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Tour de France Cycling News for July 16, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes

Post-stage 13 comments

By John Trevorrow in Montpellier

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto, 1st)

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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"It was more a victory for my teammates than myself. This whole Tour, the whole season, none of my victories would have been possible without my teammates. But more so today than ever, really was a team victory because the work they put in was absolutely incredible.

"It's hard for anybody not in the race to appreciate just how hard they worked today. It's day 13 of the Tour. Everybody can see in the paper what the average speed is so far. We have been through the Vosges, we have been through the Alps. For my guys to be able to do that today and my last guy Freddy to deliver me to the line...I got all emotional after the finish because such a fantastic job deserves a victory."

How do you motivate your teammates? "I said since yesterday and again this morning: I didn't believe we would have a mass sprint today. I really didn't believe it would happen. We have had such an aggressive Tour and a lot of guys on the attack. My guys were very, very tired.

"How do I motivate those guys? To do what they did today, you can't motivate someone to do that. The motivation comes from within those guys. That's their strong point. It's really the belief of those guys. Their belief in me and their belief in themselves, enabled them to do what they did today. I keep saying it, but it really is incredible how they rode the whole day.

"I only had four teammates we could use and we were very lucky we had Lampre to help. I have to thank those riders too because they are strong. I am still in disbelief about what my teammates did today. I can't imagine trying do that myself."

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Credit Agricole and Cofidis didn't chase? "Yeah I understand the tactic. Their tactic is revolving around the green jersey competition. They both know it's fairly tough and they both know if we come to the finish in a bunch sprint where there's a bigger difference in points between the places and pretty much know they are going to get beaten and lose points to me. If I was them I would be doing the exact same thing. But my team are not afraid to lay it on the line and race to win."

When was the exact moment you were sure of the stage win? "I thought that underneath the kilo kite that we would sprint for the win. The speed of the two riders in front, Horner and Chavanel, they had maybe 6-7 seconds so I knew it would be close. But then the Liquigas went through for Bäckstedt and the instant they did, I knew we would be sprinting for the win.

"In the last few metres I just held back and told them the moment to go, and I knew, during the last kilo, we would catch those two riders.

I haven't spoken to Stuey...I was looking at Freddy a few meters out. I wanted to see if there was anybody on my wheel because I was going to let Freddy across the line first. But I saw someone there so two more pedals and no one was coming past."

Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis, 2nd)

"Robbie did a great sprint he had a great lead out - I think he deserved to win today. Unluckily for us Sylvain had Horner with him on his wheel or else he could have gone all the way as well. Finish was pretty hectic again, around 74km an hour I think.

"What were your hand signals at finish about? "Gentleman's pump. Robbie beat me fair and square but he just threw in a little 'how's it going?' at the finish. I was beaten, and I was going to get beaten anyway. It was nothing.

"I put some points into Thor, and lost a couple to McEwen but I'm feeling better and better every day and there's another week of hard racing to go. I'm feeling pretty confident. 14 points? I think it's probably going to be the last sprint day except maybe for Paris, but from now on it's just going to be a hard grind all the way to Paris. It's going to be whoever passes the hills the best between McEwen, myself and Hushovd.

"I think Lotto had all the pressure today - they were the only team who wanted it to come down to a finish for the sprint and they worked very hard. Chavanel did a good attack for us in the final, and he was very unlucky.

Any rivalry between you and Thor? "We're fine. We're probably better friends than before. Yesterday we had a good race and we're both very good competitors. Thor's a very fair rider, a very strong sprinter - so it's going to be a good battle. It might not come down to a couple of points, you know. If I have a good day in the mountains, anything's possible."

"We've got the monkey of the stage win off our back, and now the guys are riding with confidence. I have got full support but we're not shutting down the stages for me. In the (team) meeting I've been saying to the guys if they've got a chance to go for the attack in the final, then they should go for it."

Brad McGee (Francaise des Jeux, 159th at 5'40)

"I have been struggling since that crash and a few days after I had a bad cramps (when Mengin won). I seem to have torn some abductors and hammies. The crash upset it. I had the weird sensations in my legs. It's like I am pedaling in sandshoes, not bike shoes. I can't ride through the pedal stroke - it's like after my crash in Pyrenees and few years ago and it happens whenever I crash.

"I know I have got something to go for these next stages. I feel really confident in myself that if I get back to my normal pedal style and get over this: why not one of these mountain stages? That is what is motivating me right now. I would hate to think all the work I have done for my climbing just goes to nothing."

Thumbs down for Ullrich, up for Rasmussen

By Hedwig Kröner in Montpellier

Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile)
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The French love him: Raymond Poulidor, the arch rival of five times Tour de France winner Jacques Anquetil back in the 60's, has become a heroic figure ever since his days as a professional bike rider. Also referred to as 'Poupou' or 'the eternal runner-up', the now 69 year-old has never worn the maillot jaune, but was always considered one of the favourites for the overall win at the Tour de France during his time, as he finished three times in second place amongst other top ten results.

Poulidor is still part of the Tour, and Cyclingnews got hold of him in the Village Départ of stage 13 in Miramas - but he decidedly negated any analogy between himself and Jan Ullrich, who has been Lance Armstrong's personal runner-up in recent years. "No, there are not a lot of similarities," he said. "Ullrich won the Tour once, whereas I never did. And then, Ullrich isn't a true professional, he doesn't do his job right: in winter, he puts on weight; he rarely races, only trains... and you can see the result: he hasn't got the legs to beat Armstrong. In the mountains, he's really suffering!"

On another note, the legendary Frenchman also had words of praise, but not for Ullrich. "Rasmussen, you watch out for Rasmussen," he said, raising his eyebrows. "He's only 38 seconds away from the jersey, and what's 38 seconds in high mountains...only 300 meters!"

The old and the new king
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Another famous former bike rider and expert in polka-dot matters agreed. Richard Virenque, now working for French television at the Tour, believes in his successor. "I predicted that he would be the most suited rider to try and go for the mountains jersey. And now he's even second in general classification as we head into the Pyrenees, so he can take the yellow. It's possible," he told Cyclingnews on the start line in Miramas between two interviews he was doing himself in front of the camera.

The man who scored seven polka-dot jerseys at the Tour was impressed with Rasmussen's performance in the Alps, and thinks that there is surely more to come as the race hits the second mountain range. "The Pyrenees, with their steeper and shorter climbs suit him very well," he continued. "Especially the second stage [Lézat-sur-Lčze - Saint-Lary Soulan on Sunday - ed.] where he might be able to get the jersey for one or two days. Don't know if he could take it to Paris, but he's definitely amazing!"

Valverde goes home

Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears)
Photo ©: AFP
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At 15.15 today, Alejandro Valverde finally admitted defeat, giving in to the pain of a bad left knee and quitting the Tour de France. It was rumoured before the stage that the white jersey would not start, but together with team management the Illes Balears rider decided to continue for as long as was possible. He had a highly successful Tour debut so far; a stage win on the first big mountain stage of the race, the white jersey of best young rider and a fine fifth place overall. But ever since that win in Courchevel he had been troubled by a knee injury, most probably as the result of banging the joint during the team time trial several days earlier.

Today the pain became too much, causing the rider Lance Armstrong said ‘could be the future of cycling' to retire from the race. Third and fourth in the Vuelta a Espańa, Valverde will bounce back from this and could well challenge for the win in 2006. Before then, though, the Illes Balears team will do what they can to support Paco Mancebo's bid for a podium place. He starts tomorrow in seventh place overall, 4 minutes off the race lead, and will be aiming for a big ride in the Pyrenees.

Liberty hope for more in the Pyrenees

Beginning tomorrow's stage to Ax-3 Domaines in 12th place overall, Jörg Jaksche will have the total support of the Liberty team in his bid to move up the general classification. Although not a pure climber, the German has fared well in the Alps. "I feel very good at the moment, am strong and expect to be able to stay with the pace set by the favourites," he said. Jaksche plans to see how the next three days go before deciding his strategy for the remainder of the Tour de France.

Alberto Contador, third in the best young rider classification, is another aiming to ride well. Teammates Joseba Beloki and Roberto Heras head west expecting better things than in the Alps, with both reporting better form. Similarly, team sprinter Allan Davis is also on the up; he was 11th in today's bunch sprint and seems to be recovering from the injuries sustained earlier in the Tour.

Meanwhile Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano returns to training tomorrow after the hard crash which forced his withdrawal from the Tour last Sunday. The Spaniard was in severe distress after landing heavily on his back, but MRI scans taken on Wednesday showed that he had no serious injury to his back. Although he's still experiencing pain in the area, he has been told that he can make a gradual return to training. Gonzalez de Galdeano is hoping to be back racing soon.

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The Tour de France of give-aways and competitions

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Lucky 7 Sweepstakes'
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The Tour de France is not only a reasonably popular bike race, ahem, it's also a great opportunity to win an incredible range of prizes and competitions on offer from manufacturers, publishers and distributors.

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