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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
Tour de France news for July 29, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones and Tim Maloney
Stage 20 wrap up and post stage comments
It's over for another year. The Tour de France finished again with its spectacular stage around the Champs Elysées, a road that's only closed twice a year, the other time being for the fête nationale on July 14. As usual the stage was ridden at a pedestrian pace for the first 80 km, followed by a 50 km/h criterium around the world's most famous cycling circuit.
The thousands of fans who turned out to watch on a very warm (35 degrees) July day were not disappointed, being treated to plenty of high speed attacks including a few from third placed Raimondas Rumsas, who thought he could perhaps sneak back that minute on Joseba Beloki. But ONCE didn't buy it, and it all came together for a massive sprint, fittingly won by the green points jersey wearer Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Adecco).
The big winner was of course US Postal's Lance Armstrong, who has now clocked up four Tour de France victories. He has already said that he'll be back next year - and perhaps the year after. If he wins a fifth, he will join Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain in the pantheon of Tour de France kings.
Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Adecco, 1st & Maillot Vert)
"It's magnifique. It hasn't all sunk in yet but it's even better than last time. I won here in 1999, but this time is really exceptional because it means that I win the green jersey, I am the first one to do it."
"I've had all the pressure of the battle with Zabel for the Maillot Vert and to win the final sprint and get the green jersey is just awesome. The last few days I was really stressed and didn't sleep well."
McEwen described the final kilometres in detail: "Stick with Zabel-stick with Zabel-stick with Zabel. I was just locked onto Zabel's wheel and his Telekom team were going a bit quick into the last corner. It's always a mad dash into that last corner and I could see there was going to be trouble so I backed off just a little and it was perfect for me. Zabel nearly lost it and the Nazon came in underneath and nearly collected me. I looked up and saw Baden in perfect position on the wheel of Hondo who was pulling the sprint. I hesitated for a split second and then I thought stuff it, I am going for it and if Zabel is coming then so be it."
Earlier, McEwen had set himself on taking the first bonus sprint at km 54. "It was very important to take the extra two points. It meant that Zabel had to win the stage to get green. I overheard Armstrong tell Zabel not to try in the second sprint because I would have got five points in front and then even a stage win may not have given him the jersey. But I thought fine by me, I felt I had the legs and I was confident enough that I could beat him."
Now, he's returning home to Brakel in Belgium for a celebration. "I am sure going to enjoy the night and I'll have a hangover in the morning but I am racing Monday night so that should get the body working again."
Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com, 2nd)
"I was terribly disappointed because I really thought I could win. But in hindsight I'm pretty happy with my first Tour de France."
"Five kilometres from the finish Robbie asked me to cover his wheel in the final sprint but I said, sorry mate I want this one. Not that Robbie wanted me to forfeit my chance, he just reckoned it could be beneficial for both of us. But I knew that to beat Robbie I had to go from the front and hope he got caught up in his battle with Zabel."
"I couldn't have done much more. I waited as late as I could and gave it everything. The little bloke was just too fast."
Fabio Baldato (Fassa Bortolo, 4th)
"This is my 6th Tour and the 3rd time I've finished. This is the toughest course of all the ones I've ridden, plus the way the it was raced was tough. This year the racing was really intense and the stages were hard all the way."
"(Best Young Rider) Ivan Basso is a young, natural talent. He also has the desire to be a champion rider. Basso is always very focused and has all the characteristics to do well in big races. For our Fassa Bortolo team, his performance was a surprise. We knew Basso was capable of good things, but we didn't expect that he would ride so well over three weeks. There was only one day (Stage 12) that Basso lost time due to stomach trouble and Belli waited for him. If he hadn't lost that time, he could have been in the first 5 or 6 in GC. Otherwise he was always there with Armstrong, Beloki & Rumsas. It wasn't like (Basso) gained time in a break. He showed that he was competitive with the best all through the Tour."
Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole, 6th)
"I thought I was a real chance for the final stage but it was very rough and I got knocked from pillar to post at about the 800 metre mark. I suppose I shouldn't be too unhappy with my performance. I had two months off and only three weeks to prepare. And you can't have a super year like last year every time."
Brad McGee (FDJeux.com, 75th)
"There was absolutely nothing we could have done it just proved that McEwen had too much power in the legs."
Lance Armstrong (USPS, 1st overall)
"It's fair to say there weren't many attacks, we've all seen that but the Tour is still challenging. The route, the length of the stages, the mountains we've climbed, it's all been hard, perhaps mentally more than anything, but still hard."
"I don't want to criticise the competition. They were strong but I felt great. I think we prepared well and the team was great and we were lucky enough to do what we set out to do."
When asked about coming back to win another, he replied "My personal goals are my business and it would be suicide to announce that I'm definitely going to win the Tour...I think I'll be around for another couple of years. This is not my last Tour."
Pietro Algeri (Lampre-Daikin DS)
"I'm sorry (Rumsas) lost 2nd place in GC. If I add up all the time we lost from the two problems we had in the team time trial (5 broken handlebar extensions) where we lost 40 seconds and yesterday's problem (Rumsas' broken handlebar extension), where we lost another 30 or 40 seconds...the way Rumsas was riding yesterday he could have contended for the stage win or be very close to Armstrong. I would have been a good confirmation of how well Raimondas rode at this Tour (de France)."
Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo, 11th on GC and Best Young Rider)
"The Tour De France has certainly given me a good prospects for the future. But I still have a lot of work to do."
Axel Merckx (Domo Farm Frites, 28th on GC at 45'39)
"Life is good now! I'm going home to see my wife and daughter - it's been a month since I've seen them. I'm doing San Sebastian and then some small stage races and then the Tour of Poland. After that my season is over and I'm looking forward to going to San Diego to visit some friends in October."
Jörg Jaksche (ONCE-Eroski, 31st on GC at 56'06)
"It's great standing there on the podium on the Champs Elysées - like a dream. I was able to search for some of my own chances on the last few stages.
Udo Bolts (Team Telekom, 48th on GC at 1'29'32)
"This is my 11th Tour and the hills are still just as steep and the kilometres are still just long. It's not that different than the first time I did the Tour; sure the teams all have big busses. The Tour De France is a big sporting event but it's also a big show. Even the guy in 96th place can be a big star."
Massimo Apollonio (Tacconi Sport, 18th stage)
"I'm not feeling that good now because I've been having some stomach problems. But today we've finally gotten to Paris. When we started, we thought that Frigo might have a chance on GC. But that didn't happen and Frigo was still able to get a stupendous stage win. This is my second Tour and to compare this one to the 2000 Tour, this one was a bit harder, especially the last week in the Alps."
Vincent Lavenu (AG2R Prevoyance DS)
"After all the criticism of the team regarding our selection for the Tour De France, that's just part of life. I think that with the 2002 Tour finished, we've ridden a good race for a team at our level and that we deserved our place here. AG2R is a good, small team and I think we can continue to grow in the future with the young riders we're developing. We had a stage win thanks to our sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu (Stage 5/Rouen) and two second places, especially Botcharov's on Mont Ventoux. We think (Botcharov) can be a good rider for the mountains and our riders also were good at getting in breaks."
Ronan Pensec (France Television)
"It was a good Tour De France this year, because every day there were attacks with a lot of movement on GC. The only thing was that the pattern of the stages became repetitive. The scenario was always the same. Long breaks with the chase behind every day there was a break."
The other thing was that ONCE rode very conservatively. They had a rider like Azevedo who was in 6th or 7th on GC and they didn't send him on the attack enough. That was too bad - or when Botero would attack, it was ONCE that would chase him down."
Pedro Delgado (Spain Television)
"I think Lance Armstrong is a great champion. He's won this Tour because he's clearly the best. The only thing I would have liked to see was a good climber in top form challenge Armstrong. That might have created some problems for Armstrong. A rider like Roberto Heras could have done this but he is Armstrong's teammate and not his rival."
"If things keep going this way, how many Tours De France can Armstrong win? With this super-strong team, much stronger than other years, I can see that his 5th Tour win is even closer at hand for Armstrong."
McEwen's pre-stage thoughts
By Gabriella Ekström, cyclingnews.com correspondent in Paris
"No, this is different actually," says Robbie McEwen when I ask him if he is afraid of a scenario resembling last year's fight to the line between compatriot Stuart O'Grady and Eric Zabel. "It is different because I haven't lost any points to Eric. I managed to get the jersey even though we were equal on points, because I had the better sprint statistic. On the stage after that I could add even more points to my list."
The little Australian sprinter is wearing his fighting face when he tries to squeeze past the crowds in the village of Melun. "...If they could only stop pushing me," he says with a sigh.
CN: "Even though it is not sure you will win the jersey, you must have had that gut feeling for a long time now. When did you start to think that you could actually win the green jersey?"
RM: "I knew I had a chance already in the first week, so I started to sprint in intermediate sprints, to collect points. But so far I've been concentrating just from day to day."
CN: "And the plan for today?"
RM: "The first sprint is a priority right now, then we'll see."
Having said that he would be happy to sacrifice a stage win on Champs Elysées to win the green jersey, I was eager to see how things would turn out. The first intermediate sprint of the day was a dead long uphill sprint, and despite a tremendous effort by Telekom, Robbie McEwen was the first rider over the line.
Would that mean he had sacrificed valuable strength, strength that he would desperately need at the finish? The laps around Champs Elysées were long and very, very hot. The peloton was nervous as always and breaks kept going. Lotto was not seen at the front and for a while it looked like the winner would come from a breakaway group.
When the riders turned onto Rue Rivoli for the last time this year, one rider - Martin Hvastija - was ahead of the peloton but it was obvious that it would be, after all, a big old Champs Elysées bunch sprint.
Where is that McEwen now? Everyone gets up as the peloton roars past, and surely he is right up front, fast enough to be able to raise his arms after a second's disbelief.
The crowds are everywhere, chasing autographs and bottles. Riders battle their ways through to the cars. Robbie passes me, the green jersey fitted tightly and securely onto his shoulders. He looks up and smiles. "Thanks," he says, and rolls away towards the cars.
Erik Dekker survives three weeks on Tour
By Gabriella Ekström, cyclingnews.com correspondent in Paris
We caught up with Rabobank's Erik Dekker before the start of the final stage from Melun to Paris. The affable Dutchman
CN: Do you think you have accomplished what you came to the Tour to do?
ED: Yes, in a way. I did not come with an ambition to finish. It has been very hard, and for a few days at the beginning of the Tour I thought I would be forced to abandon.
CN: But then it seemed to change, because you managed to help your teammate Karsten Kroon to win a stage.
ED: Yes, after a while it changed and I managed to show that I'm not useless for the team. But then in the Pyrenees I had a couple of bad days again.
CN: What is your form like now?
ED: ...I really don't have expectations. It is going better, but I do not have the form that would be necessary if I wanted to be up at the front and fighting in the World Cup races. These are very hard races that are decided between the strongest riders in just a few moments.
Tour stats and trivia
General classification (yellow): Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service)
Points classification (green): Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Adecco)
Final team prize money
Not surprisingly, US Postal took the lion's share of the prize money in the 2002 Tour de France. With Lance Armstrong's 335,390 euro cheque for winning the race, the team accumulated a total of 444,667 euros. In second place, with a total of 322,286 euros was ONCE, who had the second, fifth and sixth placed riders on GC. In third was Lampre-Daikin with 141,055 euros, due mainly to Raimondas Rumsas' third place and high stage placings, as well as Rubens Bertogliati's win in the first stage. Bottom of the list was Euskaltel-Euskadi, who with 12,078 euros between them certainly didn't come away any richer from the Tour.
Team prize money totals
1 US Postal 444,667 euros 2 ONCE 322,286 3 Lampre-Daikin 141,055 4 CSC-Tiscali 117,014 5 Kelme-Costa Blanca 110,533 6 Lotto-Adecco 102,611 7 fdjeux.com 66,038 8 Telekom 62,784 9 Rabobank 55,780 10 ibanesto.com 49,895 11 Fassa Bortolo 48,637 12 Crédit Agricole 48,042 13 Cofidis 43,034 14 Bonjour 42,014 15 Domo-Farm Frites 39,627 16 AG2R-Prevoyance 33,330 17 Mapei-Quick Step 32,035 18 Jean Delatour 30,921 19 Tacconi Sport 29,346 20 Alessio 22,308 21 Euskaltel-Euskadi 12,078