___Race Snippets

 

86th Tour de France 1999

 
   
 

By Barry Boyce CyclingRevealed Historian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lance Returns to the Tour After Beating Cancer

SPECIAL NOTE: These stats and accounts of the 1999 Tour de France was complied and written before the UCI stripped Lance Armstrong of the victory.

Tensions remained high during the winter months after the drug scandals of the 1998 Tour de France (TdF). The return of the Grand Boucle fell under intense media scrutiny, and race management seriously considered the suspension of the Tour for a year. Defending Tour champion Marco Pantani was recently expelled from the Giro d'Italia , while in the race lead, because of an elevated hematocrat, level 2% above the UCI's 50% acceptable level. He chose not to defend his TdF championship. Pantani's problem further increased race director Jean-Marie LeBlanc's anxiety during his on-going efforts to return the Tour to normalcy.

Three weeks before the Tour during the official Tour announcements, Leblanc tried to distance the Tour from the previous year's scandal. He banned both Frenchman Richard Virenque (a formerly expelled Festina rider) and the entire TVM team. Shortly after this announcement, cycling's governing body, the UCI (Union Cycliste International ), entered the discussion. Because of improper notification (one month is required), the UCI re-instated Virenque. Earlier in 1999 the UCI took a similar action by shortening the drug related suspensions of the Festina riders. Of the 8 Festina riders expelled in 1998, 7 (most with new teams) were on the start line in Le Puy de Fou.

The Sociate de Tour de France was staggered by the ruling but pushed aggressively ahead. Doping controls were intensified, urine tests were doubled, and surprise blood tests were instituted. The message was clear, “cheaters will be caught.” The stage was set for a clean race, but the Grand Boucle still needed more, a new hero and a good will story to change the sagging perception of the race.

The 1999 Tour marked the miraculous return of American Lance Armstrong. After winning a 2-year battle with testicular cancer, Armstrong returned to the Tour with a bang. He covered the 6.8 km prologue course in 8 minutes 02 seconds to win the prologue and take the first Maillot Jaune (race leader's Yellow Jersey) of 1999. Armstrong held on July 4th, the American's patriotic holiday. The media began writing the beginning of a ‘feel good story'.

Two days before the Tour entered the Alpine climbing stages the race got serious. Stage 8 was the 56.5 km ITT around the City of Metz. This was the first race of truth, and offered all the Tour contenders an opportunity to gain or lose time. Lance Armstrong demolished the field by covering the course in 1h08'36”, 57 second faster than Swiss time trial specialist Alex Zulle.

The Tour entered the Alps with the brutal stage 9 through several of the best climbs in the Alps. The race ascended two category 2 climbs, one category 1 climb (Col du Telegraphe), one H ors Categorie (Col du Galibier) before the classic finishing climb to the ski station at Sestrieres, Italy. New race leader Lance Armstrong started the stage with great confidence, but most cycling pundits thought the inexperienced Texan would not hold the Maillot Jaune when the serious climbing started.

The answer to all the questions came on the way to Sestrieres, Italy. On a miserable day with rain and hail, Armstrong bridged up to the lone leader on the final climb to Sestrieres by riding aggressively away from his elite breakaway group of 7 riders. Reminiscent of the great Fausto Coppi and Claudio Chiappucci, Armstrong powered away from the best climbers to the stage win.

With no rest for the weary, the race headed back to France for a second tough Alpine stage with 3 hors categorie climbs (Mont Cenis, La Croix de Fer, Alpe d'Huez). The 14 km finishing climb to Alpe d'Huez began with a 4-rider breakaway. The race leader's group was 4'35” behind and chasing hard. The US Postal led chase brought back each of the breakaway riders. Telekom's Guiseppe Guerini, with 3 km to go, surged away from the remaining group and opened a solid gap. Solo he drove himself toward the finish line, when an amateur photographer got the picture of his life. A young German fan stood in the middle of the road to capture this special moment for the Telekom rider. However, in front of millions of TV viewer, the photo effort knocked Guerini off his bicycle. Undeterred by the incident, the rider quickly remounted and went on the win the stage.

The Armstrong group finished 25 second behind the stage winner. Armstrong shed 2 of his closest contenders and extended his overall lead to almost 8 minutes on the second placed Spaniard.

The race now headed into the Circle of Death (noted for the hardest racing day in the Pyrenees Mountains) on stage 15. Through all the tough climbing stages, Lance Armstrong matched closely each of his closest rivals. Only Fernando Escartin escaped for solo win on stage 15. The Spanish climber's winning effort jumped him into second place overall.

The final opportunity to gain time on the race leader came on stage 19. The stage was a 57 km ITT around the French theme park, Futuroscope. Lance Armstrong rode like a champion, averaging 50.085 km/h to narrowly defeat Alex Zulle by 9 seconds. The American matched 5-time TdF champion Miguel Indurain's 1992 effort by winning the prologue and both individual time trials.

The next day, Lance Armstrong rode onto the Champs Elysees in Paris to claim the 1999 Tour de France victory. With amazement, astonishment, and great admiration this TALL Texan crossed the finish line to rave reviews. His comeback from a deathbed to win the Grand Boucle, gave the TdF the goodwill story and new hero it so desperately needed.

Stage and Distance

Stage Winner

Race Leader

Prologue PUY DU FOU, 6.8 km ITT

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 1 MONTAIGU - CHALLANS, 209 km

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 2 CHALLANS - ST NAZAIRE, 202 km

Tom Steels (Bel)

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Stage 3 NANTES - LAVAL, 194 km

Tom Steels (Bel)

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Stage 4 LAVAL - BLOIS, 194 km

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Stage 5 BONNEVAL - AMIENS, 234 km

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Stage 6 AMIENS - MAUBEUGE, 172 km

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Stage 7 AVESNES - THIONVILLE, 227 km

Mario Cipollini (Ita)

Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)

Stage 8 METZ - METZ, 56.5 km ITT

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 9 GR. BORNAND-SESTRIERES (It), 213 km

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 10 SESTRIERES (It)-ALPE D'HUEZ, 220 km

Giuseppe Guerini (Ita)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 11 BOURG D'OISANS-ST ETIENNE, 198 km

Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 12 ST GALMIER - ST FLOUR, 201 km

David Etxebarria (Spa)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 13 SAINT FLOUR - ALBI, 236 km

Salvatore Commesso (Ita)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 14 CASTRES - ST GAUDENS, 199 km

Dimitri Konishev (Rus)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 15 ST GAUDENS - PIAU ENGALY, 174 km

Fernando Escartin (Spa)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 16 LANNEMEZAN - PAU, 192 km

David Etxebarria (Spa)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 17 MOURENX - BORDEAUX, 200 km

Tom Steels (Bel)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 18 JONZAC - FUTUROSCOPE, 187 km

Gianpaolo Mondini (Ita)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 19 FUTUROSCOPE, 57 km ITT

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

Stage 20 ARPAJON-PARIS/Chmp Elysees, 143 km

Robbie McEwen (Aus)

Lance Armstrong (USA)

 

POLKA DOT JERSEY

PDJRichard Virenque (Fra)

 

  GREEN POINT'S JERSEY

GJErik Zabel (Ger)

 

TdF July 3-July 25, 1999
3,686 Km

1. Lance ARMSTRONG (USA) 91h32'16"

2. Alex Zulle (Sui) +7'37"

3. Fernando Escartin (Spa) +10'26"

Starters: 180
Finishers: 141
Average Speed: 40.276 km/h

TdF 1998

TdF 2000

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