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Lance takes yellow

As predicted Lance Armstrong came away from today’s Team Time Trial in the yellow jersey after U.S. Postal-Berry Floor finished top with a time of 1:12:03 for the 64.5km between Cambrai and Arras, but without gaining a performance-reflecting time advantage over his rivals.

Team Phonak were in second place one minute and seven seconds behind, but, according to the (controversial) new TTT rules, their team time was capped at 20 seconds behind USP, so Armstrong gained only 20 seconds on Hamilton. Likewise with other key rival Jan Ullrich, his team T-Mobile’s 4th-place finish 1:19.16 behind USPS resulted in a gap of only 40 seconds between him and Lance.

The new rules are pretty complicated, but effectively they act as a cap to the time riders finishing with their team can lose to the winning team – the idea presumably being to give a chance to good riders on less strong teams, or could that be to reign in Armstrong… For those wanting the pesky details, the stage ranking is established for each of the teams based on the finishing time of the 5th rider in each team (to the nearest hundredth of a second) and all riders who finish with the team are given his time.
The team placing second can lose only 20 seconds, the third only 30 seconds and so on in increments of ten seconds up to the fifteenth team who can lose up to 2:30; from then on the increments are 5 seconds until the 21st team who can lose up to 3 minutes. If a team finishes within the maximum time they can lose then they are awarded their actual time loss. If a rider finishes behind their team they also get their actual time loss. Riders finishing outside the permitted time limits are disqualified.

So, what’s behind the new rules then and, apart from being a bugger to calculate, do they add or detract from the TTT? Your thoughts on the forum please…

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