July 19, 2003
Lance Armstrong has not yet won his fifth Tour de France, but Saturday marked his 52nd day in the race leader's yellow jersey - beating the total of five-times Tour champion Jacques Anquetil.
Frenchman Anquetil sported the yellow jersey for 51 days between 1957 and 1964 as he became the first rider to win the Tour five times.
Armstrong, winner of the last four Tours, is still a long way behind Belgian Eddy Merckx, who led the Tour for 96 days, while France's Bernard Hinault was the race leader for 78 days and Spaniard Miguel Indurain for 60 days.
VeloNews has a new edition of Michael Rogers' rider diary:
If you were in the bus - the laughing group - like I was today, there was one thing very funny about today's 13th stage: hearing the Italians crying as we tackled the major climbs.
You could hear them. Crying. Why? They just thought we were going to hard up the 15km-long Port de Pailheres and then the final climb to the finish at Ax-3 Domaines.
We had 48 riders in the bus at the finish 33 minutes and 14 seconds behind stage winner Carlos Sastre (CSC) - including six Italians. I won't give away the names of who cried.
Lance Armstrong, who looked to be struggling in the final 10km, made a remarkable recovery to finish fourth and narrowly retain the yellow jersey.
The American finished seven seconds down on rival Ullrich and now leads the Tour by just 15 seconds.
A fresh looking Ullrich stunned the weary Armstrong with a breakaway two kilometres from the finish of the gruelling 197.5 km 13th stage from Toulouse to Ax-3 Domaines.
The German, who has dominated the last two days of the Tour, picked up a 12 second bonus for his efforts to eat into Armstrong's lead.
Stage 13 reports to be later than usual
I'll be traveling today during the stage, and will post the usual gaggle of links this afternoon or early evening.
Thanks for visiting!
"Jan Ullrich runs them all off the road -- a sensational triumph!" cheered Bild, the country's top-selling daily. Pictures of the German Bianchi rider in his turquoise and white team colours dominated the front and back pages on Saturday.
"Ullrich humbles Armstrong," wrote the Berliner Kurier. "An incredible 96 seconds faster than Armstrong. Jan is back!"
Since 1998, the 1997 Tour winner had not won a Tour stage and had made headlines more for his partying and traffic offences rather than for his sporting feats.
A year ago his career hit rock bottom after a doping ban for Ecstasy and a knee injury that sidelined him for months. He also put on weight and looked doomed to play second fiddle forever to Armstrong.
But his victory in Friday's 47 km time trial at Cap Decouverte signalled a renaissance for the 29-year-old, who has never finished lower than second in five Tours.
John Wilcockson weighs in that in his opinion, tomorrow's stage is one of the Tour's hardest, wtih a first category climb up Port de Pailheres that he thinks is both longer and steeper than Alpe d'Huez.
It climbs for 25 kilometers, with the final 15 kilometers on an extremely narrow, switchback road that tops out at 2001 meters (6565 feet) elevation. The climb has an average 7.8-percent grade, with three long stretches at 10 percent or more. After crossing the peak, there follows a harrowing 20-kilometer-long descent on narrow and tortuous roads, before an immediate 9-kilometer climb to the finish at Ax-3 Domaines on the Plateau de Bonascre.
The three stages in the high Pyrenees, starting Saturday, drew the attention of Johan Bruyneel, the director of Armstrong's United States Postal Service team.
Asked if Ullrich was now the main threat to Armstrong, who is trying to win his fifth successive Tour, Bruyneel replied: "Of course. The way he was riding today, with hard stages to come in the Pyrenees, definitely.
"I think Ullrich had a super time trial, the way he destroyed everybody. I think Lance did a good time trial, but Ullrich had a stronger day.
"Lance is feeling O.K., but apparently a lot of other guys are feeling good, too."
cyclingnews.com offers its Saturday news, including the peloton's police blotter from the time trial. Note that both of Euskaltel's Etxebarrias, Unai and David, were penalized enough to put them outside the time limit, and eliminated, leaving 165 riders in the race.
Decisions of the commissaires
Michael Boogerd (Rabobank): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 2'25 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 43 km/h.
Salvatore Commesso (Saeco): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 2'15 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 42 km/h.
Gerrit Glomser (Saeco): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 6'43 for drafting for 13 km at an average speed of 44 km/h.
David Etxebarria (Euskaltel): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 2'05 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 41 km/h.
Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 5'51 for drafting for 13 km at an average speed of 43 km/h.
Patrice Halgand (Jean Delatour): Fined SFR 100 and penalised 1'55 for drafting for 5 km at an average speed of 40 km/h.
Riders David Etxebarria (Euskaltel) and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) were given times of 1:14:59 and 1:14:49 respectively after their penalties, and were eliminated from the race. (Elimination time: 1:13:12).
Riders Laszlo Bodrogi, David Canada, Michael Rogers, and Kurt van de Wouwer (all Quick.Step-Davitamon) were penalised 20" for being less than 10m from their following vehicle. The directors of the Quick.Step team were penalised SFR 800 for these infractions also.
Alexandre Vinokourov, the 29-year-old Kazakh rider who is still in the hunt in third place overall at 51sec behind the 31-year-old US Postal team leader, admitted that alliances would have to be formed if Armstrong was to be dethroned.
"We have seen on the Alpe d'Huez that if we play it intelligently, everyone taking their turn, we can destabilise Armstrong," Vinokourov said.
"He's won four Tours and now there's other riders who want to win it. I think we're going to harass him (Armstrong). If he finds himself alone on the climbs he's going to find it much more difficult.
"That's where our chance lies, in isolating Armstrong."