Older Tour Reports: 2002 Tour De France


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July 5th - Eve of the Tour, 2002

On the night before the beginning of the shortest Tour de France since 1905, it seems at the same time to loom the most decided as well as the most potentially treacherous running of the race in recent memory. With the absence of Telekom's Jan Ullrich and Saeco's exclusion by virtue of Gilberto Simoni's shenanigans, the clear, direct challenger is not yet visible. But, with those two out of the way, the avenues have been opened up for other tactical opportunists as well as strategic alliances which could make this Lance's most difficult Tour. Who do you worry about when everyone can be of concern? Given this year's "interesting" course, with the mountains looming over the last 7 stages, it creates nearly 11 days tempting the fates over the flat and fast stages. A lot can occur during those days, when speeds are high and attention can drift. When you think about the hours that lie ahead, and the miles still to go, there are a staggering amount of variables between wearing yellow in the prologue and wearing yellow in Paris.... One of the strangest scenarios this year puts three US riders on the podium. Will Lance be joined by Tyler Hamilton of CSC-Tiscali and Levi Leipheimer of Rabobank? If it happens, my bet would be in that order - Tyler seems to be healing well from his injuries at the Giro, and in recent interviews seems to exude more confidence based upon his results in that race. Leipheimer won't suprise anyone with his climbing and time trialing, but may just climb onto the podium on his noticable talents. In either case, I'm not sure either team will be getting their riders extra time in the Team Time Trial. I don't think Telekom's Bobby Julich or Kevin Livingston can put it together, especially since the Big Pink Steamroller will be pushing for Eric Zabel (clearly, since prime leadout man Gian Matteo Fagnini will be on hand to lead him out and Alexandre Vinokourov will not be riding, victim of a recent crash.). Speaking of Eric Zabel, he and Armstrong are both tied at 11 stage wins, hopefully both of whom will be able to surpass Mario Cipollini who has the most stages for an active rider at 12. And it is a crime that the zebras won't be galloping through the streets of France... List #1: Riders I would really love to see win stages this year: Fred Rodriguez - he deserves it Ivan Basso - I'd love to see him smack Virenque upside the head on a big climbing stage. Vlatchislav Ekimov - just because I like his riding, and how many guys get to come back to the peloton? Ludo Deirckxsens - you gotta love a guy with that much raw, unbridled power on a bike Axel Merckx - he needs to break the jinx... List #2: Other things I'd love to see this year: Jonathan Vaughters finishing the Tour. (and there have been changes in the UCI regulations, which will allow this year what was prohibited to him last year - a minor injection of cortisone for a specific medical emergency.) List #3: Who I think will actually be contenders (in order of finish): Santiago Botero - strong time trialist, strong climber, serious threat Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano - strong team, strengthening rider. Joseba Beloki - again a man who will benefit from ONCE's strength in the TTT, with exceptional climbing talents. But, I think that his teammate will ride better, and Botero is due to have a breakthrough performance this year. List #4: Other dark horses - Andrei Kivilev - he'll be watched too closely to crack off any serious time. Oscar Sevilla - another favorite from last year, but withouth the time trialing to be serious David Miller - climbing strongly and we know he can time trial, though hampered by a somewhat weaker team Christophe Moreau - another guy who can be strong against the clock, thought hasn't shown the consistency yet - CA will keep him in touch with the race, so it'll be up to him to pay them back. List #5 (the last tonight): Other stage winners: Laurant Jalabert Rik Verbrugghe Robbie McEwen And to wrap up, Lance's Prep: Obviously, he's had a more aggressive spring campaign. 4th in Amstel Gold, 2nd in Criterium International - and he's only the third rider (after Merckx and Indurain to win the Midi Libre and Dauphine Libere in the same year. A different lead-in, but as noted above, this year is a different kind of race. Looking forward to great racing and exciting moments - here's to the most difficult sporting event in the world! Good luck to all!



Tour de France 2002 - Luxembourg - Prologue Time Trial

Crowds stand deep against the barriers along the twisting course of this time trial, while overhead, the threatening clouds make everyone nervous. The 7.3 km course twists through narrow channels among houses and buildings, up and down about 200 feet, and over a healthy stretch of cobbles. If the rain begins to drop again, it will be a nightmare. But for now, the roads are dry and the views of riders screaming through the crowded, narrow streets gives a good sense of the speed of these riders. With a finishing time of 9:29 George Hincapie of USPS had been number one, but as the coverage begins, a quick 9:24 by Andrea Peron CSC-Tiscali relegates him to second at this point. As Jens Voigt prepares to leave the start house, the closeup camerman for the live feed gets shoved by some still photographer sitting behind him. They switch to another camera in time to see him geticulating wildly at the man behind him, while the microphone picks up some very choice French phrases. 4:20 is the current fastest time at the 3.5 km time check, and Heppner is about 4 seconds behind that mark More Postal Colors hit the roadway as Vlatchislav Ekimov accellerates smoothly away from the start house. Back from retirement, hopefully back on form, and hopefully ready to warrant the inclusion on the USPS tour squad. Inigo Cuesta of Cofidis notches the time to beat down by a second, to 9:23. Danilo Hondo of Telekom rolls across the line only about 10 places back. He wears the German National Champion jersey, and looks as if he's taken a few pointers from a certain Mr. Ullrich, as far as TT technique goes. After a withdrawal from this year's Giro (due to his mother passing away), he seems to have prepared and is riding strongly. Andrea Tafi leaves the start house at what will be his final Tour. The 36 year old rider does his best to rip the Colnago frame to bits with the acceleration of his massive legs. His spring - his last spring campaign - has gone very well - winning Paris-Roubaix and others. Brad McGee of Francais de Jeux chops a massive 7 seconds off of the 3.5 km time check (now 4:03!). But, the riders who have done well on this demanding course have all started slowly. The climbs which hit in the second part of this course are not to be underestimated. But, he hits the home straight at a tremendous pace, and despite fading dramatically over the last few hundred meters as the road rises noticably toward the finish, notches the time to beat down to 9:21 and some bits... He looks pretty hammered, but sits in the number one position. Floyd Landis of the USPS hammers along on the course now, riding powerfully but not setting any records. His job lies in front of him on the roads of France. Ahead of him on the start order, Kevin Livingston hits the finish with either a nasty scrape on his right knee, or some sort of primal red tattoo. However, Phil and Paul miss this fact and so far have not commented upon it. They cut to a quick tech moment, as Frankie Andreu shows us George Hincapie's TT bike - interestingly, it uses an aluminum frame with no weight difference to the carbon fiber frames of all others, and is geared with a staggering 54/48 x 11 - 21T. Frankie allows as how in the TTT, he'll probably be running a 55/48T chainring set. Erik Dekker shows off his newly healed leg, broken in Milan-San Remo this year. It's good to see him on the course, though he's certainly suffering a bit, he should be able to bring himself into form over the next three weeks. Well, those bits that Brad McGee had after his time now prove to be pretty important, as Mapei's Lazlo Bodrogi nips him on the line by 2 tenths of a second. A few minutes later, Stuart OGrady of Credit Agricole rumbles up to the line - I don't know if it's just the angle, but he looks like he's a few hot dogs above fighting weight. But, looks can certainly be deceiving - he comes over the line at 9:30, which puts him in at tenth. A serious group of contenders begin to go - led first by Tyler Hamilton of CSC-Tiscali. Then, Cofiidis' Andrei Kivilev sets up and goes, looking poised strong. Santiago Botero of Kelme. Roberto Heras pulls away as sunshine begins to poke through the clouds. Neither Hamilton nor Kivilev make a good showing at the first time check, 15 and 14 seconds off the pace respectively. Botero shoots through in sixth place and aggressively sweeps through the crowds. However, up to the line, Tyler comes across only 3 seconds back landing in 6th place currently. Santiago Botero pounds across the line looking very strong, moving into the hot seat with a time of 9:12! It looks like we've got a new level of speed in this group - Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano puts himelf into second crossing 5 seconds back. Laurent Brochard - still wearing his trademark doo-rag just misses the leading time, and notches into second place. Not bad for a guy who had to cancel his July vacation plans because Saeco got yanked from the tour. Levi Leipheimer hauls off the line in full sun, with the cool rear disk swirl pattern on the Rabobank hardware. The big dogs - yep, that's "Cane Grande" in Italian - are trotting out to play. On the other end of the course, Dario Frigo zips into third, pushing Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano back a spot. Raimondos Rumsas from Lampre drops out of the clouds to nip Botero's time - as Paul observes, his is a name that was on no one's lips. Laurent Jalabert has the cheers of France pushing him onward, and David Millar bounces around in the start gate like he's been drinking espressos for the last half hour. Oscar Sevilla already has won the youngest looking rider award once again, and launches away in the low key colors of Kelme. Joseba Beloki has unleashed himself, as well as Christophe Moreau. Out on the Leipheimer finishes at 9:24 - with a provisional 13th place until the rest of the boys leave the sandbox.. Clouds are a distant memory, and the last rider is ready to roll. Armstrong punches away in an absolutly massive gear, wearing the red, white and blue jersey of USPS - whether it is a political sttement or a problem with his shorts, remains to be seen. All riders have now entered the course, and the 2002 Tour de France is now officially underway. Beloki passes the time check at 29th overall - no word on what the time gap is, but he isn't setting the world on fire today. Moreau openly suffers on his way to the finish, driving hard but continuing to lose time, crossing in 36th, at 9:36. They clear the cars quickly, because breathing up his shorts is Laurent Jalabert! He drives the bike emphatically across the finish at 9:10 - and suddenly finds himself in first place!. Out on the course, Lance is seven seconds behind Jalabert's time at the 3.5 km mark. David Millar cannot match Jalabert's pace, and comes across at 9:14 in fourth place. Joseba Beloki does not show excessively explosive power, finishing in 9:21 - 8th place Lance is under the 1 km kite at an incredible pace, and driving hard to the finish. He seems to have picked up at least 30-35 seconds on Eric Zabel, who started just ahead of him. And that is _NOT_ an optical illusion - he roars across the finish with a time of 9:08.78 for his 12th stage win of the Tour de France. He's now tied with Mario Cipollini with the highest number of stage wins of active riders - and he also (dare we say it) has positioned himself to be the first rider since before World War 2 (as Anquetil lost it for a half day...) to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish. Wouldn't _that_ be a nice way to win number four? During the avalanche of jerseys upon Lance's shoulders, the climber's jersey is presented by Charlie Gaul - one of the angels of the mountains and winner of the 1958 Tour - Lance takes this opportunity to give his polka-dotted climber's jersey back to Charlie Gaul as a gift. At the finish, Lance explained his costume choice, "Last year it struck me as funny to start in the yellow jersey. I felt like I wanted to earn it. I wanted to start in the team jersey and give myself something to aim at." Prologue Time Trial - 1 - Lance Armstrong - 9:08.78 2 - Laurent Jalabert - 2 s 3 - Raimondos Rumsas - 3 s 4 - Santiago Botero - 4s 5 - David Millar - 5 s 6 - Laurent Brochard - 6 s 7 - Dario Frigo - 8 s 8 - Gonzalez de Galgeano - 9 s 9 - Joseba Beloki - 13 s 10 - Lazslo Bodrogi - 13 s Tomorrow - First Road Stage - A Circuit froim Luxembourg to Luxembourg - covering 192.5 km. Two each 3 and 4 category climbs, with three Sprint points. Should be an interesting day. Phil - "I don't think he can lead from the first stage - it's only been done once after World War 2. I'm not sure he wants to." In other news: Could it have been Dexatrim? >From News flash for July 6, 2002 Edited by Jeff Jones Ullrich foregoes B test: "It was a stupidity" Jan Ullrich has accepted his positive test for amphetamine that was taken on June 12 at a rehabilitation clinic in Bad Wiessee, and will not be requesting analysis of his B sample. He had until midnight last night to make a decision about whether to take it, but decided to "skip the B test." Ullrich gave a press conference on Saturday in Frankfurt, where he revealed the cause of the positive test. He said that the evening before the test was taken, he had been out with a few friends and "had a few drinks". Someone gave him two tablets and he had taken them without thinking. "It was a stupidity, and inexcusable," he said. "I likewise have to say that it was nothing to do with improving my performance. In all the years of my career I have never tried banned substances to do this. I can't let that sit on me." He blamed his actions on his frustration with his injured knee, that has kept him out of competition nearly all year. "For me it is human, because in this situation I would sit around the house in the evenings. I was often out, I was often drunk. But I have never taken tablets. It was the first and only time." He is likely to be suspended between 6 and 12 months as a result, and the German federation has initiated a procedure against him. Also, he may face a civil case, as possession of amphetamine is illegal under German law. About his contract with the team for the future, he doesn't know. "We've had good conversations, I've had support. We can't exactly say anything about that yet," he added.


Stage 1 - Luxembourg - Luxembourg (circuit) 193 km

We start the day with a breakaway that began at 55 km - Ludo Dierckxsens (the oldest man in the bike race) from Lampre, Stephane Berges of Ag2R Prevoyance and Christophe Mengin of sits just under 4 minutes ahead of the group on the roads of Luxembourg Now the CSC boys are leading the peloton, and there was a quick note onscreen that Laurent Jalabert was the virtual Yellow Jersey on the road - unfortunatly, the dog was gettting breakfast, and I don't know how that took place. Well, ask and ye shall seems he sneaked his way into a third place at the first sprint point and got enough of a time bonus to nip ahead of Lance. But their determination is slowly and steadily reducing the lead, now down about 3:16. But, there's about 40 miles to go, and there's plenty of time to end the silliness. Two categorized climbs and a sprint point hover out on the horizon, one of the climbs about 10 km from the finish. Lance and a couple teammates hover in the immediate shadow of CSC, quietly using their slipstream of Bjarne's Boyz... Lance is wearing his yellow jersey for the 36th time - Eddy Merckx wore it somewhere up in the 90's.... There is a 20 second time bonus for the days stage. This means that a great number of riders could find themselves in yellow with a win today. CSC-Tiscali continues to spearhead the chase over the undulating roads of Luxembourg, but the time has only been cut by a few seconds in the last 20 minutes or so. After a quick commercial break, the offical gap has snuck under 3 minutes to 2:55, and within a few minutes it has gone under 2:45. The peloton takes a few seconds to pass by, with a full complement of 189 riders having started the day. The minor climbs and rises in the roadway seem to be assisting the chase. Well, I may have spoken too quickly, once back on the flats, the leaders have snuck back out to 3:33 as the peloton all get drinks and the pace in the pack drops a bit. Along the race route, hopefully no one needed to get anything done in Luxembourg today, as it seems that every citizen in the country lines the roadway cheering the breakaway along. The riders trade off pacemaking evenly, even though Berges looked a little less emphatic as they went up the climbs. Dierckxsens hasn't gotten itchy yet and works intellegently with the other two. Crash on the road - involved are Axel Merckx, Christophe Moreau, Jens Voigt and a number of other riders. One rider is holding his wrist, but seems to be animated enough to remount his bike. Moreau gets paced back up to the peloton by everyone except the sprinters, O'Grady and Thor Hushovd. Those two are up at the front hanging onto the ever-increasing pace as they rise away from the river. The gap is now see-sawed back to 2:15, with Abraham Olano and a couple of ONCE riders setting the pace. Did you know that the neutral Mavic service vehicles carry Cannondale bikes? I didn't either... but this year's Tour programming seems to have a number of featurettes - at least in the the flatter, potentially less dynamic stages. According to Frankie Andreu, the yellow bikes on top of the Mavic cars are Cannondale, and sport the latest in platform pedals with toeclips and straps. Andreu says he'd rather wait by the side of the road. I have no idea how you would get your fancy Time cleats to bite into that setup... The serious climb of the Wormeldange has hit and chaos has descended upon the riders. The crowds press in on the roadway, easily 7 or 8 deep on both sides of the road. The 1 km climb jutted up with a steep pitch - Brad McGee and Michael Boogerd hammered away in Spring Classics fashion, and other vets like Rik Verbrugghe have scuttled away off the front as less fortunate riders drop chains and get stuck behind service vehicles and stalled motorcycles. Armstrong knows how to race in this type of terrain, and fires away after the group - which also contains Santiago Botero . It has become a group of 10 riders, including Lance, and they have jumped away to a smart gap. David Miller has also signed on, and Brad McGee, Patrice Halgand and quietly dangerous Andrei Kivilev had made it up front as well. In the long-suffering breakaway trio, Berges had dropped away on the climb, but now has reattached himself. But, they are quickly caught by the Armstrong breakaway. The three jump their pace to attach themselves to the larger group, creating a baker's dozen. They seem to have gotten themselves a nice 30 plus second gap, and in the peloton, all the stops are being pulled out to catch them. You don't want Armstrong moving away on northern European roads. Gaps have definitely appearred with the increased pace, with three main groups split out on the roadway behind the Armstrong group. Interestingly, Moreau finds himself off the back of the third group, being faithfully towed back up once again. It seems like the crash may have shaken him up a bit, as he went out the back pretty quickly on the Wormeldange climb. The group of the near-dozen contains two potential GC challengers - Kivilev and Botero - who were riding in a very astute manner when things got wacky on the climb. At the other end of the race, Moreau and the Credit Agricole teammates cannot close the 25 second gap which has appearred. They could be forgiven, however, as the pace is screaming along as they head towards the sprint point in Remich. The peloton reabsorbs the dangerous dozen and the pace remains high. There will be about 20 miles to go after the sprint point, and the lead group has stretched into entirely single file. Gianluca Bortalami Tacconi Sport and Piotr Wadecki of Domo-Farm Frites have a decent gap as they course toward the sprint point. Bortalami takes the points without a challenge. Moreau has just managed to reattach himself, and the French team heaves a sigh of relief, while Tom Steels drops away, suffering badly as they hit another climb. The sharp rises are not considered categorized climbs, and there is one more Cat 4 climb out on the course with 10 km to go. Another Crash - Moreau cannot buy a break today and he gets caught up in a tangle once again today. Hope he has some extra jerseys - this one's getting a bit dirty. Led by an attack from Marco Serpellini of Lampre, a four man group - Christian Moreni from Alessio, Sandy Casar of FDJeux and Laurent Lefevre of Jean Delatour - have scooted away to about a 25 second break. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano has a mechanical of some sort of another, but his team car is delayed behind the crash confusion. But, he calmly is attended to - a spare bike is quickly supplied and the saddle adjusted on the fly. But Armstrong moves to the front with a number of teammates, calming the pace a bit on the twisting roads The breakaway rolls under the 20 km to go banner with about a 45 second gap, and Laurent Jalabert has marshalled his teammates to the front once again. He's got them working pretty hard today. They drive the pace with USPS riders sitting in just behind them. Full sun bathes the riders though clouds still hover on the horizon. The foursome trades off well, but the climb still looms ahead. Serpellini scans behind and ahead of him, trying to assess his chances With now a 35 second gap, Rabobank takes over the pacemaking - ready to launch either Leipheimer or Boogerd on the last climb. Armstrong and company has not released their grip on the second position in the peloton. The pressure of Rabobank has cut the gap down to 15 seconds, and the road pitches upwards. The peloton is within sight of the breakaway. Lefevre raises the pace and moves away from everyone, gaining a 20 second gap as the road continues upward. His teammates are scooped up and a few single riders punch away, including Laurent Brochard - teammate of Lefevre. Fasso Bortolo's Ivan Basso and Domo's Dave Bruylandts dangle just in front of him as they all try to make a new foursome. At the back end, Moreau has been dropped once again, as the peloton has reabsorbed the Lefebre/Brochard/Basso/Bruylandts breakaway. Axel Merkcx, Michael Boogerd, Sergei Ivanov and Floyd Landis slip into a move as the riders go under the 10 km to go banner. They move away hard and gain a sizable gap. Peter Leutenberger and Jean-Cyrille Robin round out the group, and they all have the speed to take this stage. Landis is the ticket puncher, holding his position as the last rider in the group. In the peloton, Lotto realizes they cannot win if they are 15 seconds behind - they pass under the 5 km banner. Telekom begin to kick it hard, and strongly shut down the breakaway with about 3 km to go. Brief chaos and regroupings occur before Telekom again asserts their dominance - today is Zabel's birthday, and if he wins the stage today, should take the yellow jersey by one second. Telekom's Rolf Aldag sets the pace and teammate Bobby Julich crank it over as the roadway cants upwards again. Erik Zabel has a couple teammates in front of him, sitting in about 6th or 7th place. Aslo in the mix, Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady are rubbing shoulders with Zabel. Under the 1 km to go, a Lampre rider fires out for a bid for glory, and gains a strong gap on the incline. Who is this guy? #153 Rubens Bertogliati! He tries to tie his bike into a pretzel as he fires away up the hill with a powerful accelleration. A gutsy move, and you can see the lactic acid building up in his pedaling stroke as he reaches terminal velocity. Sweeping up through the streets of Luxembourg, the peloton falters - underestimating the seriousness of his speed and perhaps overestimating the amount of roadway left.. Bertogliati's just dying, even having trouble continuing to roll over the gears, but manages to ride the wave of his explosive attack through the sweeping right hand turn into the finishing straight. The sprinters lead a zig-zagging chase that are nipping at his heels - but they come up short! Bertogliate even has time to stop pedaling in the last few meters and raise his harms in an emphatic salute. He wins the stage! 23 year old Rubens Bertogliati (a Swiss rider) has won the first road stage of the 2002 Tour! Christophe Moreau comes across 3:20 behind. Not, and I repeat, not a great day for him. Stage 1 - 1 - Rubens Bertogliati 2 - Erik Zabel 3 - Robbie McEwen 4 - Fabio Baldato 5 - Oscaqr Freire 6 - Stuart OGrady 7 - Laurent Brochard 8 - Dario Frigo GC - Yellow Jersey - Rubens Bertogliati 2 - Laurent Jalabert - 3 s 3 - Lance Armstrong - 3 s 4 - Raimondas Rumsas - 5 s 5 - Santiago Botero - 7 s 6 - David Millar - 8 s 7 - Laurent Brochard - 9 s 8 - Erik Zabel - 10 s 9 - Dario Frigo - 11 s 10 - Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano - 12 s

Stage 2 - Luxembourg - Saarbrucken, Germany (Maybe Jan "Dexatrim" Ullrich will make an appearance...) 181 km - 3 sprint points - 2 x Cat 4 climbs.



Tour 2002 - Stage 2 - Luxembourg - Sarrebruck, Germany

Picking up the action today with 50 km to go, covering the course ahead of schedule, the peloton has taken aim on a breakaway which scooted out into a lead at km 14. Sylvain Chavanel of Bonjour & Stephane Berges of Ag2R-Prevoyance have been out on a flyer on this fine day. Somewhere out in no man's land, Thor Hushovd from Credit Agricole is find new levels of leg pain as he drops back toward the peloton. The race continues through a beautiful sunny day with most of Germany out in force on the roadside. Undamped sun has driven the temperatures up into the 90's. Carnival-inspired Germans dance on towers in the roundabouts. The major towns have emptied all citizens out onto the course. They maintain a lead of 3:18, down from over 5:00 at the peak. The breakaway lurches toward the KoM points at the top of the Cote de Alsweiller-Heid. Berges rolls ahead as they crest toward gains the KOM jersey Hushovd gets caught by the group as they hit the bottom of the climb, and then gets unceremoniously dumped out the back - pulling a Tom Steels (Steels lost 11 minutes yesterday on the first stage climbs). The leaders are down to only about 2:23 lead, coming slowly back to heel. They begin pedaling a bit more easily, munching on Tour-snackies, and gathering waterbottles. At the front of the peloton, Lampre Daikin team members ride herd over their yellow jersey - Rubens Bertogliati. It is the first time that any Lampre rider has worn the mailliot juane. They are eating into the lead, pushing it down under 2:00, but not yet stretching things out behind them. Up front, the two riders shake hands and begin soft-pedaling in earnest. The heat and still weather have convinced them that they will be best off raising the white flag. The heat may also be behind the display of Citroens, arranged to spell "LE TOUR 2002" that the aerial cameras has decided to share with us... Hushovd is off the bike getting a massage on his now nearly locked legs - he remounts and heads off, pressing chunky squares into his pedals as last man on the roadway. 31 km to go, the gap is now down to :25. Off the front of the pack, Jens Voigt of Credit Agricole is trying to make everyone forget about Hushovd's pain. He pips off the front and begins gaining time over the group. The peloton dinks around a bit, spreading across the roadway, and CSC-Tiscali's Paul van Hyfte fires out. Voight has caught the breakaway pair, who latch onto his wheel like a couple of love-crazed limpets. Voigt flicks his elbow to tell them to take a pull, but they feign temporary blindness and suck wheel. All that soft-pedaling for the past 15 minutes must have recharged their batteries a bit. Well, only a little bit, as Voigt hammers away to begin his solo effort to the line. Under the 20 km banner, a sudden crash scatters riders all over the US flag painted into the roadway. Off the back again, Hushovd will not get off his bike, but has come to a complete stop again as the race doctor looks over the shoulder of the CA soigneur ready to take a mallet to his thighs. The crash doesn't seem to have caught any leaders out, but Erik Dekker has hit the pavement and now painfully ticks off the miles to the finish by himself. On the front of a now stretched peloton, Bobby Julich does his best impression of a roleur as he sets pace for his scrambling German teammates. The Telekom Germans want to catch the Credit Agricole German. Unfortunately for him, it seems that cars are being pulled out of the gap, and Voigt can now feel the spittle on his back as they close down to 22 seconds on the climb into Riegelsberg. Telekom and Lotto have led the charge, Danilo Hondo and Gian Matteo Fagnini begin to unlimber their legs to lead out the now-idling Erik Zabel. Reabsorbing Voigt, Credit Agricole's Sebastian Hinault punches away on a slight downhill. Although not a German, it should be noted that Saarbrucken _was_ a French town until 1957, so perhaps the French team has decided to raise the flag upon it once more. Under 10km, Hinault continues to stress the group, as Lotto begins queuing up, with Robbie McEwen ready to fire, and Mapei's Robbie Hunter tucking in carefully. Oscar Freire, Fred Rodriguez and other serious sprinters are loose and ready. The big guns are being rolled to the front. It should be a rip-roaring sprint... Of course, there's that little niggling point that they have to recapture Hinault... 4 km to go. Hinault has been nabbed while we saw an interesting commercial or two. Oscar Freire is tucked in right next to McEwen and the two of them hold in the slipstream of the marching Germans. Suddenly the flying Belgian ox, Ludo Dierckxsens leads none other than the Yellow Jersey toward the finish. It's pretty cool to see the power of Dierckxsens, but a pretty questionable move for the race leader, unless he truly fancies his ability to outdistance the peloton under full throttle. Dierckxsens pulls off at the 1 km to go banner, spent. Bertogliati in yellow finds himself at the front of the bike race, and will not benefit today by either that placement or the element of surprise he had yesterday. Robbie Hunter of Mapei sweeps past, leading the Telekom boys and their main man. With about 600 meters to go, the course negioates a big left turn at an incredibly high pace. There is a crash and Immanual Magnien bounces off the barriers, taking an unnamed Rabobank rider down with him. Again, the amazing reactions of the riders prevent catastrophe, as a gap opens in the middle of the flying riders and no one else goes down. Telekom's Danilo Hondo drives toward the line, turning it over to Gian Matteo Fagnini. The line seems to be getting pretty close, and Zabel has yet to go - leaving it to the last minute. There! Fagnini peels off - not as smoothly as the Zebras in Italy - Zabel rolls up to ramming speed. To his right, McEwen has already pipped around the slowing Fagnini and accellerates more strongly. He seems to find a bigger gear and fires strongly toward the finish, edging toward the side of the road. On McEwens right, Oscar Freire turns on the afterburners and roars up on McEwen as the line approaches. Suddenly Freire blows past, blasting up the barriers with a speed that no one can touch. McEwen can only look up in amazment. Freire takes it at the line by a bike length, followed by McEwen and Zabel! Oscar Freire wins the stage in his first ever Tour ride. I must admit, I've read about his promise, and known intellectually about the abilities of Freire, but to watch the speed he mustered here today was truly staggering. A healthy Oscar Freire is to be feared. They cut back to the team cars, where a suffering Thor Hushovd has found a cadence he can maintain. He seems to be among buildings, so he's in a twon somewhere - Ah! there's the 5 km to go banner. Although the podium celebrations have begun, he still has a little ground to cover. He'll ride to the finish, and hopefully the gods of Tour Time Limits will smile upon him. Stage 2 - 1 - Oscar Friere - Mapei 2 - Robbie McEwen - Lotto 3 - Erik Zabel - Telekom 4 - Baden Cooke - 5 - Jan Kirsipuu - Ag2R Prevoyance GC - 1 - Bertogliati 2 - Zabel 3 - Jalabert 4 - Armstrong 5 - Rumsas 6 - Botero 7 - Millar 8 - Brochard 9 - Freire 10 - Frigo All GC within 15 seconds of the Mailliot Juane

Tomorrow: Stage 3 - Metz - Reims, all in France. Couple of 4th category climbs and three intermediate sprint points on this 174.5 km stage. Wide finish, long straight, no climbs of note after they go through the 100 km point, this one seems made for the speedsters again.


Stage 3 - Metz - Reims

Once again the French teams have booted themselves (or been told to boot themselves) off the front of the bike race, and find themselves now 7:45 ahead of the peloton on an overcast day in the northwest of France. An opportunistic Erik Zabel boosted his postion on the road by nipping some sprint points in Verdun, and is now tied with yellow jersey wearin' Rubens Bertogliati of Lampre. He must have been sadly aggravated to have victory slip away in Germany yesterday, and will no doubt be inspired to set that right. After jumping out at the 6 km mark, none other than Jacky Durand of and Franck Renier of Bonjour roll over the main roads on the way to Reims, while a loafing peloton stretch and wobble their way along the road with about 63 km to go. That would place us roughly in the region of the Somme, site of tragic battles during the first world war. It is also the region of Champagne production. Between the efforts of the sprinter's teams - Telekom and Lotto - the gap has begun to sneak back down, nipping down to 6:20. The helocoptor cuts the grass from the fields to get some impressive shots of Litespeed ridin' Lotto boys. With around 55 km to go, they have brought the times down a bit just a hair below 6 minutes, as the float roads stretch toward the murky horizon. Zabel, McEwen and Freire are found in the same camera shot, following the steady pacemaking of the Lotto and Telekom teams. Rabobank has definitely seeded some climbers into their team this year, leaving some of their big boys at home to support Levi Leipheimer. In the manner of the teams who fancy their chances in the overall, they have tucked into the peloton, remaining invisible on these days for the flat country speedsters. Tomorrow of course is the Team Time Trial, and all 21 teams have remained intact for this most impressive effort. So, the teams are being careful not to exert an excess of effort today. The breakaway pair swoop through the town of Suippes, where the last sprint point of the day lies with Durand taking the first place points. 4:15 behind, the Telekom team can put Zabel into the lead if he can get the time bonus. No one even raises their pace, and Zabel gets the easiest 2 seconds of his cycling career. Credit Agricole's Australian sprinter Stuart O'Grady seems to be limping a bit near the back of the pack today, surrounded by several teammates. He doesn't look particularly good, and an out of sequence commercial break prevents further investigation. Returning to the race broadcast, the cameras have moved to the front of the peloton, where a perhaps friskier Tom Steels may try to honor his Belgian championship jersey by duking it out in the anticipated sprint of the day. 37 km to go, and the gap has come down to 3:22, so it seems that they have a good chance to crush the break within sight of the finish line. There will be nowhere to hide in the last 900 meters, as the route finishes on a wide, straight boulevard. Still, Durand and Renier press onward, rolling over big gears on the roadway. Dark clouds hover on the horizon, and unfortunately over Stuart O'Grady's efforts today. It turns out that his physical complaints today are related to a high heartrate, which refused to drop after the efforts of the sprint near the midway point. He rolls along at the physicians car, jersey opened to the base, while the doctor takes a good listen to his chest with a stethascope. Phil mentions that O'Grady had a similar complaint before the Team Time Trial in the '96 Olympics. He is obviously not having a fun day today, and they intersperse earlier shots of his entire team physically pushing him along as he coasts in the peloton with images of the doctor tending to him now. When he moves back up into the group, single teammates trade off pressing their hands into his back as they cover the kilometeres. The speed edges up again, led by Lotto, Telekom and now Mapei. The leaders are under the 25 km to go banner. The time gap has dropped now below 2 minutes. Barring infighting or some silly crash, the breakaway pair will be finding that their number is up pretty soon. At least the sun has pipped back out from behind the clouds, so the logos will be well illuminated as they now roll under the 20 km to go banner, the peloton tracking them now 1:32 in arrears. In another note, I must say that the OLN coverage is certainly less afraid this year to pump commercials into the broadcast - many of them featuring other OLN shows to come in the upcoming weeks. Here we are at about an hour an 20 minutes into the broadcast, and (even with the first set or two of commericals unedited on the tape) and yet we've only used up 56 minutes of tape. The hopping devil presents himself for the first time in this year's tour. He's built up a new bicycle sculpture, it seems. There's not even a shrub to break the headwind on the long, straight road and the two breakaway partners take painful pulls to prolong the day's agony. There's not a lot of ways to describe the loneliness and pain that the twosome are experiencing. Behind them, the time gap slips incrementally down with each pedal stroke. A gap has appearred in the peloton, as the strong wind chops off an echelon. But, they realize their problem, and assisted by a slight direction change, get back to the back of the pack. As they manage that, the pair are within sight of the pack - now a mere 40 seconds ahead. 8 km to go. 29 second gap. Agonizingly close, but the peloton has widened to cover the whole of the 2 1/2 lane road. Disorganization envelopes the group until the USPS takes over the pace to prevent any goofiness from occurring in the tricky roadways and crosswinds. They capture the pair ease back into the pack. As they come into the town proper, the yellow jersey pops himself to the front of the group and drives the pace. Traffic islands blow past. The finish does contain a nasty sharp right hand bend on the last bit of the runup. The speed has not erupted yet, as they hit the 5 km to go. Everyone rolls around a wide left hand bend, and the speed begins stretching out the gang. Robbie Hunter, Freire, McEwen, Kirsipuu and Tom Steels are near the front, but Zabel is scrambling back to the front. Under 2 km to go. No team has any kind of control. Just single teammates here and there trying to keep the pace high and find their sprinters. They fly through the tight right turn safely and take a bead on the finish line. Mapei's Robbie Hunter drives at the front, hoping that Freire has found his wheel - he has not - it is Mcewen who sits two places back behind him. Somehow our cramping norseman of yesterday - Thor Hushovd - pops away and drives hard. Zabel is caught way behind everything, but reappears from about 20 riders back and scuttles up past a chunk of cyclists. He positions himself in behind O'Grady??? Yes, Stuart has somehow found himself up in the mix at the end. Hushovd cracks and cannot hold the pace. Robbie Mcewen knows this is his chance and goes hard, gaining a gap as he swipes around the misfiring Hushovd. Zabel finds his top gear and begins closing the gap, land the others are not going to the catch this flying pair. With Zabel on his wheel, McEwen clearly wishes that he had about 10 meters less to cover, and despartely claws to keep his speed high. Zabel inches up, but they both begin edging across the roadway, forcing Zabel to come around the long way round. He will not do it - Robbie McEwen edges him at the line to win the stage! Zabel - the eternal class act - reaches over to shake his hand - there will be no protest on this finish. O'Grady manages to nab 10th spot on the day. Stage 3 - 1 - Robbie McEwen 2 - Eric Zabel 3 - Baden Cook GC - 1 - Eric Zabel (also holds the Green Points Jersey) - Mailliot Juane

Stage 4 - Team Time Trial - Epernay - Chateau-Thierry 67 km over a tricky course.

"9 men riding as one..."
Tour Stage 4 - Team Time Trial - Epernay - Cateau-Thierry

The day opens with thankfully dry roads and the tangential announcement of the "retirement" of Mario Cipollini. Not much info yet on the latter, but word is that he announced on television that he was not going to race any longer, citing the exclusion of his team from the Tour. It would be a hell of a thing not to take Binda's record, and if he indeed does leave the sport, we will all be the poorer for it. Overcast day, with threatening clouds on the horizon. There's no need to go on and about the potential for losing lots of time, and that is in and of itself one of the great things about the inclusion of the TTT - it forces the teams of serious contenders to have more than just a good rider with a mountain domestique. At the start line, anticipation is high, but the intensly focused USPS Postals roar out of the blocks and latch into their aero bars, on heavily aero Trek frames, atop HED trispokes and rear disks. David Millar, Andrei Kivilev and the rest of the Cofidis roll away fro the line, rear disks and tall profile rims Out on the roadway, the Postals demonstrate a flawless double paceline. Jalabert and Hamilton line up with Bjarne's Boyz, using FIR rear disks and a type of high profile front rim. CSC-Tiscali's start puts all riders on course (at 6:55 am PDT), still with dry weather. The Tacconi Sport team of Dario Frigo team hits the finish with a few men out - 3 riders behind them on the roadway, and they finish at 1:23:33. With 6 teams now in, it looks as if Credit Agricole's time of 1:22:17 may hold for a bit. Sunlight is poking through the covering clouds, lighting the riders, Domo heads for the finish, with nearly everyone intact, and drops the best time underneath CA's. They finish strongly and looking confident, notching the time down to 1:22:01. Clearly, I should not write things like that last statement about times holding... Out on the roadway, ONCE looks strong and well-drilled, but suddenly, they have a rider off the back - flat tire on the rear. One of the domestiques. Slightly long change on the disk. Will they cut him off and drive to the line with 8 riders? comes across iwith a new best time, dropping the finish time down to 1:21:45. They finished with a complete team. That puts Francisco Mancebo into Yellow for a while, at least... We're still waiting for the first time checks for USPS and CSC. It they would stop running these damned mini-series length commercials (for OLN's own shows, dammit!), we might actually get some info here.... Back to the actual race, the cameras open up on a moto speedometer, pegged at 70 km - then the camera rises up to see the USPS boys rolling along a flat section of roadway. Now that is a good pace... Fasso Bortolo notches a new best finishing time - 1:21:19.78 Benoit Joaquim is suffering a bit on the USPS squad - not quite dangling, but just about an extra foot or so off the back. He must have been having a bit of trouble earlier, as Paul refers to it as "still struggling...". ONCE still manages to post the best at the 40 km -- the first squad to drop under 50 minutes at that point on the course. Kelme runs through the time check, one big man dragging a gaggle of climbers toward the finish... They can fit two riders in behind this guy - I didn't get his number, - there! Tony Tauler - but they seem to be using him to ferry the bird-boned to the line. Word is now that CSC has dropped a rider, and presses on with 8. USPS rolls through the 40 km with a 9 rider contingent - pulls back 1 second from ONCE's lead at that point. Armstrong looks like he's on a warmup ride, using his team well, and not conceding excessive time - certainly, it would be nice to have them destroying the times of all other teams, but it's only the 4th stage, and there's a lot of mileage to come over the next few weeks. Also, the 20-40 km point seems to be where most teams are suffering. So, a good time now is a strong indicator of a good ride. Cofidis was about to roll through the 40 km check point when the TV feed drops out suddenly - so we'll have to guess at their split time. The moto cameras find, but rain on the lenses show that the rain has begun suddenly, as CSC posts the new best split time at 49:49. 19 seconds cover the first three teams on the roadway. Thankfully, the rain only seems to be falling on - other riders are still in full sun. The Cofidis team seems to be rolling along dry roads still, as they continue to build their speed on the course. USPS rolls along still with all team memebers, back to a single paceline as they take slightly longer pulls, led by the lanky legs of George Hincapie. Near the finish, Lampre comes across, shedding riders like water off a duck's back. Only five riders finishing, but a decent time of 1:22:11. On the CSC squad, Michael Stanstod has had a puncture at about 20 km to go, he is the current Danish TT and road champion, and CSC decides to ease up to get him back in the fold. Or do they? ONCE drives through the line with a new best time, dropping the mark under 1:20 -- 1:19:49! The cameras find CSC again, and it seems that they did not wait for Stansold - they ride strongly with 7 riders. If CSC can finish ahead of ONCE, Laurent Jalabert should end up in the Yellow Jersey tonight. They have a 9 second cushion against them, so they can trade away a little bit of time. But, if ONCE can hold on, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano will pull a yellow jersey on over his yellow skin suit. USPS has a rider not taking pulls - it looks like Joaquim just suffering to keep things intact. A slightly ragged USPS echelon continues homeward. Kelme is losing riders and time out on the roadway, succeeding in dropping Oscar Sevilla down on the overall leader board. They move along now with 6 riders. Ragged attacking the finish line, they gave up a bit of time, finishing at 1:22:08 Well, I don't know why the weather didn't like FDJeux, but everyone else seems to be able to find the sunshine - strong shadows mock the riders efforts as they wish for the finish. Ekimov drives the Postal boys on the final 1 km, they have pulled abunch of time back in the last 7 km of racing - Hincapie, Armstrong and Ekimov pulling back 23 seconds on ONCE in the last bits. CSC has dropped at the unoffical 60 km point, their decision to not wait for Stanstod may not have been their best move.They are now showing in third place at the spit point. Cofidis stretch their efforts toward the finishing line. They were at 5th at the 60 km check. Driving toward the finish, they manage to notch into 4th place (until CSC finishes, at least) with a time of 1:21:24. With all the teams in, we follow CSC in past the 2 km banner. They suffer along, lacking the punch in the engine room to make up the time. Jalabert drags them home, past a couple Kelme riders, to finish in third place with a time of 1:20:36 ONCE's teamwork showed off very well today, with the decision to leave Mikel Pradera now born out by their performance - of course the big guns remained in the group. They stand proudly on the podium, very excited about their work today. Unfortunately for the laundry department, they decide to spray the crowd with the bottles supplied by the sponsor - Coca Cola. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano finds hiimself with a yellow jersey today! He is the first Spaniard to wear yellow since Miguel Indurain. Stage 4 - Team Time Trial 1 - ONCE - 1:19:49 2 - USPS - @ 16 s 3 - CSC-Tiscali - @ 47 s 4 - Cofidis - @ 1:44 GC Overall Standings: Igor Gonzelez de Galdeano Joseba Beloki (ONCE) @ 4 s Lance Armstrong (USPS) @ 7 s Jorge Jaksche (ONCE) @ 12 s Abraham Olano (ONCE) @ 22 s Roberto Heras (USPS) @ 25 s Vlatchislav Ekimov (USPS) @ 26 s Isidro Nozal (ONCE) @ 27 s Jose Azevedo (ONCE) @ 28 s George Hincapie (USPS) @ 28 s

Tomorrow's Stage 5 - Soissons to Rouen The only stage in this years tour with no categorized climbs, slightly rising over the 195km distance before a drop down into Rouen, with a wide roadway for the spinters extreme velocity.



"Flat as a Crepe..."
Stage 5 - 195 km - Soissons to Rouen

We begin from Soissons today, birthplace of the first 5-time Tour Champion, Jaques Anquetil. A brilliantly sunny day, tempered onliy by picturesque fluffy clouds. Curiously enough on a flat stage with no KoM points, we have a breakaway on the roads to Rouen (NOT, we hope, the road to Ruin...). Ludo Dierckxsens of Lampre, Jaan Kirsiuu of Ag2R, Michael Stanstod of CSC-Tiscali, Stefano Casagrada of Alessio, and, the highest placed man in the break, Christophe Edalaine of Jean Delatour. They have been away for about 30 km, but still have to successfully cover 60 km more. Currently their gap sits at 4:12 in front of a rapidly sharpening peloton. Belgian national champion Tom Steels of Mapei withdrew at the first feed station. He had been struggling in the earlier stages any time their was a gradient, and according to Paul, has been fighting an oddly resurgent glandualar fever for the past year or so. Too bad, but he is the first withdrawal from this year's Tour. Today's tech note: the Jean Delatour team rides "Scott USA" labeled road bikes. Now, _I've_ never seen one on the roadways of the USA.... Back in the peloton, all the teams are content to let ONCE take charge of the pacemaking, althought Lotto seem to fancy the chances of Robbie McEwen. However, they need to pay a little more attention, as the gap has incrased to 4:40. Well, another update brings that to 4:52 within just a couple seconds of that last seconds. One of the interesting developments which come from Team Time Trial stages is the amount of time that can be lost - check out how the Team's performance affected these contenders positions now: - Kelme Santiago Botero - 2:14 Oscar Sevilla - 2:43 - Team Deutsche Telekom Bobby Julich - 3:15 Kevin Livingston - 3:17 - Tacconi Sport Dario Frigo - 3:44 - Credit Agricole Christophe Moreau - 5:30 Credit Agricole takes up the bit now, assisting Lotto and ONCE's efforts. Just over 40 km to go means that breakaway's chances are in the realm of possibilities. If you figure the estimate of 1 minute per 10 kms... 4:14 is the official gap right now. The breakaway continues to work well together, rotating smoothly, pulling for 1 or 2 seconds before rolling back in double paceline. The gap drops a bit as the breakaway group goes over a bit of a rise, over otherwise straight and unobstructed roads. But, they may be running out of roadway, as there are only 32 km's to go. Panic seems to be creeping into the efforts of the peloton, as dips into the front of the back. Lotto,, Credit Agricole roll through. Notably absent today has been Deutsche Telekom. The word comes through that three of the Lampre squad broke their handlebars in the team time trial. Wonder who their sponsor is. Or would that be "was"? 25 km to go - 3 minute gap, and strong riders working well - If I had a spare couple of Francs to bet, I'd lay 'em on the breakaway, myself... Here's a good trivia question: How many team managers at this year's Tour have previously won stages (answer below) Drat! Crash! Of course, they flippin' miss these things by taking commercial breaks and presenting us with such trivia questions. There's been a large crash to the rear of the peloton. Most riders seem to be getting back on their machines, but Marco Pinotti from Lampre looks in a very bad way. He's down, obviously hitting hard, and lies twisted on the pavement with several people attending to him. The crash involved some 25 riders. Strangley enough, a number of French teams get motorpaced back up to the peloton while the race referees get a strange case of selective myopia. The gap has settled at 2:00 at the 15 km to go. Word comes that the Pinotti is being taken to the hospital With 10 km to go, the chasing peloton is screaming along the flats at 38 mph, but the gap remains 1:45.. We get a bit of topography added to todays stage - there is a descent down into the town, and since we're now at 6 km to go, there's 1:07. They will plunge down to town, which will help the breakaway. After the descent, there's two kms of flat roadway. There is a split in the peloton, boosted by the crash and the intensity of the chase. It sounds like a couple of climbers - Kelme's Davide Extebarria and Roberto Laiseka of Euskatel-Euskadi has been caught behind the split. As the breakaway group begin flying down the wide descent into town, Kirsipuu drops to the back in the catbird seat. Riders swirl around and try to go as fast as possible, but retain tactical positioning. Basically, the breakaway is starting to dink around - albeit at extremely high rate of speed - as they go under the 3 km marker swapping places and trying to make a combination that might stick. Dierkxsens makes a testing accelleration which is pretty quickly brought to heel. Casagranda tries now to sneak to the back, but is suddenly forced to the front by Kirsipuu and Dierckxsens - those are two big boys who know how to bring youngsters back in line. After roaring down into town, the peloton is unable to decide what to do on the flats - spreading across the roadway before some Mapei riders take up the pace. Riders surge in the breakaway and Stansold and Edalaine get dropped, then scramble back up to make a full group. Then Sanstod hits hard at the 1 km to go with Kirsipuu chasing. Casagranda goes hard and Kirsipuu drops behind him, knowing he doesn't want to break the wind until the line is in sight. Dierckxsens stays in 3rd, ready to hammer home. Stansold goes again, driving hard for the line. Kirsipuu moves behind him and begins to seriously sprint. Dierckxsens blows around Kirsipuu, and it becomes a drag race between those three riders. Kirsipuu throws it up a notch and moves away, finding somehow the extra nanogram of fast-twitch muscle that isn't already screaming in pain. He moves away and wins it! Jaan Kirsipuu nets another Tour stage victory! 37 seconds later, Fagninini leads out the suddently evident Eric Zabel, who throws it into hyperdrive - only to get nipped at the line by a hard-charging McEwen. The gapped batch of riders rolls through about 7 minutes later. Rik Verbrugghe rolls over by himself about 13 minutes back - he had been visiting the race doctors car a number of times today. Stage 5 - Jaan Kirsipuu - Ag2R Michael Sandstod - CSC-Tiscali Ludo Dierckxsens - Lampre-Daikin GC - No changes overall Igor Gonzelez de Galdeano Joseba Beloki (ONCE) @ 4 s Lance Armstrong (USPS) @ 7 s Jorge Jaksche (ONCE) @ 12 s Abraham Olano (ONCE) @ 22 s Roberto Heras (USPS) @ 25 s Vlatchislav Ekimov (USPS) @ 26 s Isidro Nozal (ONCE) @ 27 s Jose Azevedo (ONCE) @ 28 s George Hincapie (USPS) @ 28 s

Stage 6 - Forges-les-Eaux - Alencon - 199.5 km - Another day for the sprinters, although quite a bit more topography involved in this stage - 2 x 4th Category Climbs - 3 x Sprint points.

Answer to today's trivia question: 9 - Johan Buyneel Marc Madiot Rudy Pevenage Marc Sergeant Bernard Quilfen Serge Parsan Julian Gorospe Bruno Cenghalta Bjarne Riis (I got three of 'em...)


"Those Who Seek Green..."
Stage 6 - Forges-les-Eaux - Alencon - 199.5 km

Crash update from yesterday - broken shoulder & facial injuries for Pinnotti, Rik Verbrugghe does not start with a clavicle injury. Under darkening skies but currently dry roads, a breakaway leads the peloton by 1:45. Stephen Wessemen of Telekom, Jackie Durand of, Massimo Apollonio of Tacconi Sport, Emmanuel Magnien of Bonjour, Paul van Hyfte from CSC-Tiscali and Constantino Zaballa of Kelme all cling to a shrinking lead. The peloton does not seem in the mind to make the same mistake as yesterday, led by the sprinters' teams in particular. At the most recent sprint point, Lotto's Robbie McEwen zipped out and nipped Erik Zabel, giving the Aussie the green jersey by 2 points. Between McEwen and OGrady, there are two Austrailians who are seriously eyeing Zabel's jersey this year, not to mention Baden Cooke. They've managed to cut things down by 25 seconds now, with ONCE grinding out much of the hard work assisted by Lotto. It does seem that ONCE have been at the front for two hard days now that they have the Yellow Jersey. Tyler Hamilton managed to find his way into a crash yesterday, and complained a bit today about his shoulder. Rumor has Mapei (well, ex-Mapei) combining with Saeco for the coming season. Certainly, some riders will get caught out, but that could end up being quite a squad - it would be good to see Danilo DiLuca get into the Tour again, for example. On the roadway of this year's race, there will be another sprint point with 35 km to go, in the city of Courtomer. There's around 45 km to go to the finish, and with the assistance of Credit Agricole, the gap has edged down to 1:10. Cofidis' David Millar hangs onto the doctors car right now, getting some magic freeze spray on a good patch of dermal abrasion. He doesn't seem to have been too roughed up, and quickly pedals smoothly away. The crash was not shown, but seems to have taken place without any of yesterday's damage. With around 7 km to go until the sprint point, they've begun to pull the cars out from between the peloton and the break. It seems as though there is a lot more tactical positioning going on from sprinters' squads this year, with a number of teams forcing the pace to aid their fast man (or men), while being very careful not to drag anyone else's rocket boy along with them. So, Credit Agricole will push the pace, but then suddenly ease up to force Lotto, who then want to run things for their man Baden Cooke - that seems to be the cause of the stretching and contracting of the time gap - now exactly at 1:00 after dipping down to :56 for a while. The break cranks up the pace as they hit the sprint point, and Weseman, Durand and Zaballa find themselves clipped off the back, as Appollonia, Magnien and Van Hyfte wiggle their bikes and stampede to the line in that order. The trailing troika come back up and reattach themselves before the others get dreams of glory. Mapei, Credit Agricole and Lotto have picked up the bit in their teetch, and continue to keep the pace high as they they head uphill past extremely confused French cows. The gap is now down to :41 with around 30 km to go. Andrea Tafi quickly yanks something out of his front wheel, slowing only slightly and causing only a moment of confusion in those riders around him. When you think about all of the things these guys face over the course of a five to eight hour day, from wasp stings to trash in the spokes, you realize how many variables there are outside of simply pressing the pedals harder than the next guy. Jiminy Cricket - Another crash has taken place! It seems like they shouldn't break for commercials, because that is inevitably when the crashes occur. Unfortunately, Alexandr Shefer from Alessio went down much harder than those around him, and it does not seem as though he will get back up without assistance. Hard-luck champion Jonathon Vaughters was also caught in the tumble, as was David Millar, but both seem to be back on and away with the other 20 or so toppled riders. But, the doctors are tending to him and bringing around a stretcher. He's concious, but his Tour is over for this year. With about 21 km to go, the clouds have begun perhaps to sweat a bit - no raindrops on the camera lenses. Robbie McEwen seems to be talking a strong game inside the shelter of the peloton, gesturing to some other riders for at least the third time today on camera. Mapei and Lotto continue to drive the effort, and the gap edges down ever so slowly to 30 seconds. The breakaway has quickened their rotation as the wind increases, and are making the peloton sweat for every second. Today's Trivia Question: Which rider has ended up on the podium the most amount of times (I'm assuming they mean 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the GC, not including the jersey competitions). (Answer will appear at the end of today's report, below) The rain has become real on the course, but hasn't hit the finish area. 14 km to go and a 20 second lead. The rain is not needed at the finish, with a strong right hand turn just 570 meters from the finish. Credit Agricole and Lotto riders are just hammering, with a Mapei rider pipping in every once in a while. 15 second gap dropping, dropping and the peloton seriously eyes the breakaway. The hesitation among the breakaway members is just what Jackie Durand was waiting for, and he punches past his break companions to test the determination of the peloton. He stretches out to a 10 second lead as the other members get swept back into the group. He's as dependable as the surliness of a French waiter.... Yet, the peloton has had just about enough of today's silliness and strike quickly to bring him into the fold. 9 km to go, and all are together, with the pace high to get everyone over the finish before the roadways get too drenched. Today's finish has a slight uphill, which should help Zabel. Telekom has had the best of all worlds today, with their man in the break, they've tucked into the anonimity of the pack, and only now begin to unlimber their leadout array. 6 km finds them rolling through all sorts of roundabouts and traffic furniture. Lotto still drives the tip of the peloton, but Zabel sits confidently behinds Danilo Hondo despite the succession of split by teh traffic islands. Mapei punches the pace hard as they roll under the 3 km to o banner. Tafi was drivign a hard pace with stretches evveryone out, and Lotto is on the front, with a CA rider in second, Zabel in about 5th, Oscar Freire and Baden Cooke Holy Technical Catastrophe - my tape stopped! SCRAMBLE for a NEW TAPE! NO! The tape has footage! What the dickens? New one in as I realize this! ACCKK! I have the label paper underneath it! It spits out and I throw the original tape back in and punch REC! Tape Rolling! Catastrophe averted! (Of course, I realize now I could've just snagged the feed from the late day broadcast...but it is more fun this way.) They negotiate the hard right turn and continue to punch up the speed - Telekom's Danilo Hondo now drives the race, with T-kom leadout horse Gian Matteo Fagnini in second, Baden Cooke trailing him, Zabel in fourth waiting for the right moment to strike. Oscar Freire sits behind Zabel, and Mcewen has found his way back up to the front. Cooke lauches as Fagnini relinquishes the lead, but Zabel has more raw speed and moves past him. Freire is caught behind Sergei Ivanov of Fasso Bortolo and delayed for a brief moment before lighting the afterburners. He has daylight ahead of him on Zabel's left hand side. On Zabel's right, McEwen roars up and looks like he smells victory today. But, Zabel finds another gear and moves back into the lead - three abreast they rocket to the line. Zabel throws his hands in the air - he takes it by less than half a bike length, with Freire lunging at the line to snag second away from McEwen. Zabel's soigneur - a strong Teutonic-looking fellow - leads Zabel through the crushing crowds as the sprinter himself grabs at the camera lenses being shoved into his face. Erik now has 12 career victories, tying Armstrong and Cipolliini (who is now only provisionally an active rider) with the most stage victories of active riders. But, there is no doubt about it, he will have to work for this year's Green Sprinters Jersey. Stage 6 - Winner - Erik Zabel - Telekom 2nd - Oscar Freire - Mapei 3rd - Robbie Mcewen - Lotto 4th - Jan Svorada - Lampre 5th - Sergei Ivanov - Fasso Bortolo 6th - Baden Cooke - GC - (Unchanged) Igor Gonzelez de Galdeano Joseba Beloki (ONCE) @ 4 s Lance Armstrong (USPS) @ 7 s Jorge Jaksche (ONCE) @ 12 s Abraham Olano (ONCE) @ 22 s Roberto Heras (USPS) @ 25 s Vlatchislav Ekimov (USPS) @ 26 s Isidro Nozal (ONCE) @ 27 s Jose Azevedo (ONCE) @ 28 s George Hincapie (USPS) @ 28 s

Stage 7 - Bagnoles-de-l'Orne - Avranches 176 km 20 significant hills dot this stage, with the highest being 1200 feet. A 300 foot climb lies in front of the finish, and much of the last 60 km runs adjacent to the coast, so teams will have to be alert for echelons and breakaways. Certainly, a deceptively simple stage that could cause some consternation among the leaders' teams.

Today's Trivia Answer: Raymond Poulidor - 8 times, but never a winner...


Stage 7 - Bagnoles-de-l'Orne - Avranches

With 69 km to go, Anthony Morin of Credit Agricole, Domo's Leon Van Bon, and Bonjour's Frank Renier move up on the sprint point in Tessy-Sur-Vire, having been out on the attack since the 23rd kilometer. The trio don't contest the lead of Renier, as none of them of are in the mix on the quest for the Green Jersey. The gap has been falling, after rising above 5 minutes, it sits at around 3:35. Today's sunny conditions belies the blustery wins buffeting the course. One the injured and out list, Alexander Shefer ended yesterday with a broken wrist and faciel lacerations. Rik Verbrugghe's ending injuries have turned out to be a broken collarbone, and Marco Pinotti has returned home after his frightening limp rag doll impression of a couple days ago. 185 riders started today's stage. Telekom, who had been setting the pace for a while, has decided to let other teams take the pace. In doing so, the pace has dropped a bit, and the gap edged out to 4 minutes again. With 60 km to go, there is definitely time to net the errant riders. I think if they didn't cut to commercials, we wouldn't have any crashes. Again, we have riders down - Jonathon Vaughters and Kevin Livingston in a slow speed, sit-down. Livingston and the rest of the gang are away quickly, but Vaughters has some tweaked bike issues, whacking the saddle and jerking the bars. After a rear wheel change, he starts out, but then stops again and requests a new bike - presented to him after a bit of a wait. Going on a new machine, he's lost a mile on the peloton (literally), luckily they are not grinding away in anger, and he should make it back up among them. But, what luck that man has - of course, traipsing along at the the back of the group does tend to invite such problems. As he works his way up to the peloton, the rolling doctor applies the freeze spray to his elbow. A teammate drops back to nurse him back up the last bit of the journey. With all the shenanigans at the back end of the group, it should be noted that the gap has dropped down to 3:15. 48 km to go. ONCE currently suckered into leading the pack, since their man is wearing the Yellow Jersey. There is a 6 km climb with 22 km to go - the 4th Category L'Embranchement. Currently, they roll through beautiful Normandy town streets among old streets and ancient churches. This is the region of the Abbey of Mt. St. Michael. - beautifully poised on the island that remains accessible at low tides. 38 km to go, and the Bonjour rider in the break, Frank Renier, still sits as the leader on the road, as the gap is 3:34 while Renier sat only 3:28 behind today, and has gained time bonuses on the road as he nabbed the pertinant places in Tessy-sur-Vire and earlier... Ahhh! Finally! A Bob Roll Tour de France commercial.... I luckily grab the remote and snag the end of it. I'll have to pay more attention and hope there are more versions. Now Alessio eases up into the lead position, assisting ONCE for no clear reason. Maybe they know something about the climb. Some of the former riders interviewed who are familiar Today's Trivia Question: How many American s have won stages at the tour, and who are they? (Now, given the state of international events, I'd assume they mean USA-icans, so ignore any victories from Canadians, or anyone from South America...) - Answer at the end of this report - Today's Trivia Answer: Greg Lemond Lance Armstrong Davis Phinney Andy Hampsten (and I didn't get - and never heard of) Jeff Pierce Alessio's efforts have clawed back the gap to under 3 minutes for the first time in the broadcast. Dropping rapidly before we hit the climb to 2:44. Thickening crowds line the roadway as the breakaway begins going upwards on wide, smooth roads. Lotto's Aart Vierhouten pops off the back as the peloton heads upwards. He suffers nastily as the group disappears up the road. There's nowhere to hide, and the moto cameras watch him slide backwards. Even the second Bobke/Bob Roll TV advert cannot bring a smile to his face... The hill is taking its toll, as the gap has plummeted down to 1:58. Jean Delatour riders peek out on the front of the peloton, and perhaps they fancy chances of former World Champion Laurent Brochard - he's from this region and knows the roads quite well. The report is that theyre is another sharp little climb before the finish line in Avranches - although the wide roadway there is straight for the last 1.3 kilometers. We still have yet to gain a "multiple stage winner" in this year's edition, the first time since 1996 that situation has held through Stage 7. With everyone up to the top of the climb, the gap has dropped down to 1:10. With 13.5 km to go, we're down under a minute. The roads have narrowed, and the breakaway is out of sight of the pack. But, they are pulling out the motos now as the time is at 50 seconds. Now 45 seconds. Telekom has appearred at the front, and the pack screams along these narrow, tree-lined roadway. The chances are dwindling for the breakaway as they scream through the 10 km to go banner. They can smell the fear and hear the creaking bones of the break companions... Udo Bolts from Telekom just punishes the entire peloton as things stretch out at 32 mph. Now 6.5 km lie before the breakaway, and pack hammers along 30-odd seconds behind. A crash in th pack! A slight curve in the road on a narrow bit, and riders are strewn all across the roadway. USPS's Victor Hugo Pena is among the riders wandering around in a daze. On the left side of the roadway, Mapei's Oscar Friere sits in the gutter way off to the side, holding his back and not in a hurry to get up. Out of nowhere, another rider rises out of the ditch next to Freire, shaking himself back to awareness. On the other side of the roadway, it looks like a team picture for Credit Agricole Vaughters and Jens Voigt seem to be OK and astride their bikes, but team leader Christophe Moreau was definitely put onto the deck by the tangle. Bikes are wrapped around themselves in a tangle of tubesets, and the CA boys stand in a shell-shocked daze. Other riders are slowly getting on their feet. Credit Agricole seems to understand that their chances for overall success have just been gutted by the crash. Another rider is still down in the group - Bonjour's Didier Rous, and he's holding his arm in a bad way. There's no question, he will ride away in the ambulance with a broken collarbone. The racing of course has continued - the gap at 13 seconds - Renier tries to take a flyer as the peloton comes in for the kill. No dice - the others in the break snag his wheel and the tactical move has blown the impetus out of the break. They are enveloped by the group. Suddenly, another crash reported in the back. Race radio reports CSC-Tiscali's Laurent Jalabert has been caught by it. It gets WORSE! Lance Armstrong was among the members of the crash. There are only 2.5 km to go, and the peloton hammers away at top speed. The finish is very, very close, and it will not be a secret in the group that the favorite has gone down. Vlatchislav Ekimov is right there with him, pushing him forward as Lance resets his shoe in the pedal, checks the strap and then fires away in hot pursuit. He knows exactly what he needs to do and moves forward with no wasted motion. It will be red zone to the line for Lance. The sharp climb begins and Fasso Bortolo's Marco Velo bends his cranks, bursting away in a solo attack. David Extebarria Euskaltel-Euskadi knows what to do when the road points upwards, and slides away from the peloton, catching the wheel of Velo as the climb crests out. The peloton is splitting across the road, dividing into speeding points as others skitter ahead to try to regain control. Everyone heads under the 1 km to go banner as the wide straight roadway dips slightly. Pedro Horillo from Mapei takes over the pace and accellerates strongly - trying to lead out....who? No one can match his accelleration as he fires away from the entire peloton - whether he things Robbie Hunter is behind him or Oscar Freire had somehow reattached himself - or maybe he fancies his own chances. Armstrong will not reattach himself in so short a distance, and works with teammates to nullify the gap as best as he can.'s Bradley McGee hammers off the front of the pack to try to catch Horillo. He's flying fast, but may have started too soon. Horillo continues to pedal, but chunkiness appears in his pedal stroke and he looks a touch wobbly. McGee hammers past as Horillo cracks and throws his hands up in disgust. Brad McGee pulls off an upset and wins the stage going away from the snarling sprinter-led peloton! Zabel finishes behind McEwen and OGrady comes in just behind Zabel. The competition for the Green Points Jersey is very, very tight... Jalabert, Andrea Tafi from Mapei, and Armstrong all lose 26 seconds as they roll across with other USPS team members. A huge number of riders comes across many scattered groups. Carnage and chance dipped its slimy fingers into the day's racing, and many men will pay for it... But the worst hit is Credit Agricole - still stagering and suffering their way home. Heading towards the finish, they have enough riders for a proper Team Time Trial, Jens Voigt, Vaughters and others pace Christophe Moreau over the line - losing 4:20 on the day. Sadly, barring an incredibly unforseen set of circumstances, his chances for Tour victory have been laid to rest.. Stage 7 - 1 - Bradley McGee 2 - Jan Kirsipuu 3 - Pedro Horrillo 4 - Robbie Mcewen 5 - Erik Zabel 6 - Stuart OGrady GC - Mailliot Juane - Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano 2 - Joseba Beloki - 4 s 3 - Jorg Jaksche - 12 s 4 - Abraham Olano - 22 s 5 - Isidro Nozal - 27 s 6 - Jose Azevedo - 29 s 7 - Marcos Serrano - 30 s 8 - Lance Armstrong - 34 s

Stage 8 - St. Martin de Landelles - Plouay - 217.5 km - the longest stage of the 2002 Tour July 14th is Bastille Day More riding through the coastal topography again, with 3 x Category 4 Climbs and 3 Sprint points. Similar to today's stage, but the succession hills perhaps lending itself to a successful breakaway, if the right group of riders can skeedaddle off the front at the right moment. The holiday always seems to bring out the special performances of the French riders, and others may be concentrating more on the Individual Time Trial to take place on Stage 9. (Tomorrow is Bastille Day)


"Battle on Bastille Day"
Stage 8 - St. Martin de Landelle - Plouay - 217 km
(the longest stage of the 2002 tour)

Hurtling along the roadway, approaching 50 km/hr over the first 2 hours of racing, After a flurry of breaks, one has stuck, gaining around 6 minutes in just under 20 km.

Breakaway companions:
Credit Agricole's Sebastian Hinault, Domo's Servais Knaven (winner of the 2001 Paris-Roubaix), Rabobank's Erik Dekker (back from his broken leg at this year's Milan-San Remo) and Karsten Kroon, Bonjour Franck Renier (who is the yellow jersey on the road - at least until the gap drops below 4:30 or thereabouts), Lampre's Raivis Belohvosciks and Jean Delatour's Stephane Auge.

The teams enjoy gorgeous weather as they continue coursing through the beautiful scenery and roads of Brittany, it seems the pressure is on ONCE, although they are getting the frequent assists from Ag2R - the only French team who have missed out on the break. Overall on this long stage, the race is now down to 182 riders, as Oscar Freire did not start after aggravating his back in yesterday's late crash, and Aart Vierhouten of Lotto no longer rides in the peloton.

Approaching the third sprint point of the day, at Noyal-Pontivy - Hinault extends his turn on the front to snag the points, after only a minor ruffling of pedals among the others. But, the peloton keeps the pressure on, and has brough the gap down to 4:59.

In a note about yestday's stage: Bradley McGee had left his TTT gearing on the bike - and in the finishing sprint yesterday was turning over a 54 x 11.... Perhaps that 's why he was able to roll up and over to victory yesterday.

We're now down to 4:02, with 43 km to the line. Ag2R has taken over the pacemaking, much to the delight of ONCE. Christophe Moreau of Credit Agricole sits just behind ONCE, presumably extremely afraid to be caught behind any type of crash any more. The finish will be a tough circuit on the streets of Plouay, so domestiques are ferrying helmets back to the the front riders. It will take place on Jean Yves Perron Circuit, named after the man who had the vision and drive to bring the World Championships to this town a few years back. His ultimate goal was to bring a stage of the Tour to his town. Although it has made it, he unfortunately passed away without witnessing it.

Currently, the 48.3 km/hour average speed. Fasso Bortolo dips their noses into the pace-setting group, gaining the friendship of ONCE.

Today's Trivia Question: Who was the last Frenchman to win on Bastille Day? (Y'know, I don't find that one particularly difficult...)

The leaders are now 27 km from the finish, and there are still 3:45 between them and the peloton. A capture doesn't seem quite as possible as it did a few moments ago. Up in the breakaway, riders are beginning to get a bit tense - nothing like having a pair of Dutch riders from the same team on board to make the others nervous. Of course, the other Duchman, Servais Knaven is no slouch in the tactics department, so it will be interesting to see what moves are played out over the next 30 minutes or so.

The first move hits, but Karsten Kroon's sudden accelleration didn't take anyone by surprise, and the rocketing riders wiggle back and forth across the road as they snag his wheel. The gap is still sitting at 3:25 with 16 km to go, so they don't seem likely to get nabbed before the line, unless the looming climbs prove to be worse than expected. The Ag2R riders have faded back into obscurity, as ONCE takes control of the lead. Up front, Knaven feels out the group a bit with a strong surge, they congregate again, negotiate a sharp, near 180 degree turn in the town. Well! Here are some welcome faces on the front of the pack!

Back in the group, US Postal has taken over the reigns from ONCE - clearly they have taken a preemptory move to keep from being caught behind any kind of silliness or shenanigans on the nasty circuit. They don't seem to be moving with the lightning speed that would be required to catch the break - instead moving fast enough to deter any other riders from coming around them.

9 km to go, and Belohvosciks makes a strong move - which chops Dekker off the back of the breakaway. It has been a great comeback effort for Dekker to regain form in time for the Tour, but maybe he just isn't quite there now. Now regrouped without Dekker, the breakaway drop down a tricky, twisty descent - almost getting taken out by the Tour PR car who stupidly attempts to pass them while attacks are occurring. However, no riders are hit, and spectators avoid serious injury.

Belohvosciks pops off the front again, only to be caught after a strong effort by the other five - none of whom are surpised by the move. You want to attack from somewher other than the front if you expect to surprise this bunch of riders.

Under the 5 km to go banner, they come up onto the last climb - Stephane Auge pips away as Erik Dekker flies past the photo moto and reattaches hemself to the group. But, Dekker gets left behind as tthings go uphill - or does he? Pushing himself back over the saddle, he churns his legs and keeps digging that much deeper somehow clawing his way back up to the group - and then ATTACKS as they head toward the top of the hill - my god! What a ballsy move!

They slowly pull him back and Belohvosciks goes again, shadowed by Kroon. Dekker won't allow himself to get dropped again, and bleeds from his eyeballs to close down the 20 meter gap. Knaven just hammers it as they hit the crest, and opens a 5 meter gaps. Putting his head down, he sneaks a quick look under his arm and finds the rest of the riders on his wheel. Dekker again hammers away - this time gaining a decent gap! Hinault manages to move across and the two of them try to make this move stick.

But the roaring effort of Belohvosciks at the front of the pursuit, with Kroon behind him, manages to slowly pull back the pair. All are togther as Knaven leads them under the 1 km to go banner. Renier has moved to the front, but gets suprised by Belohvosciks - Dekker sticks to Belohvosciks' wheel and with 200 m to go, Dekker fires around him in an all or nothing spring. Hinault marks him and goes hard, swinging around him to go for the line. Belohvosciks cracks and others swarm around him. Knaven comes around a fading Hinault - he's now even with Dekker!

But, on the far side of the roadway, Karsten Kroon has flames blowing out of his shoes as he stresses every weld in his orange Colnago - he will NOT be caught by anyone! Karsten Kroon leads a Dutch 1 - 2 - 3 eclipse of the French on Bastille Day!

McEwen pips Zabel at the line, as the peloton flies across a minute and a half later.

Today's Trivia Answer: Laurent Jalabert - 2001

Stage 8 -
Winner - Karsten Kroon - Rabobank
2 - Servais Knaven - Domo
3 - Erik Dekker - Rabobank
4 - Franck Renier - Bonjour
5 - Sebastian Hinault - Credit Agricole
6 - Stephane Auge - Jean Delatour
7 - Raivis Belohvosciks - Lampre-Daikin ---
8 - Robbit McEwen - Lotto
9 - Eric Zabel - Telekom (retaining the Green Jersey by a point!)
10 - Baden Cooke -

GC -
Mailliot Juane - Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano
2 - Joseba Beloki - 4 s
3 - Jorg Jaksche - 12 s
4 - Abraham Olano - 22 s
5 - Isidro Nozal - 27 s
6 - Jose Azevedo - 29 s
7 - Marcos Serrano - 30 s
8 - Lance Armstrong - 34 s
Interestingly enough, Tyler Hamilton has tucked himself into 9th place, just behind Lance Armstrong.

Tomorrow's Stage - Stage 9 - Invdividual Time Trial Lanester - Lorient - 52 km The first 18 km has two hills and run on narrow roads, followed by a hilly middle 16 km, with a mostly flat final 17 km's. It will be an instuctive day...


"Races, Truths, and This Damned Constant Ticking..."
Stage 9 - Individual Time Trial - Lanester - Lorient

All riders are on the course, having left the start house with the chromatic influence pitching definitely towards yellow, as the ONCE squad who occupy the top 7 places have switched back to their top-dollar skinsuits.

Abraham Olano looks as relaxed as can be as he rolls out of the start house. USPS's Lance Armstrong rolled through the first checkpoint at 24:46 - 6 seconds down on the best time. CSC Tiscali's Laurant Jalabert hits the second check point in about 9th place with his aero helmet skewed. The winds are whipping the flags sideways as the riders blow along the shore. Suddenly, he's sitting up in the saddle and slowing - a rear wheel problem on his Look aero bike - more than likely a flat. But, there is little more maddening than trying to detach a rear disc from a zero-clearance aero frameset. They fiddle with the rear wheel for way too long and then decide to grab his extra TT machine from the roof rack. Perhaps they shouldn't have screwed around, but maybe it seemed like a simple fix. A bad way to lose time...

USPS's Floyd Landis powers through the 35 km check at the 12th best time. Armstrong slowly increases his pain and effort, rolling through the 35 km time check by nearly equalling the best time on the road. Santiago Botero's blistering time of 42:16 still stands by only half a second! Landis hammers through the final line at 1:04:38...

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano runs through the first time check at 24:45 - a second faster than Armstrong! The Spaniards are clearly planning to make Lance's life difficult, and have definitely worked on their time trialing techniques. Regardless - Armstrong seems relaxed - as relaxed as you can be riding a bike at 50km/hour... He seems to have a good sense of exactly how much effort to make on this course.

A disheveled Jalabert lines himself up on the finish - passing through the 1 km to go banner he pedals strongly, but the impetus has gone out - he sits up a few meters before the finish and rolls through the line at 1:05:51.

Armstrong punches the pedals, out of the saddle as he hits the 3 km to go banner - keeping the pace high and driving toward the line. The man rides with textbook form - high supple cadence, upper body beautifully relaxed. He trys to nip away from the wind while cutting the best line on the curving roads. But, the results belie the appearance - he has lost time over the last 6 km of the course - 10.66 behind Botero's time! He is in with a time of 1:02:29.

Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano has lost time at the second time split - crossing the line in 7th place with a time of 42:23.88.

Joseba Beloki cranks along, with Manolo Saiz, the Director Sportif yelling "Venga, Venga, Venga" in staccato fashion. Saiz had stated that Beloki was the most likely to win the stage, at least publicly favoring his chances over Gonzalez de Galdeano.

At the finish line, ONCE's Isidro Nozal rolls painfully across the line - currently wearing the white jersey for the best young rider, which he will trade over to David Millar as his time of 1:05:47 drops him down the rankings. The lanky and low Olano looks strong, but will finish in the 1:05:00 range...not in the money. Gonzalez de Galdeano crosses the last time check 17 seconds off of the pace, and 12 seconds behind Lance's time. He now passes under the 1 km to go banner. --- and we lose the video feed!

-- In radio announcer fashion - Phil calls the finish even though he has no video feed either. Gonzalez de Galdeano hits the finish under the 1:03:03 that he needed to retain the yellow jersey - his time (provisional) is 1:02:37. So - do we worry? More in a moment...

Stage 9 - Individual Time Trial Results:
Santiago Botero - Kelme 1:02:18
Lance Armstrong - USPS - 10 s
Sergei Hontchar - Fasso Bortolo - 18 s
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano - ONCE - 19 s
Lazslo Bodrogi - Mapei - 25 s

-- ah, the feed comes back just before we break for commercials.. -- Which brings us back to the question: So - do we worry? I guess I'd worry a bit more if I hadn't read an article by Chris Carmichael - Lance's trainer - who said specifically that they had changed an aspect of Lance's preparation this year - they emphasized Time Trial work less in favor of more sustained climbing efforts. Those two are pretty mutually exclusive - the power to drive hard on the flats differs from the explosive nature of attacking on the mountains, and the sustaining of those efforts. Unfortunately, with the demise of the video feed, the timing computers also were lost, so we don't currently have official standings, but here's my best guess right now: (Subject, of course, to correction)

GC - Yellow - Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano
2nd - Lance Armstrong - 27 s and I don't really have the time to figure out the rest right now...
More as we get some official results.

Tomorrow: Rest Day for the Bunch, as they transfer down to the south of France and prepare to hit Pyrenees. Stage 10 comes on Wednesday, with the last flat stage running 147 km from Bazas to Pau. There's a bit of topography, with three 4th Category climbs, but the last 25 km or so seem to be dead flat.

Thursday's Stage 11 will be the first cruncher, with the HC Col d'Aubisque mid-route, and a mountaintop finish on La Mongie (Cat 1).

This Race Report continues in the "Mailman-distributed" Archive

2002 Giro D' Italia

2002 Complete Race Description.

Archive of Mailman-distributed reports



updated: July 18, 2005


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