McEwen Wins Stage 9 in Photo Finish
Lotto-Domo’s Robbie McEwen won his second stage of the 2004 Tour de France Tuesday in a last-second photo finish on the 100-mile course from Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat to Guéret. McEwen, along with sprinters Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) and Stuart O’Grady (Cofidis), caught leaders Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel) and Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze) with under 50 meters to go in the race, making a mad dash for the finish line. Hushovd and O’Grady finished second and third, respectively, while Jérôme Pineau (Brioches La Boulangère) and Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) rounded out the top five finishers. French National Champion Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangère) retained the yellow jersey for his fifth day with a 29th-place finish. McEwen’s first-place finish keeps him in the green jersey for a second consecutive day.
Robbie McEwen Wins Stage 9Robbie McEwen Wins Stage 9
Five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong finished in 44th place, good enough to keep the Texan in sixth place overall heading into the mountain stages Wednesday. Rivals Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) currently rank 11th, 20th, and 34th in the general classification standings, while U.S. Postal domestique George Hincapie stands in seventh place overall.
Multiple failed attacks highlighted the first miles of Stage 9, but one finally stuck. Twenty-three miles into the race Landaluze escaped the clutches of the peloton, though he was soon caught by Simeoni. The two riders were able to hold the peloton off for almost the entire stage, garnering a lead of ten minutes over the pack with about 38 miles left in the race.
With 36 miles to go, a chase led by teams Brioches La Boulangère and Crédit Agricole cut the time gap between Landaluze and Simeoni to 9:25. Shortly after that, the gap was reduced to 7:30, and the leaders began losing about a minute for every three miles. Thanks to additional efforts by Quick Step and Cofidis, the gap was whittled down to 4:36 with 18 miles left to race. At 12 miles, the peloton had whittled the margin to 2:59, and at just 2.5 miles left, no more than 39 seconds separated the leaders from the charging pack.
In the race’s last 50 meters, Landaluze and Simeoni were no longer able to hold off the sprinters and were caught, setting up the photo finish between McEwen, Hushovd, and O’Grady.
The mountain stages begin Wednesday with the longest stage of the Tour de France running 148 miles from Limoges to Saint-Flour.