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Tour de France News for May 31, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Lance, meet the Mortirolo

Amid the thousands of cycling enthusiasts testing their legs on the steep slopes of the Passo di Mortirolo on Saturday was a lean, bronzed rider who probably ascended the 12.8 km climb faster than most. With one month to go before five time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong defends his title and goes for a record sixth victory, the American was training in the mountains of the Italian Alps.

With the Giro d'Italia gruppo racing a valley away, Lance was ascending the Mortirolo in mufti, as the USPS-Berry Floor leader seldom wears his team kit unless he's racing and after his training session, Armstrong spoke to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Pier Bergonzi.

"It's a terrible climb...it's perfect for a mountain bike. On the hardest parts, I was riding a 39x27 and I was hurting, really hurting. (Mortirolo) is the hardest climb I've ever ridden. My time up the climb? It's not important; I rode the Mortirolo to have some fun and ride with the 'cicloamatori'...there were a few raindrops, but it was a great day.

PB: So did you want to try the Mortirolo looking forward to riding the next Giro d'Italia?
LA: You never know...

PB: Have you been following the Giro d'Italia?
LA: I haven't missed anything. It's been a great race so far.

PB: And yesterday's stage with the Gavia and the finish at Bormio 2000?
LA: I saw that Cunego was great and Cioni also impressed me. Dario is finishing the Giro in great form. I have to congratulate him. It was also a stage full of emotion and I liked the way Garzelli and Simoni rode.

PB: Are you surprised by Cunego's Giro performance?
LA: I've met him and people have also told me good things about him, but what (Cunego) is doing in this Giro is something special. In the last few stages, I've noticed his presence of mind. He's got good legs and a good head. At this point, it's hard to imagine that anyone can beat Cunego in the Giro.

Gerolsteiner extends through 2008

The Gerolsteiner mineral water company has announced the extension of its sponsorship of the cycling team until at least the end of 2008. The team's current contract was due to expire at the end of 2005, but Gerolsteiner and the Holczer sport marketing group, which runs the team, agreed to add another three years of sponsorship in order to qualify for the UCI Pro Tour.

Gerolsteiner thus joins Rabobank as one of the first teams to take up the four year license option for the Pro Tour, thereby guaranteeing it starts in all the major cycling events of the year.

"Cycling in Germany should be bound to the name of Gerolsteiner in the future," said manager Jörg Croseck in a statement. "The team represents our brand at home and abroad and makes a positive impression on all the relevant target groups.

Team manager Hans-Michael Holczer said that he is confident that the team will continue to improve its standing in world cycling. Gerolsteiner currently sits in third place on the UCI's team rankings with World Cup leader Davide Rebellin its top ranked individual in fourth place.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)

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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini