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Tour de France News Extra for July 6, 2004

Edited by John Stevenson

Australian round-up

Lucky country riders start to prove it

By John Trevorrow

McEwen turns up the heat
Photo ©: Sirotti

Australia started the Tour with ten riders, the largest contingent from any English-speaking country, but even before the race started bad luck knocked their numbers down to nine as Matt White (Cofidis) crashed out while riding before the prologue. In stage one, another rider from the lucky country proved not to be as Nick Gates (Lotto-Domo) crashed severely injuring his knee. Gates battled on to finish the stage, but was well outside the time cut, and can barely walk never mind ride.

Today, Australia's luck changed as Robbie McEwen executed a dazzling display of power and bike handling to win the stage by starting his sprint inside the final turn. "I felt when I went that there was no-one on my wheel," McEwen told Cyclingnews. "I started my sprint in the corner about 300m out and that's the exact distance I've been sprinting in recent training at home."

Sprinting from inside a corner is a trademark McEwen move, and he has the bike handling to pull it off, giving him an advantage over straight-line sprint specialists. But you still need the legs, and on that that front McEwen added, "My form is spot on and I'm looking forward to the rest of the Tour. I'm not concentrating on any particular jerseys I'm just going to keep sprinting and hopefully the form stays with me."

"I dedicate my win today to my former team-mate Stive Vermaut who was buried today, and to Gatesy who is gutted at being out of the Tour after only two days. It looks like he will be off the bike for at least 10 days."

Half of the remaining eight Australians in this Tour de France are sprint specialists, and all are looking for stage wins before the race turns hilly in its second half. Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) was fairly happy with today's finish. "I felt very strong today but I got pushed into the barrier and had nowhere to go," he told Cyclingnews. "One day on my arse and the next fifth, so I'm getting there. Two and a half weeks to go and a lot can happen in that time."

Baden Cooke (Fdjeux.com) is hampered by the problems afflicting his team-mate and countryman Bradley McGee, who has hip and back problems. "I'm feeling good," Cooke said. "Everything is working well but I'm definitely missing Brad's lead-outs. I'm having to use too much stuff getting myself to the front and there's nothing left for the final 200 metres."

Tour rookie Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) is no stranger to the rough-and tumble of sprint finishes, but like many riders in their first Tour, he's enjoying himself immensely, but finding the Tour is up a notch compared to other races. "It's pretty full-on," he told Cyclingnews after the finish. "The pace is very quick and the stage finishes are extremely hectic. I'm learning all the time but it's all bout putting yourself in the right position nearing the finish. I plan to keep trying to get up there in the stage finishes as well as looking after [team-mate Roberto] Heras during the stages."

As for the rider who now looks like Australia's best chance in the general classification and time trials, Michael Rogers (Quick.Step-Davitamon) shook his head at the high-speed stage finish antics of the sprinters, and told Cyclingnews, "I felt really good today but I'm still a bit sore in the shoulder though I should be right in a couple of days. I'm looking forward to the mountains."

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Recently on Cyclingnews.com


Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf