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Talk o’ the Tour: Quotes, quotes and more quotes

Here’s what the main players had to say at Ax-3 Domaines, France, following Saturday’s fireworks in the Pyrenees. Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel), yellow jersey (second at 52 seconds back, first overall) On comparing to his troubles two years ago: “Yeah, for sure, I kept trying to remember my training day here six weeks ago versus the 2003 Tour, because I felt better then. It’s a similar situation, again with Ivan and Jan, same as 2003. Similar also with the heat, it was incredibly hot.” On the difficulty of Sunday’s stage: “We’re going to have a hard time to recover from today’s

By Andrew Hood

It's time to either fight or run away

It’s time to either fight or run away

Photo: Graham Watson

Here’s what the main players had to say at Ax-3 Domaines, France, following Saturday’s fireworks in the Pyrenees.

Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel), yellow jersey (second at 52 seconds back, first overall)

On comparing to his troubles two years ago: “Yeah, for sure, I kept trying to remember my training day here six weeks ago versus the 2003 Tour, because I felt better then. It’s a similar situation, again with Ivan and Jan, same as 2003. Similar also with the heat, it was incredibly hot.”

On the difficulty of Sunday’s stage: “We’re going to have a hard time to recover from today’s stage. Tomorrow is the hardest stage of the Tour. I need to get out of here to start to hydrate, eat, rest and recover, and it was very early today – one and a half hours on the bus to get to the start, another hour and a half to get to the hotel – that doesn’t make it easy or human. I try to get out of here as quick so I can start the recovery process. If it’s this hot tomorrow, a lot of guys will be going home.”

On T-Mobile’s tactics: “It’s scary when you see, 5km before the bottom, an entire team go to the front and ride as hard as they can. Naturally you fear that situation, you either fight back or run away. For me I felt good at the time and motivated to not be necessarily gotten down by such strong tactics. They did a good job. If I was the director, I would make the same call.”

On whether he wants to win a road stage: “Not important, I can’t seem to win one this year. I hope to win one, I’d like to win tomorrow, a non-time trial stage, that makes it even harder. I’d be happy with victory in the Saint Etienne time trial. Tactics are tactics, we let an attack go up the road and get 10-15 minutes so we could keep the team together.”

On Discovery Channel’s performance: “They’re not made to do those all-out sprints – T-Mobile was going all out. Their thing is to ride a medium-fast tempo for a long time to take the group from 50 to 30 to 15 guys. That disrupted our plan. Their tactics were fine. I was left alone. When you ride like that, no one stays around long – you not only eliminate your rivals, you eliminate your teammates as well. I rode 12 of the last 15km of Pailheres alone, but so did everyone else.”

On who left the biggest impression, Ullrich or Basso: “I have to say both – they were both stronger than we saw in the Alps. I expected that, but Ivan seemed to be the stronger of the two. He was working more on the first col, he was riding fast, he was the one doing all the attacking. Jan is a tough dude, he kept following, he was immediately on the wheel, he was directly on the wheel, an indication that he was strong. The other people there were just there.”

On what he expects Sunday: “Tomorrow is very tough. It’s what they call the queen’s stage. I would not want to see any explosive moves tomorrow, I think tomorrow we’ll have to wait for the final climb.”

Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner), stage winner, 14th overall at 10:39

Totschnig is glad he didn't go home

Totschnig is glad he didn’t go home

Photo: Graham Watson

On what the victory means: “It’s the greatest day of my sporting career. It was an extraordinary effort. I didn’t think I would make it to the end. I heard that the others were attacking behind me and that Armstrong was gaining time. I really gave everything I had.”

On how he’s gotten through the first half: “I’ve been sick, both before the Tour and during the stages in the Vosges. I almost went home and I couldn’t find the motivation to keep going. My team helped me through the hard stages and I slowly started to feel better. I’m glad I didn’t go home.”

On his ride: “We made the plan this morning to attack. It was a long day in the saddle, the most gratifying of my career. It’s the biggest day in my career, but the most important thing for me is my family and children. This is only sport.”

Christian Henn, Gerolsteiner sport director:

On the team’s plan: “We made the plan this morning, to send Georg on the attack and save Levi for the overall. The plan worked to perfection. This is the biggest day for the team ever in the Tour in three years. Georg’s victory is especially gratifying because he’s been so disappointed from being ill. Levi was strong again today. He’s in good position for the podium. Now everything is to help him.” Ivan Basso (Team CSC), third at 58 seconds back, fourth at 4:34: On his performance: “I gained some confidence in the race today. My legs were feeling much better than they were in the Alps. I could hold the rhythm that I was looking for the other day.” On the difficulty of the stage: “Everyone gave it their all. No one was holding anything back. It’s amazing how much faster the Tour is than other races. Compared to the Giro, the climbs here are 4 to 5kph faster, 10 to 12 kph faster on the flats.” On the early moves: “I tried to attack on the Pailheres. It was a long climb and we wanted to try to make some differences on the others. It’s impossible to try to attack Armstrong. He’s too strong and once again he didn’t show any signs of weakness. We’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe it’s possible to try to win the stage, but Armstrong will want to win as well. It’s going to be hard.”

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank), eighth at 1:47; second overall at 1:41

On his hopes for the overall: “There are good days and there are bad days; today was a semi-bad day. It wasn’t a complete disaster. I lost less than one minute to the greatest Tour rider ever, so that’s not so bad.”

On his ride: “Today was all about limiting the time loss. I wasn’t part of the finale as I had hoped. I hope that I don’t have to dig as deep tomorrow to stay with the front riders.

On his hopes for the yellow jersey: “The distance to the yellow jersey is bigger now, but it’s still within striking distance.”

Rasmussen had a 'semi-bad day'

Rasmussen had a ‘semi-bad day’

Photo: Graham Watson

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