July 10/00 11:23 am - Armstrong Crushes Rivals
Posted by Editor on 07/10/00
Tour de France
Stage 10 - Dax to Lourdes Hautacam 205 km
Today the competition for the Yellow Jersey really started, on the first mountain stage. The riders were thrown in at the deep end: 5 majors climbs, including 2 Hors Categories (Beyond Category), of which one is the finishing climb. Appropriately, it was overcast and raining.
As might be expected, an early breakaway attempt was launched, with Jacky Durand (Lotto), Javier Otxoa (Kelme) and Nico Mattan (Cofidis) esablishing themselves clear by the 50 kilometre mark. The peloton was content to let them go, confident that they would reel them in on the climbs.
However, the breakaways, led primarily by Otxoa, was on fire, over 14 minutes ahead at the 90 kilometre mark (after the first climb), and a maximum of 17:30 just before the Cat. 1 Col de Marie Blanque ascent. U.S. Postal kept the tempo high on the climbs, weeding on the field. Among the first to go was the Yellow Jersey of Alberto Elli (Telekom). Jonathan Vaughters (Cofidis) crashed on the wet descent after Marie Blanque, and was taken to hospital by ambulance. Frank Vandenbroucke (Cofidis) abandoned after getting dropped on the next climb, the HC Col d'Aubisque.
At this point the chase group was pared down to the elite, including Lance Armstrong (US Postal), Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno), Jan Ullrich (Telekom), Alex Zulle (Banesto) and Bobby Julich (Credit Agricole), with Richard Virenque (Polti) and Fernando Escartin (Kelme) in front by a couple of minutes. Armstrong was on his own now, his lieutenants having dropped off after their efforts earlier in the stage. Up front, Otxoa was on his own, 4 minutes ahead of Mattan, and 11 ahead of the Armstrong group with 20 kilometres to go.
Oxtoa's incredible ride resulted in an impressive stage victory for the Spanish rider, however, the real battle was comencing behind. Pantani attacked Armstrong, and Armstrong responded, dropping the Italian and accelerating up the climb to Virenque. Ullrich could not respond to Armstrong's powerful effort and dropped back, behind Pantani. With 4 kilometres to go, Armstrong attacked again, dropping Virenque and Escartin, to move into second place on the stage, 4 minutes behind Otxoa. In less than 5 kilometres, Armstrong had made up 4 minutes and dropped all of his rivals. Could he catch Otxoa?
With 1 kilometre left, Otxoa was 2:15 clear of Armstrong, but struggling, while the defending Tour champion was demolishing his competition and closing in. In the end, Otxoa did manage to hold off Armstrong, by a slim 42 seconds, with JIMENEZ Jose Maria Jimenez (Banesto) third at 1:13 and Virenque 4th at 1:57. Ullrich finished 4 minutes back on the stage, and Pantani nearly 6. Armstrong has taken over the Yellow Jersey, with the closests of his rivals, Ullrich over 4 minutes back.
The second Tour de Lance has begun...