Tour 12th stage sees Basso beat ‘strong’ Armstrong

16th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

LA MONGIE, France, July 16 (AFP) - Lance Armstrong took a massive step towards claiming a record sixth yellow jersey here on Friday when he came second on the first summit finish of the Tour de France to leave main rival Jan Ullrich at over three minutes adrift.

LA MONGIE, France, July 16 (AFP) - Lance Armstrong took a massive step towards claiming a record sixth yellow jersey here on Friday when he came second on the first summit finish of the Tour de France to leave main rival Jan Ullrich at over three minutes adrift.  

Italian Ivan Basso of the CSC team won the 12th stage, beating Armstrong at the finish of La Mongie where the American five-time winner won in 2002, after a 197.5km ride which included two climbs from Castelsarrasin at the foot of the Pyrenees.  

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler started his seventh day in the race leader's yellow jersey and had to work hard to keep it on his shoulders on a day which saw the riders take a soaking as the rain came down before the final climb.  

The 24-year-old La Boulangere rider, who led Armstrong by 9min 35sec overnight, came in 3min 59sec behind Basso and now leads Armstrong by just over five minutes in the general classification.   CSC rider Basso came over the line just ahead of Armstrong who he tagged all the way up the final kilometres of the tough 15km climb, the second of the day after the first category Col d'Aspin.  

The 26-year-old, considered a future winner of the Tour, admitted that since he had good legs he simply had to take his chance on a day that proved difficult for a lot of riders, including Ullrich.  

"It's the first stage in the mountains, and there's plenty of racing still to be done," said Basso, who picked up his first victory of any significance since 2001.   "It was difficult for a lot of riders, but I had good legs and I just seized my chance. I felt very good, and in any case I had to do well today because of all the good work my team had done for me.  

"But Armstrong showed today that he is still very strong."  

The stage saw a number of attacks and retirements and was kicked into life almost from the start when a four-man group escaped to go on and build a lead of over five minutes before eventually being caught by the peloton at the 157km mark.  

Armstrong's US Postal team were dominant throughout the day, with George Hincapie and Manuel Beltran taking turns at setting the pace and chasing down attacks on the first of the climbs, the Col D'Aspin.  

However Ullrich's T-Mobile team - at least on the first climb - was never far behind, with Andreas Kloden keeping in touch with the front of the peloton.  

Italian Filippo Simeoni, the Domina Vacanze rider who has threatened to sue Armstrong for defamation in relation to a feud over a newspaper article, tried his luck on the ascent of the Col d'Aspin, and he was soon followed by two riders interested in being the race's best climber, Frenchman Christophe Moreau of Credit Agricole and Richard Virenque, the 34-ayear-old Quick Step rider who is currently wearing the polka dot jersey having already won it six times.  

Simeoni was given just enough leeway to gain a small advantage however he was soon dragged back.  

Moments later Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen attacked, the Dane going over the summit of the first climb seconds ahead of Moreau, who showed his ambition to win the polka dot jersey by racing ahead of Virenque to claim as many points as possible.  

After the descent of the first Col Rasmussen was still in front however the Dane was going to find it tough on the more daunting climb to the first summit finish of the race at La Mongie.  

As expected, Rasmussen was soon caught and soon after an attack by CSC rider Carlos Sastre of Spain was also reeled in.  

Moments later Armstrong's team turned up the power at the front, leaving Ullrich and fellow race contender Tyler Hamilton in their wake among a group of 38 riders which soon had nearly a 40sec deficit.  

Armstrong, his Portuguese teammate Jose Azevedo, and Italian Ivan Basso led at the front before being joined by a handful of others.  

However, with less than four kilometres to go, Sastre attacked again, the Spaniard gaining 100 metres on Armstrong's group before Basso attacked again in the company of Francsico Mancebo and T-Mobile's Andreas Kloden.  

Armstrong gave them only seconds before reacting, the American soon dancing on the pedals to surge ahead with only Basso able to follow in the pursuit of Sastre, his teammate at CSC.  

Only Armstrong and Basso were able to surge ahead in the final kilometre, and it was Basso, who won the race's white jersey for the best placed rider under 25 years old in 2002, who pulled ahead of the American in the final metres.

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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