After enduring a week of criticism from their home press, T-Mobile showed their intent today and adm
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Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov still trailed Lance Armstrong by over a minute after the Tour’s first incursion into the mountains on Saturday, but neither could hide their satisfaction at a moral victory over the six-time Tour winner and his Discovery Channel team.
Vinokourov followed up his surprise raid in Nancy on Wednesday with a hat-trick of attacks on the Col de la Schlucht, whittling away Armstrong’s defences. Andreas Klden then implemented part two of the T-Mobile double-whammy to power away to second place behind Pieter Weening, 27 seconds clear of Armstrong. Meanwhile, Ullrich kept Armstrong under close surveillance in the main peloton.
“I felt very good today,” Vinokourov confirmed at the finish-line. “Only by attacking Armstrong can we beat him, and that’s what I intend to do. I didn’t notice that he didn’t have any team-mates left after I accelerated, but he was on my wheel, anyway. That Tour is only just beginning and I intend to keep trying over the coming days.”
Ullrich, the main protagonist in countless T-Mobile disappointments in past Tours, was even more delighted. “The tactic was to attack and for the first time it worked. Vino went first, then it was Andreas’s turn and my job was to stay with Lance. It was just the first day in the mountains but that was a lot of fun,” beamed ‘Der Kaiser’.
Team spokesman and manager-to-be Olaf Ludwig summed up the mood in the T-Mobile camp when he called today’s finale a “dream scenario”. “Illes Balears were riding hard at the front and that was what we had always wanted – another team to help us set the pace. We always knew that in those circumstances we would be able to attack. We have always dreamed about having Lance on his own at the front and today that happened. This shows that Discovery can be beaten.”