July 25, 2003
The Daily Peloton weighs in with their daily rundown of "Golden Hams of the Day" and "Ham-Gazers of the Day".
Among the Golden:
Pablo Lastras (iBanesto.com). The crafty Spaniard now has a stage win in each grand tour, which is no mean feat, especially for a non-sprinter. The attacks of Canada and Da Cruz would have demoralized many riders, but Lastras just grit his teeth and kept pedaling, closing the gap and taking Da Cruz from behind right on the line. It was another great performance for iBanesto, who got a stage win earlier from Juan Antonio Flecha and whose Denis Menchov holds a commanding lead in the White Jersey competition. The future is bright for iBanesto, who have several young riders with great talent. While iBanesto.com ends its sponsorship at the end of this season, this team will surely gain a nice new sponsorship with such an outstanding Tour. They can now look towards the Vuelta with two things that make any young team dangerous: confidence and momentum.
Among the Gazers:
Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com). Cookie has been slipping in this internal battle of the Aussie Sprint Mafia over the Green Jersey. When McEwen won the first intermediate sprint, Cooke was nowhere to be seen. In the sprint for 17th place, Cooke finished behind both McEwen and Zabel. Still, Cooke has the stronger team and on the final stage, he is still the best-placed man to dethrone McEwen. Cooke was 2nd on the Champs Elysees last year, and he will be looking to go one better than that this year. If he can take that final sprint, he will likely get to go home in Green.
cyclingnews.com has a refreshingly self-effacing interview with Pablo Lastras after his victory in Stage 18:
"I guess I can say that I'm an all-rounder, because I'm equally bad in all disciplines. I can't climb, I can't descend and I can't sprint, so all-rounder suits me fine. Honestly, I hope the journalists will come up with something nice to say about me."
Lastras dedicated the win to his mother, who died four months ago.
Pablo Lastras average speed of 49.938 km/h today makes his stage the second fastest Tour stage in history, and the speed was one of Lastras' biggest worries during the stage. "I spoke to my team manager early in the break, and I told him that I was so very tired. The day had started so fast, and it took a lot of energy to get the break going, and I ended up with nothing to eat. With 30 kilometres to go, it was a different story. I had eaten and felt a little better, but I was still very tired. I thought that if I have to die for this one I will."
"It's flat, straight and not technical. It should be a tailwind and so could be one of the fastest time trials in Tour history," said Armstrong in a recorded message given to the media Friday.
The Texan added that he hoped Ullrich would not repeat the feat of Greg LeMond, the race's only other American winner, who snatched victory from France's Laurent Fignon by eight seconds in the final time trial in 1989.
"I certainly hope the outcome isn't like that Tour," he said.
Asked about Ullrich's opportunistic grab of sprint bonus time:
"It shouldn't really surprise anybody, we expected him to do that," Armstrong said.
"It's a little risky for my taste but I don't think two seconds is going to decide the Tour de France."
VeloNews looks at the 5 previous Tours that have been decided by less than a minute, including 1989's LeMond-Fignon battle, where LeMond made up 58 seconds during a 24.5-km time trial, to win the Tour by 8 seconds.
Although Armstrong has beaten Ullrich 5 of 7 times, by as much as 1:39, the two times he didn't were in this year's prologue, where Ullrich led by 5 seconds, and this year's first time trial, where Ullrich won by 1:36.
Saturday's crucial penultimate stage of the centenary Tour de France is almost certain to decide whether Lance Armstrong or Jan Ullrich will write their name into history
The peloton will race in reverse order for the time trial with Ullrich second last to start and Armstrong the last.
Throughout Armstrong will be informed by his team chiefs in the car that will shadow him as to whether he is losing ground on his rival as he passes the intermediate checkpoints.
Australian newspaper The Age offers the first wrap-up of the 2003 Tour:
But then came the Pyrenees, and a stage that will live for ever among the legends of the tour. Having sternly resisted Ullrich's attempted breakaway on the Col du Tourmalet, Armstrong himself attacked on the ascent to the stage finish at Luz-Ardiden. While Mayo and Ullrich struggled to keep pace, he tangled with a spectator's bag and fell. Remounting, he attacked again and rode away from his rivals.
The last 20 minutes of the stage were stunning. There was the way the Texan's main rivals paused to allow him to catch up after the crash. There was the consoling pat on the back that Armstrong gave Sylvain Chavanel as he passed the exhausted young French rider.
Cycling, a great sport bedevilled by its association with drugs, has never looked as noble as it did in those moments.
cyclingnews.com asked more than a dozen riders, former riders, and coaches: Who will win the Centenary Tour?
To say there was no clear favorite would be an understatement.
- 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."
- 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."
- 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."
The time gain may have been minute but was a way for Ullrich to taunt his rival before the final showdown.
"It's Jan himself who made the decision, but with a side wind it was a little risky," said his team director Rudy Pevenage.
"Jan was in the front, he saw the sprint could suit him and seized the opportunity to take a few seconds.
"I was a little surprised for it was a bold gamble. But he really believes in his chances," he said.
American Lance Armstrong's race lead over arch-rival Jan Ullrich was dented when the German unexpectedly took part in an intermediate sprint, forcing the four-times Tour champion to react.
Australian Robbie McEwen won the sprint but Ullrich was second and Armstrong third.
As a result, the German took two seconds off the Texan to trail him by 65 seconds before a decisive 49-km time trial between Pornic and Nantes on Saturday.
Ibanesto rider Lastras fought off Carlos da Cruz and Daniele Nardello in the final few metres after stage leader David Canada was caught in the closing 100m.
Looks like Armstrong has repaired his image with the French press: the picture on the right is of Armstrong with a box of oranges reportedly voted to him by press photographers as "the nicest rider on the Tour".
Stage 18: Lastras wins stage
The sprinters are being closed out in the last road stages of this year's Tour. Today, a 16-man breakaway splintered in the race's last kilometers, and iBanesto's Pablo Lastras nipped Carlos Da Cruz of FDJeux.com and Telekom's Daniele Nardello.
Lastras finished in 4 hours, 3 minutes over the 203.5 km (126 miles) course, for the 2nd-fastest stage in Tour history.
The peloton was more than 20 minutes behind. Robbie McEwen powered to the line ahead of Erik Zabel and Baden Cooke, and coupled with McEwen's win of the first intermediate sprint of the day, McEwen moves into the green jersey with 178 pts to Cooke's 176 and Zabel's 165.
1) Pablo Lastras (iBanesto.com) 4:03:18 2) Carlos Da Cruz (FDJeux.com) same time 3) Daniele Nardello (Telekom) s.t. 4) David Canada (QuickStep-Davitamon) @ :04 5) Massimiliano Lelli (Cofidis) @ :19 6) Andy Flickinger (AG2r) @ :19 7) Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere) @ :19 8) Paolo Fornacieri (Saeco) @ :19 9) Fabrizio Guidi (Team Bianchi) @ :35 10) Vladimir Miholjevic (Alessio) @ :35
First sprint a biggie
Today's first intermediate sprint was in Montendre, and it affected both the race for the green jersey, and for yellow.
Robbie McEwen was first across the line, winning 6 pts. He and Baden Cooke are now tied at 169 pts in first for the green jersey.
Jan Ullrich actually went after the sprint points, and was shadowed by Armstrong. Ullrich took 4 points (and the associated 4 second bonus), and Armstrong took 2 pts (and 2 seconds).
As a result, Ullrich's 1:07 gap is now a 1:05 gap.
Santiago Botero, the leader of the Telekom team, didn't start Stage 18 this morning.
Botero finished 4th overall last year, but was in 70th place overall after yesterday's stage. He is one of the few riders in this Tour to have beaten Lance Armstrong in a time trial, when he won the first time trial of last year's Tour.
Tour Today: Bordeaux - Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole
A near replay of yesterday's course profile, with today's stage going 203.5 kms, with 2 intermediate sprints, and 35 points for finishing the stage first. Bonus points are awarded down to 25th place.
Most of the action today is likely to surround the green jersey, as Baden Cooke, Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, and Thor Hushovd try to win the overall points title for this Tour. Stuart O'Grady is probably out of the mix, with Hushovd, his teammate, picking up more points in the field sprint yesterday.
Lance Armstrong Baden Cooke Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
Team CSC leads the team classification over Euskaltel-Euskadi by 16:54.
Servais Knaven will be wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider.
Besides being the big hoss for the US Postal team, George Hincapie likes his gadgets. He's got a weblog over at blogspot, with pictures uploaded from his cameraphone, and he mentions that the Posties' "morale is high and we're all kickin it with our iPods." He posted Tuesday on the rest day:
Anyway, the Tour has been the most exciting tour I've ever done and if Lance wins this one it will for sure be the best victory we have ever had. Lance is really motivated and super psyched to be "back". He came into the bus after the stage yesterday on fire yelling "who's back in the house!!!!". It was a great boost for all of us to see Lance so confident. We've been on pins and needles for the last few weeks. There are still two rolling days which are the hardest for me since I have to ride on the front all day. Then there is the final test for the yellow jersey on Friday [Saturday, of course - Frank]...the final TT.
Thanks to Anil Dash for the pointer.