Eight Americans set for Tour de France

Lance Armstrong (Photo: Casey B. Gibson)
Colorado Springs, Colo. (June 28, 2005)—As international cycling’s premier event gears up for it’s 92nd running, the Tour de France will feature eight Americans – several of which will seriously contend for stage wins and overall podium performances, along with one who’ll be gunning for his seventh consecutive Tour de France victory in the final race of his illustrious career.

Needing no introduction, Lance Armstrong (Austin, Texas) will lead the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team in its first-ever Tour de France. After his record-setting sixth Tour victory in 2004, Armstrong has every intention of ending his career a winner when the Tour’s final stage rolls into Paris on July 24. The following day, Lance wakes up an ex-bike racer – possibly with seven Tour de France wins to his credit – as his illustrious career that also includes 21 Tour stage wins, a USPRO Championship and a world championship comes to an end. With retirement less than a month away, Armstrong fields what he calls the “strongest team ever”, a vital component to the potential extension of an already seemingly untouchable record. Couple that statement with Armstrong’s recent proclamation, saying “I feel better than I’ve ever felt,” and its no wonder the official Tour de France race program is giving Armstrong 1-1 odds to claim victory again.

The only man to have ridden alongside Armstrong in each of his six Tour de France wins, George Hincapie (Greenville, S.C.), again returns as Lance’s

Gerge Hincapie (Photo: Casey B. Gibson)
top lieutenant. A four-time Olympian, Hincapie will be an important constituent in Lance’s quests for seven, especially in the team time trial and in the flats and low mountains. Hincapie’s recent win in the prologue at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré also puts him in contention for a win in the Tour’s opening stage on Saturday.

Next to Armstrong, two European-based teams have declared Americans as their team leaders as Levi Leiphemer (Santa Rosa, Calif.) leads the German-based Gerolsteiner squad and Floyd Landis (Lancaster, Pa.) heads up the Swiss-based Phonak team.

Leipheimer already has two top-ten Tour de France finishes under his belt with a ninth-place finish in 2004 and an eighth-place effort in 2002. His switch to a new outfit this year from the Dutch-based Rabobank team has revitalized his pursuit of Tour success, and to him a top-five finish is realistic. “I want a top-five,” says Leipheimer. “If you’re in the top-five, you never know what can happen with a bit of luck. I feel so much better this time of year than I’ve ever felt.”

Leipheimer has already enjoyed several strong performances this year including a second-place overall finish at the Tour de Georgia in April, and a third place overall finish at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. In addition to a contender for the overall podium, Leipheimer has the ability and

Levi Leipheimer (Photo: Casey B. Gibson)
to claim a stage win both in road stages and time trials.

Like Leipheimer, Landis also has the potential for stage wins and a spot on the final overall podium. Second overall at the Tour de Georgia, Landis seems to always be in contention for a win in time trial stages referenced by his first-place effort ahead of Lance and Co. in Georgia.

After bolting from the Postal Service at the end of 2004 in exchange for a lead role on a Pro Tour team, Landis is fast becoming an heir apparent to Armstrong. “I’ve done the Tour three times, all three times on the Postal Service with Lance, so I had a pretty good teacher as far as how to prepare for it.” Landis explains. “Now it’s up to me.”

Teammates on the Danish-based CSC squad, Bobby Julich (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) and David Zabriskie (Salt Lake City, Utah) enter the Tour de France at the opposite ends of their careers. The 33-year-old Julich was tabbed as the next great American cyclist after a third-place overall Tour finish in 1998. The 2004 Olympic bronze medalist never improved upon that performance, but has since enjoyed a renaissance of his own with several important victories in the last couple of years after making the switch to CSC. In 2005 Julich captured early season stage race wins at Paris-Nice and the Critérium International. A solid contender for stage wins in time trials, don’t be surprised if Julich spends a couple of days in the yellow jersey.

Floyd Landis (Photo: Casey B. Gibson)
Zabriskie enters his first-ever Tour de France after an eventful nine months for the 26-year-old. After a stage win in the Vuelta a España last September while riding for the U.S. Postal Team, Zabriskie narrowly missed a medal in the time trial at the world championships with a fourth place effort. This season, Zabriskie continued progressing with arguably the biggest win of his career, a victory in the stage eight time trial in the Giro d'Italia. He later validated that performance with a third place finish in the stage 18 time trial 10 days later.

Like Julich, Zabriskie will enter the time trial stages at the Tour as one of the favorites but their overall ambitions will likely be sacrificed as they look to help their team leader, Italian Ivan Basso.

Also selected for his first Tour de France is Chris Horner (Bend, Ore.). After dominating the American cycling circuit for many years, Horner got his second chance at a European career, signing with the Spanish-based Saunier Duval-Prodir team for 2005. Most of this season was a disappointment for Horner however as a broken hip early in the year derailed his hopes at even making his team’s Tour roster. A third-place finish at the USPRO Championships followed by a stage win at the Tour de Suisse in the last few weeks reaffirmed his talent as a strong rider and a stage win in France is not out of the question.

American Tour de France veteran Fred Rodriguez (Emeryville, Calif.)

Bobby Julich (Photo: Casey B. Gibson)
will again saddle up, this time with the Belgian-based Davitamon-Lotto squad. The man with a fast finishing kick will excel in the flat stages of the tour and could steal a stage win when not leading out protected sprinter and green jersey hopeful Robbie McEwen (AUS). Rodriguez will also look to assist overall contender Cadel Evans (AUS), who is also considered an outside shot for a podium spot in Paris.

The Tour de France begins Saturday, July 2.

For more information, visit www.letour.fr

Americans in the 2005 Tour de France

Lance Armstrong (33, Austin, Texas) – Discovery Channel
George Hincapie (32, Greenville, S.C.) - Discovery Channel
Chris Horner (33, Bend, Ore.) – Saunier Duval-Prodir
Bobby Julich (33, Glenwood Springs, Colo.) - CSC
Floyd Landis (29, Lancaster, Pa.) - Phonak
Levi Leipheimer (31, Santa Rosa, Calif.) - Gerolsteiner
David Zabriskie (26, Salt Lake City, Utah) – CSC

2005 Tour de France Schedule

Stage 1 Saturday, July 2: Fromentine - Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile ITT, 19 km

David Zabriskie (Photo: Casey B. Gibson)
Stage 2 Sunday, July 3: Challans - Les Essarts, 181.5 km

Stage 3 Monday, July 4: La Châtaigneraie – Tours, 212.5 km

Stage 4 Tuesday, July 5: Tours - Blois TTT, 67.5 km

Stage 5 Wednesday, July 6: Chambord – Montargis, 183 km

Stage 6 Thursday, July 7: Troyes – Nancy, 199 km

Stage 7 Friday, July 8: Lunéville – Karlsruhe, 228.5 km

Stage 8 Saturday, July 9: Pforzheim – Gérardmer, 231.5 km

Stage 9 Sunday, July 10: Gérardmer – Mulhouse, 171 km

Rest Day Monday, July 11: Grenoble

Stage 10 Tuesday, July 12: Grenoble – Courchevel, 192.5 km

Stage 11 Wednesday, July 13: Courchevel – Briançon, 173 km

Stage 12 Thursday, July 14: Briançon - Digne-les-Bains, 187 km

Chris Horner
Stage 13 Friday, July 15: Miramas – Montpellier, 173.5 km

Stage 14 Saturday, July 16: Agde - Ax-3 Domaines, 220.5 km

Stage 15 Sunday, July 17: Lézat-sur-Lèze - Saint-Lary Soulan, 205.5 km

Rest Day Monday, July 18: Pau

Stage 16 Tuesday, July 19: Mourenx – Pau, 180.5 km

Stage 17 Wednesday, July 20: Pau – Revel, 239.5 km

Stage 18 Thursday, July 21: Albi – Mende, 189 km

Stage 19 Friday, July 22: Issoire - Le Puy-en-Velay, 153.5 km

Stage 20 Saturday, July 23: Saint-Etienne - Saint-Etienne ITT, 55 km

Stage 21 Sunday, July 24: Corbeil-Essonnes - Paris Champs-Élysées, 144 km

*Note—With Lance Armstrong’s impending retirement, CBS Evening News

Fred Rodriguez
will be airing a feature about the future of American cycling after Lance Armstrong on July 8. After spending thee days at the Park City Cycling Festival for USA Cycling’s National Championships, CBS takes an insightful look at the future.

This Article Published July 1, 2005 For more information contact: