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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Tour de France News for July 12, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Alessandro Petacchi: "I'm surprised I won so easily"

Green jersey at last

By Gabriella Ekström in Lyon

Now in green
Photo: © Sirotti

Alessandro Petacchi has yet to say it himself, but after his fourth stage victory today, everyone else will agree that he is indeed a fantastic sprinter. No one in Lyon were surprised when the Italian sprinter looked over the shoulder with twenty metres to go, and then almost too easily lifted his arms and rolled over the line.

Petacchi himself, however, claimed to be very surprised. Today's stage was long and hilly, and we know by now that it is not his preferred choice. "My win today comes unexpectedly. I suffered all the way and with little more than two kilometres to do, I told my team mate Marzio Bruseghin that I didn't think I would be able to take part in the sprint, but as I am always whingeing, Nicola Loda did a great job and brought me up to a top ten position with a kilometre to go and I decided I would have a go."

Click here for the full interview.

McEwen crashes out of green

Photo: © Sirotti

Robbie McEwen saw his chances of a stage win today evaporate when he crashed on a corner with around 8 kilometres to go in the stage to Lyon. A battered but relatively unhurt McEwen told Belgian TV after the stage that, "I don't know what happened. I just fell in the corner. Zabel fell and I fell with him."

Lotto-Domo's manager Christophe Sercu (Lotto-Domo) later commented that "Not surprisingly Robbie is in a dark mood. He's losing a lot of points on the Green Jersey. We keep on supporting him though as the Tour doesn't finish today. We are going to look at the classement tonight and see how much Robbie has lost and where his opponents are. Petacchi, but Cooke, Zabel and O'Grady also, because we don't know yet how Petacchi is going to get over the mountains. It's not lost yet. The coming mountain stages are not our specialty here."

Team director Marc Sergeant echoed Sercu's comments. "It's hard. Today we lost Green also. I don't know if Petacchi will get over the mountains though. I see him as the weakest opponent in the mountains for Robbie for the Green. I saw Zabel crossing the line too, he was hurting and didn't hurry either. Now we'll have to wait and see if our other guys can surprise us. They have ridden hard for Robbie since the start of the Tour though, but maybe Merckx, Verbrugghe, Baguet can still do something ."

Simoni won't give up yet

Gilberto Simoni
Photo: © Sirotti

Gilberto Simoni, winner of this year's Giro d'Italia, has found himself on the defensive and at the wrong end of the general classification, before the race has even hit the Alps. Simoni's Saeco team rode a disappointing team time trial, knocking themselves out of the early hunt for the maillot jaune. Indeed, Simoni commented after the first crucial test that he had hoped to be in position to take the yellow jersey at Alpe d'Huez. Instead, he must now find a second wind and go on the attack as the race hits the mountains.

"It was an enormous disappointment," Simoni told l'Equipe after the team time trial. "The first important test was the team time trial, and for us that went poorly. It's true that I had hoped for a big performance there."

Simoni still thinks Armstrong is beatable, but expects other riders to be prepared to join in the attacks when the crunch time comes. He also is ready to dig deep in this year's Tour, adding that, "I do best when it's really tough; I like to suffer."

One of Lance Armstrong's - and Simoni's - rivals who is sitting in good position is Jan Ullrich, whom Simoni sees as a genuine contender for a top place in this year's Tour. "First of all, he looks very good physically, but that's not what really impresses me," Simoni commented. "He seems to have an enormous desire, and he could have a few surprises for us."

Simoni sits just over three minutes behind race leader Victor Hugo Peña (US Postal), and more importantly, Lance Armstrong, who thanks to the team time trial has moved into second place just 1" behind his teammate. Jan Ullrich has kept himself within a minute of the yellow jersey, and Simoni's perennial Italian rival Stefano Garzelli is two minutes off of yellow and a further minute ahead of Simoni.

Having already declared that l'Alpe d'Huez will be the among the decisive days of the Tour, Simoni is unlikely to let himself be content with a hunt for stage wins. Three minutes is a sizable gap to Lance Armstrong, but strong attacks from rival climbers could still keep the mountain stages interesting for Simoni and company.

Special prize for Geslin

Anthony Geslin spent 190+ kilometres in front with Stuart O'Grady today, but wasn't able to claim a big prize at the end, as he and O'Grady were caught within sight of the finish line. However he did win a special prize after crossing a line in Le Guidon (the hometown of Bernard Thevenet) at kilometre 123 in the lead. Geslin will be awarded a a piece of artwork by Town Mayor Roger Aupecle.

Basque language allowed in Pau-Bayonne stage

By Martin Hardie, Cyclingnews correspondent

The Mayor of Bayonne and the Director of the Tour have come to an agreement to ensure the presence of the Basque language in the stage that finishes in that city on the 23rd of July. According to the Council, the agreement acknowledges there will be a commentator in the Basque language and bilingual Tour signage (French-Euskera) as the stage crosses through the Basque Country between Pau and Bayonne.

The agreement was reached yesterday by the City Council and the Tour and will substitute it for the one made previously between the Tour, the Basque political party, Batasuna, and the Basque language organisation, Euskal Herrian Euskeraz (EHE). That agreement was finally annulled after what Tour Director Jean Marie Leblanc described as the "grand commotion" and pressure from the Spanish Government.

Following the "commotion" the Mayor of Bayonne requested that the Tour permit the presence of the commentator and the bilingual signage to ensure that the Basque language was not the victim of the storm raised in Madrid. It has been reported that all involved in the agreement are very satisfied. Whether that includes the Spanish Government is not clear.

Armstrong to race post-Tour crit in Denmark

Lance Armstrong
Photo: © Sirotti

The organisers of the Grand Prix CSC Scandihealth in Hadsten, Denmark have announced the presence of Lance Armstrong for their post-Tour criterium that will take place on July 31, four days after the finish of the Tour de France. The race has been organized for the last 10 years and it is the biggest of its kind in Denmark.

"We have worked on the 'Armstrong project' for a long time and are therefore very happy that it has succeeded," said director Jesper Tikiøb. "The US Postal organisation and Johan Bruyneel told us Tuesday in France that Armstrong will race."

The Grand Prix CSC Scandihealth is 60 km long and is held on a 1.4 km circuit. All Danish professional riders are usually present at the event. Bjarne Riis has won it four times, while CSC's Tyler Hamilton won it last year.

Some real Tour trivia

As heard on "Opération Tour de France" - everything about the Tour but nothing from the race - a radio program on Radio Donna in Belgium.

Axel Merckx is tall, and being 1.92m he didn't fit in the shower of the Lotto-Domo bus, so the ingenious soigneurs managed to alter the cabin with a special plastic basin. Now the shower is called the "Axel box".

The bus is equipped with more luxurious items. Next to a big fridge, the Lotto-Domo riders have a TV and VCR at their disposal. The personnel tape all the stages, so after the finish the riders can see the race/sprint in replay from a different angle than on the bike!

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank), Dutchman living in Flanders.

Reporter: "On July the 11th, 1302 the Flemish people beat the French, so it's a Flemish holiday. Did you know that?"

Boogerd: "No, I didn't."

Reporter: "So, since you are living in Flanders, will you help one of our boys win today?"

Boogerd: (laughs) "It would be nice for Belgium if they get a stage win today with one of their riders, but, I can't promise you we'll let a Belgian from another team win though by not chasing if he attacks, the team has too much interest in winning a stage ourselves! But, we'll put all our money on our Flemish rider Marc Wauters today, ok?!"

Medical communique

Giuseppe Guerini (Telekom): Pain in right knee
Erik Zabel (Telekom): Cuts and contusions on left elbow, right thigh and right knee
Juan Miguel Mercado (iBanesto.com): Digestive troubles
Remmert Wielinga (Rabobank): Cuts and bruising on left hip
Jesus Manzano (Kelme): Left knee pain

Robbie McEwen did not appear to suffer any serious injuries from his crash in the finale of stage 6.

Fabio Baldato abandoned due to injuries from his stage 1 crash. The Alessio rider had a severe cut on his right hand which after surgical examination required seven stitches.

Also, Ivan Parra (Kele) was fined SFR50 for incorrect comportment, as per UCI rule 12.1.040.

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