Tour de France: 11th stage underway

15th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

15 July 2004 , SAINT FLOUR - The 11th stage of the 2004 Tour de France, got underway on Thursday with Frenchman Thomas Voeckler holding the race leader's yellow jersey.

15 July 2004

SAINT FLOUR - The 11th stage of the 2004 Tour de France, got underway on Thursday with Frenchman Thomas Voeckler holding the race leader's yellow jersey.

The stage, 164 km from Saint Flour to Figeac, is one of the shortest of the Tour but also one of the trickiest, with few flat stretches and five climbs to negotiate. In addition, temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius are forecast for the day.

Thursday's stage may be one of the few chances left for climbers with little hope of gaining the overall title to claim a win on this year's Tour.

On Friday, the race heads into the Pyrenees, where five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong and his main rivals will no doubt begin seriously testing each other and try to grab a decisive advantage.

Armstrong 9:35 mins behind Voeckler. Of his main challengers, fellow American Tyler Hamilton is 43 seconds adrift of the title-holder, with Jan Ullrich of Germany trailing Armstrong by 55 seconds.

The latest stage was overshadowed by an interview by former triple Tour de France champion Greg LeMond published Thursday suggesting that Armstrong may be doping.

LeMond told the French daily Le Monde that just because Armstrong has never tested positive for a banned substance, it does not mean that he is clean.

"But (British cyclist) David Millar also never tested positive, and he has now admitted having taken EPO," LeMond said.

Millar told French police shortly before the 2004 Tour de France began that he has used the blood doping substance EPO. He was subsequently barred from taking part in this year's Tour.

"The problem with Lance," LeMond went on, "is that you can't talk about it with him. For him, you are either a liar or you are trying to destroy cycling.... But I don't know how he will be able to continue to convince everybody of his innocence."

In a book published in France in June, "L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong", LeMond's wife divulges a telephone conversation Armstrong had with her husband, in which she quotes him as saying, "Everybody takes EPO."

The winner of the five previous runnings of the Tour de France, Armstrong is trying to become the first rider to win the race six times.

DPA

Subject: German news

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