Tour de France notes |

Tour de France notes

Andrew Hood

– Today’s stage – The 2003 Tour de France continues today with the 196.5km fifth stage from Troyes to Nevers. The rolling course pushes south across narrow farm roads into central France, an ideal stage for another sprint finish.

– Ekimov signs for one more year – Russian veteran Viatcheslav Ekimov has penned a one-year contract extension with U.S. Postal Service, securing his place by Armstrong’s side for next year’s Tour. The 2000 Olympic time-trial champion is one of the quiet workers who help control the race in the often overlooked transition stages between the mountains.

– Special suit – Lance Armstrong has a special time-trial bike that slices through the wind. Now he has specially designed clothes to reduce drag in the decisive races against the clock. Prototypes were used in last year’s Tour and Armstrong will wear the skin suit in this year’s long time trials. The jersey is made of non-stitch apparel, lighter materials weighing 50 grams less and using breathable vents to help the Texan stay cool. Based on wind-tunnel tests conducted by manufacturer Nike, the so-called “Swift Spin” jersey can save up to one minute over a 55-kilometer time trial.

– Casper’s woes – Jimmy Casper might be a funny name for a bike racer, but the Frenchman is one tough cookie. After crashing in Sunday’s nasty spill, the rider has continued in the Tour riding in a neck brace. The sprinter made it through the demanding team time trial and hopes to recover enough to fight on .

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