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Photo ©: Sirotti

Tour de France Cycling News Extra for July 6, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

McEwen on top again

By John Tervorrow in St Quentin

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Robbie McEwen demoralized his opponents with a sensational burst of speed and power. He also silenced many critics with this his 10th Tour stage win. McEwen is now only 12 seconds behind leader Boonen and a win into Caen could see him grab his second Golden Fleece. But more importantly, he is back in his favourite colour – green. He know leads the battle for the malliot vert by 9 points from Boonen.

"This was a stage which suited me perfectly. In fact I had handpicked this one when the Tour route came out last year, it was just perfect for me with the slight left hand bend about 180 before the finish line," an excited McEwen said.

Before today's start in Huy Belgium, McEwen was confident but worried how things would go after losing lead out man Freddy Rodriguez yesterday. "Gert Steegmans is strong and fast but lacks Freddy's experience," McEwen said.

After the finish it was a different story. "He was incredible, he's a very very strong man but he hasn't done it at this level before. He listened to everything I said and he did it just right. He did his job perfectly. You couldn't have written the script any better. I told him at about the 100km mark what our plan would be. He moved up a bit early and I had to tell him to back off for a little while and he could hit it at the 450. I told him to think of it as a flat out sprint to the 200. At the 450 he came and got me and he just did it perfectly. He was so strong."

Michael Rogers again sprinted strongly to take 12th in the stage and, more importantly, kept out of trouble and is still only one second behind Boonen in general classification. Australia's other overall contender Cadel Evans also rode a smart race and is only 20 seconds down on the big Belgian.

But the other big Australian story of the day was the remarkable ride of Stuart O'Grady. Starting the day with a fractured L4 vertebrae, O'Grady was in a lot of pain as he approached the start line. But the gritty South Australian rode beyond the pain barrier to make it to St Quentin with the leaders. "That is definitely one of the toughest days of torture I have been through," an exhausted O'Grady said. "As they say in the classics, I guess I'll just have to take it day by day. Each day done is another one down."

Stage 4 quotes

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto, 1st)

"When I jumped I jumped really hard I felt I was dying in the last 100 and I didn't dare look around. I just gave it everything.

"We had an ideal preparation for the stage. We stayed the night at Liege and all the riders had their wives and girlfriends staying with them. I had a room with my wife and my young son in the room next door. Maybe we should do that everyday."

How are you going to do it, you'd need another bus? "Yeah, this one's already broken down."

Mark Sergeant (Davitamon-Lotto DS)

"Yes, we were concerned before the start because Freddy and Robbie have a special understanding and Steegmans' role up until today was to get Freddy into the last few kilometres before he took over looking after Robbie. But this was a big task we gave him today and he did it perfectly. He took him to within 200 metres of the finish and then Robbie went.

This is now 10 stage wins in the Tour for Robbie, how do you rate him as a Tour de France sprinter? " Robbie is one of the great sprinters of his time, always in the big races like Le Tour and the Giro. He rose to the occasion here, he likes that environment. It's very good for the team, two stage wins now and we have not had to expend too much energy.

"We'll look at the green jersey at the end of the week but of course have to keep ourselves prepared to support Cadel in the mountains."

Pre-start quotes

Simon Gerrans (AG2R)

Can you give us a bit of a run down on yesterday and what you think might happen today? "Yeah, it didn't seem too bad because we had a bit of a tail wind for most of the day. Credit Agricole set a pretty cracking tempo to keep that breakaway close. In the heat the past couple of days I've been a bit sleepy but I'm right now.

We were lucky we had Arrieta in the breakaway so it took the pressure off us and we were able to just sit back in the bunch. Today's not going to be a great deal cooler but it's not a hard day and I think it's a formality that it's going to be bunch sprint. Boonen is out there in the lead and I think he's going to want to win stages in the yellow. I don't see anything other than a bunch sprint so I don't think I'll waste my time thinking about any breakaways."

At this moment Boonen rode by, resplendent in the maillot jaune with matching yellow knicks and the 100,000 strong crowd erupted.

Stuart O'Grady (CSC)

Stuey, I'd take that number 13 off if I were you. "When I knew I was riding number 13, I thought I would turn it into a positive. Guess it hasn't turned out that way. I've cracked a small bone at the base of my vertebrae and it's pretty painful. I've got the all clear to ride today but I'll find out pretty quick if I can ride or not."

What happened? "Someone went down in front of me and the next thing we were both off the road. I had the option of going into a pole or a ditch and I chose the ditch because it looked softer than the pole."

Do you think you can make Paris? "It will take a miracle."

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile)

Hey Mick you've put away the best sprinters yesterday. "I don't think I have ever sprinted better than that. Actually I don't remember lining up for a big sprint since I was a juvenile (under 16). I wasn't thinking of the yellow jersey, I was just happy to be running second and having a teammate win the stage."

You should have another crack today, you might go one better? "No, I don't think so. Feels nice at this stage to be where I am in the first few days of the Tour. Basically now I have to stay out of trouble until Saturday and conserve my energy for the time trial. I hope to have the ride of my life there. The conditions are looking good so things are looking good. Yesterday was close. But hopefully I'll have the yellow after the time trial.

"Every second is going to count, after the first few days, the general classification is still pretty close. Where I am now gives me even more motivation to do well because as I said there is a good chance for yellow after the time trial.

"The morale is there, the legs are good and the head is right, everyone's really calm and the win yesterday takes a weight off our shoulders."

At this stage Robbie McEwen rode past and said; "go you sprinter you." To which Mick answered; "You're next Robbie."

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)

Bit of a blow yesterday, losing Freddy? "Yeah, it's a huge blow. I've got Steegmans to work for me but he doesn't have the experience of Fred. It is going to be a bit different in the finale. I guess it's going to be a bit back to the old days when I was doing it practically on my own. Gert is going to have to learn on the job. He's going to be the one to get me to the final. He's got plenty of speed and he's got incredible strength, he just doesn't have the experience. He will need to get me in the right position up to the final kilometre. I like the finish in St Quentin. It's slightly uphill in the final 500 metres and that should suit me."

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)

Good ride yesterday Cadel. I see you managed to stay out of trouble. "Yeah, I know these roads well from Liege-Bastogne-Liege but when we hit those final hills and the narrow roads in the classic, the field was reduced. Yesterday was pretty chaotic.

"How good was that sprint of Mick's yesterday? I was on his wheel when he went for it and I wish I had held it."

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