Tour de France News for July 15, 2003
Edited by Jeff Jones
Mayomania gives way to Beloki's pain
By Martin Hardie, Cyclingnews correspondent
Photo: © Sirotti
Monday's burst of Mayomania gave the Basque press a rare chance to report
something so positive - the champagne and rockets in his home town of
Igorre in the valley of Arratia, the tears of his girlfriend, Goretti,
watching him from the throng on the Alpe after her night sleeping in a
car with a friend, and the rare smile on the face of Euskaltel director
Julian Gorospe. But today, along with the usual Spanish-Basque constitutional
crisis, the dreadful crash of Beloki dominated the papers.
The pain of Beloki was obvious for us all to see as he lay on the side
of that blind corner where his back tyre exploded after he locked up the
bike on the molten asphalt of the Cote de la Rochette. Three broken bones
were the result, but his pain of course is more than physical. As he lay
in the hospital at Gap, he reportedly told director Manolo Saiz and his
teammates "I am sorry, I am sorry, please forgive me". As his companions
tried to calm him, he is reported to have sadly cried out "No, this was
At Beloki's home in Vitoria-Gasteiz his brother Gorka and pregnant wife,
Gemma were in shock, "It was a tremendous scare as the only reference
we had was the television. The first few minutes were bad for us because
he nearly didn't move". Gemma also related her state of shock and fright.
"He gave a tremendous cry, It gave me a lot of pain, more than ever because
all of his dreams and work have gone up in smoke".
Photo: © Olympia
For his part Manolo Saiz said, "I am destroyed ...we have lost a complete
year's work. First it was Igor, after that Vicioso, and now it is Beloki.
We have been beheaded and now we have lost any opportunity in the Tour..."
But Manolo then turned his comments towards the other great Basque hope,
Iban Mayo, "the Prince of Arratia - the King of Alpe d'Huez" as he has
been dubbed, who up until yesterday had renounced any podium aspirations
in favour of his now achieved goal of winning a stage.
"You have to applaud what Iban has done, a rider that has great explosiveness
and a grand ambition, it is clear he has taken advantage of the circumstances
of the race [a reference to Mayo attacking as Armstrong pulled back Beloki
on Alpe d'Huez?]. From now on, Armstrong will not allow him to gain the
margin he did on Alpe d'Huez", said Saiz.
"I believe that he can win the Tour and it depends upon his choice.
Iban's contract finishes this season and now he must decide between his
economic security and his sporting future. It is clear that he has the
potential for a great sporting future, but everything depends upon what
he decides: whether he chooses sport first or like we have seen with other
cyclists of his character, who have opted economic security. He has to
choose well his next team because I believe that Euskaltel-Euskadi is
to his liking and he feels supported."
Meanwhile in Euskaltel-Euskadi they are more than content with their
victory and position in the race, and in fact are looking to the future.
"That was the objective when we came to the Tour," said Director Julian
Gorospe, "to win a stage...we are here thanks to the invitation of the
organisers and we haven't disappointed."
Having one the last two stages in the team classification, Euskaltel-Euskadi
importantly now leads the overall team classification. "In a race like
the Tour, it is an important position, as the team that wins it has a
place secured for the next edition. We can fight for this classification,
overall in the Pyrenees, but in the individual time trials we will lose
time," commented Gorospe.
He continued that Iban Mayo continues not to think about the podium,
" I am a little bit scared. Iban has a lot of competition and has ridden
a good number of races. We will have to see how the days pass to see how
Mayo himself showed caution: "I have achieved what I sought when I came
to the Tour. Neither have I ruled out anything....if the opportunity presents
itself and I can take something positive I will attack, but I don't want
to attack for the sake of attacking."
Regarding the time trial, Mayo said that "I am not very worried, in
the Dauphine I didn't do badly. Maybe I will lose two minutes, but I didn't
come to the Tour with the idea of disputing them and I am not worried...If
there is something that might come, it will come, but I don't think about
Mayo's humility is enough to remind one of another great Basque rider
from a time not that long ago when a salt of the earth humility reigned
supreme in the Tour.
Lotto-Domo scrape in
Lotto-Domo directors Marc Sergeant and Christophe Sercu were waiting
quite a while at the finish line in Gap for their last riders to come
in. They arrived 39'31 behind stage winner Alexandre Vinokourov, with
eight minutes to spare on the cut-off time.
A visibly relieved Marc Sergeant sighed when Van Bon, Gates and McEwen,
the last one as pale as a ghost, struggled across the line. "We have been
able to avoid a disaster like in La Plagne in '95, when five Lotto riders
came in too late," Sergeant was quoted in Het Nieuwsblad. "On the Izoard,
these three were already 30 min behind."
"What a torture that was," added Claude Criquielion. "After three kilometres
already Robbie McEwen found himself in trouble. I didn't eat all day,
but I managed to smoke a full packet of cigarettes. Luckily Van Bon and
Gates got a bit better after the Izoard. Amazingly in the last hundred
kilometres, they only lost nine minutes to the leaders."
"I never would have made it without the help of Van Bon and Gates,"
admitted an exhausted McEwen
"I'm totally f***ed," added Gates.
Wilson hanging tough
Australian rider Matthew Wilson (FDJeux.com) is lying 169th on the general
classification, but is still in the Tour after three tough days in the
Alps. "It was incredible," Wilson commented to SBS TV after stage 9. "It's
a shame for the race about what happened with Beloki."
Wilson also gave his assessment of current Maillot Jaune Lance Armstrong,
who leads Alexandre Vinokourov by 21 seconds on GC. "In my opinion, Lance
Armstrong isn't the same guy we've seen for the past four years and Beloki
had looked great on the Alpe d'Huez," said Wilson. "But I think that Vinokourov
is the most underrated rider in the peloton. He can climb, time trial
and he can attack. If Lance underestimates Vinokourov it will be a big
mistake. He's completely ready to attack Lance whenever he gets the chance."
Wilson continued that "I'm not feeling too bad. The climbing has been
hard but as the days went on I started to feel better."
FDJeux.com's captain Brad McGee told Cyclingnews at the start of Stage
10 that the aim is to keep Baden Cooke in Green. "For the green jersey,
the priority is not always winning the stage," he said. "We sort of changed
our tune a little bit. It used to be all about getting stage wins, and
now the priority's the jersey. For once we're going to start to start
doing the bonus sprints, which we really haven't been doing at all."
What's the Centenaire classification?
Today's stage into Marseille is the second to count toward the Centenaire
(Centenary) classification, which is currently led by Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com)
This is a special award for the 100th anniversary Tour that commemorates
the six stage finishes of the original 1903 event. It's simply calculated
by adding up the riders' finish positions in Lyon (Stage 6), Marseille
(stage 10), Toulouse (stage 11), Bordeaux (Stage 17) Nantes (stage 19)
and Paris (stage 20).
Cooke leads because the winner in Lyon, Alessandro Petacchi left the
race on stage 7. Stage 10's rolling, downhill course may provide another
chance for Cooke to shine in the final sprint - if his and the other sprinters'
teams can control the likely suicide breakaways.
Because it's not based on time or on a weighted points system (such as
the 20/17/15/etc awarded for stage finishes), but on finish position in
these stages, the Centenaire leader is the rider with the lowest score.
Riders vying for the Centenaire classification will no doubt be grateful
that they don't have to ride the original stage distances to reach these
finish towns. The longest stage, the finale into Paris was 471km, and
even the shortest, the 268km dash from Toulouse to Bordeaux was longer
than the longest stage of the 2003 Tour.
See also: Tour de France
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