Tour de France News for June 13, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
First victory for Ullrich
Photo ©: Reuters
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) is using the Tour de Suisse as his final racing
build up for the Tour de France, coming on the heels of a solid performance
at the Tour of Germany. Ullrich has often made dramatic improvement in
the immediate run-up to the Tour after months of unspectacular racing
in the early season, and looks on course to do the same this year. With
one victory at the Tour de Suisse, Ullrich assumes the early lead
in the nine stage race and gains another confidence boost before his Tour
bid in July.
"For the overall victory at the Tour de Suisse, our team has enough good
riders that we could keep the jersey until Lugano, but not necessarily
on my shoulders," Ullrich said after his win, taking the popular approach
of modesty among Tour favourites in the preparation races.
Ullrich beat former Tour de Suisse winner Oscar Camenzind (Phonak) in
a five man sprint Saturday to take the first jersey of the race, putting
his knowledge of the stage finish to good use even if the shape the race
took caused more than a bit of surprise.
"We had already gone over the roads at the finish twice, so I knew what
I had to do," he explained. "If I was first around the last corner, then
I knew I would win.
"I was leading so I had the right to choose my line," Ullrich added,
responding to a complaint from Camenzind that he made an unsafe manoeuvre
in the technical finale.
More than 100 riders finished the stage over 18 minutes behind the lead
group, though the majority of GC contenders were safely in the front positions.
Italy's Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola) was on the wrong end of the
split, as was former winner Alex Zülle (Phonak).
"We had planned for a flat stage, but in the end it was the reverse,"
Ullrich noted. "There were small hills throughout the stage, making it
Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi) finished
23rd in the stage and in his diary
described Ullrich's form as "outstanding", especially at the
beginning of the stage where Ullrich was doing some big turns. Then with
approximately 25 km to go, "We came up to the finish line for the
second time and Ullrich's just gone kerbang from about fourth position
with Camenzind on his wheel! I thought 'Oh yeah, it's a Telekom guy, so
these guys had better react. There were four Fassas, three Lottos, four
Milanezas, three Phonaks etc. I couldn't chase everything - it wasn't
really my job. But they just didn't react. They waited 5-6 km before Ullrich
got up to the leaders.
"Now, at the beginning of the stage he was pulling some big turns.
Vinokourov looked to be the protected one because he was doing less. So
once Ullrich got to them they went out further."
Read the rest of Scott Sunderland's entry here.
Mayo still guarded
Mayo expects a bluff
Photo ©: AFP
Although full of confidence after his impressive victory atop the Mont
Ventoux in stage 4 of the Dauphiné Libéré, race leader
Iban Mayo is still wary of US Postal Service's leader Lance Armstrong.
The American finished fifth behind Mayo in the time trial, and although
surprised by the time gap of nearly two minutes, remained calm in the
face of defeat, noting that he would prefer to be a bit short of form
prior to the Tour than too strong.
Armstrong entered the race as defending champion but insisted from the
beginning that he would not seek to repeat his title, for fear of spending
too much energy against motivated rivals such as Mayo prior to the Tour
de France. Mayo, who among the Tour contenders present at the Dauphiné
is the only one to have spoken openly of a desire to actually win the
race, remained skeptical of Armstrong's modest ambitions.
"Lance stayed completely calm and didn't put in the slightest attack,"
Mayo commented after Saturday's stage 6. "That was odd, and it makes me
even more vigilant going into Sunday's [final] stage."
Mayo has shown exceptional form during the race, and his stage win and
control of the leader's jersey has only given him additional motivation.
"My victory on Mont Ventoux has given me more reason to believe that
I can win the Tour," he said.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)