The Scorpion Strikes!
Richard Virenque recorded his sixth stage victory in the Tour de France today. The 33 year old has been twice on the podium of the Tour de France (1996 - 3rd and 1997- 2nd) and, for the second time in his career is in the yellow jersey, which he wore for one day on his Tour debut in 1992.
Still the most popular rider in France, due to his gutsy riding style (usually in the mountains although he has also ridden solo adventures in races like Paris Tours ), his victory today will once again save his season after he had been criticised by Team manager Patrick Lefevere prior to the Tour.
In fact it was a day of spectacular success for the Quickstep boys - not only did Virenque win and take yellow, Betinni was in the action for most of the day and “The Dodger” Michael Rogers stole away at the end of the stage to finish in an excellent fourth spot which takes him to second place in the Young Rider Classification behind “Mimo” Sylvain Chavanel.
Five times winner of the Polka dot jersey Virenque has been criticised in the past for concentrating on that competition instead of making a determined effort for the overall. However, his days of being a contender for the overall are surely behind him, and it will be interesting how long the “scorpion” can stay in yellow.
Quickstep/US Postal relations hit an all time low during the Boonen transfer, and have hardly recovered since, particularly since Postal have just signed young gun Jurgen Van den Broek, (time trial junior world champion of 2001), from Quickstep. And Quickstep team manager Patrick Lefevere was not impressed: "He did not even bother to let me know." And a duel under the sun between Armstrong and Virenque in the Alpes should keep the TV audiences high over the next few days.
Virenque’s spectacular rides over the mountains have now given him 6 stage victories. In 1994 he won, soloed into Luz Ardiden, and a year later in similar style into Cauterets (that success being overshadowed by the tragic death of Fabio Casartelli).
In 1997 he duelled with Ullrich for the Overall and got the better of the Kaiser in Courchevel.
His role on the Festina affair would have finished off the careers of many riders and he was excluded from the Tour in 1998 and 1999.
However he made a spectacular return winning into Morzine in 2000, and after a late suspension returned again in 2002 to win on Mont Ventoux.
The next few days could well be seen as “Floor Wars” with the laminated flooring of Quickstep up against its main competitor, the similar product of Berry Floor.
A situation which can only be good for both of the firms that sponsor the respective teams of Virenque and Armstrong since the stages are shown in their entirety live on European TV and so both firms will gain enormous exposure to millions of homes.
Virenques Tour Stage Wins
(second placed man and time in brackets)
1994 Luz-Ardiden (Pantani + 4:34 Min)
1995 Cauterets (Chiappucci + 1:17 Min)
1997 Courchevel (Ullrich same time)
2000 Morzine (Ullrich + 0:24 Min)
2002 Mont Ventoux (Botcharov + 1:58 Min)
2003 Morzine (Aldag + 2:29 Min)
Sick Simoni Stumbles
Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) experienced a disaster on the first Alpine stage. Not only could the Giro winner not attack ,he also lost six minutes to the other favourites -
Speaking to RSN Simoni said -
“I have not been able to recover properly since the Team time Trial. I have been suffering from a fever since Wednesday and today I had weak legs, I suffered today. Normally I recover faster than others, at the minute I am not recuperating at all. I am worn out.
"Virenque made the ride today that I had dreamed about. I am worried about tomorrow's stage now.
“As soon as the stage started I knew I was in for a bad day. I did my best to remain with the leading group, and tried to honour the Giro winner's jersey, but I could only manage to stay with the Armstrong group until half way up the last climb. I thought that the US Postal team were going very fast, but as my team directeur pointed out, it was my legs that were the problem.
“I have learned a lesson, one bad day and it is over. The one hope I have left is to get through the Alpes and recover in time for the Pyrenees".
csc official site
Seemingly against all odds Hamilton continues in the race!
Former Tour winner and the man who ended Indurain's run, Bjarne Riis, was also very pleased with the Team CSC performance -
“With three riders among the favourites, we have reason to be satisfied. The favourites did not go flat out but there were still some notable riders among the people who were dropped. However, our riders held on when the going got tough. I believe that we will see a completely different race tomorrow and we can only hope that Tyler can swallow the pain once again. Carlos Sastre and Peter Luttenberger both looked strong today and I think that the team delivered a good performance”.
US Postal Berry Floor official site
Postmen more than Happy
Though few would have predicted it the Virenque win today may well have helped the Armstrong camp. They do not have to go into tomorrow with the responsibility of guarding the jersey and Quickstep will be at full force to defend yellow and try and get Virenque a second stage win - as their excellent website pointed out tonight:
Virenque’s stage win could be of considerable strategic advantage, bearing the difficult climb of tomorrow in mind. Our guys looked good today, were always in control, while some of the so-called favourites clearly showed they are vulnerable. Beloki, Simoni and Garzelli had to let go the group Armstrong more than once, which is telling for the mountain rides to come.
TDF Medical communique
Jaksche (ONCE): Stomach problems
Lastras (iBanesto.com): Grazes on right thigh and bruising on right knee
Blaudzun (CSC): General light cuts and bruising
Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com): minor cuts and bruises
Tauler (Kelme-C B): Left hip cuts and bruising
Canada (Quick.Step-Davitamon): Left knee and elbows cut.
Nazon (Brioches La Boulangère): pain in left knee
Jérôme Pineau (Brioches La Boulangère): left hip grazed.
Alessandro Bertolini (Alessio): left knee grazed and bruised.