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Tour de France News Extra for July 6, 2004

Tales from the Tour

By Tim Maloney

Big Tour welcome back for Cipo

After an absence of five years, Mario Cipollini is back on center stage at Le Tour. "It's a great pleasure to be back here at the Tour de France," he said. "I'm really enjoying the emotional response I'm getting here, especially from all the Italian immigrants in Belgium. I hope it's a extra motivation for me... my prologue wasn't bad but it's not the real information about how I'm going to sprint after a 200km stage, it's only a little indication of my form."

Cipollini's Domina Vacanze teammate Massimiliano Mori told Cyclingnews that "Mario is really motivated to be back at the Tour... we don't' have a big leadout train for him like at the Giro, only me and Fagnini, but we hope to do something, especially after the team time trial stage."

Now that Fagnini has crashed out of the Tour with a broken collarbone on Stage Two, Cipollini will have an even tougher time to fight it out in the sprints at this year's Tour. But Mega Mario's top ten finish today in Namur bodes well for the Lion King to roar again in the Tour de France sprints this year.

Michele Bartoli (CSC)
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Bartoli still up for battle

Classics warrior Michele Bartoli is enjoying his first season at CSC. Miki told Cyclingnews that "I'm feeling pretty good now. My condition is improving and it's at the best point so far this season. Yesterday I had some special emotions riding on the roads of the Ardennes that I really like. My goal for this Tour is to do well on some stages; there's some good chances for me to do something later on. With good condition, I can do a good Tour.

More than anything, I want to get a good result for Team CSC. That's more important than any personal goals."

Look for Bartoli to shine on long, hot and hard stages like Stage 10, a difficult 237km transit of the Massif Central from Limoges to Saint Flour.

Chicken cookin'

After missing last year's Tour because of a broken elbow a few weeks before the start, Rabobank's Danish climber Michael Rasmussen is just trying to stay out of trouble at his first Tour until climbs begin. The former mountain bike star aptly nicknamed "Chicken" for his skinny legs told Cyclingnews Tuesday morning in Charleroi that "The first part of the Tour really isn't my kind of riding; my Tour really starts after the first rest day. All the mountain stages are my terrain so I'll be looking to do my best there. A couple of weeks ago, I was training in the Pyrenees and I like the stage to Plateau de Beille."

Simeoni lawsuit against Armstrong continues

Domina Vacanze's Pippo Simeoni is not happy with five time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Simeoni is suing the American for defamation of character after Armstrong called Simeoni a liar regarding his testimony in the ongoing investigation of Dr. Michele Ferrari.

Simeoni told Cyclingnews that "My lawsuit for defamation against Lance Armstrong is going forward. I'm talking regularly with my lawyers and they tell me that in a short time, the discovery part of the case will be closed by the prosecutor of Latina and the date for the trial will be set. Remember that I denounced him for this defamation when he declared publicly to newspapers that I was a liar, when I simply testified as an honest citizen in front of a judge, telling my personal experience.

(Armstrong) publicly insulted me and took advantage of his media power. That really bothered me and so I'm seeking legal recourse for this."

Beaming Bettini

Cyclingnews asked Maillot Pois clad Paolo Bettini why he was so happy this morning and he happily replied "Oh, I'm always happy... anyone who knows me can tell you that."

Bettini was also pleased when we asked him about his fancy new jersey. "Yes, it was mission accomplished... for the first stage, we wanted to try to get in the break so (Tom) Boonen could ride ‘tranquillo'. I got in the move and went for the KOM's... so it's a good start at the Tour and now I'm looking for a stage win."

Three weeks together: Tour roommates

We asked Fassa Bortolo's Marzio Bruseghin how Maillot Jaune Fabian Cancellara is as a roommate.

Bruseghin responded by saying, "Cance (his nickname) is a good roommate; he's really relaxed and organized. That's his Swiss part coming out. But he's also simpatico and that's his Italian part. We had a little festa after Cance won the prologue, but the Tour is very long and very tough so we have to stay focused. But (Cancellara's Maillot Jaune) was a big satisfaction for everybody."

King Albert II of Belgium
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Le Passage du Roi

Escorted by his entourage and Belgian sports legend Eddy Merckx, Belgium's King Albert II visited the Tour De France press room today in Namur. Although in Belgium, commoners are not allowed to speak to royalty unless spoken to first, Cyclingnews decided to usurp the conventions of old Europe and ask His Royal Highness a question straight up. As the Belgian press corps howled in laughter at the dumb American's royal faux pas, here's how our impromptu interview went:

Cyclingnews: Your Highness, do you like cycling?
HRH Albert II: Absolutely.

And so it ended... the Belgian kings security forces gave your humble Cyclingnews correspondent the major evil eye but luckily we didn't end up in the Namur pokey.

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