Tour de France News for July 23, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Only the strongest survive
I'll have that one too
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Today's 17th stage of the Tour de France between Bourg d'Oisans and Le
Grand-Bornand was the final race of attrition, run in searing 30 plus
degree heat and over several massive climbs, including the Glandon and
the Madeleine. The stage saw an early break go clear from the start containing
Gilberto Simoni and four others who were caught by Virenque and Moreau
on the Madeleine with 125 km to go.
In the end, however, US Postal and CSC splintered the peloton and caught
the break on the last climb with around 20 km to go, setting things up
for another showdown between the top GC contenders Lance Armstrong, Ivan
Basso, Andreas Klöden and Jan Ullrich, as well as Floyd Landis who had
a superb day and rode on the front for most of the final climb. Despite
an attack by Klöden with 1 km to go, Armstrong again showed that he has
the best legs in this year's Tour as he closed the gap to the German in
the last 200m to take his third Tour stage in a row.
After the stage, Armstrong explained why he brought back Klöden's last
kilometre attack with such a concerted effort. "As I stepped up to the
top of the podium, Bernard Hinault met me at the top of the steps and
said 'perfect.' No gifts, no gifts this year. I've given gifts in the
Tour de France and very rarely has it ever come back to help me. And this
is the biggest bike race in the world and it means more than any bike
race in the world and it means more to me than any bike race in the world.
And I wanna win. No gifts."
No more gifts.
Photo ©: CN
But Armstrong praised his teammate Landis, who showed his strength and
determination today in the Tour. "He is riding super; he's a great teammate
and he's given everything. Today was the best day I've ever seen from
Floyd and I've had some fast guys ride tempo on the climbs. Floyd seems
to be getting better and better every day...That's why I really wanted
him to win the stage. For me, he deserved the win and for that matter,
I should dedicate the stage win to him, because he deserved it. I think
he wanted it and needed it. I asked him (on the final climb) 'how bad
do you wanna win a stage in the Tour de France? And he said 'real bad'.
I said 'how fast can you go downhill' and he said 'I go downhill real
fast' and he said 'can I do it?' and I said 'sure you can do it; run like
you stole something, Floyd.' And Jan chased him down."
As for the T-Mobile camp, Jan Ullrich explained the team's tactics in
his diary entry on T-Mobile's website (t-mobile-team.com): "Klödi" didn't
quite pull of "mission impossible", but it was real battle out there today.
Lance is in a different class at the moment. Nevertheless, I was really
hoping that it would be a stage win for my mate.
"We had arranged things between us about five km from the line: I would
mark Floyd Landis and Andi would try to ward off Lance. It was perfectly
set up. When "Klödi" attacked like a bat out of hell, opening up a gap
of 60, 70 metres back to us, then I thought to myself: He has it in the
Andreas Kloden's (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
"At the end of a stage that nobody deserved to lose, only one fact remains:
Lance is too strong! We burst a gut out there today. You can be sure that
we would have attacked earlier, if we could. There was nothing left in
the tank to attack Armstrong today. That doesn't mean that we won't give
it everything between now and Paris to oust Ivan Basso from the second
place. I think that we have a good chance. After all, the CSC rider has
only a minute on "Klödi". It's going to be quite a showdown!"
After he was caught in the final 20 metres of the stage, Andreas Klöden
commented that, "I'm certainly not utterly disappointed, I was only lacking
a few metres, but through the 12 second time bonus I made up good time
17 full results, report & photos
Stage 18: Will the green jersey change hands?
By John Trevorrow
Today's 166.5 km stage from Annemasse to Lons le Saunier may be the
last big test in the green jersey competition. With the major obstacles
early in the race, it is a day that is perfectly suited to Stuart O'Grady
or Erik Zabel. They will have plenty of time to get back to the leaders
after the category Col de la Faucille, 75.5 kilometres into the race,
and it is quite possible one of them could take the stage win.
Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd will be watching Zabel and O'Grady very
closely, but in the rolling terrain of eastern France, McEwen will have
to do the ride of his life to neutralize an O'Grady or Zabel escape.
Ullrich defends Voigt
Jan Ullrich has defended his compatriot Jens Voigt, who was on the end
of some rather nasty spectator abuse during yesterday's Alpe d'Huez time
was called a "Judas" and a "traitor to the fatherland" by German fans
and media after he had sat up in the break and gone back to help CSC and
US Postal chase down Ullrich the previous day when the T-Mobile rider
attacked with 60 km to go. But Ullrich understood completely that Voigt
was merely following orders and doing his job, as he wrote in his diary
on T-Mobile's website:
"There is one thing that I want to clear up: The jeering that my buddy
Jens Voigt was subjected to yesterday was not pretty. It saddens me that
he was sworn at and called a "Judas" and other names. Jens was just doing
what any other rider would have done if they were in his situation. There
is an unwritten rule in cycling that you always wait for your captain
when the race explodes. And things did explode for Basso in that stage!
Jens, you did what you had to do!"
Seventh polka dot jersey for Virenque
By Melanie Leveau in Le Grand Bornand
Team Virenque (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
Richard Virenque pointed his polka dot jersey to his supporters at the
top of the Col de la Croix-Fry, the last climb of the 17th stage. He was
not part of the leading group any more but was aware that nobody else
could come back and take the lead in the mountains classification. Accidents
excepted, he will win it on Sunday on the Champs-Elysées.
Richard Virenque can be proud of his performance. Never before has a
rider won that classification seven times. Neither Bahamontes nor Van
Impe, who stopped at six.
Virenque won the polka dot jersey for the first time 10 years ago. Since
that time, many things happened in his career and that jersey pleases
him particularly because it is the proof of his consistency and his temperament.
"It wasn't easy to keep that jersey because of the new rules (points
are doubled at the mountain top finishes). It was almost an impossible
mission for me as the general classification's leaders could come back
easily. So I had to attack every day and it was very difficult. I have
been consistent since Saint-Flour, in the Pyrenees and in the Alps, that
is why I won. I could say that jersey is my jersey of courage.
"When Armstrong started winning the Tour, I knew I would never win it
so I decided to target the polka dot jersey. At my level, I made my mark
at the Tour de France and I am really proud of it," added Virenque.
The French chouchou doesn't know yet if he will be a professional
rider next year. "I have to discuss it with Patrick Lefevčre and other
people. In fact, I already have a few projects for my post-riding career.
Simoni goes down fighting
Gilberto Simoni (Saeco)
Photo ©: Sirotti
In the final stage that suited his climbing capabilities, Gilberto Simoni
(Saeco) rode a great race, attacking from the start with four others before
being caught by Virenque and Moreau on the Col de la Madeleine, riding
with these two until halfway up the final climb when they were caught
by the front group of the peloton. Along the way, Simoni claimed the Souvenir
Henri Desgranges, the prime at the summit of the Madeleine, after a hard
fought duel with Virenque to the top, salvaging some pride in what has
been an average Tour.
"I didn't want to go home without doing anything," Simoni told Datasport.
"We went very strongly for many kilometres, but perhaps we were too few.
We didn't gain much time and in the end they caught us."
Top Aussie Rogers aims for the twenty
By John Trevorrow
Ten Australians prepared for the start of the Tour de France nearly three
weeks ago in Ličge. Matt White unfortunately crashed out before the start,
while Nick gates and Bradley Mcgee were cut down by injuries. But the
remaining Australians have passed the final hurdle and only bad luck can
stop a record seven Australians from riding into Paris on Sunday.
Mick Rogers is the best-placed of those seven in 22nd spot and is hoping
to move up into the top 20 by the time the race reaches the Champs Elysées.
"I'll try and take it easy tomorrow and have a good time trial on Saturday,"
said Rogers after stage 17. "I was pleased with my rider today but I did
it hard on the last climb. I feel like I'm coming out of the Tour all
"The US Postal team were just too strong today. I suffered a lot but,
hey, that's the Tour.
Caucchioli slips a place
Photo ©: Sirotti
Alessio-Bianchi's Pietro Caucchioli lost a place in the general classification
today after finishing 16th in the stage to Le Grand Bornand. Caucchioli
moved from 9th down to 10th after Levi Leipheimer finished 7th, a minute
quicker than Caucchioli.
"U.S. Postal, CSC and T-mobile don't give anything to their opponents,"
said Caucchioli. "It's almost impossible to move freely and, as far as
I'm concerned, the situation is even more difficult because of the breathing
troubles I have been suffering for some days. I'm going to fight to the
last stage to be one of the top ten in the ranking. Next Saturday's long
time trial will decide everything."
Alessio's Alessandro Bertolini was forced to withdraw because of bronchitis
and didn't start stage 17.
Tour spectator falls to his death
An 64 year-old French spectator fell 40 metres to his death yesterday
during the 16th stage of the Tour de France, the Associated Press
reported. The man's body was found by police after family members alerted
them to his disappearance. An autopsy will be performed on his body on
Janek Tombak (Cofidis) - Deep cut on fourth finger (right hand), taken
to hospital in Grenoble
Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r-Prévoyance) - Cuts on left thigh and elbow
Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze) - Multiple contusions, cuts on left
Daniel Becke (Illes Balears-Banco Santander) - Cuts and multiple contusions
Franck Renier (Brioches La Boulangère) - Cuts and multiple contusions
Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com) - Cuts and multiple contusions
Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) - Back pain
The following riders were fined 50 CHF and penalised 5 points and 0'10
for holding onto vehicles:
Iker Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze)
Walter Beneteau (Brioches La Boulangère)
Karsten Kroon (Rabobank)
Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile)
Bert Grabsch (Phonak)
Oscar Sevilla (Phonak)
Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros)
Christian Vandevelde (Liberty Seguros)
Xabier Zandio (Illes Balears-Banco Santander)
Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo)
Fabio Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi) - fined 100 CHF and penalised 10 points
and 0'20 for the same infraction
Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com) - Fined 30 CHF for brief drafting behind
The following riders were fined 40 CHF for receiving pushes from spectators:
Matthew Wilson (FDJeux.com)
Jimmy Casper (Cofidis)
Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis)
Erik Dekker (Rabobank)
Santiago Botero (T-Mobile)
Directeur sportif of US Postal Service - fined 200 CHF for disobeying
rules of circulation among vehicles
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)