Armstrong in T-Mobile's sights as going gets tough

The seeds of a rebellion were sowed last Saturday, when a series of impetuous attacks by Armstrong's challenger, Alexandre Vinokourov, on a minor mountain climb, left Armstrong isolated from his team-mates in a group containing all the Tour favourites. The upshot of the ensuing battle was that Vinokourov's team-mate Andreas Klöden, clawed back 27 seconds from the Texan.

Armstrong has created two additional lines of defence: on Sunday he ceded the yellow jersey to the German Jens Voigt, and is now lying third overall, 2min 18sec back.

This was a tactical withdrawal, however, which took into account Voigt's inability to handle the mountains. Armstrong willcalculate that the German will draw some of the enemy's fire, as well as gaining him some limited support from Voigt's CSC squad today en route to the Tour's first summit finish, in Courchevel.

Asked if the apparent shift in power from Armstrong to Voigt made any difference, Vinokourov, the 31-year-old T-Mobile rider - who was the first to attack the American on the Alpe d'Huez in 2003, when Armstrong's control last truly faltered - stated simply: "Not really. We will be going on the attack, for Voigt or for Armstrong."

The "we" Vinokourov referred to included the third and least predictable element of T-Mobile's three-pronged assault on Armstrong, the 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich.

Ullrich's approach to the Tour, let alone the Alps, has been eventful. The German crashed through his team manager's back windscreen on the eve of the Tour, and then added to his tribulations by falling off his bike at 60kph (37mph) on a descent early on Sunday.

While thankful that he rolled in the right direction - into a ditch on the right of the road, not a 40-foot ravine on the left - Ullrich suffered bruises and abrasions to his head, left shoulder, back and ribs. "I'm OK and ready to go," the 31-year-old said yesterday. "Nothing's broken. I'm still determined to win the Tour."

Fighting talk, even if Ullrich, better than anybody, knows that for the past six years, Armstrong has invariably used the Tour's first major mountain stage to launch an all-out attack. Even in 2003, his most difficult year, the American ended the day in yellow.

Vinokourov remains optimistic. "With all three of us in the same team, our strength to beat Armstrong has multiplied," he said. Whether T-Mobile's combined force is enough to sweep away the Tour's ancien régime, though, will only begin to be revealed today

l Today's 10th stage of the Tour de France will start in Brignoud, 11.5km from its scheduled start, in Grenoble, because of a farmers' protests which would have blocked the riders' route. A token protest, lasting a few minutes, will still take place.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence