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The coach’s perspective: No worries

Before your heart sinks too far, let me tell you something: Lance is fine. No, he didn’t win the time trial; and no, he isn’t wearing yellow yet. On the other hand, he is closer to the lead than he was yesterday and the hardest portion of the Tour is yet to come. So what happened today? Santiago Botero and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano rode brilliantly, and Lance rode reasonably well. I don’t think anyone should look at today’s result as a failure on Lance’s part, nor as a chink in his armor. He will be a formidable and aggressive force on the hardest mountain stages coming later this week and

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By Chris Carmichael

Before your heart sinks too far, let me tell you something: Lance is fine. No, he didn’t win the time trial; and no, he isn’t wearing yellow yet. On the other hand, he is closer to the lead than he was yesterday and the hardest portion of the Tour is yet to come.

So what happened today? Santiago Botero and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano rode brilliantly, and Lance rode reasonably well. I don’t think anyone should look at today’s result as a failure on Lance’s part, nor as a chink in his armor. He will be a formidable and aggressive force on the hardest mountain stages coming later this week and next week.

The mountain stages of the 2002 Tour de France are very difficult. There are five summit finishes this year, including Mont Ventoux and La Plagne. We did a great deal of climbing work in preparation for the mountains and Lance has been climbing very well over the past few months. The other thing to remember is that Lance is not afraid of being the aggressor on any stage. He doesn’t hide his disappointment over not winning today’s time trial and in seeing the yellow jersey on someone else’s back, but he has already put today behind him and started planning his assault on the mountains.

As usual, the first long time trial has caused a major reshuffling of the overall General Classification. None of the men who were touted as pre-race favorites are out of contention for the podium in Paris, with the notable exception of Christophe Moreau. Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer, and Oscar Sevilla have a long road ahead of them if they want to stand on the podium, but a few days of good luck and aggressive riding could move them closer to the Spaniards ahead of them.

Coming out of today’s time trial, the small nucleus of favorites for the yellow jersey has been whittled down to Lance, Spaniards Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, Joseba Beloki, and Santiago Botero from Columbia. None of those men has been able to leave Armstrong behind on mountain stages in the past. Botero did win the Joux-Plane stage of the 2000 Tour de France, but he was allowed to get away in a long breakaway in a year before he was considered a major GC contender.

ONCE has a hard task ahead of them. Leading the Tour de France into the mountains with the yellow jersey is one thing, coming out of them still wearing it is another. Lance has the same or better climbing form he had when he left everyone behind last year on the climbs to Alp d’Huez and Pla d’Adet. The climbing battles will be hard fought and exciting to watch, and I confidently expect to see Lance finishing at least one summit by himself and well ahead of anyone else.