Tour de France Cycling News for July 15, 2005
Edited by Jeff Jones & Shane Stokes
Alpine analysis: Armstrong firmly in charge at Tour de France
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Armstrong in control
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
As soon as the Tour de France hit the Alps, Lance Armstrong (Discovery
Channel) took back the maillot jaune. For the 72nd time in his
career, the tough Texan donned his favourite colour on the podium in Courchevel.
The last time Armstrong raced up Courchevel was in 2000, when he was 4th
on the stage, 0'55 behind a brilliant Marco Pantani who won his last ever
bike race that July 18th. On Stage 9, as the Alps began, as he has in
his previous six Tour wins, Armstrong and his Discovery Channel team tackled
the first real climb of the Tour with the intention of doing as much damage
as possible to his adversaries. And once again, his tough guy tactics
worked to perfection.
Armstrong is always prepared for the first mountain stage at the Tour
de France, and as in Sestrières in 1999, Hautacam in 2000, l'Alpe d'Huez
in 2001 and La Mongie in 2002 and 2004, Armstrong took major time from
his closest adversaries. T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich, Andreas Klöden and Alex
Vinokourov and CSC's Ivan Basso all lost time to Armstrong on Stage
10. On the road to Courchevel, Armstrong simply mopped-up his key
competitors in a grande lessive (big washing), putting him firmly
in the driver's seat to win his seventh consecutive Tour de France.
After a superb solo win in the Vosges Mountains on Stage
9 to Mulhouse, maillot a pois Rasmussen had another super day
in the mountains on Stage 10 in the Alps, The Rabobank climber finished
third in Courchevel and moved up to 2nd on GC, just 0'38 behind Armstrong.
CSC's Ivan Basso hung tough on Stage 10 after coming off the Armstrong's
group with 8km to go, losing 1'02 and finishing 5th, but the Italian moved
up to 3rd on GC. T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich lost 2'14 and dropped to 8th on
GC at 4'02, just 0'14 ahead of his teammate Klöden. Vinokourov had a bad
day on Stage 10, dropping off the pace of the front group halfway up the
Courchevel ascent and ended up losing 5'18 and dropped out of the top
10 on GC. Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) was 6th on the stage and rode
with intelligence to maintain his contender status on GC.
Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
25 year old phenom Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears) took his 6th race
win of the 2005 season, on Stage 10 in Courchevel, his biggest career
win ever. Nicknamed l'Imbattito (unbeatable) since he terrorized junior
cycling in his native Murcia region of Spain, Valverde showed superb climbing
skills to go with his blazing sprint.
Stage 11 to Briançon
was featured a long break containing two GC contenders, Kazakhi cruncher
Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile Team) and Colombian Santi Botero (Phonak
Hearing Systems). They were the one-two in Briançon; after a bad day to
Courchevel like Vino, Botero counterattacked and moved to 11th to 6th,
while Vino regained some of the time he lost the day before and moved
into 12th, 4'47 behind Lance Armstrong.
Thus, after the two major Alpine stages, Lance Armstrong put time into
his two main rivals for the 2005 Tour title, Basso and Ullrich. Ullrich
was one and a half minutes behind Armstrong going into Stage 10 and 4
minutes behind coming out, even if he did not lose any more time in Stage
11. Ivan Basso (CSC), third in last year's Tour de France, has managed
to limit his damage to Armstrong and only lost his third place on GC when
Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) took a time bonus in Briançon to move
ahead of the Italian talent.
There was no change in the Tour GC after Stage
12 to Digne-les-Bains, so any change in the status of the 2005 Tour's
GC will only come after Saturday's first Pyrenean Stage
14 to Ax-3-Domaines atop the Plateau de Bonascre.
O'Grady happy with teammate's win
By John Trevorrow in Digne-les-Bains
Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) was very satisfied with his teammate David
Moncoutié's win in Digne-les-Bains.
"It worked perfectly - mission accomplished," O'Grady said. "Moncoutié
out the front, he was pretty motivated this morning. I knew it was going
to be hard day and my objective is to win a stage and any bonuses will
be good for me.
"It was always going to be a case of hanging around in the bunch or
try and go with the break. Sometimes you've gotta take it by the horns."
Also see: Stuart O'Grady/Matt
CSC holds on thanks to Lombardi
Illes Balears rider José Luis Arrieta finished fifth on today's 12th
stage of the Tour, moving the squad closer to leaders CSC in the team
classification. However Bjarne Riis' squad stayed on top due to the presence
of Giovanni Lombardi in the same break. Although Lombardi lost his place
in the lead group when eventual stage winner David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
attacked on the second-last climb, he hung on to finish 13th into Digne-les-Bains.
Lombardi's effort was an important one. The former Cipollini lead-out
man was 2 minutes and 24 seconds behind Arrieta at the line, but this
enabled CSC stay ahead of their Spanish rivals by a slender 1 minute and
30 seconds. Bjarne Riis was happy with the Italian's effort. "We had Lombardi
in the break, but the last climb was a bit too hard for him," he said.
"Still, I'm glad we were represented in the break away and thereby retained
the overall lead in the teams competition. Our riders are still very motivated,
although we're obviously saddened by the fact we have to do without Jens
Voigt for the rest of the Tour."
Fritsch out with fever
Nicolas Fritsch (Saunier Duval) climbed off his bike in the 12th stage
today. He had to abandon the race due to a fever. He joined Manuel Beltran
(Discovery Channel), who crashed on his head, was knocked unconscious
for a short period, and was prevented by the race doctor from continuing,
Robert Hunter (Phonak), and Angelo Furlan (Domina Vacanze) as riders who
pulled out in stage 12.
Tour anti-doping controls clean so far
The UCI Anti-doping commission has reported that all urine and blood
samples taken during the Tour up to July 9, 2005, have been analysed by
the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory. There have been no infringements to the
UCI anti-doping regulations, nor on the 2005 prohibited list.
Despite this, there have been two riders who have been ejected from
the Tour for doping/health reasons. Evgeni Petrov (Lampre) had a high
hematocrit before stage 10 and was prevented from starting, while Dario
Frigo was taken away by police before stage 11, after his wife Susanna
was found with a quantity of EPO and HGH in her car. Allegedly, she initially
argued that the drugs were for Botox treatment, but after she was placed
in police custody and interrogated for two days, she admitted that the
drugs were for Dario.
Pre-stage 12 comments
By John Trevorrow in Briançon
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
Now that Boonen is out of the race, how much does it change things for
you? "Yes of course Boonen is a very strong sprinter and was riding well
but for the last few days he has been in a lot of pain. Now Stuart O'Grady
and Robbie McEwen are my main rivals.
Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)
"I think it was going to be a pretty interesting battle as it was because
I can't see any more bunch sprints until Paris. Now that's Boonen's out
it opens the comp even more."
Today looks the perfect profile for you. "Normally I would agree 100
percent with you. Today I would like to try and get in a breakaway, but
now I am second for the maillot vert, no one is going to let me
go up the road. There is no way Lotto and Credit Agricole will let me
"I have just gotta hope for a stage like a few days ago where it is
tough enough, when the other sprinters get dropped and I can hang in there
and pick up some points."
Matt White (Cofidis)
"Just heard the news Tom Boonen is out, that's gonna open the sprint
comp right up. You've got Thor now in the lead and he is definitely not
the fastest one here. Definitely Robbie is the fastest sprinter and Stuey
is in front of Robbie, so it's gonna make it real interesting, especially
at the start and those first couple of sprints. I was talking about this
with Stuey the other night, and in past years Stuey was saying it was
won with between 200 and 300 points. This year it looks like it will be
won with 160 to 170 points. It just shows you the sprint competition has
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
How are the pins? "Don't know yet, we will see when we get started."
You said you have had a rough couple of days: "Yeah I have. We have
just come through a rough couple of stages, especially the one yesterday.
I made it through inside the limit OK, but I still have to suffer like
a dog to do that. We came in 40 minutes down, I felt pretty good all day
except for the last five or six km of the Galibier.
"I don't know I think I might have had something a bit off at breakfast
this morning, I feel a bit crook, we will see how it goes for the rest
of the day.
You know that Boonen's out - how does that change things for you. "It
doesn't change things a lot because Hushovd was only 5 points behind Boonen,
it means instead of chasing 37 points to Tom I am chasing 32 points to
"It's still a long way to go to Paris and a lot can happen, but I am
still at the point where I am saying it's a hell of a lot to make up,
we will just see what happens. Sure Hushovd can have a shocker but I know
from past experiences, like last year when Hushovd had an 11 point lead
and that was hard enough to bring back, let alone take 32 points of someone
in the last 10 days of the race.
"The chances of getting a bunch sprint before Paris are pretty much
zero, especially without Boonen's team riding with us, so it means you
can only take two points here, one point there. So to take back 32 will
take a hell of a long time.
"This has been the hardest tour I have ridden so far. This is my eighth
tour and I can't remember it ever being this intense every day and the
speed so high. We have had some really hard stages with a really high
average speed. I don't know what the Tour average is at the moment. I
could look in the paper but I can't be bothered."
Simon Gerrans (Ag2r)
How did you pull up after yesterday's monster climbs? "Pretty well actually,
I struggled a lot more the day before. I went in a bit hunger flat and
finished the stage a bit cross-eyed. Yesterday I got through alright but
I was crapping myself before the start. I found a good group, rode a good
tempo, and got through without too much drama so that was good."
The Tour de France of give-aways and competitions
Don't miss out at Tour time!
Resident freebies expert, Rufus Staffordshire, sniffs out some competitions
where up to $1 million in prizes are on offer as manufacturers clamber for your
Lucky 7 Sweepstakes'
Photo ©: Trek
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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2005)