A bicycle's just a bicycle, right? Not when your name is Lance Armstrong it's not.
The four-time champion and other Tour de France racers mounted flash space-age, aerodynamic bikes Wednesday and donned tear drop-shaped helmets that slice through the air in an effort to make up precious seconds in team time trials.
Armstrong's US Postal Service squad won the race, 30 seconds ahead of the second-placed ONCE team.
Armstrong's bike Wednesday had an aerodynamic frame, handlebars and back wheel. Made from carbon fiber and aluminum, it weighs somewhere above 8kg -- the exact weight is secret, said Daubert.
Although about 1kg heavier that the road bike Armstrong normally rides on the Tour, the extra streamlining makes it faster.
"He will save 2 seconds per kilometer compared to his normal road bike," said Daubert. "That's how slick this bike is."
The Trek road bikes ridden by Armstrong's Postal teammates cost around US$4,500 each, but the champ's is probably worth more.
Cycling's governing body, the UCI, conducted blood tests on 54 riders from six teams Wednesday at the Tour de France _ part of efforts to prevent doping. All riders passed, the UCI said in a statement.
Tour on film
For the first time, the Tour de France is being filmed in the extra-large IMAX format.
The movie, due out at the end of 2004 and called "Brainpower," focuses on the Danish CSC team and its star racer, US rider Tyler Hamilton. The moviemakers are using the Tour to explain how the human brain works.
"We're looking at how they experience the Tour, looking at what the human brain brings to this enterprise in terms of vision, memory, all levels of brain functions," said the producer, Joanna Baldwin-Mallory. The crew have mounted one camera on the back of a motorcycle to film racers as they ride. It is remote-controlled by operators in a helicopter that flies overhead.
When nature calls, even the world's fastest bicycle riders have to make pit stops.
Tour de France organizers feed information about the races to journalists on televisions set up in press centers along the route. Mostly, the TVs offer up dry statistics, finishing times, riders' speeds and suchlike.
But the other day, this intimate tidbit of information popped up on the screens: "There are plenty of riders in the main pack who are stopping to answer the call of nature."