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Chris Carmichael Diary: Still More Battles To Fight

Storming through the massive crowds that encroached into the road up to the summit of Alp d’Huez, Lance Armstrong won the stage he most coveted and extended his lead in the yellow jersey. While Armstrong is in the position he wanted to be, Ivan Basso – at 3:48 behind the yellow jersey - has a lot to think about tonight. Sitting only 1:15 behind the Italian leader of the CSC team is Andreas Klöden, and Jan Ullrich sits at 7:55, in fourth place. Their proximity puts Basso’s second place position in the general classification in danger. To make matters more desperate for Basso, there is only

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By Chris Carmichael, Carmichael Training Systems

Storming through the massive crowds that encroached into the road up to the summit of Alp d’Huez, Lance Armstrong won the stage he most coveted and extended his lead in the yellow jersey. While Armstrong is in the position he wanted to be, Ivan Basso – at 3:48 behind the yellow jersey – has a lot to think about tonight.

Sitting only 1:15 behind the Italian leader of the CSC team is Andreas Klöden, and Jan Ullrich sits at 7:55, in fourth place. Their proximity puts Basso’s second place position in the general classification in danger. To make matters more desperate for Basso, there is only one more mountain stage in which to attack the German duo before the final individual time trial on Stage 19.

If Basso goes into the final individual time trial just 1:15 ahead of Klöden, the T-Mobile rider has a good chance of moving ahead of him in the overall classification. Ullrich will most likely beat both of them soundly, and he even has a chance of moving all the way up to second place after the time trial.

Stage 17 on Thursday will be a very difficult day for everyone in the Tour de France, and the contenders for the top 10 positions in the race will make the stage even harder. Lance Armstrong will have to be as attentive as he has been this entire race, because the riders behind him in the overall classification are fighters. They’ve seen race leaders lose several minutes in one day, they know it’s possible (though not probable), and they will capitalize on any opportunities they see.

I expect Levi Leipheimer and maybe Oscar Periero to animate the action tomorrow, as both men will be motivated to move up in the general classification. Francisco Mancebo is showing signs of weakening, and Georg Totschnig, Carlos Sastre, and Pietro Caucchioli may be reaching the end of their strength as well. Leipheimer finished eighth in the Tour de France two years ago, and he wants to improve upon that by the time he reaches Paris on Sunday. Periero came to the Tour to ride in support of Tyler Hamilton, but now that he has taken the reins as team leader, he will be looking to give Phonak a top-ten finisher in the 2004 Tour de France.

Today may have been exciting, but tomorrow may very well turn into the most heated battle of the entire race.