July 17, 2003
Over at VeloNews, John Wilcockson offers his analysis of Stage 12, tomorrow's individual time trial.
Of the presumed GC contenders, he says:
Armstrong faces his stiffest opposition from Hamilton and Ullrich. The injured Hamilton is not making any predictions but he proved in the Alps that his heart, lungs and legs are working perfectly. And because Friday's time trial doesn't have too many turns or steep climbs, he will be able to maintain his momentum without needing to make too many sharp accelerations.
Ullrich has yet to beat Armstrong in a Tour time trial, but the German star has never looked as comfortable or pleased with his form as he has this week. The Bianchi team leader overcame a stomach virus going into the Alps, and his return to the Tour has been impressive. He could even beat Armstrong - if you believe the rumors of the Texan's vulnerability.
OLN-TV daily reports updated
Sherwen has by far the better report today, discussing Jens Voigt's exit from the race, and Sherwen's memories of riding in the "broom wagon", which sweeps up riders who cannot continue:
Climbing into the broom wagon was an awful experience. It reminded me of the old TV series "Branded" where the guy is booted out of the cavalry. His sword broken and the badges ripped from his uniform.
As you leave the Tour, you have to have your numbers removed and they are taken by the referees, it's degrading as you don't want to abandon the race and shouldn't have to go through such a thing. In the broom wagon all the spectators look at you and point- "look at that guy, he's abandoned." Not great memories. That's why I felt for Jens today.
Lance wants to finish 30 seconds or more in front of Ullrich in Stage 12, and accomplishing this will determine the remaining course of Lance's Tour. If tomorrow's performance shows he can match or beat Ullrich in the time trial, Lance can go into the Pyrenees without the pressure of having to significantly build on his current 2:10 lead on the Bianchi team leader. If, on the other hand, Ullrich shows his time trial strength is far greater than his climbing ability this year, Lance will know he has to leave Ullrich behind in the Pyrenees and start the final time trial with a comfortable lead.
I was sorry things went a little bit haywire in the Chat Room last night. Paul and I were settling down to answer your questions in a lovely café in Toulouse and the server went down. As there seemed to be a lot of you, we'll try again soon.
So, when eight riders sleeping with the fish in the overall standings bolted 57 kilometers (35 miles) into the flat, 153.5-kilometer 11th stage today, the pack reacted drowsily. The Tour's leaders wanted to save their energy for the individual race against the clock on Friday, and everybody else possibly just wanted to admire the sunflowers.
Australian Tour de France debutant Matthew Wilson has crashed out of the race after finishing the 11th stage over the permitted time limit. On a day that the 25-year-old fdjeux.com rider will probably regret for the rest of his life, Wilson came in 21min 44sec behind stage winner Juan Antonio Flecha because he forgot to bring along his asthma inhaler.
The permitted time limit is variable by length and difficulty of the stage, ranging from 5 percent for flat stages raced at under 34 km/h to 20 percent for a team time trial raced at over 48 km/h.
Also missing the time delay today was Credit Agricole's Stéphane Auge, and Tobias Steinhauser of Team Bianchi joined Jens Voigt, abandoning on the course.
Of 198 starters, 167 continue.
Ever wonder what's in the TV bike's saddlebags?
Wouldn't be the Tour without the sunflower photos....
Greg Taylor rode "l'Etape du Tour" yesterday. Since 1993, organizers have chosen one of the Tour's harder stages, and run an all-comers ride on the stage route.
This year's Etape route will be seen on Stage 16 on Tuesday, and the Tour website reported that 5-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain (now 39) abandoned l'Etape partway. Other riders included F1 driver Alain Prost, former world champion Abraham Olano, and Dutch speedskating gold medalist Bart Veldkamp.
Presumably somewhere farther back in the field was Taylor:
This year's edition of the Etape will be run over the route of Stage 16 -- from Pau to Bayonne -- the Tour's last and possibly toughest day in the Pyrenees. It will be 123 miles of just getting down to it and grunting it out with 7,000 of my closest riding buddies. With all of the climbing and a scattering of 10 percent grades, it's a route guaranteed to separate the men from the boys and me from my lunch. Yup, no question about it, it's going to be a festival of pain, a fact that even Lance himself acknowledged back in June at the press conference before the Dauphine Libere :"In the Pyrenees they look to the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden. They look to the legendary stages, but they forget about the stage to Bayonne, which goes over two climbs that are probably the steepest climbs in the Tour de France. So for me, there are the famous climbs, but there are also these ones that nobody thinks about and I'm glad we saw, because they're very difficult and they could change the results of the race."
If Lance says that it's gonna be hard, its gonna be hard, so my own personal level of fitness is probably pretty irrelevant at this point. I guess that the best way to look at it is that if it were easy, it wouldn't be fun. And I'll keep telling myself that over and over as I painfully grind up the tallest mountain pass on the route, the front wheel of my bicycle pointing up at the sky. "This is fun….this is fun….this is fun…."
"My girlfriend is from Toulouse. That's the best day in my life. She'll be out of her mind and I hope I don't find she jumped in (Toulouse's) canal out of joy" - Juan Antonio Flecha
Seen at ITV.com
VeloNews has their Stage 11 wrapup:
Flecha meanwhile claimed his first significant victory for his Spanish team and it was their first win on the race.
The rider who joined the Spanish outfit last year took his chance with an attack 14km from the finish line and despite a late chase by Australian Michael Rogers and Frenchman Carlos Da Cruz, there was no stopping the Spaniard.
At the finish line he afforded himself a quick look behind but Dutchman Bram de Groot (Rabobank) and Spaniard Isidro Nozal (ONCE) could not catch him.
As he crossed the line, the ibanesto.com rider - whose surname translates as 'arrow' in English - strung a virtual bow and shot it forward.
cyclingnews.com rider's diaries update: Landis, Rodriguez
When we were going up the Lauteret [Stage 9], I thought we would just ride up that climb, but people ganged up on us. People had no right to be attacking us, and for that matter, how they were attacking us! Some of those guys were back in the grupetto 15 minutes after they attacked. It just didn't make any sense to me.
I don't know where those cops came from when they removed those protesters...all of a sudden there were 20 cops beating on these guys. They were not being nice; they were kicking them and then picked them up by their legs and dragged them off the road. You wouldn't do that in America.
Yesterday on the stage to Marseille we were hoping for a sprint since I was the designated guy, but a big group went early and we rode in pretty easy considering the sweltering heat. There were plenty of guys who were no threat on gc that wanted to give it shot because they knew that Tuesday was one of the few days they could get away. With Petacchi at home, the big sprint threats are McEwen, Cooke and O'Grady. At this point, Stuey and Erik Zabel should be stronger as the other sprinters have been weakened by the mountains.
Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha of iBanesto.com escaped inside the last 30km to snatch the 11th stage of the Tour de France from Narbonne to Toulouse.
Flecha attacked the eight-man breakaway and hung on for the win in three hours 29 minutes 33 seconds after racing for 153.5km.
He held off Isidro Nozal of ONCE and Rabobank's Bram de Groot by four seconds, with the remainder of the breakaway following on behind.
The 153.5-kilometer (95.2 mile) stage, a relatively flat and short trajectory along southern France from Narbonne to Toulouse, was won by Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha of iBanesto.com, competing in his first Tour. Armstrong finished the stage in 29th place.
Armstrong, who rides for U.S. Postal Service, will wear the overall leader's yellow jersey in the crucial individual time trial on Friday, when riders race against the clock.
Ireland's Stephen Roche, who in 1987 won the Tour, the Giro, and the world's championship, says Tyler Freaking Hamilton should get off the road:
"If the doctor says it's broken or fractured then he shouldn't be racing. It's as simple as that," Roche says.
"I mean, it's not doing any favours for the image of cycling. For the past few years cycling has been getting its act together (vis-a-vis doping) and the commentators on TV are going mad about Hamilton - 'he's in the saddle, and he's out of the saddle etc etc'."
"But I think all he and his team are doing is giving the public a gun to shoot us with."
"People watching what's happening are going to be asking themselves, 'is this guy for real' or they are going to be saying 'what kind of shit (drugs) are they giving him?' "
Stage 11: Flecha breaks away
Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha found the winning breakaway today, and rode away from it in the final kms for his first Tour stage win.
Bram de Groot, 3rd in Stage 10, came second, just ahead of ONCE’s Isidro Nozal at 4 seconds back.
Also in the break were Aussies Stuart O’Grady of Credit Agricole and Michael Rogers of QuickStep. O’Grady picked up 28 sprint points on the day, but moved up only 12 on green jersey leader Baden Cooke, who earned 16 points in the field sprint.
1) Juan Antonio Flecha (iBanesto.com) 3:29:33
2) Bram de Groot (Rabobank) @ :04
3) Isidro Nozal (ONCE) @ :04
4) Inigo Cuesta (Cofidis) @ :15
5) Carlos da Cruz (FDJeux.com) @ :23
6) Stuart O’Grady (Credit Agricole) @ :23
7) Nicolas Portal (AG2R) @ :23
8) Michael Rogers (QuickStep) @ :23
9) Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) @ :42
10) Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) @ :42
Australia's Michael Rogers, 19th in the prologue, says "I still fancy my chances" in Friday's time trial:
...[A] series of blistering performances, climaxing in the Tour of Germany where he was more than a minute quicker than both Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov, mean he is one of the favourites for victory against the clock.
Rogers told the BBC Sport website: "My form really has come good at the right moment and I'd feel confident going into any time trial whoever I'm up against.
Rogers got in the break with Stuart O'Grady today, so may not have quite the energy he'll need in the TT tomorrow.
O'Grady picks up 8 sprint points, but...
Stuart O'Grady picked his breakaway pretty well today, and is likely to make up some ground in the green jersey competition, but the FDJeux.com team placed a rider, Carlos da Cruz, in the same break, and da Cruz nipped O'Grady at both intermediate sprints, limiting him to 4 points at each (and picking up 6 pts each time for himself).
Another good example of the teamwork in the Tour, and of limiting the damage your opponents can do.
Jens Voigt drops out
Germany's Jens Voigt of Credit Agricole struggled mightily on the course to Toulouse today, trailing the peloton by more than 15 minutes. Stomach problems claimed Voigt, who wore the yellow jersey briefly and won a stage in 2001. He lives near Toulouse, but couldn't make it to the stage finish.
His exit leaves 170 riders still in the race.
Tour headline du jour | Arnold Schwarzenegger On Tour Today
14 H 03 - Arnold Schwarzenegger On Tour Today The star of the Terminator movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is at the Tour de France today. He is a guest of the race organizers and will be one of the people on the presentation podium in Toulouse at the end of the 11th stage.
I guess anything that keeps him away from the California recall is a good thing....
One for the ladies
Jan Ullrich. To quote Dieter, Saturday Night Live's inimitable host of German talk show Sprockets, "he's so beautiful and angular!"
Anyway, if you want to see what the riders look like without their helmets and god-awful sunglasses, trying to charm a fangirl with an instamatic, check it out...
Tour Today: Narbonne - Toulouse
Today's Stage 11 is the shortest road stage of the Tour at 153.5 kms.
Look for Lotto, FDJeux, and Telekom to jockey their sprinters into position at the intermediate sprints at 59 km and 126 km. There's a single categorized climb, a 3rd Category at 82.5 km, but that should leave plenty of time to reel in a rider or two on a flyer so the sprinters get a shot at the 35 points up for grabs at the stage finish. With Baden Cooke 9 points up on fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen, and 28 points up on Erik Zabel of Telekom, the points standings could be shuffled tonight.
Since Toulouse was a stage featured in the first Tour in 1903, today's finishing order will count toward the Centenary Tour centenaire classification.
Team CSC leads iBanesto.com in the team competition by a razor-thin 27 seconds.
José Enrique Gutierrez of Kelme will be wearing the red race number of the most aggressive rider for his 30 kms in front of the race on Tuesday.
Tomorrow is the first individual time trial.
Tyler Freaking Hamilton has updated his rider diary at VeloNews, and discusses some back pain that may be resulting from a pinched nerve:
On Tuesday morning, the pain woke me up about an hour ahead of our scheduled wake up call. No one gets up earlier than they have to at the Tour. So this was serious. I couldn't take a deep breath. It was like I got an instant cramp every time I tried to suck in a lot of air. And the pain would dart around my side into my chest. The feeling made me a little more than nervous.
Regarding Monday's stage, the last in the Alps, and the stage where Beloki went down:
I couldn't sprint when guys attacked, but I could ride a pretty steady pace on my own that eventually got me back in contact with powerhouses up front. It was a dangerous ride as well since the tar was soft and pretty slippery in some spots. It was really a shame to see Beloki go down like he did. My read on the crash was that he had hit a slick spot where the tar had melted, had his wheel slip out, then got caught up on dry pavement. The speeds combined with the elements made it impossible for him to control his bike. It was a bad situation. And it could have happened to any one of us.
But how about Armstrong, though? I've never seen anything like what he did. The guy just keeps making bike racing history. We could see him crossing the field as we made our way around the switch back. When he darted back into the road I couldn't believe what I was watching him do.
I instinctively threw out my arm to try and give him a push to help get him up to speed, but then I realized I had reached out with my right arm, which is the side with my collarbone fractures. At the last second, I pulled my hand away. I don't think I would have been much help to him anyway. He seemed to have the situation under control. Although his heart rate must have been over 200 at the time.