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Tour de France News Extra for July 9, 2004

Edited by Kristy Scrymgeour and Jeff Jones

Australian round up

By John Trevorrow in Chartres

The good, the bad and the ugly

Today was a good and bad day once again for the Aussies. Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) has finally banished his demons and taken his first stage win since Grenoble in 1998, and Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) increased his lead in the Malliot Vert despite a spectacular fall 28 kilometres from finish. But as in every stage so far, there is also a tragic tale to tell as Brad McGee (Fdjeux.com ) finally succumbed to his crippling back and hip problems.

Diabolical start turned good for O'Grady

Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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An obviously elated O'Grady punched the air as he crossed the line after out-sprinting his four companions of an epic 184 km breakaway. O'Grady had to withstand nine attacks in the final five kilometres as well as having a strong dig himself two kilometres from the finish. Jumping to second place on general classification, he may have a chance over the next week to grab the Maillot Jaune.

O'Grady explained that today's move was pre-empted. "This morning, in the team meeting I said that if there was a break I was going to go and win the stage," said O'Grady. "But to actually cross the line first, well that was obviously just a massive relief. As I crossed the line I remembered all the hard, tough times that I've been through in the last few months."

O'Grady's thoughts have not quite turned to the Green Jersey despite a significant surge up the Maillot Vert classification. "After the diabolical start to the tour, I just wanted to start a new Tour de France today. That was my objective, he said. "But I'm not thinking of the Green Jersey, I'm just thinking of winning a stage. I'm lucky enough to come back into the points classification a bit but it's really not at the top of my mind. At the top of my mind was to win a stage. I'd like to thank everyone who has supported the team and myself through the tough times that we've had. I said if I won a stage… when I won a stage on this tour it was for two really good friends of mine Dave Millar and Matt White, but also for everyone at Cofidis.

"It has been one hell of a ride so far," he added. "We really needed this win. On a day like today it's not us who controls the outcome of the race, it's the peloton behind us. I had a fairly good idea they were going to stay away from us in tough conditions like that, especially after the team trial yesterday. No one's going to want to go to the front into a wind for 160 odd kilometres and chase them down. So they really played into our favour."

As for the finish, he said "that was one of the most tactical finishes I've ever gone through. I really had to use every ounce of experience that I've gained over the last ten years and the last eight Tours de France. Everything was going through my mind. I knew that guys weren't going to want to come in for a sprint with me because, you know, I've shown some pretty good form lately, especially in the Dauphine, so when they started attacking there I used that to my advantage and put in my own attack. I saw them coming back and everything was going through my mind.

"I knew when Thomas attacked with a couple of kilometres to go that Piil wasn't going to chase him so it was up to me to bring him back, recover as quick as possible and then build for a sprint again. Luckily I saw big Magnus Backstedt. I don't think anyone else saw him but he was coming at us at twice the speed and it was kind of like jumping on a train when he went past so, that worked out perfect."

Stuart was asked how this win compared with Grenoble in '98. "Each victory is a unique experience, he said. "Of course I will never forget the first stage that I won and I will never forget my first yellow jersey. But today is very special because I have never had so much pressure on my shoulders. With what happened to our season before the Tour, we started with no real leader for the tour. I've been lying in bed at night thinking that things just couldn't get any worse."

A bitter day for McGee

Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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For McGee the tour is over. A bitterly disappointed McGee, who only a month ago amazed the cycling experts with a fine seventh place in the Giro d'Italia, was forced to stop just past the halfway point. "I don't know what to say. I just haven't got anything," he explained. "It's like I've only got one leg. I've never been in this position before. Never thought I would be either."

McGee was asked to expand on what has been loosely termed a back and hip problem. "I'll get some experts to have a look at it. Hmmm…. I don't know," he said. "You know, when you're in races and people ask you how you feel, it's the same. I'll have to get my head around it first. Just get my strength back. That's what really disappoints me. I know I can push through anything. But I just didn't have the legs to. I didn't have the chance to. It makes it hard to accept.

Big blow for Cooke

Baden Cooke (Fdjeux.com ) was feeling for his close mate after the finish today. "It's a big blow to the team," he said of McGee being forced to stop, "a big blow to the morale. There's nothing we can do about it. Brad is obviously going through a lot right now. "

Of his own ambition to chase the green jersey, Cooke said, "I didn't contest the sprint tonight because the green jersey is too far out of reach now. I'm not going for any more intermediate sprints or stage finishes for minor placings," he added. "I'm going to save it all for a decent bash at a stage win. At least Sandy [Casar] is up to third on GC now and has a good chance for a top ten placing, maybe even a podium.

McEwen lucky

Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo)
Photo ©: CN
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Robbie McEwen can count himself lucky not to have done some serious damage when he somersaulted to the ground on a corner in the perilous conditions. "A few guys crashed in front of me and I tried to take my line," he said, "even go straight so I wasn't even cornering and my wheels just went out from under me. It was really really slippery."

After chasing to regain the peloton, McEwen had to stop and change a damaged front wheel. But he caught the main bunch easily and narrowly won the bunch sprint for sixth placing.

Pre race rambles

It was a slightly different story from the Aussies in the village before the start of the 200 km headwind slog today.

Cooke philosophical

Cooke was quite philosophical about his tour so far. "It hasn't gone to plan, I guess you could say. The legs are there, I've had a few sort of niggles and bits but the form's there," he said. "Same with Brad, the form's there it's just not showing. So I think if we just stick to our game, keep tapping away. something should happen. I mean I've got the form but it's not much use if I don't achieve anything. Obviously the green jersey's gone but if I can win a stage it would save the Tour. Save the team.

"Today we're just going to stick to our guns," he added. "Obviously we're not going to ride on the front 'cause it's not our problem at the moment. I haven't been that close to a win, so we'll just let the other teams bring it back and try to line up as best we can in the sprint."

Rogers waiting for the hills

Michael Rogers (Quick Step-Davitamon) was ruing his continued misfortune that has dogged him so far. "Pretty shitty," he said. "I punctured in the team time trial, then it took me a while to get back on, so we lost a fair bit of time. Luckily for us there was a new ruling about maximum time lost. Although personally I'm against the ruling, it worked in our favour yesterday. Obviously guys like Armstrong aren't too happy about it but that's the rule, that's part of the race. We have to play by them.

"Obviously today's going to be another day with wind and rain," he added. "I mean, I'm just pretty much waiting till the climbs."

McEwen relaxed

Robbie McEwen was in great humour as he relaxed before the start in his favourite colour. "I'll get out there today and see which way the wind's blowing first. A head wind, a cross wind or a little bit of both… I don't know what it's going to be. I Just looked in the paper and it looks like it could be going straight cross-wind. That means I have to stay near the front.

"I really want to win another stage," he added. "I don't plan to go for the intermediate sprints unless my main rivals do. If they're there and I feel good and a couple of points and seconds are easy to take, then I'll grab them, just in case. But I'm not going hunting down every intermediate sprint. I wouldn't mind if there was a break out there today and they took all of the intermediate sprints and I could just sprint for the win.

"The other day I probably panicked a bit. I wanted to get out in the clear, I didn't want to get boxed in and I also had it in the back of my mind that if I was in the first three I'd take yellow. So I thought even if I start from far out there aren't going to be many that are going to go past and that was the case. I came from six lengths behind and made up seven lengths in 50 metres and was going. But, you know, then I'd only come level with them and I'd done my biggest effort. So uphill, 300 hundred metres, that can be a long way, as I found out."

Robbie was asked what he thought was wrong with Petacchi. "Oh everybody's saying what's wrong with him. I don't know. I don't think anything's wrong with him. It's not quite the same team as was riding in the Giro. They were highly organised. These guys, it seems, aren't quite so used to riding with each other. From the first day I think Petacchi has been a little bit down. It hasn't been working and he's been a bit frustrated which can build up in a tour, even for a top fighter."

"Success around the corner," says Wilson

Matthew Wilson (Fdjeux.com) seems to be enjoying his second Tour despite the team's problems. "It's been alright," he said. "It hasn't been the start that we had last year obviously and everyone seems to be asking why. You know, 'what's gone wrong?' and all that sort of thing. But I don't think it's been any one thing that's gone wrong. I think I feel good, Baden feels good but Brad doesn't look great, but I think he's on the mend.

"It's the biggest race in the world," he added. "If a couple of things go wrong and you don't have any luck then you're not going to do anything are you? So it's only day three, I think success is around the corner. Yesterday didn't count (laughing).

"I'll be very surprised if Cookie doesn't win a stage."

Day by day for Davis

Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) looked relaxed as he prepared to start the stage. "I'm feeling pretty good. The team time trial wasn't too bad. We did the best we could mate. One guy crashed, another punctured earlier on, but you know, a lot of things happened to other teams. I'm just going through it day by day ."

Cyclingnews TdF Fantasy prize list confirmed - 33 chances to win!

The prize list has been finalised for Cyclingnews' Tour de France Fantasy Game, and we are pleased to announce that this year's Grand prize will include a 10 day trip with Bikestyle Tours to any of the 2005 Grand Tours as well as a GIANT TCR Advanced frameset and Speedplay Tyler Hamilton Signature Zero pedals. In all, there are 33 opportunities to win prizes this year! The prize list is as follows:

Grand prize: Giant TCR Advanced frame, Bikestyle grand tour 10 day Grand Tour Trip, Speedplay Tyler Hamilton Signature Zero pedals

2nd prize: Bontrager Race XXX carbon wheels

3rd prize: CycleOps trainer & Speedplay CSC Zero pedals

4th prize: Bontrager Race X lite wheels

5th to 7th place prizes: Zero Gravity brakes

8th -12th place prizes: Salsa shorts

Daily prize: 21 pairs of Rudy Project Tour de France edition sunglasses.

There is no disadvantage in entering a new team now that the Tour is under way. You have as much chance as any other team manager of winning the Giant TCR Advanced frameset in T-Mobile colours. For more info go to: http://fantasy.cyclingnews.com/game/rules.htm#joining.

If you have finished building your team/s but not entered them in the competition yet, time is running out. You must register your team for the competition by 09:59 French time (GMT+2) July 9th. To play all you need to do is pick a team of 15 riders to race and select 9 riders each day during the tour. You can join up until stage 6 begins. It's a great way to follow the Tour.

To register your teams for the Tour go to http://fantasy.cyclingnews.com.

Good luck!

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