Armstrong Survives Tough First Week
Armstrong?s coach comments on the first week of the 2004 Tour de France.
the road, US Postal Service, T-Mobile, Liberty Seguros, and Phonak drove the pace, opening up a four-minute lead on Mayo by the finish line.
Stage 4: The Team Time Trial
The team time trial is one of the hardest events in cycling, and one of Lance?s favorites. The entire nine-man team rides together, sharing the work of completing 64.5 kilometers as fast as they can. It has to be a collective effort because the team?s time is taken when the fifth rider crosses the finish line.
The conditions were horrendous, with pelting rain and driving wind. There were numerous crashes and flat tires; Tyler Hamilton?s team left four men behind with flat tires and rode the final third of the race with just five men. Armstrong and company put in a masterful performance to win the stage by over a minute, but a new rule wiped away most of their winning margin.
Tour organizers, in an effort to reduce the damage the team time trial does to leaders of weaker teams, set maximum time losses based on the results of the event. The second place team could lose a maximum of 20 seconds, third place could lose a maximum of 30 seconds, and so on. <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
Stages 5-6: The Crashing Continues
The leader?s yellow jersey carries with it a lot of pressure, so Lance was more than willing to give it up on a rainy and crash-marred Stage 5. Tradition mandates the team holding the jersey controls the pace during road stages, which burns a lot of energy. Thomas Voeckler is not a threat for the overall victory, so giving him the jersey and his team the responsibility for defending it was a smart move for the US Postal Service.
Even without the jersey, Stage 6 was hard on Lance. He crashed just 10 miles into the stage, but quickly rejoined the lead group with the help of his teammates. Then, less than 1000 meters from the finish line, a major crash stopped the majority of the race in its tracks. Though Lance did not hit the ground, he suffered additional bumps and scrapes as over 150 riders piled into each other. Fortunately, the crash did not affect the overall standings because of a rule that awards everyone in the group the same finishing time if there?s a crash in the final 1000 meters. Though the crash sent a few riders home as a result of their injuries, none of the major contenders were seriously hurt and neither were any of Lance?s teammates.
As a battered and bruised bunch of racers head into the second week of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong is still right where he needs to be.