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The coach’s perspective: Waiting for the moment

Today’s blistering pace (52 kph for the first two hours of racing) is going to affect everyone’s preparedness for tomorrow’s mountain stage. Much of Stage 10 was ridden faster than the team time trial, and even in the draft, 50+ kph is a hard pace to maintain. ONCE spent a long time sitting on the front of the peloton this afternoon, which is beneficial to Lance and the Postal Service. Regardless of how much work ONCE did today, the team will be aggressive tomorrow on the Col d’Aubisque and La Mongie. Several men will be anxious to fire the first shot in the battle for climbing supremacy.

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By Chris Carmichael

Today’s blistering pace (52 kph for the first two hours of racing) is going to affect everyone’s preparedness for tomorrow’s mountain stage. Much of Stage 10 was ridden faster than the team time trial, and even in the draft, 50+ kph is a hard pace to maintain. ONCE spent a long time sitting on the front of the peloton this afternoon, which is beneficial to Lance and the Postal Service.

Regardless of how much work ONCE did today, the team will be aggressive tomorrow on the Col d’Aubisque and La Mongie. Several men will be anxious to fire the first shot in the battle for climbing supremacy.

Kelme’s Santiago Botero claims he does not have the same climbing form he had in previous Tours, and considering the amount of time trial work he obviously has done, that may be true. Even so, he is a strong and skilled climber and he must still be considered a very dangerous competitor.

ONCE’s Joseba Beloki has always performed well in the mountains, but he has not been particularly aggressive in the past. He tends to respond to accelerations as opposed to launching them. With his teammate in yellow, however, he is in a perfect position to attack Armstrong and the other strong climbers.

ONCE’s race leader, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano is also a strong climber and there are several factors working in his favor. Tomorrow’s stage is close to Spain and the Spanish fans will certainly give him added motivation to perform at his best. He also has the yellow jersey on his back, and there is no doubt the jersey lends its wearer an additional gear.

Tyler Hamilton and Levi Leipheimer have been pretty quiet thus far in the 2002 Tour de France. Both men are riding their first Tours as team leaders and they have been waiting patiently to show their cards.

Both men have substantial deficits to overcome after the team and individual time trials, but they have had brilliant climbing days in other races. I find it relatively hard to imagine either of them accelerating far away from the other elite climbers in the Tour de France on the final climbs of the mountain stages. They will have to race far more aggressively than they have in previous races to make up ground on Armstrong, Beloki, Botero and Galdeano.

Lance Armstrong is still the man on everyone’s lips as the leading contender for the overall victory. He thrives in hard conditions, and he finds strength from being put in desperate situations. While the yellow jersey gives its wearer strength, seeing it on anyone else’s back gives Lance incredible motivation.

Lance is an intense individual all the time; it is part of his personality. The intensity he displays during the hardest parts of the Tour de France is frightening. He will carefully choose his moment to unleash his climbing power, but no one will fail to notice when that moment comes.