Wednesday Tour stage to put rivals to test

20th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

VILLARD DE LANS, France, July 20 (AFP) - Lance Armstrong may have distanced his main rival Jan Ullrich in the general classification of the Tour de France, but that will take nothing away from their impending duel on the 16th stage at the Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday.

VILLARD DE LANS, France, July 20 (AFP) - Lance Armstrong may have distanced his main rival Jan Ullrich in the general classification of the Tour de France, but that will take nothing away from their impending duel on the 16th stage at the Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday.  

This year the race organisers have raised the temperatures for race fans who usually line the 21 hairpin bends of the 15km climb, by turning the legendary mountain into a time trial.  

The Alpe has welcomed the Tour 23 times since the race's conception in 1903, and has been won by such cycling luminaries as Fausto Coppi, the Italian who came first in 1952 when it first featured amid a mood of scepticism, to US Postal's Armstrong, who won there in 2001.  

The last rider to claim honours on the Alpe was Spaniard Iban Mayo, of the Euskaltel team. Mayo, despite being a pre-race favourite for the stage, pulled out of the race on Tuesday, a victim of the Pyrenees.  

The second last time trial of the Tour is taking an innovative approach, and it is expected that the battle between Armstrong and Ullrich will be close.  

In any case, it could be one of the highlights of the Tour, which will finish in Paris next Sunday.  

Germany's 1997 winner Ullrich, who is in danger of finishing worse than second place for the first time ever on the race, has been disappointing so far on the Tour and sits nearly seven minutes behind Armstrong.  

After failing to bring home an ambitious attack on Tuesday's first of four days in the Alps, the 30-year-old T-Mobile rider will be hoping he can make a repeat of last year when he beat Armstrong in the race's second time trial at Cap Decouverte.  

Apart from Ullrich and Armstrong however a handful of other riders could realistically aim for the honours.  

Italian Ivan Basso is second at only 1:25 behind Armstrong and despite not being up to Armstrong's level, will be hoping to score an upset for his CSC team.  

Australia's Michael Rogers, who is more at home on the longer time trials over undulating terrain, also fancies his chances.  

"I'm really looking forward to it," Rogers said on Monday's rest day.  

Whoever fancies their chances, former pro Charly Mottet - who now designs the race route for the Dauphine Libere race in June - has affirmed it will need an extra special effort.  

"Riding an uphill time trial is nothing like riding up the Alpe d'Huez on a normal stage.   "This time, the riders will have to attack it straight off for around 30 minutes instead of approaching it after five or six hours in the saddle," said Mottet.  

"I don't expect to see big gaps. It should be tight, no more than a minute between Armstrong and Basso."  

The time trial begins in the town of Bourg d'Oisans and climbs at an average gradient of 7.9 percent. The second and third kilometres are the most difficult. The road becomes more forgiving in the remaining kilometres.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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