Tour de France News Extra for July 11, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Aussie showdown continues in green jersey contest
By John Trevorrow
O'Grady survives in green despite a bad day
Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Sirotti
The two Australians who've come to the fore in the last couple of days
survived today's fast stage intact. Stuart O'Grady managed to hang onto
his Maillot Vert, while Robbie McEwen showed little effects of his numerous
abrasions in the stage to Saint-Brieuc.
Seven riders escaped with five kilometres to go and managed to hang on
to a 10 second gap. Thor Hushovd won the kick in for eighth spot whilst
Scott Sunderland finished ninth, with O'Grady 10th and McEwen 13th, both
squeezed for room in the final metres.
An obviously agitated O'Grady remonstrated with Sunderland immediately
after the finish, and afterwards told Cyclingnews, "There are always
problems with other riders at the finish. It's just hard. People get in
the way. It just gets a bit messy in the sprints, a lot of desperation.
Desperate riders do desperate things."
Did the incident make any difference? "No not really, I definitely didn't
have the legs for a win, so I was lucky to get back up there today. I
was paying for the efforts that I've made in the last few days and hopefully
that's the bad day."
Finding himself in a position to get a decent stage placing, Sunderland
didn't think he'd done anything wrong. "I don't know what I did to enervate
them," he said in his diary. "Was it because I was actually participating in a sprint where
I can finish top 10?
"The way I see it is if a guy like myself (an all-rounder) can be up
there, there's nowhere in the rule book that says I can't be. There's
also nowhere in the rule book that says sprinters have to get out of my
way on the climbs, and believe me, sprinters do get in the climbers' way
all the time!
"I know they are racing for the green jersey. I respect that. I just
hope they stop spitting acid at everyone who beats them in the sprint.
Hey, just like everyone there, I'm only doing my job, doing my race."
O'Grady was nonplussed at a day when he'd suffered for the previous few
day's efforts. "I don't like feeling that bad. It gets very frustrating
when you're pushing that hard and you miss the break and all of a sudden
you're just chasing tail for the rest of the stage. It wasn't the green
jersey that I was worried about it was just the overall classification.
I felt a bit average today from the previous efforts of the last couple
of days. CSC are specialists for throwing it in the gutter at the just
the right time and I got caught out with quite a few other riders and
we were just chasing our tails for the rest of the way. I've been going
really well but unfortunately when you make a big effort in the Tour you
have to pay for it sometime."
But he was ultimately relieved to still be wearing the green after being
caught in the second of two pelotons until just twenty kilometres from
the end. "I was just flat-out today. I had pretty heavy legs today after
the last few days and it was very, very hard to get back. The guys rode
their arses off to get me back and then in the finish I was just hanging
McEwen wants one more point
Robbie McEwen actually hit the lead on points on the road courtesy of
his two third placings in the intermediate sprints behind the two-man
"I got a few points while we were out on the road then I was actually
feeling pretty good at the finish but I just got myself boxed in on the
right-hand side," he said. "I couldn't get out, couldn't even do a sprint.
I just had to follow the wheels in. I was trying to look for a gap to
get through but there just wasn't one there."
McEwen seemed to rue missing out on the green jersey by the barest of
margins. "[O'Grady] finished tenth and there were two blokes between us,
so I miss out on the jersey by one point."
Despite pain in most parts of his body, Robbie's most important asset
seems to be intact. "I feel okay," he said of the aftermath of the previous
day's fall." My back is really, really sore. My knee hurts and my arse
was hurting all day but I knew that was going to be the case. But I've
just got to keep riding. Other than that my legs feel pretty good."
He elaborated on what treatment he could receive to accommodate the skin
loss on his upper things. "Just sort of a one and a half leg massage.
My support man Victor Popov is here and he can look after the problem
On a personal note I couldn't resist asking Robbie if he had seen the
kangaroo badge that I had given the King of Belgium in the press centre
in Namur, shortly before Robbie's stage victory. "He showed it to me.
He said, 'Look what I got, just before the finish!' I said that it must
have been a sign."
Robbie seemed confident that he could figure prominently in tomorrow's
stage finish, barring another successful break or being held up at the
"I'll try again tomorrow. Hopefully we can catch them in the end. There
are guys getting up there who are not in contention. I mean it's not as
if we were sprinting for a stage win. I'm glad I was boxed in sprinting
for the eighth place and not boxed in sprinting for the win."
Pre-race banter: O'Grady's green everything, Gerrans drops by, Rogers
takes it easy
Stuart O'Grady could finally afford to smile as he relaxed pre-race in
the village bathed in green. Still he could scarcely believe the rapid
change of fortunes. "It's been a quick turn of events," he said. "It's
just incredible. One day you're just going out, the next day you're standing
on top of the podium and then the next day you're wearing the green jersey.
It will be interesting to see how Robbie will go."
Leading the points classification seems to have renewed his energy. "I
felt better. Before the crash at the team trial the other day I felt really
good. I'm just really confident now that I'm getting better and better.
I seem to have had my bit of misfortune and hopefully that's it. Who knows
what could happen over two weeks of racing?'
He could not resist an old cliché when asked whether he was now firmly
focused on wearing green into Paris. "I'm not going to really worry about
trying to go for any bonus sprints. I'm not going to get obsessed by them…
I've done that too many years and I've lost too many times. I'm just going
to take it day by day."
His green jersey seems to have lifted the entire Cofidis team. "They
were rapt. It's the first time Cofidis has actually got the proper team
spirit, the first time that they've got the green jersey. So I came this
morning with green bike, green socks green bloody… knicks." [that's Australian
for shorts - Ed]
Was the bike painted over-night? "Yeah, we borrowed a can of paint from
a local… No it was all pre-done mate."
It was a case of present and future when young Aussie hopeful Simon Gerrans,
who lives in Angers, was seen congratulating Stuart in the village before
today's stage. Because of his consistent form in France this year, Simon
has received a Stagiere position with AG2R.
"It starts in September. I found out a couple of months ago. I was up
in Norway last year with a team but that fell through. I didn't really
have anything. Then I got this opportunity and I just grabbed it. I went
through my resume roughly last week. Since arriving in Europe in February
I've got twenty-four top tens, fourteen placings and two wins. So it's
been really good."
Quick.Step's Michael Rogers was content to ease himself through a testing
first week of the Tour in preparation for the fast-approaching mountain
stages. He was asked if was looking ahead to the first mountain stage
after the rest day. "Yeah I am. I mean they're all pretty hard stages.
I think it's pretty long too. It's going to be pretty hard. A break's
probably going to go away. With the race this year the breaks keep going."
He agreed with the sentiment that it would be the first real test of
the Tour. "Yep, it will be, with all the climbs through here, certainly.
It's the first real climb so the gaps will open up. You learn pretty quickly
how you're going once you hit the mountains. Especially with a couple
of big cat. ones. They're pretty hard to climb.
"I've been getting better everyday. Obviously the Tour this year has
been a lot harder in the first week. Last year it was all big roads and
no wind whatsoever. This year there's been wind and rain and crashes.
All of that takes a little more energy out of you. There's still no real
difference today but I think when we get to the mountains everyone will
be physically tired and more so mentally tired. Because from kilometre
one to the finish you just have to be up to survive."
Fdjeux.com's Matt Wilson, relaxing with a pre-race coffee, said he was
feeling "better and better. I felt really good yesterday, better today.
The sun's shining again. So hopefully the Tour starts today."
Wilson's team-mate Baden Cooke, who has been suffering in the sprints
this year for lack of the strong lead-outs previously provided by Bradley
McGee, said the day's plan of attack was "just to look after the legs
and try to go a bit better than yesterday."
No propping in the sprint? "Well, it wouldn't have changed much but it
might have changed a bit. Maybe I won't whack it in the 54 x 11 when it's
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)