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Jambon Awards and Report: Tour Stage 19
By Locutus
Date: 7/27/2002
Jambon Awards and Report: Tour Stage 19

On the last big day of the Tour there was a lot of drama and few surprises, with Lance Armstrong winning the stage and adding an exclamation point to what will be his fourth consecutive Tour victory after tomorrow's final roll into Paris. Today's 50km time trial started with a Cat 3 climb and then turned into a rolling course for the last 28km. The climbers were expected to do well, but the mountain turned out to not be as difficult as it looked on paper, with the power riders dominating just like in the Stage 9 ITT. There were only two sets of riders going all out today: those with GC aspirations, and those time trial specialists who thought they had a chance at a stage win. Everyone else just rolled through and tried to stay within the time cutoff.

The power-riding time trial specialists set the early best times, and as the top GC contenders began to roll down the ramp Laszlo Bodrogi (MAP) had the top spot 8" ahead of David Millar (COF) and 37" ahead of Serhiy Honchar (FAS). The battle for positions 5-11 was heated, but there were only two changes by the end of the day: Levi Leipheimer (RAB) barely climbed over Roberto Heras (USP) into 8th on GC, and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (ONE) swapped places with teammate Jose Azevedo to move into 4th on GC. The big surprise of the day came when 3rd place Raimondas Rumsas (LAM) blazed to a 17" advantage over Lance Armstrong after the first timecheck. As Armstrong said afterward, he kicked it into a higher gear after hearing this and crossed the second timecheck 8" ahead of Rumsas. The Lampre rider wasn't chasing Armstrong, however, as his real prey was 2nd on GC rider Joseba Beloki (ONE). Though Rumsas did threaten Beloki's position, he couldn't maintain his early pace and only managed to take 1' 13" out of his Spanish rival, well short of the 2' 19" he needed to move up a podium position. At the end of the day Rumsas rode well, only 52" slower than Armstrong. But the day belonged to Lance, as he proved once again why he was the best rider in the race.

Ham-Gazers of the Day
  • Rubens Bertogliati, Lampre-Daikin. The young rider finished last today, 13' 39" behind Armstrong. He was in danger of missing the time cut only one day before Paris. Fortunately, the man whose impressive win in Stage 1 gave him the Yellow Jersey for two days squeeked through, barely. He will be a very happy rider when he hits the line tomorrow, finishing a hugely successful tour as one of the heroes of the race.
  • Everyone else who wasn't either a GC contender or a time trial specialist. It was a hot day and most riders still in the race are simply grateful to have survived the mountains. Nobody was going to take unnecessary risks with Paris only one day away. They'll race hard tomorrow on the Champs-Elysees, but for today, it was just a time to relax.
Golden Hams of the Day
  • Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal. Today he reached down one more time into his big can of Texas Whupass to show why he is the best in the world. The strength of his ride and the strength of his team make it seem like six Tour wins is well within his grasp. Without Ullrich (TEL) in the race this year he was never under any pressure, and the thrashing he gave everyone today was simply the last in a string of several he's given since the race hit the mountains. He'll win by 7' 17", but you get the feeling he could have won by 15' if he had wanted to.
  • Raimondas Rumsas, Lampre-Daikin. He had a brilliant ride today to finish 2nd on the stage, and despite his 3rd on GC he rode a better race than Beloki this Tour. Beloki has been assisted by a deep and powerful team; Rumsas has been hamstrung by the weakness of Lampre, and has basically been on his own for most of the race. You take away the team time trial, and Rumsas beats Beloki by 1' 22". This ride should convince Lampre to build a powerful team to send to the Tour next year; if they give Rumsas the support he needs, he will be Armstrong's most dangerous opponent in the years to come.
  • Laszlo Bodrogi, Mapei-Quick Step; David Millar, Cofidis. These two powerful time trialists stormed the course today to finish 3rd at 1' 06" and 4th at 1' 14" respectively. They have both had outstanding Tours, and today's performance simply confirmed that they are at the top of the heap in the world of time trialing. Look for these two to duke it out for the top prize at the World Time Trial Championships in Belgium this October.
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