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Tour de France News for July 16, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Mission accomplished for Moncoutié

By Chris Henry in Figeac

David Moncoutie (Cofidis)
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Cofidis' David Moncoutié achieved his lifelong goal of a Tour de France stage win Thursday with a solo victory ahead of two breakaway companions, Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) with whom he attacked a third of the way through the stage from Saint-Flour to Figeac. Moncoutié's aggressive riding came as no surprise given his local roots, and indeed he was already on the offensive in the animated opening hour of the race as part of an unsuccessful seven man break at kilometre 27. Moncoutié followed an attack by Flecha in the closing kilometres before making his own counter move for which Flecha and Martinez had no answer.

"It's always been a dream to win a Tour stage, but actually doing it is not so easy," Moncoutié explained after his victory. "And of course being near my home helped a lot. Before the Tour my goal was to win a stage, and now I've done that. Now I'm not going to be able to be content with arriving in the grupetto in the mountains."

Moncoutié, a talented climber, finished 13th overall in last year's Tour, though he has no illusions about challenging for a high GC position. Modest by nature, his stage victory was the number one goal, even it has inspired him to focus more on GC now that his race is building momentum. "I've never thought of myself as a team leader," he said.

Stage 11, rarely flat just like stage 10 but with less severe climbs, offered Moncoutié one last opportunity to drop his rivals, an uncategorised climb in the final ten kilometres before a fast finish into Figeac. Several tests let him know his chances were good, before making the decisive move after Flecha failed to make his own break.

"I was afraid in the beginning, because Martinez and Flecha were speaking a lot in Spanish and I thought they might try to attack me together," he explained. "First Flecha attacked and Martinez chased, so after that I thought it was my turn to try something. When I went I could see they weren't cooperating."

Moncoutié also had his own tribute in mind when he crossed the line in Figeac.

"Like Virenque, I also thought of my grandmother, who died two days ago," Moncoutié said. "And of course my parents and family. Plus it was great to hear all the encouragement along the course.

"This is the high point of my career," he concluded. "I'm still young, and my career isn't finished, but I've realized my biggest dream."

Flecha gets close

Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo)
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Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha's reward in Stage 11 was second place, 2'15 behind winner David Moncoutié. Flecha made the first attack on the last climb but was countered strongly by Moncoutié, who quickly opened up a large advantage on his rivals.

"I tried to go from a fair way out," said Flecha after the finish. "But they reacted immediately and when the French guy attacked I could not jump again. He was riding very strongly. I am trying every day in order to try to give my team another stage win. Now I want to have another attempt but will save myself in the Pyrenees to try again in the Alps."

Stage 11 full results, report & photos
Live report
Stages & results
Final start list
Tour FAQ

Stage 12 preview: Enter the Pyrénées

By Anthony Tan

Iban Mayo soon to go on the offensive
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
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The first of the Pyrénéean stages and the 12th stage of this year's Tour de France begins at Castelsarrasin, one of the main gateways to the Pyrénées. Featuring 'only' two Category 1 climbs over the 197.5 kilometre-long parcours, it may not be the toughest of mountain stages, but with all 27.5 kilometres of climbing coming in the last 38 kilometres that culminates at the mountain-top finish at La Mongie, this ain't no walk in the park.

With defending champion Lance Armstrong best-placed on the classement generale among the obvious Tour contenders including Hamilton, Heras, Mayo and Ullrich, the five-time Tour winner is likely to adopt more of a defensive approach and ride the path of least resistance, just as he did when he won the stage to La Mongie back in 2002. Expect to see his faithful team-mates Hincapie, Ekimov and Padrnos keeping him out of harm's way for the first 160 kilometres before climbers Landis, Azevedo and Beltran take over as the roads veer skywards.

A nasty pinch at the end
Photo ©: CN/AFP
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Should the penultimate climb of the Col d'Aspin become the launching pad for a serious attack however, the tactic may well catch more than a few off-guard. On paper, the two closely-packed Cat. 1 climbs play right into the hands of the mountain-men; while the initial 12.5 kilometres at an average gradient of 6.3 percent may not be enough to unsettle Lance or Der Kaiser, when coupled with another 15 kilometres' climbing on the steeper Col du Tourmalet almost immediately afterwards, an attacking Heras or Mayo could possibly see the Tour tables turn in their favour.

Certainly, this would be a dream scenario for the organisers, TV audiences and roadside fans including the predicted tens of thousands of crazy orange-clad Basques waving their Ikkurina flags, albeit an unlikely one. Most probably, we will all have to wait for the following day's monster stage to the Plateau de Beille for the real action to occur.

Then and now: Advantage Armstrong

Lance Armstrong triumphs on Stage 11 of the 2002 TdF
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July 18, 2002: At the start of Stage 11 in Pau, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano was the maillot jaune by a slender margin of 26 seconds. The Spaniard had taken the race lead exactly one week ago after the Stage 4 team time trial, and three days before the start of the stage, Gonzalez de Galdeano had admirably defended his lead in a 52 kilometre race of truth, conceding just nine seconds to defending champion Lance Armstrong.

Despite the difficulty of the 158 kilometres that lay ahead, attacks went straight from the gun, and by the first Cat. 4 climb of the day at km 35, a group of nine riders broke free from the peloton. However, by the time these nine were on the lower slopes of the hors categorie Col D'Aubisque less than 20 kilometres later, CSC-Tiscali's Laurent Jalabert was the only man out in front.

Look out for the full story to be posted on Cyclingnews later today.

Levi excited for Athens

By Tim Maloney, European editor in Figeac

Cyclingnews spoke to Levi Leipheimer in Saint-Flour before the 11th stage of the Tour de France about his nomination to the US Olympic Cycling Team in Athens, Greece next month. A delighted Leipheimer told Cyclingnews that, "I'm very happy that USA Cycling has selected me. It's a chance of a lifetime...I'm excited because I think I will fit into the team very well. That's the most important thing...I can do a lot of work. With five man teams (in Athens), it's difficult to control the racing situation so you need five strong riders who can not only help each other, but if there's a situation that occurs, they can take care of themselves."

Leipheimer explained that representing the United States at an Olympic Games will be something special for him. "For the sport of cycling, (the Tour) is the biggest event in the world, but I'm still very excited to go to the Olympics. I think for an American, it means quite a bit."

Not just a dog

Tyler Hamilton (Phonak)
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Tyler Hamilton is in mourning for his friend Tugboat. For if the old adage that a dog is man's best friend, Hamilton's big, friendly golden Labrador retriever was quite a buddy. Cyclingnews had the fortune to meet Tugboat a few years ago in Paris at the end of the Tour de France when Ty's wife Haven brought their beloved pet to the end of the Tour. Today we spoke to Hamilton before Stage 11 where the usually stoic New Englander told us about his emotional roller-coaster surrounding the loss of his best friend.

"Tugboat was like a family member to me," he said. "A lot of people don't know me or know the situation; they might think 'oh he's just a dog' but for me, it's hard, it's hard...just as hard as losing a family member. But life goes on and certainly (the loss of Tugboat) is a hundred times harder than what I went through last year."

When we asked Hamilton it he thought the spirit of Tugboat might be with him during the rest of the Tour, Ty smiled and said "Yeah, I've got his tag right here", showing us Tug's red ID tag held around his neck on a white ribbon.

Brandt uses tainted supplement defense

Christophe Brandt (Lotto-Domo), who was expelled from the Tour by his team last week for testing positive to methadone, believes that the drug came from a tainted nutritional supplement that he took to cure his liver problems. The Belgian together with his lawyer, a doctor and another witness visited the chemist that had sold him the supplements, which were prescribed by Lotto-Domo team doctor Daniel De Neve. According to Le Soir, the chemist said that he had been working with methadone on the same day that he had prepared Brandt's supplements, which could have been contaminated as a result.

Brandt described the revelation as "a relief. Even if I remain suspended by the Lotto-Domo team pending a decision by the Belgian Cycling Federation, I hope to avoid a sanction thanks to this new evidence."

Bäckstedt withdraws

Magnus Bäckstedt (Alesiso-Bianchi) abandoned the Tour during stage 11 today, suffering from a painful back. The big Swedish rider was lying in 72nd position on GC after finishing with the autobus yesterday.

Commissaire's communique

Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) - Fined 200 CHF and penalised 0'40 for prolonged drafting behind team car
Team CSC directeur sportif - Fined 200 CHF for same reason
Mikel Pradera (Illes Balears-Banesto) - Fined 30 CHF for brief drafting behind car
Sylvain Calzati (RAGT Semences-MG Rover) - Fined 30 CHF for brief drafting behind car

Medical communique

Mikel Pradera (Illes Balears-Banesto) - Pain in right thigh
Denis Menchov (Illes Balears-Banesto) - Right knee pain
Laurent Lefèvre (Brioches La Boulangère) - Right knee pain
Jérôme Pineau (Brioches La Boulangère) - Left knee pain
Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r-Prévoyance) - Muscle aches
Thierry Marichal (Lotto-Domo) - Left knee pain
Ludovic Martin (RAGT Semences-MG Rover) - Right knee pain

Stage 12 weather

Stage 12, the first big day in the Pyrénées mountains, will dawn bright and hot. Temperatures at the stage start are expected around 30 degrees, though they will drop as the riders crest the two climbs of the Col d'Aspin and La Mongie. Some clouds are expected on the climb of the Col d'Aspin, and riders will face a headwind for the descent. A storm is possible at the summit at La Mongie, and temperatures are expected to be 20 degrees at the finish, but could drop after a storm.

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