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Tour de France Cycling News for July 3, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Kaiser Watch: "It wasn't the crash"

The moment of truth
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Jan Ullrich is demoralised from yesterday's stage one, where he lost 1 minute and six seconds on his biggest rival, Lance Armstrong. Although that time might not be an enormous setback as such since the Tour is still three weeks long, Armstrong's demonstration of power is above all a mental blow for the German. What's more, the 31 year-old can't put his finger on what went wrong. "My goal was to start off in the Tour with a good performance," he said. "I rode flat out [in the time trial] and didn't feel that bad. But to be passed by Armstrong on the first stage is of course not a nice feeling!

"I can't tell what was the reason for it. Maybe it does have something to do with the crash - I did lose dome blood. But I actually don't believe that."

Rudy Pevenage, his personal trainer, also doesn't have an explanation. "Armstrong and the others all rode under the same [meteorological] conditions - that's not an excuse."

Ullrich had to bury his hopes of putting time into Armstrong in the most terrible way - by being passed by the American. "The parcours suited me because it needed pure power. I already imagined myself ahead of Armstrong on GC before going into the mountains. I did feel pretty good, that's why I was optimistic. But Lance, of course, rode an excellent race and came in right behind the winner - I do feel a little demoralised. Anyway, the Tour lasts three weeks and I'll continue to fight."

Meanwhile, Ullrich's cut on the neck resulting from smashing the rear window of his team car without a helmet on is healing well. The German also did not complain about neck or back stiffness - he was very lucky as the glass cut his skin just millimetres away from his jugular.

Basso: "Patience"

Ivan Basso (CSC)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Team CSC has definitely delivered on yesterday's stage one. The spectacular performance by David Zabriskie, who took the fist Yellow jersey in 2005 topping even Lance Armstrong on one of his most powerful days ever in the Tour de France, was rounded out by Jens Voigt finishing 8th, at only 1.04, and Bobby Julich on 11th place, only 1.07 behind: an excellent basis for the team time trial in Blois on Tuesday. The team's overall classification rider, Ivan Basso, ended up 20th, at 1.26 of his teammate Zabriskie, and at 1.24 of his rival Lance Armstrong.

"I couldn't hope for much more," he said after the stage. "I haven't been racing for over one month. I couldn't get into the rhythm but didn't feel too bad neither. I have to be patient. What's important is the time gap to Botero, Vinokourov or Ullrich, on which I've lost only 18 seconds. In ten days, power ratios on GC will be different."

Pereiro out for top 10

Oscar Pereiro, who placed an overall tenth last year at his first Tour de France, would like to improve on that performance this year. "All spots between nine and one are very good. It's very difficult to make your way up to the podium. It's one of my dreams and at the same time something I'm hoping for," he said. At yesterdays' time trial, he limited his losses, but nevertheless finished only 58th at 2.06 off Tabriskie.

"I had hoped for a better result," he said, "but at the same time I lost only one minute on the main favourites except Armstrong of course. The parcours wasn't my cup of tea at all: I like it when there are lots of curves. But this was just dead straight."

As for his GC aspirations, experience is on the side of Tour de France favourite Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pereiro openly admits. "But on the downhill sections and in the peloton I'm stronger," he said, summing up his advantages over the American. Nevertheless, the team's result is the most important thing for the 28 year-old Spaniard, who will support his teammates Floyd Landis or Santiago Botero all the way. "I like the course [of this year's Tour] a lot. But the mountains will be very difficult. I'll have to keep my rear end pressed into the saddle so I'll lose as little time as possible."

Landis and Botero looking good

Indeed, Landis or Botero are better-placed than Pereiro at the moment, and could become serious threats for Armstrong's seventh Tour de France bid. Floyd Landis is only one minute down of his former teammate, and the Columbian Botero 1.28. "I'm very satisfied with my time trial," Landis said. "I knew that Armstrong was going to be good as it has always been like that. No need to get hyped though, it's only the first day."

Leipheimer on track

Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer made a solid appearance in yesterday's time trial. Finishing 14th, he lost only 1.11 on Armstrong. "He's on track," said Gerolsteiner directeur sportif Hans-Michael Holczer. "Levi is absolutely within reach of his rivals in the fight over a top placing on GC."

The American himself was also content. "I gave it all and I'm satisfied with my performance. This kind of easy parcours doesn't really suit me, so the result is okay."

Levi Leipheimer writes a diary for Cyclingnews during the whole of the Tour de France. His first entry can be found here.

Michael Rich, the German time trial champion, was less happy about his result. Rich had hoped for a better placing than 15th. "I had a good feeling on the course, but I was just too slow," he said. "It didn't surprise me that some were faster than me, but it did surprise me that it was so much time. But that's the sport. My performance was okay, but not my result."

Disappointed Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Fabian Cancellara was disappointed with his result yesterday, as he finished the time trial at 1.02 on the seventh place behind the winner. "It hurts to be awarded the White jersey [of best-placed young rider]. I wanted the Yellow, I was dreaming about it. The two days I spent wearing the Yellow jersey last year are still on my mind, and I know now that I will have to wait another 12 months now to get another chance of wearing it. That's a nightmare!"

The Swiss rouleur is now hoping for some headwind to clear his head. "I have to forget about this time trial now, forget about the fact that another guy stepped on the podium instead of me. If there is some wind [on stage 2], you will see me in front."

"Beloki's back!"

Joseba Beloki finished the first Tour de France stage since his famous crash at the Col de la Rochette yesterday, and was pretty happy with how it went. "That was the first time trial I rode in two years, and although it wasn't a parcours for me, it went well especially during the last part. I finished not too far off. I knew this stage was important, and even if it would have been a disaster for me I would have still continued hopeful: just to be on that start ramp was the best." Beloki finished 56th, at 2.05 from the winning Zabriskie.

When asked what he thought about during these first kilometres of the Tour, Beloki replied, "I thought of lot of things. There were times in the past when I thought I'd never make it back to the Tour, so it was a very special day for me. Now I can say 'Joseba Beloki's back at the Tour!' and I do intend to try something, because I would have been the first not to come here if I was in bad shape."

Manolo Saiz, Liberty's team director, is also satisfied with the result of his riders. "The team has a good level, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano ended up in top 10 [10th, at 1.06], Beloki has done well and Heras too [79th, at 2.20]. We came here from a bad performance in the Dauphiné, but we reacted well." When asked about 'the' event of the first stage - Armstrong passing Ullrich - Saiz downplayed it. "It's also good to remember that Ullrich never performed well in the first time trial. The only thing that was visible today is that Armstrong is in top shape, but the Tour is very long and we have to wait and see before drawing further conclusions."

Rasmussen hoping for stage win

Michael Rasmussen is racing his second Tour de France. The Rabobank rider ended up 14th overall last year, and showed very aggressive riding on several of the mountains stages, always hoping for a stage win, which never came. This year, he has put the whole of his season's preparation in the Tour, and sure wants to make amends.

"You have to have balls of stone to make into top 10 during the Tour de France, but in a way I think I have shown that it is possible, but still I haven’t won anything in that race," he wrote in his diary at www.feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen, at the same time declining speculations that he might want to go for the Polkadot jersey just like Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert before him. "A stage win is my priority. You can spend three weeks chasing a jersey and at the end you’ll perhaps end up second, and then it is not much more worth than toilet paper," he said. "Of course it would be huge, if you could get the mountains jersey, but a stage win gives you a quite different 'here and now' feeling. It is cash on delivery."

Rasmussen is therefore looking for a stage win, much more than for a good placing on GC, but one shouldn’t be surprised if he actually looses some time during the first mountain stages. "If I ride fast in the mountains I might end up in the top 15 after all. That is not something special but still an okay overall result," he thinks, contemplating the parcours of this year's Tour. " "Last year it was rather easy. There were perhaps three stages where I had a chance of winning, but this year the Tour is designed quite differently, so there are perhaps eight or nine stages where I have a chance of winning. Therefore, it is also difficult to point out a specific stage. If I shouldn’t succeed in the Pyrenees, I would also be satisfied with a stage win in the Massif Central," he said with a grin. "We face an 18 km-climb already on the stage to Gérardmer. Even though it is only at about four percent, I’m sure that it will straighten out the peloton. You don’t have to ride the Madeleine to get rid of the others."

The preparations have been perfect. Rasmussen weighs almost 1½ kilos les than last year, and he has done some altitude training in Mexico for three weeks after the Giro d'Italia. he also thinks that his Dutch teammates are stronger this year. "I am quite sure that Boogerd is in good shape and then we have the young ones like Posthuma and Weening, who both rode a strong Dauphiné," he asid. "And Dekker should be in good shape too, so I am quite sure that we are stronger in the mountains."

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