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Frankie’s Diary: On the move, and calling Bobby

                   This report filed July 12, 1999

                   By Frankie Andreu
                   U.S. Postal Service rider

                   We took a bus, flew, and took a bus and then rode. We didn't arrive to the hotel till about one p.m. and then we went riding for 2.5 hours over the first part of the course tomorrow. Talk about a lot of people: The start city for tomorrow is packed, it's pure gridlock outside. On the way to the hotel I called Bobby to see how he is doing.

                   He flew to Nice early this morning from Metz.  In Nice he is going to the hospital again to get a full check up on his injuries. The main thing that he is worried about is his elbow. It may be broken but even if it isn't something is torn inside. He says he has no movement at all with it.

                   The other serious problem is massive bruising or a hematoma in his chest area. He said it's painful to breathe much less move around. Again, the ribs may not be broken but they might as well be because of the pain he has. I hope him a speedy recovery and he realizes that at the speed he was going he is lucky only to have the problems he has.

                   Now that the first week is over the sprinters will be in survival mode. They have made their mark in this first week showing everyone who was in charge. One sprinter that was not here who could have possibly put a stop to Cippo's four consecutive wins was Jeroen Blijlevens (TVM). Blijlevens has always been a threat in the Tour, but especially in the longer stages.

                   In this years Giro he dominated the early stages winning three days. His decision to quit the Giro in the last week was solely based on keeping his sprinting legs for the Tour. If he knew that he would be prevented from riding the Tour I'm sure he would have tried for another stage win in Milan. Cippo can count his blessings that Jeroen didn't get a chance to show his colors at the Tour.

                   The T.T. yesterday was something special.  Lance dominated the stage in the same way Indurain used to crush his competitors. Lance averaged 49.3 km/hr on a hilly windy circuit.  He went up the cat. 3 climb in a 55x19 while I used a 45x19.

                   Lance was waiting for no one to take that Yellow Jersey except for him. He told us after he passed Olano he knew that Olano was sitting behind him. The first part of the race he had all the press motorcycles around him, but after he passed Olano they were nowhere. The motorcycles were not allowed to pass Olano until the gap grew big enough so that Olano would not get a draft.

                   George said that when Lance's lead motorcycle passed him the driver said to George all excited, "Lance is coming, Lance is coming." Even the cops are fans.

                   When Johan caught up to Manolo Saiz, the ONCE director, who was following Olano, they drove next to each other for about five kilometers. It was like the student and the teacher squaring off. For three years Johan rode for Saiz on Team ONCE.

                   The French seem to have a new game. It's a dangerous game for themselves and for the riders. In the race there seems to be a competition on who can run in between the lead car and the charging peloton. We all have seen this happen many times during the stages. People are darting across the road at the last possible moment right before the group speeds by. This was happening also during the T.T. In Lance's ride in particular some kids were trying to run in between the lead motorcycle and him. Lance had to swerve a little to avoid the kids, but next time he and them might not be so lucky.

                   You might also be noticing many Mariano Piccoli (Lampre) banners along the roadside. You are probably thinking can there be that many supporters for Piccoli. It seems like there are more banners for the Italian than there is for their favorite French rider Virenque. The reason it's like this is because there is an award given out each day by the team Lampre. Each day while driving the racecourse they select the best looking or their favorite banner supporting Piccoli.  Lampre then gets the supporters address and sends them a climber's Polka-dot Jersey. It sounds simple, but considering how many fans are watching the Tour the odds can't be good to get noticed.

                   Erik Zabel is ok after his injuries the other day. It's incredible that he took the start today in the T.T. I saw him at dinner and was asking him what had happened. He received 10 stitches to his chin and has a very sore groin after landing on his top bar and stem. He said that he had a couple stones lodged in his pedal after his first crash and his cleats did not completely lock into the pedals. When he started the sprint his foot came straight out. He said he had to set up some new shoes because the leather got ripped off from the soles somehow. Whatever it is, I give him credit for continuing. He is one tough German.

                   Mark Gorski, our manager, has been our second director driving the second team car all race. He hasn't seen much action lately because the peloton has always been finishing together. Now that will all change.  With the mountains arriving tomorrow the peloton will be split into many groups giving the second directors a critical job in keeping the riders fueled and warm.

                   I have two rain bags, one in the first car and one in the second car. Both pretty much contain the same thing, such as rain jacket, gloves, hat, and vest. I haven't needed anything from the first car yet, but I can guarantee you I will be digging into that second bag.

                   The first car always stays with the first group or the leader on the team, while Mark is responsible for all of the other team riders.  He drives in between the groups, taking care of riders with water, food and clothes if it's needed.

                   I can remember in a few mountain stages when I was stranded in a group that my second director forgot about. Freezing on a downhill or bonking during a mountain stage in no way to get through a Tour. I guess you could say that during the mountain stages the second car is my lifeline.


Armstrong’s day of rest; Julich out for a month

                   The U.S. Postal Service’s Lance Armstrong took the Tour de France’s first rest day to savor yesterday’s impressive win in Metz, prepare for tomorrow’s introduction to the Alps and to announce that he has signed a two-year extension of his contract. 

                   Armstrong, who re-took the Tour’s yellow jersey after winning by defeating some of the world’s best time trialists said Monday, has signed on with the U.S. Postal Service team through the 2001 season, a move mirrored by the team’s title sponsor and its bike supplier, Trek. 

                   Armstrong appeared relaxed as he sat in front of an international group of 350 reporters, here in La Grand Bornand. The 27-year-old Texan sat fielding questions soon after he and his teammates had finished a two-and-a-half-hour training ride along (and back) the first 40 kilometers of tomorrow’s stage. The ninth stage to Sestrieres will be an exceptionally tough one, featuring a series of difficult ascents, including the Hors Categorie Col du Galibier and a mountaintop finish.

                   But Armstrong said he felt strong and remained sure that his team was ready to defend the yellow jersey in the mountains, despite the recent loss of one of the squad’s climbing specialists. Jonathan Vaughters, winner of the Mont Ventoux time trial in the Dauphine Libere last month, was forced to abandon after a stage 2 crash.

                   "We’ve had a few days to think about life without Jonathan, so it’s not a complete surprise, like it would have been had been yesterday or the day before," Armstrong said. "Nonetheless, we do have seven other guys who are very strong and I think if we ride a smart race, we’ll be okay with the guys that we have left…. In my mind, if there are 30 or 40 guys left, George Hincapie will still be there; if there’s 20 guys left, Tyler Hamilton can still be there and if there are five or 10 guys left Kevin Livingston will still be there. If you work like that, then we’ll still be okay."

                   As for his assessment of the main challengers to his more than two-minute lead in the overall standings, ONCE’s Abraham Olano and Banesto’s Alex Zulle have to be considered among the favorites, Armstrong said.

                   Zulle has to be considered "dangerous" despite a 7:08 disadvantage – suffered mostly after loosing contact with leaders after the same second stage crash that forced Vaughters to abandon.

                   While Zulle still has the potential to disrupt the Tour for Armstrong, the American’s most immediate threat may come from Olano, the man he passed during the Metz time trial on Sunday.

                   "Olano is one of the few riders who has won a big tour before," Armstrong observed. "So, he has to be considered a favorite. He’s proven that he can win a big tour. He’s proven that he can be in the first three."

                   "He has a strong team," Armstrong added.  "He has an organized team. I think his condition will get better as the race goes on and maybe he came in lacking for fitness, but in the last week he’ll be very good and in the last time trial (at Futuroscope) he will be probably unbeatable."

                   Asked about his bout with testicular cancer, first diagnosed less than three years ago, Armstrong seemed genuinely grateful for the second chance that now sees him leading what is arguably the world’s toughest athletic event.

                   "I honestly don’t know what to think," Armstrong said. "I was a half-way dead man and I was put back together by the best doctors in the world and I’ve never felt better in my life."

                   Armstrong suggested that part of his fitness improvement, over even his pre-illness form, was due to the fact that his body may have long been fighting the effects of a cancer he only learned of in October 1996.

                   "Perhaps there was some illness there for a while … that I was competing with, training with and having to live with … that once I was finally rid of, it finally helped me," Armstrong said.

                   But while Armstrong’s recovery appears complete, the sport is still reeling from the drug-controversy-plagued 1998 Tour.  Commenting on this, Armstrong said that the responsibility of eliminating the problem rests with those who love cycling.

                   "I think we all have a responsibility to change the image of the sport," Armstrong said. "I do; the other 170 riders do; the organization does; the UCI does; you the journalists do.  Because I think we love the sport and we are all here for that reason. Either it’s our job or our passion, or both. Now, we could choose to do one of two things: we try to bring down the sport that has been around forever. We can try to bring down the Tour de France that’s been around forever, or we can try to repair it. Unfortunately, there are some people who want to bring it down. I’m not one of those people. I want to be part of the renovation."

                   After spending Sunday night in the hospital at Metz, Bobby Julich was flown to his home on Monday morning. There, he underwent more thorough examinations, with x-rays revealing hairline fractures of two ribs and the radius bone. His elbow will be in a cast for two weeks, and he will not be able to restart full training until mid-August. Julich said that too much speed was the reason for his crash. He was descending at an estimated 90 kph on a long descent, and was not able to make it around a left-hand curve, hitting the curb and crashing on his chest and arm.
 


Tuesday 13 July 1999

Tour de France: Armstrong takes a healthy lead

By Phil Liggett in Le Grand Bornand

LANCE ARMSTRONG sprinted clear of a small group of riders to win his first stage in the Tour de France at Verdun on Sunday, July 11, 1993. On the same day and date six years later, not far away in Metz, he won again and this time has the biggest reward of all, the leader's yellow jersey. The Texan's promising career seemed to be at an end in October 1996 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Fighting for his life, racing again could not be contemplated.

Today, his body completely clear of the disease and his wife expecting their first child later this year (from sperm saved before the lengthy and painful chemotherapy sessions), Armstrong is free to concentrate on winning the Tour.

Ever since he won the opening time trial at the Puy du Fou he has savoured "that special feeling" gained from leading. He said then, when after two days he lost the lead: "No one keeps it (the jersey) forever, they just keep it warm for the next rider."

For a week he kept away from the crashes and the limelight waiting for the time trial at Metz. All he dreamed of was getting back the maillot jaune, the most coveted symbol in the sport.

He travelled to Metz before the Tour and rode the time trial course twice. On Sunday, he rode it again only hours before his flat-out attempt. "The course held no surprises for me and all I wanted was the yellow jersey back. No one will drop me in the mountains."

He has prepared equally as well for racing in the Alps, which begins today after yesterday's rest day. Armstrong has spent many hours climbing them with members of his US Postal team in training, and feels ready. "Everybody who wants to win will attack me, they have to, but I have a great team and we are ready," said Armstrong.

Today, the race goes to Italy and its first mountain-top finish at Sestrieres, where Dane Bjarne Riis won in 1996 and laid the foundation for his overall triumph. Tomorrow, the race moves to a finish on Alpe d'Huez back in France.

It is difficult to know from which quarter Armstrong will be challenged, but the Spanish are the most likely to intrude, and Abraham Olano will not forget the day he was passed in a time trial.

He said: "That was the first time I can remember being caught and it was embarrassing. After all, this is my speciality."

Armstrong will embarrass many more riders over the next 17 days to Paris.

American Bobby Julich, who abandoned the Tour after falling on a steep descent in Sunday's time trial, fractured his left elbow and broke two ribs.

Details

TOUR DE FRANCE.- (after 8 stages): 1, L Armstrong (US, US Postal) 33hr 34min 16sec; 2, C Moreau (France, Festina) at 2min 20sec; 3, A Olano (Spain, ONCE) 2-33; 4, S O'Grady (Australia, Crédit Agricole) 3-25; 5, A Gonzalez Galdeano (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) 4-10; 6, J Voigt (Germany, Crédit Agricole) 4-10; 7, L Dufaux (Switzerland, Saeco) 4-19; 8, A Peron (Italy, ONCE) 4-22; 9, S Gonzalez (Spain, ONCE) 4-37; 10, D Nardello (Italy, Mapei) 4-46; 11, J Kirsipuu (Estonia, Casino) 4-57; 12, A Casero (Spain, Vitalicio Seguros) 5-01; 13, P Tonkov (Russia, Mapei) 5-10; 14, M Backstedt (Sweden, Crédit Agricole) 5-15; 15, L Perez Rodriguez (Spain, ONCE) 5-17. GB: 123, C Boardman (Crédit Agricole) at 19-04.