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Tour de Suisse Cycling News for June 17, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

McEwen's knee should be fine

By Shane Stokes in Ambri

Tour de France maillot vert contender Robbie McEwen was in a relaxed mood yesterday evening, despite pulling out of the Tour de Suisse on the seventh stage. The Davitamon Lotto rider spoke to Cyclingnews after he and his team finished eating their evening meal and seemed confident that a slight niggle with his knee, it will settle down before the Tour.

"I pulled out of the stage in order to protect my knee," he stated. "I think it was giving me trouble because we have spent a lot of time in the big mountains and I normally don't do that too often, for obvious reasons.

"I always ride this race as preparation but this has been a particularly hard Tour de Suisse. As you have seen, there has not been one finish where the whole bunch has got there together. The closest was when [Daniele] Contrini won, but if he hadn't been as far ahead as he was, it would have blown to pieces on the last climb. The organisers have been putting climbs in near the finish, these big bergs which are pretty hard. My knee started to get a tiny bit aggravated and I just wanted to play it safe. But it should be fine.

"Today, I got dropped right from the start. I was almost coming back, then I didn't, then finally I got back into the bunch. I knew there was a sizeable break, eight guys at eight minutes with big mountains still to go. I thought I would take the gamble and pull out to save my knee, play it safe, as I didn't think the peloton would catch them.

"In the end, Freire stayed away by three seconds," he said, laughing. "But it was probably the right decision anyway. There is no danger my knee is going to affect me further now. It is just to stop it getting any worse now. The problem will be gone in a day or two, I think it was just a bit of overload in the mountains.

When asked what he thought of Freire's kerb-jumping manoeuvre, McEwen was complimentary. "I watched it live, I was already in the team bus by then. I could appreciate it... I thought it was pretty clever that after 230 kilometres of being in the break, he still had his wits about him to look that far up the road and see where the cars were going.

"But then he sort of... it was almost like he did it and then hadn't realised what he had done. He kind of freewheeled through and I thought "hey, he doesn't know where he is, if he is off the front or off the back." Then suddenly he went click, click, click through the gears and took off, then that was it. It was pretty clever."

McEwen mentions riders such as Boonen, Hushovd, Freire and Zabel as his rivals for the green jersey in the Tour de France. He had told Cyclingnews yesterday morning that he was likely to withdraw from the Tour de Suisse at the end of the stage, but said last night that doing so a couple of hours earlier than planned doesn't worry him or disrupt his own chances.

"I came here after a break from racing for three weeks," he pointed out. "I am looking to get back into the rhythm again. Often I come to the Tour de Suisse and suffer like anything in the hills, but most years I am able to pop off a stage win or two because I am going good on the flat and I am sprinting well.

"I am feeling about the same as the other years - I am still suffering in the hills, but there haven't been any real flat stages to do something in. But I am not too worried... I should be fine for the Tour."

A full Robbie McEwen feature will appear soon on Cyclingnews.

Freire in contract negotiations

By Shane Stokes in Ambri

Oscar Freire gave himself a nice boost as regards his discussions for a new contract when he won stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse in Ascona yesterday. The triple world champion jumped away from three breakaway companions close to the line and held off the fast-closing main bunch by three seconds. Although he has taken a handful of wins this year, this triumph confirms that he is finally close to full fitness after a difficult 2005 blighted by a bad cyst.

"This is not my first victory of the year but my fifth," the happy Spaniard told the press yesterday evening. "It is always hard to come back after a difficult year. I feel I am in very good shape now and I feel ready for the Tour de France. This is obviously an important victory for me."

Freire was seen having talks with Salvatore Commesso, the Lampre rider annoying his breakaway companions by sitting on the move. "Yes, the discussion was animated," he agreed.

"Commesso got instructions not to contribute. After 200 kilometres of working together we were all disrupted by that, so I tried to get him to do his share. Otherwise we were going to be caught."

July is a big target for Freire, after disappointments in France in the past. "I have done two Tours in my career. The first time, I was going very well but unfortunately I crashed in the first week and had to retire. The second time, I wasn't going well at all. But I hope the third time will be a good one. If I can win a stage it will be great. I will go for the green jersey too, if it works out that way."

Should he succeed in either of those goals, it will help him get the best possible deal for 2007. "My contract is up this year," he stated. "For now I am trying to focus on all the big races. There are discussions with several teams but my decision will depend on the talks with my current team. I would love to stay here [with Rabobank] though, if it works out that way."

Rogers happy with improving form

By Shane Stokes in Ambri

T-Mobile rider Michael Rogers spent much of yesterday's stage in the break at the Tour de Suisse, finally going ahead in the closing kilometres with Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Fondital) and Matthew White (Discovery Channel). Freire did a neat bunny-hop manoeuvre to open a gap and win the stage, while the other three were caught inside the final kilometre.

Rogers was disappointed to lose out but regarding the bigger picture, he told Cyclingnews this morning that he is satisfied that his form is building.

"The race is getting better for me," he stated. "I started off a bit under par due to the [teeth] problems I had in the Giro but I am getting better and better every day. I hope I can improve a bit more for the Tour, then I should be all right."

"Yesterday was a hard day. Unfortunately we had a bit of a disagreement with Commesso, he wasn't riding at all, so that made things a little difficult. To be caught at 400 metres to go after 210 kilometres in the break is pretty tough. Freire's attack was pretty cool (laughs) - I was sleeping a bit, I didn't see him go... "

Jan Ullrich has been the team leader for the race and heads into the final two stages with a real chance of winning the pre-Tour de France warm-up. That's meant Rogers has had a very different race to last year, when he was second overall.

"I have been doing a lot of team riding in this," he states. "I feel like I need a few good hard efforts. I got plenty of them here, I will take a rest and then should be good.

"Jan's form seems to be good, I think. Hopefully today will suit him and he should be strong in the time trial tomorrow, so hopefully we can come home with an overall win. Even a stage win would be nice.

"As regards my plans for tomorrow, I will try to do my best. I don't know how I will be as I have had two really hard days. I was 210 kilometres in the break yesterday. There is another hard stage on the cards today, but I will see how the legs are and give it a go in the time trial."

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