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Tour Notes Stage 15
By Podofdonny
Date: 7/23/2002
Tour Notes Stage 15
Official Communication Tour de France
Weather on Wednesday:
Sunny in the morning. In the mountains some cloud banks. Starting from the Galibier, cloudier with a small risk of violent rainstorms.
Temperatures: 14 degrees at the start, 10 degrees at the Galibier, 14 in Plagne.

Medical Communication
Moreau (Fra) - Abandons after fall. General cuts and bruises, particularly to the face.
Bruylandts (Bel) - Cut to the left knee
Marichal (Bel) - Insect bite
Osa (Esp) - Stomach problems
Loder (Fra) - Stomach problems
Botcharov (Rus) - Sore throat
Horillo (Esp) - Saddle boil
Casarotto (Ita) - Cuts to the left hand
Mikhailov (Rus) - Pain in the right knee
Pascual (Esp) - Cut to the right elbow

Decisions of the racing commissioners:
Serrano (Esp) - 20 seconds punishment (food supply in the last 10 kilometers)
Vidal (Esp) - 20 seconds punishment (food supply in the last 10 kilometers)
Zabala (Esp) - 20 seconds punishment (food supply in the last 10 kilometers)
Svorada (Tch) - 20 seconds punishment (food supply in the last 10 kilometers)
Cassani (Ita) - 10 seconds punishment (holding onto the car)
Guesdon (Fra) - 10 seconds punishment (holding onto car)

Santiago Botero’s stage-win in Deux Alpes on Tuesday, his third stage victory in the Tour de France, makes him level with his Colombian compatriot "Lucho" Herrera, the climbing legend of the eighties.

Not only did Botero draw level with Herrera he also achieved the twelfth Colombian stage success in the Grand Boucle. The race (and cycling racing in general ) is hugely popular in Colombia and is followed even in the smallest, poorest village by live radio.

"I kept my rhythm the whole day. Two days ago, I had a bad day. Sometimes, you have off days, however today the break worked well. I'm happy today that things went well and I was able to win the stage," said Botero - joy indeed to his thousands of fans back home, huddled around their transistor radios.

The best ever Colombian performance in the General Classification was Fabio Parra. In 1988 he was third around ten minutes behind Pedro Delgado.

The "Colombian stage winners":
1984 Lucho Herrera (L'Alpe d'Huez)
1985 Lucho Herrera (Avoriaz, Saint Etienne)
1995 Fabio Parra (Lans-en- Vercors)
1988 Fabio Parra (Morzine)
1993 Oliverio Rincon (Andorra)
1994 "Cacaito" Rodriguez (Val Thorens)
1996 "Chepe" Gonzalez (Valence)
2000 Santiago Botero (Briançon)
2001 Félix Cardenas (Ax-les-Thermes)
2002 Santiago Botero (Lorient/EZF, Les Deux Alpes)

Botero:  “Cycle racing is not mathematics. To win a Tour is very, very difficult. But to win two stages is probably better than coming fourth or fifth (overall) in Paris. Will I try another escape? The situation is different now. The peloton would react differently because I have moved up on the General Classification (Botero is now seventh with 11:31 min. on Armstrong). I must speak with Vicente (Belda, Kelme Directeur), what tactics the team will adopt now."

Joseba Beloki conceded defeat in the chase for the Yellow Jersey tonight, and recognised after stage 15 that his objective is to hold onto and maintain his second position.

"I have given it 100% effort and tried everything I could. I have suffered because it is impossible for me to beat Lance Armstrong this year, now I must be content to hold on to my second position. It is important for the team to fight and hold onto it’s second and fourth position,"  he explained.

The Basque rider said that the tactics of the ONCE team for tomorrow's stage would be finalised in the morning.

For Montcoutie, 27, there has been less pressure from the Cofidis sponsors on his team since teammate David Millar won the 13th stage at Beziers on Saturday.

When David Millar told Bondue he would win on Saturday morning his manager instantly brought out a pen and paper and made him sign a note to that effect.

"I know not to panic on the climbs - or attack on a whim," he said.

"On the Ventoux for example I struggled badly at the bottom but once I found my rhythm I just got better and better.

"But before the Tour is over I want to win a stage," added Montcoutie, a noted climber who sat a respectable 12th overall prior to Tuesday's first Alpine stage, at 14min 44sec adrift of Lance Armstrong.

"My confidence is sky high so I'm going to give everything I have in the Alps."

Eddy Merckx, who claimed five Tour de France and Tour of Italy titles, admitted Monday that he never thought Lance Armstrong could one day win the Tour de France.

Merckx became friends with the 30-year-old American just before he was struck down by testicular cancer in 1997.

Since then, the two men have grown closer and Merckx now believes the U.S. Postal team leader, currently heading for a fourth consecutive Tour triumph, can win as many editions of the world's top bike race as he cares for.

But the man formerly known as "the Cannibal" for his voracious appetite for victory said he never saw Armstrong recovering enough to win the Tour.

"I'm not afraid to say it, but back then, and seeing his state of health, I never thought he would one day win the Tour.

"Before his illness, Lance was talented, he'd won the world championship at the age of 21, but as a climber he struggled," Merckx told French sports daily L'Equipe.

Armstrong's story of recovery from testicular cancer is known by millions.

But in the cycling milieu, it is generally believed that, although a talented rider, the period after his successful recovery from his serious condition was crucial.
After losing all his hair, and lots of weight due to ultimately successful chemotherapy treatment, he was, basically, physically reconstructed.

A chunky, 21-year-old Armstrong who won a world championship gold in Oslo in 1993, and was one of the best young riders to come out of the United States since three-time Tour winner Greg Lemond, had changed drastically.

Merckx believes that the illness proved crucial to his success.

"Then he lost about five kilos due to his cancer. It was down to his illness that he turned into a great climber.

"Cancer made him much stronger physically, and, more importantly, stronger mentally. He saw death staring him right in the face," added Merckx.

"I went to Texas to see Lance. He went out on his bike for the first time since his illness, and I was there with him.

"His head was shaved, and he had two big scars at the back of his neck. It was only three weeks after his operation, and you could see he was still exhausted, but he wanted so much to get back on his bike."

Merckx, unlike Armstrong, was a more complete rider, winning many of the one-day classics - Liege-Bastogne-Liege (five), the Milan-San Remo (seven), Paris-Roubaix (three), Ghent-Wevelgem (three), Amstel Gold (two) and the Fleche Wallonne (three) - among others.

However, he refuses to compare his success with that of Armstrong.

Cycling has changed, he says. And he admits that, with hindsight, he perhaps shouldn't have been so greedy.

"You can't compare our success. I rode the Tour with a 10-speed bike and today a pair of wheels weighs a kilo less than in my time. In general, the material is much more sophisticated," said Merckx.

"Armstrong is the champion of a new era, which is more professional. I, for example, raced 150 days of the year. Armstrong focuses on the Tour and arrived this year with only 21 days of racing in his legs.

"I couldn't even imagine missing a one-day classic.

"Lance is going to last a very long time. He doesn't need to do all the races I did. I worked myself to the bone.

"Now, looking back, I realize I was made to do so." --AFP

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