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Stage 4

Frankie's diary: Fast rides, a pig as a prize, and Lance’s cold turkey 

                   This report filed July 7, 1999

                   By Frankie Andreu
                   U.S. Postal Service rider

                   I know I'm a little late, but here is an inside tip for those of you who wager on the Tour or are involved in some type of fantasy Tour game. I can't predict if Cippo is going to finish the Tour this year but I do know that he is not expecting his second child until the end of Aug. The due date is not during the Tour as many people have noted. Cippo probably told everyone this so he can bail out of the Tour scot-free when he wants to. 

                   Cippo has now joined the ranks with the big guns by moving to Monaco. One difference is that he didn't solely move because of income tax avoidance. His move was based on his inability to train and function in Italy. His training and social life was continually being interrupted by "tifosi," the Italian fans. At every stop light cars would stop Cippo for an autograph or talk about his Giro wins. In the mountains cars would pull him off the road to congratulate him and talk. If you know Italians then you know how much they love to talk all day. I'm sure Cippo knew it was time to move when he started having more chamois time then riding time. 

                   Cippo also joined the ranks of big guns today by winning the fastest stage in Tour history. The final total was 195km done in 3 hours 50 minutes, an average of 50.34kph. We all had 51 on our Vetta computers, but either way the record still falls. From the gun guys were racing full out trying to get in a break. Riders shot out of the pack as fast as you would hear snap, crackle, and pop while eating a bowl of Rice Krispies. It was non-stop. 

                   The first hour we averaged 52 km/hr and it looked like no signs of slowing down when a 10-man break went up the road. The next hour we chased and finally through the feed zone we caught the break and cruised for a little. The final sprint was so fast that with one kilometer to go whichever wheel you were on, you stayed there. The top five places never passed anyone; they finished one behind the other. 

                   Maybe you’ll notice that some of the Spanish riders, mostly Banesto, had red bandannas on today. This is to celebrate the running of the bulls in Pamplona. The party starts today and tomorrow morning they let the bulls out into the city. 

                   I found out that yesterday’s stage winner Tom Steels also won a horse for his efforts. It comes from good bloodlines, too; its mother won over seven million French Francs. I also found out that Massimiliano Lelli (Cofidis) has won a horse before and Pantani has previously won two  horses. I also have seen a bull given as a prize in a race in Spain. In Tour of Poland I once won a pig. I know it's not much of a comparison but hey, they're all animals. 

                   Today we were joking about Tom's horse. We were saying that if it doesn't race well we could have Dr. Mabuse train it, Attorney Lavelot (the guy who represented all the French guys) be the horse's agent, and Dicky V. (Virenque) would be the jockey. The horse would have to win. 

                   A few days ago L'Equipe, France’s biggest sports paper, ran an article about how Lance demanded that the team have two camping cars at the Tour, and one cars was for Lance's own personal use. That story was complete bullshit, but now one of the camping cars is refereed to as "Lance's camper." The Rabobank bus driver read the article, cut it out, and gave it to Johan.  Rabobank has sponsorship committed for four more years, and the team is trying to sell its bus so they can buy a new one. They were teasing Johan about why we have two campers when we could have one big bus. Johan told them that the reason they are selling the bus is so that they can get two camping cars like us. 

                   Each guy has a different way to relax after the races after dinner. I mean we only have six French channels on TV. We could sit around and just stare at the ceiling, but I think we would really go crazy. For starters, all of us have our computers. Normally, Lance is the biggest abuser of on-line time, but Johan banned him from bringing his computer to the Tour. He and Kevin are without computers and online capabilities. Lance must be going through some severe withdrawal symptoms — cold turkey with no computer. 

                   George has the set up for relaxing on the road.  He has his computer and he has some killer portable speakers. He also has a portable CD player with an amplifier that takes eight-D size batteries. I think they are D, whatever the big batteries are called. We turn on this system and the whole hotel can hear it. It's great. 

                   George and I usually get online one time at night. Christian is also doing an article every day for the Chicago Tribune. He has one problem — he can't get online when in France. That’s a major problem while doing the Tour. The reporter calls him each day and they talk out the article. 

                   Jonathan had a bunch of writings lined up for the Tour; I actually didn't see how he was going to do it. He had at least four or five different sites he was going to give reports to. 

                   The computers may entertain us now, but when I rode for Motorola it was baseball. The team had gloves and balls in the mechanics truck that the soigneur would bust out almost every night after dinner. Jim Ochowicz, our director on  Motorola, had a wicked fast ball. I would get scared trying to catch his heat. One day during the Tour, in the back of a hotel Ibis, John Hendershot set up batting practice. He would hit fly balls to all our soigneur running around in the outfield. It's always fun to watch the Euro guys try to catch and throw. It's a very unnatural act for them. 

                   Our team is sponsored by Yahoo! and if you go to Yahoo! sports you will find Tour information at the top of the page. It's a big difference compared to other sites where I always have to scroll down to find cycling or click on "other sports" to get cycling news. It's nice having the Tour front and center the way it should be. Maybe some other sites will take notice. 



Cipo’ takes his first; Kirsipuu holds onto lead 

                    This report filed July 7, 1999

                   By Charles Pelkey
                   VeloNews technical editor

                   Cool conditions, a steady tailwind and a motivated pair of breakaway riders to chase all contributed to a record-breaking stage at the Tour de France today. And who better to take the fastest road stage in Tour history than the man who claims to be the fastest in the sport?  Mario Cipollini, who recently learned that the future of his Saeco-Cannondale squad is in doubt for next season, took full advantage of the day and a beautiful leadout from his teammates to earn a much-needed victory. And finishing the day in fifth place, Jaan Kirsipuu continued to hold onto the Tour’s overall lead and the yellow jersey. 

                   As teams assembled in the center of the historic city of Laval this morning, weather seemed almost perfect for a bicycle race: temperatures hovering in the mid-60s and a cool breeze from the northwest. With a nearly straight shot to the city of Blois, today’s 194.5-kilometer course benefited from that wind for almost its entire length. To underscore that fact, the peloton set an impressive pace of 52.1 kph over an attack-peppered first hour. 

                   But it wasn’t until the peloton neared the day’s first intermediate sprint at 60 kilometers that one of those many accelerations stuck. A 10-rider break that, for the next 30 kilometers, hovered in front of the field, never building up lead of more than 25 seconds. As eight of that lead group filtered back to the pack, two of them – Anthony Morin of Les Française des Jeux and Cantina Tollo’s Gianpaolo Mondini – continued ahead, building a strong lead that reached more than six-and-a-half minutes at its peak. 

                   While neither man posed any threat on General Classification, they did appear ready to deny the Tour’s heavy sprinters a stage win. Soon the teams that stake many of their Tour plans on hopes of snagging individual stage wins, moved to the front, maintaining the day’s fast pace. 

                   Nearing Blois, the powerhouse teams began to jockey for position as the pair came into sight.  Just six kilometers from the finish, Mondini and Morin, looking over their shoulders and knowing the inevitable was about to happen, stopped pedaling and were swamped by the Telekom-led pack of 172. 

                   Soon after, the front of the field seemed a mass of Saeco red as Cipollini’s workers began the task of setting up their sprint specialist for a stage win. It was nearly all Saeco – with an occasional effort from Telekom and Lampre-Daikin’s Mariano Piccoli, currently the Tour’s mountain points leader. 

                   After crossing the bridge over the River Loire, the peloton had clear, wide, kilometer-long stretch of road to the finish. Gone this year, are the narrow, twisting finishing stretches that marked a crash-filled opening week of the Tour two years ago. And the road today seemed to favor Saeco. Like clockwork, the members of the Italian squad made their pulls and peeled-off, leaving the penultimate effort to Gian Matteo Fagnini, essentially distilling the day’s race down to a 100-meter battle between Cipollini and Germany’s Erik Zabel. With a final kick, the Italian crossed the line about half a wheel ahead of the Telekom team leader. 

                   Cipollini’s winning speed of 50.355 kph broke the existing Tour road stage record of 49.417, set in 1993 by Johan Bruyneel on the 158-kilometer stage from Evreux to Amiens. The loss of his record did not seem to bother the Belgian who is now directeur sportif of the U.S. Postal Service team. 

                   "Oh, I knew it had to happen," Bruyneel shrugged. "Today was perfect for that – the tailwind and all. After all, records are made to broken." 

                   Cipollini found his ninth individual Tour de France win especially satisfying after having only recently learned from his team that the pull-out of the squad’s biggest sponsor, the Italian coffee machine maker Saeco, is almost inevitable. Resulting budget cuts have put his continued presence on the team in doubt for 2000. 

                   "I am very happy," Cipollini said, "because this will give ideas to other sponsors. Just one day before the Tour de France, they old me that the budget will be cut and that they don’t want me for next year." 

                   "I guess I am like an old car that consumes too much and gets put in the garage," the 32-year-old Cipollini went on to say. 

                   Ever the astute businessman, Cipo’ had already calculated the value of this particular victory. "I need a new sponsor. Winning the Tour’s fastest-ever stage may give a DHL or a UPS ideas." 

                   As for the Americans today, little has changed.  The U.S. Postal Service’s Lance Armstrong continues to hold on to fourth place in the overall standings, 24 seconds behind Kisipuu.  Armstrong’s teammate, George Hincapie finished in ninth place – his fourth successive top-10 finish – and is in seventh place in the overall standings, another 14 seconds back.  Cofidis leader, Bobby Julich, remains in 18th spot, at 52 seconds. 


Cipollini Now Officially The 'Fastest Man In The Tour'

Mario Cipollini now has the right to call himself the fastest man in
the history of the Tour de France thanks to a new record average
speed being set during today's 194.5km stage from Laval to Blois.
With ideal riding conditions, the 'Lion King' crossed the line after a
typically frantic lead-up to today's bunch finish with an average
speed of 50.355kph!

The Saeco rider, who had already been known to tout himself as
the fastest man in the world, rode a perfect sprint to just oust
today's birthday-boy, Erik Zabel, by about half a wheel. A strong
lead-out by the Saeco team finally gave way about 60 meters from
the line; and today, Super-Mario didn't let his team down. By doing
what he does best - finish off the handy work of his team-mates,
and cross the line in first place to nab the glory - Cipollini now has
a total of eight Tour de France stage wins to his credit. His tally is
now the most of any rider in this year's race - one ahead of Zabel
and two clear of Tom Steels, the winner of the two previous
stages.The finishing stretch was perfectly suited for a big bunch
kick today - a slight tailwind, flat and straight as an arrow for 1,250
meters. Adding sensation to Cipollini's quest for the win, was the
presence of all his sprint-rivals and the extremely high pace
throughout the day.

The 50.355kph average surpasses the previous record of
49.417kph, set by Johan Bruyneel back in 1993 on the 158km
stage from Evreux to Amien. And while tomorrow's 5th stage takes
the Tour to Amien, the circumstances behind the high pace today
stand in stark contrast to Bruyneel's previous best.In 1993
Bruyneel had the assitance of a strong tailwind and finished the
stage on his own after an extremely rapid conclusion to the stage.
Today, however, the day started extremely fast and the pace never
relaxed. The first hour of racing today covered 52.1km; the second
52.4km... Sure, the conditions were good, but a mild tailwind of
only 10kph only assisted the pace of a race which seemed intent
of arriving in Blois well ahead of schedule. In the end, the fourth
stage concluded 20 minutes ahead of the fastest anticipated arrival
time.

At the start of the day, there was plenty of big talking being done
by the winner of stages two and three, Tom Steels. The Belgian
expressed a strong interest in claiming the time bonuses on offer
en-route to Blois in an attempt to claim the leader's jersey before
the Tour heads north toward his native Belgium, but the Mapei
rider's wishes never amounted to much at all. Instead defensive
riding by the Casino team of the reigning yellow jersey, Jan
Kirsipuu, maintained a tempo and only allowed riders with not
threat to the overall title to escape their rock-solid grip. Despite a
plethora of attacks early, the first to succeed came just prior to the
first time bonus sprint of the day. Ten riders broke free at the 59th
kilometer mark. Of the 10, Alvaro Gonzalez of the Vitalicio team
was the biggest threat - starting the day in 18th place (49" off the
lead). His presence alone was enough to warrant a maintanance
tempo by the Casino team at the head of the peloton which never
allowed the early escapees to gain more than 24 seconds despite
their efforts lasting for over 30km.

The fruitless nature of the break resulted in eight of the 10 -
including Gonzalez; 1998 stage winner, Leon van Bon; Belgian
champion, Ludo Dierckxsen and Mapei's tag-along, Daniele
Nardello - succumbing to the Casino team's wishes and returning
to the bunch.La Francaise des Jeux and Cantina Tollo, however,
seemed intent on setting the aggressive, attacking standard again
today and two of their riders, Gianpaolo Mondini and Anthony Morin
continued their efforts at the front.

Together the two, who posed no threat to Kirsipuu's lead, rode
ahead of the field for 99km from the 91km mark.Their efforts up
front were helped by the false pace setting of the Casino team at
the head of the peloton. The escapees were allowed a long leash -
gaining a maximum of 6'20". But the birthday wishes of the
win-less Erik Zabel (already with 2nd, 3rd and 4th place stage
finishes this year) appeared to send the Telekoms into overdrive in
their pursuit of the leaders.

The Telekoms were later joined by Cipollini's Saeco squad and
Stuart O'Grady's Credit Agricole boys. Together the three teams
mounted a concerted effort to pull back the leading duo. And they
only just succeeded; catching the Morin/Mondini escape on the
outskirts of Blois.From there it was all positioning for the sprinters.
The rest, as we can now say, is history. Kirsipuu will start stage
five in the yellow jersey; O'Grady's second consecutive third place
moves him into second overall; and the Tour's total average sits on
a surprising high of 45.396 after 779.8km of racing.
 


Thursday 8 July 1999

Tour de France: Record win is just the job for 'unemployed' Cipollini 
By Phil Liggett

                         MARIO CIPOLLINI, who has given the impression all week that his best sprinting days are behind him, bounced back to win the fourth stage of the Tour de France in record time in Blois yesterday.

                         The colourful Italian, who has won 29 stages of the Tour of Italy, brought his French Tour tally to nine when he edged out German Erik Zabel and Australia's Stuart O'Grady in a desperate finish along the Avenue du President Wilson.

                         Whoever won the day was certain to enter the record books as winner of the fastest Tour stage yet after the field averaged 50.355kph (31.25mph) to beat the previous best, set by Belgium's Johan Bruyneel in 1993.

                         Cipollini, 32, who has a picture of actress Pamela Anderson on his handlebars for motivation, will part with Saeco at the end of the season after five years with the coffee machine-makers.

                         "I learned just before the Tour that Cipollini was not interesting for Saeco any more," he said after his 142nd career win. "I felt like an old car that consumes too much petrol and which you leave in the garage. I have no sponsor, I'm unemployed."

                         Thoughts that the stricter controls on illegal substances might cause slower times have been dispelled, and so far all medical tests are coming up negative.

                         However, the race appears to have taken on an unfamiliar pattern which could be attributed to the lack of drugs use. No team seem able to control the event, as in the past, and the result has been a more open contest.

                         The random blood tests will continue until the finish in Paris and the race continues to try hard to wipe away the bad memories of the scandals of last year.

                         Yesterday, the sprinters chased their own records as Tom Steels, the winner of the previous two stages, hoped to make it three to equal the 51-year-old mark of legendary Italian Gino Bartoli. The pressure proved too much and he finished fourth.

                         The sprinters have been providing the entertainment for three days and on today's second-longest stage of 147 miles from Bonneval to Amiens they should control the action again.

                         The real contenders for final victory have not shown themselves since the Prologue time trial last Saturday at Le Puy du Fou. Apart from Alex Zülle, Ivan Gotti and Michael Boogerd, who all lost time after the crash on the Passage du Gois, the rest of the fancied names are waiting until the first long time trial at Metz on Sunday.

                         Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu continues to capture the yellow jerseys as race leader, yesterday collecting his third in his best Tour since he first rode in 1993. "It is the greatest moment in my life and to lead the Tour is everything," he said.

                         He cannot win the race because of his inability to climb the high mountains, but he intends to stay in front at least until the weekend. Yesterday his French Casino team worked hard to protect him, moving over only when the time came for him to sprint for the small time bonuses along the way. He won four seconds and consolidated his lead, while O'Grady moved up to second when he won a four-second bonus for his third place.

                         The 121 miles from Laval to Blois were covered in an incredible 3hr 51min.  The reason was a strong south-westerly that pushed the riders towards the Loire city.

                         The attacks started immediately the race began and when 10 riders went ahead the field reacted, bringing eight of them to heel. The other two, Frenchman Anthony Morin (La Francaise des Jeux) and Italian Gianpaolo Mondini (Cantina Tollo), decided to keep going and they built a lead of more than six minutes.

                         For two hours the duo maintained a record speed of more than 32mph, but after the small climb of the Cote de Beaumont-la-Ronce with 40 miles to go, the field chased them down.

                         They were caught with three miles to go, as the race sped along the banks of the Loire river at nearly 40mph. The teams were sharing the pace, as each felt they could provide the winner in a sprint finish.

                         The race has now covered 450 miles and a minute blankets the top 30 riders. With 38 seconds available each day in time bonuses, Kirsipuu knows his hold on the maillot jaune is tenuous.

                         Riders such as Lance Armstrong, the early leader, and Abraham Olano, the Spaniard who lies sixth, try each day not to take over the mantle. They know that if they do, their teams will have to work harder, using energy they will need when the Alps stages start early next week.

                         The race remains open for a surprise winner although Olano is best placed to be the next leader after the Metz time trial.

                         Details

                         Fourth stage (121.5 miles, Laval-Blois): 1, M Cipollini (Italy, Saeco) 3h 51m 45s; 2, E Zabel (Germany, Telekom); 3, S O'Grady (Australia, Credit Agricole); 4, T Steels (Belgium, Mapei); 5, J Kirsipuu (Estonia, Casino); 6, N Minali (Italy, Cantina Tollo); 7, C Capelle (France, Big Mat); 8, D Nazon (France, La Francaise de Jeux); 9, G Hincapie (US, US Postal); 10, J Sweet (Australia, Big Mat).

                         11, R McEwen (Australia, Rabobank); 12, J Casper (France, La Francaise de Jeux); 13, F Simon (France, Credit Agricole); 14, J Svorada (Slovakia, Lampre); 15, S Hinault (France, Credit Agricole); 16, C da Cruz (France, Big Mat); 17, C Moreau (France, Festina); 18, S Martinello (Italy, Polti); 19, L Michaelsen (Denmark, La Francaise de Jeux); 20, E Aggiano (Italy, Vitalicio Seguros); all same time. GB: 105, C Boardman (GB, Credit Agricole) st.

                         Team: 1, Credit Agricole 11h 35m 15s; 2, Big Mat Auber ; 3, La Francaise des Jeux ; 4, Saeco ; 5, Casino.

                         Overall: 1, Kirsipuu 17h 10m 40s; 2, O'Grady at 16s 3, Steels 21; 4, L Armstrong (US, US Postal) 24; 5, Zabel 32; 6, A Olano (Spain, ONCE) 35; 7, Hincapie 38; 8, Moreau 39; 9, Cipollini 44; 10, A Vinokourov (Kazakhstan, Casino) 45; 11, S Gonzalez (Spain, ONCE) st; 12, A Peron (Italy, ONCE 47; 13, C Vandevelde (US, US Postal; 14, L Dufaux (Switzerland, Saeco) both st; 15, Angel Casero (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) 50; 16, Pavel Tonkov (Russia, Mapei) 52; 17, Simon; 18, B Julich (US, Cofidis) both st; 19, A Gonzalez (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) 53; 20, E Dekker (Holland Rabobank) st. GB: 126, Boardman 15-52.

                         Team: 1, US Postal 51h 34m 03s; 2, ONCE at 4sec; 3, Credit Agricole 19; 4, Festina 20; 5, Casino 25; 6, Vitalicio Seguros 37; 7, Saeco 44; 8, Rabobank 45; 9, Telekom 55; 10, Mapei 56.

                         Points: 1, Kirsipuu 131pts; 2, Steels 124; 3, Zabel 114; 4, O'Grady 111; 5, Hincapie 89; 6, Cipollini 77; 7, Casper 76; 8, Martinello 66; 9, Minali 63; 10, Capelle 62.

                         King of Mountains: 1, M Piccoli (Italy, Lampre-Daikin) 9 pts; 2, A Morin (France, La Francaise des Jeux) 5; 3, M Giunti (Italy, Cantina Tollo) 5; 4, F Cerezo (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) 5; 5, L Brochard (France, Festina) 5; 6, D Konyshev (Russia, Mercatone Uno) 5; 7, G Mondini (Italy, Cantina Tollo) 3; 8, F Guesdon (France, La Francaise des Jeux) 3; 9, F Simon (France Credit Agricole) 3.