Armstrong of Old Takes Difficult Time Trial

News & Results

07/23/2005| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Lance Armstrong. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Lance Armstrong. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Armstrong of Old Takes Difficult Time Trial

Lance Armstrong may not be the best time-trialler on the planet anymore but on Saturday it didn?t matter.

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Lance Armstrong may not be the best time-trialler on the planet anymore but on Saturday it didn?t matter.

Dave Zabriske (CSC) wasn?t in the race.

On the fiendishly difficult 55-km course at St.-Etienne Armstrong blazed to victory with a time of 1:11:46, besting a valiant Jan Ullrich at 1:12:09.


It was Armstrong?s first stage win on the 2005 Tour de France, of which he will certainly emerge victor tomorrow in Paris.



Armstrong?s overall demeanour has been conservative as he has chased his seventh consecutive Tour win.   He has expended energy when he has had to, but he has assumed a mostly defensive posture, warding off challenges by his foremost competitors ? Ivan Basso, Ullrich, and Alexandre Vinokourov.


(Until today, one might have also added Denmark?s Mickael Rasmussen to that list.   But Rasmussen became seriously unravelled with a couple of crashes and a series of mechanicals that plunged from third in the GC to seventh.)


In today?s time trial Armstrong gave everything he had, and it was more than enough.  


In this his last time trial performance, he demonstrated why he has been so dominant ? especially against his prime antagonist Ullrich -- in the against -the-clock discipline.


Armstrong?s low-gear, high-cadence pedalling technique turned out to be ideal for this very difficult, highly technical course, with its challenging initial climb followed by steep descents and difficult turns.


Ullrich, as usual, pedalled a high gear, which makes him formidable on flats but prevents him from accelerating, especially up climbs, at the same rate as Armstrong.  


But Ullrich deserves a large measure of credit for his performance today.   He quickly overcame the trouble-plagued Rasmussen in the GC and came through ahead of Alexandre Vinokurov, who finished at 1:13:02.


Vinokurov?s performance itself was a surprise because he is not noted as an exceptional time-trialler.  


It also raised the question whether Team T-Mobile would have done better overall had it come to the 2005 Tour with Vinokurov its clear leader.   In the mountains, especially, he was the animator, Armstrong?s most serious challenger.   Could he have performed better with solid team support?  


And Basso?   Seemingly the heir apparent to Armstrong, today?s fifth place finish (behind Bobby Julich) at 1:13: 40 will raise questions about him.   He was supposed to have greatly improved his time trialling but, after an impressive start today, he faded quickly, appearing tentative especially on descents.  


Is this the heir to Lance Armstrong or the inheritor of the mantle of France?s Raymond Poulidor, the perpetual Mr. Second?


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