Australia’s McEwen pulls on Tour yellow jersey

6th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

WASQUEHAL, France, July 6 (AFP) - Australian Robbie McEwen came within a whisker of a spectacular Tour de France double here Tuesday when he finished the tough 210 km third stage over some of cycling's fabled cobblestones to grab the yellow jersey.

WASQUEHAL, France, July 6 (AFP) - Australian Robbie McEwen came within a whisker of a spectacular Tour de France double here Tuesday when he finished the tough 210 km third stage over some of cycling's fabled cobblestones to grab the yellow jersey.

McEwen, who started the stage in third place overall at 17 seconds behind overnight leader Thor Hushovd of Norway, sprinted away on his own in the final 250 metres looking for a second consecutive victory following his convincing win on Monday.

However the 32-year-old from Brisbane went too early, allowing Frenchman Jean-Patrick Nazon, of the AG2R team, time to catch up and throw his front wheel across the finish line ahead of T-Mobile's Erik Zabel.

Lotto rider McEwen finished third, with his bonus seconds from a third place finish on the first of the day's three intermediate sprints allowing him to pull on his second jersey in as many days after claiming the points classification's green jersey 24 hours earlier.

Yellow jersey contender Jan Ullrich, of the T-Mobile team, rode in five seconds later with five-time winner Lance Armstrong just behind.

McEwen has conceded that he was likely to lose the jersey after the team trial on Wednesday. He now has a one-second lead over prologue winner Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, with Jens Voigt of Germany in third place following his daring early breakaway with Dutchman Bram De Groot.

Nazon is fourth overall at 12secs, Armstrong fifth overall at 16 and Ullrich is in 18th place at 31.

However it could all have been a lot worse on what was a tough day's racing over some of the feared cobblestones of the French and Belgian classics races.

Spaniard Iban Mayo of the Euskaltel team, was the main casualty.

After starting as one of the favourites following a great ride in the Dauphine Libere race, his bid for the yellow jersey may have to be reviewed as he is now 4:23 behind McEwen.

Meanwhile McEwen, admitting that he is no contender for overall victory, was all smiles after he pulled on his first ever 'maillot jaune'.

"I would have preferred to win the stage, but it's great to wear the yellow jersey on the Tour - it's the first time for me, so it's pretty special," McEwen said.

"I was trying to win the stage, it wasn't like I was riding for third to try and get the yellow jersey by one second or something!

"In the finish I was a litte bit far back. With a kilometre and a half to go it was kind of difficult to move up, but when I found a gap I decided to go and in the end it was just a little bit too far.

"Nazon came well out of the wheels on the right and he was able to pass me - he was very strong today.

"The temptation sometimes is once you get past to sit up and just stop sprinting, but I knew then that even though I'd been beaten for the stage I could still salvage something, and by taking third I was able to get the jersey."

Frenchman Nazon meanwhile picked up his AG2R team's second win on the race following Jaan Kirsipuu's close-run victory on stage one.

The 27-year-old sprinter, the winner on the Champs Elysees last year, immediately dedicated his victory to his family, and especially his brother Damien whose recent injury woes meant he was left out of the Credit Agricole's team for the Tour.

"We've been consistent since the start of the Tour, which can only be positive," said Nazon.

"I'm proud to share this victory with my family, and my brother who didn't make it to the Tour this year. I spoke with Jaan (Kirsipuu) today before the stage and we agreed that if I was in the best position that it would be me going for the sprint.

"It was a very physical stage, maybe that's why I won today."

A number of riders picked up injuries from the numerous falls to have blighted the race - Italian veteran Marco Velo was the worst off, having to pull out with a suspected broken collarbone after he ended up in a ditch from the crash which also took Mayo down.

The stage had kicked into life almost immediately when CSC rider Voigt rode away from the peloton and was soon followed by De Groot, of the Rabobank team.

They went on to build a lead of six minutes by the 39km mark, although it fluctuated as the peloton, being led by Hushovd in the hunt for green jersey points, bore down on the two front men.

Just before the first cobblestone section a mass fall involving Mayo, Australian Michael Rogers, Italian Paolo Bettini and his fellow Italian Velo caused mayhem.

However in sporting terms the worst off was Mayo, who like a lot of the riders will be cursing the decision to include cobblestones in this year's race.

For Armstrong, who escaped unblemished, the experience was no fun either.

"Thankfully, I had some experienced guys like George (Hincapie) and Eki (Viatcheslav Ekimov) to get me through that today."



Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article