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[an error occurred while processing this directive] banner Friday, 13 July, 2001, 20:11 GMT 21:11 UK
Yates: Lance faces a battle
Lance Armstrong is aiming for a Tour hat-trick
Lance Armstrong is aiming for a Tour hat-trick
British Tour de France hero Sean Yates tells BBC Sport Online that he thinks Jan Ullrich is the only threat to Lance Armstrong.

Next week will sort the men from the boys as the Tour de France hits the mountains, and Sean Yates is sticking to his view that there are only two possible winners of this year's race.

On Tuesday the Tour tackles the legendary L'Alpe d'Huez, followed the next day by the 32km mountain time-trial from Grenoble to Chamrousse.


O'Grady has done fantastically well so far but if he keeps the yellow jersey for more than another couple of days I'd be surprised
  Sean Yates
Going into the race the 12-time Tour veteran tipped Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich as the only two possible winners, and he has not seen anything to change his mind so far.

He still thinks defending champion Armstrong is the favourite but feels that 1997 winner Ullrich has a chance, although it all depends on the German's physical state.

"Ullrich looks in form and he says he's in better shape than previous years," said Yates.

"Lance is better in the mountains but his team could be a disadvantage, and if Ullrich is in better condition then I have a feeling that Lance is not going to have it all his own way.

"US Postal aren't looking too strong - Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras aren't in great form - and although the uphill time trial will be good for Lance, L'Alpe d'Huez is a fast climb which will suit Ullrich's style of climbing."

Armstrong must take control in the mountains
Armstrong must take control in the mountains
And Yates feels that a lack of support from his team-mates could cost Armstrong when he looks to go on the attack.

"The other teams are not going to let Lance ride away with it," he said.

"He's still favourite but he will have a battle on his hands and he must stamp his authority on the race once they hit the mountains."

Joseba Beloki and Christophe Moreau both had their supporters going into the Tour, but Yates feels they won't be a threat.

"Moreau might fancy his chances on L'Alpe d'Huez but I don't think he's strong enough psychologically to win the race.


It won't be all over by the end of next week - there will still be a long way to go
  Sean Yates
"Beloki has a chance of a podium finish but he doesn't have the horsepower to compete with Armstrong and Ullrich uphill," Yates added.

The race enters the second weekend with Australian Stuart O'Grady leading overall, but Yates would be surprised is he stays in yellow for much longer.

"O'Grady has done fantastically well so far and rode brilliantly yesterday but if he keeps the yellow jersey for more than another couple of days I'd be surprised," he said.

"With the two mountain stages coming up I don't think he'll kill himself to keep it."

For David Millar, battling with the leg injury he picked up when he crashed during the prologue, it is a case of getting through the next few days.

"He had bad luck during the opening stage when he looked on for a top 10, or possibly top five finish," said Yates.

L'Alpe d'Huez could suit Jan Ulrich
L'Alpe d'Huez could suit Jan Ulrich
"You never can tell how people will go in the mountains but I think he'll make it through, barring accidents, and maybe give it a shot in the final time trial."

But first Millar, and the rest of the peloton, have to make it through the Alps and then the Pyrenees.

Yates expects Armstrong to be leading Ullrich and the field into Paris, but he sounds a note of caution.

"Nothing's been decided yet. There will be suspense all the way, and it won't be all over by the end of next week. There will still be a long way to go."

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