Tour de France News Roundup
That the prologue of the centenary edition of the Tour de France was won by world individual pursuit champion, Australian Brad McGee, is probably a true reflection of how cycling has developed since 1903.
Although it is true that Ivor Munroe and Donald Kirkham were the first Australians to compete in the Tour way back in 1914, it was not really until the mid 1980’s that an ever increasing number of riders began to compete from the New World. This year 7 Australians will compete in the event, while old world cycling stronghold, Belgium, only has one more competitor.
McGee’s victory was made even more dramatic due to the fact he completed the course with a flat tyre -
"What can I say, I'm literally lost for words," McGee, told French television. "This is the biggest thing that has happened to me it's even bigger than the Olympic Games. I'm in another world at the moment - but it feels great."
McGee had been showing great signs of form when he won stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse beating riders such as Uwe Peschel and Jan Ullrich. However, this represents a victory on a higher level and now in Yellow (the third Australian to be so honoured along with Phil Anderson and Stuart O’Grady) he will fight tooth and nail to keep the jersey for as long as possible.
David Millar finished second, 0.80 seconds behind had yet more bad luck which seems to follow the Cofidis team around. Not only did team mate Luis Perez have an accident coming off the starting ramp which forced him to change bikes, Millars bad luck continued.
As he approached the final turn with clearly enough time in hand to win the stage his chain slipped. "I can say this is a great disappointment. I tried to speed up before the last curve and my chain jumped off," he said. So a hammer blow to the Scot, and maybe bad news for the peloton in general. With two French teams separated by such a small margin the fight for the Yellow jersey could be intense, which may mean an even more nervous peloton than usual over the first two days - expected crashes and high speed chases!
The surprise package. The 26 year old from Usurbil, Spain, who has steadily been improving after his 2000 victory in Bicicleta Vasca, and who was fourth in last years Dauphine Libere (and 11th in the Vuelta Espana) was pleased and annoyed -
“It is a bit disappointing to lose such a race by two seconds. But the other riders had my time as a reference point. I was so nervous watching the other riders come finish on the bus - but in the end what might have been was not. Of course I was up against the greatest riders. It is good for my morale that I did so well against such great riders, to finish third is a great achievement for me.”
Happiest man today prior to the race seemed to be the great Italian champion Felice Gimondi who rode for the Bianchi team from 1973 to 1979 and is now a Director at the Company.
Clearly overjoyed to see his beloved team back in the big time, his smile will have been even bigger after Ullrich’s performance. As for new father Ullrich - he was happy how things had gone -
"I did not think I would finish today ahead of Lance Armstrong. But 6.5 kilometers do not say much - they are not a real yardstick. But this achievement naturally gives me confidence and morale for the coming weeks. I think I have made rapid improvement since the Tour de Suisse.”
Talking on the CSC excellent website Hamilton said:
“Lance is a rival like everybody else and I am, of course, pleased that I was able to finish ahead of him. Ullrich did a very good time and I think that he is Armstrong’s most dangerous competitor.”
Hamilton continued: "I felt good out on the route. I have tried to stay relaxed throughout the day while maintaining my focus on what I had to do. In a way, I have not really been competing since the Tour of Romandy and I was a bit unsure about how I would perform. The race has started well for me and during the coming stages I will try to lose as little time as possible while staying out of trouble. The next important job will be the team time trial and I have a good feeling about that. Our team is very well prepared”.
"I started slow. It wasn't very comfortable, and I was struggling with the pounding of the pavé. But the race will change."
The podium man tended to agree with Lance Armstrong.
"I am happy enough with my performance because I think this was a days for the specialists and particularly those happy on the pavé. I got through the pavé section very well, but on the last turn I scared myself! I naturally hung back and that will have cost me a few seconds.”