Lance: 'Complete faith in my team'
Lance reveals what was said to Ullrich on the final descent and explains why he wished Floyd Landis
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE As both stage winner and yellow jersey holder, Lance Armstrong today [Thursday] monopolised the press conference held after each stage for both the winner and the holder of the yellow jersey for the fourth time in the 2004 Tour de France. After winning the team time trial, where he took the yellow jersey, only to lose it the following day to French revelation Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangre), Armstrong was in yellow again when he won Tuesday’s stage to Villard de Lans, at Alpe d’Huez on Wednesday, and today. He also won the stage up to Plateau de Beille on Saturday, but Voeckler managed to hang on to yellow on that occasion. His win at Le Grand Bornand was therefore his fifth stage win this year in a Tour he has absolutely dominated. As ever, though, Armstrong was quick to praise the work of his US Postal team-mates, and Floyd Landis [fifth, 13 seconds down] in particular. “Floyd was the man of the day. He was incredible. For him to ride tempo on the final climb and still end up as one of five guys is hard to do. I know that,” said Armstrong. “I hoped he could ride a good final descent to the finish and win the stage. But he’s been a great team-mate, and has given everything. “It was probably the best ride I’ve seen Floyd do,” continued Armstrong. “He seems to be getting better and better every day and, for me, he deserved to win today. For that, I dedicate this win to him.” The final descent was where Armstrong and Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) could be seen together, deep in conversation. What had been said? “Ullrich wanted us to work as we had two guys there [Armstrong and Landis],” Armstrong explained. “I understood a little bit, but at the same time, he was trying to make up time on Ivan Basso [CSC], so it was in Jan’s best interests to do the work.” After coming down off the podium as stage winner, Armstrong revealed a glimpse of the ‘behind-the-podium world‘: “Bernard Hinault said to me: ‘That’s good – no gifts’,” in reference to past occasions when the Texan has let other riders take the stage win when he was wearing the yellow jersey. In 1999, Armstrong was also in yellow when the race visited Le Grand Bornand. That time, though, he was a lot more nervous. “Each victory here at the Tour brings with it more and more experience. That’s essential in this race,” said Armstrong. “I don’t have that nervousness anymore. I have complete faith in my team.”