What's Cool In Road Cycling

Rest Day: Week 2 Review

– By Gordon Cameron –

Rest day # 2 is upon us, and we can look back on Lance lining up a 4th straight win, Joseba finally, foolishly going on the offensive, and a much better time for the home favorites……..

Patrice Halgand (tipped by pezcyclingnews.com as a likely French protagonist, you might remember) romped home on Stage 10, for one of the fastest ever Tour stage wins, after escaping an 11-man breakaway on the road to Pau. The day was effectively managed by the big teams as the race headed for the Pyrenees, but was marred by the tragic death of a 7 year old spectator, ruining what should have been Halgand’s greatest day. A sharp reminder that sport is a part of life, and not the other way around.
[Armstrong watch: Nicely easing into the real action]

So, to stage 11 – the road rises, and the cream comes to the top. With a mammoth effort it was Laurent Jalabert who made the headlines, and, surprise, the US Postal team, who did a stunning job of placing Lance where he had to be. The ONCE leaders were under pressure, and without seeming to try that hard, Lance cracked them. Gonzalez de Galdeano was first to go, and although Beloki hung on, he could do nothing as Armstrong skipped away at the finish. By La Mongie, Armstrong had seen off all his rivals bar Beloki, and it was obvious, even to ONCE manager and psychological warfare expert Manolo Saiz, that Beloki was coming home second in Paris.
[Armstrong watch: As if by magic, the Tour comes to Armstrong]

The 12th stage was the second day in the Pyrenees, and an almost identical result, as Armstrong again took advantage of another Jalabert breakaway (which saw him move into the mountains jersey) and monstrous efforts by his USPS team, especially Rubiera, the brilliant Heras (and even Hincapie on the climbs!) to win at Plateau de Beille. Again, he didn’t have to push as hard or as spectacularly as in previous Tours, but this was due to the superiority of his team, who controlled the situation to perfection. There were few significant changes overall; just that Lance Armstrong took time away from all his rivals to notch up a 14th career Tour stage win.
[Armstrong watch: One day older, one day better, one day nearer history]

After below par performances in the Pyrenees, David Millar produced a belter of a day to take his first ever road-racing stage win at the Tour, having animated an early break alongside the incomparable Jalabert. Millar was always in control, making the decisive counter attack 14 km out of Beziers, and although not a sprinter, he still had enough to outpace such danger men as Etxebarria and Brochard. It was a comfortable day for Armstrong, as Lampre-Daikin were forced into action to protect Rumsas’ position from Jalabert.
[Armstrong watch: A ‘no worries’ day, as the top men tried to recover for Ventoux]

One of the great climbs of the Tour, and Armstrong, for the 5th time in his career, just couldn’t crack it. Mont Ventoux has claimed many reputations over the years, and infamously the life of the great Tommy Simpson. And for some reason Lance seems fated never to win there. The mountain gods never forgave him for gifting Marco Pantani a win here in 2000, but today he could do nothing to halt Richard Virenque, who continued his rehabilitation in grand style. Over 200km in the lead for Virenque, who despite everything is still immensely popular, ended with him rolling across the line with almost 2 minutes on Alexandre Botcharov, giving his signature index finger salute, with more dignity than defiance this time. But behind, another story was unfolding, as we watched in amazement. Beloki went on the attack, for the first time in a Tour; he lasted just a few metres before Armstrong responded imperiously, powering up to and past the Basque rider. An impetuous, desperate move cost Beloki 1′ 45″, and seeing him flounder, the increasingly impressive Rumsas countered, too, moving to third on GC, while Santiago Botero slumped out of the picture.
[Armstrong watch: A small victory escapes, but a bigger one awaits]

Armstrong hasn’t won the Tour yet, because he knows himself that a crash, or one bad day, could cost him his place in the history books. But the psychological war is won, because no-one is close enough to inflict real damage. Armstrong knows it, and so does everyone else where it really counts, in the peloton. There are other fascinating battles to come, though. Will Jalabert get the stage win he deserves as he bids ‘Adieu’ to his Tour career? Will McEwen edge Zabel for the ‘Maillot Vert’ in Paris? And will Armstrong reward Heras with a win at Les Deux Alpes? All will be revealed on pezcyclingnews.com

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.