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Tour de France Cycling News for July 3, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Baden's about to Cooke up a storm

By Anthony Tan

"Cookie" will have more than just Cipollini to contend with at Le Tour
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With less than 24 hours to go before the prologue of the 91st Tour de France, defending green jersey champion Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) is ready to cook up a storm. And as the Benalla Bullet concedes, with arguably the greatest number of in-form rivals all vying for a piece of the maillot vert for more than a decade, Baden will have to start cooking with gas right from the word "Go!".

"There's probably more guys who have hit their best form [just before the Tour]. I mean, they've all been there in the past, but I think this year they're all on better form," said an understandably nervous Cooke from his hotel in Liège, Belgium, Friday afternoon.

No fewer than seven of the world's best sprinters will descend on Belgian shores at the start of the world's biggest annual sporting event on July 3 in Liège. Cooke's Aussie arch-rivals Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) and Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) have come good with perfect timing, both Australians winning two stages apiece in the Tour de Suisse and Dauphiné Libéré respectively. O'Grady's former team-mate, powerful Norwegian Thor Hushovd, is enjoying his best year ever with nine wins so far, most recently capturing dual national championship titles last Sunday after victory in the time trial and road race. And while some may consider Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze) and Erik Zabel (T-Mobile Team) to be past their prime, the flamboyant Lion King and six-time winner of the points competition should never be discounted.

But the man Cookie - and most likely, all others - fear most is Italian Alessandro "Ale-Jet" Petacchi, who equalled and then shattered the post-WWII record of seven stage victories in a single Giro d'Italia by winning nine out of twenty stages, and in doing so, took the points competition with seemingly casual aplomb.

"If he's got the same form he had at the Giro, all he has to do is finish, really," says Cooke, almost sounding as if he and the other green jersey contenders would be fighting for second should Petacchi make it to Paris three weeks from now.

Look for the full interview to be posted on Cyclingnews later today.

Bourquenoud kicks off in Liège

By Jeff Jones in Liège

Swiss rider Pierre Bourquenoud (RAGT Semences) will be the first rider off from the start ramp on Liège's Avenue Rogier tomorrow at 16:01 CEST. From then on, riders will leave at 1 minute intervals right up until the last rider, Lance Armstrong (US Postal-Berry Floor) sets off at 19:08. The 6.1 km parcours passes along Boulevard d'Avroy, Boulevard de la Sauveniere, Rue de l'Université, Quai Roosevelt, Quai sur Meuse, Quai de la Ribuee, Quai de la Goffe, La Batte, and back to Boulevard d'Avroy via Place St Lambert (the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège). It's almost dead flat, sheltered from the wind and fairly non-technical (only four corners), so we can expect the top average speeds to be well in excess of 50 km/h.

For the opening stage, Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com) is probably the top favourite, departing at 18:52 CEST. The winner of the prologue in Paris last year, McGee is in top form again this year, having won the Giro prologue as well as the overall classification in the Route du Sud last month. He is a specialist over this distance, and the GC riders will probably be a few seconds off the pace.

Another specialist to watch for is Fassa Bortolo's Fabian Cancellara (18:22 CEST), the young Swiss rider who is often excellent in short races against the clock. Cancellara told Cyclingnews, "I'm just trying to treat this like any other race but after all, it is the Tour de France. It's not like the Tour of Luxembourg. This is my first time here and I'm really excited to do well".

Watch for sprinters like Tom Boonen, Stuart O'Grady, Alessandro Petacchi, Thor Hushovd, Magnus Bäckstedt and Mario Cipollini, who all want to be up there at the end of the day to have a shot at yellow or green in the first week. And don't forget the time trial specialists such as Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner).

As for the GC riders, it will be a close tussle between Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Haimar Zubeldia and Iban Mayo, none of whom want to give up any time to their rivals in the opening week.

Join us for our live coverage of the prologue from 16:00 CEST (Europe)/10:00 EDT (USA East)/7:00 PDT (USA West)/0:00 AEST (Australia East Coast).

Selected start times

16:01 Pierre Bourquenoud (RAGT)
16:06 Erik Dekker (Rabobank)
16:41 Viatcheslav Ekimov (USPS-Berry Floor)
17:29 Marc Wauters (Rabobank)
17:36 Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner)
17:44 George Hincapie (USPS-Berry Floor)
17:59 Bobby Julich (CSC)
18:16 Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
18:20 Jens Voigt (CSC)
18:25 Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile)
18:31 Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com)
18:39 Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner)
18:42 Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
18:44 Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel)
18:49 Mario Cipollini (Domina Vacanze)
18:51 Gilberto Simoni (Saeco)
18:52 Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com)
18:53 Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank)
18:55 Magnus Bäckstedt (Alessio-Bianchi)
18:58 Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon)
18:59 Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole)
19:03 Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole)
19:04 Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)
19:05 Iban Mayo (Euskaltel)
19:06 Tyler Hamilton (Phonak)
19:07 Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
19:08 Lance Armstrong (US Postal-Berry Floor)

27 countries represented

The 91st edition of the Tour de France will feature a 188-strong peloton composed of riders from 27 different countries. The host nation France is the highest represented country with 40 riders, just over 20% of the entire field. Spain and Italy come next with 31 and 30 riders each, then Germany (15) and Australia (10). The Netherlands (8), Belgium (7), USA (7), Russia (6) and Switzerland (6) round out the top 10.

Rider stats

After the medical examinations were carried out over the past two days, the Tour organisers issued the physiological statistics of all 188 riders. The maxima, minima and means are as follows:

Lowest resting heart rate: Santiago Perez (Phonak) - 31 bpm
Largest respiratory capacity: Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r) - 7.98 litres
Lightest rider: Alexandre Botcharov (Credit Agricole) - 54.5 kg
Heaviest rider: Magnus Backstedt (Alessio-Bianchi) - 98 kg
Shortest rider: Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) - 1.58 m
Tallest rider: Guillaume Auger (RAGT) - 1.96 m
Youngest rider: Filippo Pozzato (Fassa Bortolo) - 22 years
Oldest rider: Viatcheslav Ekimov (US Postal Service) - 38 years
Average height: 1.79 m
Average weight: 69.9 kg
Average respiratory capacity: 5.74 litres
Average blood pressure: 122/69 mm Hg
Average resting heart rate: 51 bpm

Prologue weather report

The weather forecast for Saturday's prologue time trial, which begins at 4pm in Liège, Belgium, calls for a maximum temperature of 19 degrees. Showers are likely in the first half of the day but could clear in time for the first riders. Winds are expected to reach 50 km/h from the southeast.

No strike at national lab

A planned strike at the national anti-doping laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry, France has been called off. Unions representing workers at the laboratory, responsible for dope test analysis for the Tour de France, threatened to strike over concern about renewal of short-term work contracts. A meeting is now set between labour and management on July 28.

 

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