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Tour de France Prologue Report and Armstrong Interview
By Podofdonny
Date: 7/6/2002
Tour de France Prologue Report and Armstrong Interview

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 - the leader's yellow.

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 seconds.

It was a golden moment of triumph for Armstrong - no 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. In addition there was always the likelihood of rain which would have made the parcours a skating rink with hills. Every 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 Armstrong's 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. The Colombian, from starting out, was clearly in good form and his ride of 9:12 seconds looked to be strong enough to win.

 Igor 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 of everyone else's aerodynamic helmet. He rode the 7 kilometres in a great 9.14’’ -  a ride which had far more to do with passion and pride than technique and calculation.

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). And Moreau did not look happy at all when he came in 40th place some 24 seconds down.

 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 I have already won my fourth Tour 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 the way."

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 here," 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. But he mentioned the Team Time trial as possibly the first major effort.

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal Service 9.08.78 (45.92 km/h)
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

The Prologue Live Coverage Report has many details of the race; it can be found here.

The Daily Peloton Tour de France Main Page is here.

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