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Armstrong: Hot, parched and ‘going backwards’

Lance Armstrong said blistering temperatures and not drinking enough fluids gave him a challenging day in the saddle during the Tour de France’s 12th-stage time trial, won by German rival Jan Ullrich here on Friday. Ullrich ended a five-year famine to win his first Tour stage since 1998, another time trial, after posting the winning time of 58:32 over the 47km race against the clock between Gaillac and here. Armstrong, who admitted that at one point he felt he was going backwards, finished second at a massive 1:36 behind the 29-year-old German to see his lead in the race

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By AFP

Lance Armstrong said blistering temperatures and not drinking enough fluids gave him a challenging day in the saddle during the Tour de France’s 12th-stage time trial, won by German rival Jan Ullrich here on Friday.

Ullrich ended a five-year famine to win his first Tour stage since 1998, another time trial, after posting the winning time of 58:32 over the 47km race against the clock between Gaillac and here.

Armstrong, who admitted that at one point he felt he was going backwards, finished second at a massive 1:36 behind the 29-year-old German to see his lead in the race threatened.

Bianchi team leader Ullrich now sits only 34 seconds adrift in second overall, while Telekom’s Alexandre Vinokourov, who started the day in the runner-up slot at 21 seconds behind America’s four-time Tour champion, is now in third at 0:51 after finishing the stage in third place at 2:06 behind Ullrich.

And while a bubbly Ullrich explained how he meticulously prepared for the crucial 12th stage “down to the last meter,” Armstrong – appearing perhaps symbolically in his normal team jersey and not the race leader’s yellow jersey – admitted he’d made a major blunder.

“Maybe it was too hot for me. I suffered,” said Armstrong, who had called Friday’s time trial the most important time trial in his Tour career. “I didn’t feel so good on the (last) climb. There was a moment where I felt like I was going backwards. I felt thirsty throughout the stage, and it was the thirstiest I’ve ever felt in a time trial.

“In the second half of the course there was a moment when I knew I had a problem. I’d run out of water and, well, maybe I didn’t drink enough before the stage. It’s crazy because I knew it was going to be 35 degrees (Celsius) and we’d gone over the course in the morning.”

Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner who has come second on four occasions, put his success down to his methodical approach to the stage – which, ironically, has been Armstrong’s recipe for success over the past four years.

“I had a good sleep last night, got up early and went over the course this morning down to the last meter,” said the German, who is making his return to the Tour after a testing year both on and off the bike. Most importantly I had a very big lunch and drank plenty before the stage.

“I didn’t really have any tactics. I started fast but was careful in the first five or six kilometers because there were a few dangerous bends, but apart from that I just went as hard as I could afterwards.” –Copyright 2003/AFP