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Moncoutié gambles and wins

French fans suffering from Bastille Day hangovers at the Tour de France Thursday were given the ideal salve when local rider David Moncoutié won the 164km stage 11 from St. Flour to Figeac to give France back-to-back stage victories following Richard Virenque's first place at St. Flour on Wednesday. It was also his Cofidis team's second stage win at the Tour and provided cause for added celebration for thousands of his local fans. While born in Paris, Moncoutié is from Brenetoux in the Lot region into which the Tour passed and finished Thursday. The stage was testing for all, with the heat,

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By Rupert Guinness, Special to VeloNews

Moncoutie takes one in his home region

Moncoutie takes one in his home region

Photo: Graham Watson

French fans suffering from Bastille Day hangovers at the Tour de France Thursday were given the ideal salve when local rider David Moncoutié won the 164km stage 11 from St. Flour to Figeac to give France back-to-back stage victories following Richard Virenque’s first place at St. Flour on Wednesday.

It was also his Cofidis team’s second stage win at the Tour and provided cause for added celebration for thousands of his local fans. While born in Paris, Moncoutié is from Brenetoux in the Lot region into which the Tour passed and finished Thursday.

The stage was testing for all, with the heat, sinewy roads and melting tar on a course that was littered with many more rises than what the woefully inaccurate course profile showed.

Five-time defending Tour champion Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor) expressed the opinion of most afterward.

“It was tough with the heat. Two or three days ago we were riding in 55 degrees weather and rain. Today it’s up to 100 degrees,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone is complaining after the [cold and rain-sodden] first week.“

Solo flyer
Moncoutié won the stage by attacking his two daylong breakaway companions with about 8km to go and riding solo to the finish. The two Spanish riders he left behind, Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finished at 2:15 and 2:17, respectively.

The bunch came in at 5:58, led home by Norwegian champion Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), with German Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Australian Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) on his wheel.

One new face in the arena of bunch sprinting Thursday — and one the pure sprinters were not going to chastise for being there — was Armstrong, who was sixth in the bunch gallop to cross the line in ninth place.

Moncoutié milked the local surroundings for all they were worth, and admitted as much. `’I knew the last six kilometers, so when I saw I had dropped the two Spaniards I knew it was won,“ he said.

The three-man break formed after 56km, after a flurry of early attacks. Moncoutié and Martinez had already been in one attack after just 2km, and finally went clear after the second of five climbs, the Cat. 2 Côte de Therondels at the 50km mark.

Flecha, the winner of stage 11 into Toulouse last year, caught them after a 6km chase. The trio then worked together to accrue a maximum lead of 8:05 at 122km before it began to drop.

Maggy packs it in
While there were no attacks from the peloton, the pace took its toll. At 120km, Swede Magnus Bäckstedt (Alessio), suffering on-and-off from back pain since the Tour began, called it quits and pulled out of the Tour.

Martinez leads Flecha and Moncoutie

Martinez leads Flecha and Moncoutie

Photo: Graham Watson

“My back was so bad I couldn’t hold the handlebars properly at one point,” Bäckstedt told VeloNews. “I couldn’t even keep pace with the sprinters’ gruppetto and, after 70 kilometers on my own, I finally had to admit I couldn’t do it any longer. It’s disappointing, that’s for sure.”

Soon enough, the winding roads of the Massif Central saw the peloton lose many more riders – with the field eventually splitting into five groups.

Putting it all on the line
Meanwhile up front, Moncoutié was wary of the threat of a Spanish combine in the last kilometers. “I had seen the two Spaniards talking to each other [earlier] and I was worried that they would make an alliance,” he said.

“So I made one attack, put everything into it. After I went I turned around and saw them looking at each other. I was the one who profited from that.”

Like most professional bike racers, Moncoutié said winning a Tour stage was “one of my objectives” and “winning made a dream come real.”

With the Pyrénées to be entered Friday, Moncoutié is not holding out for a sudden overnight discovery of form.

Neither is the yellow jersey wearer, Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (La Boulangère) who, with his team, again defended his lead by placing 14th Thursday.

“I know the Aspin and Tourmalet and how they are,” said Voeckler, referring to the two climbs in tomorrow’s stage to La Mongie, which is three-quarters the way up the Tourmalet.

Voeckler said he suffered in Thursday’s stage, most likely due to the accumulated fatigue from having the yellow jersey for seven days.

“It was physically hard for me and not a good day,“ he said, adding he “hopes to be in better shape tomorrow.”

Voeckler will lead the Tour into the Pyrénées in stage 12 Friday with 3:00 on Australian Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis), who was 10th Thursday; and 4:13 on Frenchman Sandy Casar (FDjeux.com).

Another tough day at the office for Voeckler and his Boulangere team

Another tough day at the office for Voeckler and his Boulangere team

Photo: Graham Watson

Should Voeckler lose the jersey, though, the best placed and most likely to take over is French King of the Mountains leader Richard Virenque (Quick Step). After his stage win yesterday, Virenque bunny-hopped Armstrong on the overall classification and moved to fourth overall at 6:52.

Of the overall contenders, Armstrong is still best in sixth at 9:35, followed by American Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), 11th at 10:18; and German Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), 17th at 10:30. Then come Spain’s Roberto Heras (Liberty-Seguros) in 27th at 11:44; Italy’s Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) in 41st at 13:16; and equally luckless Basque Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in 51st at 15:02.

Armstrong warned that Mayo should not be counted out, though, especially once he gets the feel of the Pyrénées under his wheels.

“He’ll attack in the Pyrénées. He’ll attack Friday. Because La Mongie is closer to the Basque Country than Plateau de Beille,” said Armstrong.

“The trees and everything, the landscape will be green, but the roads will be orange with his supporters. So, he will go tomorrow.”

As for Saturday’s brutal stage to Plateau de Beille, Armstrong gave every indication he is ready for a war on wheels. “It’s very nasty. I think they should take it out. It’s a violation of our human rights. I love it.”ResultsAre Posted


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