevedo is a great rider. He's already been
in the top 10 in the Tour a a few years ago and he's a great teammate.
Azevedo works really well; he takes care of his teammates, goes back for
bottles and all that kind of stuff. So I think Azevedo is a really, really
good guy for the team and we are really happy with him."
George the climber, or the secret of the black socks?
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
Cyclingnews asked George Hincapie if there was a secret to his
incredible climbing prowess this year at the Tour De France, as well as
the black socks that he and Lance both seem to favour on crucial stages.
"I've already done the stages we raced the last couple of days, so I think
that helps. You know, I think it's just more experience and just getting
stronger with age."
George refused to reveal any of the inside skinny on the decidedly non-traditional
hosiery, telling Cyclingnews that "I wear them all the time! I
wore 'em all spring...the pair that Lance gave me are thinner. But I just
like black socks. I guess a lot of people don't like black socks but Lance
and I do."
Basso remains calm
Ivan Basso (CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Italian cyclist Ivan Basso (CSC) impressed the cycling world in the Pyrenees
last weekend by being the only rider to trade blows with Tour favourite
Lance Armstrong on the final climbs. Basso and Armstrong both won stages
in the mountains, and the Italian has now moved up to a very solid third
on GC, 1'39 behind leader Voeckler and 1'17 behind Armstrong.
At a press conference on the Tour's rest day, Basso said that he is
staying calm as the Tour enters its final, crucial last week. "I feel
good, I feel strong," he said on CSC's website (team-csc.com). "Normally,
Armstrong goes full gas, but I stayed with him. I didn't die. It's been
a little bit of a surprise, but I knew I had the power before the Tour.
I knew of my potential before the Tour. There's still one week more of
the Tour, so I want to stay calm, stay where I am."
Although Basso and Armstrong were inseparable on La Mongie and Plateau
de Beille, Basso said that he will attack if he sees the opportunity.
"It's possible to win the Tour de France in one attack," Basso said. "Last
year at Luz Ardiden, Armstrong won the race in one attack. I don't know
if Armstrong will have a bad day. If he does, we will be ready. It's not
worth it to attack just to gain 10 to 20 seconds."
Team director Bjarne Riis agreed, saying, "We will attack Armstrong
only if he shows weakness. We are waiting for that...First, we will ride
to protect Ivan. I believe he can finish on the podium. If he can follow
Armstrong in the next few stages, that will be very important."
It wasn't all good news for CSC, as their most aggressive rider Jakob
Piil was forced to pull out of the Tour on the rest day. According to
the team, he has hyper-extended his knee and could barely walk following
American Bobby Julich is expected to be able to continue despite injuring
his right wrist in a fall in Saturday's stage to Plateau de Beille. The
swelling decreased in his wrist, but he likely won't be at 100 percent
in the Alps.
Unfortunately, Carlos Sastre is still suffering from a back injury sustained
after a crash in the first week. The Spanish rider has had trouble in
the mountains, even though he was able to make a significant attack in
Stage 12. "Carlos did a great job at La Mongie but it will be hard for
him to finish in the top 10," Riis said. "He has the qualities to finish
in the top 5, but with his back problems it will be hard for him to be
at that level."
Nice and easy?
By Tim Maloney, European editor in Nimes
Riis & Team Easy-On
Photo ©: Chris Henry
Team Easy-On is a pro cycling team that's one of the top pro squads in
Denmark, but you can only find them on Danish TV. Brian Henning Primdahl
is one of Denmark's top comics and his popular show The Boys From Angora
features a ongoing skit about a pro cycling team called Team Easy-On.
Primdahl plays a comical bumpkin of a sports director of a pro cycling
team sponsored by a condom company and the inept adventures of his wacky
team are very popular among Danish TV viewers. They poke fun at cycling
in general and the stereotypes in the sport.
Primdahl's team is allegedly based in central Denmark near the agricultural
city of Randers where the thick accent makes Danish practically unintelligible
even to Danes. Team Easy-On's small budget, reportedly around 2,000 euros
(as well as an abundant supply of free condoms) makes life miserable.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)