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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for June 13, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano: A challenger for Armstrong?
ONCE's Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is being touted as one of the favourites for the upcoming Tour de France, where he will have the support of one of the strongest teams in the race. He recently won the Tour of Germany ahead of Aitor Garmendia (Team Coast), and is one of the few riders who has beaten Armstrong in a time trial recently (Midi Libre, stage 3). He will spend the coming weeks training in the Alps and the Pyrenees with teammate Joseba Beloki.
Gonzalez de Galdeano knows what a difficult task it will be to beat Armstrong in the Tour. ONCE and the rest of the Midi Libre peloton threw everything at US Postal on the final day, but could not shake Armstrong from the lead despite putting him in some difficulty at times.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Gonzalez de Galdeano described Armstrong now as "who Indurain was before. Up till now he has overcome all the challenges that he's been faced with. Knowing him a little, I'm sure that he won't be scared of us."
On the Midi-Libre upset, Gonzalez said that "I don't think that he was expecting anyone to beat him. But the next day he took out all his internal anger and dealt with me. Like it used to be with Indurain, whenever you can get close to him, or even beat him, it is very significant."
He stressed that "I beat him in the Midi Libre time trial, but he won the overall. He was better than us, but not by much, but he won and it took him more than he expected."
"Last year [in the Tour] he was able to handle everyone, and if he's in the same condition I don't see how he can be beaten. But Armstrong is human, and as happened to Indurain, one day someone will beat him. We will go to the Tour with those ambitions, knowing that he is human and that he can fail, because one day he could be sick, crash or have a bad day. But when that happens I hope that it's just that he bonks, because I don't wish anything bad on him."
As for the team, with riders like Beloki, Azevedo, Serrano, Jaksche, and perhaps Zarrabeitia after his Euskal Bizikleta win, the "ONCE-Eroski team can hurt him."
Gonzalez de Galdeano cited Sevilla and Botero (Kelme), Moreau and Rumsas as the other likely challengers for the Tour podium.
Bruyneel comments on Armstrong's Dauphine TT performance
US Postal director Johan Bruyneel was more than satisfied with Lance Armstrong's performance in the third stage of the Dauphine Libéré, where he finished second to Santiago Botero (Kelme) by 42 seconds but took over the lead of the race.
"Lance did a great time trial," commented Bruyneel. "He was very comfortable throughout the race and stayed within himself from start to finish. Botero is a very strong time trialist and when he has one of those days, nobody can beat him. Yet you see the big difference Lance put into everyone else and realize Botero is really powerful."
While Botero was brilliant, Armstrong still managed to put over a minute into his closest rival, Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) who finished third in the stage. Zubeldia is now in second overall, 1'12 behind Armstrong, with Stage 2 winner Denis Menchov (iBanesto) third at 1'59.
"The Dauphine is still the Dauphine, it's a very hard race," said Bruyneel. "Saturday's stage is very, very hard with several climbs including the Joux Plane. On the other hand, it's time for the USPS team to start defending a jersey - we did it for only one day this year at the Midi Libre. It's good training and a good way for us to get used to the team system of defending the jersey. I feel our team here is strong, all are possible Tour (de France) riders. It will be a good test to see how everyone is. It will also be a good test for me, to get used to the tactics again. It's time to get going."
Victor Hugo Pena (10th at 2'50), and Floyd Landis (17th at 3'25) also impressed Bruyneel, particularly the latter who is another converted mountain biker. "Yesterday [on Mont Ventoux] Floyd was very good - it was the first time I gave him some freedom in a race, the chance to ride his own race and not have to work for Lance," said Bruyneel. "It is good for us tactically and gives us something else to play with. He did an amazing climb and he was very happy after the stage. The team has expressed confidence in him right from the start of the season and yesterday he really proved us right."
Finally Viatcheslav Ekimov, in his first race since last September when he "retired" finished 23rd on Ventoux and 30th in the time trial. "Over here, everyone is really surprised at Ekimov's performance, but I'm not," added Bruyneel. "He came with our team to a mountain training camp after the Midi Libre and was already in great shape. We still must be careful with him. He needs to get through this race and then recover from it."
"It's strange to say, but its like he has never left. That is how I feel and that is how the guys feel."