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Tour de France Second Edition News for July 17, 2003

Edited by Gerard Knapp

McEwen - Hushovd the dark horse in battle for green

Lotto-Domo's sprinter Robbie McEwen is currently in second place in the sprinters' classification, some nine points behind fellow Australian Baden Cooke (FDjeux.com).

Last year's winner of the green jersey, McEwen predicts it will be a keenly contested fight all the way to Paris, with a possible five sprint finishes likely.

"Whoever wears it (green jersey) into Paris will do so on a low score too," he told he told Gabriella Ekström on the rest day. "I will just keep looking for points wherever. Another rider who stays up there is Thor Hushovd. He is a dark horse with lots of high placings.

"He isn't a pure sprinter, but he is strong enough to stay close to the really fast guys, although he will loose out to some of us on pure strength."

With the Alps over, the two sprinters will continue their pursuit of points until they enter the Pyrenées on stage 13. After the first week of the Tour, there are five flat stages that could end in sprints and McEwen said that at best, three out of those five will come down to sprints. "It has been harder this year to keep the peloton together at the end of the stages, we don't have the Cipollini train that we are used to. Not only are there a lot of sprinters up front, but also a handful of each and everyone's team-mates and the GC riders who don't want to loose a single second. The sprints have been a little bit dangerous this year, but that hasn't stopped anyone so far," McEwen said. (See full interview)

Laurent Dufaux about to start "his Tour"

One of the handful of Swiss-French riders in the pro peloton, Laurent Dufaux (Alessio), dreams of a coup in the Pyrenees, as he stated in an interview with the daily Tribune de Genève. Asked about his dwindling hope after leaving the Alps, he said, "My Tour will take place in the Pyrenées. This will be difficult since most of the climbers, above all the Spaniards, think the same way. But I won't lose my hope. I know the terrain very well. You know, the Pyrenees have always been good to me."

More good news for him: his wife will accompany him from Narbonne. That might be good for his morale.

So the Alessio rider, currently in 26th position on GC at 10.28 behind, hopes to gain something from the next mountain stages. Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) and Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola-So.Di) have struggled through the alps, while Sven Montgomery (Fassa Bortolo) and Pierre Bourquenoud (Jean Delatour) have already abandoned the race. That makes the Centenary Tour disappointing for Swiss cycling, taking into account that emerging team Phonak had not been invited by Jean-Marie Leblanc and successful riders like Fabian Cancellara and Beat Zberg have not been sent by their teams.

Dufaux said about the crash of Beloki, "That was not nice to see (Beloki lying on the road). It made me shiver. Poor guy! It's terrible to be thrown out of the Tour that way. Beloki had made such a lot of sacrifices to be prepared. He was very offensive, he will be heavily missed in the Tour... At that moment you are afraid. Later on, starting the next stage, you stop thinking about it. These are the risks of the job."

Dufaux about the rumour Tyler Hamilton was only pretending his pain: "These people (saying this) are not in the peloton. I see him suffer each time he lifts his right arm. Those who distrust his courage don't really know who we riders are. We go to the end of our power before giving up."

Of the other Swiss riders, Marcus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) is in 94th position on GC at 1.04.13, Steve Zampieri (Vini Caldirola-So.Di) is 96th at 1.06.04 behind; while Pierre Bourquenoud (Jean Delatour) and Sven Montgomery (Fassa Bortolo) abandoned earlier.

Armstrong's winter 'cross training uncovered

TdF training?
Photo: © Kevin Myette

Lance Armstrong's dramatic cross-country excursion to avoid colliding with the fallen Joseba Beloki on stage nine of this year's Tour showed the Texan's bike-handling skills and ability to immediately react to a potentially dangerous situation.

After he finishes his road season, Armstrong usually participates in local MTB and 'cross races, as well as the odd duathlon and domestic criterium. As this photo shows, the Texan was able to hone his skills in the off-season - but only to maintain fitness, not practice for a Grand Tour.

However, the experience certainly came into play during his move on the descent of the Côte De La Rochette. Literally seconds after Beloki crashed in front, he veered off the parcours into a recently-ploughed field which he negotiated with both feet on the pedals and balanced out of the saddle. As the field gave way to a steep ditch before it met the road, the Texan quickly dismounted, grabbed his bike by the top tube, scurried down the bank, put his bike back on the road and leapt aboard just as the leaders sped past.

Armstrong over the barriers
Photo: © AFP

It was a slick move which earned a quick pat on the back from Tyler Hamilton. Armstrong's off-season training was captured at this cyclo-cross race organised by the local Texas outlet of retailer REI. Apparently Armstrong finished first, said REI's Kevin Myette. "Lance turned on the gas once he figured out how to ride in the dirt. I hear that he is still working on his remount as he has a bit of a stutter step. I noticed that he still does - as demonstrated in his remount in the TdF," he quipped. "Knowing Lance, one more winter of cross training and he'll have that down."


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