Tour de France Notes
– Today’s stage – The 2003 Tour de France continues today with the 142-mile sixth stage from Nevers to Lyon. The rolling stage features a relatively easy climb at 100 miles into the race and finishes in Lyon, the second of six original host cities from the 1903 Tour.
– Ullrich confident – German racer Jan Ullrich is the lone rider Lance Armstrong says gives him a fright. Strong in both the time trial and in the mountains, Ullrich said this year’s Tour is for Armstrong to lose. “Lance still has the dominance and he has the strongest team. He has everything under control,” said Ullrich, winner of the 1997 Tour. Ullrich missed most of the 2002 season when he underwent two knee surgeries and received a doping ban after testing positive for the party drug ecstasy. “I don’t know how I will be in the mountains,” said Ullrich, twice runner-up to Armstrong. “It will even be a surprise for me. I will go into every stage thinking about the overall classification, but Armstrong is the favorite.”
– Homeboy attacker – To French racers, winning a stage in the Tour de France is akin to hitting a home run in the World Series. One Tour tradition is for French riders to go on wild, long-distance breakaways when the race enters their region in hopes of scoring a win in front of friends and families. That’s what happened Thursday when Jean Delatour’s Frederic Finot charged off the front. Finot’s name was spray-painted on Thursday’s course and his family was waiting at the finish line in Nevers. Unfortunately for Finot, he was reeled in with 12 miles to go, but he earned the polka-dotted best climber’s jersey for his efforts.
– Nuts and bolts on Landis – U.S. Postal Service rider Floyd Landis was the last rider named to the nine-man squad. Landis, 27, broke his hip in January and didn’t return to Europe until May. A former mountain-bike racer, Landis enjoyed a breakthrough season last year and was instrumental to Armstrong’s fourth Tour victory. Just days before leaving the U.S., Landis underwent surgery to reposition pins inserted into his hip. “Breaking a hip isn’t the best preparation for the Tour, but the hip’s OK,” Landis said.