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Sastre Sizzles in Scorcher!
Sastre, the former ONCE rider, repaid manager Bjarne Riis' faith in his abilities today with a remarkable victory. Surprisingly, the man from Madrid has very few victories in his 7 year career. In 2000 he won the mountains jersey in the Vuelta Espana and in 2001 he won the third stage Vuelta a Burgos.
So today's victory was just reward for a top rider who has been a “super domestique” for Tyler Hamilton in three major tours.
"It's a dream come true for any professional rider to win a stage on the Tour, I was thinking about my wife and daughter who are the two most important things in my life."
Bjarne Riis was extremely satisfied with Team CSC’s second stage victory in this year’s Tour de France: ”We have now won the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees and Carlos really deserves this victory. He always helps Tyler and he has now demonstrated that he is one of the best climbers in the peloton. We are all very proud of the victory. Tyler loses a little bit of time today but it has still been a fantastic day for the team.”
Super day indeed. Today’s results strengthen Team CSC’s position at the front of the teams classification.
Jan Ullrich, Team Bianchi. Photo copyright © by Dave O'Nyons.
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Ullrich by Pevenage and Gimondi
Manager Rudy Pevenage, said: “I’m satisfied because the preparation program we have prepared together, and which Jan followed meticulously, proved to be perfect. Ullrich reached his top gear at the Tour, as we had planned and hoped.
"He has proved he can fight on equal terms with Armstrong.
"I’m more than happy, I know that the true Ullrich is back.
"Now it is convenient to mark Armstrong closely, as we use to say in football matches, exactly as Ullrich did during the 13th stage flanking him, going up side by side, ticking the time in the small bunch of the top runners.
"It is a clear sign of confidence and great condition which Armstrong has perceived and started to fear.
"It is a shame that Armstrong, instead of thwarting Jan, decided cunningly to give up and reload after having dissipated a lot of energies to quell the attack from Vinokourov, otherwise I guess he would have suffered a more consistent crisis and maybe end with a bigger delay. Anyway, in my opinion we have to put pressure on Armstrong – concluded Pevenage – all the time, and then we will see what happens next.”
Gimondi made these comments on the stage -
“Ullrich is really great and above all his ride is superbly powerful. He has proved to be the fiercest antagonist of Armstrong though I have to underline the remarkable aggressiveness of the Spaniards Zubeldia and Mayo, and the Kazakh Vinokourov, whose attacks forced the American and his team-mates to work hard to keep together the small bunch of forerunners, after the first attack brought about by a man from US Postal, Rubiera."
Lance Armstrong, US Postal Service, presented by Berry Floor. Photo copyright © by Dave O'Nyons.
Armstrong remains quietly confident while conceding it is going to be a tough race -
"You could not expect me to have superlegs after what I did yesterday", Lance Armstrong said afterwards. "You can’t recuperate from such a tough time trial in just 24 hours. Yes, life was hard on me today, even though I’m not too disappointed that I had to concede some time to Ullrich. The first bad moment came during the climb to Pallheres, but I was really in trouble during the last 2 kms of the stage. I have to thank my team-mates for their superb work today. Rubiera, Beltran and Heras once again did a terrific job."
"It's good for the race. "It's exciting, and man, if we go into the final time trial with just a matter of seconds between us, there will be a lot of spectators watching the race."
Armstrong no longer favourite
Bookmaker William Hill have reassessed their Tour odds. For the first time in four years Armstrong is not favourite to win the race. Odds quoted this evening were Jan Ullrich 4-6 favourite with Armstrong at 11-10 and Alexander Vinokourov at 14-1.
A Fan's View
Jane from the message board sums up her thoughts on the race:
Watching the events of the past few days in the tour has been so incredible to me, and I'm struck by how much hope and fear there is on the messageboard - hopes for Lance and all that he means to people, which, love him or hate him, is a lot; and hopes for Jan, as well as just the hope that this story all these guys are telling us everyday will have all the power and glory we hope it will.
I don't think there's any reason for me to pretend that I am disinterested and objective - I write a very silly, completely subjective column that has no pretense to any such thing. Let me say, straight out, that I hope with all my heart that Lance Armstrong can pull out of the tailspin and fly his rig home safely and first. I think he is a remarkable man, and that his story is beautiful, and I would love to see a happy ending for him here. Having said that, I must say that I find myself thrilled by the roller-coaster of not knowing if the strength is in him - not knowing if he can. I'm simultaneously full of hope that Lance will prevail, fear that he will not, and a strange third element that just loves a good narrative, and it strikes me that what ever the outcome is, this is an epic, fantastic tale.
If Lance wins - there are 5 tours in a row, and the record matched by a man who came back from the edge of death and found something in himself that he never knew was there. If Jan wins, its the glorious saga of a man who lost his way and found it again, to win against all odds. If Vinokurov wins, it's the story of a man who lost his best friend, took in his family and rode with a strength beyond what anyone thought he had for the rest of the season. If Tyler should somehow manage it, it will be all about the grit and courage of a man who goes beyond himself. No matter who wins, the tour gives us something - a sort of contact with the ideal and the elemental in human beings that we need - the same spiritual nourishment that we get from the magical alchemy of art and literature, only this narrative, a drama of immense, ephemeral and performative power, is being brought to life right now, and anything can happen.
I find myself, more than anything, rapt at the unfolding of the narrative - more interested in what DOES happen than in what I HOPE will happen. If Lance loses, my hopes will not be fullfilled, but will the story be less beautiful and epic if the ending of this chapter is sad? What will he do and say in defeat? If he wins, how will he find that victory in himself? These same questions could be asked about any of the contenders. Where will the strength come from to see this race to its end for every one of these men?
More than anything, I feel full of gratitude to the authors of this story: these athletes who suffer and strive in the creation of something so full of a poetry that is written with their bodies, and through their daily actions. Will any one of them be less if he loses?
I say no.