Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Race Strategies Are Made To Be Changed

Lance Armstrong loves to win, but he knows it is better to concede some battles in the effort to win the war. When he has a great day, Lance can leave everyone behind with one hard attack, but today wasn’t great and it became clear to him early on in the Alp d’Huez climb that the best strategy was to ride defensively. Lance went into Stage 8 intending to attack on Alp d’Huez and put as much time as possible into his main rivals for the yellow jersey. The US Postal Service set him up perfectly to do just that, setting a blistering pace up the initial slopes of the mountain. Their efforts

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Chris Carmichael

Lance Armstrong loves to win, but he knows it is better to concede some battles in the effort to win the war. When he has a great day, Lance can leave everyone behind with one hard attack, but today wasn’t great and it became clear to him early on in the Alp d’Huez climb that the best strategy was to ride defensively.

Lance went into Stage 8 intending to attack on Alp d’Huez and put as much time as possible into his main rivals for the yellow jersey. The US Postal Service set him up perfectly to do just that, setting a blistering pace up the initial slopes of the mountain. Their efforts shed a few key riders, including Jan Ullrich, Stefano Garzelli, and yellow jersey holder Richard Virenque. Several others appeared to be suffering under the pressure applied by Lance’s teammates, but Lance quickly realized delivering the final blow was going to be more difficult than in years past.

An experienced rider knows race strategies have to be flexible. While there’s no doubt Lance wanted to win Stage 8, he reevaluated his plan for the stage when he realized he would be hard pressed to get rid of Joseba Beloki, Tyler Hamilton, Iban Mayo, and Alexander Vinokorouv. Lance chose to ride conservatively and stay with Beloki and Hamilton, the two men nearest to him in the overall classification. He responded when they surged, but didn’t chase after stage winner Mayo or Telekom’s Vinokorouv in the closing kilometers.

Jan Ullrich was dropped early on Alp d’Huez, and even though he gained on the group containing Armstrong, Beloki, and Hamilton near the top of the climb, it appears he may be vulnerable in the high mountains. He has great power, but has trouble accelerating as quickly as his competition on steep pitches. It was good that Armstrong and Beloki took some time out of him today because the German is extremely strong in time trials.

Stage 9 covers two major mountains, the Col du Larent and the Col d’Izoard, but the summit of the Izoard is almost 100 kilometers from the finish line. I don’t expect there to be any major changes in the overall classification at the conclusion of the stage. There is a lot of racing yet to come in the 2003 Tour de France, including two long individual time trials and four days in the Pyrenees. So far, the competition for the yellow jersey has been tighter than in previous years, but Lance Armstrong has the will and the legs to ride into Paris in yellow.