Armstrong's rivals--time to take your responsibilities

News & Results

07/16/2005| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Armstrong's rivals--time to take your responsibilities

?If you fail, try, try, try again.?

? An old saying.

?If you fail, try, try, try again.?

? An old saying.


They tried.  It didn?t work?.


T-Mobile tried ? valiantly ? to put significant time into Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) Saturday.


Near the start of the first of the Stage 14?s two significant climbs, Port de Pailheres (15.2km, 8%), Alexandre Vinokourov powered away leading his T-Mobile teammate Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso (CSC).


So sudden and effective was this attack that it left Lance Armstrong in a following group of riders without any support from his Discovery Channel team.


This may have been one of the most critical junctures of the 2005 Tour de France.

Armstrong didn?t panic.  He got off his seat and launched into his trade-mark, quick-cadence pedalling (learned from five-time tour winner Miguel Indurain) and quickly bridged back to the T-Mobile-led group.



And there he stayed the rest of the race, eventually besting Ullrich and then Basso in the last kilometer of the final climb (AX-3-Domaines, 9.1km, 7.3%).


T-Mobile tried, and failed.


Opportunities for such attempts to either dethrone, or at least throw a scare into Armstrong, are fast diminishing in this year?s Tour.


Sunday?s Stage 15 from Lezat-sur-Leze to St. Lary-Soulan will provide that opportunity ? plus.


This is the toughest stage of Tour 2005, its ?queen.?


Armstrong?s challengers should choose Geoffrey Nicholson?s The Great Bike Race (1977) as their bedtime reading tonight.  In it is an excellent account of Lucien Van Impe?s decisive victory in Stage 14 of the 1976 Tour, which he went on to win.


At that point in the race Van Impe was out of yellow.  His plan was to attack on the final climb, the fearsome Pla-d?Adet (10.3km, 8.3%), the same climb that ends tomorrow?s stage.  


However, Van Impe?s team-manager, Cyrille Guimard, had something else in mind.  He wanted Van Impe to attack much earlier on the Col du Portillon, also part of tomorrow?s stage.



These instructions were carried to Van Impe by a team-mate (this was before radio contact between team cars and riders was introduced).  Van Impe, so taken aback by these orders, refused to accept them unless Guimard delivered them in person.  Guimard promptly motored up to Van Impe and ordered him to attack.  


Which he did, with gusto.  Over 4.20 down from the race leaders at this point, Van Impe, an excellent climber, made big gains on his rivals up the Col de Peyrsourde, and on the final climb up Pla-d?Adet blew the race wide open to take an overall lead of 3.18.  


Guimard, in a later interview, compared Van Impe to a ?big schoolboy? who had never taken responsibilities.  In the tour of 1976 he finally did, and he won.


The time for Armstrong?s rivals to take their responsibilities is upon them.


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