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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for June 8, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
ONCE to deliver strong competition for USPS at Tour
The winner of the last three Tours de France, Texan Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team, will face possibly their strongest competition in this year's Tour from ONCE-Eroski, and in particular, Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano.
In stage 3 of the GP du Midi Libre three weeks ago, Galdeano pipped Armstrong in a race against the clock, albeit by only seven seconds. Even the USPS DS was surprised on that day:
"Lance's TT was very good, but Galdeano was stronger than him today as he is a real time trial specialist. I saw how fast Lance was going, so Galdeano must have been very strong," said Johan Bruyneel.
Despite an all-out Spanish-French attack on the American during the last two stages, Armstrong and his team rode infallibly, taking the final GC from Galdeano by nine seconds.
However, the strength of Galdeano has left a lasting impression; and with Simoni and Garzelli out for obvious reasons and German powerhouse Jan Ullrich not likely to race a three week tour again this year, all Postal eyes are affixed on Manolo Saiz's ONCE outfit.
"He (Armstrong) is aware that it is something that requires attention", said Igor's brother, Alvaro González de Galdeano. "We are dangerous. Instead of doing as we have done in other years, all our efforts are directed towards the Tour - this year we have only taken four victories so far."
So far, Igor is living up to his brother's expectations, currently leading on general classification in the Tour of Germany with two stages remaining. "Igor has now seen that it is possible to be beat him (Armstrong). He is mentally ready and there are great possibilities of doing well," added the elder of the Galdeanos.
Directeur sportif Manolo Saiz supports these claims, indicating that ONCE-Eroski will be a more aggressive outfit in the Tour: "We were conservative last year - the third position of Beloki nor fifth of Galdeano was not enough for both. One on one with Armstrong is not possible, but if we go en bloc..."
ONCE's other star rider, Joseba Beloki, repeated a phrase he already said to his manager Saiz in February: "Someday the domination of Armstrong must finish - and on that day, I would like to be his successor. It would be great to say that I ended the reign of Armstrong, just like Riis ended the reign of Indurain."