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Photo ©: Bettini

Tour de France News for July 19, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Über Ullrich back to his best

Ullrich's a contender
Photo: © Sirotti

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."

See the full interview here

Vinokourov satisfied

Still a threat
Photo: © Jeff Tse

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."

Millar suffers

Dashed hopes
Photo: © Sirotti

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.
Salvatore Commesso (Saeco): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 2'15 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 42 km/h.
Gerrit Glomser (Saeco): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 6'43 for drafting for 13 km at an average speed of 44 km/h.
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 2'05 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 41 km/h.
Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 5'51 for drafting for 13 km at an average speed of 43 km/h.
Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 1'55 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 40 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.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)

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