NAMUR, Belgium (AP) – To win the Tour de France for a record sixth time, Lance Armstrong will need a little help from his teammates.
After rain, winds and crashes marred the first stages of this year's Tour, the 32-year-old Texan knew he'd be heading into Wednesday's team time trial relying heavily on his U.S.
Postal Service squad.
First, more crashes were expected in the third stage Tuesday, a 130.49-mile ride from Waterloo to Wasquehal, France.
For the first time in nearly a generation, Tour de France riders on Tuesday faced two stretches of cobblestones that threatened to mar — even derail — Armstrong's record-setting hopes.
And then, for the nine-man group run Wednesday, the challenge is to inspire teammates such as climbers Manuel Beltran and Jose Azevedo, and Tour rookie Benjamin Noval, to race fast on a relatively flat course.
Organization is the key.
"The hardest part is finding the specific order of the riders," Armstrong said Monday after finishing 85th in a 122-mile trek from Charleroi to Namur.
"Some riders don't have much experience with that.
"Noval's never done one.
He tends to accelerate too much, so we have to also teach him to not go faster, but go longer."
Armstrong is fourth after the second of 20 stages, 18 seconds behind leader Thor Hushovd of Norway.
Armstrong's team has done four group workouts in the last few weeks, and he has inspected the time trial's 40-mile route.
He believes the top teams – Jan Ullrich's T-Mobile, Tyler Hamilton's Phonak and CSC, headed by Italian threat Ivan Basso – should do well.
"And then there's always the teams that surprise," Armstrong said.
In the team stage, the five-time champion hopes to avoid a major setback that would force him to make up considerable time in later mountain stages.
Teams go out one-by-one, with the nine riders relaying each other, so one takes the lead while others catch their breath behind.
The event is technical and exhausting, but can allow teams of strong riders to build gaps over weaker rivals.
Armstrong's team won the trial for the first time last year.
New rules limit the amount of time winners can gain to no more than three minutes.
"I think the team is maybe the best one we've had," Armstrong said.