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Tour de France News for July 24, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones & Chris Henry

Disbelief at Hamilton's ride

Well, Hamilton couldn't believe it
Photo: © Sirotti

Tyler Hamilton's incredible performance in Stage 16 to hold off the peloton by nearly two minutes in Bayonne after a 100 km solo breakaway will go down as one of the great rides in this Tour de France, which has seen several outstanding performances so far. But still, some of his colleagues cannot believe that he did it, given that he still has a cracked collarbone.

Michael Boogerd commented to the press that, "It's incredible that the American can do this. Today, the race was so hard again. Two times we managed to create a gap. After the last climb I had the feeling that out tempo was not high enough to avoid a mass-sprint. But he just kept hammering at the front." Telekom director Walter Godefroot still has his doubts about Hamilton's fracture, but defended himself in the VUM newspapers today. "I have never said that Tyler is lying!" said the Belgian. "But my doubts remain. I have seen many collarbone fractures in my team. It was unimaginable that those guys would race. I broke the same bone myself; I know what I'm talking about. Maybe the doctors now have found the way to tape that bone better, miracles can still happen." Tour doctor Gerard Porte explained it as follows. "Because the line of the fracture is not complete, in medical terms, we speak of a cracked bone, not a broken one. Hamilton was just very lucky that it is an undisplaced fracture. But there's no doubt that he has conquered pain in this Tour."

More stage 16 comments

Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom, 3rd GC)

Photo: © C.Henry/CN

"The legs were good but the conditions were not great for attacking," Telekom's Alexandre Vinokourov (3rd on GC) told L'Equipe. "When the gap to Hamilton reached five minutes we started chasing and when the gap was down to four minutes there was no longer any danger and we rode to win the stage with Zabel."

"I'm concentrating on the time trial to try to do something. I'm not saying I'm capable of taking three minutes from Armstrong but I will fight to conserve my third place."

Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi, 4th GC)

"Hamilton did a great ride and it's true that our plans were a bit disrupted," said Zubeldia, who will have to ride well on Saturday to prevent Hamilton from taking 1'20 back from him. "What's more, at the moment the attack started, Iban Mayo had a mechanical problem. The stage really didn't go as we had hoped. It's too bad, but I still have the time trial in Nantes to try for the podium."

Sandy Casar (FDJeux.com, 8th stage)

Photo: © C.Henry/CN

"It's always a pleasure to be in front and to animate the race," said Casar of his ride in the breakaway in stage 16. "It's good for the morale. I recovered well during the rest day and in the final road stages I will try to do something."

Ludovic Turpin (Ag2r, 80th stage)

"I went after 20 kilometres even though I wasn't feeling fantastic. When Hamilton joined us I told myself 'that's going to complicate things'. It's too bad for me because each time I find myself ahead, the break doesn't last until the end."

David Millar (Cofidis, 145th stage)

"I'm completely exhausted and very upset but to attack from the start was the only card I had to play," said Millar, who was active from kilometre 13. "I know that I rode hard when Bettini sat up but it was a risk I had to take. I hoped that behind it would have broken up and afterwards I found myself in the right break but Hamilton was too strong and he demolished the peloton. I finished in the grupetto and mentally that's very hard. I'm a bit demoralised that this has not been the Tour de France of my dreams."

The battle for green

With just three stages left in the Tour for the sprinters, the battle for the green points jersey is likely to come down to the final sprint on the Champs Elysées again. Green jersey wearer Baden Cooke (156 points) believes that he has a good chance of holding onto it until Paris, as his main rival Robbie McEwen is not quite at top form.

"McEwen is not as good as last year," Cooke told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Robbie has been racing for one year and a half at 100 percent. You can't hold that. Now he's only at 95 percent and that makes him vulnerable. But the green jersey is not done yet: there's still three more days of fighting for the bonifications."

Robbie McEwen (148 points) said that, "I survived the Pyrenees without problems, physically I'm still very good. I still have three big chances, and the victory in Paris can make everything good. A stage victory and green, that's still the ultimate dream."

Erik Zabel (143 points) moved up to third in the classification after taking second in the stage yesterday. But he says he only has one thing on his mind. "Sorry, I'm not interested any more in the green jersey but the stage victory still interests me. I have accepted I'm not among the very fastest of the peloton anymore. Other guys are establishing themselves. Since the day I accepted this I feel much happier."

Ullrich given Fair Play prize

Ullrich avoided the crash, but waited
Photo: © AFP

Jan Ullrich has been awarded a prize for Fair Play by the Deutsche Olympische Gesellschaft (German Olympic Committee) for his actions during the 15th stage of the Tour de France. The stage that finished on Luz Ardiden saw race leader Lance Armstrong crash when he tangled his brakes with a spectator's musette. Iban Mayo was right behind him and crashed as well, while Ullrich managed to avoid it and suddenly found himself in the lead. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, Ullrich slowed while Armstrong regained contact, and eventually finished 40 seconds behind the Texan who attacked shortly after catching the group.

"In the hard battle for the overall victory in the Tour, Ullrich did not want to profit from the bad luck of his rival," said GOC chairman Hans-Joachim Klein. "In doing that he followed an important sporting principle: fight each other on an equal basis."

Lotto-Domo: and then there were six

Nick Gates abandoned the Tour yesterday after around 50 km, reducing the Lotto-Domo team to six riders from the original nine. Gates, who is riding in his first Tour, told AFP a few days ago he would probably have fared a little better physically if he had not had to contest the Tours of Italy and Switzerland in order to prove his worth to Lotto.

"The Tour is totally different from the Giro or the Tour of Switzerland, but I think that on top of what I've already done, I'm at my end. I feel physically empty," he said. "I've never ridden a big Tour before and now I've done two in one year, and the Tour of Switzerland in between and, physically, it's just impossible."

Even though he didn't finish those two stage races he feels it has been too much for him to handle. "This is damn hard" Gates said to the Belgian press today.

Not making it to Paris is a big disappointment for the Australian, who had to hold back the tears and disappeared into the team bus, watched by his parents. In addition, after battling through the Alps and the Pyrenees, his teammates now miss out on a €10,500 prize bonus, as teams that get to Paris with seven or more riders get a premium of €1,500 per rider.

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

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