July 23, 2003
Before today's Stage 16, cyclingnews.com talked with US Postal directeur sportif Johann Bruyneel about the tactics USPS used to keep from having to tow the peloton through the Pyrenees:
Bruyneel also discussed the game of "bicycle poker" he was playing with Team Bianchi and Team Telekom in the last few stages, tactics that Lance Armstrong described as "brilliant" after Stage 14. "We thought that sending Rubiera and Beltran out in those long breaks was the best strategy you can do, especially the stage to Loudenvielle, which is a very difficult stage for one team to control."
"In the morning before Stage 14, we decided in the team meeting that small groups could go and in big groups, we had to have somebody in there. Better if it was Beltran because he was 13th on GC. The day before with Rubiera it was the same. He was the best guy in the break on GC and the best climber, so two stages in a row it was a smart move for our team to have someone in the break. You can't ride a three week stage race with only one team controlling the race. So we created a situation where other teams had to ride to protect their interests. Each time we were in a great situation."
The same cyclingnews.com story quotes 5-time Tour winner Eddy Merckx on Armstrong's chances:
"I think Lance Armstrong has got his fifth Tour win in his hands," five time Tour winner Eddy Merckx commented to the Belgian VUM newspapers today. "It is not a hundred percent sure yet of course, but I think that the American already took a solid option on the win on Luz-Ardiden. He can say a big 'merçi' to Ullrich though! I don't understand Ullrich's way of handling things. For someone who is only 15 sec behind Armstrong and who has proven to be a better time trialist, it was not him who had to attack. And, if he really couldn't hold back, he surely shouldn't have attacked on the Tourmalet but on the last climb."