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Stage 8

Frankie’s Diary: Lance on the attack 

                   This report filed July 11, 1999

                   By Frankie Andreu
                   U.S. Postal service rider 

                   Lance is back in Yellow and he won it back confidently. Early this morning Lance went and took a preview of the course so he would know what to expect. Actually this was his second time seeing the course. This morning Pascal got the raw end of the deal for the T.T. His departure time was ten in the morning so he didn't get to sleep in. In Pascal's eyes he got the best part of the deal because he got to watch the Formula One race in Silverstone and Lance win another stage in the Tour. 

                   The 56km T.T. course contained two climbs, a cat 4 that was 1.5km long and a cat 3 that was four kilometers. The three riders with the go ahead to go for it in the T.T. were Tyler, Kevin and, of course, Lance. The rest of us are just supposed to try and take it easy without getting eliminated by the time cut. The course was very windy today. The first part was windy while the middle part had the hills and the last part, that was flat, ended in a strong head wind. It was a course for a strong, fit rider that could hammer the gear into the winds. 

                   Those of you who read coverage online during the T.T., George was caught by his chasers, which were Olano and Lance. After my time trial I went to the camper and George asked what time I did. I told him around one hour 16 minutes. He said OK, I'll set my watch for one hour 15. Sure enough George crossed the line at one hour 15. 

                   Lance started out fast and strong and had the fastest check points at the first two check points.  After the third check point he had a 1:40 lead over the current leader Zülle. He was killing everyone. Olano crashed in a small corner and lost maybe 30 seconds, but it ruined his rhythm.  Almost right away Lance was on top of Olano and leaving him behind. Crashing and being caught must have been a blow to Olano's motivation, and he ended up almost two minutes behind at the finish. 

                   Lance lost time in the final head wind stretch to Zülle, but still managed to beat him by a minute.  Our other hit man in the T.T. was Tyler who was second for the longest time behind Zülle. Tyler did a great ride ending up fifth in the stage. It's too bad he crashed on the causeway, otherwise he would be up there in the G.C. Then again the same could be said for Zülle. 

                   The biggest upset in the overall was the crash of Bobby Julich (Cofidis). On a sweeping down hill turn he lost control, or skidded out, and crashed badly. Nobody knows how he crashed except him because it wasn't caught on television. He had to lay there on the side of the road for what seemed an eternity while the organizers tried to get an ambulance out to him. I've heard conflicting stories from broken ribs, to broken elbow, to broken collarbone to nothing broken at all. I do know that his Tour is finished before it even got started for him. Tonight we get champagne, again! 

                   Tomorrow, on our rest day, we fly to the Alpes.  We have to leave early in the morning to take a bus to the airport. We then fly to, I think, Geneva and take a bus for an hour to the hotel.  Then we have to try and go ride in the mountains for at least three hours. It's a long stressful rest day. Why, three hours? The day after the rest day is a big mountain day and we have to make sure our bodies don't shut down from race mode. We probably will do a couple efforts to keep the legs awake and ready for what is waiting for us on the stage to Sestrieres.

                   This first week has seen some bad crashes, lots of close calls and some very nervous riders.  Everyone has the same orders from their directors to be represented in the break. This makes for a lot of fighting to get to the front and stay in the front. 

                   Because of this craziness almost everyone wears a helmet. Maybe one or two wear hair nets, like Lars Michaelson (Francaise des Jeux), but I'd say 99% wear hard shells. The most popular helmet out there is Giro. 

                   Some riders like O'Grady, Boardman, Vogels, Moncassin, Boogerd, and Lance have specially painted helmets. Lance's helmet, the same one he wore when he was in Yellow, has a painting of the outline of Texas with a lone star in the middle. It's much easier for us to spot him in the pack when he wears this helmet. Last year George had a Captain America helmet after he won in Philly. 

                   One helmet that is different from many of the rest are the Rudy Project helmets. They are the ones you see on TV that are pink and have a visor on the back. The visor is interchangeable from the front to the back. Miguel Indurain used a Rudy Project helmet that had an attachment that allowed it to hook to the handlebars. This was for when he was in the mountains he could take off his helmet and attach it the bars securely without worrying about it. 

                   Each day, in the back of the official results, are the penalties of the day. Every day the UCI makes money off someone, that's guaranteed.  Penalties are handed out to the riders and their teams for many different reasons. The most common reasons are for motorpacing, irregular feeding, disrespect to a commissare, pissing in front of people, and forgetting to sign in. These fines are usually about 50 Swiss Francs. 

                   Irregular feeding is giving food or clothing to a rider when the team car is not behind the commissare's car. In the back of the peloton there is a red Fiat that has one of the head commissares in it. This car is always supposed to be the first car behind the pack, if you pass it without permission you get a fine. 

                   The UCI also hands out fines to the publicity caravan, press cars, and press motorcycles. The main fines the press cars will get is if they didn't move their parked cars before the start.  Sometimes you will see certain press motorcycles kicked out of the Tour for one day or maybe two. This can happen for endangering a cyclist, excessive speeding, or not listening to the commissares. There are many times where a motorcycle will not get off the front of a break or a chasing peloton allowing motorpacing to take place. If this happens they are kicked out for a day. 

                   The time I remember when the UCI were really getting rich was when Cippo would always wear different team clothing. He would get hit for 200-500SF each time and the team would also get a 250SF fine. This is not a problem now because the rules have been changed and I'm sure the UCI is a little poorer because of it. 

Armstrong back to yellow; Julich out of the Tour 

                   This report filed July 11, 1999

                   By Charles Pelkey
                   VeloNews technical editor

                   The predictions were that today would re-shape the direction of the Tour de France… but by how much, few could have guessed. It’s early evening in Metz, France and Lance Armstrong has just finished an inspired time trial that has moved him back into the yellow jersey, more than two minutes ahead of Festina’s Christophe Moreau. But misfortune struck Bobby Julich – one of the favorites at the onset of this Tour.  About 32 kilometers into the 56.5-kilometer time trial, the 27-year-old Cofidis team leader crashed on a high-speed descent, suffering injuries – mainly a badly bruised left side and multiple cuts and bruises -- that forced him to abandon the Tour. 

                   As Armstrong donned the yellow jersey this afternoon, Julich – third in last year’s Tour, behind Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich -- was receiving treatment at a Metz hospital. The on-scene medical team reached Julich almost immediately and felt it necessary to request assistance. The accident eliminates yet another of the early favorites of this Tour. Until today, Julich was the only one of the 1998 Tour’s top riders to compete in this year’s event. Julich finished third in last year’s Tour, behind Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich. Ullrich is now recovering from a knee injury and Pantani opted out of the Tour earlier this year. 

                   The week leading up to this stage 8 time trial has been a warm-up for the rest of the Tour, a time for the sprinters. Mario Cipollini’s streak of four successive wins, Jaan Kirsipuu’s time in yellow… all of it would come to a close in Metz.  Armstrong, clearly the favorite after winning the July 3 prologue at Le Puy du Fou, had been targeting today’s stage as his first opportunity to resume a serious chase for the yellow jersey. 

                   In the months leading up to this year’s Tour, Armstrong has pre-ridden nearly all of its key stages, having taken his third ride on the loop around Metz just this morning. The course winds its way through the hills along the Moselle river valley, with enough inclines to test the mettle of the most serious climber, but demanding the speed and power of a strong time trialist. With a steady wind blowing from the north today, riders almost immediately found themselves riding into a headwind. But the course turned into the nearby woods, providing sufficient cover as riders negotiated the first of two rated climbs – the category 4 Cote de Lorry-les-Metz. 

                   By the time the course reached the Category 3 Cote de Gravelotte, the wind was coming nearly from the back. The U.S. Postal Service’s Peter Meinert-Nielsen – one of the early riders off today -- said that the wind was brisk enough to allow stronger riders to negotiate the slopes of the hill in their big rings. It was on the descent following the Gravelotte climb – after being only 14th at that point -- that Julich crashed. 

                   Being the 157th rider to start today, Julich had several top riders against whom he could gauge his progress. The day’s early standard of 1:12:08 – set by Britain’s Chris Boardman – stood for nearly two hours until it was topped by Banesto’s Alex Zulle’s 1:09:34. In the process of setting that mark, Zulle caught the U.S. Postal Service’s Tyler Hamilton for two minutes inside the final five kilometers. 

                   Hamilton, who had a stunning performance in the first major time trial at last year’s Tour de France, had intended to ride an easy race, recovering from injuries he sustained earlier in the week and preserving his strength for the approaching Alps. 

                   "But Johan (Bruyneel) and I talked about it before the start," Hamilton said. "He told me that if I feel okay to go for it and we can use each of my (one kilometer) time splits as a mark for Lance…" 

                   Apparently, he felt "okay" because Hamilton covered the first half of the course in impressive style, setting the best time at the 9.5km mark, then slipping behind Zulle’s time at the second time split at 26.5km. Easing back on the second half when the course turned its way back into a headwind where "small guys like me just can’t put out enough power," Hamilton still finished with a 1:12:07 … one second better than Boardman. 

                   More importantly, Bruyneel was armed with a set of time splits to measure the progress of Armstrong’s ride. 

                   Until the final starters, Zulle’s mark stood as the standard for riders to beat… and Julich got off to a disappointing start, falling 28 seconds behind Zulle at the first time spit at 9.5km. By the second time cut, Julich had lost more than a minute and may have been hoping to make up time on the descent. 

                   But attempting to negotiate a sharp left-hand turn near the bottom at a speed estimated at 75kph, Julich crashed and was unable to resume his ride. The medical team that arrived almost immediately determined that Julich needed to be taken to a hospital and subsequent reports of his condition have been sketchy, though it is believed that his injuries are not of a serious nature. 

                   Starting minutes after Julich, Armstrong charged off of the starting ramp. It soon became clear that the 27-year-old Texan meant to make his mark on this stage and on this Tour. 

                   By the 9.5km mark, Armstrong topped Hamilton’s time by almost 15 seconds. At 26.5km, Armstrong had bested Zulle’s mark by nearly 45, and was gaining time on his two-minute man, Abraham Olano (ONCE), the reigning world time trial champion. Then Olano fell, but was able to remount his bike and continue his ride. By the third time check, Armstrong had passed the Spaniard and held a 47-second advantage over Zulle’s time. By 51.5 kilometers, Armstrong held a 1:14 lead over Zulle an advantage that would slip to 58 seconds by the finish in downtown Metz. But that was more than enough…. 

                   Charging down the finishing straight Armstrong knew he had long since moved into the yellow jersey and the overall lead of the Tour. What’s more the U.S. Postal Service team leader clearly set himself as the man to beat as the Tour moves to the Alps with Tuesday’s 213-kilometer stage from Le Grand Bournand to Sestrieres, featuring the hors categorie Col du Galibier -- and a mountaintop finish. 

Armstrong Inspired! Julich Retired! 

Today we've learned just how much can happen in 56.5km of racing. Heroes are born. Past champions fall. History-makers fade. And the entire face of the world's biggest race can change. Almost 30 years since the day an Armstrong was the first man on the moon, another Armstrong has walked all over the Tour de France. The latter, Lance, has returned from almost insurmountable odds to win today's time trial in the eighth stage of the Tour de France. And with a rest day to absorb his impact on the world's biggest annual sporting event, he'll begin the next phase of racing - the mountains - in the yellow jersey of Tour leader. 

With this reason to celebrate, however, American cycling suffered a terrible blow when Bobby Julich - 3rd in last year's Tour de France - fell at the 30km mark while descending at 90kph. The Cofidis rider will spend the night of Armstrong's celebration travelling only from hospital bed to X-ray room as doctors confirm their early suspicion of a broken hip. Julich landed in a ball of pain on the side of the road and never remounted his bike. Lying motionless until the ambulance arrived, the 27-year old rider felt his Tour dreams fade into the gutter... Race-radio announced his retirement 15 minutes later. 

By the time Julich's Tour ended, the remaining 175 riders were either at the finish preparing for their travel/rest day or on the road fulfilling their time trial ambitions. And no one could have been more impressive than Armstrong. Lance took off for the ride of his life 140 minutes after Alex Zulle began his scorching parade around the undulating 56.5km Metz course. The one-hour, 38-minutes & 8-seconds which followed Armstrong's departure from the start-house entailed enough emotion to entertain and enthral the thousands who lined every part of the course not only for today, but for years' of tale-telling to come... 

The cryptic hero of France - and villan for the last year of cycling - Richard Virenque, mattered little today; but his name was plastered on the road, flags and even the bodies of his numerous fans. The idolisation of the Polti rider, however, didn't help his cause when fans, too eager for his imminent presence, didn't allow the caravan of cars preceeding him to pass. His inconsequential time was 6'29" too far back to have any impact today. Armstrong, however, had signalled his dramatic intentions as early as the first time check of the day - covering the 9.5km 15-secondes faster than the previous standard of his team-mate - and revelation of the equivalent stage in last year's Tour - Tyler Hamilton. 

Five minutes later, America's other hero, Julich lay in the gutter. In pain and out of the Tour de France. Moments later, America had confirmed its inheritance of the yellow jersey. At the 26.5km check Lance had stolen 3'38" off the leader at the start of the day, Kirsipuu... 

Just a few more minutes and Abraham Olano - the world time trial champion - overshot a corner and also crashed. Bouncing straight back up and remounting his bike, the Spaniard's early signs of form, quickly dwindled. Armstrong stormed passed the ONCE leader and, while Olano did persevere, the Postal call was being answered and Armstrong left Olano behind to fight another day. Sure, there were a fistful of other heroes today. Those who suffered on a tough, windy course, and in the solitude which only a Tour time trial can create - but Armstrong's performance today was inspired. Almost three years after a scare with testicular cancer changed his life, the Texan is now changing the face of cycling. Lance might not be walking on the moon, but what's it matter? Right now everyone who saw what the second Armstrong did today is walking on air. 


Monday 12 July 1999

Tour de France: Armstrong makes timely move to take yellow jersey

By Phil Liggett

LANCE ARMSTRONG, the American who returned to the sport last year after recovering from testicular cancer, became a convincing leader of the Tour de France yesterday when he won the 35.3-mile time trial around Metz.

Armstrong beat Swiss rider Alex Zülle by 58 seconds and, even more convincingly, world champion Abraham Olano by 2min 22sec. The Texan passed Olano with 24 miles to go, having bridged a gap of two minutes.

But it was not all good news for the United States. Bobby Julich, third last year in Paris, crashed at 55mph when his back wheel collapsed. He was taken to hospital, suffering from badly bruised ribs and a gashed arm, and was expected to be able to return to his Nice home today.

Armstrong, who won the opening prologue, thought it was "an illusion" when he saw Olano ahead of him. Only two miles earlier the Spaniard had crashed into a straw bale when he overshot a right-hand bend, but by this time Armstrong was already bearing down on him. Armstrong said: "I started very fast. It's what you're supposed to do. But my heart-rate was high, at 190, so I tried to recover a little bit on the descents. I never expected to catch Olano, nor be as strong as this in the time trials. My advisers said I could expect to be stronger in the mountains, so I hope I will be this week."

Armstrong's overall lead is similar to that usually taken by the Spaniard Miguel Indurain, who won all of his five Tours by riding well in the time trials.

Since contracting cancer, Armstrong has been befriended by Indurain, who offered him advice on how to ride the races against the watch while supporting Armstrong's cancer charity in Texas recently.

The American leads Christophe Morerau (Festina), of France, by 2min 20sec and Olano by 2min 33sec. Jaan Kirsipuu, the race leader for six days, fell back to 11th and is now almost five minutes off the pace.

Armstrong, a member of the US Postal Services team, was not wanted by any European teams after his illness and one team manager even said the price he was asking - around £500,000 a year - was the price reserved for great riders.

That comment hurt Armstrong and made him even more determined to fight back to full fitness and prove his point by riding for an American team. After the rest day today, US Postal will also defend a 1min 51sec advantage in the team competition.

Britain's Chris Boardman was among the early starters and, when he finished, had set the best time of 1hr 12min 8sec. But though his average speed of 29mph looked good, Zülle was soon in with a faster time of 1-09-34. Armstrong's average speed was just short of 31mph, making everyone look rather mediocre.

On Saturday, Mario Cipollini ended the best opening week for the sprinters for many year when he won his fourth successive stage at Thionville. It was the first time since Charles Pelissier won the last four stages of the race, in 1930, that anyone had achieved such a feat.

Cipollini, riding his eighth Tour, is yet to reach Paris, and the Champs-Elysées will remain a sprint too far. He has always said he will leave the race after the first week, but on Friday he was hinting he might stay around a little longer and go into the Alps.

He has surprised his followers by saying during a joke-telling session at his hotel on Saturday night, that he had the ambition to stay in the race until tomorrow night, when it goes into Italy. Sestrieres is the first mountain finish this year and when it was first climbed, in 1952, Italian Fausto Coppi won.

Cipollini, who turned professional in 1989, has now won 12 stages of the Tour and his 15th win of the season has brought him level with Kirsipuu.

This has been a magic week, even for 'Super Mario', who on Wednesday set the record average speed for a stage, in excess of 31mph.

Sadly, on Saturday, Erik Zabel, who is aiming to join Sean Kelly as a four-times winner of the green jersey, fell heavily and injured his chin. He rode the time trial but will welcome the rest day in the Alps today.

When the race resumes to Sestrieres tomorrow, it will be apparent if the crash has done lasting damage. Zabel has found the opening week very hard, mainly due to bad luck, and in the final sprint on Saturday he managed to stay upright when both of his feet came off the pedals at the same time.

He is being challenged by Kirsipuu, Stuart O'Grady of Australia, the Belgian Tom Steels and Cipollini - who can be disregarded - for the green jersey, which goes to the race's most consistent daily finisher. It was introduced in 1953 to give the sprinters something to aim for.

Kirsipuu, who has exceeded his wildest dream this week by winning the first stage and leading until yesterday, is probably the finest Estonian rider. He will struggle in the mountains for the next two days, but if he continues towards the Pyrenées in the same form he will be difficult to separate from the green jersey.

Weekend Details

7TH STAGE (Avesnes-sur-Helpe to Thionville, 142 miles): 1, M Cipollini (Italy, Saeco) 5h 26m 59s; 2, S O'Grady (Australia, Crédit Agricole); 3, J Kirsipuu (Estonia, Casino); 4, H Vogels (Australia, Crédit Agricole); 5, J Svorada (Slovakia, Lampre); 6, D Nazon (France, La FranŸaise des Jeux); 7, C Capelle (France, Big Mat); 8, J Casper (France, La FranŸaise des Jeux); 9, G Hincapie (US, US Postal); 10, F Simon (France, Crédit Agricole); 11, L Michaelsen (Denmark, La FranŸaise des Jeux); 12, N Minali (Italy, Cantina Tollo); 13, E Aggiano (Italy, Vitalicio Seguros); 14, R McEwen (Australia, Rabobank); 15, S Hinault (France, Crédit Agricole) all same time. GB: 120, C Boardman (GB, Crédit Agricole) same time.

8TH STAGE (Metz, 35.3-mile individual time trial): 1, L Armstrong (US, US Postal) 1h 8m 36s; 2, A Zülle (Switzerland, Banesto) at 58s; 3, C Moreau (France, Festina) at 2-05; 4, A Olano (Spain, ONCE) at 2-22; 5, T Hamilton (US, US Postal) at 3-31; 6, C Boardman (GB, Crédit Agricole) at 3-32; 7, A Galdeano (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) at 3-41; 8, J Voigt (Germany, Crédit Agricole) at 3-42; 9, S O'Grady (Australia, Crédit Agricole) at 3-45; 10, L Dufaux (Switzerland, Saeco) at 3-56; 11, A Peron (Italy, ONCE) at 3-59; 12, D Nardello (Italy, Mapei) at 4-12; 13, S Gonzalez (Spain, ONCE) at 4-16; 14, A Casero (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) at 4-35; 15, L Rodriguez (Spain, ONCE) at 4-39.

OVERALL: 1, Armstrong 33-34-16; 2, Moreau at 2-20; 3, Olano at 2-33; 4, O'Grady at 3-25; 5, Galdeano at 4-10; 6, Voigt same time; 7, Dufaux at 4-19; 8, Peron at 4-22; 9, Gonzalez at 4-37; 10, Nardello at 4-46; 11, J Kirsipuu (Estonia, Casino) at 4-57; 12, Casero at 5-01; 13, P Tonkov (Russia, Mapei) at 5-10; 14, M Backstedt (Sweden, Crédit Agricole) at 5-15; 15, Rodriguez at 5-17; 16, S Heulot (France, La FranŸaise des Jeux) at 5-38; 17, P Savoldelli (Italy, Saeco) at 6-00; 18, K Livingston (US, US Postal) at 6-06; 19, S Wesemann (Germany, Telekom) at 6-08; 20, E Dekker (Holland, Rabobank) at 6-09. GB: 123, Boardman at 19-04.

Points: 1, Kirsipuu 215pts; 2, Cipollini 182; 3, O'Grady 181. King of Mountains: 1, M Piccoli (Italy, Lampre) 37pts; 2, L Brochard (France, Festina) 15. Teams: 1, US Postal 100-52-29; 2, ONCE at 1-51; 3, Crédit Agricole at 2-28.

Stage 8 Analysis

John Wilcockson in Metz

Now that Lance Armstrong has achieved exactly what he set out to do in the first week of the Tour-- although even he didn't expect to win the Metz time trial by such a wide margin -- what comes next?

It's a question to which not even Armstrong knows the answer. As he said Sunday night after donning the yellow jersey with more than two minutes' lead on his nearest challengers: "We have a rest day, which is difficult enough, and then we have two difficult days in the mountains, where I have to try and defend."

Significantly, Armstrong then added, "Both days are uphill finishes, which I think is perhaps better for me, because if you are alone, (and) you have the strength, you have the condition, then you'll be okay." In other words, even though he will be defending the Tour yellow jersey in the mountains for the first time, the 27-year-old Texan is confident that his phenomenal form will carry him through the Alps in a position of strength.

However, Armstrong won't be alone. He has perhaps the best team for the mountains, as both Tyler Hamilton (fifth in the time trial) and Kevin Livingston (22nd on the stage) are also in excellent form. They will miss the presence of their Postal teammate Jonathan Vaughters -- who crashed out of the race on stage 2 -- but Livingston has been seasoned by working for Bobby Julich when at Cofidis in 1997 and '98, while Hamilton is in his third Tour and has recovered remarkably well from the injuries he sustained in a crash on stage 2. Both of them are ready "to die" for Armstrong, and both have the advantage of having ridden all the Tour's mountain stages with Armstrong earlier in the year.

Of those expected to be Armstrong's main rivals at this Tour, Abraham Olano is 2:33 back; Pavel Tonkov at 5:10; Paolo Savoldelli at 6:00; Alex Z¸lle, Richard Virenque, Fernando Escartin and Giuseppe Guerini all between seven and eight minutes in arrears; while Ivan Gotti and Michael Boogerd are more than 15 minutes back. These prerace contenders have been joined by Festina's Christophe Moreau, now second overall at 2:20; Vitalicio's Alvaro Gonzalez Galdeano, in fifth at 4:10, who came in seventh at the 1998 Vuelta a Espana; and Saeco's Laurent Dufaux, seventh at 4:19.

Of all these riders, the most dangerous could be Tonkov, a past winner of the Giro d'Italia, who heads the powerful Mapei team and is enormously motivated to attack in the Alps. But will even the Russian climber be able to challenge a super-motivated Armstrong?

At Metz Sunday, Armstrong said he'd never been so tired at the end of a race, because he had put everything he had into winning. But the result was also more than he expected. Wide-eyed, he said, "I'm blown away more than I've ever been." So are all his rivals....