Lance Armstrong affirmed today that he will go to for his sixth Tour victory:
"I love this race and my objective will be to achieve the sixth victory."
Armstrong says the main difficulty of the route "will be in the Alps, mainly
the time trial of the Alpe d'Huez", though he says it won't be a more complex
edition than the others. "For Ullrich as for me, this time trial will change
nothing: it will be the critical day. That one will determine the winner."
"I will be able to say better how the race is with reconnaissance of the
stages, but the Tour is always difficult." Armstrong also said that that the
organizers always want to introduce some novelty and pointed out that in this
edition "the third week will be in particular, harder."
"In this Tour, I will count a lot on Roberto Heras. I won't come there
worrying about taking a 6th victory, but rather to participate in a new Tour.
This race is for me the incentive that makes me stay on a bicycle."
"The last week will be hyper-hard. I am relatively happy with the program - I
have recovered my confidence this year. I have three or four more opportunities
to win the Tour. After that I will be too old. I am going to fight for it."
Ullrich said he didn't want to eliminate other rivals (in addition to
Armstrong) and mentioned expressly the Spaniard Joseba Beloki "if he is
recovered." The 1997 Tour winner said that his move to team Telekom gives him
more options for victory. "My new team is very strong and I believe that I will
have my options", he commented.
"I am perplexed at the course. There are less mountain stages than in the
past. If I look well at the detail of the twenty stages, there are twelve days
without mountains. In fact, all is concentrated on the last week where the
Alpine stages will take place. I think exactly that all is going to be played
out in this last week (the Alpe-d'Huez time trial, the crossing of the Alps and the last time trial at Besançon) and there will be an aura of suspense
until the end. It is an atypical course. Certainly, there are a lot of cols on
the program, but they are cols with small percentages. My objective will remain
the green jersey and victory in mountain stages. For the Alpe-d'Huez time trial,
that concerns riders who will play in the general classification, and this
is not my case."
"It is an atypical course and innovating. There's less in the Pyrenees; there
are only two small stages. In addition, there is not a high mountain indeed. It
is a succession of small cols and big slopes which should encourage attacks. I
think this is a very tactical Tour. All should be played out the last week. One
won't be able to put in play the usual tactics, it is going to be necessary to
be notably innovative during the first fifteen days. It will also be interesting
to see what tactics will be adopted by Lance Armstrong and US Postal during the
first two weeks of the race. The individual time trial at Alpe-d'Huez will make
a thick gap and will very certainly be decisive for the general classification.
For myself, I aim for the general classification and a spot on the podium."
"I distrust some first impressions. The first part appears simple but this
only makes it more delicate because the race will be animated. The time trials
are going to tighten suspense. Necessarily, they are going to increase the
interest of the Tour."
"This Tour could surprise the favorites. The peloton can explode at the most
unexpected moment indeed. It has not been conceived for Armstrong or Ullrich.
Promoters never design a course for the client. But, this time, they set the
malice there. Everybody will be very attentive to the 3rd week. Outsiders will
have a lot of opportunities to trap the favorites."
"This Tour will be interesting because it has been thought out to maintain
uncertainty for the longest time possible and to not definitely eliminate a
maximum of riders. Difficulties have been restricted but this Boucle has no
less traps, with a lot of possibilities for strikes. It is going to be necessary
to be in condition the last four days. The Tour will come back to the coolest
and to the most offensive. Armstrong and Ullrich will be favorites. Vinokourov
can win it. Millar can be in the game as can Beloki: it has widened the circle."
Quickstep-manager Patrick Lefevre dares to predict:" This Tour has barely any mountain in it. I see Bettini battling for yellow up till Paris. next year." Jean-Marie Leblanc admits: "We strive for a as close as can be top five in the general classification at the foot of the first climb, not more than a minute apart from the other. Armstrong thinks the timetrail to Alpe D'Huez will make the difference. Ullrich clings to the fact that he knows the third week (always his best week in the Tour) will be the decisive one in the Tour 2004.
Thanks to Todociclismo and L'Equipe.