Wed, Jul 07, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Cobblestones may jar Armstrong


Robbie Mc Ewen of Lotto-Domo Team wins the second stage of the Tour de France from Charleroi to Namur, Belgium, Monday.


Lance Armstrong has no doubts about the risks that lurk in the next stage of the Tour de France: If luck goes against him, he says, his drive for a record sixth win could be over before it's barely begun.

What worries the five-time champion are bone-shaking cobblestone paths coming Tuesday. Some riders say they shouldn't even be part of cycling's showcase race. Bumpy, unsettling, treacherous when wet -- a recipe for crashes. Armstrong says there will be victims.

"Everybody is worried," the 32-year-old Texan said Monday. "It's always dangerous. You have to be in the front. If you get stuck behind a crash or something like that then you could almost say that your Tour is finished."

So far, Armstrong seems pleased with his race and his team "is maybe the best one we've had." But the competition is perhaps the toughest he's faced.

"The field is full," he said. "The course is tough, but I think the competition will be deeper than other years."

Armstrong is fourth overall, but will look to take the lead later in the three-week race. His biggest rival, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich, is a mere 15 seconds back. He looks lean and hungry -- but Armstrong played down the German's apparent good form.

The two cobbled sections today come in the second half of the mostly flat 210km, to the northern French town of Wasquehal.

The sprinters get their glory in relatively flat first stages.

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