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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for July 26, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry
Stage 17 wrap up and post stage comments
The final hard mountain stage was run from Aime to Cluses today, featuring three Cat. 1 and one Cat. 2 climb, with virtually no flat roads. Only 142 kilometres long, the stage was marked by attacking from the beginning. The break of the day came from Dario Frigo, Mario Aerts and Guiseppe Guerini, who attacked on the first climb and stayed away to contest the stage, with Frigo coming out on top in Cluses for the first Italian stage win since Stefano Zanini in 2000.
Lance Armstrong had no problems in keeping his closest rivals in check, although Santiago Botero snuck away on the final climb to gain over a minute, and move himself up to 4th on general classification.
Dario Frigo (Tacconi Sport, 1st)
To win today was really satisfying for me. This is the most important race in the world so to win here, especially a mountain stage like today."
"I've already shown this year at Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandy that I've come back to the level of 2000. The Tour isn't really a race for me but today I showed that when there is a stage that's at my level, I can win."
"I don't want to think about the past," he said in reference to his recent suspension for possession of banned drugs following the 2001 Giro d'Italia. "I only want to think about the present and about good things. I badly wanted to prove my worth and to win again. I had accounts to settle and I think I did it today."
But Frigo doesn't believe he can be a contender for the overall. For one, the hot July weather doesn't suit him [he's not called Frigo for nothing!]. "I don't like it when it's hot and I finish this Tour knowing I will never go for overall Tour victory because of the heat. Today, the weather was more pleasant and I showed I had the ability to win a mountain stage."
Frigo also commented about the recent retirement announcement of Mario Cipollini, one of the greats of cycling. "I hope he will go on and compete in the world championship. It would be a mistake for him to stop like this," said Frigo, his former teammate at Saeco.
Santiago Botero (Kelme, 11th at 2'58)
"I'm feeling stronger as the Tour goes along. Today my plan was to gain as much time as possible even though I know I can't make it to the podium."
Lance Armstrong press conference
Tour de France leader Lance Armstrong gave a low key press conference on Thursday evening at his hotel in Sallanches. A full transcript will be posted later this evening, but for now here are some excerpts.
Q: How does this Tour compare to the last three?
LA: Definitely, the team. It's more complete. More consistent. Much stronger.
Q: What about the difficulty compared to last year?
LA: Again it was the team. The guys were always there in multiples. At the end there were usually three guys (Armstrong, Heras and Rubiera).
We definitely have more experience; I do, Johan does, George Hincapie; he's the sole person who's been here all four years. Then there's a pillar like Ekimov, an explosive rider like Roberto, additions like Padrnos. Like Victor Peña, he's much stronger this year. This is a good group; we really get along well.
Q: Was last year more difficult with Jan Ullrich and Telekom?
LA: Their presence made things more difficult. But aside from Alpe d'Huez, Telekom didn't share the responsibility of the race.
More to follow.
Raimondas Rumsas profile
30 year old Lithuanian Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre) is currently on target for at third place on the podium in this year's Tour de France, unless the raging Santiago Botero (4th) carves three and half minutes out of him in the next two stages. Rumsas is riding in his first Tour de France, and although he is hardly an unknown, many didn't expect him to be quite so far up on the GC.
However, with 35 wins to his credit including Giro di Lombardia (2000), Vuelta a Pais Vasco (2001), as well as 5th in the Vuelta España (2000) and 2nd in Paris-Nice (2001, to Dario Frigo), the talented Lithuanian was just itching for the opportunity to take part in the Tour de France.
Rumsas turned pro in 1996 with Mroz, and rode with them for four years until he met Piero Pieroni, a former soigneur of Moser, in 1999. Pieroni saw his talent and invited him to move to Tuscany, where he joined Giancarlo Feretti's Fassa Bortolo squad in 2000.
Things went reasonably well for him that year, culminating with the win in Lombardia where he beat his future teammate Francesco Casagrande. However Casagrande wasn't too happy with this, and in 2001 Rumsas was left off the Giro team and then, incredibly, left out of the Tour team when Casagrande decided to start.
In an interview with L'Equipe, Feretti maintained that he wanted to give Petacchi and Basso experience, as well as the fact there was no market for Fassa Bortolo products outside Italy. A somewhat thin excuse, as he did have Ukrainians Serguei Gontchar and Volodomir Gustov in the team.
After a season where he could certainly feel frustrated, Rumsas went to Lampre in 2002 to replace Gilberto Simoni. But a terrible crash in Tour of Etna early this year left Rumsas with two broken ribs and a broken finger and 65 stitches. He missed the Giro but prepared meticulously for the Tour, where he has ridden impressively with a much weaker team than both Armstrong and Beloki.
With riders like Rubens Bertogliati, Juan Manuel Garate, and Raimondas Rumsas, the Pietro Algeri and Beppe Saronni led Lampre team is doing well against the big budget teams in the peloton. Rumsas is a rider worth watching a lot more closely and has the requisite abilities to win a grand tour.
Martinez wants the polka dot jersey
Mapei-Quick Step's Miguel Martinez is getting better and better as the Tour goes on, often a protagonist in the breaks and lying 40th on GC at 1'09'59. That's not bad in his first ever Tour de France, and the 'converted' mountain biker is certainly enjoying things.
"Things are going very well," he told Cyclingnews before the start today. "If I'm strong it's good, but it's difficult."
"Next year I hope to try for the polka dot jersey, or get a stage win. This year is for experience."
"It's a dangerous stage today for the favourites, but not a problem for me. I'll try to follow, but not attack."
Hondo waiting for the finish
Telekom's Danilo Hondo is one of Erik Zabel's key lead out men for the bunch sprints, but aside for the first week, most of the bunch sprints have been for very minor placings. However, Zabel's ambition is also to win the green jersey for a record seventh consecutive time - but he's finding it difficult to shift it from the shoulders of Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Adecco). Both speedsters are tied on points, but McEwen wears it at the moment on a countback of stage results.
"At the moment, everything is open because (McEwen and Zabel) have the same points," said Hondo to Cyclingnews today. "In the last few sprints McEwen was a little bit stronger than Erik, so we'll look at different tactics. Today I think it's possible to make the first sprint after 10km, then we'll see. The stage is hard, nobody knows what's going on, and tomorrow's the same."
Today, Telekom sent Rolf Aldag up the road to contest the first sprint, and he held off the bunch, with Jakob Piil and Frederic Bessy taking the minor placings. No points for either McEwen or Zabel today.
There are only two more stages to decide the green jersey, given that neither McEwen nor Zabel will place in the time trial. "Maybe we'll have the same situation as last year between Zabel and O'Grady, and the results will come on the Champs Elysées. Why not?"
Stage 18 preview: Cluses-Bourg-en-Bresse
By Tim Maloney, European editor
This stage is certainly the last chance for any challengers to attack Maillot Jaune Lance Armstrong and his USPS squad. Departing from Cluses at 12:27, Stage 18 heads west out of the Alps but into the complicated, corrugated little traveled terrain. With the 14km Cat. 1 Col de Richemont halfway to Bourg, plus a Cat 2, Cat 3 and three Cat. 4 climbs, Stage 18 could be a tough ride to the stage finish in Bourg-en-Bresse, famous for its blue-footed poultry. Look for attacking riders like Alessio's Christian Moreni and Massimiliano Lelli of Cofidis to try their chances at victory.
Our live coverage of Stage 18 begins at 12:30 CEST/03:30 PDT/06:30 EDT/20:30 Aust EST.
369 blood controls so far
The 89th Tour de France has seen a total of 369 blood tests taken, an average of nearly two per rider. So far, no-one has been declared unhealthy/unfit to continue. According to Hein Verbruggen, president of the UCI, "99 percent of the riders are clean."
The number of EPO urine tests taken during the Tour has increased to 90 this year, up from 72 last year. The Chatenay-Malabry laboratory in Paris is reportedly at full capacity analysing the results. In addition, between 6-10 riders each day undergo standard urine testing. So far, no-one has tested positive.
Footnote: Cheap shots at cycling
By Gerard Knapp
We have been inundated with email from readers pointing to a recent article published in the USA which takes a broad swipe at cycling and the Tour de France. While we appreciate the concern, I would suggest that the ignorance displayed in the article indicates it is not completely serious; rather, it is designed to generate a hostile response and a cheap ploy to boost traffic. Our attitude is that it is best to not even dignify it with a response.