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Stage 14

Taking the heat, sweet treats, and Happy Birthday to George’s Mom 

                   July 18

                   Already this morning I woke up sweating and knew we would have another hot day like yesterday. I wasn't even out of my hotel room and I think I had already lost a liter of water. At the start the temperature was already 35C and the road temp was 45C. It was hot! 

                   As for the race, it was the same 'ol stuff. It must be God awful boring to watch on the television.  Guys attack at the start, we chase them down, more guys' attack and finally a break goes away.  We rode tempo all day between Christian, George and I. I gave Pascal the day off, he was completely wasted. He has not had a day off since day one. Today on the first climbs he was going backward and then he got ridden off of some wheels from guys in the break. It was bad. I had to tell him three times to stay off the front and sit in. He is very dense.

                   Kelme and Banesto took over the chase with thirty kilometers to go. They have to protect their second and third and fourth positions. The lead rider in the break was Belli at twenty-six minutes. I think Koneshev (Mercatone Uno) won and we came in fifteen minutes down. The coolest thing about today's stage was that we rode through this tunnel that was like a cave. It was like riding the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney Land. The lights and all the open space made it seem like the amusement ride. I've never seen anything like it, very neat. Near the end of the race a ten-minute torrential downpour interrupted the hot weather. We had lightning, thunder and lots of rain start very quickly and stop very quickly. I got my Carnac's clean without even having to wash them after the race. 

                   There is one other thing that is pretty incredible to watch. The camera guys on the motorbikes trying to turn around and film while riding the bike backwards. The most incredible team is the ESPN guys. The camera guy literally stands up with one foot on the pegs and the other on the back of the bike while looking through a camera lens. It looks like he is going to fall off all the time. One thing that I did notice is that I think they have signals to let each other know what is happening. If the camera guys pulls on the driver's shoulder that is for him to slow down. If he pull right or left then that is for the driver to move right or left. If there is a corner coming up, remember we are going usually fifty km/hr, the driver taps the camera guy's leg to tell signal him he has to stop filming and turn around and sit down. They probably have a bunch more signals but this is only what I noticed while riding on the front. For all I know I might even be wrong, I should ask them the next time I see the ESPN guys.

                   Today the team received lots of gifts. I don't know why today but we sure will use everything we got. We now have Peets coffee for tomorrow's breakfast, Chocolate Mary dropped off some of her famous chocolate turtles, the souigneers got us peanut butter and I even got a new outfit for my baby boy. All in all it was a great day. At the finish a fan gave George a Postal jersey and a mountains jersey to sign. We passed them around and Christian was like, "heck I need a jersey, I'm just gonna put this in my bag." It was funny; maybe you had to be there. 

                   Tomorrow is our rest day, yeah! We will probably ride two to three hours on some climbs.  Tomorrow is a memorial remembering Fabio Casartelli on the climb where he passed away.   Lance will be going by Helicopter with Jean Marie Leblanc. Today is the date that Fabio died. After Lance goes to the memorial we will go training. In the afternoon Lance has another press conference. I guess he is kind of busy on his rest day. Also, today Peter went home. He flew out of Toulouse and then back Denmark. I believe he will return for the last day in Paris. After all he did most of the work in the first weeks when Lance opened up a big enough gap to hold on to the Yellow rather comfortably.  Plans are already being made for Paris. We all feel the same way, it's to early and still long enough away the making plans might be jumping the gun. It's like being in a bike race and saying how you never puncture in races, then bam you puncture. 

                   George sends a Happy Birthday to his mom. I also send a Happy Birthday to Mrs. Hincapie. 

Konyshev tries, tries, tries and wins; Armstrong still has yellow

                   This report filed July 18, 1999

                   By Charles Pelkey
                   VeloNews technical editor

                   If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again….   That is precisely what Mercatone Uno-Bianchi’s Dmitri Konyshev has been doing this week, and today, it paid off. Konyshev, who has been riding aggressively for most of the Tour, finally found himself in the right spot at the right time, speeding toward the finish with Gianni Faresin (Mapei-Quick Step), pursued by the remnants of a six-man break that again started early in this, the 14th stage of the 1999 Tour de France.  Konyshev sprinted past Faresin, finishing ahead of the main field by about 13-and-a-half minutes.  Overall race leader Lance Armstrong continues his hold on the yellow jersey, maintaining a more than seven-minute advantage over second-placed Abraham Olano (ONCE) and Banesto’s Alex Zulle in third. 

                   This was not a day to relax. The pace on this rolling stage started high and stayed that way throughout the 199-kilometer route from Castres to St. Gaudens. And following a pattern he set in recent days, Konyshev joined Lotto-Mobistar’s Jacky Durand in an early attack, this one just seven kilometers into the stage. Konyshev was one of seven riders that made the winning break on stage 11 to St. Etienne, and he was in another early move during yesterday’s stage to Albi – before being dropped on the day’s steepest climb. But today, it all worked for the 33-year-old Russian, who earned his fourth stage win at the Tour, his first since 1991. 

                   While the pattern of this Tour’s first week saw several similar breaks swallowed up by stage-win-hungry squads like Saeco-Cannondale and Telekom, the second week – with leaders’ minds occupied by the upcoming Pyrenees – has given almost daily opportunities to those hoping that an early effort would turn into a win. The Durand-Konyshev duo today proved an attractive combination, as neither posed a threat on overall standings. But over the ensuing 30 kilometers a valiant effort by six riders to join the pair failed and the pursuers drifted back to the pack. Durand and Konyshev continued ahead, maintaining about a one-minute advantage on the field. 

                   The first hour’s pace – more than 46 kph – was beginning to take its toll. Within 10 kilometers, on the early slopes of the Cote de Fendeille – the first of two Cat. 4 climbs -- the pair was beginning to lose its lead and Konyshev seemed destined to miss out on another stage win. But as the lead dwindled, so shrunk the effort needed to join the two leaders. Four riders -- Faresin, Telekom’s Steffan Wesemann, Cofidis’s Massimilliano Lelli and Festina’s Vladimir Belli -- began a chase that finally succeeded at the 62-kilometer mark. Durand and Konyshev needed additional horsepower to bring them into St. Gaudens and now they had it. 

                   The formula worked. Over the next 100 kilometers, the six rode as a team, building their lead to more than 14 minutes … the signal it seems for the Postal Service – and teams concerned about threats to their overall team classifications -- to begin their serious efforts at the front. The U.S. Postal Service’s Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie and Frankie Andreu took their positions up front. They were soon joined by the Banesto and Kelme squads – second and third respectively on team rankings.  Indeed, the Kelmes -- with a narrow seven-second lead over Festina -- had reason to worry about the presence of Belli in the lead group. 

                   Ahead, the leaders continued their cooperative efforts, only beginning to show concern about each other as they approached St. Gaudens.  With 15 kilometers remaining, Faresin and Belli began taking shorter pulls. The Mapei rider drifted back to his team car for instructions and seemed very conscious of his position as the six neared the five-kilometer mark. 

                   But it was Festina’s Belli who made the first move. Faresin and Konyshev quickly caught him and immediately counterattacked. Belli faded back and Konyshev – out front now for more than 175 kilometers – and Faresin sped over the final three kilometers, each wary of – but still dependant on – the other. 

                   Faresin, perhaps confident of his strength and underestimating that of the Russian rider, charged. Leading out the sprint with 200 meters to go, the Italian gave Konyshev an ideal opportunity and he seized it. Passing a tiring Faresin, Konyshev looked over his shoulder, saw his gap, adjusted his jersey and raised his arms in victory. 

                   It was a win the man from Gorki dedicated to his Italian-born son, whose first birthday will be celebrated the day this Tour ends in Paris.  Konyshev, trained under the Soviet sports program, took the opportunity to reflect on his career. 

                   "Ten years ago when we came to the West," he recalled, "we had talent, but not many of us had the discipline to be professionals. I think everyone knows what I was like – I would stay out late, I would go to parties. But I have lived a very quiet life with my wife and now my son." 

                   Despite noting that his win is also a win for Russian fans, Konyshev said he doubts he will ever return to his native country. "My wife and my son are Italian," he said. "and, I enjoy my life there very much." 

                   Konyshev said his next major goal is this October’s world championship in Verona – where he is expected to ride for Russia. "I want to do well there," he smiled, "it is just 15 kilometers from our home." 

                   Meanwhile, the Telekom squad again delivered their leader, Erik Zabel, to the line, just inches ahead of Australian Stuart O’Grady (Credit Agricole) in their tight battle for the green points jersey. The young Aussie now trails the three-time green jersey winner by eight points. Polti’s Richard Virenque maintains his hold on the polka-dot mountain jersey, leading Lampre’s Mariano Piccoli by 32 points. 

                   Armstrong, meanwhile, appears relaxed heading into the second of this Tour’s two rest days. The Tour’s yellow jersey has scheduled a news conference at 5 p.m. Racing will resume on Tuesday with a 173-kilometer mountain stage from here to Piau-Engaly. On Wednesday – one week after the Tour’s visit to L’Alpe d’Huez – comes the Tour’s final stage in the mountains: a 192-kilometer ride from Lannemezan to Pau, via four major climbs, including the hors-categorie Col du Tourmalet. 

Konyshev Takes His Tour Stage Tally To 4... 8 Years On

Dmitri Konyshev today claimed another Tour de France stage win; but the Russian rider's victory came eight years after his last moment of Tour stage-winning glory.  He last won a stage, on the Champs Elysees, in the final stage of the 1991 Tour. The 33-year-old was a member of Marco Pantani's Mercatone Uno team in last year's Tour, but with Pantani's abscence this year the focus of the team is now clearly to seize opportunities when they arrive. And today, Konyshev's consistent efforts throughout this second week of racing paid off perfectly.

 Konyshev has tried his luck on the three consecutive days - as the Tour moved from the Alpes to the Pyrenees (which make their debut in two days' time, after tomorrow's rest-day). He claimed second behind Ludo Dierckxsen's solo win on the day to Saint-Etienne (in stage 11). Yesterday he faltered quickly after being a part of the early break. Today, however, the Russian showed the experience of his 10 years as a professional - calculating his final surge to pass the instigator of the final attack, Gianni Faresin, perfectly. The two scampered away from their four day-long escape companions four kilometers from the finish in Saint-Gaudens and, after some cat-and-mouse sprint tactics in the final kilometer, Konyshev waited patiently for Faresin to lead out the sprint. He passed the Mapei rider in the final 150 meters and won with enough time to lift his arms in a victory salute as he crossed the line.

 The result-card tells the rest of the tale of today... Six men who were no threat to the overall lead of Armstrong spent the day working up a lead which reached its peak of over 15 minutes with 25km left to race. Konyshev, along with three Italians, one German and one Frenchman were left to consider the stage win. Of the six, only Konyshev and Jacky Durand had won stages of the Tour before.  "I'm not much good in the mountains," said the sole Frenchman, Durand. "So I take my chances when I can... But it's been a hard Tour for me and France will have to wait for another day before it can try to claim their first stage of this year's race."

 The glory of the stage win absorbed, however, the sprint for seventh was reminiscent of the first week of the Tour. A wild sprint to contest the green jersey points still on offer gave Erik Zabel (Telekom) his third successive chance to lead the peloton across the line - taking seventh ahead of Stuart O'Grady (C.A) and his Australian compatriot Robbie McEwen (Rabobank). McEwen's erratic run to the line in the final dash, however, saw him moved from 9th to the back of the bunch after the jury consulted the video of the sprint.

 Zabel's sprint success came over 13 minutes after Konyshev's winning moment and he now leads the green jersey competition by 8 points from O'Grady. Lance Armstrong took 60th in the final dash and will defend his overall lead in two days' time in the first of the Pyrenean mountain stages.


Monday 19 July 1999

Tour de France: Armstrong hits back at claims 
                        By Phil Liggett in St Gaudens 

                        LANCE ARMSTRONG hit back at allegations that he has been using stimulants moments after reaching the second rest day in Saint-Gaudens at the foot of the Pyrenees with his week-long lead intact.

                        The American has a 7 min 44 sec advantage over his nearest challenger, Spain's Abraham Olano, but his priority yesterday was to answer suggestions instigated by French rider Christophe Basson.

                        Basson quit the race on Friday, voicing suspicions about Armstrong, who said: "What I have seen this week is a jealousy with many people. They seem to forget that before my illness [when he contracted testicular cancer] I was a world champion at 21 and that was when no one had heard of EPO.

                        "I am absolutely not a rider who uses drugs. I am a rider of class and I've proved that. There's no secrets here, it's the oldest secret in the book, it's hard work. I would have thought my results would have indicated that I'm not a new rider."

                        The American retained his race leader's yellow jersey on the 80th anniversary of the garment, first awarded on July 18, 1919, to Frenchman Eugene Christophe, but he believes historic achievement has been belittled by recent insinuations.

                        "You people [the media] have done your best all week to find dirt out about me and no one has found anything. It's a shame that the yellow jersey of the Tour de France always has to defend himself against drugs," he said.

                        The Texan, 27, has pedalled the 700 miles from the Alps to the Pyrenees without being placed in any difficulty and looks set for success in Paris next Sunday, particularly with his US Postal team determined to help their man home. 

                        Yesterday's last 'transfer' stage between the two mountain ranges again produced a small escape by riders in search of the day's stage win.  Armstrong, however, made sure his main rivals were far from his side.

                        The stage was won by Russian Dmitri Konyshev, his fourth win in the Tour but his first since 1991, after he beat Italian Gianni Faresin. The field trailed in over 13 minutes later with Armstrong finishing an unconcerned 60th, but in the same time as nearest rivals Olano and Alex Zulle.

                        Konyshev, who became the first Russian rider to win a Tour de France stage in Pau nine years ago, also won twice in 1991, in Aix-les-Bains and Paris. Since then only two Russians, Vyacheslav Ekimov and Yevgeny Berzin, have won Tour stages, in 1991 and 1996 respectively.

                        Konyshev said: "Since 1991, I've struggled with my form or I was in the wrong team. This year, my leader Marco Pantani is absent and I was able to seize my chance. With the mountains coming, this was my last chance to win a stage."

                        Britain's only representative, Chris Boardman, finished 104th yesterday but is on course to complete only his second Tour in six attempts. He said: "To be honest, I'm absolutely stuffed. These transition days have been so hard.  There has been nowhere to recover and on Saturday the temperature was over 40 degrees."

                        The race resumes tomorrow when the riders tackle the 15th stage, from Saint-Gaudens to Piau-Engaly, which includes five tough climbs.


                        14TH STAGE (Castres-St Gaudens, 124 miles).- 1, D Konyshev (Russia, Mercatone Uno) 4h 37m 59s; 2, G Faresin (Italy, Mapei) st; 3, M Lelli (Italy, Cofidis) at 4s; 4, S Wesemann (Germany, Telekom) 51; 5, J Durand (France, Lotto); 6, W Belli (Italy, Festina) all same; 7, E Zabel (Germany, Telekom) 13-27; 8, S O'Grady (Australia, Credit Agricole); 9, R McEwen (Australia, Rabobank); 10, C Capelle (France, Big Mat); 11, G Mondini (Italy, Cantina Tollo); 12, F Sacchi (Italy, Polti); 13, L Michaelsen (Denmark, La Francaise de Jeux); 14, L Auger (France, Big Mat); 15, P Wuyts (Belgium, Lotto); 16, C Mengin (France, La Francaise de Jeux); 17, C Moreau (France, Festina); 18, C Lamour (France, Cofidis); 19, A Sivakov (Russia, Big Mat); 20, F de Waele (Belgium, Lotto) all same. GB: 104, C Boardman (Credit Agricole) at 13-27.

                        Overall: 1, L Armstrong (US, US Postal) 67h 23m 28s; 2, A Olano (Spain, ONCE) at 7-44m; 3, A Zulle (Switzerland, Banesto) 7-47; 4, L Dufaux (Switzerland, Saeco) 8-07; 5, F Escartin (Spain, Kelme) 8-53; 6, S Heulot (France, La Francaise de Jeux) 9-10; 7, R Virenque (France, Polti) 10-03; 8, P Tonkov (Russia, Mapei) 10-18; 9, D Nardello (Italy, Mapei) 10-58; 10, G Guerini (Italy, Telekom) 11-07; 11, A Casero (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) 11-13; 12, B Salmon (France, Casino) 12-32; 13, Moreau 12-53; 14, Belli 13-26; 15, A Peron (Italy, ONCE) 13-32; 16, P Lanfranchi (Italy, Mapei) 14-30; 17, D Etxebarria (Spain, ONCE) 15-19; 18, Faresin 15-45; 19, K van de Wouwer (Belgium, Lotto) 16-16; 20, R Meier (Switzerland, Cofidis) 17-27. GB: 134, Boardman at 1h 43-40.

                        Points: 1, Zabel 234 pts; 2, O'Grady 226; 3, Capelle 158; 4, F Simon (France, Credit Agricole) 140; 5, G Hincapie (US US Postal) 139; 6, T Steels (Belgium, Mapei) 135; 7, Moreau 111; 8, McEwen 89; 9, S Martinello (Italy, Team Polti) 82; 10, D Nazon (France, La Francaise de Jeux) 79.

                        King of Mountains: 1, Virenque 174 pts; 2, M Piccoli (Italy, Lampre-Daikin) 142; 3, Armstrong 131; 4, Konyshev 110; 5, J L Arrieta (Spain, Banesto) 96; 6, Mondini 91; 7, Zulle 87; 8, Dufaux 79; 9, Meier 76; 10, F Escartin (Spain, Kelme) 68.

                        Team: 1, Festina 202h 17m 45s; 2, ONCE at 05-19; 3, Mapei 05-23; 4 Banesto 06-11; 5, Kelme 11-44; 6, Telekom 13-00; 7, Lotto 23-09; 8, Cofidis 29-09; 9, Casino 42-46; 10, Vitalicio Seguros 44-33.