Challenge the wind

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Nantes, France Thursday morning at 11:45, the Discovery Channel...

Armstrong and Discovery Team tests Tour stage 1 TT course

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Nantes, France

Thursday morning at 11:45, the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team departed from their hotel in Nantes, the French city where Lance Armstrong clinched his 2003 Tour win. It must have felt familiar to the Texan, as the variable weather with periods of rain interspersed with rain and powered by a strong northwest wind off the Atlantic Ocean was much like the lousy, rainy day almost two years ago of the Pornic-Nantes TT.

Later that afternoon, after a four hour ride where the Discovery Channel riders tested the Stage 1 TT course, Armstrong spoke about the Saturday's opening stage to Noirmoutier en l'Isle, evaluating the opening time test in his race in his usually incisive manner. "This stage is much different than most years; it's like 2000 (in Futuroscope) and it doesn't feel like a 20km time trial. That's because it's a point to point stage. And the entire race will have a headwind...there's one bridge, five roundabouts and hardly any turns. So it actually feels like a 30km time trial...long enough to make some serious time differences. So (I) will try and take some time out of my competition already."

Armstrong will tackle the Fromentine-Noirmoutier Stage 1 TT aboard his new Trek TTX time trial prototype bike, and according to Scott Daubert of Trek, the Texan will use the same 38mm narrow profile Bontrager TT bars that he used two years ago in that very same Pornic-Nantes TT. "With the strong head and cross winds, Lance wants to keep a narrow profile to cut down wind resistance", explained Daubert. As defending Tour Champion, Armstrong will start last at 6:48PM and according to the TDF time schedule, his ride is expected to last 24 minutes over the 19 km course.

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