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Tour de France Cycling News for July 14, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo, Sue George and Bjorn Haake

13 Boonen's new lucky number

No paraskevidekatriaphobia for 'tornado' Tom

Boonen salutes
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Tom Boonen has been under some pressure from himself, his team and the entirety of Belgium to win a stage in the Tour de France, and at last, on stage six, the former World Champion got his wish. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé reports from Bourg-en-Bresse.

'Tornado' Tom Boonen earned his first stage win of the Tour in Bourg-en-Bresse, taking out a messy bunch sprint made more exciting for the Belgian when his derailleur was sheared during the run-in to the sprint. The big Quickstep rider hardly flinched, and rocketed to the line well ahead of Rabobank's Oscar Freire and the now former points leader Erik Zabel (Milram). Boonen was relieved to get the win, and unfazed by the mechanical incident that preceded it.

"We tried so hard this week that it didn't work out," Boonen said after the finish line. "With one kilometre to go somebody [Cavendish] touched my back wheel. My derailleur came off when I was on my 11, it made some noise so I thought it was over again. Somehow I was still on my bike though I had to stay on my 53x11," Boonen said.

Boonen took back the green jersey during the stage through intermediate sprint bonuses, but the desire for a stage win had weighed heavily on him and his team. "For other people there's weight off their shoulders as all the work we pulled off finally delivered," Boonen said. "I've got the green jersey again and I'm proud to have won this stage. So everything is going very good as today I found my good luck back, hopefully it stays for a while. It was only a matter of time before it would come though. From now on Friday the 13th is my lucky day," the 26 year-old 'bomb from Balen' smiled.

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This year the Belgian press has been quite critical towards Boonen and many people questioned his confidence. "Right now it's kind of OK I think. I don't think I'll have too many comments. I don't know actually because I don't read the papers anymore and that takes a lot of pressure away. It's always nice to ride races because you like to ride races, I think that is the best motivation and not stress or the pressure of having to do this, do that. Having fun is the best way to win races," Boonen claimed.

Read the full feature here.

Wiggins' long day

By Brecht Decaluwé in Bourg-en-Bresse

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
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On Friday morning, Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) gave a hint that he'd be the man to watch on stage six, and true to his word, the current World Champion in pursuit made up the race's only breakaway. "This morning I told the guys in the bus that I would try to be in the break," he told Cyclingnews.

"I went with the first attack, we were with five or six guys in the attack: Cedric Hervé, a Milram guy and a couple others. Then I pulled a big turn and when I looked back I found myself alone. I carried on and hoped somebody would come across in the counterattack but nobody came. Then I found myself with a minute, two minutes, ... then I said: this is the Tour de France so you can't sit up. I just settled in for a long day," Wiggins admitted about about his 190km solo effort.

"Any breakaway in the Tour de France is good publicity and you can make a name for yourself. It was just one of those things. You can't choose when you get in the break in the Tour de France, it just kind a happens. Especially when you end up on your own it was just a long day into the headwind really, pretty relentless," Wiggins reflected.

At one point, Wiggins had 17 minutes on the peloton so he must have had hope he could keep up his solo effort. "I thought it one time because it happened in the past that long breakaways survived in the Tour de France. When it turned 15-10 [km] to go with that headwind I knew that the peloton was going to be right there," Wiggins said realistically about his chances during his brave attack.

Doing a intensive solo training ride of 190km can't be easy on the morale, but the Brit passed his time with essential activities. "You just count the kilometres down really, just eating and drinking the whole day," said Wiggins, describing his day.

"With 60km to go, it was pretty tough but when the chase in the peloton started [with 30km to go], I picked it up again. They probably thought they would catch me a bit earlier, but I heard that Crédit Agricole was riding, so I thought I would make it a little harder for them," Wiggins referred to the rivalry between the French teams.

It was 40 years ago since Wiggins' compatriot Tom Simpson passed away on the flanks of the Mont Ventoux, and Wiggins was asked if he attacked to honour the legend. "Somebody told me after the race, but I never thought about that really. It's good though," Wiggins said.

The Brit's popularity has increased since he adopted a new haircut and told the French press that like music, this attack will certainly make him a bit more popular. "It makes me look even more stupid," Wiggins laughed. "Somebody had to do it I guess."

After the race Tour president Christian Prudhomme talked a little to Wiggins. "He said 'Congratulations,' and I told him somebody had to make the race," he said.

13 not Cavendish's lucky number

After having a fairly disastrous first week of the Tour - crashing into a spectator on stage one, going down on the sprint on stage two in Gent, and falling well behind the peloton on stage five, where he finished more than 18 minutes down, T-Mobile's Mark Cavendish had an excellent opportunity on Friday to battle his way to a stage win in the Tour de France.

The T-Mobile rider from the Isle of Man was brought into position by Bernard Eisel on the run-in to Bourg-en-Bresse, but then he disappeared from the screens. A couple of minutes after the peloton he rolled over the finish line where Cyclingnews caught up with him.

"I was on the best wheel, I was on Boonen's wheel," Cavendish said, "but then I had a bit of 'mech' in my front wheel, didn't I," Cavendish said, indicating his shredded front wheel. The young sprinter made contact with Tom Boonen's derailleur, which ruined his chances in the sprint, and even he admits he blew a unique chance. It is expected that the rather heavy sprinter will pull out during one of the next mountains stages to make sure he doesn't push himself too much at his tender age of 21, and in order to save form for the rest of the season.

Dean plays Hushovd henchman

By Gregor Brown in Bourg-en-Bresse

The ultimate kilometres of the Tour de France sprints have seen a certain white and black jersey popping up to the front. The colours are of the New Zealand National Champion Julian Dean and he is up front for the purpose of Crédit Agricole team captain Thor Hushovd. The duo did their thing in Joigny with a stage win that showed that Hushovd has legs despite ongoing back pains.

"I will be working for Thor again today," noted Dean before the 199.5-kilometre run to Bourg-en-Bresse. The Kiwi was leading-out in the finale but he was unable to help Hushovd win and the Norwegian finished fifth. "He is not at one-hundred percent, he has a back injury. Yesterday, he slipped over and twisted his back and he is not feeling so great."

Dean continues to be happy with their win from stage four. "It was good," he continued to Cyclingnews. "Most of the guys were pretty impressed with the job I had done. It is good that Thor won because when you do such a good job and they don't win it is sometimes hard to stomach. Two days ago we were more that happy with how things went. We had sit down in the team meeting and tried to plan exactly how we would do it, and everything just went perfectly.

"At the moment we are trying to focus on taking another stage. We are thinking a little bit about the green jersey but it is not an objective at the moment. The thing with the green jersey right now is that everyone is so close. We are definitely not out of contention and it is not the absolute priority.

Dean faces many challenges in the final kilometres but surprisingly they don't come from the other sprinters. "I would say the GC men who are at the front trying stay out of trouble is the sort of thing that causes the most havoc. Guys like Levi [Leipheimer], [Andreas] Klöden... I understand that they want to stay out of trouble but sometimes they cause more danger by being up front in the last three kilometres.

"It is always difficult. The other day it was not too bad because we had a big run-in and there were big roads. In the last fifteen kilometres, there were no roundabouts or anything. It was just straight in... that was an advantage for us as well."

Dean and the other sprinters will be faced with several mountain days before they get another chance to crank up the pace. "I think it should be okay. There are a lot of sprinters here and there should be a good sized gruppetto."

Bennati fighting back

By Gregor Brown in Bourg-en-Bresse

Bennati hoped for a sprint
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Daniele Bennati of Lampre-Fondital came close to bagging his first Tour de France stage win Thursday afternoon in Autun. The Italian found the sprinting space too tight and finished third behind Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank). The 26 year-old Italian battles on in the Tour despite pain in his ribs.

"I am not going benissimo," said Bennati to Cyclingnews Friday morning in Semur-en-Auxois. "Yesterday went so so. I was able to win but I was closed out a few times in the sprint and I was not able to remount. Then, in the sprint I was closed out between Pozzato and Freire."

It is easy to spot Bennati in the peloton as his right forearm is bandaged but it his rib cage that is giving him the most problems. "I still have strong pains in my right ribs that prevent me to breathe at my maximum. My arm is all right but not at its best."

'Benna' is keeping his green dream alive and soldiers on towards the next sprint stage, likely stage 10, and a chance at the points overall. "This dream is still a long ways off," he commented of taking the Maillot Vert by Paris. "The others have an advantage with their points but I hope that the next week I will be better."

He and his team-mate, Alessandro Ballan, are getting through the Tour. "He is going well. We are roommates. Ballan is on the Playstation, and we both call our families [daily]. We laugh and joke about."

His wife, Chiara, is at home but will visit the Tour on Sunday. "My wife watches the stages everyday on TV and then Sunday she will come to Tignes to visit me." What did she say about the stage finish to Autun? "No one thought I was going to be up front because I was not going so well, so she was happy for me."

Evans survives first week

By John Trevorrow

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
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Australian's hope for an overall Tour win in Paris, Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), has been quiet and staying out of trouble in the first week of the Tour. After a solid prologue, and good crash-avoidance skills, Evans currently sits in 16th place, just 56" seconds behind the overall lead, which is likely to change this weekend when the race hits the Alps.

"It is good to get through the first week and be close to the same time as my competitors," Evans told Cyclingnews. "So far it's all been good, now we will see what happens in the Alps. Also in between the Alps and Pyrenees can be decisive."

His team will now switch its focus from helping fellow Australian Robbie McEwen to the sprint wins and start working to protect Evans' overall standing. "My team-mates have been good. They have arrived at the Tour at their best level and that's all I ask from them. That's all I ask of them, to be at their best here, stay focused and so far the team has performed very, very well, beyond my expectations. I just hope they can continue all the way to Paris like that."

Stage six reactions

Simon Gerrans (AG2r Prévoyance)

"It's my third Tour de France and I'm learning a lot each time I come. I've found I always struggle a bit in the first week and it was the same this year. I've come into it a little bit sick, but it does seem to be clearing up.

When asked if we might see him at the front on the big climbs coming up. "That depends if [teammate] Christophe [Moreau] gets in the lead again."

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile)

"I am still going well. Yesterday was the first stage that they really raced but there have been a few crashes along the way and I've managed to keep out of trouble. My knee's going along pretty well. It's not 100%, I can still feel a bit of pain but it hasn't had an impact on me so far. The first real test is tomorrow."

Christian Vande Velde (Team CSC)

On today's extended effort by Wiggins from the perspective of being in the peloton, "Boring, a long day into a headwind. One lonely poor guy out there by himself. No dramas though."

Robbie McEwen (Predictor Lotto)

Before today's start, McEwen talked about going over the hills yesterday. "Yeah, it was a rough day, up and down all day and rough roads and the speed was incredible so it was a day of suffering, a real tour stage."

Pozzato to try again

By Gregor Brown in Bourg-en-Bresse

Filippo Pozzato
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Filippo Pozzato lived up to his promises to win stage five to Autun. The 25 year-old Italian from Liquigas stamped his authority on the stage finale with Freire and Bennati trailing in. He had indicated the day before that he could possibly make the stage win and at the same time thought that stage 12, 178.5 kilometres to Castres, suited his characteristics.

"I hope I can do something well on stage 12," he said the morning after his win, in Semur-en-Auxois to Cyclingnews.

Well, it's one thing to say it and another to do it," he continued when asked if we could now expect him to go on and actually win the stage, just as he did in Autun. "We will try!" he finished.

Vande Velde on Vino and Zabriskie

By Gregor Brown in Bourg-en-Bresse

American Christian Vande Velde was hammering on the front for team GC leaders Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck when Alexander Vinokourov took a spill at 25 kilometres to go in stage five. The 31 year-old, enjoying the first week of the Tour with roommate David Zabriskie, explained that the team had no idea of Vino's difficulties.

"I had no idea about Vino until he passed me going up the climb," said an always-polite Vande Velde at the start of stage six in Semur-en-Auxois. "I was like, 'what the hell happened?' Then I saw his backside hanging out so I put two and two together."

The race has started well for the Vande Velde. "The Tour has been great. It has not been easy. I have never had a first week that has been this hard before."

The difficulties might come from his early-bird roommate, Zabriskie. "I am rooming with Dave, so that has been fun. He gets up early and I kind of drag my heels... He gets up too early. For anyone! What is the old Beastie Boys line? 'You should sleep late, man; it is much easier on your constitution.'" Vande Velde is clearly a fan of Check Your Head.

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