The American Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service) gave a quite
astonishing performance in today's time trial and a major warning to his
rivals. The race, that today began in Luxembourg, ended with Armstrong in
the jersey he had worn at the end of the last three editions of the race -
Armstrong covered the tricky, technical course of 7.2 kilometres in 9
minutes and 8 seconds, but it was far from an easy victory because Laurent
Jalabert had once again given a masterly performance and his time of 9.10
had seemed unbeatable.
Not only has Armstrong achieved a remarkable
victory - he has also already put time into his major rivals on the General
Classification. Oscar Sevilla lost 33 seconds, Beloki lost 13, Igor
González de Galdeanos 9 seconds fellow American Leipheimer dropped 26
It was a golden moment of triumph for Armstrong -
one doubted his
ability to win the prologue, but most thought he would be more happy with a
comfortable top ten place and spare his team the responsibility of the
yellow jersey so early in the race. Credit to Armstrong then, who took the
race by the scruff of
its neck in under ten minutes of awesome pedal power.
Armstrong’s bold move was especially surprising on such a difficult and
technical circuit which made the prospect of an early crash very likely.
addition there was always the likelihood of rain which would have made the
parcours a skating rink with hills.
one of the 21 team managers had
been aware that rain half way through the competition - indeed throughout
the afternoon there was the odd drop of rain which made each riders race
more difficult to evaluate
would have a dramatic effect on the results and
had split their best riders into two - so Hincapie was an early starter in
case the weather took a turn for the worse.
However it was clear that the veteran Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, present
Olympic champion was an ideal “Hare” for the Armstrong camp
victory was not only down to his unique cadence and determination it was
also down the teamwork and the expert advice that Ekimov (who posted 9’27’’
himself) would have relayed back to his team leader.
As expected it was the Australian Bradley McGee who posted the first
serious time of the day at 9.21, which was almost immediately matched by
Hungarian Time trial champion Laszlo Bodrogi, another favourite for the
overall (in fact, according to Armstrong, the main contender). Tyler Hamilton
posted 9.24 but it was down to Santiago Botero to cause the first sensation
of the day.
Colombian, from starting out, was clearly in good form
and his ride of 9:12 seconds looked to be strong enough to win.
González de Galdeano, second the last
year's prologue, looked comfortable;
his time of 9:17 was good - but not that good.
Finally French Laurent Brochard, brought some joy to the 150,000 French
fans lining the route. In a traditional handkerchief over his head instead
else's aerodynamic helmet.
He rode the 7 kilometres in a great
a ride which had far more to do with passion and pride than technique
Just when Botero’s time looked unbeatable a rider emerged from the
shadows. Raimondas Rumsas, once considered a great Tour prospect,
finally came up with a ride worthy of his talent. After a miserable last
season at Fassa, where everything seemed to go wrong, he finally repaid the
faith of the Lampre team with a podium place ride. Millar was unable to
do any better than 5th at 9:14 (although he will find a great deal to be
pleased about - best Cofidis rider and wearer of the white jersey).
Moreau did not look happy at all when he came in 40th place some 24 seconds
Then Jalabert surprised everyone except Riis when he rolled back the
years and gave a stunning demonstration of simplicity of style and movement
to set an astonishing 9:10.
It seemed good enough to win - and then along came the Texan - to stamp
his authority on the race!
Following the race Armstrong said:
"It worries me that everyone thinks
have already won my fourth
because it isn’t so.
This race deserves a lot of respect, it is a difficult
course with many mountains and I have not won the race yet. Everthing is
still ahead and we will take each day as it comes, we will have to fight all
Asked about the Tour he replied,
"The race is unique and I am always
very motivated - the fact that my family is here motivates me even more
because they are the first and most important thing to me."
"It has been wonderful to win this first yellow jersey in this city, on
such a pretty circuit, but difficult,
with hills and paves. It has been
special to win
said a very smiling Armstrong.
On the responsibility to defend the leadership from the first day, the
Texan explained he would be talking later with his director, the Belgian
Johan Bruyneel, and the rest of the team.
mentioned the Team Time trial
as possibly the first major effort.
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service 9.08.78 (45.92
2 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) CSC 0.01.73
3 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) Lampre 0.03.19
4 Santiago Botero (Col) Kelme 0.03.81
5 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis 0.04.69
6 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Jean Delatour 0.06.00
7 Dario Frigo (Ita) Tacconi Sport 0.08.19
8 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) ONCE 0.09.02
9 Joseba Beloki (Spa) ONCE 0.12.55
10 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Mapei 0.12.64