It was a moment of encouragement for the German’s fans. Ullrich had put time into Armstrong. At last. But it wasn’t much – a minute was the maximum gain – and it didn’t cause any panic in the Postal camp.
“We weren’t very concerned,” said Armstrong. “The climb that he attacked on doesn’t really have a descent. I know it well; we raced a similar stage in the [Criterium] du Dauphine in June… had I been alone,” continued the stage winner, “it would have been a different story.
“But Ivan had some guys and so did I, so it was absolutely not a problem.” Armstrong was nonchalant about this sortie by the rider who is almost seven minutes behind on the general classification after 15 stage. And he can afford to be. Lance seems to have an answer to every move his rivals make. He knows what he wants and with the help of clever tactics, a cool head and phenomenal form The Boss is back in charge of the Tour de France.
Big days are yet to come but Lance continues to dictate the terms while most of his rivals either abandon or resort to seemingly senseless tactics. All but Basso and his CSC colleagues.
The elastic band which had kept Thomas Voeckler within touch with the overall lead for nine days finally snapped. It was only a matter of time before this happened and the French champion can be proud of what he’s done. He has risen from relative obscurity only a month ago and acquired enough anecdotes of new-found fame to last him the rest of his career. With the Tour now in the Alpes, Armstrong back in the yellow jersey, and his rivals slowly running out of opportunity there will be many who will remember this village high in the Isere department by another name. Villard-de-Lance is, after all, likely to be the place where the rider who will win an unprecedented sixth Tour title reclaimed the yellow jersey.
This official tour site may have the best coverage of the race, better than the newspapers.