___Race Snippets

 

84th Tour de France 1997

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce CyclingRevealed Historian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

German Power and Super Mario, Briefly

SPECIAL NOTE: Farewell to a great Tour de France Champion, Miguel Indurain retired from professional cycling in January.  The King of the Tour de France (TdF) in the 1990’s, the powerful Spaniard departed the sport at the top of his game.  In an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta, Indurain said it will be very difficult to miss the Tour for the first time in 11 years, but he had no regrets about his decision to retire. 

The list of favorites became difficult to compile.  Most of the Tour’s big names did not fare well in their early season preparation.  Most of the favorites had health problems during the spring and struggled to find fitness.  Defending champion Bjarne Riis abandoned both the Tour de Suiss and Dauphine Libere with the flu.  World time trial champion Alex Zulle (Sui) crashed heavily in the Dauphine Libere and entered the Tour in less than optimal condition.  Three time defending King of the Mountains champion, Richard Virenque suffered after dental surgery in May and lost a good amount of training.  Only German Jan Ullrich and Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Gotti came to the Tour with relatively good health. 

Chris Boardman wiped away bad memories of recent Tours by winning the 7.3 km prologue time trial in Rouen.  After crashing on a rain swept course during the 1995 prologue, the Brit finished second to Alex Zulle in 1996.  Boardman’s winning time of 8 minutes and 20 seconds was 2 seconds better than Jan Ullrich and 5 second ahead of Russian Evgueni Berzin.  Defending champion Bjarne Riis finished in a distant 13th place, 15 seconds behind Boardman. 

The Tour became a virtual sprinter’s festival when the race left Rouen.  The sprinters fiercely battled to the finish on each stage down the west coast of France.  Sprint-Master Mario Cipollini (Ita), winner of five stages in this year’s Giro d’Italia, grabbed the stage one win, gained time bonuses, and took the Maillot Jaune (race leader’s Yellow Jersey) from Boardman.  Through the first eight stages, the racing remained aggressively fast and marred massive pile-ups.  Hospital runs were common with overall classification contenders Tony Rominger, Evgueni Berzin, Alex Zulle and Spanish climber Vincente Acosta Garcia all crashing heavily.  Several riders abandoned the Tour with broken clavicles. 

The ever-present doping control came into play during the early stages.  Prior to stage 7, Tour official expelled Djamolidine Abdoujaparov (Uzb) for a positive drug test on stage 2.  Lotto team management scrambled for answers and fired a staff member who supplied the drugs.  Abdoujaparov’s status with Lotto remained uncertain as the Tour continued.

The aggressiveness of the professional peloton sprint-finish has generated legendary excitement over the years.  Belgian sprinter Tom Steels took the legend even further on stage 7.  Steels, demonstrating great agility at 40 mph, threw a full water bottle at a rival who impeded his drive to the finish line.  The action was exciting for the finish line fans, but the move earned Steels a disqualification.  By the end of the exciting, eight-stage sprint/crash festival, Telekom’s Erik Zabel had gained 3 stage wins, Cipollini powered to 2 stage wins and a select group of major contenders had retired from the race.  The Tour was now ready to shake up the overall standings.  To celebrate France’s Bastille Day, the race enters the ominous climbing stages of the Pyrenees Mountains. 

Two Frenchmen lead a breakaway group of four over the final climb and into Loudenvielle.  A late charge by Laurent Brochard gave France its first Bastille Day stage win since Laurent Jalabert in 1995.  Richard Virenque led Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich in 14 seconds later.  Ullrich’s time gain put him into second place in the overall classification. 

The following day, from Luchon to Arcalis, Andorra, Jan Ullrich officially stepped out of Bjarne Riis’s shadow by winning the 252 km, 5-climb stage in the “Circle of Death” (the hardest day in the Pyrenees).  The red headed German crossed the finish line 1’08” ahead of Marco Pantani and Richard Virenque, and gained his first Maillot Jaune.  Ullrich became the first German in 20 years to wear the Maillot Jaune (Klaus Peter Thaler in 1978).

After a transfer (rest) day to St. Etienne, Jan Ullrich put the TdF overall classification out of reach with a dominating ITT win.  The German covered the 55 km ITT circuit in 1h16’24” and extended his overall lead to 5’42” on Richard Virenque.  The race still had 9 stages until the finish in Paris, but barring disaster, Ullrich had won the TdF.

Through the Alps the climbers could only dent Ullrich’s lead.  Pantani won at Alpe d’Huez and Morzine, Richard Virenque won at Courchevel, but neither climber created a threat to the race leader. 

Abraham Olano, a contender for the overall classification, had a disappointing performance in the mountains.  When the Tour reached the final ITT at Disneyland (Paris), the strong Spaniard gained a measure of retribution by beating Ullrich and winning the stage.  The 23-year-old German, whose race lead was not threatened in the final week, rode into Paris to gain his first grand Tour de France victory.  Ullrich became the first German champion in the Tour’s 94-year history.  The young Jan Ullrich was pegged as the next great rider.  Most thought he had the talent and youth to threaten the record of 5 TdF victories.

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue Circuit Rouen, 7.3 ITT

Chris Boardman (GBr)

Chris Boardman (GBr)

Stage 1 Rouen to Forges les Eaux, 192 km

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Stage 2 St Valery en Caux to Vire, 262 km

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Stage 3 Vire to Plumelec, 224 km

Erik Zabel (Ger)

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Stage 4 Plumelec to Le Puy du Fou, 223 km

Nicola Minali (Ita)

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Stage 5 Chantonnay to La Chatre, 261 km

Cedric Vasseur (Fra)

Cedric Vasseur (Fra)

Stage 6 Le Blanc to Marennes, 216 km

Jeroen Blijlevens (Ned)

Cedric Vasseur (Fra)

Stage 7 Marennes to Bordeaux, 194 km

Erik Zabel (Ger)

Cedric Vasseur (Fra)

Stage 8 Sauternes to Pau, 161 km

Erik Zabel (Ger)

Cedric Vasseur (Fra)

Stage 9 Pau to Loudenvielle, 182 km

Laurent Brochard (Fra)

Cedric Vasseur (Fra)

Stage 10 Luchon to Arcalis (Andorra), 252 km

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 11 Andorra to Perpignan, 192 km

Laurent Desbiens (Fra)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 12 St Etienne, 56 km ITT

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 13 St Etienne to Alpe d’Huez, 203 km

Marco Pantani (Ita)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 14 Bourg d’Oisans to Courchevel, 148 km

Richard Virenque (Fra)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 15 Courchevel to Morzine, 208 km

Marco Pantani (Ita)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 16 Morzine to Fribourg (Sui), 181 km

Christophe Mengin (Fra)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 17 Fribourg (Sui) to Colmar, 218 km

Neil Stephens (Aus)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 18 Colmar to Montbeliard, 175 km

Didier Rous (Fra)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 19 Montbeliard to Dijon, 172 km

Mario Traversoni (Ita)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 20 Euro-Disneyland, 63 km ITT

Abraham Olano (Spa)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

Stage 21 Euro-Disneyland to Paris/Champs Elysees, 149 km

Nicola Minali (Ita)

Jan Ullrich (Ger)

 

POLKA DOT JERSEY

PDJRichard Virenque (Fra)

 

  GREEN POINT'S JERSEY

GJErik Zabel (Ger)

 

TdF July 5-July 27, 1997
3,944 Km

1. Jan ULLRICH (Ger) 100h30'35"

2. Richard Virenque (Fra) +9'09"

3. Marco Pantani (Ita) +14'03

Starters: 198
Finishers: 139
Average Speed: 39.238 km/h

TdF 1996

TdF 1998

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