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Tour de France News for June 10, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

Relentess Ventoux awaits Armstrong

By Tim Maloney in Saint-Etienne

Before a hot and hard stage three on Wednesday, Lance Armstrong (USPS-Berry Floor) told Cyclingnews in a brief interview that, "I feel good and I'm really motivated for Ventoux. But (Iban) Mayo will be hard to beat because he's really motivated now too."

Where the use of new materials are concerned in looking for the fastest way up the climb, Armstrong explained, "yeah, all the little things are important nowadays...weight on the wheels, weight on the bike. It's important that all the material works, but I have to be focused, warm up properly, have to use the right tactic, the way my effort is regulated and I have to be strong. There's no pretending on the Ventoux."

Lance Armstrong (USPS-Berry Floor)
Photo ©: CN
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When comparing le Mont Ventoux to l'Alpe d'Huez and the fact that Armstrong considers Ventoux to be the more difficult of the two, he laughed and said, "the Ventoux is longer, but don't get me wrong, they're both really hard. They are different in that (l'Alpe d'Huez) has a lot of bends so you have a little recovery in the corners, but the Ventoux is relentless."

Armstrong has no plans to recconoiter le Mont Ventoux on Thursday morning. "No", he said with a sardonic smile. "I know it." Instead, Lance will fine tune his position on his Trek Madone protoype, which has a pair of incredibly light Bontrager carbon fibre tubular climbing wheels and new Bontrager carbon fibre aero handlebars.

Also see: Our special feature on le Mont Ventoux

Mayo backs Lance

Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Iban Mayo has spoken up in defence of Lance Armstrong in the wake of an article published by Le Monde recently, that alleged Lance Armstrong suspected Spanish riders of using illegal blood boosting products. "We believe Lance," Mayo was quoted by Sporza as saying. "We know that Le Monde has pursued him for five years with all sorts of untrue stories. It was also the newspaper that wrote in 1999 that he used forbidden products. But they forgot to say that he had a medical certificate for them."

Beloki: Armstrong is the favourite

In an interview with As, Joseba Beloki has reiterated that he will ride this year's Tour de France, and tipped Lance Armstrong as face favourite. "Lance is the favourite because he has won for so many many years," said Beloki. "Then there is Ullrich, who has also won it. And then there are important contenders, such as Mayo and Hamilton. Heras has never been tested against Armstrong, but he is also a candidate."

Beloki expects to arrive at the Tour in good shape after the Route du Sud, the Spanish championships and a training camp in the Alps, but if he is not a protagonist in the Tour, he'll seek consolation in the Vuelta.

"I have always seen the Vuelta as a race for people who had problems during the year. It hasn't mattered to me before, but of course if I do not go well in the Tour I will look to the Vuelta."

Ullrich sets sights on Tour de Suisse

Fresh off his 7th place overall in the Tour of Germany, Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is looking at the upcoming Tour de Suisse (June 12-20) to put the finishing touches on his Tour de France preparation. Ullrich's three-step plan is simple: "To be good in the Tour of Germany, better in the Tour de Suisse and in top form in the Tour de France."

The 30 year old finished second in the time trial stage of the Tour of Germany, but lost some time in both of the important mountain stages when the attacks started happening. Thus in the upcoming Tour de Suisse, Ullrich is looking at improving in these areas. "In the final time trial over 25.6 kilometres in Lugano, he wants to go for the victory, if all is well," said Ullrich's mentor Rudy Pevenage to DPA.

Ullrich's other concern will be the high mountains, where he will play a role for his teammate Alexandre Vinokourov. "Above all, Jan can play a valuable role for me in the mountains," said Vinokourov, who is the defending champion in the Tour de Suisse.

T-Mobile's Tour de France squad will be announced on June 25, just before the German Championships. At the moment it consists of 12 riders: Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov, Erik Zabel, Andreas Klöden, Cadel Evans, Rolf Aldag and Matthias Kessler are certainties, while Santiago Botero, Giuseppe Guerini, Daniele Nardello and Tobias Steinhauser are strong chances for Tour spots.

Phonak's Tour team takes shape

With just over three weeks before the Tour de France kicks off in Liege, the makeup of the various Tour teams are starting to solidify. This year marks Swiss team Phonak Hearing Systems' first start in the Tour, and a strong team is being built around Tyler Hamilton, who finished fourth in last year's race.

Although the final lineup will only be announced at the last minute, team manager Urs Freuler is looking forward to having Hamilton in the squad. "Tyler Hamilton, last year's sensational fourth place finisher in the Tour, blows everyone away with his very positive attitude," said Freuler. "He's right on track. His personal and our own planning is correct. That gives everyone a lot of satisfaction, which is important."

This year Hamilton won the Tour de Romandie for the second successive time, and certainly has ambitions to win the Tour. But Freuler remains realistic. "Just a repeat of the overall fourth place finish of last year would be a strong performance. Anything else is super or even phenomenal. Hamilton is a natural fighter par excellence. He will inspire his teammates. That's an additional chance for us."

The rest of the Phonak team will probably consist of Oscar Sevilla, José Enrique Gutierrez, Santos Gonzalez, Oscar Pereiro, Santiago Perez, Cyril Dessel, Nicolas Jalabert and Martin Elmiger. "Elmiger and Perez are new figureheads in terms of the dominant riders in cycling. The rest are well tried competitors," said Freuler.

Phonak will also be taking two directeurs sportifs to the Tour, Alvaro Pino and Jacques Michaud, along with four mechanics, five massage therapists, a cook and one or two doctors.


Horrach out of Tour

Illes Balears-Banesto rider Joan Horrach will not be able to take part in the Tour de France, as he is still suffering from a boil at the base of his spine that has prevented him from riding properly. Horrach has undergone medical tests in Palma de Mallorca conducted by team doctor Jesus Hoyos, who has opted to perform surgery next Tuesday to remove the boil and clean the infected area. Horrach will need two to three weeks to recover, thus will not be able to take part in the Tour.

Arvesen likely for Tour despite crash

Norwegian CSC rider Kurt Asle Arvesen may miss the Tour de France as a result of injuries sustained in a crash in the Tour of Germany on Sunday. Arvesen crashed and hurt his hip, and while he didn't break any bones, his first thought was about July. "When I landed and it hurt like hell I was thinking: 'Now I'll miss the Tour'," he told the Aftenposten newspaper.

CSC directeur sportif Bjarne Riis says Arvesen is nevertheless likely to be named to the team's Tour squad. "He's a hot candidate. Kurt Asle has done a great job for the team this season," Riis said.

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