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Tour de France News Extra for July 24, 2004

Edited by Kristy Scrymgeour

Australian Round up

McEwen not resting up yet

By John Trevorrow in Lons le Saunier

The sprint for 7th
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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The big attack on the green jersey did not materialise today. What started out as a stage with a lot of promise, fizzled into a gift to the non-contenders. When Lance got into a break early chasing Simeoni, the stage was set for a battle royale. But that was not to be and Armstrong and Simeoni cancelled their private battle, sat up and went back to the peloton. Sanity returned and the break continued on unabated.

No-one seemed to be interested in bringing it back and Robbie McEwen now only has Thor Hushovd to worry about to finish in green on Sunday. McEwen was somewhat relieved after the stage, but admits that it's not over yet.

"I was feeling good all day until about 10 km from the finish and then I felt my back go out. They will have to do a bit of work on it tonight to sort it out. The green is not in the bag yet. It is definitely not over and anything can happen on Sunday. I have started the last day with a two point lead, so eleven is definitely better but it is not an unbeatable lead in the final stage in Paris.

"I wasn't too happy with the 8.30 am wake up call for a blood test. Not when I was planning on a 10.00 am sleep-in.

Hushovd optimistic

Thor Hushovd beat Robbie in the stage sprint for seventh place and has narrowed the lead by one point. Hushovd is obviously feeling the effects of 20 tough days of racing and was coughing and spluttering after his sprint victory.

"It will be hard to beat Robbie for the jersey. But I won today and maybe I can win on the Champs Elysees," he said.

Pre Race comments

In the village in Annemasse before the start

Wilson almost there

FDJeux.com's Matthew Wilson was understandably relieved just to make it through yesterday's stage, generally acknowledged as the hardest on the Tour. "It was a big stage for sure. I knew I had to get over the first two climbs in a good group to make the limit so I just made that my objective and I did it. So I'm pretty happy."

Wilson was wary of letting his guard down after the mountains, despite being on the cusp of completing the Tour this time around. "I've still got to get through two stages so it's still dangerous, even the time-trial tomorrow. So I've still got a bit to get through but I'm pretty confident now. I was almost thinking of the Champs-Elysees at the top of the last climb yesterday."

Cooke baffled

Wilson's teammate Baden Cooke was again left to lament a mysterious condition that has him losing power in his legs. "It happened again. It actually happened in both legs yesterday. It's usually just in the one leg. They weren't really feeling numb yesterday but just the power wasn't there. So they've booked me in to see a specialist after the Tour. They're organising me to see some guy, I think it might be the same guy Stuey [O'Grady] saw. I think it must be a similar problem to what he had."

Despite being less than fully fit, Cooke was still hopeful of making his tour with a win in the final stage into Paris.

"The Champs-Elysees is definitely on the agenda. On the flat, sometimes it doesn't happen at all, so you never know."

Sunderland still chasing a stage win

Scott Sunderland seemed a little perturbed when the heavens opened up before the start of the race. "It's bloody unbelievable mate. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all. It's bloody wet weather stuff. There was supposed to be a bit of wind and maybe a bit of rain at the end but not like this."

He was happy with his effort in yesterday's stage in which he climbed quite well considering the difficulty level. "It was good. I felt good; I had good legs. It was the same old, just making sure Caucchioli was okay. I actually had a pretty good day. I was actually starting to enjoy it a bit, just as we were getting to the end of the mountains my climbing was improving."

Sunderland realised that he had one last chance of getting up the road in his 2004 Tour de France. "Well there'll probably be a break again, some riders will get away. I'll just have a go and see what happens I guess."

After the stage Scott lamented on not getting in the break. "There was just no co-operation between my head and my legs."

Davis suffering but getting there

Alan Davis is very close to finishing his first Tour de France "Pretty tired mate. I'm not there yet but all I really want to do is finish the Tour. I'm just suffering. I really hurt myself yesterday.

Rogers aiming for top five in the time trial

Michael Rogers put in a solid effort yesterday, but seemed to be paying for it a little this morning. "I'm feeling okay. It was shocking how hot it was. I reckon it was 40 degrees at one stage."

His focus has shifted to the second-last day of the Tour. "With the time-trial tomorrow I'll just be taking it easy today. Hopefully I can save some energy today and get in the top five tomorrow."

Rogers is generally pleased with how his Tour has gone, despite some early difficulties causing him to re-access his goals. "I'm pretty happy with how it's gone. After I crashed I thought I might aim for the top 20. It looks like I'll finish just outside that which isn't too bad so that's what I'm aiming for."

There will be no sabbatical for Mick, who is Athens bound in September. "It's straight onto the Games now. I think I'm come out of the Tour fairly well, not dead like I was last year, so hopefully that holds me in good stead."

O'Grady happy

Stuart O'Grady did not believe that today's quasi-climb would drop the likes of Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd, boosting his chances of a stage win and edging him closer to the green sprinter's jersey.

"I'm not too sure about that. If a stage win was there I would certainly take it but it's going to be hard. I reckon a break will go really early so I'll see how I go. Man, that last climb was hard yesterday."

O'Grady was glad of his achievements in the Tour thus far, the turmoil within the team has been somewhat overshadowing "Of course I'm happy. To win a stage and wear the green jersey makes it a good Tour. But to be honest, with all the troubles we've had with the team I was just happy to get to the start line."

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