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Tour de France News for July 28, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Armstrong continues fight against cancer

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Paris
LA talks
Photo: © J.Devich/CN

This morning at the prestigious Hotel Crillon, five time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong attended a press conference presented by the U.S. President's Cancer Panel. Entitled "Life After Cancer: A Celebration Of Life", Armstrong was joined by Dr La Salle D. Leffall. Jr, president of Bush's Cancer Panel and French Dr. David Khayat, well known for his initiatives to combat cancer in France. Also present was Dr Andrew C. Von Eschenbach, Director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Armstrong joined other leaders and cancer survivors in the global fight against cancer, and he was celebrated as an example to cancer victims and how they can fight and overcome it. Lance told the assembled media that "Cancer is a global problem and it will be solved globally...it's an honour to be win the Tour de France but even more so as a cancer survivor. When I think about a crash on Luz Ardiden or a cyclocross in Gap, and then think back to 1996 and being in a hospital bed in Indianapolis, its easy to choose."

Today Show on Champs-Elysées

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Paris
Currying favour
Photo: © T.Maloney/CN

Cyclingnews caught up with US TV personality Anne Curry, who was in Paris to interview Lance Armstrong for NBC's #1 rated morning chat program, the Today Show. "This is my 2nd time at the Tour De France. I was here last year to interview Lance. I'm always glad to talk to Lance...he's not only a champion, a real fighter. And I also know that anything he says about competing can be a such an inspiration for so many people, especially for people who are suffering from cancer. I love bringing Lance's message to the American people!"

"I am a cycling fan now from watching from afar. I actually have a date to cycle with Lance for a cancer ride and I'm freaked out, because while I work out...well, I hope he goes his slowest!"

Anne Curry lost her mother to cancer and her sister is a cancer survivor. The popular Today show host will participate in one of Lance's upcoming Tour Of Hope events in Texas. "I just think it's not very often you see someone who can rise above such a challenge as Lance has. I think that's something to be supported."

Curry sent props to American Tyler Hamilton as well, saying "I think that Tyler Hamilton has shown so much courage in this year's Tour. He was so resilient and I think he'll become famous for what he had to put up with at the Tour this year and finish in the top four."

Curry will have an exclusive interview with Armstrong Monday morning on NBC's Today Show.

Rookies comment on tough Tour

By Günter Krause-Friebertshäuser

The Centenary Tour was the fastest Tour de France ever with an average speed of 40.940 km/h, causing many riders to state that it had been unusually tough for them. The heat and the crashes combined with an increase of illnesses among the riders saw over a quarter of the peloton abandon before the finish.

If experienced riders suffered during this year's Tour, how did the rookies manage to survive? A number of riders told Eurosport TV about their views and emotions. Telekom's Matthias Kessler has twice finished in the top 30 in the Giro d'Italia. This year the 24 year old Franconian made it for the first time to the Tour de France. And his first conclusion was: "faster, harder and much more beautiful. It's been incredible always riding at full speed on the flats as in the mountains in front of those crowds of spectators. You can't afford one single bad day. It's a daily fight to survive and I'm happy I've made it."

Austrian Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) started the Tour de France as the recent winner of the Tour of Austria. Aged 28, he had to wait some years and so, "I expected more of my participation at the Tour. But it became clear during the race that my form was going down. Okay, it was my first Tour and, whatever remains this time, I will improve. But I had a nice experience I would say, and I hope to be back next year."

Glomser's team mate Jörg Ludewig is in his third year with Saeco. The 27 year old German was the last rider from his team to be invited just a few days before the Tour start, in order to help his Captain Gilberto Simoni. In the end he turned out to be their best ranked rider on GC at 38th. "I think I got through it better than I expected, just being the ninth wheel. I just started in order to help Simoni which turned out not to be such a big deal. Anyway, Gilberto saved the team. We had much greater intentions for this Tour, now we have at least a stage win. My batteries are very low now. I'm beginning to understand why the Tour de France is called a myth."

Uwe Peschel of German team Gerolsteiner started his first Tour de France at the age of 34, although he is known as a very successful rider in the individual time trials at the World Championships, where he finished fifth several times. He stated (before Saturday's time trial), "It was tough, much tougher than I expected since the speed was unbelievably high right from the start. And now I'm happy that I will see Paris which had not been my aim at the beginning of the Tour. But in the meantime it became a fix point to get there."

It was bad luck for Peschel, as after this statement he was the last to crash out of the race in the Stage 19 time trial. He slipped twice on the wet roads, broke two ribs and punctured a lung. Nonetheless, he insisted on finishing in Paris. But his director Hans Michael Holczer and the doctors refused.

Good Tour for Belgian directors, but not the riders

The Belgian team directors seem to be part of the overall success story in this year's Tour: Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol are in charge of the winning US Postal-Berry Floor team with Lance Armstrong; Rudy Pevenage is Jan Ullrich's director with Bianchi; Walter Godefroot has the very impressive and strong Alexander Vinokourov in his team Telekom; and Quick.Step's Wilfried Peeters and Patrick Lefevre can call their Tour a big success, having two stage wins and the climber's trophy to show for it.

But what about the Belgian riders?

"It's a crying shame," comment the VUM newspapers harshly. Indeed, a Belgian victory in this year's Tour was not really within reach.

Serge Baguet came the closest, finishing seventh in Marseille. Even though the Lotto-Domo riders can hide behind the fact that they had to work their lungs out to keep McEwen in the running for the Green Jersey and protect him during the day so he could contest the sprints, the Belgian critics are having a field day in the press this morning.

Lotto-Domo director sportive Marc Sergeant submitted the report card for his riders: "Christophe Brandt did the most work of all for McEwen. He was at the front riding to keep or bring things together for the sprint and came across the climbs really well."

"Serge Baguet did a reasonable job for McEwen in the first week. He also did do a lot of the work on the last Friday, so that Robbie could take back the Green jersey."

"Hans De Clercq actually finished this Tour stronger than he started it; he worked harder the last week than he did in the first two. He still has got some power left."

"Axel Merckx came short just that one bit. he got into trouble for the first time in the Alps and then dragged himself to Luz-Ardiden purely on character. It's a pity for him, a pity for us."

"After this Tour, we'll have to have a serious talk to Rik Verbrugghe!" concludes Sergeant. "He quit with some bruised ribs. Clain went on with the same thing and Hamilton even rode with a broken collarbone!"

Quick.Step Davitamon team director Wilfried Peeters was more positive about his Belgian rider. "Kurt Van de Wouwer did a good job as a domestique in the tour. A 20th spot in the final time trial shows that. He just needed some time to adjust to our team. He understood on the way to Bayonne that he had to ride more aggressively." (Van De Wouwer rode for Lotto last year and didn't get selected for the Tour).

Rabobank team director Theo de Rooij was neutral in his comments. "Because we lost Leipheimer so early, the team lost its structure right away. Bettini was one of the best riders in this Tour, but he didn't get closer than a second placing. It's really hard to evaluate the riders that got to Paris." (Belgian Marc Wauters was one of them).

Telekom's team manager Walter Godefroot commented, "Mario Aerts knows that there is nothing to be gained in the back of the peloton. He did his job appropriately, but in our team the level is high. Mario was the first rider of the team to have to ride at the front of the peloton."

Baden Cooke in Aalst tonight

The Australian Green Jersey winner Baden Cooke is one of the big names on the starter's list of the first post-Tour criterium in Belgium tonight. Together with the best sprinter of this season, Alessandro Petacchi, and Australian-Belgian Robbie McEwen, Cooke will more than likely dish out a fast and furious finale.

Local Serge Baguet was voted the most popular rider by the internet visitors to the criterium's website and said it is nice to be present, feeling the recognition of the fans. Lotto-Domo will also have Lanterne Rouge De Clercq starting, while Axel Merckx and Rik Verbrugghe are still recovering at home.

The team's greatest star won't sign on. Peter Van Petegem starts his second half of the 2003 season today in the Belgian Tour de la Région Wallonne, as is Lotto-Domo's local boy Kevin Van Impe. The lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw is riding this stage race as well.

Tour podium girl kicked out

Only three of the four Credit Lyonnais podium girls made it to the Champs-Elysées yesterday. Blond podium girl Alicia was thrown out of the Tour this week. The official version has it that she "kept stacking up the mistakes". But behind the scenes, the story is that she kept smiling and kissing off the podium too, with a cyclist that never came close to wearing the Yellow Crédit Lyonnais jersey. It's in the girls' contracts that they can't socialize with the riders in that way.

It's not an isolated case of butterflies kicking in during a big tour. There's always a good gossip for grabs after the Tour has left the Champs-Elysées. "Alicia wasn't kicked out because of that," her visibly offended ex-colleagues told the Belgian Press. "And even if she was, is it forbidden to fall in love? Christophe Moreau fell in love with one of the Tour Misses years ago, and they are still together!"

"Of course we get looked at," the interviewee continued. "But not only by the cyclists, mostly by the journalists! Three weeks away from the wife, hey!"

Cyclingnews awaits Podium Girl Gone Bad's opinion on this...

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