Tour de France: Ullrich, Armstrongbattle it out for victory

7th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

7 July 2004 , CAMBRAI - The fourth stage of the 2004 Tour de France, a 64.5-km team time trial, started on Wednesday, with five-time champion Lance Armstrong in good position to take the lead in the overall standings but facing a challenge from Germany's Jan Ullrich. Armstrong's US Postal team is one of the favourites to win the race from Cambrai to Arras in northern France, which would give it a second consecutive Tour triumph in the discipline. Last year, US Postal rode the second-fastest time trial in T

7 July 2004

CAMBRAI - The fourth stage of the 2004 Tour de France, a 64.5-km team time trial, started on Wednesday, with five-time champion Lance Armstrong in good position to take the lead in the overall standings but facing a challenge from Germany's Jan Ullrich.

Armstrong's US Postal team is one of the favourites to win the race from Cambrai to Arras in northern France, which would give it a second consecutive Tour triumph in the discipline.

Last year, US Postal rode the second-fastest time trial in Tour history, and finished 30 seconds ahead of the second-placed team.

If the team repeats that performance, Armstrong will take over the Tour leader's yellow jersey, currently worn by Australian Robbie McEwen of the Lotto-Domo team. Armstrong stands in fifth place overall, only 16 seconds adrift.

However, a controversial rule change, instituted this year, will limit the amount of time the winning team gains on the also-rans.

According to a pre-established scale, the team finishing second can lose no more than 20 seconds to the winners, while the third-placed team can lose no more than 30 seconds.

This rule change, made primarily to help teams that feature climbers, has been criticised by Armstrong and his most dangerous rival for the Tour victory, German Jan Ullrich.

"The new rule is unfair," Ullrich said. "The enormous effort of time and material we made over months hardly seems worth it, now that we see what the stakes are."

Another important factor is the weather, as strong winds and rain are forecast. The early stages of this year's Tour have already seen an unusual number of crashes, including one on Tuesday that cost Spaniard Iban Mayo nearly 4 minutes.

Considered one of the riders most dangerous to Armstrong's quest to become the first cyclist to win six Tours, Mayo now appears to have little chance to be in the top three when the Tour ends 25 July in Paris.

DPA

Subject: German news

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