Stage 7 News and Information

95 TdF Stage 7 (by Peter Mc Nairney)

The tour's seventh stage covered 203km from Charleroi to Leige (203km) covering some of the same ground that the classic Leige-Basogne-Leige does. This was the first hard stage of the tour and there was much speculation before the stage as to how the tour favorites would ride it before the big time trial tomorrow.

Some 70km before the finish Kasputis (MBK) and den Baker (TVM) lead the race in front of two chasers, Dekker (Novell) and Laurent (Castorama). The field is led by the Gewiss team for the tour leader Bjarne Riis. In the bonus sprints Jalabert has been able to close the gap down to 4". With one more sprint to go and the stage finish things are looking good for the French rider.

On a smallish climb three riders break away from the field and are joined by Laurent Jalabert. Miguel Indurain recognises the danger and blsts out the field to close the gap. Riis trys to go with him but doen't have the strength to match the hard charging Indurain. Berzin and Zuelle follow and are able to tow the field back onto the attackers. The field is now very strung out and is already fairly small.

Beunahora (Kelme) attacks and Tafi (Mapei) starts the chase but is called back by his team captain, Rominger. Indurain, Riis, and Berzin are close to the front of the bunch now and the Banesto team takes over the chase.

The two race leaders are now caught by the two chasers and now build a fousome on the front of the race, some 1'15" in front of the field. Mapei only come to the front to lead on a downhill towards a difficult 180 degree corner - obviously trying to keep Rominger out of trouble. Pantani is seen at the back of the field, seemingly nursing some knee trouble. Kasputis looses contact to the three other leaders on the next climb and start to fall back.

Once seems to try to make the race hard for Indurain as they continually keep the pace high and attack repeatedly. As Richard Virenque (Festina) attacks on the climb Breukink (Once) and Gonzales-Zarieta (Banesto) go with him as policemen. This group establishes a gap of 20" over the field and is now 45" bhind the three leaders. Virenque keeps the pace high, obviously looking to get to the last mountain sprint ahead of Konychev. They are not cohesive, however, and are rolled back in by the Banesto riders leading the field. As they're caught the pace drops off again and again its an Once rider who picks it up again. The leaders now have 52".

As the leaders approach the last mountain sprint of the day their lead begins to melt. The chasing from Once bears fruit and thethree attackers are soon caught on the climb. Festina trys to keep the pace high for Virenque, but Konychev launches a massive sprint with about 400m to go to the top and flys past them. Virenque is quick to react though and can follow the Russian. Virenque then waits a little and attacks himself, winning the points easily. Konychev had obviously timed his attack badly because he faded back into the field and received no points at all - which meant that Virenque was now the mountain leader.

The last bonus sprint is now getting close and the Once team starts a long lead out. A win in the sprint will give Jalabert 6" and the yellow jersey. They catch the three leaders and keep the pace high until the sprint is reached. Here, Jalabert takes the win in front of Abdujaparov and a fantastic Bjarne Riis. The two now both have the same time in G.C, but the better points for Jalabert will give the Jersey. He's now the virtual leader of the tour.

With 32km to go Once again sets the pace. All the sprinters are close to the front now, with Jalabert now being the watchfull race leader. As the next climb is taken (Mont Theax I think) a group of riders from various teams is able to get away, among them Bruyneel and Armstrong. Armstrong has been looking for a chance of a stage win for a few days now but has not had the chance on the flatter stage, now looks like his chance. He leads the other up the hill.

But behind them things start happening very fast. Miguel Indurain lauches another attack and this time noone can go with him. He blasts his way up the hill and quickly joins the front group. Bruyneel either saw Indurain coming or had a go by himself because he now has a lead of 20m. There is still no great reaction in the field, now led by the Telekom rider Hepner. Indurain goes after Bruyneel taking Boyer (Polti) with him and leaving the other behind him. He catches Bruyneel and goes straight into the lead, supported by Boyer. Mapei has organized a chase now but can't close the gap down at all. Indeed, its only Jalabert who is able to jump across to the chasing group - still led by Armstrong. They are alread 14" down.

With 20km to go the lead is 18" and the chasers are not in agreement. This can only be of advantage to the leaders. Mapei is still trying to chase and receives some support from Gewiss. Berzin is in about 8th place in front of Riis but Rominger has yet to show himself.

Bruyneel does no work at the front, and as Boyer is dropped on another climb it's Indurain himself who has to ride the distance to the finish with Bruyneel in tow. Jalabert breaks awy from the chasers but the lead of the first two is now 39" and his chances of catching Indurain are now good. However, he did give his best shot and looked a lot better than some of the other tour favorites. 16km befor the finish Jalabert is caught by the field - led by Bjarne Riis. Riis defends the jersey 'till the end as does the vitual leader Jalabert. But the real race leader is now Bruyneel.

This causes Once some problems and they're unsure whether to chase the two leaderes or not. Skibby, Hepner and Peron (Motorola) take advantage of this uncertainty and break away. It's surprising that the Mapei, Gewiis and Once teams, all with an interest in catching Indurain, that the three are able to get away. The leaders now have 49" over the three and 56" over the bunch. With 20" for the win or 12" for second place things are not looking all that good for Rominger, Berzin, Zuelle and company.

The last 10km are all more or less downhill and Indurain gives it all hes' got - Bruyneel does nothing. With 5km to go it looks ceratin that the chasers will not catch him, the only question now is what the gap will be. Mapei is still chasing with two riders and some help from Once (strange tactic as Bruyneel was the race leader). The lead is till 49".

It's interesting to note that the Banesto team car appeared by Indurain various times, but I didn't see the Once team car one time.

With 2000m to go the lead is still 51" and the question of what Bruyneel will do in the sprint is asked. Does he take the win - which he could do without a problem after Indurains work for him, or does he accept the yellow jersey and leve the win to Indurain?

The three chasers are within sight of the field as they reach the last kilometer. But at the front it's still Indurain by himself. As they round the last corner for the sprint you can see in Bruyneels eyes that he's not letting this one go. With 100m to go he comes out from behind Indurain for the first time and easily takes the win. Indurain finishes on his wheel.

The clock starts ticking and after 50" Skibby and Hepner cross the line - 10m in front of the field. The race jurors decide to give the all the riders the same time today despite the obvious gap.

All in all a fantastic stage that saw three race leaders - Riis then Jalabert and then Bruyneel. But the biggest winner of the day was Indurain who put a little over one minutes on his closest rivals in G.C. It was what nobody had expected before the stage and it'll be interesting to see what effect this will have on his time trial tomorrow. Why Rominger and Berzin didn't react to the attack remains to be seen, but the Mapei team didn't look strong - 4 riders reached the finish som 6'00 after Bruyneel.

Nelissen: The Black-Yellow-Red Badge of Courage (Stage 5)

"Its a hard blow, a real drama on the eve of the Tours crossing into Belgium," said Lotto directeur sportif Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke. "You must understand the importance to Nelissen of crossing our country in black-yellow-red."

Nelissen "had a bad night," said Vandenbroucke. "But who has a good night after a crash? This morning, leaving aside the external injuries, he had a bad knee. But he started. Belgium was so near." Nelissen got help from Verdonck and Peter de Clercq. "But nothing could be done," said Vandenbroucke. "Five times Verdonck, who himself has four stitches in one leg, went back for him. But when I left Nelissen I could see he had reached his limits. At 30km an hour he was being dropped.

"I was dropped at least ten times," said Nelissen. "The first time after only 10km. Verdonck did everything he could for me, but at 160km I told him and the other team-mates who were helping me to leave me since otherwise they risked being eliminated. I was too tired and hurting really badly in the knee -- I think the cartilage has been damaged. I wanted to finish by entering Belgium with my national champion's jersey on my back. It was impossible. I couldn't risk aggravating the injury and putting my career in peril for this moment of pride."

Nelissen's team-mate Sammie Moreels explained what happened in the crash: "I didn't puncture in the front tyre, contrary to what has been said. I came too quickly into the bend and completely screwed it up. It came up just after a descent and it didn't look like the usual roundabout. I was surprised. And Wilfried's been the victim of very bad luck. It's very hard on him."


Tony Rominger 16th at 1.19 -- Is a bit worried about his bronchi, having been on antibiotics since last Saturday. "Just before leaving for the Tour, Rachel and Robin, my two children, were a bit feverish. Im sure I caught the infection from them. I begn with a sore throat and now its gone to my bronchi. Tomorrow I stop taking the antibiotics Ive been on for a week. I hope I wont be too weakened for Sundays time trial.

"If I lose less than two minutes on Indurain Ill be happy. Well be in the mountains two days later, and my legs feel good. I feel even stronger than last year. Theres just one thing: since winning the Giro my motivation for the Tour is not the same."


Miguel Indurain 10th at 50 secs -- During stage 5 he found himself momentarily in the back half of a split in the peloton at km118. "I rode at the back of the peloton for the first 100km to recuperate a bit. Then in mid-race I went back to ride at the front to avoid being taken by surprise. There were plenty of attacks at the sprint-bonifications. We were wary but I still dont know how we missed the split. All the Banesto took up the chase because about 30 riders, including Jalabert, were in the front bunch. Everything was put to rights. Thats what I want now, that there are no changes in the gc until Sundays time trial."


Evgeni Berzin 6th at 27 secs -- "At the end of the race I didnt exactly attack. I saw a little opening, made the effort and found myself with some others a hundred metres clear. I turned round and saw that everybody was chasing us down not far away. It was like a game. But Im happy. This stage was the longest of the Tour and I had good legs. Its a good sign. Im recuperating very well and Im getting better and better."


.....and from Stage 5 winner Jeroen Blijlevens -- "Today I felt so good that after 50km I stopped to change my back wheel for one with an 11-tooth sprocket."

More pain...

Pascal Herve (Festina) did not start today's stage 6 after having bravely finished stage 5. Herve crashed at the summit of the cote d'Eu at km97 in the sprint for climber's points when an Aki rider fell having touched a spectator. He suffered a fractured left wrist.


Thomas Davy (Banesto) -- "Since the first day I haven't left Indurain's side when the racing is nervous, when there's pushing and shoving. I've already done the same for De Las Cuevas at Castorama. We communicate through signs: when he wants me to take him up through the peloton he taps me on the thigh. When I'm going too fast and he's not able to follow he whistles to me. For me winning a stage -- well let's look to later on. I'm there to work for Miguel."


Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle is continuing his solo Tour de France without a number, 40km in front of the peloton in a quest to maintain his form. Today he rode at a fast pace in the wake of a GAN team vehicle. At nearly 41, Duclos is truly unpuncturable!


Theres always a lot of enthusiasm among the roadside spectators for the offerings of the Tour caravan. Today a green PMU casquette was particularly heatedly disputed between a spectator and a gendarme. The gendarme had the last word. Remember Armentieres...


Jeroen Blijlevens pro victories -- Tour of Central Zeeland 1995, Stage 1 of Quatre Jours de Dunkerque 1994, Stage 1 of Tour de l'Avenir 1994 (and one stage as an amateur in 1993), a stage of the Ruta del Sol 1995, two stages of the Tour of Murcia 1995, one stage of the Tour of Sweden 1995, one stage of the Tour of Majorca 1995, one stage of the Hofbrau Cup 1994, criterium de Made 1995......Stage 5 of Tour de France 1995


.. A GAN team won the Open French national team time trial championships yesterday, covering the 86.5km in 1.37.57. The four riders, Derame, Pretot, Aubier and Vasseur, were the only pro team in the race. "We were there to win," said Derame at the finish, "but at the same time fearing we might lose." Vasseur said: "This title is a little consolation after all the misfortune we've suffered in the Tour."


Asked how his mixed Telekom-ZG team was getting on, directeur sportif Walter Godefroot said: "At the beginning relations between them were terrible. SIx Telekom on one side, three ZG on the other. I asked the Italians if they were agreeable to working for Zabel in the sprints. Ferrigato, who looked to be going well [4th in stage 2] said there was no question of that happening. I understood that. If Zabel were to win, it would be the Telekom jersey that got all the publicity. Happily, circumstances have meant things have worked out otherwise. Various gestures and circumstances have greatly inproved the atmosphere. When 'Cacao' Rodriguez crashed, one of the first to wait for him was Rolf Aldag. Then in the team time trial I asked the Germans to avoid setting off at full speed to avoid making 'little Cacao' explode. They agreed that he could stay in the middle of the group without taking any relays, and Aldag sheltered him for a very long time. The same day, without it being called for, Colage and Ferrigato put in very hard stints on the front. Nine men who at the start had nothing in common have been welded together. Now, at table, everyone mixes."


* An angry Tony Rominger hit out on Friday against critics who have accused him of keeping a low profile in the Tour. "Everyday, I'm in front and I risk my life to avoid being left behind," said Rominger. "Would I do all that if I wasn't focused?"

* "I'm not at 100 percent yet and I haven't reached the level that I was on the Giro but I'm getting better everyday," he said.

* "I stopped for too long to celebrate after the Giro and then I was sick, not only myself but my entire family."

* As for tomorrow's ITT, Rominger said: "I would maybe go faster than him if the stage was held on a track. Anyway, there's only one thing to do and that's to go flat out from start to finish and see what happens," he added.

Asked if he regarded rising Russian Yevegny Berzin as a serious threat for final victory in Paris, Rominger said: "I don't think he's stronger here than he was on the Giro but he will certainly be strong on the time trial and he can reasonably dream of a podium."

* "There are many good climbers this year and there should be exciting fights in the Alps," said Rominger.

* And with an interesting suggestion, he added: "The best thing to do would be to take the times five kilometers from the line," he said seriously. "That way, the sprinters would be able to battle it out at ease and I would feel much more at ease, too."