Tour de France News Extra for July 12, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
Aussies swap green again
By John Trevorrow
Photo: © Chris Henry
Robbie McEwen is back in the green points jersey of most consistent daily
finisher after finishing fifth behind Thor Hushovd, while Stuart O'Grady
could only manage eighth.
Hushovd is now looming as the major threat to the Aussie domination of
the green jersey. He pipped McEwen in the first intermediate sprint, looked
very strong in the demanding finale and is now right back in contention
only 11 points behind.
And you can't discount the old master of the green, Erik Zabel who is
now sitting in third spot after his third place in the stage, only one
point behind O'Grady and 10 points from McEwen.
With 500 metres to go in stage into Quimper, McEwen looked to have the
finale sewn up. Paolo Bettini had just attacked, opening a definitive
gap as they sprinted over the testing climb past the one kilometre to
go banner. McEwen was right on his hammer and had Bettini continued with
his attack it was a case of put down the glasses.
But that was not to be and Bettini eased, obviously not wanting to give
McEwen a free ride and he had no choice but to ease also and get back
in the line.
McEwen was a little miffed at the timing of the first sprint in which
he managed second place. "The first intermediate sprint was uphill and
after only 14km. It's not much time to warm up and get things working
a little bit. I had to go at full tilt uphill. I actually thought I had
it won but I didn't see Thor coming from the left and he pipped me on
the line. I knew that he was quite a few points behind before today so
he wasn't the main worry. I just wanted to finish ahead of Stuart and
take the green jersey back."
"At the stage finish I let myself get sucked in a bit by Bettini and
I followed him. I don't reckon what was in the race book was correct.
There were two extra corners in the finale that weren't shown and I was
getting a little bit confused. Once Bettini eased up I had to as well.
It was just too far out. I got back in the line, tried to go again but
I was absolutely legless. In the final two hundred metres I was just riding
for the points."
Although happy to be back in green, Robbie was well aware that Paris
is still two weeks away. "I'd rather be in the lead than having to chase
the points down," he said. "I got into that situation last year where
I crashed whilst in the jersey and found myself 20 points behind. I had
to make it up and that was really difficult. Now I've crashed again and
missed out on 30 points and yet I've managed to get back into green. Yes
it's only a slender lead and anything can happen."
Scott Sunderland finished well down the order in today's stage after
having to drop back to help close a small gap that had stranded teammate
Pietro Caucchioli. "I was more or less looking after Caucchioli for most
of the day," he said. "Towards the end I got up the front to
have a go at the stage. Then I heard from a teammate that the bunch had
split so I had to go back and try to close the gap for Caucchioli. But
I didn't feel as strong today anyway."
Morning banter in the start village
Looks like rain - and break-aways
Stuart O'Grady didn't have much time as he signed on late and didn't
get into the village for his regular espresso. "Looks like rain - again,"
a relaxed O'Grady said. "I will need to keep up the front, especially
in the last 50 km. I guess it will be a day of break-aways."
Baden Cooke's mood seemed to match the darkening skies of Lamballe, although
he was hopeful of improvement in the near future in the form of some unusual
methods. "I'm going a bit better," he said. "The first week I just wasn't
feeling good at all. I had a full lactate every day. We sought out a health
guru and he said my body hasn't been functioning real well. He just got
me to cut a few things out of my diet. I was eating too much protein and
meat and stuff like that. My body was just stopping. He gave me some other
stuff and I feel like I'm freeing up already."
Cooke conceded that he had once again been short on power despite being
well placed in what turned out to be a consolation sprint for eighth place
in yesterday's stage. "I thought it [the break] might come back but then
I just didn't have the legs in the finish."
Citing recent steady improvement in his condition, he was optimistic
of a strong finish to today's stage. "The last three days I've been getting
better each day so I think today will be a bit better again," he said.
Cooke predicted a frenetic pace for the relatively short 168km journey.
"I think with a rest day tomorrow everyone's just going to open up the
burners today, it's going to be flat-chat. They're not just going to let
it go. It's going to be a rest day tomorrow so no-one's holding back."
Wilson wants "a bit of a go"
FDJeux.com's Matty Wilson was focusing on the dismal grey skies that
have epitomised this year's Tour so far. "It's going all right," he said.
"I felt pretty good yesterday. It's just another shit day, raining every
second day. It's actually been like that the whole year, raining all the
His outlook on the fortunes of the team was more positive. "Things are
going really well. I'm just trying to get in everything. Everyone's motivated
so it's only a matter of time before we win a stage."
Wilson was doubtful about the prospect of in-form teammate Sandy Casar
finishing in the top three in the Tour, suggesting he may be better suited
to winning the maillot blanc. "Not for a place. Top ten maybe. Definitely
for the young riders jersey as well. But you never know, he can do some
Like many others, Wilson was keen to be involved in a break when it eventuated.
"I might have a bit of a go today. I'll wait and see if something goes.
If there's a Quick.Step rider in there… they can definitely go, so I'll
see what happens.
Wilson recognised his recent good showing in the Giro d' Italia as an
important part of preparation for the Tour this year. "I felt a lot more
confident after the Giro," he said. "I went into it with some pretty average
form and came out of it going well. I looked after myself really well
afterwards so in the back of my head I know the body can do it."
Rogers still waiting for the mountains
Photo: © Chris Henry
Aside from stating the obvious regarding the weather, Quick.Step rider
Mick Rogers was eyeing the small inclinations of today's ride as an entrée
to the genuine climbs that are his strength "Today's going to be another
hard day with all the wind and shit weather," he said. "Same old I guess.
But it's pretty up and down today. A few little climbs, but nothing too
serious. Like yesterday, it could split up, you never know so you've just
got to keep at the front."
Rogers was comfortable with the lively pace of the peloton that saw it
break in two on the journey to Saint-Brieuc yesterday. "I put the hammer
down. It wasn't super hard to get to the front, but the guys at the back
were puffing a bit."
Despite a tough first week for all riders, Mick's focus is squarely on
the mountains. "Tomorrows a rest day then we get to the hard stages. I
think a lot of guys are already tired. More so mentally than physically;
you relax for ten seconds and all of a sudden you lose two kilometres."
Allan Davis looked to have recovered well from his crash two days ago
left much of his backside painfully raw. "I'm alright, it healed up well,
just a bit of bad luck mate," he said. "Yesterday I was a bit sore when
I got up. But it goes on, I'm just getting through it day by day."
His explanation on the frequency of the crashes so far in the Tour centred
on the mainly squalid conditions. "There's just that much bloody nervousness.
With the wind and the rain, it seems everyone has to be at the front the
whole day, trying to get out of the wind. Hopefully it clears up soon."
Davis was yet another rider to express some interest in being involved
in a breakaway from the peloton. "I think a break will go today. Hopefully
we can get someone from the team in it but if not we'll see what happens.
If I'm there in the right opportunity I will give it a go. If not I can
save a big effort for the end and I'll see what happens."
Davis played the card of consummate team man when asked about his own
chances of crossing the line first on one of the flatter stages. "More
of a harder day than a flat finish. I think that would be more suitable.
We've got to look after Roberto most of the time anyway so I'll just take
it as it goes."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)