U.S. Riders Dominate Opening Stage of 2005 Tour de France

By Sara Blask

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In an unparalleled display of athletic prowess and determination, six-time champion Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) overtook long-time rival Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) at the nine-mile mark in Stage 1 of the 2005 Tour de France, earning himself the green jersey and a second-place finish, two seconds behind first-time Tour rider, David Zabriskie (Team CSC). Zabriskie and Armstrong are former U.S. Postal teammates.

Salt Lake City-born Zabriskie, 26, finished the 11.8-mile time trial from Fromentine to the island of Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile in a blazing 20 minutes and 51.84 seconds, and will wear the yellow jersey when the Tour continues tomorrow. Averaging 34 miles per hour, Zabriskie set the record for the fastest time ever ridden in a time trial stage of the Tour, eclipsing the previous record set by Greg LeMond in 1989.

“I was expecting big names to perform so it’s really an amazing feeling for me to be here right now,” Zabriskie said in a televised press conference.

Out of a field of 189 riders from 21 teams, the first stage of the 2,241-mile Tour was dominated by American riders, with four finishing in the top six. George Hincapie, Armstrong’s close friend and Discovery teammate, finished in fourth place, 57 seconds behind Zabriskie. Floyd Landis, who wears Team Phonak’s green and gold jersey, a team plagued by three positive doping tests in 2004, finished sixth, just over a minute behind the winner.

Seconds after emerging from the start house, Armstrong appeared to have trouble with his right pedal, unclipping from it but skillfully clipping back in. Bidding for his seventh straight Tour victory before he retires, he started a full minute behind Ullrich, who finished 12th with a time of 21:59:340.

Ullrich, winner of the 1997 Tour de France, took a tumble yesterday when he slammed into the back of his team car, shattering its back window. During a training ride on June 22, Armstrong was stung by a bee above his eye, and five minutes later found himself on the ground, his helmet split in half. In an interview with OLN, he called it a “silly crash.”

Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) and Ivan Basso (CSC), both considered possible contenders for this year’s Tour, finished the first stage in third and 20th places, respectively.

Tomorrow’s stage is 113 miles and will begin in the Atlantic town of Challans.

Stage 1 // Overall Standings:
1. Dave Zabriskie (USA)
2. Lance Armstrong (USA)
3. A. Vinokourov (KAZ)
4. George Hincapie (USA)
5. Laszlo Bodrogi (HUN)