CSC-Tiscali‘s Laurent Jalabert is back on the podium at the Tour de France. This report from CSC Official site.
The hard-working Frenchman attacked for the second day in a row in the heat of southern France. Although he came up just short again for a stage victory in Friday's difficult five-climb 199-km 12th stage, he moved back into the best climber's polka-dot jersey that he won last year.
"I am very satisfied. Today was a very hard stage but I got into a good break and earned the points," said Jalabert, who is now in firm control of the best climber's jersey.
"It's really nice being in the break and it was fun. I don't feel completely used up yet. I still feel really good and I will fight to keep the jersey in the Alps. I will still keep fighting to win a stage."
Jalabert attacked at the bottom of the day's first climb at the Col de Mente at 56 km and held the lead working with other riders in a breakaway all the way over the next three climbs to earn valuable points in the best climber's competition.
The best climber's jersey is one of the Tour's top honors. Points are awarded based on the finishing order of rated climbs throughout each stage. The rider with the most cumulative points gets to wear the polka-dot jersey.
Jalabert has now worn all the major jerseys during his career. He twice wore the yellow jersey of the race leader and twice won the overall classification for the green points jersey. Last year he won the best climber's jersey for the first time.
Dozens of signs from French cycling fans lined the course as a final homage to one of cycling's great racers, who announced he will retire at the end of the 2002 season.
Jalabert attacked off the front of his group late in the stage but was caught by stage-winner Lance Armstrong just 10 km from the finish line.
In Thursday's stage, Jalabert called Armstrong the "blue rocket" when he passed and said Armstrong gave him a sympathetic look as he roared past Thursday. Jalabert said there was no time for that Friday.
"He went by too fast too notice," Jalabert joked.
The 34-year-old Frenchman is earning the admiration of Armstrong, however. The Texan won his second stage in a row and consolidated his hold on the yellow jersey. Both stage wins came at the expense of Jalabert, something Armstrong said he feels sad about.
"What I cannot get over is someone is going to retire and he's still such a fighter. Most guys who say they are going to retire, they hang at the back and take it easy. Every day he's going to attack. That's what made him a true fighter and a true champion," Armstrong said. "He's attacked both days and he deserves a victory. I explained to him that we had to attack until the classification is solidified. He understands that."
There was more good news for CSC-Tiscali. Jalabert's impressive attacks during the past two stages moved him into the lead of the most combative rider's category. While there is no jersey for this category, it comes with the honor of being the most aggressive rider in the Tour de France. And Jalabert has certainly done that.