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July 16, 2005

Totschnig takes Stage 14; Armstrong gains time in lead

Totschnig exhausted
Totschnig left it all on the hill
AP/ESPN
Georg Totschnig survived a blistering chase from the Tour's big names to take his biggest career win atop Ax-3 Domaines. Totschnig spent more than 200 kilometers in front, as part of a 10-man breakaway that was slowly reeled in as the GC contenders pushed the pace.

Lance Armstrong, isolated without teammates on the previous climb and briefly dropped by Basso, Ullrich, and Klöden (among others), regained the leaders, and eventually found himself in a familiar position: on the last climb of the day with Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich. He marked the two challengers, and in the last kilometer, bumped the pace a little, and found Ullrich off the back.

Basso was able to hold Armstrong's wheel, but couldn't attack, so Armstrong gapped him as well, to gain a couple of seconds at the finish and a 12-second time bonus.

Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished 11th at 3:06 today, only knows one speed: as hard as possible. He was the engine that broke up the field on the Pailhères, then fought back to the leaders, where he was trapped about 50 meters off the back for perhaps 5 kilometers. As soon as he got back with them, he attacked again, and found his T-Mobile teammates Klöden and Ullrich pulling him back.

Some big questions were answered: Jan Ullrich is clearly T-Mobile's GC man; Michael Rasmussen is not unbeatable on any uphill surface; Ivan Basso was biding his time.

Some other big questions were raised: How did Armstrong find himself alone -- again -- so early in the action? Why does T-Mobile keep chasing down Vinokourov? Should he revert to the pink jersey so they recognize he's on their team? How many times can Armstrong finish 2nd in a single Tour?

General Classification after Stage 14:

1) Armstrong, Discovery Channel
2) Michael Rasmussen, Rabobank, at 1:41
3) Basso, CSC, at 2:46
4) Ullrich, T-Mobile, at 4:34
5) Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at 4:45
6) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at 5:03
7) Francisco Mancebo, Illes Balears, at 5:03
8) Andreas Klöden, T-Mobile, at 5:38
9) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, at 7:09
10) Christophe Moreau, Credit Agricole, at 8:37

Also:

letour.fr | Stage results | Overall standings after Stage 14

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2005 in Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong, Stage results, Top Stories | Permalink

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Comments

so it's all settled then? as usual, i'm impressed with armstrong's control and power. i am tired of all of his hype, but that hype is completely deserved and validated because he is such a consistently class rider at the top of the heap. i hope he gets out and takes a stage, maybe even tomorrow.

anyone think rasmussen will push for advantage on the other top GCers before the TTs or is he content with the polka dots?

Posted by: josh at Jul 16, 2005 12:33:32 PM

Great blog, great play by play! Great photos as well!!!
I think Rasmussen will push as hard as he can, but it won't be enough. I have to admit he had me worried when he only trailed by 38 seconds, but as usual Lance rocks in the mountains. Not just a class rider, but classy as well. I love that he didn't want to wear yellow after David Z fell.

Posted by: Karyn at Jul 16, 2005 12:51:18 PM

Saw the stage, this thoroughly vindicated that LA is the most complete racer whether it be mountain climbing or time trialling...

One question begs to be answered.. What were Ullrich and Kloden doing chasing down Vino... When I first saw T-Mobile attack, I first thought that we had a fight on our hands...Proabably Vino, Jan and Kloden take turns in attacking LA till one of them tired him out..

But what happened on the last ascent to AX-3 domaines was stupidddddd.. How can Ullrich and Kloden chase their OWN TEAMMATE....

What were the team directors doing???? I think that the TMobile team has plenty of big egos.. Jan and Vino are simply not willing to work together.....

Posted by: Vikram Chandrasekhar at Jul 16, 2005 2:17:19 PM

Great win for Totschnig - he's probably gonna pay for it big-time tomorrow, but since he basically had no high GC hopes by this point anyway, a stage win is the best he could hope for - whatever happens in the last few years of his cycling career from here on out, no one can ever take that away from him.

As for Vinokourov, points for guts, but not brains. T-Mobile's early attacks proved to be a 2-edged sword: they put pressure on Armstrong and isolated him from his team as the T-Mobsters had hoped to do, but they also allowed Armstrong to gauge the strength of everyone else in the resulting select group with a whole lot of climbing left to go. It was quickly obvious that Vino had gassed himself with his early attack, and also that Rasmussen (the only real immediate threat on GC) was in difficulty. And it's not like T-Mob had a whole bunch of their riders left after the attack, either. With Vino blown off the back and Rasmussen also yo-yoing, it must've been immediately clear to Armstrong that the only remaining guy who had the remotest chance of being able to hang with him once he put his climbing shoes on was Basso. Armstrong may have been thinking to himself, "Thanks, T-Mobile, for helping me sort that out without having to put in any attacking effort myself." At the end of the day, Armstrong wound up putting valuable time on all his rivals, especially Rasmussen - talk about finding the silver lining...

The Discovery Team's performance (or better, lack thereof) is a bit more worrisome going into tomorrow's stage, with those five monster climbs spread out over a full 100km. But it must be awfully demoralizing for all of Armstrong's rivals to be reminded that on any given stage, having a strong team is a luxury for Armstrong, not a necessity. They gave it their all, did exactly what they hoped to do in isolating the King, and then still got their butts kicked. That, my friends, is dominance.

Posted by: EWM at Jul 16, 2005 2:28:39 PM

There's some interesting discussion of that over here.

Best possible spin: They were trying to bridge, so the 3 of them could work Armstrong over. (If that were the case, it seems more likely somebody gets left on Armstrong's wheel to follow up to the other two).

Most frequent explanation: Idiots.

Posted by: Frank at Jul 16, 2005 2:29:00 PM

Either T-Mobile camp is fractured, as the conventional wisdom says -OR- their strategy is faulty. Armstrong doesn't need to defend against Vino, so he won't chase him. They should put Ullrich on Vino and Kloden's wheel and let those 2 tow Ullrich free and grind Armstong into submission.

That, of course, wouldn't happen. Armstrong just made it look easy today. He will be (or should be) stage hunting tomorrow.

Too bad Valverde is gone. That would be the showdown.

Unbelievable to watch Team Discovery get totally dismantled again. Wouldn't they have a plan for that sort of thing after the first time?

Posted by: Rex at Jul 16, 2005 2:32:30 PM

I'm not sure that they really chased down Vinokourov. He was in front of them alright, but Ullrich probably had something else in mind, try to put some pressure on Lance. Ullrich is obviously the captain of the T-Mobile team right now and just because Vinkourov attacked it doesn't mean that Ullrich want to sit back and just watch and let Armstrong control the race. Specially since the Kazakh didn't ride very well in the HC mountain.

Posted by: Dennis at Jul 16, 2005 2:34:03 PM

Tomorrow's stage will probably be even more crucial.. I am curious to see how fresh LA's rivals are, and how LA himself is doing..
It was refreshing to see Jan Ullrich attack Lance for a change.. In almost all of the previous tour clips, I have only seen him ride next to Lance (except the Tour of '03 when he kicked LA's butt on the Pyranees).

I want to see TMobile use their three riders to seriously test Lance. If they can work in cohesion, and let LA do all the work chasing, and dismantly DSC, I think that this race is headed for a super finish...Now, if Lance's rivals (I think it has to be either Basso/Jan) can cut into Lance's lead by a minute or two, we have a race on our hands..

I took a look at the Tour stage profiles,,, Stage 16 is also horrendous but has a downhill finish.. Stage 17-20 have mostly Cat3-4 climbs and some Cat 2 climbs.. Stage 21 is a TT, so stage 15 is probably THE stage which will decide the GC....In general, I happened to see a number of articles comment that this year's tour is somewhat easier than previous years.. It seems slightly amusing to me, somewhat like comparing how hell feels like in different eras..

Vikram

Posted by: Vikram Chandrasekhar at Jul 16, 2005 3:35:46 PM

I agree with Rex and think it was a brillant ride, and we'd seen it earlier with Kloden. Continuosly have Vino attack and then have Jan attack. I can't remember when Jan attacked last. As Kloden said, "when we have good legs, we attack." Jan said they'll continue to attack and Lance said, "I had been their directeur, that probably would have been my call too"

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 16, 2005 6:54:29 PM

I have a different take on the whole Pyrenean situation. I can just imagine Lance saying over the radio, "Johan, don't worry about it, let the guys drop back, I got this race covered. Let the pink team burn themselves out today, so we can show them what real racing is all about tomorrow." "Are you sure?" "YES, I'm sure! See you at the top."

Obviously, this couldn't be true, but what if?...

I'm not talking from experience, but the situation on Discovery is probably unlike other teams, in that Lance rules, and everyone else is subservient. For instance, why do potential or former leaders always keep leaving the team over the years: Julich, Livingston, Hamilton, Heras, Boonen, Landis. I may have missed a few? They knew there was never any future for them as leaders. The constant through all the years is the structuring of a team with ONE purpose (I hate to bring up the New England Patriots; I'll probably get lambasted, but that team got rid of any superstars who could have upset the molding of a selfless team - sure, one that wouldn't drain the monetary resources, but also one that could work as a unit to win). It's funny that no other directeurs took note; they are all so old school, you can hear it in the interviews. You can tell some of the young directeurs are paying attention. That bodes well for the future.

You can't just stock your team with greats and expect to win the Tour. You have to stock your team with former greats who never panned out but still have desire, and future greats who will be great in a few years, not next year or this year.

T-Mobile made their error at the beginning of the year, NOT today.

Reviewing today, however, it seems unlikely that Discovery being dropped twice in the Tour was a strategy to mislead the other teams; I only like to imagine crazy scenarios like this. However, isolating Lance has not yet proven to be an opposing strategy that can succeed. I always remember Greg LeMond in 1989, finding his way onto the little ADR team (with a young Johan Museeuw, I believe). That team had maybe 3 finishers that year (I need to find my book!), Greg had no one in the mountains, and he won the whole thing. Compared to '86, that was insane. (1986 was like T-Mobile with no competition, just infighting,...oh yeah, sort of like next year.) La Vie Claire was sick: 3 finishers in the top 4, including The Badger and also my favorite of all time, Andy Hampsten, in fourth. Then in 1989, LeMond was isolated the whole Tour (to be fair, ADR worked very hard, but they were no Systeme U).

This isolation thing strikes me as kind of silly. It looks more like one of those Bruce Lee movies where there is a circle around Bruce, and all the guys look at each other and wink like "Now we've got him," then Bruce systematically destoys them all.

Lance is so experienced and observant, he seems like a computer that can instantly analyze information, and then use the analysis in real time to effect positive outcome. This is probably only true because the other riders, Jan included, still ride like they are kids just starting on the bike. Maybe it's because he was a classics rider earlier, maybe it's because he suffered differently than other cyclists (cancer); somehow, he seems omnipotent and everyone else seems befuddled at best, even Ivan at times.

In fact, he could probably ride the whole Tour alone and win. He understands what place his body can go to without breaking, the other riders can only imagine this, but they can't go there. THAT ONE FACT must be demoralizing to all challengers.

I could always be proven wrong tomorrow.

Posted by: jerome at Jul 16, 2005 9:42:06 PM

I'm not convinced that Michael Rasmussen this year isn't like Thomas Voeckler was in 2004. The fumes from early success and winning propelled him to accomplish things way outside his ability. I guess we'll know next year we'll kow whether or not Rasmussen's skills are a flash in the pan or not.

Posted by: Devans at Jul 17, 2005 12:30:35 AM

Michael Rasmussen can't be compared with Thomas Voeckler. Michael Rasmussen proved himself in last years Tour de France already with numerous attacks and Top 10 positions in the mountain stages. Furthermore Michael Rasmussen was extremely strong in the Vuelta of 2003, by winning mountain stages and finishing in the Top 10 many times. And Michael Rasmussen was World Champion mountain bike in 1999. He became a professional road cycler by CSC in 2001, at an age that can be considered old for a rookie of 27. This is only his second Tour, so don't compare him with Thomas Voeckler, with all due respect to Thomas Voeckler though.

Posted by: Derek at Jul 17, 2005 2:24:04 AM

What jersey was Vino wearing in Stage 14 and why was it not the T-Mobile jersey?

Posted by: miked at Jul 17, 2005 12:45:41 PM

Vinokourov is wearing a jersey recognizing that he's the national champion of Kazakhstan. It's still a T-Mobile jersey, but not in their colors. The most prominent other example right now is probably Robbie McEwen, wearing a jersey with green and yellow bands in recognition that he's the Australian national champion.


Here's a rundown of the national champion jerseys that started the Tour.

Posted by: Frank at Jul 17, 2005 12:53:35 PM