Armstrong gets word: He'll keep his shirt on

Gesture doesn't wash

he retains Tour lead

July 07, 2005|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MONTARGIS, France - Lance Armstrong tried to make a gesture. He rode to the starting line in Chambord for Stage 5 of the Tour de France yesterday wearing his Discovery Channel team colors of blue, gray and white instead of the yellow jersey he had earned a day earlier when his team won the team time trial.

It was, Armstrong said, out of respect for David Zabriskie, a fellow American who had crashed hard in the last mile Tuesday. Except for the crash, Zabriskie might have held onto the yellow jersey he had worn since winning Saturday's first stage and his CSC team might have beaten Discovery Channel in the leg instead of losing by two seconds.

"In light of the tradition of the last 30 or 40 years," Armstrong said, "no one really takes the yellow if there's a crash. So we decided to leave it empty today. For me, it wouldn't be right to wear it."

But wear it he did. Armstrong said Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc told him there would be no gesture. "There was no negotiating. He said, `If you don't start with that jersey, you don't start tomorrow,' " Armstrong said. So he shrugged and slipped into the leader's yellow.

Armstrong, 33, the six-time defending champion who is hoping for No. 7 before he retires after the Tour ends in Paris on July 24, will wear yellow again today. There was no change among the leaders after yesterday's 113.7-mile stage that began in the shadow of France's largest chateau, Chambord, and ended on the wet and windy streets of Montargis.

Robbie McEwen, an Australian riding for Davitamon-Lotto, shot past Belgian Tom Boonen in a frantic sprint to the finish to take the stage in a time of 3 hours, 46 minutes.

Boonen, riding for Quick Step, had already won the second and third stages this year, leading Armstrong to suggest the 24-year-old might win "six or seven more in this race because he's so strong."

Armstrong finished 45th yesterday and rode in a protective group of teammates that escorted him safely through a day that saw five crashes.

Zabriskie's CSC teammate, Ivan Basso, considered one of the pre-race favorites, went down in a heap early, but finished the race and retained his 10th-place overall classification, 1:26 behind Armstrong and just behind the ninth-place Zabriskie, who needed stitches in his elbow and who rode with a swollen left knee and sore ribs yesterday.

According to Tour historians, in 1971 Eddy Merckx didn't wear the yellow the day after he'd won it because leader Luis Ocana crashed during a climb. In 1991, American Greg Lemond didn't wear the yellow because Rolf Sorenson broke his collarbone at the end of a stage. And in 1998, Erik Zabel refused the yellow for a day after leader Chris Boardman crashed.

But the Tour rule book states the overall leader "must wear" the yellow jersey.

On French television immediately after yesterday's race, Armstrong said: "It didn't feel right to take the jersey on somebody else's misfortune, but Jean-Marie had other ideas. I wanted to try and do the right thing and make some sort of sporting gesture."

Leblanc said that on the other occasions when a leader has given up the jersey for a day, the rider who'd crashed had been forced to leave the Tour entirely, while Zabriskie was still competing.

It was a dangerous day for racing. While the course was generally flat, whipping winds and intermittent rain kept riders nervous.

And there was more emotion than usual shown by the stage winner. McEwen passed in front of the race jury and pointed to his chest with his fingers. The jury had moved McEwen from third to last after a Stage 3 ruling that McEwen had leaned into fellow Australian Stuart O'Grady during a sprint finish.

McEwen said the jury ignored an elbow O'Grady tossed his way a moment earlier and lamented that, with his demotion the race for the green jersey - the honor given the cyclist who amasses the most points during a series of sprint races within each stage - was all but over because Boonen has such a big lead.

"It was a pretty harsh decision," McEwen said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


Fifth stage

113.7 miles from Chambord to Montargis

1. R McEwen, Davitamon-Lotto, 3 hours, 46 minutes. 2. T. Boonen, Quick Step, same. 3. T. Hushovd, Credit Agricole, same. 4. S. O'Grady, Cofidis, same. 5. A. Furlan, Domina Vacanze, same.

6. A. Davis, Liberty Seguros, same. 7. B. Eisel, Francaise des Jeux, same. 8. B. Cooke, Francaise des Jeux, same. 9. J. Voigt, CSC, same. 10. R. Forster, Gerolsteiner, same.

11. J.-P . Nazon, AG2R Prevoyance, same. 12. D. Righi, Lampre, same. 13. M. Iglinskiy, Domina Vacanze, same. 14. L. Brochard, Bouygues Telecom, same. 15. P. Wrolich, Gerolsteiner, same.

16. D. Becke, Illes Balears, same. 17. D. Loosli, Lampre, same. 18. O. Pereiro Sio, Phonak, same. 19. J. Pineau, Bouygues Telecom, same. 20. M. Giunti, Fassa Bortolo, same.

Overall standings

1. L. Armstrong, Discovery Channel, 13 hours, 45 minutes, 12 seconds. 2. G. Hincapie, Discovery Channel, 55 seconds behind. 3. J. Voigt, CSC, 1:04. 4. B. Julich, CSC, 1:07. 5. J.L. Rubiera, Discovery Channel, 1:14.

6. Y. Popovych, Discovery Channel, 1:16. 7. A. Vinokourov, T-Mobile, 1:21. 8. B.N. Gonzalez, Discovery Channel, 1:26. 9. D. Zabriskie, CSC, 1:26. 10. I. Basso, CSC, 1:26.

11. K.-A. Arvesen, CSC, 1:32. 12. P. Padrnos, Discovery Channel, 1:32. 13. P. Savoldelli, Discovery Channel, 1:33. 14. J. Ullrich, T-Mobile, 1:36. 15. C. Sastre, CSC, 1:36.

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