First Edition Cycling News for July 12, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones
Stage 9 wrap-up
Two for Freire, as Tour speeds to the Pyrenees
Freire and McEwen
Photo ©: AFP
The sprinters were at it again in today's fast 9th stage between Bordeaux
and Dax, where Spanish speedster Oscar Freire performed his trademark
kick at 50m to go to come past Erik Zabel and Tom Boonen. But he was nearly
trumped by Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), who got stuck in traffic but
managed to manoeuvre his way through a hole on the left of the bunch to
take second by less than half a wheel. Zabel claimed third ahead of Boonen,
who again saw the finish line too early.
The pan-flat stage - the first after yesterday's rest day - saw three
riders on the attack after km 7: Christian Knees (Milram) went first,
and was joined by Stephane Augé (Cofidis) and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues
Telecom) once the gap became great enough. The three worked well to build
up a lead of almost eight minutes after 61 km, before several sprinters
teams combined forces to chase them down. It looked like being a close
finish until the cooperation vanished up front with Knees continually
attacking his companions. It was all to nought, and the break was swallowed
with 4 km to go.
The sprint was started by Quick.Step, but Matteo Tosatto proved to be the weak
link in the train, forcing Boonen's lead out man De Jongh to use his energy
too early chasing a surge by Credit Agricole. When Boonen went, Zabel
had him covered and snuck past the world champion 50m before the line.
But then Freire came from behind to claim the stage, with McEwen popping
up through the middle for a close second place.
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An interview with Oscar Freire
The strongest doesn't always win
Rabobank’s Oscar Freire won his third stage in the Tour de France, beating
Robbie McEwen on the line in Dax on Tuesday. Afterwards, in the press
conference, he explained to the journalists how he appreciated his victory,
the second at this year’s Tour. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé reports.
Q: You didn't celebrate when you crossed the line, why was that?
Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Sirotti
OF: Well, I didn't know that I had won the race,
as McEwen was closing in very fast. Also, there were some experiences
in the past where I learned that it’s dangerous the celebrate too soon.
In Milan-Sanremo, I won after Zabel raised his arm too early [in 2004].
This year, I was in the losing position when I thought I had won the race,
but it turned out that Valverde was the winner [during the first stage
of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco]. Besides that, I didn't celebrate
because I didn't know if the breakaway had yet been caught or not.
Q: After your first stage win, you said that you started off
too early, and this sprint looked more academic. Is there a sort of sprint
you can't win in the Tour de France?
OF: Hmm... a sprint after a mountain stage might
be impossible for me (laughs). The sprints over here are very difficult,
because nobody shows respect for another. Due to the way the sprints are
unfolding, it’s not always the strongest rider who wins the race. For
example today, I might not have been the strongest in the race.
here to read the full interview.
Boonen still confident
By Brecht Decaluwé in Dax
Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
After the finish of stage 9 in Dax, won by Oscar Freire, Tom Boonen
reacted very cool after another chance had gone begging. Still, the World
Champion showed some arrogance, as he was quoted as saying, "Put all the
major sprinters in the Tour on one line, at 200 metres from the finish
line; I'll win with an advantage of four bike lengths on the second sprinter."
The Belgian, still without a victory in this Tour, was unhappy with
Milram's lead out man, Marco Velo. He didn't do anything wrong, but Boonen
said that he had made a "smart" move which hindered him.
Surprise guest in Dax: Cipo is here!
By Brecht Decaluwé in Dax
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Former world champion and master of the sprint, Mario Cipollini, was
also present at the stage in Dax. The Italian of course gave his analysis
of the sprint. "To me, it's strange to see that the sprints are very badly
organised by the teams. There's no team controlling the bunch in the last
500 metres, not even in the last kilometre. I think Boonen needs a good
train, as he is favoured by a sprint at higher speeds. McEwen and Freire
have the same capabilities; they're both fast but also very agile in the
Laurent Jalabert, former winner of the green jersey, gave his opinion
on Boonen's failures. "Quick.Step wants the green jersey with Boonen,
but they also want a good GC with Garate and Rujano. The team might not
be strong enough to chase those two objectives," he analysed.
Pineau believes in polkadots
By Brecht Decaluwé in Dax
Jerome Pineau (Bouygues)
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
With the real mountains coming up, the red-dotted jersey might slip
out of the hands of Bouygues Telecom's Jérôme Pineau. The French rider
didn't agree with that. "Tomorrow, I hope that I can show that I can also
take points on mountains other than those in Normandy. The ‘cols' are
not really my cup of tea, but I'll go flat out to defend the jersey."
Pineau is a big believer of 'cycling at two speeds' - the French explanation
for some rider's good results due to alleged doping practices. "I think
we can expect surprises with some GC riders," he added.
Stage 9 time losses
By Brecht Decaluwé in Dax
During today's stage, there were some gaps in the peloton which gave
some GC riders with an unexpected time loss. Knowing that you can win
the Tour by only eight seconds, it could prove to be very costly for some
of them. The reason for the gaps was a crash, which included Levi Leipheimer.
The Gerolsteiner leader finished 1'45 behind Oscar Freire, but was granted
the same time of the riders surrounding him before the fall. Thus, the
American lost only 26 seconds, but he is still 6'43 away from the yellow
The second part of the peloton that finished 13 seconds back, was led
by T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler. He might have smiled if he saw that he
was followed by Iban Mayo, Pietro Caucchioli and Chechu Rubiera. Somewhat
further in that group was Denis Menchov; the Russian is now trailing Serguei
Gonchar by 2'13. Markus Fothen, leader in the young rider classification,
also lost 13 seconds on Thomas Lövkvist and José Rujano, but still retained
the jersey. A small third group, with Michael Rasmussen, finished at 20
seconds of the winner.
Caisse d'Epargne on the first week
The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears riders are riding the Tour de France
without leader Alejandro Valverde, who crashed out in stage 3 last week.
Nevertheless, they are confident that they can show themselves in the
mountains. With the average speed in the first half of the Tour being
so much lower than it was last year, it's been a different experience
for the boys in black and red.
David Arroyo noted, "The beginning of the Tour was absolutely not similar
to the one we had last year. The tension was less. Personally I went through
that first week without any problems. In the mountains I will try to stay
in front to help our leaders. If the circumstances allow me to do so I
will try to go with a breakaway and claim a stage victory. Of course!"
Xabier Zandio agreed, saying, "The first week was a little strange,
but not as difficult as it was the years before. The race will really
start tomorrow. At the moment I feel very well and I think you can expect
me in front in the mountains. I am confident and motivated, but before
starting the first climb it is impossible to know if my legs will be ok
or not. I think that the second stage in the Pyrenees is really a hard
one, even if I am sure this year the Alps will be decisive. The Tour is
more open than ever and I think the fans will really enjoy the race because
there will be more equality and more rivalry between the favourites than
there was in the past years."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)