|Tour de France
Stage 10 | Aix-les-Bains / L'Alpe d'Huez
I got up a 6 this morning to watch the last two hours of this stage on the above web site blog style. The winning time for this stage was 6 hours 23 min 47 sec. The last 14 km were up 21 switchbacks of the L'Alpe d'Huez which has a 7.9% grade. It was incredible!
Lance Armstrong began the 2001 Tour de France as the obvious favorite. Yet as soon as the race got underway 10 days ago, questions of his form began to emerge. And today he waited patiently before unleashing a surge of spinning brilliance which offered the answers the growing number of American cycling fans wanted to hear.
The defining moment of the 209 kilometer stage, which featured three Highest Category climbs, came 13 kilometers from the end. Lance arrived at the front of an elite peloton after a quick, yet powerful lead-out by his Spanish US Postal team-mate, Jose-Luis Rubiera. And with Jan Ullrich right on his wheel looking powerful enough to mark any attacks, Lance glanced back and decided that it was time to let his legs do the talking. He jumped hard and fast and quickly gained a lead of 10 meters. By the time he was 50 meters up the road, the only thing Ullrich could do was drop his head in disbelief. (It’s better to not see the severity of an attack such as that if you still have ambitions of beating the man doing the damage.)
From that moment on, it was Sestrieres and Hautacam all over again. This time, it was without the rain – and without the added bonus of the overall lead. That prize, it seems, is something Lance is prepared to ride into with the help of tomorrow’s mountain time trial and the mountains which wait down in the Pyrenees after the rest day.
The poker face of Armstrong which we saw as he fumbled his way at the back of a Telekom-led peloton for most of the day turned to the smile of a champion by the finish.
Ullrich was, without a doubt, one of the strongest men in the race today. But when he led home the troops to finish second in the stage (with Beloki and Moreau rounding out the top four, as they’d done on the final podium in Paris last year), the questions of Armstrong’s form were answered.
At the start today, a keen observer of cycling said: I’ll tell you the winner of the Tour after the final climb. When Armstrong raised his hands and crossed the line, this observer grinned and nodded his head at figure being swamped in a media scrum. He said nothing. And he didn’t need to.
Well, I guess Lance is still the Big Boy! He is now 4th with 20 min 07 sec to make up on Simon but the 3 in front of him are lesser riders. His competition is all behind him. Lance's race has begun.