By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright 2002 AFP
Three-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong warmed up for next month’s Tour by finally conquering the Dauphiné Libéré stage race, which ended Sunday in Geneva, Switzerland.
Armstrong led a 1-2 for both the United States and the U.S. Postal team as Floyd Landis came second overall, 2:03 behind the team leader, following the 150km seventh and final stage between Morzine and Geneva.
Armstrong crossed the line in 37th position behind Spanish winner Jose Enrique Gutierrez of Kelme, but it was enough to finally secure a race that has escaped him during his career.
Armstrong once again proved his form after winning last month’s Midi Libre as he bids for a fourth Tour de France title when the race gets underway in Luxembourg in three weeks’ time.
U.S. Postal directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel admitted the American was now beyond a doubt once again the Tour favorite.
“It’s a logical position. When you’ve won three times, it’s difficult to shake it off.”
“The [Dauphiné] is a good test because the team hasn’t worked a lot yet,” said Bruyneel.
“I can now say that the majority of the Tour team was here. As for Lance he followed his program, finding himself at a good level in the Midi Libre so much so it’s not necessary for him to find other stage races,” added Bruyneel.
The final day turned into a tour of honor for Armstrong, who was content to sit back and control the race with his teammates during the final stage, which was run under stifling heat.
Gutierrez, 28, crossed the line first in 3:38:45, just ahead of French rider Christophe Oriol, with Australian Bradley McGee third at 35 seconds. It is the second win for the Spaniard, a former Tour of Italy stage winner, since turning professional in 1998.
Gutierrez profited from Oriol going off the boil in the last of 10 laps before the finish line.
“I never hoped to win this easily,” admitted Gutierrez. “But when Christophe Oriol suddenly let go, I knew that I’d won the race. It’s my greatest victory. I’d like to give this performance during a stage of the Tour”.
1. Jose Enrique Gutierrez (Sp), Kelme, 150km in 3:38:45; 2. Christophe Oriol (F), Ag2R, s.t.; 3. Bradley McGee (Aus), La Française des Jeux, at 0:35; 4. Jérome Bernard (F), Jean Delatour, at 0:42, 5. Patrice Halgand (F), Jean Delatour, at 1:17; 6. Santiago Botero (Col), Kelme, at 1:19; 7. Ludovic Martin (F), Credit Agricole, at 2:42; 8. Xavier Jan (F), Big Mat-Auber 93, at 3:04; 9. David Millar (GB), Cofidis, at 3:19; 10. David Latasa (Sp), iBanesto.com, s.t.; 11. Baden Cooke (Aus), La Française des Jeux, at 5:14; 12. Serge Baguet (B), Lotto-Adecco; 13. Sebastien Hinault (F), Credit Agricole; 14. Richard Virenque (F), Domo-Farm Frites; 15. Massimiliano Lelli (I), Cofidis, all s.t.;
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) U.S. Postal Service, at 24:54:54
2. Floyd Landis (USA) U.S. Postal Service, at 2:03
3. Christophe Moreau (F) Credit Agricole, at 2:24
4. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp) Euskaltel, at 2:44
5. Andrei Kivilev (Kaz) Cofidis, at 3:28
6. Denis Menchov (Rus) iBanesto.com, at 3:46
7. Aitor Kintana Zarate (Sp) Bigmat-Auber 93, at 5:09
8. Marzio Bruseghin (I) iBanesto.com, at 5:34
9. Richard Virenque (F) Domo-Farm Frites, at 6:11
10. Nicolas Vogondy (F) La Francaise Des Jeux, at 7:09
11. David Moncoutie (F) Cofidis, at 7:18
12. Felix Garcia Casas (Sp) Bigmat-Auber 93, at 7:21
13. Christophe Oriol (F), Ag2R, at 7:23
14. Laurent Lefevre (F) Jean Delatour, at 8:59
15. Alexandre Bocharov (Rus) Ag2R, s.t.