Stage 15: Valreas - Villard-de-Lans


I didn't expect today to be nearly as aggressive as it was, but it produced big results for Armstrong, who won the stage in a sprint between the top contenders at the finish.

If anyone deserves an award today, its probably Floyd Landis along with the rest of the US Postal team who had controlled the race earlier, and Jens Voigt for CSC as well. Jan Ullrich attacked with 50k to go and got a minute lead over Armstrong, but Landis pulled hard by himself, eventually joined by Voigt who dropped back from his breakaway to help with the pullback as well.

With the group back together, Azevedo dropped the hammer, which winnowed the field down to the main contenders: Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich, and Kloden. Armstrong stayed back as the group approached the finish and then sprinted around the final bend, with only Basso able to stay close to his wheel. Totschnig and Mancebo both lost minutes on the day, hurting their chances at podium finishes. The finish had to have been demoralizing for Ullrich as well, as his attack was pulled back and his finish in the leading group didn't put close the time gap to the likely podium finishers (Basso/Kloden).

CSC is looking awesome this Tour. Sastre, Basso, and Voigt were all there up front this race doing damage, as they have every stage. I was sad to see Piil dropout on the rest day with a knee injury - he certainly deserved to get a stage victory eventually. Julich also suffered a bad injury, which is unfortunate considering how good he looked sitting on Ullrich's wheel in Stage 12 when Riis told him to stay put.

Virenque has solidified his hold on the mountains jersey, as he was able to stay out front for most of the race and finished in the top ten.

Hushovd, Zabel, and O'Grady are all nipping at McEwen's heels for the green jersey.

Voeckler's reign in yellow has ended, but at least he gets to put on the young rider jersey and hopefully hold on to that through Paris.

Tomorrow: Alpe d'Huez! (Hopefully with more Robin Williams making fun of Liggett and Roll)

related articles: Tour de France 2004
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