Jan Ullrich was downright super today in the Stage 12 individual time trial.
We knew coming into the Tour that he was in great shape and anticipated he would be strong in the time trials, and we were right. Today’s results make one thing very clear: Lance Armstrong is going to have to attack in the Pyrenees to win the 2003 Tour de France.
Lance Armstrong has an advantage over Jan Ullrich in the mountains, and he needs to exploit that advantage over the next four days to build more of a lead than Ullrich can take back in the final individual time trial on Stage 19.
In the mountains, Lance’s power to weight ratio and his high-cadence climbing style give him the ability to out-accelerate Jan Ullrich. The German can maintain a very high pace on climbs, but he struggles when the pace changes.
To put Ullrich into difficulty on a climb, it is best to attack him when the pitch is at its steepest because this is where a rider’s power to weight ratio plays the largest role.
Since Lance can out-accelerate Ullrich on steep climbs, he will have to go on the offensive during the two summit finishes in the Pyrenees. By attacking hard and opening up a gap while the German gradually increases his speed, Armstrong can gain the time he needs to distance himself from Ullrich before the Stage 19 time trial.
Winning mountain stages also takes on more importance in light of Ullrich’s time trial strength. There is a 20-second time bonus given to the winner of each stage (with the exception of the time trials), providing Lance with added incentive to arrive at finish line first.
The relative positions of Alexander Vinokorouv, Tyler Hamilton, Iban Mayo and Francisco Mancebo may help Armstrong in his quest to distance himself from Jan Ullrich. They will certainly be attacking Armstrong and each other to increase their chances of standing on the podium in Paris. With several people riding aggressively in the Pyrenees, the pressure on Ullrich will be very high.
Lance Armstrong started the 2003 Tour de France against the most competitive field of contenders in the past five years. He knew this year would be tough, and so far it has been. He’s confident in his team and his ability to rise to the challenges mounted against him. Lance is prepared for a fight all the way to Paris, and he intends to come out on top.