David Moncoutie flies French flag on Bastille Day

14th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

DIGNE-LES-BAINS, France, July 14 (AFP) - Cofidis rider David Moncoutie gave a shot in the arm to the hosts of the Tour de France with a well deserved Bastille Day victory on the 187km 12th stage between Briancon and here Thursday.

DIGNE-LES-BAINS, France, July 14 (AFP) - Cofidis rider David Moncoutie gave a shot in the arm to the hosts of the Tour de France with a well deserved Bastille Day victory on the 187km 12th stage between Briancon and here Thursday.

Moncoutie, who won his first stage of the race last year at Figeac, succeeds former professional Richard Virenque in handing the hosts a victory on France's national holiday.

Moncoutie escaped from a small group of riders on the day's second last climb and went on a solo bid, holding off seven pursuers who came over the finish line nearly a minute later.

"I'm really exhausted - it wasn't easy with the last couple of climbs and the headwind, but I'm really happy I stuck with my effort," said Moncoutie, who hands France their first win of the race this year.

"After two tough days in the Alps it wasn't easy. But once I'd attacked and was at the front I began to believe that I could make it to the finish.

"To do it on Bastille Day is the icing on the cake."

Race leader Lance Armstrong and the rest of the challengers for the yellow jersey came in over 10 minutes later.

The six-time winner, who rides for Discovery Channel, retained his 38-sec lead over Dane Michael Rasmussen, of CSC, with Credit Agricole's team leader Christophe Moreau still in third overall at just over two and a half minutes behind.

Armstrong admitted that after two tough days in the Alps, on the first of which he struck a major blow to his main rivals Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov, it had not been a day for challenging for the yellow jersey.

"It was maybe because the team is going really well - they rode really well and with a good rhythm on the Galibier (climb) yesterday. Maybe breaking away today wasn't foremost on their minds," said Armstrong.

Moncoutie escaped from a group of breakaway companions on the fourth of the day's five climbs on what was the third and last day in the Alps following two killer climbing days which took their toll.

After coming over the finish line, another Frenchman, Sandy Casar, held off Spaniard Angel Vicioso to take second place while a further three minutes later Norwegian Thor Hushovd held off green jersey rival Stuart O'Grady to reinforce his lead over the Australian in the points classification, following the earlier abandon of Belgian Tom Boonen due to injury before the stage.

Hushovd admitted the fight for the jersey, the points for which are won mostly at the finish line, had only just begun.

"It's been a fight since the beginning of the race, but it's going to get even harder now with Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen," said Hushovd.

"It was a shame Boonen didn't start - that's bad luck. Now I've got the jersey I'm going to do all I can to keep it."

Although a respected climber of medium-sized climbs, Moncoutie is also known for his fear of fast descents - something which his team manager has tried to correct for the past two seasons.

After attacking a few kilometres from the summit of the penultimate climb, the category two Col du Corobin 35km from the finish, he soon built a 40sec lead.

Axel Merckx's chasing group soon gave chase, and the Belgian in particular was determined to catch up.

His victory aims were twofold.

As well as hoping to claim his first stage win on the Tour de France, Merckx would have done so 36 years after his legendary father Eddy claimed victory the last time a Tour stage finished here, in 1969.

Moncoutie, however, hung on well. As he raced to reach the foot of the day's last climb, a 2.7km long category four whose average gradient was a relatively easy 3.9 percent, he held a 25 sec lead on the chasing group.

The Frenchman was struggling, but a lack of collaboration between the riders pursuing him was to his benefit and he managed to forge ahead.

It was no surprise he shook his fists in triumph as he claimed his second stage on the race.

Last year, it was Virenque, who is now retired, who handed the hosts their reason to smile on Bastille Day.

Moncoutie's win came a day after the race was mired in scandal following the arrest of Fassa Bortolo rider Dario Frigo after the Italian's wife was caught by customs officers with banned drugs in her car.

The Frenchman is known to be afraid of taking simple, everyday medicines such as aspirin and is a fan of homeopathy. He also epitomises what it is to be a clean, professional cyclist in France.

"It's a shame for cycling," commented Moncoutie on Frigo's situation.

"But what can I say? We don't have any proof to say he is guilty yet. All I can say is we have to keep up efforts to fight doping.

"If we don't, it's simply going to continue."


Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article