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Photo ©: Schaaf

Tour de France Cycling News Extra for July 15, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones & Shane Stokes

McEwen: Stop racing? You gotta be taking the piss!

By John Trevorrow and Brecht Decaluwé

Boonen and McEwen
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Robbie McEwen finished sixth in a stage where he was forced into defence more than he might have wanted. Right from the start, the green jersey ordered his team to chase a breakaway. "It was a very challenging day," he said. "Early on I was in a break. Bennati went away over the top of the cat 2 early on Hushovd went across to it and we had to use the whole team to catch it. I mean, I can't let those guys go away down the road and take maximum points in such a big group while I get nothing. It just wasn't an option to let it go. Once we did catch them, my whole team was exhausted. It was a bad moment for us when Landis and Freire were in front; I closed the gap myself and as I got there Freire took off with other three, and there was nobody to close it to them."

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McEwen said that things went a bit strange at that point. "Suddenly at that moment the bunch decided that while the guy third in the green jersey competition was going down the road 10 seconds in front, it was time for a piss. But not me, I had to try and chase him. But I couldn't catch them and then I sat up.

"Everybody was mad at me, but I didn't care. As a result the other teams no longer wanted to co-operate with us, so we let the group of four go.

"Whatever criticism there was about the way I rode at that moment…well, I really couldn't give a rat's. I'm defending green, the others aren't. They've got to understand. You can compare it to Cadel going down the road in a breakaway and Landis pulls over for a toilet stop. It ain't going to happen."

When asked if he was very angry about what happened, he inadvertently used a rather relevant phrase. "It gave me the shits, to be honest."

McEwen was then asked if the energy expended today by the team might cost them when they have to help out Evans, Davitamon Lotto's GC contender. "Look, yesterday he went just fine in the mountains," he replied. "Look at it this way, you have to make decisions in a race and you have to follow a certain tactic. When it's time to do something you've got to commit 100 percent…the boys did that today and did a great job. We had to offer everybody up. It wasn't an option to let it go. I was disappointed to see Freire going down the road and for me it was a bad moment to choose to chase after Landis, because then Freire took off and there was nobody else to try and close it down. I had to watch it go down the road."

The Spaniard is one of McEwen's big rivals for green, and so it was a dangerous moment. "It was not ideal but still not a bad situation for me," he continued. "If Freire won the stage, I could still finish fifth which resulted in a small loss of points. Freire finished third and I got sixth, so it's not too bad in the end."

Ballan frustrated

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Fondital)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Lampre-Fondital's Alessandro Ballan came close to a Tour stage win in Carcassonne, but was unable to withstand Yaroslav Popovych's relentless attacking in the final 8 km. Ballan finished second in the stage ahead of Oscar Freire and Christophe Le Mevel, but Popovych took home the major prize.

"It's a pity," said Ballan. "I'm here at the Tour aiming for a victory and today everything was right to obtain it. In the finale, Freire and Popovych played against me and I had to follow them several times. If there would have been Le Mevel there, he could have helped us, but he wasn't there."

Lampre had some consolation with the award of the most combative rider of the day going to Daniele Bennati, who was very active early on in the stage.

Voigt’s aggression doesn’t pay off this time

Jens Voigt
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
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CSC’s perennial attacker Jens Voigt was at it again on Friday but despite several good efforts, including his presence in a 70 kilometre break, he couldn’t make it work this time.

"Jens tried all he could to make the decisive break,” said CSC directeur sportif Kim Andersen. “He made several attempts, but the groups he was in were never allowed to get far. As it didn't appear to be our day in the breaks, we concentrated on saving our strength and getting through the day as painless as possible."

Voigt’s teammate Carlos Sastre remained fifth overall after the stage.

Pre-stage 12 quotes

By John Trevorrow in Luchon

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)

Cadel Evans (Davitamon)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Cadel Evans said he was very happy with having established a strong position in the race hierarchy in stage 11. "I was a bit anxious beforehand, because you don't know how it's going to pan out," he said. "But this was a confidence booster and now I can relax a bit. I wasn't the strongest there but I was amongst the four strongest climbers so that's a good place to be at this stage of the race."

Reminded that he got stronger the longer he went in the mountains on last year's Tour, in which he finished an impressive eighth on debut, he said he hoped the same would apply this time. "We'll see what the Alps bring next week. They're all pretty big."

Asked if he could go all the way and become the first Australian to win the great race, he shrugged. and said he believed Landis was the man to beat. "Ï was really impressed with him, he's riding really well," he said.

Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto)

Chris Horner was impressed with his teammate's ride in stage 11, telling Cyclingnews, "Yes, that was fantastic, a great ride. We talked about it a little bit yesterday About the two options, one that we would take it easy and a few unimportant guys would go up the road and about what would happen was that T Mobile would put the hammer down making the split, Cadel just following the moves all the way. And that's what he did, in the end he had to a little bit of work on the front with Floyd once they got rid of Klöden, who lost a bit of time.

"It couldn't have worked out much better for us. Cadel is right up there on GC and far enough away from the lead that we don't have to worry about defending it."

Not such a good day for T Mobile? "They put the pressure on Col du Portillon and did a lot of damage, but it didn't work and they suffered big time on that last mountain. I think it is one of the worst moves that T Mobile has done next to last year when they did the same thing chasing down Vinokourov.

"How a team is that strong and can make those types of mistakes is absolutely unbelievable at this point in time in the Tour. Let's face it, as a team that had five guys, if not six, riding that good. Why didn't they just wait for the race to unfold and then attack? Don't go to the front and use up all your best men."

"I had a terrible day. I was at the limit even in the gruppetto."

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)

Hard day but a good one for you yesterday? "Yeah, I just nicked up the road instead of sprinting and got the six points."

And today, you wouldn't mind if a break went up the road? "I'd prefer some break to go up the road and take way the points. Once you're in the green jersey with a 29 point lead, the obvious and best tactic is to let the breaks go away, and to try and hold the race together today would be almost madness. We did it once last year, stage 13, it was only five guys and the guys had to put in such an incredible performance I don't see it happening today. Not from us. We have a GC guy in Cadel."

You were impressed with his ride? "Well, I haven't seen anything of it on TV but he must have been fantastic."

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