Stage 13- July 19 Toulouse to Plateau de Bonascre 197 km
© Copyright Amaury Sport Organisation / A.S.O. 2003
A stage designed for the huge TV audience with all its drama and challenges coming in the last 40 kilometres of racing. The peloton will head through the narrow gorges of the Aude and then tackle the Port de Pailheres, which makes its debut as a Tour climb. The Port de Pailheres is a tricky climb, 2001 meter altitude and the distance is 14 km. The Kelme and Euskatel boys will be sending riders up the road en -masse which will make the race very difficult to control for the yellow jersey. Once over the top a tricky descent towards the Ariege valley is followed by a grand stand finish nine-kilometre climb to the plateau of Bonascre.
This and the following two days are the crucial time in this year's Tour for those riders who believe they can dislodge Armstrongs hold on the yellow jersey. The US Postal team with Heras and Beltran in support should be strong enough to field off any challenge, but if any rider does have ambitions then this is the time to start the attacks.
Vinokourov the 29-year-old Kazakh rider who had an outstanding time trial himself yesterday and who is still very much in the battle for the Yellow Jersey thinks that alliances might be formed in the fight for the Overall
"We have seen on the Alpe d'Huez that if we play it intelligently, everyone taking their turn, we can destabilise Armstrong . He's won four Tours and now there's other riders who want to win it. I think we're going to harass him (Armstrong). If he finds himself alone on the climbs he's going to find it much more difficult.
"That's where our chance lies, in isolating Armstrong." said Vinokourov after yesterdays time trial .
Ullrich, admitted "Alexandre and I were very good friends when I was at Telekom. And friendship is friendship,"
Meanwhile Johan Bruyneel (U S Postal DS) promised - “This result makes our tactics for the coming mountain stages more or less predictable. We will have to attack, even though I had preferred it otherwise. To me, it’s a consolation the team is so strong, because this much is clear: Lance’s team-mates will have to work a lot the coming days.”
Looke like the fans are in for a real treat in the Pyrenees !