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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for July 9, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones and Chris Henry
Post stage wrap up and comments
An estimated one million people watched the Tour de France pass through Saarland, Germany today during the second stage from Luxembourg to Saarbrücken, that finished in a massive rush to the line with honours going to World Champion Oscar Freire. Local favourite Erik Zabel did not win the stage, as many fans had hoped, but he kept his green jersey and has another shot at yellow tomorrow. Second place went to Robbie McEwen, who got around Zabel but couldn't match Freire's kick in the final 50 metres.
Oscar Freire (Mapei, first)
"I didn't want to come because I did not feel in great shape," said the 26-year-old Spaniard from Torrelavega. "Tom Steels was also in great shape and I thought that the team did not need another sprinter. I wanted to concentrate on the end-of-season classics. But my team insisted for me to come. I came and I won."
"It was Zabel's stage and I followed him closely. In the final straight, McEwen came close so I decided to take risks and I won. But it is such a pleasure to beat Zabel in his own land. He also beat me more than once in the Vuelta."
On whether he will ride for a Spanish team next year: "It's true that there is not a tradition for sprinters in Spain. I don't know if I will one day race for a Spanish team but for the time being, my interest is to ride abroad."
On tomorrow's stage, and the potential for the Maillot Jaune: "We'll see tomorrow. It all depends on the team tactics and whether Steels wants to win that stage," he said.
Robbie McEwen (Lotto, second)
"In the last corner I was well positioned on Fagnini's wheel. I waited until two hundred metres for Zabel to start the sprint, but he didn't. He was kind of stuck between two of his team-mates. So I passed him. But it was a hard day today and I couldn't maintain my speed. Oscar came out of my wheel up beside me on the right. I consciously went off my line, to the right, to close the door on him as it was open too far. But I started from the middle of the road and couldn't go to the right enough, inconspicuously, to stop him from coming past me. This is the Tour and you'd get disqualified for pushing someone into the barriers. You just can't do that."
He was very complimentary of Freire's performance: "Yes, Freire saw things in a smart way again and he won this stage as he wins every race: in the last 30 metres! He was the smarter rider today; there's nothing I could do about it. The quickest in the sprint wins.
Erik Zabel (Telekom, third)
Zabel came within 3/4 of a bike length of taking the yellow jersey today, as he finished third behind Freire and McEwen. A second place was all he needed to collect the necessary bonus seconds, but he will have to wait until tomorrow for another chance.
"Every now and again in life one's wishes aren't fulfilled," said the recently turned 32 year old from Unna. "Freire and McEwen were faster today. It was a really hard and nervous stage, also because of the numbers of spectators."
"The bunch headed into the finale in Saarbrücken like a herd of buffalo. Perhaps it would have been better if we had let Voigt win the stage, and I could have got into yellow by finishing second."
Olaf Ludwig (Telekom spokesman)
"Erik has already many victories with Danilo Hondo and Gian Matteo Fagnini as lead out men. Today he has not managed it. We will try again."
Rubens Bertogliati (Lampre-Daikin, Maillot Jaune)
"Today, I had a bit of luck to retain the yellow jersey for a second day. If I hold it again after tomorrow's stage, I'm going to go buy a lottery ticket."
Those were the words of 23 year old Lugano born Rubens Bertogliati, who kept hold of his jersey by just two seconds from Erik Zabel, who could only place third in today's sprint. Bertogliati was seen right at the front of the peloton with 1 kilometre to go, before the Telekom train took over, and he finished in 29th spot.
Bertogliati has been a pro with Lampre since 2000, and won the GP Chiasso this year before his rocket to stardom by winning the Tour's first stage.
Nico Mattan (Cofidis, 15th)
"I was planning on mingling in the sprint, but I had to ride the last five kilometres à bloc to get to the front of the peloton. With one km to go, it felt like they were flying as if the line was only one hundred metres away. I didn't have any power left. I hope that in the coming days I am able to go into one of the right breaks so that I can go for the win myself. I will probably have to wait until after the team time-trial; because the GC riders are keeping everything tightly closed right now. But, from Thursday onwards, until we get to Pau, there will be enough opportunities for me"
Ludo Dierckxsens (Lampre Daikin, 42nd)
Ludo Dierckxsens was very active in the final kilometre, with Yellow Jersey Bertogliati in his wheel.
"No, I wasn't really trying to help my team mate to a spot on the podium; I just had the task of disturbing the Telekom radarwork, their preparation for Zabel's sprint. I don't have any bad feelings towards Zabel and Co but they were a threat to Bertogliati's Yellow!"
Eric Vanderaerden (Mapei team director)
Eric Vanderaerden had mixed feelings after the finish. "On one hand I'm happy about the Mapei-win Oscar gave us but on the other hand I'm a bit worried about Tom Steels. After the finish, when I got back to the hotel, I immediately went to his room. He told me he was neither good nor bad today. He did let go of the peloton for the second day in a row. It does worry me. There were only 7 riders dropped in his group; that's few. We're waiting for a chance to take place. If he can go along in the sprint in Reims on Tuesday, everything will be forgotten. This can't go on for days of course. But, for a sprinter things can turn around very quickly. One stage you might be feeling really bad and 24 hours later you can hold the flowers on the podium."
On Oscar Freire : "Oscar doesn't have to start trying to win the Green Jersey as yet. It's too early; he doesn't need to participate in the intermediate sprints."
Solid start for Leipheimer
Rabobank's Levi Leipheimer was in an upbeat mood when we spoke to him before the start of stage 2. He survived yesterday's nervous finale to finish with the leading group, and is looking forward to more.
"It went really well, actually. The team was great keeping me out of trouble. We were at the front the whole time, avoided all the crashes. We know the course pretty well. I've done the Tour of Luxembourg a few times, and we know the last climb, the team came together just before, Michael and I had great positions, so the last climb was really easy, and from there to the finish we just tried to stay out of trouble."
"The only problem we had yesterday was, you know on the steep narrow wall there, the motorbikes stopped it and everything and that group got away with Lance and I just wasn't in the position to follow. It wasn't a big deal - a lot of teams missed it, and it was flat after that."
"ONCE led the chase. We had Michael there and, you know...it looks dangerous, but it really wasn't that dangerous. They closed it down really fast, it wasn't a big problem."
Leipheimer said that the plan was the same today and from how it unfolded, the Rabo team had less difficulties keeping Boogerd and Leipheimer out of trouble.
Dekker toughs it out
The same can't be said for Erik Dekker, who has not started the Tour de France on a good note, crashing in the first stage and suffering all day today, eventually finishing 184th in a small group 8'16 behind the leaders. He hurt his elbow, wrist and left hip - the same one that he broke in Milan-San Remo earlier this year. Before the start today he said he was "not optimistic...I cannot straighten or bend my arm fully. We'll see the first hour, and then... maybe I survive. If I get through today, I hope that I will be better in the coming days. But the Tour de France waits for no-one."
Afterwards, a hot and tired Dekker described today's stage as very tough, and he was hurting on even the Cat. 4 climbs. "For a moment I thought of stopping. Especially my elbow was giving me trouble. On top of that, I had to get off the pedals when there was a crash in front of me in the beginning of the stage. I got caught behind and didn't see things working any more. Luckily Marc Wauters waited for me and talked to me positively. But really, don't expect me to go any faster tomorrow. I would like to make it to the finish. Not because this is the Tour but in preparation for the later Classics."
His continuation in the Tour will depend on how he recovers, and he will take it from day to day.
Breakdancing in the Tour's Village Depart...
Stage 3 preview
The final stage before the team time trial takes place wholly in France, starting (for the 40th time) in Metz and finishing in Reims. The 174 km Stage 3 is flatter than the first two stages, and the stage should finish in a bunch sprint. There are two Cat. 4 climbs: côte de Gravelotte (km 3) and côte de la Biesme (km 93.5).
Perhaps tomorrow is a chance for Tom Steels and Jaan Kirsipuu to take revenge on Freire, Zabel, and McEwen, who are the in form sprinters in this race.