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Tour de France News Extra for July 22, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Bruyneel argues against relegation

By Tim Maloney, European editor in Bourg d'Oisans

As a result of an "dangerous driving" in yesterday's l'Alpe d'Huez time trial, US Postal director Johan Bruyneel's car was relegated to the back of the caravan for today's stage 17. The race jury ruled that Bruyneel hindered a TV cameraman that was filming Armstrong near the start of the climb. But Bruyneel argued that he had a prior agreement to be there, and reinstated himself at the front of the caravan during the stage anyway.

"There was an agreement before the race with Jean-Marie Leblanc and John Lelangue that for security reasons, I would go directly behind Lance until the barriers," Bruyneel explained to Cyclingnews today. When the car is directly behind the rider, it opens the road a lot more than when there's a motorcycle behind.

"France TV knew of that agreement. It was reconfirmed right before the start. But 300m into the race, France TV put its motorbike between me and Lance. I tried to get around, but he wouldn't let me pass. And at one point I came alongside the motorcycle and took my place. The commissaire and president of the jury (Mirco Monti) didn't agree with that manoeuvre and probably French TV made a complaint to the jury about dangerous driving.

"So I went yesterday to the race HQ to explain the situation, and the commissaire didn't know about the agreement. I went together with Jean Marie and John Lelangue and explained that there was a deal in place but they didn't accept me. Three of the commissaires agreed, but only the president of the jury said that it was his decision. So I just have to conclude that he is a dictator."

Bruyneel added his voice to the issues about the security of the stage yesterday, which was run through the usual hordes of crazy spectators who at times bumped the riders. Armstrong and McEwen were the victims of some unsporting behaviour form the fans, who booed, spat and yelled abuse at them.

"It was dangerous and we were concerned about that," said Bruyneel. "That's why we have taken these precautions, to have me directly on Lance's wheel at least until the barriers. If the importance of having images on TV or photographers is more important to the president of the jury than the security of the riders, then I don't understand it any more. I think it's first priority to the riders, priority to the directors, then the press."

Another one bites the dust as Heras pulls out

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) was one of three riders who didn't take the start of Stage 17 from Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand. The Liberty team captain has had an extremely poor Tour so far and decided that there wasn't much point in continuing in less than perfect condition.

"He won't start. We haven't been able to get him back to full condition," said Liberty's team manager Manolo Saiz to Radio Marca. "We've had to take a decision that isn't to our liking but we're professionals and life must go on."

Heras came into the Tour with expectations that he would finish among the top riders on GC, as in the past he has shown himself to be a brilliant climber, winning the Vuelta Espa˝a twice and riding for several years as Lance Armstrong's climbing domestique. But after yesterday's 16th stage, Heras sat in 45th place on GC, nearly an hour behind Armstrong, and the team decided that it was best to cut his losses.

Other riders not to take the start of Stage 17 were Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio) and Ludovic Martin (Brioches).

Tombak out

An early casualty of stage 17 was Cofidis rider Janek Tombak, who was attempting to adjust the sensor on his front wheel when his right hand slipped into the spokes and he cut his fingers up. He dropped back to the race doctor for treatment, but the injuries were too bad to continue and he abandoned.

Voigt defends himself

After being called "Judas" and other names by German fans on Alpe d'Huez yesterday, CSC's super workhorse Jens Voigt has defended himself strongly. Voigt was heavily criticised by the Germans after he played a key role in chasing down T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich during stage 15, following the orders of his team director Bjarne Riis who wanted to protect Ivan Basso's second place. Despite the fact that Voigt and Ullrich ride for different teams and Voigt was merely obeying instructions, the partisan German fans did not see it that way and hurled abuse at him yesterday.

"I was sworn at on the road for being a traitor," said Voigt to DPA. "That was open hostility. I would have got off and yelled at them. National politics or war have no place here. It should only be about sport. I've always tried to simply live my life. The uncalled for criticism really hurt me. "

Voigt said that his riding in Stage 15 was purely for his captain Ivan Basso. "Of course it broke my heart to ride behind Jan. I would rather see Jan win the Tour than Lance. But that is my job. If I didn't ride behind, the Tour would already be finished for me and I would be sitting on an aeroplane on the way back home, because I hadn't fulfilled my contract."

Voigt also criticised the commentators on German TV channel ARD, who he believed prompted the outcry. "That was certainly the trigger for the witch hunt," he said. "ARD and T-Mobile, that's a little narrow. It's the first time that I have been sworn at by fans. That's why I'm so sour."

The German also explained that he gave Andreas Kl÷den water with 7 km to go in Stage 15, and noted that he had worked completely for Ullrich in the Olympics in 2000. "And I will also die in Athens for him," he noted.

Armstrong tops TT count

Lance Armstrong's win on Alpe d'Huez yesterday was his 9th individual time trial victory in the Tour de France and his 19th Tour stage win all together. The American, who has dominated the Tour for the past six years, began his winning run in 1999 when he won the prologue in Puy du Fou, going on to win in Metz and Futuroscope that same year. In 2000 he won the time trial in Mulhouse; in 2001 he won the climbing TT to Chamrousse as well as the flat one in Saint-Amand-Montrond. In 2002 he won the prologue in Luxembourg and the 50 km time trial in Macon; in 2003 he didn't win any time trials, and in 2004 he has the Alpe d'Huez stage to his credit.

A 10th Tour TT victory in Besanšon is on the cards, which would give him an incredible 20 Tour stage wins, an average of one every six stages. At 32 years old, Armstrong hasn't shown many signs of slowing down, and there could be more Tour victories in future.

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Recently on Cyclingnews.com

Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini