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
Golden Hams 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.
- 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
- 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.