Saturday, July 02, 2005
TdF Stage 1
ARMSTRONG HUMBLES ULLRICH. Stage 1 of the Tour de France, a 19 km time trial, was high drama. First, American David Zabriskie burned up the course at nearly 34 mph to throw down the gauntlet to the other 188 riders, each starting at one-minute intervals. No one else came close...except Lance Armstrong.
The last rider out of the gatehouse and riding like a madman, Armstrong dramatically caught his one-minute man and rival Jan Ullrich, passed him with 3 kilometers to go, and crossed the finish line just two seconds short of Zabriskie's record-setting time.
Armstrong's performance accomplished several things:
1. It served notice to everyone that he is not riding his sunset tour as a "has been"; he is out to win. Clearly, Armstrong's preparation for the Tour de France has been on-target.
2. He put his main rival, German Jan Ullrich, in a tough place regarding morale and motivation. Ullrich may have been suffering from a crash a day earlier, but he will have to redouble his efforts early in the mountain stages if he is to contend. Some are saying that team leadership will pass to Alexandre Vinokourov, who placed 3rd in Stage 1 (51 seconds behind Armstrong; Ullirch is a little over one minute behind the Texan).
3. In this opening volley, he gained nearly a minute or more over all the top rivals. It's a "catch me if you can" situation for the likes of Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis, Ullich, and Vinokourov.
ZABRISKIE NOTE: Zabriskie's time was the fastest average time for any stage in Tour de France history. He takes over that honor from another American--Greg LeMond, who won the Tour three times in the 1980's. Zabriskie has now won a time trial stage in each of the Grand Tours (Spain, Italy, & France) within a year. He will likely be tagged "the next American champion," an up-and-coming contender, a racer to be reckoned with. Zabriskie rode for US Postal Service last year, but was not included in the 2004 TdF squad; he now rides for the Danish CSC team, which includes American veteran and past TdF podium stander Bobby Jullich.