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Tour de France Cycling News for July 25, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

Basso satisfied with runner-up slot

Ivan Basso (CSC)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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Ivan Basso was third in last year's Tour de France but made a literal step up this time round, finishing second in the race and showing greater all round strength. He's stronger as a climber and closer to the specialists in the time trials, limiting his losses yesterday against riders like Armstrong and Ullrich.

"It is very big for me to finish second in the Tour de France. It's been an important race for us, and I'm happy, that we've lived up to the expectations," he said today. "I had high ambitions, but knew it would be risky business to do both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same season. But the team has been there for me and made it possible for me to do well in the Tour."

"It has meant a great deal to me, that the team has had faith in me getting this far, and I'm proud of the results we have achieved together. I'm still a young rider with many years in which to improve. I'm happy that this will be possible together with Bjarne and the rest of the team."

Riis pleased with CSC's Tour

Second place overall, one stage win, third in the team's ranking and third in the list of prize money won; no wonder CSC team boss Bjarne Riis was happy in Paris today. "It's been a fantastic Tour de France for us. With Ivan in second place we've achieved a very important goal and at the same time set the course towards the overall victory within the next couple of years. It was our ambition to be one of the dominating teams, and I definitely think that we have been. We've attacked and put pressure on the other favourites throughout the race. We've applied an aggressive strategy, which has paid off. With a stage win, two riders in the yellow jersey and Ivan in second place overall, we've fulfilled our ambitions and proven once again, that we're a team of the future."

Riis has built the team up from modest beginnings to a genuine Tour force. He was keen to pay compliment to all those involved. "The whole team deserves big credit. The riders and the staff around the team have all worked really hard in order for this to come together, and they each have a share in the brilliant results we've achieved. Our new contract with CSC gives us the best possible foundation for building an even better team, and I feel, we've showed everyone, that we have what it takes to win the Tour de France."

Mixed emotions in Australian camp

By John Trevorrow in Paris

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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All of the record ten Australians who started this year's Tour made it to Paris, an impressive achievement in a race that left 45 of its 189 starters on the roadside between Fromentine and Paris. For some it was a three-week baptism of fire, while for others it was just one particularly hard day in the office after another. Among the Australian contingent there was relief, elation, disappointment and determination at the end of the grand boucle.

The best Australian finisher was riding - at last - in his very first Tour de France. Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) was sidelined by injury and team politics in 2003 and 2004 and came to the 2005 Tour very much as a man with something to prove.

For Evans the end of the Tour was, "a big relief. It will hit me in a couple of days I suppose. Something as long as this… I've been so focused on the process I sort of don't know what I've done yet."

"It is a lot different to any other race," he said. And it has been three weeks of self-discovery for Evans. "I needed to know what I could and can't do," he said. "I know I can't climb with Lance every day. But I can climb with him sometimes, when the climb suits me."

This being his first tour it was also the first time Evans had experienced the sheer size of the Paris finale. Getting there had been interesting, though. "Today was ridiculously dangerous until it dried out near the end," said Evans, who represented Australia as a mountain biker at the 1996 Olympics. "I remember walking into the opening ceremony at the Atlanta Games and Stephen Hodge said to me that the final day in Paris was even bigger. I thought 'oh yeah.' Well it certainly is something different. It's because you've made it to Paris and through all you've been through over the 3000 kms, it's kinda harder than qualifying for the Olympics I think."

Bradley McGee (Francaise des Jeux) was second in the final stage after chasing down Alexandre Vinokourov but not being able to get past him on the line. Was he disappointed? "Yeah it is a bit disappointing. Cookie [Baden Cooke] said to go so I went for it, I thought I had him for a minute. He didn't come straight to my wheel when I did the final attack. But once I saw him there, well with a rider like that what do you do? I tried to force him around but the other guys were coming so I just had to go for it. I didn't die at all, I felt good and strong and hungry all the way, I can't believe he got off me. What do you do?"

Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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The weather and road conditions had been a big concern for Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis). "Boy it was a rough last day," he said. "It hasn't rained on the final day for - well I can't remember when. It was very dangerous coming into the final laps and it was a good thing it dried up a bit. When your on city roads and it hasn't rained for a month, then it's like riding on an ice skating rink."

O'Grady having a dig at the green jersey contest on the last day was always a long shot, and O'Grady was impressed at Alexandre Vinokourov's winning style. "The team rode well for me but it just didn't work out," said O'Grady."Good old Vino, what a legend. He can win any type of race that guy."

Looking back over the last three weeks, O'Grady said, "I feel I've had a pretty good Tour and I've been consistent but just couldn't break through. It was a good ride of Thor's and it was good to see him finally break through. I know how it feels to be knocking on the door. Maybe next year."

As for the yellow jersey winner, O'Grady was frank in his praise. "What a performance by Lance," he said. "He really is the champion of the Tour and there really hasn't been a rider, in the past few years, who can get anywhere near him."

Baden Cooke (Francaise des Jeux) is one of the contingent that hasn't performed at his best this Tour, showing none of the snap that gained him the green jersey in 2003. "I thought Brad was going to get it for a while," said Cooke of the finale. "He and I went into today hoping to salvage our Tour. We were both feeling good and we tried the same manoeuvre that worked a couple of years ago. He moved up like he was giving me a lead out and I let him go. It didn't work out and I'm very disappointed. But it is the biggest race in the world and you can't just do what you want."

Matt White (Cofidis) was happy to have finally started and finished a Tour. "Finally here hey, finally here," he said. "It's really, really great to be here. It is huge here on the Champs Elysees. I've done the Olympics and the other grand tours, but this is really special. One of the best bike riders in the world just won here, Vinokourov. He can win in the mountains, he can win on the flat and he is the most aggressive rider in the Tour de France. For me, He and Bettini are the two most complete bike riders on the planet.

"But Lance - wow. You can't compare eras and there is no doubt that Eddy Merckx is the greatest bike rider ever. But Lance is definitely the greatest Tour de France rider ever."

Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) is already looking ahead. "Yeah glad it's all over," he said. "I felt I had pretty good form but the breaks just didn't fall my way. I am looking forward to a couple of days off and then it's back into it. I hope to reach peak form again at the World championships in Madrid in September."

Luke Roberts (CSC) almost didn't make it to Paris, crashing on the slippery roads on the way to the French capital and looking pained when he climbed back on his bike. So getting to Paris was doubly special for Roberts. "Yeah it was but I didn't expect it to be quite like this. The weather wasn't too good and I had a fall along the way but once we the final few laps and the roads dried up a bit then it was awesome. It was a huge buzz especially with the roar from the big crowds."

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and his team had been saying for several days that the final stage was a major target. So was he a little disappointed at the result on the Champs Elysees? "Oh yeah," said McEwen. "Overall it's been a fantastic Tour and I am happy with three stage wins but I really wanted to win today. Problem was, right at the end there was no-one to do that last 500m from the one kilo mark. Nobody went and Hushovd told his guy to actually stop when he went to close the gap and that baulked everybody and the group stayed away. There was just nobody left to chase. My guys had all done a lot of work, Freddy had done an awesome job, but we just missed somebody to do that extra bit.

"It's disappointing because I had the speed. As it turned out Brad virtually led out Vino but he was going for a stage win. I actually said to one of my team-mates that he should watch out Brad as he would try and go for it in the last kilo."

McEwen was also impressed with the total domination of the yellow jersey. "Lance was incredible," he said. "I have said since last year. Nobody can win the Tour until Lance decides to stop. Well that has finally happened."

Pre-race banter in the village depart

By John Trevorrow in Corbeil-Essonnes

Simon Gerrans (AG2R) has impressed in his first Tour and was stoked to have almost made it to Paris when we caught up with him before the start of the final stage. "Yeh, I am getting excited about riding around the Champs-Elysees," he said. "Everyone says, that the moment you ride onto the Champs, it is the most emotional moment and it makes the hair stand up on the back of your head."

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) took a moment to explain the rules that govern wet weather on the cobbles of the Champs Elysees. "If it is raining they will stop the clock for a GC when we hit the circuit or when it starts to rain on the circuit," he said. "My big challenge today is making sure it is a bunch sprint and then worrying about the finish. I don't think I will bother with the intermediate sprints; I haven't even looked in the book to see where they are."

This hadn't been the Tour Brad McGee (Francaise des Jeux) wanted to have. "For a couple of weeks now, the focus has changed from GC, to win a stage and now, just finish," he said.

What happens after this? "I get home on Monday, I will go to bed and whenever I wake up, I wake up. But actually, I am thinking seriously about doing the Vuelta. I think after a week or so things will settle down, I know I am still very hungry for some success in a big one."

For Michael Rogers (Quick.Step), the plan was "just to finish. It is usually quite a special day, the last day. Hopefully the rain will hold off."

Without Tom Boonen to lead out, what was Rogers' role? "We still have Guido Trenti, he is a handy sprinter and is capable, and so we will get him up there. It is not easy, because it is the last day and the whole bunch thinks they can sprint. But we are going to try, that is all we can do. It is a matter of being in the right place at the right time."

Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) was also hoping to be in the right place. "It is just a matter of getting a bit of luck in the run in and getting a good break going into the last couple of hundred metres," he said.

Matt White (Cofidis) lined up with a garish pair of gold Elvis sunglasses. "I keep these for the final day only," he said.

"I will be a little bit more relieved if it stays dry. It hasn't rained on the last day since 1977, but it is looking a bit 'iffy' now, if you will pardon the pun [CN reporter John Trevorrow's nickname is 'Iffy' - Ed]. It is pretty hectic on the last day, but we are going more for the stage win than anything else. It will be a big day."

"Everyone's worse nightmare," said Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis), "is for wet roads coming into Paris, but in some ways it maybe in my benefit. I handle wet roads quite well and it puts a lot of pressure on the opposition. I am just going for the stage win and whatever else happens. C'est la vie!"

Untitled Document

The Tour de France of give-aways and competitions

Don't miss out at Tour time!

Resident freebies expert, Rufus Staffordshire, sniffs out some competitions where up to $1 million in prizes are on offer as manufacturers clamber for your eyeballs. Woof!

Lucky 7 Sweepstakes'
Photo ©: Trek
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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.

Many of our sponsors are offering Cyclingnews readers a schwag-fest of give-aways during the lap-around-France. The prizes on offer range from Volkswagens and vaccuum cleaners through to trips to Paris for the 2006 TdF, as well as actual kit being ridden by top pros in the Tour - including top bikes from Trek, Cervelo, and Avanti.

So that you don't have to go hunting around the Internet for all these goodies, we've assembled the Cyclingnews complete guide to Tour freebies and competitions.

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