Armstrong not yet ready to party

He maintains overall lead, has 1 last shot at stage win before retirement begins

Tour De France

July 23, 2005|By Diane Pucin | Diane Pucin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LE PUY-EN-VELAY, France - Lance Armstrong is not the sentimental type. At least not yet.

"There's one hour tomorrow and maybe four on Sunday," Armstrong said yesterday after Stage 19 at the Tour de France. "I fully realize that I have just five hours left as a professional cyclist. But there's still work to be done, the attacks will come and we have to cover them. There's still the time trial tomorrow. No one's throwing a retirement party for me yet."

That will come tomorrow in Paris at the Ritz, where Armstrong is planning a retirement shindig for 600 of his closest friends, fans and celebrities. Armstrong has won an unprecedented six consecutive Tours and is safely in the lead for his seventh victory before he retires tomorrow and starts the party.

But there is still racing to be done.

Yesterday's winner of the 95.3-mile stage from Issoire was wide-eyed 34-year-old veteran Giuseppe Guerini of Italy.

Riding for T-Mobile, Guerini finished the short trip in 3 hours, 33 minutes, 4 seconds. Armstrong, who finished 56th, tucked away in the peloton and 4:31 behind the winner, kept his overall lead at 2:46 over another Italian, Ivan Basso. The only change in the top 10 came when Spain's Oscar Pereiro slipped ahead of fading Frenchman Christophe Moreau, now 11th.

This was Guerini's second Tour stage win. His first came in 1999 on l'Alpe d'Huez, and it was filled with drama. On the Tour's most legendary climb with its 21 hairpin turns, Guerini was alone and riding toward the finish when a fan with a camera jumped onto the unbarricaded road. Guerini crashed into the man, fell, got up and still won the stage.

"It was easier today," Guerini said. "This was special, too. But nothing was like l'Alpe d'Huez."

Guerini was part of a four-man breakaway along roads under a bright sun that pushed temperatures to nearly 100 degrees. There were five small hills and melting pavement in some places, and most of the peloton was content to ride together and safely.

With about 23 miles to go, Guerini, Sandy Casar of France, Franco Pellizotti of Italy and Pereiro burst ahead for good and were cooperating with each other until Guerini attacked with about 1,300 meters left. Pereiro's fourth-place finish lifted him from 13th overall to 10th.

Armstrong, who was awarded the leader's yellow jersey for the 81st time, looked ahead briefly to today's 34.5-mile time trial in Saint-Etienne - his last chance to add the stage win he has lacked in this year's Tour - before he hurried off to see his three children, who have come to see their father race in his final Tour.

"It's going to be very hard and very long," Armstrong said, "and there will be very big time differences. It's a big day. I'll give it everything I've got."

In the time trial, riders race the clock. They start one at a time in one-minute intervals with the yellow jersey holder, Armstrong, going last.

Basso's biggest weakness in the past has been in the time trial, but he won the event in the Giro d'Italia last spring and he was still working on the skill after today's stage. He and American teammate Bobby Julich went out to drive the course.

"This time trial is the last big thing in the Tour," said Basso, 27, who rides for CSC. "I'm very focused on showing that I deserve my place and maintaining my standing."

While Danish climbing specialist Mickael Rasmussen is third, 3:46 behind Armstrong and a minute behind Basso, Germany's Jan Ullrich most worries Basso. Ullrich, in fourth place, 3:12 behind Basso, is a strong time trial rider and said, "I feel as if my legs are getting stronger."

Even Armstrong said this week that he thought Ullrich should be the favorite today.

And Basso was bluntly honest about his chances of gaining over 2 1/2 minutes on Armstrong in the last competitive stage for the overall leaders. "It is Lance's final stage in his final Tour," Basso said. "That is not even a realistic thought, to beat him."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Results

19th stage

95.4 miles from Issoire to Le Puy-en-Velay

1. Giuseppe Guerini, Italy, Lampre, 3 hours, 33 minutes, 4 seconds.

2. Sandy Casar, France, Francaise des Jeux, :10 behind.

3. Franco Pellizotti, Italy, Liquigas-Bianchi, same.

4. Oscar Pereiro, Spain, Phonak, :12.

5. Salvatore Commesso, Italy, Lampre, 2:43.

6. Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Norway, CSC, 2:48.

7. Nicolas Portal, France, AG2R Prevoyance, same.

8. Bert Grabsch, Germany, Phonak, same.

9. Sylvain Chavanel, France, Cofidis, same.

10. Pieter Weening, Netherlands, Rabobank, 3:50.

11. Jose Azevedo, Portugal, Discovery Channel, 4:21.

12. Carlos Da Cruz, France, Francaise des Jeux, same.

13. Juan Antonio Flecha, Spain, Fassa Bortolo, same.

14. Robbie McEwen, Australia, Davitamon-Lotto, 4:31.

15. Thor Hushovd, Norway, Credit Agricole, same.

Also

21. Levi Leipheimer, U.S., Gerolsteiner, same.

28. Ivan Basso, Italy, CSC, same.

29. Bobby Julich, U.S., CSC, same.

33. Jan Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile, same.

34. Mickael Rasmussen, Denmark, Rabobank, same.

50. Yaroslav Popovych, Ukraine, Discovery Channel, same.

56. Lance Armstrong, U.S., Discovery Channel, same.

58. George Hincapie, U.S., Discovery Channel, same.

70. Paolo Savoldelli, Italy, Discovery Channel, same.

71. Floyd Landis, U.S., Phonak, same.

Overall standings

1. Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel, 81 hours, 22 minutes, 19 seconds.

2. Ivan Basso, CSC, 2:46 behind.

3. Mickael Rasmussen, Rabobank, 3:46.

4. Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile, 5:58.

5. Francisco Mancebo, Illes Balears, 7:08.

6. Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, 8:12.

7. Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, 9:49.

8. Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, 10:11.

9. Floyd Landis, Phonak, 10:42.

10. Oscar Pereiro, Phonak, 12:39.

11. Christophe Moreau, Credit Agricole, 13:15.

12. Eddy Mazzoleni, Lampre, 15:13.

13. Yaroslav Popovych, Discovery Channel, 15:53.

14. Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 17:26.

15. Oscar Sevilla, T-Mobile, 20:06.

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