Tour de France News Extra for July 14, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Australian Round up
By John Trevorrow in Gueret
A desperate lunge pays off
Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo)
Photo ©: Sirotti
A final desperate lunge gave Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) the narrowest
of victories over Norwegian powerhouse Thor Hushovd and an equally fast
finishing Stuart O'Grady. The breakaway pair Landaluze and Simeoni looked
to have just done enough to hold off the charging peloton, only to be
snaffled up with only 50 metres to go.
The margin may have been small but the benefit was great. With only
two stages left for the sprinters to fight out, today's result extends
Robbie's lead in the Maillot Vert classification to a handy 18 points
over Hushovd, with O'Grady a further 5 points in arrears.
Five Australians finished in the top 14 of today's stage, with Baden
Cooke (12th), Scott Sunderland (13th) and Allan Davis (14th) rounding
out the quintet.
An obviously elated McEwen dedicated his win to the birth of his nephew
Zac, delivered this morning to parents Cameron (Robbie's brother) and
wife Ilana. Despite the win, Robbie has a major injury concern that began
to flare-up during yesterday's routine training ride.
"I actually had real trouble yesterday in training. I had to stop five
or six times and I was worried that I might not even start today. I landed
right on the knee, but it's not just an injury from the crash. I've got
some tendonitis in my left knee. Nick Gates had a similar problem so obviously
it's a big concern. After crashing at Arras I was covered in bruises on
my bum and my back. My muscles have tightened up and I've had to slightly
change my pedalling style that has exacerbated the tendonitis. The other
problem is the physio needs to exert pressure in certain places but he
can't because there's no skin there."
Whilst the injury could yet affect Robbie significantly, he emphasised
that his victory today was achieved with a body that is still very much
capable. "I don't want it to sound like I'm a one-legged man winning stages
in the Tour de France. I've still got some pretty good condition aside
from the knee. I'll just have to see how it goes tomorrow."
Robbie observed that compatriot Stuart O'Grady might still be his biggest
danger, owing to his penchant for escaping the peloton. "Stuey loves a
breakaway. I was talking to him about it during the race today and he
said he's going to have another go at getting away over the next few days.
I guess I've got to hope they catch him before the finish."
Robbie fielded a question regarding the expiration of his contract at
the end of this year. "I honestly haven't given it much thought. I've
got more important matters to think about at the moment. Hopefully I can
make myself a little bit more valuable over the course of the Tour. I've
really got to think about just getting through the Tour. If the worst
thing happens, at least I've got the satisfaction of two stage wins and
being the quickest man on the Tour."
Robbie was glowing in his tribute to his current team, Lotto Domo. "When
I do start to negotiate with a team, it will have to have riders like
Marichal, Vansevenant and Vierhouten. They did a fantastic job for me
today; they put it all on the line and just rode their backsides off.
It's great how the team has faith in me, even though I'm not one-hundred
Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Stuart O'Grady was slightly disappointed despite his strong showing,
as he genuinely felt like he could have won the stage with fortune on
his side. "It was a tight sprint. I was forced into the barricades and
I only got out in the final few metres. I got about ten pushes of the
pedals in before the line. I just needed another five metres."
His best hope of wearing the green sprinters' jersey into Paris may
be in securing some intermediate sprints in the mountains that will suit
him slightly more than rivals McEwen and Hushovd. "I really think I'm
not going to have as much trouble in the mountains as the other sprinters,"
he said. "Hopefully I'll be able to get some intermediate sprints somewhere
in the mountains."
Although not a focus, O'Grady was entertaining thoughts of adding another
yellow jersey to his collection. "The best thing I can do is try to get
up the front. Boulangère are going to have to try to control it but they've
been working pretty hard over the last few days. If the opportunity presents
itself I'll go for it."
Stuart was a little perturbed at the attention given to what he saw
as a minor incident that occurred after the finish in Saint-Brieuc between
him and Scott Sunderland. O'Grady explained it as a spur of the moment
exchange of words that has been grossly exaggerated.
Morning banter in the village depart
FDJeux.com's Matthew Wilson was spruiking his surprise victory on what
was supposed to be a non-competitive conditioning ride during the rest
day. "We did two hours, it was fairly solid. We even had a couple of sprints
for some town signs and I beat Baden by about a nose. That can't be a
good sign "
Matt's customary role as support rider for Baden Cooke seems to have
been altered in light of the sprinter having performed below expectations
thus far. "We'll just try to put someone in the break. There's no pressure
on Cookie in the sprints because he doesn't think he has the form. But
he'll give it a go anyway, you watch. We'll see what happens."
Scott Sunderland actually admitted to feeling slightly worse after the
comparative ease of the day's rest. "It was good, easy enough. I feel
pretty tired today though. When you stop like that and your body goes
into recuperation mode the next day you feel it. It was just 50k's. We
had a little look at the hills that we're actually going through today.
It was okay."
Scott light-heartedly cursed the consuming nature of life as a professional
cyclist on Tour. "I just went out, worked up a bit of a sweat then came
back and had a hot bath and a massage. There's not much else you can do
on a rest day. It's not like you can go shopping or play golf. It's not
like the soccer players or the football players. You can't go out and
do eighteen holes."
Baden Cooke was typically relaxed before today's resumption. "I went
and did a couple of hours then lunch in town. Just took it easy. I feel
a bit better today."
Of his own prospects he was hopeful without any real expectations. "There
could be a break. It depends if the sprinter's teams are up for a chase,
which they have been. So I think it's going to come back to a sprint.
I feel a bit fresher."
Allan Davis was most overjoyed at the opportunity to relax yesterday.
"It was awesome! I only did an easy 60k and then kicked back for the rest
of the day. Hopefully one from the team will get in the break today and
then we'll see what happens. I don't know what to expect tomorrow in the
mountains. I think Mayo will have to make a really hard break. If he wants
to win the tour he has to attack. Time will tell."
Mick Rogers didn't expect anything out of the ordinary in the last sprinters'
day before the mountains. "Today will probably be similar to most days
so far. Same old. The break will go, the peloton will chase it down and
then there'll be a sprint finish." [spot on Mick]
"Tomorrow is the first real test and I have been looking forward to
it. The first mountain stages are different. The riders are really nervous
and I plan to stay near the front all day."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)