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'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project