Tour de France News Extra for July 21, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Green jersey race hinges on stage 18
By John Trevorrow
Photo: © Sirotti
Stage 15 had little effect on the green jersey contest as an attack by
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) split the peloton and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Dome)
missed the move. None of the green jersey contenders made the finale,
though Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) were
with the front group to share the points on offer in the intermediate
sprint in St Jean-en-Royans.
Robbie McEwen was fairly circumspect after the stage. "It was quick in
the beginning and we had Axel Merckx in the move," he said. "Rabobank
missed the break like they do every day. Maybe they need to set their
alarm clocks five minutes earlier. The break was away and then they had
to chase it down. Then they put blokes in the break who are too far up
in GC so everyone chases them down. Whatever. They can do whatever they
want. For me it wasn't such a good thing that Stuey and Thor were in the
break. But it was much better for me that Stuey took the six points and
not Thor. I was glad there was a break away before the first sprint because
doing a full-gas sprint in the first hour at the foot of a climb is not
a good thing on a day like this."
McEwen's lead is still a handy 12 points and he will be very pleased
if it is close to that on the start of the final stage on Sunday.
The biggest challenge will come in stage 18 to Lons-le-Saunier on Friday.
This is a day that will suit O'Grady and Zabel, but not McEwen or Hushovd.
It is the stage that could completely turn the battle for the Maillot
Vert, with the category 2 Col de la Faucille likely to be crucial. If
O'Grady or Zabel make it over with the front group, and McEwen and Hushovd
don't, whoever crosses the line first could grab all the points and put
himself into green.
Armstrong looks forward to l'Alpe
With the yellow jersey on his back and every intention of keeping it
there, Lance Armstrong is looking forward to the Tour's next great challenge
- Wednesday's 15.5km individual time trial from Bourg d'Oisans to Alpe
For Armstrong and the Tour de France Alpe d'Huez is a climb that has
significance way beyond its length or elevation. Since it was first used
in the Tour in 1952 - when the village itself was an almost undeveloped
mountain hamlet - it has been the scene of many epic Tour battles.
Armstrong is deeply aware of the Alpe's history. "There is something
exciting about riding l'Alpe d'Huez in the yellow jersey," he said. Last
year Armstrong used this mountain to take the yellow jersey on a stage
won by Iban Mayo, while he won on the Alpe himself in 2001. This year,
he intends to secure his lead. But he knows it won't be easy to defeat
the challenge presented by CSC's Ivan Basso.
"I expect him to be strong, I think he'll be tough to beat," said Armstrong.
"I think he's well prepared. He has trained in l'Alpe d'Huez before. I
have the good fortune of starting behind him, which is a good advantage.
I'm excited to do it, to be on the Alpe."
As always, Armstrong has prepared hard for this stage. "They don't call
it the 'Race of Truth' for nothing," he said. "It's the race where people
who have done the most work are the ones that excel. We spent a week there
and rode up and down every day."
In other Lance Armstrong news, the five-time Tour winner's bottled water
sponsor Dasani (owned by the Coca-Cola Company) announced on Monday that
it had renewed its association with Armstrong until 2006.
Scary days ahead for Rogers
By John Trevorrow
Michael Rogers (Quick.Step) is still hovering just back from the big
hitters and looks still have a bit in the tank. "It's just getting harder
and harder every day," he said. "They are just going like madmen from
the start and I think it's a harder circuit than last year. At the start
[in 2003], we had two weeks on the flat without a breath of wind. This
year it's been wind, rain, hail… everything, and everyday has been like
a world cup race.
"We had to do a lot at the front today to work for Virenque for the mountain
jersey. I'll do my best in the time-trial, I'll see how I go. I'm still
hoping to make it into the top 20. I would have like to be in the front
today but it's just getting harder and harder. Tomorrow, Alpe d'Huez and
then the next day… Everyone's shaking, they will be scary days. I know
I've improved so much over the last year. I've got nothing to prove here."
Netherlands wants Tour start
Two towns in the Netherlands are working on bringing future Tour stages
to the cycling-mad low countries. Valkenberg and the province of Zeeland
are discussing the possibility of hosting the prologue of the 2005 Tour,
while Rotterdam mayor Ivo Opstelten is currently in France to try and
persuade Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc to bring the start of the race
to the port town in 2007, 2008 or 2009.
The Tour last visited the Netherlands in 1996 when the prologue and following
two stages started in Hertogenbosch.
Bettini aims for Athens
Quick.Step's Paolo Bettini is using this Tour de France as the world's
biggest training race, with his sights on the Athens Olympic road race.
"I'm not here to win the Tour but to work hard to peak at 110 percent
in mid-August," he told Reuters. "The Tour is the biggest race
in cycling but August will be the most important month of my season. Hopefully
July and the Tour will be a stepping stone to a gold medal."
The 2003 World Cup champion was never a favourite for the overall classification
in a three-week race, but had hoped for a stage win. With the race about
enter its final phase in the Alps, he will now simply try and conserve
"In the last week of the Tour I've got to look after myself so that I
come out of the three weeks in good shape ready for the Olympics," he
said. "If I have a bad day I know I have to back off and finish in the
pack and if things get really bad I'll even quit the Tour so that I don't
push myself too far.
"The Tour's yellow jersey is Lance's thing, I'd prefer to have an Olympic
By John Trevorrow
Before today's start a few of the guys were still in rest mode. Scott
Sunderland was savouring the final moments.
"Ahh - rest day. It's a mental thing," he said. "You finish the stage
and you know there's a rest day and the body shuts down. I had no energy
yesterday and I just relaxed. Only did one hour easy on the bike and just
recovered. Today I woke up and the body knew it had work to do and I feel
fine, got work to do. Not the slightest bit lethargic."
Baden Cooke only had one thing to say about the rest day. "Need another
Matthew Wilson obviously enjoyed the day off and was one of the first
on the start line this morning. "It was very relaxing and I took full
advantage of a day off in the sun in Provence," he said.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)