Everyone wanted to talk about the Michael Sandstod "should we stay or should
go?" moment, and this was team manager Bjarne Riisís perspective: "I asked
them to stop but they continued for three kilometres despite the fact that
Sandstod was not far behind them. Thereís no doubt that was the turning
point, we could have won because we were going very well to that point."
Sandstod admitted there had been some confusion about what to do. "There
was a bit of a problem with the race radio as it seemed to cut in and out.
I just never managed to get close enough to them to get back on."
The contrast in the mood among ONCEís staff was hardly surprising. The team
won this equivalent stage in 2000, but it has been almost seven years since
a Spaniard last wore yellow. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano became the eighth
Spaniard to do so and couldnít stop beaming in his press conference.
"There are some mythical Spanish names that have worn this jersey, and itís
an honour for me to join them," the 30 year old who was 5th in the 2001
Tour said. "To have the lead at this point doesnít really mean anything
in terms of the race, but it does mean a huge amount to the team. The podium
is our obvious target, and Beloki is still our main hope. Heís much stronger
than he was last year. The team is also better. Last year before this stage
we were quite nervous, but today everyone seemed very focused."
Asked if it was significant that he had beaten Armstrong in the time trial
at the Midi Libre and now today with another time trial just four days away,
Gonzalez de Galdeano was dismissive. "You canít compare the Lance Armstrong
of the Midi Libre to the Lance Armstrong of the Tour de France. Heís on
another level to me. Iím going well, but heís super."
ONCE supremo Manolo Saiz was full of praise for his riders, but stressed
that the race was still Armstrongís to win or lose, and that ONCE would
be looking to US Postal to control things over the next few days.
"Itís an important indicator of the development of the team, this is a new
generation and a good group. They have picked up the mantle from the Jalabert
era at ONCE. To win today was like winning the European Championship, but
to win the Tour would be the ultimate, like winning the World Cup."
"But there is still only one patron in the Tour, and thatís Armstrong," Saiz
added. "We will see what happens tomorrow, and much depends on whether teams
such as Mapei, Lotto and Telekom decide to chase any breakaways. If not
I think it will be up to Armstrong to control things."
George Hincapie summed up US Postalís feeling of disappointment. "We felt
like we went well today and ONCE must have been going super strong to beat
us. All of the team rode very consistently and we didnít have any of the
bad luck that dogged us last year."
Fuller versions of the post-race interviews and press conferences can be
found on the ProCycling website at