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Tour de France News for July 17, 2003

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Beloki's prospects

Cyclingnews spoke with ONCE team director Manolo Saiz and the ONCE team doctor on the rest day, who explained that Joseba Beloki is doing reasonably well at a private clinic. He underwent surgery to his femur yesterday, but greater concern remains his elbow, which has multiple fractures after taking the hardest blow when he fell.

It is believed that Beloki will be able to start train again relatively soon, but the team doctor expects he will need at least two months to recover just from the loss of blood during the operation (around 1.5 litres). Beloki may be able to race in Spain toward the end of the season, but at this point he will have to focus more realistically on the 2004 season.

Riis bothered by speculation

Team CSC director Bjarne Riis has vented his frustrations concerning allegations by some that Tyler Hamilton's collarbone is not actually fractured following his stage 1 crash. Team Telekom manager Walter Godefroot is reported to have called the injury an American-style publicity stunt, a comment which was surely not appreciated by Riis and his team. Cyclingnews' colleagues at the Danish newspaper BT noted that Riis has been showing x-rays of Hamilton's fracture to any doubters.

Hamilton for his part took advantage of the rest day with a long massage and a short spin on the indoor trainer, while his teammates went for an hour's ride on the roads yesterday morning.

Baguet takes chances when they come

The domestiques of the Lotto-Domo team have been working very hard to keep things together for their sprinter Robbie McEwen. Although many expected the sprinters' teams would try and do the same for Tuesday's stage to Marseille, there was an attack after the first intermediate sprint and Lotto-Domo's Serge Baguet jumped with it. The move became a nine man marathon break that held till the finish. Because they had a rider in the front, the rest of the Lotto-Domo team took it easy at the back of the peloton for the remainder of the day. Had that been Serge's goal, to save their legs in case things did end up in a mass sprint anyway?

"We were told to go our own chance when there was no work to be done for McEwen," commented Serge after the stage, "and that's just what I did." Baguet's wife Sandra and son Sam, who positioned themselves 60 km outside of Marseille, waited impatiently to see Serge go past in a flash. The rest of the race they could watch on the TV in the camper van of Sandra's parents.

"We couldn't get into Marseille in time, the whole city seems to be blocked and there are miles of traffic jams on the roads towards it," Sandra explained. "That's why we decided to see the race here. We'll go and see Serge tomorrow on the rest day."

As the time gap to the peloton increased, Sandra got more nervous: "So who is with him? Darn... Piil, Haselbacher and Sacchi...that's not good on this parcours." A former cyclist herself, she knows about racing and in this case her instincts were correct; Serge finished only 7th! But, Serge did manage to beat Piil in the sprint two years ago, in Montluçon.

"Yes, but this parcours wasn't selective enough," Serge commented. "I jumped with the attack right after the first intermediate sprint. On the way I often saw the scenario of the stage to Montluçon 2001 before my eyes. After the last hill I knew though I wasn't going to take victory this time. I'm happy that it was Piil who won though."

"Ok, when you lose, it's hard to be content with things, but this isn't bad really," Baguet added. "I tried to go on the Côte du Jaillet, but the top of the hill came quicker than what I had anticipated. I was planning to go at the foot of the climb but because of the crowd I didn't spot the sign. When Garcia Acosta accelerated, I knew this wasn't my cup of tea. The last 50km were flat, wind in the face. This was something for 'rouleurs'. Piil was so strong today, all I could do was follow."

"It's a real problem for me to get a chance to go for the win in this Tour. This stage was really the only one that really suits me. I had marked Nevers, but that ended in a mass-sprint. I will take a ticket for the buss again in the Pyrenees and hope that I can try again on the way to Toulouse. That is my favourite terrain." "It has been extremely hot. If it stays like this, there will be a few victims in the Pyrenees." Serge didn't get flowers in this stage, but because he came across the climb of the Côte du Jaillet in first position, he did receive his weight in wine and an equal amount of regional products.

"Ah well, that's something anyway!" laughed Baguet. "I was weighing 66kg at the start in Paris, but I think I will have lost a few pounds on the way. Hmm, wine hey, at least the next winter evenings will be cozy!"

Dutch Tour reunion in Den Bosch

The Dutch town of Den Bosch hopes to hold a reunion of all the living Dutch Tour riders at the end of November this year, according to De Telegraaf. "Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc reacted positively to our idea and has said himself that he'll be at the party," said Hans van Schaik, a spokesman for the Den Bosch government.

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