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Tour de France Cycling News for July 9, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

Hard, but rewarding: Wegmann flies into Germany on his own

By Hedwig Kröner in Karlsruhe

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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"My legs aren't turning like they should," Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann told Cyclingnews at the start of stage seven in Lunéville. "When it's cold and raining like it this, I'm in trouble."

But the youngster is fearless, and one could sense that he was concentrating on the task ahead: getting into a breakaway, for the sake of a ride onto home turf - and the polka-dot jersey, which he knew was within reach. "It's a dream come true, really. I said it to my teammates yesterday: standing on the podium and hearing that music, that's the greatest," he described the moments spent at the famous 'cérémonie protocolaire', which uses its own distinctive tune when a rider is about to being honoured.

The strategy of his team proved to be just the right one: Get somebody in a break, or count on their sprinter for the finish. And although Robert Förster finished only 13th, the squad can be happy with its achievements in Germany: Precious TV time for Gerolsteiner, the dotted jersey and the award of most combative rider were all theirs - contrary to T-Mobile, who did not put their colours up front for obvious tactical reasons.

Although Wegmann's move wasn't calculated to be a lone one, he decided to continue when McEwen waited for the bunch to come back on him after the first climb. "The gap wasn't very big on top of that climb, but when McEwen joined me we made some time on the descent," he said. "But he didn't want to ride with me - as there was nobody coming behind us he just stopped riding eventually, wishing me luck. The gap was there so I just continued full speed, to get that one last point for the jersey."

The solitary ride was long, longer than expected (160 km), but the 25 year-old was rewarded by a frenetic crowd as he crossed the border to his home country: the sheer amount of spectators was overwhelming, making a huge difference with the neighbouring Alsace region. The "Tourfieber" - the country's fever for the Tour de France - is well known by the French organiser ASO, which is one of he reasons why the race frequently drops in. Crowds had gathered since noon on the borders of the parcours, and when Wegmann entered German territory his lead was still nearly four minutes. And although he knew that he wasn't going to take it into the finish, Wegmann is the fourth German rider to slip into the polka-dot. Marcel Wüst, Jens Voigt and Rolf Aldag did it before him, but couldn't defend it. Will Wegmann, who has proven to be mountain-worthy by winning the homologous jersey in the Giro d'Italia in 2004, be a successor to Richard Virenque?

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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"I'm pretty kaput now, and I'll have to see how I feel," he cautiously said after the race. "Of course I'd like to keep the jersey until the end, but tomorrow we have four climbs in the first part of the stage. And after today, I definitely won't be as fresh so it will be hard to defend it."

Meanwhile, his directeur sportif Christian Henn told Cylingnews after the stage, "We'll have to try to defend it tomorrow. But once the real mountains come, it will be hard. Compared to the Giro, you don't escape the peloton as easily, because a lot of teams will try for it. Plus, tomorrow the race won't be as controlled by the sprinters' teams as today, because there's the Col de la Schlucht right before the finish."

So one question was obvious: Did Wegmann bluff by saying his legs weren't good this morning? You can't tell, as he happily laughed, replying, "No, I didn't..." It's a hard race, especially since "there has been a lot of tailwind lately, so it was harder riding within the bunch, even harder than with a headwind," Henn concluded.

Gerro's going alright

By Anthony Tan in Karlsruhe

So far, the Tour de France has been quite an experience for young Aussie all-rounder Simon Gerrans. When Cyclingnews asked how his week's gone, the first thing he commented on was the incredible speed of the first hour of racing, which has mostly been completed at around 50 kilometres an hour.

"I was coping really well until yesterday," Gerrans said with his typically boyish grin before the start of the seventh stage in Lunéville. "I thought yesterday would have suited me, but I basically didn't have good legs. That last climb [Côte de Maron], I went out the back and didn't even look like getting back on."

Such is the life of a neo-pro in his first Tour de France, but for the 25 year-old Victorian, it's not all bad. Team manager Vincent Lavenu has given the entire team a large degree of freedom, and like many teams without a general classification rider, placing themselves in the right move is the number one priority over the next two and a half weeks.

"Most of the team is looking for that kind of move, actually, except Jean-Patrick [Nazon], since he's there for the sprints. The rest of us, if we can get in a break and take a big chunk of time, that's definitely what we want to do.

"Any one of these days, a break is going to go and get a big chunk of time, so Vincent says it's pretty important to have someone in that - that's what he's been saying all along. If a group of 10 guys goes away, we've got to have someone in there, because it could take 20 minutes," he said.

So is Gerro looking forward to some long days in the mountains in the fortnight ahead?

Before answering that question, he peered out towards the gloomy skies above him... "I'm looking forward to a bit of sunshine, actually," he joked. "But no, next week will sort of calm down a little bit; the guys racing GC will be going flat-out, but the guys that aren't will be looking for an easy ride, so in that respect, the race will settle down a bit."

One guy who doesn't mind a bit of bad weather is Lance Armstrong, who looks fairly set to win his seventh straight Tour, but Gerrans added that it's not over till the fat lady sings in Paris. "I don't think the race's over until we hit Paris. But he's [Armstrong] looking pretty strong. It's my first Tour, so it's hard to compare him to the past few years, but he's looking pretty good so far," he said.

Mengin won't start Saturday

Christophe Mengin (Francaise des Jeux) will not start the eighth stage in Pforzheim on Saturday. The French rider, who spectacularly crashed at the end of Stage 6, has a broken ethmoid under his left eye. Despite this, he did manage to finish stage 7, albeit 1'45 behind the peloton. That reduces the Tour field to 184 riders.

An interview with Iñigo Landaluze

Orange crusader

Relaxing before stage 5
Photo ©: Sirotti
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After his resounding win in the Dauphiné Libéré, the name Iñigo Landaluze is on the lips of many a Tour observer. Stars of Euskaltel-Euskadi's squad, Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia, appear to have top-quality climbing company in this 28-year-old from Getxo. He is part of the 100% Basque outfit looking to demonstrate its power throughout the three weeks of the Tour de France, and Cyclingnews’ Hernan Alvarez Macias caught up with the rider likely to come through as a dark horse at this year's edition.

It was surprising to see a little-known rider beating giants of the mountains such as Phonak's Santiago Botero or Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer on the last day of Dauphiné in Sallanches. The Tour’s king, Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) ended up fourth. It was his first and only race victory, but it wasn't a minor championship win, as many of the riders at this year's Tour were there on the French Alps, trailing the Orange crusader.

Cyclingnews: How was that triumph in Dauphiné Libéré?

Iñigo Landaluze: I got in a breakaway and we made a gap. It was a mountain stage, a tough stage; we made the gap and I was able to maintain that lead over the final days.

CN: It was a bit unexpected for you, right?

IL: Yes, it was unexpected. The truth is that I didn't go to that race with the intention of fighting for the general victory; I went with the intention of fighting for the stage so I got in a breakaway. I'm neither a time trial specialist nor a climber. I'm a rider for the medium-mountain stages, not the high-mountain stages. It followed that pattern and I became the leader - I was feeling very good and was able to stay with the leaders.

Click here for the full interview

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