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July 6/02 8:15 am - Tour de France Prologue: Photos & Story


Posted by Editoress on 07/6/02
 

Tour de France Prologue

Lance Armstrong on his way to his first yellow jersey of 2002

David Millar on his way to the white jersey

Floyd Landis US Postal


Story source James Raia, www.byjamesraia.com

What ever color his cape, Lance Armstrong knows how to it use it appropriately.

The final rider to start (the custom bestowed to the defending race titlist), Armstrong claimed the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) prologue on the overcast Saturday night unveiling of the 89th Tour de France.

Pedaling with his trademark high-cadence, smaller-gear style, the leader of the U.S. Postal Service team captured the 12th Tour de France stage win of his career with a two-second margin over Laurent Jalabert (TSC-Tiscali) of France, the world's former top-ranked cyclist.

Raimondas Rumsas (Lampre) of Lithuania was third, another second behind.

As the reigning titlist, Armstrong had the option to wear the yellow jersey, a tradition most race winners follow.

Instead, Armstrong wore his U.S. Postal Service team colors.

"It may sound strange, but I prefer a team jersey, one that's worn in, with long sleeves and hands. It's the one I wore in Dauphine Libere (a race he won last month) and I feel comfortable in it. If I look at the down at the yellow jersey, I see something you have to earn. The yellow jersey is something that's out there. Last year's is last year's."

Although rain had soaked the area for several days, the prologue began under only a slight sprinkle. Much of the field, which began individually with one-minute intervals, rode only on slick roads, but with no rain.

Armstrong's average speed was 28.5 mph, not exceedingly fast.

"We talked about whether we should go for the (yellow) jersey or not," said a relaxed Armstrong, who joked at length with the finish-line announcer. "It was a beautiful course and the win was satisfying. I was a little concerned about the rain, but it was no trouble."

"When I saw (Santiago) Botero's time, I said, "Oh, no. I can't do that; I don't want to take greatrisks," he continued "But I felt surprisingly strong, plus my family was here. It's getting harder and harder to leave them (his wife and three young children) and it's unusual for them to all be at a race. So, it was special. That's my motivation. To do my job and to do it for them."

While winning the prologue is not tantamount to an overall Tour de France victory, a top effort for Armstrong has prompted good things. He won the prologue in 1999, finished second in 2000 and was third last year en route to his third consecutive title.

Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali) of Marblehead, Mass., placed 16th as the next-highest U.S. finisher, 16 seconds behind the winner. Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) of Santa Rosa, Calif., was third among the nine U.S. riders in 18th place in the same time as Hamilton.

"I am at the same time satisfied and disappointed," said Jalabert, a two-time stage winner last year. "I am really close to the jersey, but I know it will be difficult to get it now. I knew I had very good sensation on the course when I saw it for the first time. Unfortunately, there was Mr. Armstrong. He was like a rocket."

Now Armstrong will wear this year's yellow jersey for Sunday's inaugural road stage.The field will remain in Luxembourg for a 192.5-kilometer trek that will begin and end at Place du Glacis. The next day, the three-week ordeal will progress for its one-day hiatus into Germany. The remaining stages will held in the race's namesake country until the July 28 finish in Paris.

Without injured German Jan Ullrich, the 1997 race winner and the runner-up the past two years, Armstrong prompted and often-repeated query.

Is Armstrong's fourth consecutive title simply a formality?

"Tour de bore?," Armstrong rhetorically said when asked if the rest to the field is riding for second place. "I get no confidence from that. If everyone says it's for second place, that makes me nervous and scares me. There are a lot of good riders and climbers in the race. If you think you're the favorite, that's when you lose big. I'd prefer to stay hungry. But there are mountains, hills and flat tires to worry about."

Several hours prior to the race, Ullrich held a press conference in Frankfurt prior to the prologue to explain his recent positive drug test.

Ullrich said he took two tablets given to him by an unknown person at a disco. The reigning Olympic road champion said he was depressed for not being able to compete in the race this year, and that the pills helped him with the depression.

The penalty from the incident will be at the discretion of a German Sports Association, not Ullrich's Team Telekom. Word spreading among the German media at the Tour is that Ullrich will be suspended for six months to a year for his self-described "stupidity."

For Armstrong, the U.S.P.S. contingent, the decision is now whether to attempt to maintain the jersey for three weeks.

"I have confidence in the team, but I don't know if any team can hold the jersey for three weeks," said Armstrong. "We'll have to determine our approach."




 


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