What's Cool In Road Cycling

Dan’s Notebook – Stage 6

Dan Osipow – Director of Operations for US Postal – is in France providing daily reports on the racing, the teams, his riders, and behind the scenes of the Tour. You can read all his entries at the US Postal website at https://www.uspsprocycling.com/

The best way the USPS team can reflect on today’s sixth stage of the Tour de France – another day for the sprinters, 199.5 kilometers worth, placed in the rear view window, and thus one stage closer to the individual time trial, coming up on Monday, and the mountain stages, which begin in the Pyrenees on Wednesday. Other than that, it was all of the usual names up front duking it out on Rue de Bretagne in Alencon, with Telekom’s Erik Zabel taking the prize. After finishing second in stages one, two and three, Zabel got his 12th career Tour stage victory as a result of perfect teamwork down the stretch followed by a burst of speed to hold off Mapei’s Oscar Freire – who made a hole in the final dash to the line where there was none – and Lotto-Adecco’s Robie McEwen by a hair.

* 182 of the 185 riders finished in the same time as Zabel – 4:23:07 – including the nine USPS riders. Lance Armstrong was the team’s top finisher in 72nd place, followed by George Hincapie in 75th. Hincapie clearly understands his job on the flat stages, almost always finishing right near Armstrong. In stage two Hincapie finished three riders behind Lance, stage three nine riders behind and yesterday two riders behind. As stated before, USPS team director sportif Johan Bruyneel encourages all the team to move to the front in the last 20-30 kms to avoid the crashes that sometimes develop towards the finish of the flat stages. Once at front, the riders literally attempt to surround Armstrong in an effort to keep him out of harms way. So far in the five road stages, Armstrong has had another USPS rider finish within four riders of him each time.

* While Armstrong’s assault on the yellow jersey will have to wait until at least Monday, one jersey was battled for fiercely today – the green jersey for best sprinter. Zabel started the day with the jersey he has owned the last six Tours on his back (holding a two point lead of McEwen, 113-111), lost it 47 kms into the race when McEwen won the first intermediate sprint of the day, gaining six points to Zabel’s two for placing third, then regained the maillot vert with the victory, gaining 35 points to McEwen’s 26 for third. Zabel now leads, 150-143.

* The main action of the day was a break of six riders that gained a maximum of 1:45 before being chased down by the top sprinting teams, hoping to get it together for a mass sprint. One interesting note was that when the yellow jersey, ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, stopped on the side of the road to relieve himself, riders from the Domo-Farm Frites team attacked, a major no-no in cycling. Word had it the attack led to a heated discussion prior to the Domo riders apologizing.

* Following the TTT stage, the USPS team moved from third to second place overall in the team classification, 42 seconds back of ONCE.

* The buzz around the pressroom has been the performances of the Aussie riders. Following the five breakaway riders yesterday, three Aussie sprinters – McEwen, Baden Cooke of DFJeux.com and Stuart O’Grady of Credit Agricole led in the pack, finishing sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Heading into today’s stage, many called for an Aussie win, with McEwen tabbed as the favorite.

* One story that always comes up at the Tour is worth sharing. Obviously, with the Tour moving towns each and every day, all the teams, officials, sponsors, etc., move as well, staying in a variety of hotels for most of the month. Some good, some not so good. However, one ignorant American noticed that each and every town had a large, beautiful building right smack in the middle, with grand windows surrounded by incredible flower decorations – looked like the best place in town, no doubt, thus definitely worth staying in. And, since the name of the building IN EACH CITY was the “Hotel de Ville,” why not? It looked like the nicest hotel chain in France, a long way ahead of others such as the good ol’ Novotel or Mercure. Plus, being in the center of town, each Hotel de Ville was within walking distance of multiple restaurants and/or cafes and had plenty of parking spaces in front. Well, after finally asking those in the know why our group never stayed at the Hotel de Ville, the ignorant American was told the Hotel de Ville stands for City Hall and is not a hotel at all. Oh well, beautiful buildings, though, too bad.

* Oscar Seville, the Kelme team leader and seventh overall last year, still possesses his baby-faced appearance despite the fact he is too old to compete in the under 25-year-old category at this year’s Tour. The winner of last year’s white jersey – the top under 25-year-old on GC – Oscar is looking a tad older and wiser these days – instead of looking all of 12 years old, this year he appears to be around 13 or 14.

* 28 riders are competing in the under 25 competition. The Tour’s youngest rider is France’s Jerome Pineau of Bonjour – he was born on January 2, 1980. ONCE’s Isidro Nozal currently wears the white jersey.

* Lotto-Adecco’s Rik Verbrugghe, involved in the big crash of yesterday’s stage with 20 kms remaining, left the race overnight after realizing he broke his collarbone in the crash. Verbrugghe did finish yesterday’s stage – last at 13:19.

* The soon-to-be-retired Mario Cipollini won a sprint stage into today’s stage town of Forges-Les-Eaux back in 1997.

1. Erik Zabel, Telekom; 199.5 kms 4:23:07
2. Oscar Freire, Mapei-Quick Step; s.t.
3. Robbie McEwen, Lotto-Addeco; s.t.
4. Jan Svorada, Lampre-Daikin; s.t.
5. Serguei Ivanov, Fassa Bortolo; s.t.
72. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
75. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
79. Pavel Padrnos, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
82. Victor Hugo Pena, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
86. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
106. Floyd Landis, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
107. Jose Luis Rubiera, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
144. Benoit Joachim, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
149. Viatcheslav Ekimov, U.S.Postal Service; s.t.

1. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, ONCE; 23:29:03
2. Joseba Beloki, ONCE; at :04
3. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Service; at :07
4. Jorg Jaksche, ONCE; at :12
5. Abraham Olano, ONCE; at :22
6. Roberto Heras, U.S. Postal Service; at :25
9. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; at :28
11. Floyd Landis, U.S. Postal Service; at :32
13. Jose Luis Rubiera, U.S. Postal Service; at :35
14. Viatcheslav Ekimov, U.S. Postal Service; at :35
18. Pavel Padrnos, U.S. Postal Service, at :55
20. Benoit Joachim, U.S. Postal Service; at 1:09
109. Victor Hugo Pena, U.S. Postal Service; at 5:03

– Dan Osipow, from Alencon, France

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