First Edition News for July 19, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones
Über Ullrich back to his best
Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) is back to his best. Ullrich entered the 2003 Tour with the sole ambition of a stage win, and laying the foundation for a serious GC challenge in 2004. After missing virtually the entire 2002 season, and the difficulties of this spring, he did not expect to be a contender for the general classification this year. Suddenly, after a solid start and a dominant performance in Friday's individual time trial, Ullrich finds himself within a minute of arch Tour rival Lance Armstrong at the race's halfway point.
"I was very nervous yesterday," Jan Ullrich explained after the stage 12 time trial. "To relax myself I had a really nice dinner, and after that I managed to get a good night's rest, and this morning I had a final look at the course. I knew I would have to ride very slow in the beginning, because there were several dangerous curves in the first kilometre, and I didn't want to risk anything, but after that I tried to stick to a steady but high rhythm."
Ullrich's 1'35" advantage over Armstrong, who came in second on today's stage, put the German powerhouse up to second on GC, only 34 seconds behind the defending champion. Despite the fact that a lot of other riders have predicted that Ullrich will be great in the Pyrenées, and that his performance today was one of the highlights of the Tour, Ullrich cannot make any promises.
"I did not start the Tour as a rider for the general classification, despite what some people might have thought," he insisted. "I wanted to prove myself with a stage win, but I didn't expect it would be such a great one. I was surprised when I heard the time gap I had to Armstrong, and that puts me in a situation I have still to reflect on."
Alexandre Vinokourov started the stage 12 time trial just 21" behind race leader Lance Armstrong, and after finishing the 47km test in third place, 2'05" behind stage winner Jan Ullrich, the tough Kazakh has kept himself within striking distance of the yellow jersey. Vinokourov lost his second place to Ullrich, but still sits within one minute of Armstrong. Bolstered by his consistently good form, Vino is set to go on the attack once more as the Pyrenees loom around the corner.
"I'm really very happy," said Vinokourov, a man of few words. "This morning I wanted to avoid losing more than a minute and a half to Armstrong. In the end I only lost 30 seconds, which is a boost for the morale. If I have good legs on Saturday, I'll attack."
David Millar (Cofidis), second in the Tour prologue and a proven time trial talent, saw his hopes for a top placing in Friday's 47km test disappear due to breathing difficulties. Millar set the fastest time at the first intermediate check, but faded over the second half of the course and finished only 7th, nearly four minutes behind stage winner Jan Ullrich. In a post-race interview with Reuters' Stephen Farrand, Millar explained his difficulties, and his new take on the rest of the race.
"I set off good, but after 20 kilometres my plans all went up in smoke," he said. "It was very hot today but to be honest it was the least of my worries, I just couldn't breathe. It's allergies or bronchitis or something. It started on the rest day and I suffered during yesterday's stage. This morning, I just didn't want to get on my bike."
Despite having shown great improvement in the mountains during this year's Dauphiné Libéré, and the in the Alps this week, Millar will now have to put himself in survival mode during the tough stages to come in the Pyrenees.
"I've started taking antibiotics so I should be okay in a couple of days. I don't think I can suffer any more than I did today," Millar said. "It was horrible, horrible, horrible."
42 riders tested
On Friday morning between 7:00 and 8:00 am, the UCI carried out blood tests on 42 riders from six teams. Jean Delatour, Bianchi, Gerolsteiner, Alessio, Kelme and FDJeux.com were all tested, and no riders were declared unfit to start.
Decisions of the commissaires
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 2'25 for drafting
for 5 km at an average speed of 43 km/h.
Riders David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) were given times of 1:14:59 and 1:14:49 respectively after their penalties, and were eliminated from the race. (Elimination time: 1:13:12).
Riders Laszlo Bodrogi, David Canada, Michael Rogers, and Kurt van de Wouwer (all Quick.Step-Davitamon) were penalised 20" for being less than 10m from their following vehicle. The directors of the Quick.Step team were penalised SFR 800 for these infractions also.
Weather for stage 13
The long, hot summer continues for the riders in the Tour de France, after today's scorcher between Gaillac and Cap' Découverte, where the air temperature reached 38 degrees and temperatures on the road were measured at 61 degrees. But there's still no rain in sight as tomorrow's 13th stage between Toulouse and Ax 3 Domaines is again predicted to be sunny and dry. Temperatures at the start in Toulouse should be between 28 and 30 degrees, and it will get a few degrees warmer as the riders make their way up to the mountains. The finish in Ax 3 Domaines should be between 25 and 27 degrees. Winds are expected to be light (20 km/h) and from the north east, which will assist the riders during the stage.
Leipheimer looks to the Vuelta
Rabobank's erstwhile Tour captain Levi Leipheimer has been forced to view the race from his couch in Girona, Spain, rather than fight it out for the honours with his rivals. The American crashed out in the first stage, fracturing a bone in his left buttock, and together with his teammate Marc Lotz was forced to abandon. It was a unfortunate accident for Leipheimer, who suddenly saw a big hole punched in his season, which was based around the Tour. Not only that, he is now under a little pressure to ride well in the Vuelta to ensure his contract for next year.
In days following his abandonment, Leipheimer couldn't even watch the Tour on TV. "I found it hard to come to terms with, and furthermore, I was in a lot of pain," he told ANP from his home in Girona.
However, he became interested in it during the Alpine stages, and is now following it each day. "I've been surprised at some things - the attacks by a number of riders and the fact that Lance Armstrong is not as good as in other years. Actually I think Lance will get better in the Pyrenees."
Leipheimer is managing to walk, albeit painfully. "I've not ridden a bike yet," he added. "I hope to get on the rollers by the end of the week."
He is not sure how he will fare in the Vuelta, which will depend on the recovery from his crash. And as for his future, he's not feeling the pressure at the moment. "The contractual negotiations will come later. I think that decision will be made just after the Vuelta."
Cofidis wants Casper
French sprinter Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com) has been offered a two year contract by Cofidis. No decision has been made, though Casper is reportedly close to accepting the deal. Casper, who crashed heavily in the stage 1 pile up in Meaux, was forced to abandon this year's Tour as a result of his injuries.
Rumsas suspended by Lithuanian federation
Raimondas Rumsas, who tested positive for EPO in the 2003 Giro d'Italia, has been suspended by the Lithuanian cycling federation. Rumsas, who rides for the Italian Lampre squad, has received a one year suspension and a fine of 2,000 Swiss francs. The federation initially proposed a suspension of just six months, compared with the UCI's suggestion that he be banned for four years. The compromise is a one year ban, although the UCI may still appeal this decision and push for a stiffer punishment.
SA BMX team down under
South Africa's top three BMX riders have travelled to Perth, Australia for the BMX World Championships, which start on Saturday July 19 and run through until July 27. The youngest rider on the team is 14 year old Dean Holdstock, and he will be accompanied by Sifiso Nlhapo (16) and elite rider Jonathan Chislett.
"Pre-worlds will take place this weekend and should give us some indication as to how our riders will fair in the main event," said team manager Greg Till.
The preliminary events will be taking place on the same indoor track which plays host to the UCI BMX World Championships. This event is the perfect opportunity for these youngsters to gain experience and show off their talent.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)