Armstrong still on track, Sastre suffering but slowly coming good, Contador hospitalised.
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Lance Armstrong will never win on Mont Ventoux and maybe he won’t win this years Dauphin Libr either, but otherwise he seems right on schedule for the Tour. In Saturday’s hard mountain stage to Morzine, the American put in a strong performance and finished seventh, 2.52 minutes down on Santiago Botero. “I still have some work to do, but I’m not stressed about it. The Tour is a long race and what matters is July 24,” said Armstrong at the finish line. On the demanding last climb of the day up the Col de Joux-Plane, Armstrong stayed most of the time with the contenders he’ll be dealing with in the Tour including Alexandre Vinokourov. When the T-Mobile rider decided to attack, Armstrong stayed calm, yet bridged the gap seemingly without too much trouble. “I followed my own rhythm and rode a little conservatively, staying within my limit. I still lack a little bit of the punch because I haven’t raced too many big mountains yet,” explained the Discovery Channel captain. But even though he’s not pushing himself over the edge, he still feels he’s getting a ride for his money in the French race. “The Dauphin in general has been a hard race. I think someone was in a bad mood when they decided the course,” said Armstrong who’s trailing the race leader Inigo Landaluze by 1.37 minutes on the GC. – Sastre suffering Suffering goes with the territory for professional riders – only the periods in which you suffer can come more or less ill timed. For Carlos Sastre, a crash in the first stage of the Tour of Burgos in April, which cost a broken elbow and three weeks off the bike, has meant just that. Yet the CSC rider feels he’s back on the right track. “It was a hard day. I tried to follow the group behind Lance Armstrong for as long as I could and I’m satisfied,” said Sastre after finishing 9.40 down on Santiago Botero on the Dauphin Libr’s fifth stage that featured three first category climbs and the Col de Joux-Plane to top it off with. Normally that wouldn’t be a gratifying result for a rider of his calibre with only three weeks to go before the Tour kicks off. “But here I’m putting in a lot of hard training. I’m not riding for a result. I had to start my preparations late, so now is when I have to work hard,” explained the Spaniard. After the Dauphin, his next race will be the new ProTour team time trial in Holland and the time trial in the Spanish championships. The reason for having his focus on the fight against the clock is the fact that the Tour starts with a 19-kilometre individual test. “That’s where I still need to improve a bit. I feel I’m more or less okay in the mountains and I think I have enough time to get in shape for the Tour,” said Sastre, who’ll be CSC’s second rider for the GC together with Ivan Basso. – Contador all fingers and thumbs Spaniard Alberto Contador almost lost a finger in Saturday’s stage to Morzine in the Dauphin Libr. Before the first climb of the stage the Liberty Seguros rider apparantly needed to adjust something on the computer sensor of his front wheel. Unfortunately he got too close to the spokes in the attempt with a bloody result, and subsequently had to be rushed to the hospital in Albertville. It turned out that the third finger on his right hand had almost come off. But in hospital he escaped with 18 stitches plus an additional four stitches in his thumb. Also on Saturday, Contador’s former team-mate Isidro Nozal, who delivered a plus 50 hematocrit test ahead of the race and a few days later decided to quit the team, had to be taken to hospital after he was hit by a car while training back in Spain. First reports emerging from Spain say that he wasn’t seriously hurt in the accident.