Cycling: Armstrong camp identify three main rivals for Tour

Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's tactical adviser on each of his six Tour de France wins, picked Alexandre Vinokourov, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso as the competition. Of the trio, only Germany's Ullrich has ever won the Tour – in 1997 – while Basso and Vinokourov have filled third place the past two years. "I think those three are the real challengers," Bruyneel said.

Vinokourov is not as quick as his T-Mobile team-mate Ullrich on time trials, but better in the mountains than the muscular German – a famously slow starter. At the Dauphiné Libéré tune-up earlier this month, Vinokourov won the climb up Mont Ventoux, beating a tired-looking Armstrong by 37 seconds.

Although the Team CSC rider Basso lacks speed, he is a tenacious climber, as he showed on last year's Tour.

"He was the only one to stay with Lance in the mountains," Bruyneel said. "Will he be able to maintain his condition for three weeks on the Tour? That's the question mark. But it's possible."

Vinokourov's penchant for attack caused Armstrong problems in the mountains in 2003, when the Texan beat Ullrich by just over a minute – his smallest overall margin of victory.

Bruyneel admires the Kazakhstan rider Vinokourov, but believes his attacking range will be less this year.

"He takes advantage of every opportunity. I think he's become more resistant over the years, and stronger in the mountains," Bruyneel said. "In 2003, he wasn't one of the favourites, so he got some freedom to attack. I don't think it will be the case this time."

Ullrich, a five-time Tour runner-up, has long been considered Armstrong's main rival. But a poor showing last year – when he finished 8min 50sec behind Armstrong in fourth – has raised doubts about his commitment and ability to handle pressure.

But Bruyneel does not rule him out. "He is one of the best time-trialists and always gets better in the second half of the Tour," Bruyneel said. "He is definitely weaker in the mountains, but he is a tough guy who never cracks."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Care Support Workers

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this care company base...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - South East & East Anglia

£60500 - £65500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Technician

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want the opportunity to ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent