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Q&A with Laurent Dufaux
Today, Gabriella Ekström caught up with one of Saeco-Valli & Valli's main men for the GC, Laurent Dufaux. After stage 5, Dufaux is currently almost 6'30 down, as the result of the two time trials. However, he likes the mountains and we could well see him move up the classification.
CN: What kind of responsibility do you have during the Tour?
LD: The Saeco-Valli&Valli team trust in me and I have a great responsibility in this tour. Last year I finished fourth, and I know that everybody is expecting a lot from me. That's why I'll do my best to obtain a great result.
CN: What are your personal ambitions?
LD: I want to reach the podium. I know that it will be hard because almost a rider for each team desires the same, but I think I showed in the past that my ambitions are possible.
CN: Which stages are you looking forward to, where will you try to achieve those ambitions?
LD: I'm a rider who gives his best in the climbs and in some particular time trials. Of course it will not be the first week to have me as a protagonist: So Pyrenees and Alps are my haunting territories.
CN: How many times have you ridden it, and what is different this time from the first time you entered the race.
LD: This is my 8th Tour the France. I grow up a lot as a man and as a rider since I first came here. The emotions change as your ambitions and possibilities change: in the early Tours I was proud of being at the most important race in the world, now I'm very concentrated on the evolution of the race.
CN: Do you feel that the race is growing more popular or do you think all the scandals has put a shadow over it?
LD: I can only say that the public seems to be always enthusiastic about this race, even after all the scandals of '98, last year's suspicions and this year polemics.
CN: What is your opinion on the new tests that they hope to use in the near future?
LD: Everybody should be glad of what's coming up with those new tests: the suspicion culture will be defeated and the athletes' health will be preserved.
CN: Are you using anything new (equipment etc.) during the race?
LD: We have an excellent new frame from Cannondale, the CAAD 6; it has an integrated system that is revolutionary.
CN: Who do you think will win?
LD: Armstrong and Ullrich seem to be the main favourites.
Ullrich not a complete superman
Team Telekom have been quick to downplay rumours that their wunderkind, Jan Ullrich is more powerful than a locomotive, relatively speaking. In an article in French newspaper, L'Equipe, it was claimed that Big Jan could pump out 550 Watts in a one hour ergometer test. Specifically, he undertook one just prior to the Tour at the University of Freiburg under the guidance of team physician, Lothar Heinrich.
However, Heinrich himself said that the report was incorrect, as Jan would have to weigh 100 kilos before he could put out that kind of power. Clearly, this is never going to happen, and he will have to be content with a mere 500 Watts over a one hour period. However, Heinrich, Ullrich and the team were quite pleased with the tests which have helped keep Jan within 1 minute of the lead.
Voices from the inside - and outside
Marcel Wüst (Festina): "Too bad Cipo isn't along, since some will say that I won in his absence. I had shown on the first stages that I was there. This time I was sure I was going to win."
Erik Zabel (Telekom): "Super performance by Wüst. His final speed was higher than mine quite clearly. Fagnini led me out perfectly. I just missed the speed at the end. Never mind. I gave all I had and so did the team."
Jens Veggerby (Danish ex pro) at sportal.dk: "Voigt and Dekker did the only right thing when the field closed in from behind and their three companions began to get tired. The countred and rode really strong and they really deserved to hold out - but they didn't."
Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r): "With two kilometres to go I was in a very good position. Then came the crash and everything was spoiled."
Preview: Stage 6 - Vitre - Tours, 198.5 km
Don't look for a substantial change from Wednesday's stage. More rolling terrain across the heart of agricultural France. Tailwinds should prevail all the way for another fast ride and if it all comes together, Wüst will be looking to make it 2 in a row on Tour's Avenue de Grammont finish, where the sprint classic, Paris - Tours finishes every October.
Who's the biggest and who's the smallest?
Team Saeco has both the tallest and the shortest rider in the peloton. Mr Big is number 99, Mario Scirea (1.94 m) and the littlest is his teammate, Salvatore "Toto" Commesso (1.65 m). The heaviest is humongous Swede, Magnus Bäckstedt of Credit Agricole (92.5 kg) and the lightest is Banesto's Leonardo Piepoli at 54 kg.