July 26, 2003
www.cyclingnews.com presents the 90th Tour de France, 2003.
cyclingnews.com has a good wrap-up of some of the continuing Tour news: quotes about the Time Trial from Armstrong, Ullrich, both their coaches and others; discussion with Robbie McEwen on his strategy to win the green jersey he currently holds; a look at Michael Rogers's Tour, and an update on Uwe Peschel (he may have a punctured lung).
My favorite, though is a look at Lotto-Domo rider Hans de Clerq, the overall last-place rider (aka the lanterne rouge) in his second Tour:
"I have this title now and I'm not giving it to someone else," he continued. "Nobody dreams of being the very last rider in the Tour, but once you're there you've come to like it. Conquering the title is easy, keeping it is much more difficult: the ideal Lanterne has to finish every day on time, but not earlier than strictly necessary. I really want to reach Paris, only to prove that the so-called 'kermesse riders' can do it."
"It is only my second Tour and I love riding it, but I always have to feel useful. I told Marc Sergeant that I was candidate as long as he would go with a sprinter like McEwen, but if he went with a top climber, he could better leave me home as I am useless at climbing. Working for Robbie, that's why I'm doing it for: Robbie in green on the Champs Elysées and my Tour is a total success.
BBC Sport reports that Armstrong has confirmed his intention to race next year's Tour, in pursuit of a record sixth Tour victory.
"I'll be back next year, and I'm not coming back to get second or to lose," he said.
"Definitely I feel like I have dodged a lot of bullets, and haven't necessarily been on top of my game," he said.
But he added: "I've learned a lot this year, and when I come back it won't be back with the same level.
"This year I was just totally unacceptable."
cyclingnews.com talked to Stage 19 winner David Millar on his winning ride during the treacherous time trial stage:
"I seem to have a remarkable ability to keep my head cool in difficult situations." Millar said. "During the stage I was careful not to take any risks, and when I fell I just thought 'Oops, I fell!' I got back up and waited for my mechanic, and when we saw that the chain had broken, he got me a new bike and I went on with it. Thinking of the circumstances today, I figure probably 50% of the peloton crashed. I saw Jan Ullrich in the first kilometre, and said to myself; Man, he'll go down today!"
Lance on his strategy on the course today: "Johan told me after a kilometer-and-a-half that I'd lost six seconds, and then I brought it back to three, and then two, and then even, and then went up by six or seven or eight or ten seconds. Then at that point I just went, 'I'll just go my pace.' Then I heard he [Ullrich] crashed, and from then on it was just a little tour of Nantes."
Lance on win number five: "This has been a very hard Tour for me, for a lot of reasons, some of which people know, some of which people don't know. It's just been very tough, and I'm glad it's over. Almost over."
I'll be very curious to hear what the reasons people don't know will be -- maybe lingering effects of Lance's crash in the Dauphiné Libéré, or the spill on Stage 1? It's a good thing Armstrong has a talent for the poker face.
The Texan praised his rival [Ullrich] afterward. "He gave us a lot of problems,’’ he said. "He’s still the biggest challenger.
"I like Jan a lot and nobody makes me more motivated. He’s a great champion.’’
Ullrich will finish in 2nd for the 5th time, in addition to his win in 1997. Joop Zoetemelk holds the record for 2nd-place finishes with 6; he
had the misfortune to race the Tour against Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. Zoetemelk finally won the Tour in 1980.
He later won an astounding World Championship in 1985, at 38!
Armstrong forced his rival into taking too many risks and the German slid and crashed with 15 km left after the two had been clocked at almost the same time throughout.
The Texan had checked the course twice before the start while Ullrich had not, and the decision probably cost him his last chance to upset the four times Tour champion.
"My plan today was to start slowly and to race at my own tempo. I was confident, knowing that with a minute lead over Jan, with the rain and the wind, I had no reason to take risks," Armstrong said.
"When I heard that Jan had crashed, I took even fewer risks. I told myself to slow down. The stage was not important as the finish was extremely dangerous.
"The last 10 kilometres, I had checked them out and I saw there were lots of corners, lots of painting on the road. It was too dangerous," he said.
BBC Sport has 2 pictures of Ullrich's fall, as well as a shot of Armstrong crossing the finish line.
Having been denied victory in the Prologue by a problem with a chain and after struggling to stay in the race as it crossed the Pyrenees, the win was particularly welcome for Millar, whose contract expires at the end of the season. The 26-year-old has been linked with a move to CSC, managed by former Tour winner Bjarne Riis, and the US Postal Service team of Armstrong who now looks set to clinch an historic fifth successive Tour win.
The stage was won in 54:05 by Briton David Millar, who crashed but still was the fastest on a course made slippery by constant rain.
A crash also ruined Ullrich's hopes of overall victory. The German slid out of contention at a roundabout 15 km from the finish and lost his confidence, finishing 25 seconds behind Millar.
American Tyler Hamilton was second in the stage, nine seconds behind Millar, and Armstrong third, 14 seconds adrift.
At the point where Ullrich crashed, he was 6 or 7 seconds ahead of Armstrong on the road.
Stage 19: David Millar takes the TT, Armstrong confirmed in yellow
The battle royal between Armstrong and Ullrich didn't come off quite as expected, as a midcourse crash by Jan Ullrich led to tentative cornering, and a much slower pace by the German.
Britain's David Millar won the stage in 54:05, for the 2nd-fastest time trial in Tour history. Tyler Freaking Hamilton was 2nd, at 54:14. Combined with the finishes of Mayo and Zubeldia, Hamilton's time trial moves him up into 4th on the overall classification.
1) David Millar (Cofidis) 54:05.14
2) Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC) 54:14.27
3) Armstrong (US Postal) 54:19.66
4) Ullrich (Team Bianchi) 54:30.45
5) Laszlo Bodrogi (QuickStep) 54:31.73
Armstrong will be up by about 1:15 at the start of the final stage tomorrow. He's almost certain to win the Tour.
1) Armstrong (US Postal)
2) Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) @ 1:16
3) Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) @ 4:29
4) Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC) @ 6:32
5) Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 7:06
6) Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 7:21
7) Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) @ 10:12
8) Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) @ 12:43
9) Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) @ 18:49
10) Francisco Mancebo (iBanesto.com) @ 19:30
Ullrich took a corner too fast, lost the rear end of his bike, and slid across the wet road into haybales.
Afterward, Ullrich has been taking it easy, and repeatedly gesturing for his team car to back off, rather than trailing him so closely.
If Tyler Hamilton keeps up his pace, he'll be in 4th place tonight.
LeMond's record time trial
A lot of people are talking about the possibility that today's time trial might break the record for fastest Tour time trial.
Greg LeMond set the record, 54.54 km/h, back in 1989.
What most people aren't mentioning is that LeMond set the record in a 24.5-km time trial, where Armstrong and Ullrich are racing twice that distance today.
If one of them sets that record today, they've earned it.
German cyclist Uwe Peschel broke a rib on Saturday during the 19th stage of the Tour de France as he raced in the individual time-trial.
The Gerolsteiner team rider fell twice during the 49km from Pornic which was run in torrential rain.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Tour come down to a crash in Nantes. I hope it doesn't.
At this point, Armstrong and Ullrich are very nearly stroke for stroke, with Ullrich just past the first checkpoint.
David Millar, above, set the best time among the early riders. Sherwen and Liggett reported that Millar, who crashed in Nantes, felt that the conditions over the last 15 kms were too dangerous to ride, and that race officials should neutralize the race over that section.
BBC Sport will update the gallery linked above as the stage continues.
cyclingnews.com completes their series of profiles on the Tour's 5-time winners with a look at Miguel Indurain, currently the only rider to have won 5 consecutive Tours.
Tour Today: Pornic - Nantes time trial
This is it. "You put down your rock, and I put down my sword, and we face each other, man against man, as God intended."
Looks like the weather will be rainy and windy, with some forecasts of 70-km/h gusts. Lance Armstrong takes off three minutes after Jan Ullrich, around 10 a.m. Eastern, and they should both cover the 49 kms in about an hour.
This one is for all the marbles. Armstrong would like to win the stage, stamp his mark on this Tour, and get to take it easy on Sunday. Ullrich would like to ride in yellow on Sunday. One of them is going to be mighty unhappy tonight.
Also keep an eye on Tyler Hamilton, who has a chance to move up from 6th to 4th in the overall classification.
Today's stage and Sunday's both count toward the 100,000-euro Centenaire competition, currently led by Baden Cooke. The winner will be the rider with the best average finish in the six cities that were on the 1903 Tour.
Lance Armstrong Robbie McEwen Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
Samuel Abt offers his Stage 19 time trial preview:
Referring to the race against the clock on Saturday, he said: "I'm tranquil, I'm confident. In my head, I'm calm." Armstrong was second to Ullrich in the Tour's first long individual time trial, a 29-mile race on July 18. Ullrich won that day by 1:36.
Armstrong has handily won the last time trial of the Tour in each of his victories; twice Ullrich was the runner-up, in 2000 and 2001. But Armstrong had a much larger lead — never less than five minutes — going into the final time trial the past four years.
I hate to see this one end, but I so want to know how it's going to turn out....
Over at VeloNews, John Wilcockson offers a look at the battle royal later today.
The Tour is up for grabs. And to add to the drama, a storm is blowing in off of the Atlantic.
Just in time for the battle between Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in their stage 19 duel on Saturday. It will take place in conditions that Méteo France is predicting will be wet and windy.
At the 4 p.m. start times of the American and German (they will be separated on the road by three minutes), the forecast calls for heavy rain, tail winds averaging 15 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. The only good news is that the rain might let up before they finish.
Wilcockson notes that Greg LeMond still holds the record for fastest Tour time trial at 54.545 kph (33.892 mph). Armstrong has already said he thinks it will take a pace close to the Tour record to win the stage.
Ullrich has revealed that he intends to push a 56 (!) x 11 across much of the race course.
But the duel between the top two is the story. Ullrich has to make up 65 seconds on Armstrong, and his Bianchi team is sure he can do it. They argue that the German beat Armstrong by 1:36 in the stage 12 time trial, but that was in heat-wave conditions that cause Armstrong to dehydrate.
Armstrong rides well in the rain though, and he has the motivation to defeat his opponent. Perhaps by as much as a second a kilometer, to take his fifth consecutive Tour victory.
Times Online has a good profile on Jan Ullrich, and what an amazing comeback he's made to be back at this level of competition.
This afternoon, however, ten million Germans are expected to tune into television coverage of Ullrich’s effort to reverse his narrow deficit on Armstrong in the most gripping finale to the Tour in memory. The fact that Ullrich, 29, is racing at all is unexpected, but a decisive victory over the American, who has won all the final time-trials in his four-year reign, would be unforgettable.
Twelve months ago, Ullrich’s career was in freefall. Scorned by Telekom, his sponsor, and deserted by the German public after years of excuses for poor performances, the final humiliation came early in July. As Armstrong left Luxembourg en route for a fourth successive Tour win, Ullrich faced the press in Frankfurt and hesitatingly tried to explain how he had found himself in a nightclub taking Ecstasy.