Zabriskie completes the set; Armstrong makes a big step forward
Americans shone in today's Tour de France opening 19 km time trial between Fromentine and Noirmoutier, with 26 year-old Dave Zabriskie (CSC) claiming the biggest win of his career and the maillot jaune of race leader, after beating six-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) by two seconds. Zabriskie has now won stages in all three Grand Tours (Tour, Giro, Vuelta), and all of that in the space of less than 12 months. His winning time of 20'51 for the 19 km was an amazing average speed of 54.676 km/h, 0.15 km/h faster than his compatriot Greg Lemond's record average in the closing time trial of the 1989 Tour.
The stage victory could have easily gone to Armstrong as well, as the Discovery captain pulled out of his pedal at the start, but then found his rhythm and powered over the course, even catching his minute man Jan Ullrich with 5 km to go. At that stage, Armstrong was three seconds up on Zabriskie, but faded in the final kilometres to finish two seconds down. However, the blow that he dealt to Ullrich and the rest of his rivals, who were all more than 50 seconds down today, was more than psychological. For them to get that back and fend off Armstrong and his team in the mountains is already looking like a monumental task.
The best of the rest today was Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who finished third at 53 seconds from Zabriskie. Because of his attacking style, Vino is one rider that can challenge Armstrong, but the American has always had the measure of the gutsy Kazakh rider in the past.