“Mary Pierce won at Roland Garros, we’ve just won Euro 2000, and now this – it shows the French are winners.”
He added: “We’ve been preparing technically for this stage as it’s not something we’re used to competing in. Over 70km little things make all the difference. Since the start of the year we’ve competed in two team time trials and won both of them. That gave us confidence.”
ONCE dominated from start to finish of the stage and did enough to end the day in yellow despite the double obstacles of a demonstration, staged by an irate local nightclub owner, and a hefty time penalty to overcome.
The Spanish outfit lost almost twelve seconds when they were confronted by bales of hay blocking the road. Bizarrely they had been placed in their path by a local Peter Stringfellow-type and his heavies in protest at the closure of their nightclub.
That, somehow typically French, hazard dealt with, Jalabert and his skilfully cohesive nine-man team passed each intermediary time check at the head of the overall standings, ending Millar’s three-day reign in yellow heaven.
However, to add insult to injury, ONCE were subsequently docked 20 seconds when Manolo Saiz’s team car was ruled by race officials to be too close to the cyclists during the stage.
As a result, defending champion Lance Armstrong leap-frogged Abraham Olano into third place on the general classification. The American had been fourth overall, but then gained enough seconds to overtake Olano when the Spaniard’s team were docked.
Armstrong’s US Postal team finished second, 46sec off the pace, with the Telekom formation headed by Germany’s Jan Ullrich third, 1min 26sec behind.
Jalabert’s teammate David Canada of Spain is lying second, 12s off the pace (also nabbing the white jersey for best young rider from Millar).
David Millar remained upbeat despite losing the lead and was pleased with his team’s showing in blustery conditions:
“We rode really well considering how much we’ve had to do over the last few days.”
When quizzed about the perilous crossing of the River Loire over the Pont de Saint-Nazaire, which rose high and swooped over the water, exposing the riders to the harsh Atlantic winds, he replied:
“It was really hairy, very windy, especially on the descent. I was fighting to keep the front wheel down in the wind.”
So what now for the undoubted star of the first week of the 2000 Tour de France?
“I’m going to relax, take it easy, recover a bit…take advantage of all this hard work…make a few social calls in the peloton.’
And you can’t say fairer than that!
1. ONCE, 70 km in 1 h 25:35.
2. US Postal at 46.
3. Telekom 1:26.
4. Crédit Agricole 1:32.
5. Rabobank 2:12.
6. Festina 2:16.
7. Cofidis 2:53.
8. Mapei 3:18.
9. Mercatone Uno 3:34.
10. Memory Card 3:39.
11. AG2R 4:17.
12. Banesto 4:23.
13. Polti 4:39.
14. Kelme 5:08.
15. Saeco 5:14.
16. Lotto 5:20.
17. Farm Frites 5:43.
18. Vini Caldirola 5:55.
19. La Française des Jeux 6:07.
20. Bonjour 6:45.
1. Laurent Jalabert (Fra/ONC) 10 h 09:10.
2. David Canada (Spa/ONC) at 00:12.
3. Lance Armstrong (USA/USP) 00:24.
4. Abraham Olano (Spa/ONC) 00:35.
5. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus/USP) 00:43.
6. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra/ONC) 00:49.
7. Ivan Gutierrez (Spa/ONC) 00:49.
8. Marcos Serrano (Spa/ONC) 00:52.
9. Miguel Angel Pena (Spa/ONC) 00:54.
10. Tyler Hamilton (USA/USP)