Tour de France News Extra for July 20, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Bruyneel plans the last week
By Melanie Leveau
Lance Armstrong (USPS)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
While riders are making the most of the second rest day of the Tour
after a training séance in the morning, while mechanics are washing and
checking the bikes before the Alps, Johan Bruyneel has to face the journalists.
He doesn't speak only about Lance Armstrong and his teammates but also
about his planned and new rivals, the way he imagines the last week and
the future of the team.
To maintain a certain suspense that nobody believes in anymore, a relaxed
Johan Bruyneel said that the Tour is not over and that everything can
still happen. For him, Lance Armstrong is not stronger than in the past.
"He's stronger than last year for sure but less than in 2001 and 2002.
If there is a bigger difference between Lance and his rivals this year,
I think it is because they are not at the same level than they used to
be. That explains why Lance looks so strong."
He can't really explain the difficulties Ullrich had to face in the
Pyrenees, but he believes the German can do well in the Alps. "He has
always been Lance's main rival and he is always the strongest in the last
week. So, we are happy to have him so far behind."
Hamilton, Mayo, Heras are already out of the race for victory. There
are a few men now able to make the road to Paris more difficult for Armstrong.
First there is Ivan Basso who was the last rider able to follow his pace
in the Pyrenees. "He's got a lot of talent, he's a hard worker" said Bruyneel.
That explains why US Postal tried to get him in the team last winter.
The Under 23 world champion (Valkenburg, 1998) finally preferred the Danish
CSC team, where he can ride for himself. At 26, Basso appears to be Armstrong's
main rival. "He's consistent, regular. He is probably not able to do a
super performance like Mayo but he is more calculating. He will perform
well on l'Alpe d'Huez and even if he is not a time trial specialist he
will do a good time next Saturday just to defend his classification".
Klöden is one other of the candidates for the podium. "He realized a
good season after a few seasons lacking. Like Ullrich, he is really good
in time trials. I don't expect them to sit and wait for the finish".
here for the full report
With his physical condition far from perfect and his morale completely
at rock bottom, the Basque hope Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) opted not to start
in Stage 15 of the Tour de France. After losing 37 minutes in Stage 13,
Mayo had felt bad on the rest day and he and his team decided it wasn't
"We knew he wouldn't finish the stage today, so we decided it was better
for him not to start," Euskaltel team manager Miguel Madariaga told Reuters.
Before the Tour, Mayo had been proclaimed as the man who would push
Lance Armstrong in the mountains, especially after putting two minutes
into the American in the Mont Ventoux TT during the Dauphine Libéré. But
a crash during stage 3 of the Tour left Mayo four minutes behind Armstrong,
and he was never able to take back any more time. During stage 13 he climbed
off on the Col d'Agnes, but was persuaded to continue by his team manager
until the finish at Plateau de Beille, where despite his massive deficit,
he was cheered to the top by thousands of fanatical Basques.
Jan Ullrich wasn't talking much during the rest day as he took stock
of a couple of less than average days in the Pyrenees. The German contender
who has never finished lower than second in the Tour looks like doing
so this year, even if there is a week to go until Paris.
"What happened in the Pyrenees surprised me because I thought I was
at my best level," Ullrich commented to L'Equipe. "But I just didn't have
the legs to match my ambitions. The Alps suit my potential better. I'm
a fighter. I will keep trying to prove that I was not wrong in my approach
to the Tour."
Ullrich added that, "The podium is still within reach and I don't want
to deprive myself of at least finishing the Tour with my head held high.
I've always said that the last week will be decisive."
Heras tries to stay positive
If Ullrich's less than average performance was a surprise in the Pyrenees,
highly touted Spanish climber Roberto Heras' climbing was even worse.
Heras has lost 27'35 to Voeckler so far, and is languishing in 35th spot
on GC. In comments to L'Equipe, the Liberty Seguros rider admitted that
he has no option but to try to salvage a stage win. "I have to look at
this Tour in another way," said Heras. "There is nothing more to lose.
It's time to attack and try to save this Tour. There's one week left to
Lotto-Domo concerned about Alpe d'Huez
Claude Criquielion, one of the Lotto-Domo team directors, is concerned
that Robbie McEwen could be eliminated during tomorrow's Alpe d'Huez time
trial. With the time limit set at 33% and a winning time for the 15.5
km uphill test expected to be around 40 minutes, McEwen will have to finish
within 13 minutes of the victor. "That means that he will have to give
full gas from the first metres," said Criquielion.
Scanlon battles the mountains
Irishman Mark Scanlon (Ag2r) is riding well in his first Tour de France,
currently sitting in 98th on GC, but more importantly he is hanging in
there. Cyclingnews spoke to him at the start of Stage 15, where
he was looking at another long, hard day in the saddle. "The Tour is going
well," said Scanlon. "I survived the Pyrenees and now I have to get through
some hard days in the Alps. I expect more of the same there - it's been
hard but I've managed."
When asked about his role in the team, Scanlon replied, "I'm not under
too much pressure. From now on I just have to look after Nazon and get
him to the Champs Elysées."
White on the mend
Matthew White (Cofidis), who crashed before the prologue in Liege and
didn't take the start of the Tour, is now on the mend after breaking his
right collarbone. White also suffered facial wounds and had to get four
stitches to his eyebrow. However, he has resumed training on the road
and is expected to start racing again at the end of July in preparation
for the Olympic Games in Athens.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)