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Photo ©: Bettini

Tour de France Cycling News for July 18, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

Basso the next Tour winner?

Basso and Armstrong
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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"Two days in a row I have attacked, everywhere it was possible. Lance was suffering, at least I like to think so, but even so he doesn't give in. On the highest cols I can't ride away from him and Lance is a better time-trial, so how can I win the Tour?" Ivan Basso told the press after a weekend of hard labour.

"I gave everything today; I want to leave my mark on this Tour de France," said Basso on the CSC corporate website. "I attacked as hard as I could, but Armstrong was able to follow. I didn't have another attack in me, so we rode together to try to put time on (Jan) Ullrich and the others. The past few years some critics were saying that I'm merely able to follow on the high cols. But that's not right."

Ivan is certainly profiling himself more and more as a future TdF winner. But he knows, it won't be for this year: "Lance is stronger, basta," Basso told Belgian Newspaper HNB.

"I think I was the strongest in both stages, but in the end I come out of this weekend with an extra 6 seconds behind Armstrong. But I'm happy with the way I'm descending now. I took some time out Ullrich, Rasmussen and Mancebo. I'm getting that bit closer to the podium in Paris again, and I might even finish one step higher up than I was looking at earlier in the race.

"But, that second place in the GC is not secure. There is still a lot of racing to go. I would like to get more time on Ullrich (fourth at 5:58 back) before going into the final time trial. It's too bad I wasn't at my best at Courchevel because I lost some time there that might come back to haunt me, but otherwise I am happy with how this Tour is going.

"I want to thank my teammates. They really rode as one block and executed our strategy to the letter. I'm also very happy that I've been able to prove that it is not impossible to ride well in both Giro and Tour. Only on the first day in the Alps, on Courchevel, I missed a bit of climbing rhythm because of the break I had after the Giro d'Italia. The only disappointment of this Tour is that we didn't get to win the team time trial because of the unfortunate crash of Zabriskie.

"Of course, I thought of Casartelli here, but I do that almost daily. Fabio is still riding with us in this peloton. We (Lance and I) didn't get the time to talk about him though, the tempo was too high for that."

Rasmussen's polka-dot jersey almost secured

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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Theoretically, five riders still have a chance of taking the polka-dot climbers' jersey away from Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), but it seems very unlikely that the Rabobank rider will let the dots slip out of his grasp during the last week of the Tour.

"Mathematically, it is almost impossible to take it away from me," he said in his diary on www.feltet.dk/michaelrasmussen. "At this point there is only one rider to watch [Oscar Pereiro Sio], and that I can probably handle by myself, otherwise I have a team to back me up. The others are almost 100 points after me, so it looks really good. Right now it is a matter of staying on the bike,"

In yesterday's 15th stage, Rasmussen lost time to Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich on the Col de Val-Louron-Azet, but managed to peg nearly all of his deficit to Ullrich back on the final climb of Pla d'Adet, at the same time conceding no more time to Armstrong and Basso.

"At this point I should perhaps be a little frustrated that the climb wasn't five kilometres longer, I would then have ridden Ullrich out of the classification. It was a really good day for me. I rode a controlled race over Val-Louron and on the descent I didn't take big risks, while several of the others started attacking to the right and to the left. It was a very dangerous descent. The asphalt was melting on almost all corners. I lost a little time there, but I rode really well today, if I should say it myself."

Rasmussen didn't have a major crisis at Val-Louron-Azet, but still he tried not to push him self by following when Ivan Basso made his first attack. "I knew that we were facing a hard climb at the end. It is perhaps the most dangerous climb of all during this year's Tour de France. That's why I knew that I shouldn't do everything to follow Armstrong, Basso and Ullrich at Val-Louron.

"They rode an impressive stage. Right from the start the ride was very aggressive, and both Moreau and Botero tried to get away. But relatively fast we managed to annul that attempt, and at the end they lost their spirit too. We then ended up having three riders in the break." Later he could use the help of his two team mates Erik Dekker and Karsten Kroon as they were finally caught. "Dekker had a bottle for me five km from Peyresourde when it was difficult for the cars to get though to us. It was very welcome. Karsten also rode a strong race."

Rasmussen dropped to third in the general classification behind Armstrong and Basso, but still believes he can hold off Ullrich in Paris. "I came for a mountains jersey and a stage win. If you would also try to ride for the overall, you could end up with nothing at all other than a seventh place. Right now I am in a position where I can have them all (mountain's jersey, stage win, and a spot at the podium). That's a real ‘Kinder Surprise - all three in one'," he laughed.

If he does succeed in finishing third in Paris, he would become only the second Dane to do so after Bjarne Riis, who won the Tour in 1996 and finished third in 1995. He has 2'49 in hand over Jan Ullrich, which will be hard to defend in a 55 km time trial [Ullrich won this time trial in 1997 by over 3'00 - ed]. "I would of course liked to have fifteen minutes," laughed Rasmussen. "But the situation is as it is, and I'll take it from there. Tuesday is totally impossible for an attack. From d'Ausbisque there is still 60 km to the finishing line, so that is out of the question. The only chance to get some time is Thursday on the stage to Mendé. And there we are talking perhaps half a minute or so.

"It takes three weeks to win the Tour, but it only takes one day to lose it. We saw that with Basso in the Giro. Nothing is settled until we reach the Champs Elysées."

Redant: Zubeldia was pushed

Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Davitamon-Lotto's sports director Hendrik Redant commented about the crazy Basque fans that graced the Pyrenean climbs over the past weekend, adding an element of danger and excitement to the Tour, as they do every year. Redant was quoted on Sporza radio as saying, "The Basque really love the Pyrenees of course, there's those orange T-shirts everywhere. It's really crazy, those last few kilometres especially. There should be more barriers!

"At one point, Cadel Evans dropped Zubeldia. He's Basque. Suddenly he was catching back up to Cadel's wheel riding 35km/h; he was constantly pushed! I put myself straight on Cadel's back wheel to strike some fear in those spectators, 'cause otherwise Zubeldia would have been able to get away without problems.

"I think I hit five to six guys, who were jumping in front of the car. Yesterday was bad, but today was just not on! When I see that they could put 7km of fencing on Alpe d'Huez, then I think they should do the same on the other climbs. This way it's just madness.

"Landis was in trouble, Klöden and Jaksche were dropped and we could have done a really good thing for GC there, but Cadel said he couldn't get past them because of the people on the climb. That says enough.

"I took a lot of risks today driving so close to the people, but it's the only way to get some space. My horn stopped working during the last two kilometres so that was even more of a problem...one of these days something bad is going to happen."

Cyclingnews on the air in Washington, DC

Tune into WAMU 88.5 FM, the NPR Affiliate in Washington, D.C. to the The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Monday July 18th at 13:06 EDT for a Tour de France update. Cyclingnews' European Editor Tim Maloney will be Kojo's guest.

Monday is the last rest day of the Tour de France before the final week-long stretch of bicycling's greatest race. As Lance Armstrong tries for his historic seventh straight yellow jersey, join Kojo for a discussion on the personalities and team strategies of the world's elite cyclists the sport.

Follow the Tour - on your mobile

Cyclingnews is now presenting live coverage of races such as the Tour de France on handheld devices that are GPRS-compatible. Now, even if you have to leave home or the office, you can still follow the action of your favourite races. The mobile devices can display the latest updates coming in at the same time as the main site. For the past 12 months, Cyclingnews has been providing this service in beta mode, but now, it's time to go public.

If you are already familiar with GPRS - i.e., if you can get email on your handset, then you have GPRS - so start surfing straight away! Just enter this URL into your device's browser and you'll be cruising. It's live.cyclingnews.com/wap/.

If not, then the following backgrounder goes into more detail about WAP, GPRS, CN, and many other acronyms.

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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 eyeballs. Woof!

Lucky 7 Sweepstakes'
Photo ©: Trek
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The Tour de France is not only a reasonably popular bike race, ahem, it's also a great opportunity to win an incredible range of prizes and competitions on offer from manufacturers, publishers and distributors.

Many of our sponsors are offering Cyclingnews readers a schwag-fest of give-aways during the lap-around-France. The prizes on offer range from Volkswagens and vaccuum cleaners through to trips to Paris for the 2006 TdF, as well as actual kit being ridden by top pros in the Tour - including top bikes from Trek, Cervelo, and Avanti.

So that you don't have to go hunting around the Internet for all these goodies, we've assembled the Cyclingnews complete guide to Tour freebies and competitions.

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