Armstrong looks ready to take his turn up front

He may vault into lead during team time trial

Tour De France

July 05, 2005|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

TOURS, France - It was a moment of graciousness from Lance Armstrong to a possible successor. In the middle of the peloton, while everybody was riding leisurely, at about 30 mph or so, Armstrong sneaked up on the side of David Zabriskie, leaned over and started talking, cyclist to cyclist, two guys riding in the countryside, whizzing by a 900-year-old chateau.

Zabriskie, a 26-year-old from Salt Lake City who rides for a Danish organization, Team CSC, kept possession of the yellow jersey, the coveted shirt owned by the overall leader at the Tour de France. Having won it in Saturday's opening time trial, Zabriskie left yesterday's 133-mile stage still holding a two-second lead over the six-time defending champion Armstrong.

So it was a special moment when Zabriskie turned and saw Armstrong, who has announced his retirement after this Tour. "He said, `I hope you're enjoying it,' " Zabriskie said. "I said, `Yes, I am.' He asked if he could have a turn with it. I said, `Sure, why not?' "

Armstrong's turn could happen as soon as today's team time trial. Team CSC - studded with stars such as Italian Ivan Basso, the Tour's third-place rider last year, and experienced time-trial rider Bobby Julich along with Zabriskie, who is the U.S. national team champion - believes it's ready to end the U.S. entry's hold on the crucial stage.

For the past two years, wearing the uniforms of the U.S. Postal Service, Armstrong and his buddies have earned the Texan crucial seconds by demolishing the field. In the team time trial, each squad rides together and everybody's time counts.

"Holding onto the lead is going to be really tough," Zabriskie said. "But we have a strong team, and we'll give it our best."

Armstrong was content again to stay anonymous in the pack. He finished 87th and was more inclined to talk about the next stage than this one.

"Days like today aren't necessarily my idea of a great time," Armstrong said. "Everybody does something a little bit crazy in front of you.

"Tuesday is an important day. It's important to show that the team is the strongest." If Discovery Channel does win, Armstrong probably will claim the yellow jersey from Zabriskie. "It's a jersey I still cherish," he said.

For the second straight day young Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen crossed the finish line first. For the dozens of fans wearing green "Tom Boonen!" T-shirts, the party started the instant Boonen crossed the finish line of the stage that had begun in La Chataigneraie. As Boonen became aware he had won a sprint finish for the second day in a row, he raised his arms high and his backers popped the corks on some champagne.

Boonen, 24, was just ahead of Peter Wrolich of Austria and Australian Stuart O'Grady.

Armstrong, Zabriskie and all the top Tour contenders - Basso, Jan Ullrich, Alexandre Vinokourov, Andreas Kloeden, Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis - all finished in the main peloton. So Zabriskie kept his yellow jersey, Armstrong remained in second place and none of the contenders lost anything to the six-time defending champion Armstrong.

Everyone is eager for the big test today. Each team will take off in five-minute intervals. By virtue of its best accumulated time so far, Zabriskie's CSC group will go last. Discovery Channel will be five minutes up the road that meanders along the Loire River from Tours to Blois.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


Third stage

133-mile individual time trial from La Chataigneraie to Tours

1.T. Boonen, Quick Step, 4 hours, 36 minutes, 9 seconds. 2. P. Wrolich, Gerolsteiner, same. 3. S. O'Grady, Cofidis, same. 4. B. Eisel, Francaise des Jeux, same. 5. A. Davis, Liberty Seguros, same.

6. R. Forster, Gerolsteiner, same. 7. M. Backstedt, Liquigas-Bianchi, same. 8. A. Geslin, Bouygues Telecom, same. 9. T. Hushovd, Credit Agricole, same. 10. A. Furlan, Domina Vacanze, same.

11. I. Galvez, Illes Balears, same. 12. G. Trenti, Quick Step, same. 13. G. Bortolami, Lampre, same. 14. L. Pagliarini, Liquigas-Bianchi, same. 15. D. Becke, Illes Balears, same.

16. M. Quinziato, Saunier Duval, same. 17. J. Antonio Flecha, Fassa Bortolo, same. 19. F. Rodriguez, Davitamon-Lotto, same. 20. S. Lang, Gerolsteiner, same.


45. C. Horner, Saunier Duval, same. 56. D. Zabriskie, CSC, same. 59. B. Julich, CSC, same. 82. Y. Popovych, Disc. Channel, same. 87. L. Armstrong, Disc. Channel, same.

89. G. Hincapie, Disc. Channel, same. 98. M. Beltran, Disc. Channel, same. 103. J. Azevedo, Disc. Channel, same. 106. P. Savoldelli, Disc. Chan., same. 111. J.L. Rubiera, Disc. Chan., same.

120. B. Noval Gonzalez, Disc. Chan., same. 121. P. Padrnos, Disc. Channel, same. 131. F. Landis, Phonak, same. 174. L. Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, same.

Overall standings

1. D. Zabriskie, CSC, 8 hours, 48 minutes, 31 seconds. 2. L. Armstrong, Disc. Channel, two seconds behind. 3. L. Bodrogi, Credit Agricole, :47. 4. A. Vinokourov, T-Mobile, :53. 5. G. Hincapie, Disc. Chan., :57.

6. F. Landis, Phonak, 1:02. 7. F. Cancellara, Fassa Bortolo, 1:02. 8. J. Voigt, CSC, 1:04. 9. V. Karpets, Illes Balears, 1:05. 10. I. Gonzalez de Galdeano, Liberty Seguros, 1:06.

11. B. Julich, CSC, 1:07. 12. J. Ullrich, T-Mobile, 1:08. 13. T. Boonen, Quick Step, 1:09. 14. J.E. Gutierrez, Phonak, 1:12. 15. L. Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, 1:13.

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