Ill portents for Armstrong?

News & Results

07/10/2005| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Lance Armstrong arriving at today's finish. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Lance Armstrong arriving at today's finish. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Ill portents for Armstrong?

Is there a slight, ever so slight, chink in the Armstrong armour?


Is there a slight, ever so slight, chink in the Armstrong armour?


Outwardly, today?s Stage 8 result in the Tour de France didn?t change the overall standings very much.   Lance Armstrong still leads by a minute over CSC?s Jens Voigt and is ahead of Alexandre Vinokourov.   Nobody took a significant whack of time out of Lance on Saturday.


But there were portents ? some possibly ill -- for the American who has won the last six editions of the Tour.


Most obvious, perhaps, is that the mystique of Lance the Invincible does not hold much water with the young bucks who are his challengers this year.



Once the riders were onto the first significant climb of the 2005 Tour, the Category 2 Col de la Schlucht, Armstrong started meeting serious challenges.


Principal challenger was Alexandre Vinokourov.    Several times Vinokourov sprinted ahead of Armstrong and the American had to react.  


Armstrong was never the protagonist on this climb.   At best, he was playing defence, limiting losses.


And he was largely on his own.   When the going got really tough on the climb, his Discovery Channel mates were nowhere to be seen.


And when Rabobank?s Pieter Weening took off at the beginning of the climb, nobody took serious notice.    Weening, a virtual unknown, is not considered a legitimate Tour contender ? at least not yet.



T-Mobile?s Andreas Kl?den, who was in the group around Armstrong, jumped to challenge Weening.   Nobody went with him.   Kl?den, 30, is one of a group of riders who can win the Tour.   There were no Discovery Channel riders to challenge him.


And hovering around Armstrong, and seemingly in improving form, was Jan Ullrich ? a very legitimate contender by Armstrong?s own estimation.  


So Armstrong found himself in unusual circumstances ? reacting as if on a yoyo to other riders? moves and without teammates on an important climb.  


In past
that he has won, Armstrong has been challenged, but rarely so early in the overall proceedings.   And when he has been challenged, if he did not respond himself others did on his behalf.   Not Saturday.


In a post-race interview Armstrong admitted that Stage 8 had not gone that well for himself or his Discovery Channel mates.   They would have to discuss the situation over dinner.


Likely the team will get a pep talk ? from Armstrong and from team Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel.   Sunday?s Stage 9 poses much more formidable challenges than Stage 8 ? including a Cat. 1 climb at the 115-km mark in a 171-km race.


Today?s race and its ill portents for Armstrong and his Discovery Channel mates can be turned around, and Stage 9 offers ample opportunities for them ? but also for their several significant challengers.


Stay tuned to for more 2005 Tour de France coverage. Be sure to support our Tour de France coverage sponsors Headsweats,


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