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August 11, 2003

NYTimes.com | Stopping for Spill Draws the Second-Guessers to Ullrich

Still more August-morning quarterbacking of the "did-he-or-didn't-he" variety regarding Jan Ullrich's pause after Armstrong's fall in Stage 15, in Sunday's New York Times.

Having watched the footage, Armstrong now claims Ullrich didn't really wait after the fall, at least before Hamilton rode to the front:

"If you look at the minute before that, or the half minute, I saw Ullrich on the front — in his normal position, with his normal face, going," Armstrong said. "That's what I saw," he added, shrugging.

The author suggests that Ullrich threw away the Tour by waiting, and a few commentators he talked to agreed, but I told my wife the night of Stage 15, when we watched the fall for the second time, that it didn't look like Ullrich was soft-pedaling. Certainly José Luis Rubiera was doing some serious work to pull Armstrong back, and Lance didn't take long getting back onto his bike.

I think Paul Sherwen is onto something, when he says:

"Ullrich might have been thinking about getting a breather," Sherwen said, who added that he believes Ullrich did wait and had a responsibility to do so.

I still disagree that Ullrich waited (at least before Hamilton came forward, at which time Armstrong was on, or nearly on, the back of the leading group).

Interestingly, the article mentions Pantani waiting for Ullrich in 1998, but doesn't mention Armstrong waiting for him in 2001. It also points out that nobody waited for Beloki after his crash, but that's different for a couple of reasons: Beloki was pretty obviously going to need medical attention, and Alexandre Vinokourov, a serious GC threat, was away in a breakaway with a good chance to make up time (as, in fact, he did).

Posted by Frank Steele on August 11, 2003 | Permalink

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