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Photo ©: Bettini

Tour de France News for July 21, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry

Gilberto Simoni: There's always tomorrow

A win Gibo wanted
Photo: © Olympia

After riding for days on end in merciless heat, the Tour de France riders finally saw the temperature drop under 30 degrees and big rain drops started to fall just as the riders got in the team buses and left Loudenvielle at the end of stage 14 . Gilberto Simoni, who has suffered terribly in the heat, had hoped for rain and stormy weather today, but was never able to experience the blessing of the rain during the stage.

After outsprinting Stage 14 breakaway companion Laurent Dufaux in the shadow of Col de Peyresourde, 'Gibo' was both overjoyed and amazed and told Lance Armstrong behind the podium that he had no idea how he managed to win.

"I was very clear in my mind this morning that I wanted to win this stage," he said. "My team manager Giuseppe Martinelli came up to me yesterday and told me to go home. He thought I'd be better off at home instead of being dropped on every climb here. I said I didn't want to go. There's something in my character that prevents me from giving up, so I told him that I really wanted to go on with the race. Even if I'm having a bad day, I still want to fight. A winner is someone who doesn't give up, someone who thinks that if today wasn't good, tomorrow must be better."

See the full interview here

Vinokourov does it again

Vino gains more time
Photo: © Olympia

Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) is shaping up to be the most aggressive rider of this year's Tour de France, and once again in Stage 14 he powered away from his two closest rivals, Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, and stole valuable seconds in a mountain stage. Vinokourov finished the day 43" ahead of race leader Armstrong, and moved to within 18" in the general classification, just 3" behind 2nd place Jan Ullrich.

"I noticed when Mayo attacked, Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong just watched without reacting very much," Vinokourov explained after the stage. "I asked myself why they would do that, then I told myself maybe that was the moment [to attack].

Vinokourov, already the winner this year of Paris-Nice, Amstel Gold Race, and the Tour de Suisse, is ready to do all he can to challenge for the Tour de France title. "I'm gaining confidence with each stage," he said. "As long as there's juice left in my legs, I'll keep attacking."

The Italian Job: Cassani Speaks

Davide Cassani, Italian RAI-TV colour commentator, is one of the best in the business. Together with play-by-play announcer Auro Bulbarelli, Cassani is at every big race throughout the season. A former pro rider, Cassani has eight Tours de France under his belt and has an unparalleled insiders view of cycling.

Cyclingnews spoke to the likeable Romagnolo after Stage 13 about his view of the centenary Tour De France.

Cyclingnews: Today (Stage 13) was a pretty historic day at the Tour de France...
Davide Cassani: I'd say so far that in this Tour there have been a lot of historic moments. It was the first time that another racer took two minutes on Armstrong on a climb, the first time that he lost one and a half minutes in a time trial, the first time he showed some weakness. We have an Armstrong who's not going as well as previous years.

CN: What about Ullrich?
DC: Surprisingly, Ullrich is very strong. I thought he would be strong in the time trial, but didn't think he would go so well. Above all, Ullrich surprised me today. He looks like the strongest rider in the Tour; the guy with the most energy inside. I think from tonight on, Armstrong will be very worried about Ullrich.

CN: How is Lance's US Postal Service-Berry Floor team doing?
DC: The team rode well today; for the first time they sent someone in a break. It was a good move, because Armstrong had him on the last climb. But this also shows that Lance is afraid. He wanted to put a guy up the road to save his team and that's a move that USPS hasn't done in the past years because this team isn't as strong as last years.

There have been a few mistakes this year; he only had three riders with him in the Alps and I remember well on Stage 9 to Gap, USPS might have let Jörg Jaksche (ONCE) take the yellow jersey instead of chasing and burning out his team. In the end, Vinokourov was able to attack and win the stage.

CN: Which will be the deciding stages in the rest of this year's Tour?
DC: There is still a lot of racing left to go, in a year where the two top guys are just separated by a handful of seconds. Ullrich is on the up and Armstrong seems to be in difficulty. Euskaltel will be trying to improvise something to win another stage at least, and if this hot weather continues, anything can happen in this year's Tour de France. Even Ullrich could have a crisis... but Armstrong may have underestimated him. In the Alps, he wasn't riding so strongly. On Stage 7 to Morzine, Ullrich was sick and at his limit and he didn't get dropped. So Armstrong missed his chance to eliminate Ullrich there.

CN: How can Ullrich beat Armstrong?
DC: Simply put, he can stay with Armstrong on the climbs and ride the final TT like he did the other day. I think that's his primary tactic and if he's really good, Ullrich can try to attack Armstrong on the climbs, like he did when he took the yellow jersey in his Tour win in 1997 on the climb to Andorra.

CN: Is it too early for a prediction?
DC: At this point, it's either Armstrong or Ullrich. Certainly, Armstrong has to be worried about Ullrich. He sees that Ullrich is stronger than him. In the last four Tours, where Armstrong has dominated, he always found foes that weren't that tough. I think that the fact that Armstrong now has to beat a rider who's stronger than him is a big problem since he's used to dominating the Tour.

Ullrich, on the other hand, is used to losing over the past few years so he has nothing to lose. If you looked at the eyes of both riders today, Armstrong's eyes were dispirited, scared, while Ullrich's eyes were full of energy and optimism.

When Ullrich was thinking about retiring a year ago with all his problems, he was at the bottom. Now you can see just how convinced Jan Ullrich is. He showed that in the last 2km of Stage 13. His main problem is that he doesn't have a good team. So Ullrich will have to follow the wheels and give it his all to attack Armstrong on the final climbs. The key will be on Stage 15 to Luz Ardiden. All Ullrich has to do now is to stay with Armstrong and try to attack him on the final climb if he can. Otherwise Ullrich will wait for his chance in the final time trial.

Armstrong's dehydration

In light of his difficulties in the Stage 12 individual time trial and the following day's Stage 13, Cyclingnews asked Lance Armstrong to speak on the issue of hydration. "Well, the problem is when you drink water, all you do is pee a lot," Armstrong explained bluntly. "Water's great, but you reach a point that you're just passing it through and if it doesn't contain the proper minerals and salts, it won't be absorbed. You can't just put it in your mouth; you've got to have IV's and big bottle of saline when you lose 7 or 8 kilos in a race... What are you going to do, drink 8 litres of water at one go?"

Armstrong felt the effects of a hot, tough time trial, even the following day. In Sunday's mammoth Stage 14, however, he appeared to have bounced back. Even if not his old dominant self in the mountains, Armstrong appeared to have recovered from the dehydration which made him vulnerable to the attacks of his rivals in the hot mountains.

Weather for stage 15

The rain finally came down after stage 14 finished, cooling things down at last after two weeks of intense sun. It should stay cool for tomorrow's 15th stage, with temperatures between 22 degrees at the start in Bagnères-de-Bigorre and 15-16 degrees at the summits of the Col du Tourmalet and Luz-Ardiden, with the chance of a storm at the end of the stage. The wind is expected to be stronger too, and it will be from the south west again, which will mean a head-cross wind for much of the stage.


Decisions of the commissaires

David Millar (Cofidis) and Andy Flickinger (Ag2R): Fined SFR 100 for not signing on.

Floyd Landis (USPS), Médéric Clain (Cofidis), Félix Garcia Casas (Bianchi) and Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo): Fined SFR 50 and penalised 5 points and 10 seconds on GC for hanging on to the team car.

Mikel Pradera (ONCE), Félix Garcia Casas (Bianchi) and Nick Gates (Lotto-Domo): Fined SFR 20 for being pushed by a spectator.

Medical communique

Sébastian Hinault: Superficial wounds to the thigh and right elbow. Contusion on right knee.

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