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Photo ©: Sirotti

Tour de France News for July 25, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Servais Knaven: Today I'll ride to win

By Gabriella Ekström in Bordeaux

Knaven on the attack
Photo: © AFP

Before Stage 17 this morning in Dax, Servais Knaven told Cyclingnews that he'd ride to win today. After just one kilometre, a break went and Servais Knaven showed that he was true to his word by sitting in it. "The other teams chased us very hard at first, and we remained at twenty or thirty seconds for a long time," Servais said after the stage. "We worked hard to make the break grow to a minute, and after that it kept growing. I thought la Francaise des Jeux would chase, but they had Christophe Mengin in the break as well, and there are not so many pure sprinter teams in the Tour that could chase either."

Already before the Tour, Patrick Lefevre told Servais Knaven that the stage to Bordeaux was made for him, and Lefevre told Cyclingnews after the stage that he and Servais had reached an agreement this morning. "Servais asked me 'If I win today, can I stay at home in the future?' I told him; Sure you can! However, I know that he has been looking for this stage win for several years, and I think that now once he's won it, he'll change his mind."

Click here for the full interview

150th Dutch victory

Servais Knaven's victory in Bordeaux was the 150st victory by a Dutch rider in the Tour de France (excluding team time trials). For the Dutch cycling fans, Bordeaux is a Dutch town. Hansje Dekkers was the first Dutch winner there in the early 1950's, when he beat compatriots Wim van Est and Wout Wagtmans. There followed more victories in Bordeaux in the '50's, with Jan Nolten and Henk Faanhof (1954) and Wout Wagtmans (1955). After that, Jo de Roo (1965), Gerben Karstens (1976), Cees Priem (1980), Bert Oosterbosch (1983), Jan Raas (1984), Jean-Paul van Poppel (1988) and Rob Harmeling (1992) all won in Bordeaux. 10 years later, Servais Knaven is again taking care of the Dutch 'Bordeaux feeling'.

Rubiera still focused with three stages to go

By Tim Maloney, European editor in Bordeaux

Jose Luis Rubiera
Photo: © J.Devich/CN

With the mountain stages over in this year's Tour, Chechu Rubiera (USPS-Berry Floor) isn't relaxing yet. "Not too far now to Paris...it's getting close," he told Cyclingnews this morning. "I'm feeling quite well, my job is still to take care of Lance. My GC place isn't important. We came here to win the Tour de France, and to support him in the mountain stages like we did put us [Rubiera and Beltran] up on GC."

This is Chechu Rubiera's third Tour with USPS and he told us that "the closeness of the race with Jan Ullrich until now is something different. Saturday's time trial will be the most important day of the Tour. The other Tours I've ridden have been easier; our team has worked well at this Tour, but the gap we had on the second place rider was bigger in the past."

Basso Looking at top 10 in Paris

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Bordeaux

Ivan Basso
Photo: © Sirotti

Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) told us that yesterday's Stage 16, where Tyler Hamilton's solo ride dropped the classy Italian rider one place on GC to seventh "wasn't a great day for me...but you have to consider that Hamilton was close to me already on GC and in the TT, he would have passed me anyway. This has been a hard Tour but for me, I am very happy about how I have performed."

Rumours have been circulating in the TDF press room about a possible move by Basso to US Postal next year, but Basso didn't think that he was likely to move to the American squad even though he has a lot of "feeling" for Armstrong.

Competition Director Pescheux pleased with Centenary Tour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Bordeaux

Cyclingnews caught up with Tour de France Competition Director Jean-Francois Pescheux before Stage 17, where he told us that the Centenary Edition of the Tour has been a success so far.

"Well, I would say that most people are saying that the Centenary Tour de France is a great Tour de France. The parcours is well done and there is so much combativity from the riders. So there are a number of factors that have come together to make the race special. As well, Armstrong has less superiority over his competitors then in past years; he has some strong rivals so the race is closer. There's a lot of suspense in this year's edition and we'll all have to await the last time trial to know who will win the Tour. We couldn't ask for more; it's a perfect scenario for the race."

"We've also seen all the decorations and banners throughout France celebrating the Centenary Tour de France," added Mr. Pescheux. "That's something extra besides the riders that has made this Tour extra-special."

Cyclingnews asked Mr. Pescheux about the possibility of the Tour de France coming to Quebec in 2008 as part of the celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the founding of French Canada. "Quebec City is very interested in having us come, but you know, the problem of the Tour de France once again is that we must, above all be very careful about the sporting aspect of the race. Of course, the riders need to rest and recover so we have a combative, hard-fought Tour de France. It's a problem at the beginning of the Tour de France to impose a difficult transfer on the riders. The Tour de France isn't a (football) World Cup or Formula One. We have 21 days of racing and we can't just do anything with the Tour."

Lefevere happy with Quick.Step-Davitamon's Tour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Bordeaux

Quick.Step-Davitamon manager Patrick Lefevere told Cyclingnews after Stage 17 that "Our goal at the Tour was to win a stage and now we've won two stages and took the Yellow Jersey for one day and we have the mountains jersey with Virenque. Our riders are attacking every day and we might have even won another stage with some more luck."

"Paolo Bettini is always ready to make something good happen," continued Lefevere. "On Stage 16, Paolo was unlucky since he had a mechanical that kept him from getting in the break, but Paolo wants to win in Paris so it should be very beautiful...if the best one day rider can win on the Champs Elysées!

"As for our Australian rider Michael Rogers, he's been fantastic in this Tour. Michael has been riding on a very high level for a few months now. I'm very pleased with him and he's surprised me with his results since May. Here in the Tour, he's had a lot of power and I hope for the future, he's a diamond.

"We'll have a new team next year, sponsored by Bodysol body products which is a division of Davitamon. This will be a GS 2 squad and the goal for us is to bring our young riders along...I have a lot of talent on Quick.Step-Davitamon and so I don't want to lose them all. This squad will give our talented young guys the chance to get a lot of experience in the races just under the major world cup events."

We asked Lefevere how Frank Vandenbroucke was doing and the answer was positive. "Frank just finished a high altitude training camp in Livigno, Italy. He's got a little sore throat but will likely start racing next Monday in Belgium. His goal is the Tour of Spain and I think mentally he's very good and focused on the World Championships in Hamilton. He will be very strong there."

Lance's biggest fan

By Monique du Bois

Benjamin and family
Photo: © Jeff Tse

During the Tour de France you encounter all types of fans, people who sleep in their cars on the climbs the night before, crazy Basque fans who want you to take their picture, friendly older couples who share their TV with you, Americans wearing the flag as a cape, cyclists who ride the course and families having picnics.

Today we waited for the peloton with 19 year-old Benjamin Messonnier, who is quite possibly Lance Armstrong's biggest fan. We came upon Benjamin with his family a few hours before the race. His mother was busy painting LANCE down the road, while his father and brother erected their home made Lance/Postal banner.

The Messonniers had driven over 300 km this morning to get from their home near Toulouse to just outside of Bordeaux to watch the Postal team leader wave to them as he rides by. Benjamin's dad helps him wave back to Lance, since he doesn't have use of his arms.

"Yes, we're tired, but we're very happy," they said, after having seen five stages this year.

There are parallels between Benjamin's life and Lance's. They have both overcome huge obstacles, and in doing so seem to have glimpsed the true meaning of life. Benjamin met Lance five years ago during his first Tour de France win and they've been friends ever since. His mother showed us photos of a recent visit they had with Lance and told us he and the Postal staff were "very nice".

Today Benjamin was sporting his new US Postal hat and jersey autographed by Armstrong. While they waited, he got a visit from one of the passing Postal cars and a France TV2/3 news car. Benjamin is becoming somewhat of a celebrity himself as he follows the American in yellow.

Medical communique

Niki Sorensen (CSC): Left Knee Pain
Leon Van Bon (Lotto-Domo): Digestive troubles

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)

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