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Tour de France News for July 9, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

A day in yellow for Nazon

First French Maillot Jaune in Centenary Tour

By Gabriella Ekström in Saint Dizier

Jean-Patrick Nazon
Photo: © Sirotti

Last year, Jean-Patrick Nazon was far from being a celebrated rider in the Tour. After being left out of the Francaise des Jeux Tour team, and then not being offered a new contract at the end of the year, it was even uncertain for a while whether he would continue his career. His month of July was spent in front of the TV, watching his compatriots battle it out for stage wins and colourful jerseys.

"That was a very hard moment for me, and it made me feel very uneasy," said Nazon after donning the yellow jersey in stage 3. "It is always hard for a French rider to be left out from the Tour, and right now I don't wish to think about the circumstances that left me at home. Having said that, I do believe going through those hard times has strengthened me, because with a lot of help from my family and friends, I am here today. In a way, I doubt I would be wearing the yellow jersey today if that had not happened to me."

Click here for the full interview

Hamilton still wants to finish

CSC's Tyler Hamilton faces his toughest test today since breaking his collarbone, the 69 km team time trial between Joinville and St Dizier. "I have to do the time trial for the team," Hamilton said. "After that, the real test will be the first stage in the mountains. I've done the Tour six times and I've finished it six times. I want to finish this one but finish it well. If I'm not able to attack in the mountains, it's over."

CSC team doctor Joost De Maeseneer will reassess Hamilton's condition tonight. "I spoke with Dr Porte [Tour race doctor]. We're going to look at the X-Rays tonight. There are two fractures of the collarbone, but they're not complete breaks. At best, the fibres will be reinforced. At worst, the fracture will be more pronounced. In which case, he would have to abandon."

More post-stage comments

Erik Zabel (Telekom, 4th)

The German sprinter is still looking for that elusive stage victory, once again finishing fourth in the bunch sprint yesterday. "Like on Sunday for the first stage, Petacchi is already shown himself to be very strong," Zabel told L'Equipe. "He is without question the toughest. I'm not surprised since his six victories in the Giro say it all. I couldn't do anything against him, even if I was feeling good. But that's not enough to win."

Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r, 22nd)

The Estonian sprinter commented on the crash of Rene Haselbacher (Gerolsteiner) at the end of the stage. "Haselbacher was looking for this crash for a long time," said Kirsipuu. "He got what he wanted. He's very dangerous in the sprints, but he doesn't always get through. As far as I'm concerned, I lacked a little power to keep up with the top guys."

Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole, 28th)

Moreau is lying in 113th on GC, but hopes to improve that in the coming stages. He's looking forward to today's team time trial. "Last year I had already crashed a lot by the time we got to the team time trial and there was no cohesion among us," he said. "This time we know the parcours is more rolling and therefore better suited to our capabilities as rouleurs. The team won two years ago. Today it could happen, even taking the yellow jersey."

Richard Virenque (Quick.Step, 39th)

"It was a little less dangerous today and in four or five days, everything will be in order," said Virenque, who is biding his time in the peloton. "Everyone will find his place after the team time trial and the beginning of the Alps. Also, I'm not feeling any more pain in my knee."

Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com, 196th)

Still in a neck brace following his crash in stage 1, the small French sprinter is improving. "It was a better day than Monday," Casper told L'Equipe. "I stayed in the back of the field and waited to see what would happen. If I can go to the team time trial without the brace I'll use the time trial bike. If not, I'll use my regular bike but that will be more difficult."

Where's McEwen?

"Where is McEwen?" asks Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad in Wednesday's edition. The Belgian Lotto-Domo team was able to celebrate a stage win already at this time in the Tour last year, but this year there's only been disillusion. The Belgian press is not taking that without questions.

Robbie is still calm, after finishing fifth in stage 3. "I'm happy I stayed on the bike. That Haselbacher messed everything up. Luckily I'm not the type to worry. I will look at the images again tonight and forget that sprint in Saint-Dizier right afterwards."

The Belgians are still hungry for a win of one of the two Belgian teams in the Giro. And the press is putting some pressure on their "rubber Robbie". Maybe it's because the Aussie sprinter insisted having the team built around him, and not Rik Verbrugghe, with Hans De Clercq and Leon Van Bon, and of course with buddy Nick Gates, who has according to Belgian cycling commentators not been able to do much for the team so far.

The Belgian public, with an unsurpassed tradition in cycling is very critical. In Sedan Lotto-Domo's sprinter was nowhere and yesterday in Saint-Dizier he got sandwiched between Haselbacher and Cooke. Robbie defends his position. "I never like crashes but I don't feel sorry for that guy. Haselbacher can't sprint. He got what he was asking for."

So what really happened? "It was pretty dangerous. That Austrian wanted to dive into a hole that wasn't there. Before that he also bumped Zabel's wheel twice. Haselbacher is a wringer, a kamikaze. Everyone can go for their own chance, but that man is confused, mistakes his ambitions for his abilities. He will never win a mass sprint in the Tour. I am especially disappointed because I was in the middle of the perfect sprint: I was nicely on Petacchi's wheel."

Het Nieuwsblad continues, Petacchi seems to be the new Cipollini? McEwen doesn't disagree. "Alessandro is also the same type. I am rather an explosive sprinter. He starts the sprint from a long way out and pulls it through to the line. I don't know whether he has the same condition as in the Giro, but he is really very strong."

HNB asked why Robbie didn't contest the last intermediate sprint yesterday. "If I would have finished in the first three, then I was the leader and not Jean-Patrick Nazon. I didn't do the last intermediate sprint to save my strength for the final sprint and for the TTT tomorrow."

In the battle for Green, McEwen remains in the lead, with a dozen points. "To win a stage as quickly as possible, that is the mission. Only after that the Green counts."

He also defends his teammates, in response to the question as to whether they couldn't have done any better? "Not at all. On the contrary, Gates, De Clercq and Van Bon did their job impeccably. They dropped me off in the right spot. I'm just the type that looks for his own way the last five hundred metres. The team really is ok. On Thursday I'll be trying it again. In the Tour it's never easy to win one. That is the difference for me with other races."

But as all cycling fans know, for the fast man from the Gold Coast, this kind of pressure might be all it takes for him to turn things around and take that next stage on Thursday.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)

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