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Tour Tidbits: What do the big players have to say?

Levi ready for uphill challengeOn the fight for the podium I feel good. I feel better than I have in the Tour before. I think the GC will continue to sort out a little bit. I’ve been trying to save as much energy as possible because I know what’s coming up. It’s definitely going to be decisive. It’s hot now, tomorrow and the next day are going to be very decisive. The day after tomorrow (Sunday) when we get to the bottom of Pla-d’Adet, it’s going to explode, it’s going to be every man on his own. It’s going to be very painful. On Saturday’s stage to Ax-3 Domaines Follow the best, but there’s

By Andrew Hood

Levi ready for uphill challenge
On the fight for the podium I feel good. I feel better than I have in the Tour before. I think the GC will continue to sort out a little bit. I’ve been trying to save as much energy as possible because I know what’s coming up. It’s definitely going to be decisive. It’s hot now, tomorrow and the next day are going to be very decisive. The day after tomorrow (Sunday) when we get to the bottom of Pla-d’Adet, it’s going to explode, it’s going to be every man on his own. It’s going to be very painful. On Saturday’s stage to Ax-3 Domaines Follow the best, but there’s going to be some attacks on the final two climbs. As long as they have things under control, there’s no sense in taking too much of risk to attack or trying to take some time early. On Sunday’s stage The second day in the Pyrenees is so hard, you have to save everything for the last part of that race, it’s long, each climb is harder than the last, we’re getting into the third week, it’s going to be a big show. On the climb to Courchevel When they accelerated I was sitting behind Ullrich and Kloden and it snapped quickly. I didn’t expect to split so quickly, I had to use some energy to come back to them. When I came back, Lance accelerated again. I didn’t want to go over my limit. I was hoping to ride at my own pace and come back to them. It was a climb that was beneficial to be in a group and sitting on the wheel. I only lost a minute and considering I was by myself, it wasn’t so bad. On hopes for the GC The only thing you can hope for is Lance to completely crack. When Discovery Channel has control of the race, it’s not a good idea. McEwen after winning
On how the team worked Today is really a team victory, the amount of work today is absolutely incredible, hard for anybody not in the race to realize how hard they worked today, it was stage 14 in the Tour, already through the Vosges and Alps, for my guys to go up today and do what they did, my last guy Rodriguez just delivered me to the line … such a fantastic job, just deserves a victory. On the strategy for today I didn’t think we’d have a mass sprint today, I thought everyone would be very tired. It’s what motivated us. The motivation comes from within those guys, it’s a belief from those guys, belief in me, enabled them to do what they did today – I keep saying it, but they rode their hearts out all day, only had four teammates we could use for the chase. I’m sitting here in disbelief that my teammates were able to do today to bring back the break, I can’t imagine even doing that myself. On Boonen leaving the Tour We didn’t have Quick Step to help us in the chase. You have to stay in the Tour. It doesn’t really matter that he’s here or not. You have to get through it to the end before you start to talk about winning the green jersey. Armstrong expects some heat
How he sees the Pyrénées It’s closer in terms of time, but regardless of what happens in the next few days, we still have the advantage of the final time trial. We have to watch the other riders, but we have to ride conservative. I can’t follow all the accelerations and maybe we’ll have to make it up in the end. On the difference between the Alps and Pyrenees The crowds are different breed, the Alps are tend to be more German, more Spanish or Basque. I’m guessing we’ll see less Basque than in the past. The climbs themselves are shorter, yet steeper, I suppose it favors the Spanish riders. On how he handles the heat There’s no doubt that the impression came about in 2003, I’m not going to say it’s not true. The truth is I don’t know the answer. Everyone’s performance suffers in the heat. A lot of dealing with the heat happens not in the race but how you prepare the night before, the days before. When you start to get behind in hydration, your performance starts to evaporate. It makes me worry, so I have to be extra careful. On whether he’s enjoying this Tour more It’s pretty enjoyable. Someone asked me what it felt like to finish last Alpine stage, I didn’t even think about that. It’s not as if I’m being philosophical, I’m living in moment with the attitude to win. It’s been a strange Tour, hard on athletes, with the amount of transfers. Like yesterday, two hard days in the Alps, then it’s two hours in the car, that’s not acceptable. With all the other things that go on in cycling, on how we should be proper and perfect, when the athletes are treated like that, that’s not cool. It’s too bad we lost Beltran, would have been nice to finish with nine riders. On how he handles the heat Nothing different, but I am more aware that dehydration starts days out. You can’t just get on bike and start drinking lots of water. Two or three days ago, we tried to get ahead of it. We could have a freak rain storm, but that would be nice. We have to be prepared for hot stuff. On the coming stages Pailheres is a very tough climb, very long, very steep, very narrow at top, straight down and hardly an time to recover, that 1-2 punch makes it very hard. Sunday’s stage, we always do a similar stage, that’s always a hard stage, the same climbs, that’s a tough day. If you consider the amount of elevation change that day, that’s the hardest day. On 10 years after Casartelli death It’s gonna mean a lot, it’s my last year, 10 years, shows how time flies. It feels almost yesterday and I saw him there. That’s always a tough moment, his wife and son will be here, it’s added motivation for me. I’ll ride with his memory tomorrow and Sunday for sure. Horner still dreaming of big break (NoteThis interview in the morning before Horner’s attack)
On his sensations in the Tour climbs When I’m at Redlands, I’m the best climber. When I’m here, I’m 20th. I know I’m not going to be able to attack on the last climb when Lance is throwing it down. I need the scenario like the other day to get away on the climbs, but not with riders like Vinokourov in the GC. We had Mancebo, Vinokourov, Heras, Botero, his teammate and me all riding 100 percent from the start of the Madeleine and we had 35 seconds. If I’m going 100 percent, I want three minutes, not 35 seconds. On his form I’m feeling better. I got some recovery (Thursday), so I need one more day of recovery to get the legs back. On watching Armstrong in his prime It’s a beautiful thing to watch. A lot of people say pluses and negatives about Lance, on whether you like his character or don’t like his character, but the fact of the matter is, the boy can ride his bike. You’ve got to appreciate the way he does it. Tactically, he’s done everything correct, he’s patient, every year there’s talk, then we got on the first climb and there’s only one guy at the top. On whether Armstrong is beatable The first day on the small mountain when his team blew, everyone was like, ‘wow,’ there was the feeling that there wasn’t a chink in Lance’s armor, but in Lance’s team’s armor. Then the first real mountain stage they solved whatever problem they had, you take four of his teammates they’d be top four in GC if they weren’t riding for Lance. Unless something happens to him, if he has a really bad day, if something happens to him physically, you’re going to see status quo. On whether Rasmussen can beat him Rasmussen is a strong rider, but the fact of the matter is, he was six minutes down on GC before his breakaway, if he wants any chance at all, he’s going to have to go on the attack, we’ll see what he’s made of. We’ll see if guys here are willing to ride for the win, or ride for the podium. The problem is when you ride for the win, you might end up 10th, all these guys know here know how important it is to be second in the Tour and that’s the problem. We’ll find out if Rasmussen has got the balls to ride for the win or if he’s just happy to finish second. Riis still has hope
On what the 1996 champ expects in the Pyrenees Everyone wants to attack and everyone is going to try to attack. If Lance is the strongest and then he’s going to drop everybody, then if it’s like that, everyone else is going to fight for the second and third place. Everyone’s waiting for the big surprise, making it comes, maybe it doesn’t. On Basso Ivan is good. He’ll be strong. Ivan never did the Giro before, it’s important that he stays calm and that he can be strong in the Pyrenees. I think his condition is good, we’ll see how the others react. He says he’s better now than he was at Courchevel, that’s the most important thing. If it’s enough, we’ll wait to see and tomorrow. On whether Armstrong is as strong No, I don’t think he’s as strong as last year – he should be strong enough to win the Tour. If you look a little bit, the previous years he had a guy with 4km to go, Popovych pulled off it was 13km to go, it was a long way to go. On why no one attacks If you want to attack, you have to have good legs. If you’re not strong enough, it really doesn’t matter. The riders have to race and do it hard, that’s the most important thing. When the real mountains are there, when it’s going fast, if there’s only a few guys left, only the strongest can win. On hope for a fight Of course there’s hope, otherwise we have to go home. Everyone was talking like that before the first mountain stage, and then everything was back to normal with Lance. Everyone at the start of the Tour thinks they’re going to win the Tour, but in the end only one man can win and it’s back to reality. I’m not pessimistic. I’m optimistic. On whether rivals race for the rivals I think it’s normal for people to race in the podium. To be on the podium is a big thing in the Tour, so it’s a big goal for a lot of the riders and teams. There’s a lot of focus. There’s not that much different between the riders, a small bit of bad luck, some things can change. Theo de Rooy, Rabobank team manager
On whether Rasmussen can attack The heat, the fatigue and the altitude will be felt in the race. Michael has to attack to keep his second place because he can’t rely on the time trial. He’s unprepared to be in the situation like this, but mentally and physically he’s at his highest level now. The pressure is new for him, we’ve given him the freedom to be where he is, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s more important to gain time to Botero and the others for the podium. Lance has never had a bad day. Santiago Botero promises to attack again
On what he expects this weekend The Pyrenees are different than the Alps. They’re steeper, hotter, more aggressive, it’s going to be a hard few days. We have to wait to see how the legs are. We want to keep trying to get to the podium. We see Lance as strong as previous years. Everyone seems to be waiting for a strong decisive blow, maybe T-Mobile can do it. Lance has the mentality of winning and he’s riding a little more conservative. The team Armstrong has so strong and the only one that can challenge him is T-Mobile, the rest of us are just waiting.