Millar Wins Time Trial; Armstrong Lengthens Lead Over Ullrich
David Millar (Cofidis) has won Stage 19 of the Tour de France. Millar, who would have won the prologue if he had not shipped a chain, dashed through the rain to win the flat, 49-km race of truth from Pornic to Nantes in 54:05. Tyler Hamilton (CSC) finished second at 0:09, and Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) took third at 0:14. Armstrong lengthened his overall lead and is poised to win his fifth Tour when the race concludes in Paris tomorrow.
The weather was rainy, and it affected the riders. Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner) was a fast starter, but he lost momentum after crashing twice. Millar won the stage but crashed. Jan Ullrich (Bianchi) hit the deck with 10 km remaining in his ride. Riders were forced to ride conservatively if they were going to remain rubber side down.
Brad McGee (La Francaise des Jeux.com) set an early standard with a 57:29. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) bettered this time with a 56:34, and Marc Wauters (Rabobank) did better still with a 56:17. Laszlo Bodrogi (Quick Step) crushed Wauters's time with a 54:31.
Bodrogi's time held for an hour and three quarters. Despite crashing, Millar posted a 54:05. Hamilton, who hoped to moved up from sixth overall with a good time trial, rode a 54:14, which leapfrogged him over Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia (both from Euskaltel) into fourth on GC.
The real race would take place between the last two starters, Armstrong and Ullrich. Armstrong began the day leading Ullrich by 1:05 on GC, and the time trial would decide who would wear the yellow jersey into Paris. Ullrich beat Armstrong by 1:36 in the first long time trial, but the man from Austin had since overcome dehydration and had won the stage to Luz Ardiden.
Both riders posted a 15:42 at the 15-km time check. Ullrich was three seconds faster than the American at the 32-km checkpoint, but the German had more than a minute to make up. Ullrich crashed at a roundabout 10 km from the finish--exactly where one of Peschel's crashes had taken place. The man from Merdingen lost at least 0:10 getting to his feet and remounting, and his momentum was gone. He finished the stage fourth at 0:25.
Armstrong had ridden the course before the stage (Ullrich viewed it on a video), and knew where the danger spots were. Moreover, Armstrong learned that the German had fallen and sat up going into the roundabout. The Texan's priority was staying upright and keeping pace with Ullrich, not winning the stage.
In the overall, Armstrong leads Ullrich by 1:16 and Alexander Vinokourov (Telekom) by 4:29. Stage 20, which is traditionally a procession for the winner, will also be the last chance for the sprinters to bag a stage and for the contenders for the green jersey to win the points competition. Who will win the stage? Who will go home with the green jersey? Robbie McEwen (Lotto)? Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com)? Erik Zabel (Telekom)? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
Are you interested in top-flight cycling eyewear? If the answer is yes, check out e-rudy.com. E-rudy.com has goggles and sunglasses for active, avid cyclists like you. Click on the e-rudy.com link at the http://www.roadcycling.com/ website and find out what e-rudy.com has to offer you!