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Tour de France News for July 25, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Who will win the Centenary Tour?

By Günter Krause-Friebertshäuser

Lance Armstrong
Photo: © J.Devich/CN

Everyone will certainly know the answer to this question in two days' time in Paris, and more than likely it will be determined in tomorrow's time trial between Pornic and Nantes. Will Lance Armstrong successfully defend his title, or will Jan Ullrich pull off an improbable win in the time trial to overtake the Maillot Jaune on GC? German TV channel ZDF questioned some insiders about their opinion of who will win the Centenary Tour.

Johan Bruyneel (US Postal director)

"I expect a very hard battle, a tight race between Jan Ullrich and Lance. We have 1.07 now and that's definitely a lot better than the 15 seconds before. But it could turn out good for both of them."

Rudy Pevenage (Bianchi director)

With a shy smile: "Jan Ullrich."

Laurent Jalabert

"Ullrich will win the time trial, but 1'07 is a lot of time. This Tour is incomparable, its suspense will last until its last meter. But I like the risk: I bet on Ullrich."

Richard Virenque (Quick.Step)

"Armstrong! He has already won four times and Ullrich won't be strong enough to win on his own."

Grischa Niermann (Rabobank)

"For German cycling it would be fantastic if Jan could win his second Tour. On the other hand Armstrong is a great champion. Both of them deserve the victory."

Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom)

Alexandre Vinokourov
Photo: © C.Henry/CN

"I would prefer Ullrich. He was great in the last time trial. But he will have to fight heavily to gain more than one minute on Armstrong, who will be much more motivated than in the previous time trial."

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)

"I really like Jan and I think it would be good for him to win the Tour again. I hope he will."

Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo)

"I'd like to see Jan win. He has had a hard comeback and now finds himself in an unexpected position. It will be good for him and also for the race."

Brad McGee (FDJeux.com)

"It's gonna be very difficult for Ullrich to regain the time. But no doubt he's very motivated. I wouldn't put money on either one or the other."

Jörg Jaksche (ONCE)

"Well, my bets are still on Ulle (nickname of Ullrich among German riders) and I hope for him. Why? It's just my feeling."

Stuart O'Grady (Crédit Agricole)

"I think Armstrong will now probably win. The last time trial will be flat and fast. Ullrich will still have his chance, but Armstrong might be able to defend his advantage."

Udo Bölts (Gerolsteiner)

"I think Armstrong, because he has overcome his short period of weakness."

Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole)

"Now the circumstances are for Armstrong. He's in front, also physical, he has overcome his weakness and is not exhausted."

Bjarne Riis (CSC director and former captain of Jan Ullrich)

Jan Ullrich
Photo: © C.Henry/CN

"I know you Germans like to hear me say: Jan. And I surely would appreciate it. But I think Lance looks great..."

Laurent Fignon (former TdF winner, and lost by 8 seconds to Greg LeMond in 1989)

"It seems to be Armstrong again. He has more than a minute on Ullrich and the heat that caused his weakness is gone. He's in front now. 70% on him."

Erik Zabel (Telekom)

"As a friend of Jan it's not easy to say. I think we will have a finale as with LeMond and Fignon. Who will win will be decided by the Good Lord."

Robbie McEwen relaxed but on track for green

By Gabriella Ekström in Bordeaux

Robbie McEwen started the 18th stage with a six point deficit on Baden Cooke in the green jersey classification, but managed to erase that in the first intermediate sprint after 50 km. The defending green jersey champion looked relaxed as he spoke to cyclingnews at the start of Stage 18.

"Everyone says that this green jersey thing is so exciting but I think it's getting to be a bit too much excitement for me," McEwen joked. "I want a boring race where I have a big lead. It will come down to Sunday, just like last year and I'm pretty much getting used to that."

McEwen has gotten through the hardest part of the Tour now, and thinks that he is improving his speed again. "I was sick in the Alps but I was still close to Baden in the sprints," he said. "I lacked a bit of power then but I feel a lot better now - the strength has come back. I took two points in the sprint behind the break yesterday. It's not much but in circumstances like this it's important. I think today it's going to come down to the same scenario again where a break goes and we'll sprint for whatever's left. I don't think I'll be in the lead after this stage, but maybe closer."

Zabel doesn't rule out Green

By Günter Krause-Friebertshäuser

The six time winner of the points classification Erik Zabel has not been too satisfied with his 2003 Tour. He could not win a stage yet and didn't even wear "his Green" for a single day. Zabel (157 pts) is next to Robbie McEwen (163 pts) and the current wearer of green Baden Cooke (169 pts) as one of the three sprint favourites. Yesterday, Zabel said that the green jersey no longer interested him, but he was still on the lookout for a stage win. However, it seems that Zabel is finding himself in a good position to challenge for the green now.

After Stage 17, where he finished 12th in Bordeaux (second in the bunch sprint behind McEwen), Zabel told German TV, "As I said before today's start, the chance of a breakaway group succeeding would be very probable."

About his own performance in the stage, Zabel stated, "It didn't go too well for me since I intended to get away with a group to put some pressure on McEwen and Cooke. But I failed. After the group escaped, we went very fast for about 30 or 40 kilometres until the peloton made its decision to the advantage of the guys in front. These ten riders worked nearly as well as if they were in a team time trial. The four teams working heavily in the peloton to catch them were not able to gain more time on them than five seconds in 20 kilometres. It was crazy. And this will encourage more riders in stage 18. So we will have the same situation."

If the sprinters are not able to win the 18th stage and Zabel isn't going for Green, why did he sprint for 11th place? "Of course, your head doesn't easily agree with sprinting for 11th place, but you must not forget that I'm paid for it. Certainly the adrenaline flow is better when you go for a stage win. And the Green Jersey, it doesn't leave me alone...it seems to be my fate."

Peter Luttenberger moves up

Team CSC's Peter Luttenberger jumped a few places on the general classification in Stage 17 yesterday, after gaining eight minutes on the peloton by being part of the stage winning breakaway. The Austrian mountain goat now sits in 13th on GC, at 19'03 down.

"The parcours yesterday was not really my cup of tea," Luttenberger told L'Equipe today. "I barely weigh 60 kilos so it's hard for someone like me to ride kilometre after kilometre at 60 km/h. But I was ready to accept the challenge and I had discussed the tactics with Bjarne. I couldn't win the stage but the good thing was I moved up to 13th overall and the team kept its first place."

Who was third on Luz Ardiden?

Ullrich and Zubeldia
Photo: © Olympia

The sprint for second place behind Lance Armstrong atop Luz Ardiden last Monday was hotly contested, with Jan Ullrich, Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia fighting it out. With 12 and 8 second bonuses for second and third place, Ullrich was definitely interested in sprinting, while Mayo and Zubeldia seemed to want to try and salvage some Basque pride by sprinting for the places after sitting on Ullrich's wheel the whole way up the climb. In the end, Mayo took second while Ullrich and Zubeldia fought it out for a very close third place. Television images appeared to show that Zubeldia took third, although in the end Ullrich was awarded third place by the finish line judges, and gained a potentially crucial eight seconds.

Cyclingnews spoke to one of the members of the jury, Mr Celeste Granziera of Italy about the judge's decision. Granziera explained that, "Perhaps that's the way it looked from TV. The TV camera shooting from straight ahead has a parallax view which compresses the image. However the two finish line judges are very experienced, having done over 20 Tours de France each and we have the photo finish videoline system where we can examine in slow motion, centimetre by centimetre, the finish line situation, and even enlarge it considerably. So we're confident about the way the call was made."

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