Tour de France News for July 22, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
A sign of the times
Armstrong dominates on l'Alpe d'Huez
Armstrong passes Basso
Photo ©: Sirotti
Lance Armstrong once again demolished his opposition in this year's Tour
de France, winning the 16th stage individual time trial on l'Alpe d'Huez
by 1'01 over Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and 1'41 to Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile).
Armstrong strengthened his grip on the maillot jaune to 3'48 after
he caught his two minute man Ivan Bass (CSC) with 2.8 km to race, perhaps
the defining moment in this year's Tour.
"I was very happy to win here today. L'Alpe d'Huez is the most important
climb in the Tour. Today I was focused on just getting through the stage
safe and getting the stage win and secure the lead overall. I'm real careful
about counting to the number six, although I can. I'll do that on the
final lap on the Champs-Elysees. Today was focused on today."
Armstrong added that he probably preferred his 2001 win at l'Alpe d'Huez
to today's win because "It looked like the race was going against us in
2001; Telekom was making the race and basically saying that they were
going to dominate, but we came back as a team and I came back as an individual
and it was quite a swing so I think that made it in general more exciting."
But Lance was not impressed with some of the over-enthusiastic fans
today or their behaviour. He explained that "Honestly, that's the way
it is every day in the mountains. The Pyrenees were exactly the same...it's
not abnormal; there was never a moment where somebody was more aggressive
than I've ever seen. The finish on Plateau de Beille was scarier than
today...today, the section was a lot longer, on Plateau de Beille, there
was one kilometre really...close people. Today you had four or five kilometres
of people all the time. I don't know if that's such a good thing for the
Tour de France. I don't think it's safe. I think we all agree, and I think
the organizers after having watched would agree. I just spoke to McEwen
and he agreed. He was scared the whole time up."
16 full results, report & photos
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
As usual, Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is improving as the Tour goes on, today
riding his best race yet to finish second in the Alpe d'Huez time trial,
1'01 behind Armstrong. Ullrich rode without a radio and, unlike most others,
used a standard time trial position on the aero bars for most of the climb.
"The position on the bike is comparable to the position on flat time trials,"
said T-Mobile's doctor Lothar Heinrich on the team's website (t-mobile-team.com).
"The position is just adjusted for power production, which is greater
than on the flat."
Ullrich commented afterwards, "I gave it everything, to confirm that
I am still in with a shout. The atmosphere here was electric, my ear will
still be ringing when I get back to my room tonight."
His teammate Andreas Klöden who finished third said, "It was like riding
in a tunnel, with just the motor bike in your sights. But what Lance Armstrong
did here is just amazing."
In his preparation for the Tour, Ullrich rode the climb 10 times before
the Tour of Germany in order to learn the exact profile and the best lines
to take through the hairpins.
By Melanie Leveau on l'Alpe d'Huez
David Moncoutié, Cofidis (9th at 2'23)
"I started carefully and tried to finish as fast as possible. It is
an effort that suits me and even if I don't target the general classification,
I really wanted to realize a good time in front of such a crowd. It was
a marvellous moment. There were a lot of people on this mythical climb.
Sometimes I was a bit scared because they moved away at the last moment
but it was beautiful."
Stéphane Goubert, Ag2r Prévoyance (11th at 2'27)
"I punctured with three kilometres to go. Shit! I felt really good, I
had one of the best times but I had to change my bike because of that
puncture. I lost a lot of time stopping to change the bike and accelerating
again with a different bike in a different gear. I finished as I could.
I'm satisfied and disappointed at the same time. With the public, it was
fantastic, it was a real pleasure all along the climb. I can't wait for
Paris. Tomorrow will be tough but I tried yesterday and I'll do it again
tomorrow even if today's stage will weigh on my legs."
Axel Merckx, Lotto - Domo (22th at 3'40)
Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
"I managed to keep a good rhythm all along the climb and to accelerate
for the finish. I am satisfied with my time but the best riders hadn't
crossed the line yet. The most important is that I climbed with a good
pace and that my legs are still good. My father was in the car behind
me and I think he suffered as much as I did because I know he doesn't
really like to see his children suffer."
Laurent Brochard, Ag2r Prévoyance (28th at 4'03)
"I climbed as I expected with my own rhythm. I had a good cadence and
I'm quite satisfied with my performance. The public was great and above
all because it was just for you. It was really great. The hardest was
to try not to decelerate and I think I managed that. I have no real ambitions
for the general classification but it is true that the race circumstances
have put me in a good position. Tomorrow, I expect to have more luck in
my breakaway attempts than in the last few days."
Jérôme Pineau, Brioches la Boulangère (43th at 4'43)
"The crowd was really impressive in the first kilometres but I did not
accelerate too much. That's a trap, you're tempted to accelerate but you
pay it a bit later. Sylvain (Chavanel) caught me with 250m to go. I'm
quite satisfied today".
Nicolas Portal, Ag2r Prevoyance (85th at 6'34)
"My performance isn't too bad even if I didn't feel very good. I tried
not to change my rhythm too much because changes are not easy when you're
not feeling good. There were a lot of people on the climb, as last year.
It is really motivating, it helps a lot. I was quite confident before
the start as I rode well on the Mont Ventoux during the Dauphiné Libéré.
I did not really appreciate the climb because I was worried about the
Stuart O'Grady, Cofidis (63th at 5'38)
"I just got into a good rhythm, a good tempo. Kirchen passed me early
on so I just made it my objective to sit behind him and use him as my
focus, which seemed to work pretty well. With Armstrong as fast as he
is, there's no time to muck around. We just go out there as quick as we
can and finish as quick as we can.
"The green jersey is a bit out of my reach now. I might have a go tomorrow,
getting into a breakaway again like I did yesterday. The problem is everybody
knows my plan."
Patrice Halgand, Crédit Agricole (91th at 6'40)
"It was hard but not harder than I expected; this was the Alpe. It was
pretty hard to find the right rhythm and to know if I was doing a good
time or not. I had a difficult moment after the first intermediate time
point. Did I start too fast? I don't know but I managed to find a second
wind in the last kilometres. The most important thing was to arrive at
the summit and finish within the time cut. The spectators were numerous
above all in the first kilometres. "
Scott Sunderland, Alessio Bianchi (108th at 7'19)
"It was bloody hard! Even if you have particular objective, this kind
of race is not easy. I just calculated to be within the time cut. It was
pretty hot and there were so many people on the side of the road. It was
great. I had lot of supporters: Belgian people and a lot, I mean a lot
of support from Australians. People can really get close to you but they
know they have to move away. It is always at the last second but they
go away. It was a great crowd, they didn't make you crazy. For the last
guys like Armstrong, it might be different but for me, it was good.
"Tomorrow is going to be a hard day but I think I'll be okay with the
first two climbs. I think Ullrich is going to attack again. But for me,
it is just a matter of getting through tomorrow and we'll be almost in
Paris. Maybe on Friday, if I'm feeling okay, I'll try to be on the attack
again. It will be my last chance to finish in a front group. On the Champs-Elysees,
it is a bit hard because of the sprinters."
Caucchioli keeps ninth
Pietro Caucchioli (Alessio)
Photo ©: Sirotti
While Lance Armstrong strengthened his lead in the general classification
today, Alessio-Bianchi's Pietro Caucchioli managed to defend his ninth
position in the standings with a ride of 43'39 that put him in 27th place
on the stage. "Today I suffered from breathing troubles more than yesterday:
an annoying cough had been torturing me for the whole second part of the
time trial. I'm trying to overlook today's 27th position: I kept ninth
in the general ranking and I've gained about ten seconds on the tenth
rider, U.S. Leipheimer. As I expected, I overtook the former yellow jersey
Voeckler but, unfortunately, I was overtaken by Carlos Sastre. The Spaniard
has 0'16 on me: I will try to recover the gap in the next stages to post
an extraordinary eighth position."
The other Alessio-Bianchi members did their job today, including Andrea
Noè who is riding with a microfracture of the right wrist, finishing 62nd
at 5'25 from Armstrong.
Simoni's had enough
Gilberto Simoni, double winner of the Giro d'Italia, has said he never
wants to race the Tour de France again. Italy's national Tour has been
a source of pleasure for Simoni, leader of the Saeco team, but the Tour
de France has not smiled on Gibo.
"I never want to come back," Simoni told l'Equipe's Philippe
Brunel. "I've done four Tours without any success."
He will race the Tour, "because it's my job and they pay me to do that,"
but the lure of the biggest grand tour has been lost.
Of course Simoni's stage victory in the 2003 Tour was a notably victory,
salvaging a failed attempt to ride for the general classification, but
the Italian is tired of finding himself completely overwhelmed by the
dominance of Lance Armstrong and his US Postal Service team. Gone is the
bravado of a year ago when Simoni said openly that he could beat Armstrong
in the Tour. Gone is his own ambition to attack just to liven up the race,
even if only for a shot at a stage win.
"The other day my director said I had to attack Armstrong, but how?"
Simoni asked. "In the lead group half of the riders were US Postal. We
were twenty and they were nine! The only solution is to take on Armstrong
one on one, but even then, we've seen that Armstrong is very strong and
"In this Tour it's less a question of beating Armstrong than beating
his team," Simoni added. "When we're in the mountains, as long as he has
two teammates by his side, there's nothing we can do... Everyone who talked
about attacking his has had to be quiet."
Rather than ride as the 'tenth gregario' for Armstrong, Simoni hopes
to finish the Tour without incident, and win a stage, which he confesses
would be a miracle. Disappointed with a number of decisions by the Tour
organisation, notably the exclusion of Saeco riders Danilo Di Luca (before
the Tour) and Stefano Casagranda (during) due to their implication in
an ongoing doping investigation in Italy, Simoni said he could accept
bad luck or the strength of his rivals, but he couldn't accept having
to fight against the organisation.
Simoni seems to have become more humble, and even if he has not come
to love Armstrong's personality, he accepts the American's dominance in
"I envy Armstrong, like I envied Pantani for what he did," Simoni said.
"Those two are bigger than me."
Hamilton in one piece
Tyler Hamilton had an MRI performed to determine the extent of his injuries
which forced his abandon in the Tour de France, and at a minimum has confirmed
that no bones were broken in the fall. Hamilton landed hard on his back
when caught up in a crash in the final kilometre of the Tour stage 6 to
Angers. Though he continued for the next few days, the high mountains
of the Pyrénées proved too difficult for the Phonak leader,
who aside from dealing with the pain could not get enough power in his
legs to follow the leaders.
"This is really good news for me," Hamilton said Tuesday. "I can forget
about cycling for the next couple of days. Therapy is on the agenda every
Hamilton could be back in light training next week, and has set his
sights on a possible entry in the Clasica San Sebastian, followed by the
Olympic Games in Athens.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)