Armstrong Wins Stage 13; Hamilton Quits Tour
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Five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong won his first stage of the 2004 Tour Saturday, edging out CSC’s Ivan Basso on the 128-mile mountain course from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille. Although Armstrong put considerable time between himself and his main rivals he still wasn’t able to wrest the yellow jersey from Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere), who currently holds a 22 second lead over the Texan. Georg Totsching (Gerolsteiner) took third place, Andréas Klöen (T-Mobile) placed fourth and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto) rounded out the top five. Although Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) placed a respectable sixth on the day, he crossed the finish line 2:42 behind Armstrong, giving the Texan a considerable advantage going into Stage 14.
Armstrong narrowly bested Ivan Basso for a Stage 13 victoryArmstrong narrowly bested Ivan Basso for a Stage 13 victory
Armstrong currently stands in second place in the overall standings with Basso in third place and Ullrich in eighth.
It was a wild day at the Tour, with Phonak team leader Tyler Hamilton dropping out of the race after about 52 miles of racing, Armstrong suffering a flat tire, and former U.S. Postal Lieutenant Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) crashing on the descent from the Col de la Core climb.
According to the Tour de France’s official Web site, Phonak’s team director said the reason for Hamilton’s abandoning the race is extreme back pain. Hamilton, a former domestique for U.S. Postal, was considered a legitimate contender for this year’s Tour title before dropping out. Last year, the Phonak team leader placed fourth after racing for most of the Tour with a broken collarbone and winning a stage.
“He has bruising all down the left side of his back,” Phonak manager Urs Freuler told the AP. “When you are in a climb you need the output from the back muscles. Tyler could not generate the power only from his legs.”
According to the AP, Hamilton suffered an injury to his back during Stage 6 of the Tour as he fell on the pedal of another bike during a crash. The report also stated that the Phonak rider has a history of back problems as he broke his back years ago while competing with the University of Colorado’s alpine ski team.
Heras did not sustain any major injuries in the crash Saturday and finished 49th on the day. He currently stands at 34th in the general classification standings.
After multiple attempted attacks and counter-attacks Jens Voigt (CSC) and Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) were able to secure a lead of 4:25 over the peloton, with eight miles to go, before it was slowly chipped away.
With 9.3 miles left to race, the duo had a 2:30 lead over Armstrong’s group and with seven miles left, that lead had been whittled down to about 30 seconds. A few moments later, Ullrich lost quite a bit of steam and fell off the main chase group, composed of Armstrong, Basso, Totschnig, and U.S. Postal lieutenant José Azevedo. On the strength of Azevedo’s pace, the group first overtook Voigt and then Rasmussen, eventually dropping Totsching as well, and leaving just Armstrong, Basso and Azevedo.
With about four miles left in the stage, Azevedo cracked, leaving Basso and Armstrong to battle it out for the stage win. With under 1000 feet to go, it looked as if Basso would pull off a repeat performance of Stage 12, and beat Armstrong to the finish. But with just over 300 feet to the finish line, Armstrong stood on the pedals, and sprinted past Basso for the win.
In other news, the International Cycling Union ruled that U.S. Postal’s Pavel Padrnos would be allowed to remain in the Tour, at least for now. Tour organizers had asked that he be removed due to his involvement in a doping case, but that request was turned down and Padrnos was able to ride Saturday.
Tomorrow’s race rolls 120 miles through Provence, from Carcassonne to Nîmes.