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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 6-28, 2002

Tour de France news update for July 19, 2002

Now it's Robbie Vs Lance; and Robbie Vs Zabel

By John Trevorrow in Lannenezan

Lance Armstrong may have blown his challengers away in the race for the Maillot jaune, but he is head to head in a battle with Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Adecco). A long-standing dispute has blown out into a fair dinkum feud between the forthright Texan and the equally outspoken Australian.

"Lance and I are blueing," said McEwen. "It started last year when he reckoned I attacked in a race while he was having a pee, big deal, I didn't even know he'd stopped. I said get over it, but it has continued on from there.

"The other day I slipped off the edge of the road and Lance made a wise crack and tried to belittle me. I told him `Shut your mouth or I will fill it with my fist.' Anyway, now Lance is helping Eric Zabel whenever possible. Eric would never have gotten back onto the peloton after the Col d'Aubisque if Lance and the US Postal squad had not put the brakes on," McEwen continued.

"It is going to make it harder for me because Zabel is a better climber and can hang on a bit longer up the bigger mountains. Still, I'm sprinting faster and I think I can get back into green by Béziers (end of stage 13). There it will be a matter of hanging on until after the first sprint each day before the mountains. I don't want to sound like I think everyone is against me, but I'm sure Stuart O'Grady beat Zabel in a sprint yesterday and so far no-one is prepared to change it.

"I saw the head shot after the finish and Stuey definitely got him. It may be only two points, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the battle for the Maillot Vert could go right down to the final sprint in Paris again and every point is vital. We are going to put a protest in tomorrow," the sprinter said.

(Indeed, commentators from a variety of countries called a McEwen/O'Grady/Zabel finish at the the first sprint at Roquefort on stage 10 - the Cyclingnews.com coverage was later changed to reflect the official standings of that sprint.)

McGee strung up like a 'roo

McEwen's fellow Australian and Cyclingnews.com diarist, Brad McGee (FDJeux.com), also found himself on the wrong side of the road in yesterday's stage. McGee was strong enough on the Col d'Aubisque to sprint clear of Armstrong and the main protagonists. He caught Spainard David Etxedarria on the descent and was closing on French hero Laurent Jalabert, a minute clear of the Armstrong group, when he crashed over a two metre embankment and into a barbed wire fence.

"I was flying down the mountain and I heard a motorbike behind me scrape its kickstand," McGee said. "It just took my concentration away for a split second and the next thing I knew I was like a rogue kangaroo suspended in the fence. I've got quite a bit of bark off of my arms and legs and especially some very deep abrasions on my back," he said after the stage.

"I know I am going to be in big trouble because it is a nasty day," he said of today's stage. "It's a good thing some officials climbed down and helped untangle me, otherwise I reckon I'd still be there. I knocked my head pretty hard and I felt very nauseous at first. By the time I got back on my bike and started chasing the main peloton had passed by. I had a hard chase and had gone from feeling very strong to struggling and pedalling in squares. I managed to get back with Armstrong and co, but I couldn't hold them up the final climb. I've just got to get through the next mountain day and I will be right,'' a battered and bruised McGee said.

Follow our live report of stage 12 on the road to Plateau de Beille.

Stage 11
Full results & report
Live report
Photos

 

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