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[an error occurred while processing this directive] banner Saturday, 7 July, 2001, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Yates: Armstrong just too strong
Sean Yates and Lance Armstrong play petanque in 1994
Yates and Armstrong try petanque in 1994
British Tour de France hero Sean Yates tells BBC Sport Online why he believes Lance Armstrong will complete a hat-trick of wins this year.

Lance Armstrong first, Jan Ullrich second - the rest trailing.

That is the confident Tour de France prediction of Sean Yates, a former Motorola team-mate of double-winning rider Armstrong.

Yates knows all about the Tour, having taken part in 12 races and famously claiming the yellow jersey in 1994.

He believes Armstrong, winner in 1999 and 2000, will triumph again and has few real rivals with the possible exception of 1997 victor Jan Ullrich.

Sean Yates with the yellow jersey
Yates tries on the yellow jersey

"He's won it for the last two years and he's got the Tour as his full objective," Yates told BBC Sport Online.

"He just wants to perform to the best of his abilities, and is a hot favourite if everything goes to plan."

Armstrong is likely to seek to establish an early lead in the world's most famous race, and surge clear.

"He could demolish them in the uphill time trial. Lance has a good head on his shoulders," said Yates.

Ullrich could pose a danger, but 41-year-old Yates feels fitness could prove a factor.

Sean Yates and Lance Armstrong in Britanny in 1995
Yates and Armstrong in Britanny in 1995

"I don't know how hard he's been training in the mountains, and whether he's trained hard and kept everything in check," he said.

"In previous years, he's raced and raced up until the start of the Tour.

"But he hasn't raced for about a month. Hopefully, the team at Telekom will have kept him on the right track.

"The lack of racing could be hard for him, particularly in the mountains if he's still a bit out of shape, and that would benefit Lance."

A dark horse could come in the shape of the Italian team Fassa Bortolo and leading rider Francesco Cassagrande, said Yates.

As for British hope David Millar, winner of last year's prologue, he may have better years in the future.

"It's still a learning curve for him - it's only his second Tour," he said.

"He'll want to build on last year, do a good performance in the prologue and finish the Tour."

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