Lance Armstrong looks back on a great day for his team and gives special credit to the work they all
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Lance Armstrong was one of the few Tour contenders who felt satisfied with their performance at La Mongie on Friday, and the Texan was particularly pleased with the way his US Postal team had performed on what was the most crucial day of the Tour so far. “We did some sensational work all day and the fruit of that labour was the magnificent finale that allowed us to establish some big gaps on some of my rivals for the podium in Paris,” said the five-time Tour winner. “We’ve take an important step towards achieving our objective, which is a sixth win, but it is far from decided yet. For that we will have to wait until the Besancon time trial. There is still a lot of racing to be done, many hurdles to cross and my rivals aren’t going to accept the way things are now. Ullrich’s performance is not something new. He is a rider who tends to start badly but as the race goes on he improves substantially,” said the US Postal team leader. Admitting that he went through a bad moment of his own on the soaking descent of the Aspin and eased off slightly, Armstrong then paid tribute to his team. “The key to the stage came halfway up to La Mongie. My team, far from maintaining the pace, actually upped it and my rivals could not follow, a situation we took advantage of in order to make them suffer a bit more. Without doubt my team-mates performed sensationally on the climb, especially Azevedo,” Armstrong explained. The wet conditions of the first week and unrelenting pace throughout is beginning to take its toll on some Armstrong’s potential rivals. After many of them struggled at La Mongie yesterday, the early part of Saturday’s stage to Plateau de Beille saw first Haimar Zubeldia and then Denis Menchov abandon the race with knee trouble. Menchov’s loss is particularly hard on his Illes Balears team because he finished seventh at La Mongie and his partnership with Paco Mancebo was looking one of the few threats to Armstrong.