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Laurent Jalabert today rejected the notion that Discovery Channel's implosion on the Col de la Schlucht on Saturday could have been a large-scale re-enactment of Lance Armstrong's famous bluff on Alpe d'Huez in 2001.
Reflecting on Saturday's stage from Pforzheim to Grardmer in his daily column in L'Equipe, former world number one Jalabert suggested that such a move would have been "total madness".
"I don't believe for a second that Discovery Channel were bluffing," wrote Jalabert. "If Armstrong had punctured in the first kilometre of the descent off the Col de la Schlucht, fallen or had a mechanical problem, he wouldn't have had any team-mates to help him or bring him back to the peloton. A hitch like that could have cost him the Tour."
Jalabert offered a different explanation for Discovery Channel's disintegration. "I simply think that Discovery Channel could be a little over-confident in this Tour. I heard some riders saying this week that Discovery was putting a block on everything in the peloton, practically hand-picking which riders were allowed to escape. Yesterday, they were brought back to order. Armstrong is definitely the strongest rider in the Tour, but he needs a team to win it."
Jalabert praised Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Klden, the architects of the T-Mobile one-two, but seemed bemused by Jan Ullrich's watchful tactics. "It's a shame that he didn't try to attack Armstrong at least once. He was happy just to follow when he seemed to have good legs and his team was on the attack. His lack of initiative frustrates me.
"At least Vinokourov kept his promises. He showed his sang froid and his opportunism. It's a shame that T-Mobile use him as the first weapon in its armoury. He would be much more effective launching the last attack. For that to change, there would have to be a reshuffle and T-Mobile would need to acknowledge Vinokourov's real worth."
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