Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 23 News List

US goes postal during team time trial

TOUR DE FRANCE Lance Armstrong secured the leader's jersey for the first time after US Postal won the fourth stage race from Cambrai to Arras

AP , ARRAS, FRANCE

They started slowly, coming through in fifth place at the first time check, but then picked up speed. Despite rain-slickened roads, they clocked an average speed of 53.71kph -- the third fastest ever. They celebrated with hugs and squad veteran George Hincapie gave a thumbs-up.

"It really was a special day," said Armstrong. "The team was incredible. The rhythm was perfect."

Overall, Armstrong now has a 36-second advantage over Hamilton, a former teammate now a big rival. His team was beset by punctures, but worked furiously to limit its losses.

"Nobody gave up, we fought till the bitter end," said Hamilton.

Ullrich, a five-time Tour runner-up, also was slowed by punctures for his team and said he couldn't stop thinking about his crash in another rain-soaked time trial at last year's Tour that killed his hopes of winning, placing him second behind Armstrong yet again.

Now, after just five days of racing, he trails Armstrong by 55 seconds overall. But his team chief, Mario Kummer, said everything was still to play for.

"Fifty-five seconds behind is not little," he said. "But the Tour will be decided surely only in the last week."

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