By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong’s spill in Friday’s fifth stage of the Dauphiné Libéré race was one of the Texans rare crashes during competition. Armstrong went down on a descent after leaving Morzine after his wheel apparently locked up and sent the four-time Tour de France champion sprawling to the pavement.
Armstrong wasn’t seriously injured and finished the race with cuts to his right elbow and rips in his cycling shorts. He later received two stitches and was expected to start Saturday’s climbing stage.
Typically, Armstrong stays out of trouble by staying near the front of the bunch, the safest place to be. He’s never crashed during his four Tour victories but caused headlines when he almost crashed last year when he was caught behind a pileup in the seventh stage.
“People think it’s luck that Lance doesn’t crash, but you have to work hard to be in that position, at the front of the group, out of trouble,” said former pro Jogi Mueller, now Armstrong’s European spokesman. “That only comes from hard work.”
Armstrong crashed three times in 2000. VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson said the Texan crashed early in the season in Nice when an elderly woman in a car hit him, again on May 5 that year when he crashed coming down the Col du Aubisque during a training camp in the Pyrenees and then after the Tour when he collided with a car on a remote road near Nice.
The only crash that resulted in more than superficial injuries was the last one in 2000, when he cracked a vertebra, an injury that threatened to derail his Olympics run.
Echavarri looking for new sponsor
One of cycling’s oldest and most successful teams could be gone at the end of this season if a new sponsor isn’t found in time to take over for Banesto. The Spanish bank said it’s ending its longtime sponsorship of the team that delivered Miguel Indurain to a record five consecutive Tour victories and one for Pedro Delgado.
José Miguel Echávarri, the team’s manager and guru, has won no less than six Tours, two Giros and two Vuelta, but could be without a team for the first time since 1980 if he can’t find a sponsor soon.
Despite reports that he’s secured a sponsor, Echávarri told the Spanish sports daily MARCA that nothing has been finalized.
“There is nothing signed, even though we wouldn’t say anything until after the Tour. There are some big companies that are studying our project and that gives us confidence, even though there’s not anything definitive yet,” he said.
Echávarri said he’s going to focus on making a strong Tour and not announce anything until August. He also said he wants a contract for five years.
“I want to have a team confirmed, splendid and continue with the infrastructure of iBanesto.com,” he said. “I don’t have a magic wand, but I’m confident that the some of the conversations we’re having will bear fruit.”
ONCE quitting at end of 2004
In another blow for Spanish cycling, ONCE announced last week it would not continue its sponsorship of the team beyond 2004. The Spanish national lottery stepped forward in the early 1990s to back the team managed by Manolo Saiz and has won four Vueltas and scored two consecutive Tour podiums with Joseba Beloki (Beloki’s first podium was with Festina).
Saiz will be looking for a title sponsor to take over as current co-sponsor Eroski has said it wants to stay on, but doesn’t want to spend the money to be the main sponsor.
Kelme for Tour sans Sevilla
Kelme will come to the 2003 Tour de France without its star Oscar Sevilla, sidelined with nagging problems from a cyst. The team announced 10 names that will fill out the nine-man roster.
With Sevilla’s absence, the team is forced to change its strategy. Instead of fighting for the podium, Kelme will come with a mixed squad intent on winning stages. Isaac Galvez will do what he can in the sprints while Jose Gutierrez, David Muñoz and Ivan Parra will fight in the mountains. Javier Pascual Llorente, a winner of the Ruta del Sol and the Tour of Murcia earlier this season, will do his best in the GC.
Kelme for the Tour: Juan Cuenca, Isaac Galvez, Ignacio Gutierrez, José E. Gutierrez, David Latasa, Jesús Manzano, David Muñoz, Javier Pascual Llorente, Antonio Tauler (all Spanish) and Ivan Parra (Colombian).
No Tour for Boonen
Belgian classics man Tom Boonen announced he won’t be racing in July’s Tour de France. The rising star said he’ll race in the Route du Sud later this month as preparation for the Belgian national championships June 29 and then race in the Tour of Spain in September.