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Mont Ventoux
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Tour de France News for June 13, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry

First victory for Ullrich

Jan 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 a stage 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 very tough."

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
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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.

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Dauphiné Libéré
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