When Lance Armstrong recovered from cancer, he had a great comeback, but full of 4th positions.
The American surprised everyone in a Vuelta that was dominated by the "Spanish trio" Jimenez, Escartín and Olano.
Armstrong was ready to face the World Championship that was going to take part in Valkenburg, Holland.
But unfortunately for him, he couldn´t take a medal and was again fourth, behind Olano, Mauri and Hontchar.
In the route day, he did a great race. It was a very difficult day due to the weather and the tough circuit, including the difficult Cauberg:
|Plataforma Reocrridos Ciclistas, hemeroteca elmundodeportivo.com|
In an incredible final fight with Boogerd, Camenzind, Bartoli, Van Petegem, Armstrong and Aebersold, the American showed his strength...
... but it was not enough. The sis riders were together for the last two laps, and when the Cauber was supposed to decide the race ...
... the local star Booger punctured in the moment Camenzind attacked in the Bemerlerberg, and caught the others by surprise... no one would see him again till the end of the race. There were only two medals for five, but in the Cauberg, Van Petegem and Bartoli left the trio behind and Armstrong just could be fourth ... again...
The season 1998 was over and Armstrong was fine, he had defeated the cancer.
In 1999 nobody knew, but a new era was going to start. He had a very normal season focused in the Tour, a not very mountainous one, where the last winners were missing ( Pantani and Ullrich).
The favourites ?, Olano, Zulle, Escartín, Virenque, Jullich,... Armstrong was just one more contender, not a favourite.
And the prologue was a surprise, Armstrong destroyed the field in the Puy du Fou, he was even better than Indurain in 1993 . He was the first yelow of the edition, better than the specialists Zulle or Olano ...
The key moment of the Tour happened in the second stage in the Passage de Gois ...
The first test was superb for Amstrong, who passed the time trial WorldChampion Abraham Olano, and won by 1 minute to Zulle, leaving the climbers far away overall.
And now they were going to fight a couple of hard days in the Alps, with summit finishes in Sestriere and Alpe D´Huez , and important climbs in the way ...
And the American was going to confirm that he was the only favourite to win the Tour ... it was a miracle...
In a rainy stage with the climbers attacking strongly ( Gotti or Escartin), Armstrong waited for his moment and destroyed Zulle and the others in the final climb to Sestriere ...
The dominance in the overal was terrifying, with Olano second and Zulle third, more than 5 and 7 minutes ahead respectively of the American. There was still another mountain stage in the Alps, but nothing important happened but the incident of the winner Guerini with an spectator, and the attempts of Kelme and Fernando Escartín to win the stage...
Was the Tour over? ... who knew, it was the first time Armstrong was fighting for it, he had to keep the leader for another 10 stages ...
In the Pyrenees there was only one real stage, that arrived at a new summit, Piu Engaly. It was the last opportunity for climbers to put Armstrong into trouble, or to be franc, to set apart Zulle or especially Olano.
Tonkov seemed to be the chosen, but the kelme squad was preparing a great stage...173 kilometres of hard climbs...
There were several attacks since the start, Virenque, Dufaux, Tonkov or Escartin were puttin a very fast tempo. However it was not possible for Dufaux and Escartin to leave the bunch before the Peyresourde, but then, while Tonkov and olano suffered, they flew, and joined parteners that helped them make a gap of two minutes.
Escartin attacked again in Val Louron, and nobody would see him till the finish line
The advantage was close to three minutes and Armstrong started feeling nervous and attacked too, only Zulle could resist him....
But it was the same for Escartin who crossed the summit of Val Louron with 2'40" to the couple. Olano, the second overall was some minutes behind. Escartin was fighting now for a victory and for the podium in Paris.
In the last climb Escartin survived and won the stage with more than two minutes to Zulle and Virenque, while Armstrong lost 10 more second in the last 200 metres.
It was the only bad moment for the American in the Tour.
Escartin was now second overall, and attacked again in the way to Pau, in the Aubisque, and dropped Dufaux and Virenque. He had the podium easy now.
Armstrong would win again the last time trial ( by a short margin to Zulle) and was the new king of the Tour. Zulle was second and Escartin finally third.
The miracle had turned into real life, it was a great comeback to the Tour, a great way to enter the history of cycling.
There were doubts about his conditions, about doping substances, but that was the way I lived that Tour. He was the strongest and took advantage of the Passage de Gois, eliminating Zulle. Then, only the Kelmes disturbed him ... a little.
That was his first Tour, but he had no oposition. In 2000 it was supposed that Pantani and Ullrich woul be in the Tour, could Armstrong resist them? ... we´ll see...