Lance by a lot
Armstrong extends lead with repeat mountain winPosted: Friday July 19, 2002 11:08 AM
Updated: Friday July 19, 2002 1:14 PM
PLATEAU-DE-BEILLE, France (Reuters) -- Lance Armstrong stunned his rivals again Friday when he won the second mountain stage of the cycling Tour de France in the same commanding manner as he had won the first.
The American's move, seven kilometers from the finish of the 199.5 kms 12th stage to the Plateau-de-Beille in the Pyrenees, was almost a repeat of his impressive victory in the ski resort of La Mongie the previous day.
The three times Tour champion, also winner of this year's prologue in Luxembourg, again skimmed the bunch in the last climb with the help of his U.S. Postal teammates before surging ahead.
Again, Spaniards Jose-Luis Rubiera and Roberto Heras were his most precious aides, dropping Armstrong's rivals one by one.
Again, Joseba Beloki was the last one to resist. But the ONCE team leader could not keep pace when the Texan stepped up on his pedals and went away.
The only difference to the script of this six-hour ride was that Armstrong attacked earlier and, as a result, had a bigger lead on the rest of the bunch.
Heras was second, one minute and four seconds behind the American, with Beloki on his heels. Beloki is now two minutes and 28 seconds behind Armstrong overall.
"It was more fine work from the team. What a team," said Armstrong, who had won a stage on the Plateau-de-Beille in the 1999 Route du Sud race.
But the Texan insisted the race was not over yet.
"The Tour is never finished. There are still lots of difficult climbs, lots of hard stages and chances you can have a problem or an accident," he added.
For the second day in succession, Frenchman Laurent Jalabert was the first to throw down the gauntlet, breaking away early on in the first climb on the heels of compatriot Christophe Oriol.
Jalabert, who was only caught in the final climb to La Mongie on Thursday, was second at the top of the Col de Mente and then first at the top of Portet d'Aspet, La Core and Port passes.
He was later joined by Swiss Laurent Dufaux, fourth in the Tour in 1996, and young Spaniard Izidro Nozal.
The move allowed Jalabert, who announced Tuesday's rest day in Bordeaux that he would retire at the end of the season, to claim back the king of the mountains polka-dot jersey he had won last year.
Jalabert's partners for the day were overtaken by Armstrong's teammates in the final 18-kms climb to the Plateau de Bille, which was lined by thousands of spectators.
But the Frenchman refused to bow and attacked again with 15 kilometers left in the stage only to be caught five kilometers later.
As the U.S Postal "blue train" were overtaking Jalabert, Heras took the baton from Rubiera to launch the Armstrong rocket once more.
But Jalabert was not disappointed.
"Everything went according to plans," he said.
"I had decided to take risks and attack early to score
points on the first four climbs and to lose a lot of time in the
last climb so that maybe, another time, Armstrong will let me go
all the way," he added.
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