McEwen Triumphs in Stage 7
In another day for the sprinters, Australian Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) took the seventh stage of the Tour de France in a dash to the finish line to win another pair of kisses on the podium.
After a 142-mile ride into Germany that saw the Tour’s first category-three climb, McEwen crossed the white paint a wheel ahead of the next rider, Magnus Backstedt of Liquigas-Bianchi.
“It’s great—after yesterday, where I felt really good and there was the crash with 800 meters to go. I was rewarded after yesterday,” McEwen told the Outdoor Life Network (OLN). “This is the last sprinters’ chance for a little. It’s nice to end it this way. I’m really happy.”
Six-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, content to leave the dangerous sprinting to others, is still nursing a 55-second lead over teammate George Hincapie, and a one-minute, two-second lead over the closest hostile rider—Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile.
Armstrong finished 54th for the day, and will wear yellow again tomorrow as the Tour swings back into France and towards the mountains.
Quick-Step’s Tom Boonen, likely tired after two all-out intermediate sprint victories during the day—not to mention getting scraped bloody in a peloton tangle just 15 miles into the race—was disappointed to come home seventh.
“The main cause was the crash. My back’s a little broken now,” Boonen told OLN in accented English, meaning he was more sore in body than in spirit.
Boonen will keep his green jersey, however, with 133 points. He is getting some pressure from Norwegian Thor Hushovd, of Credit Agricole, who trails with 122.
Boonen outraced Hushovd for an extra pair of points in the second intermediate sprint, and dashed past him for points in the third. Hushvod finished ninth for the day, two places behind Boonen.
The main attack of the day came from German Fabian Wegmann of Gerolsteiner, who got away from the peloton on the first climb of the day—after 28 miles—hoping to become the first German rider to win a Tour stage on his home soil. He led most of the day but ran out of gas with 14 miles to go. Blowing a kiss to the camera, he slipped back into the peloton.
With seven points for the day’s two hills—including the Tour’s first category-three climb—Wegmann will be in polka dots Saturday.
The big Tour pileups continue to mount. With about 22 miles to go, a wet railway line grounded a number of riders, including the only other American to wear yellow so far this year, CSC’s David Zabriskie.
Later, in spite of dry conditions and without the sharp turns that caused yesterday’s heartbreaking crash for Frenchman Christophe Mengin and subsequent pavement party, two riders went down hard today in the final hundred meters. They did not affect the lead sprinters.