Tour de France News Extra for July 6, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
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."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)