PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE In the huge crowds lining the route on Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday's 16th stage of the Tour de France, Ireland's Mark Scanlon was pleased to see a friendly face. "The crowds were unbelievable. And there were loads of Irish supporters - it was great to see," the former Irish national champion told procycling after crossing the finish line. "Even the owner of the pub in my home town, where we go in the winter at the end of each season and organise a sort of cycling do, has come over to see me, and it was pretty good to see him at the side of the road." And Scanlon could hear his supporters cheering his name. "I wasn't going that fast, so you know." smiled Scanlon. This year's Tour has been Scanlon's first and, so far, he's enjoyed himself. "It's been a great experience. It's been hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be, so I'm pretty happy with it," he said. Scanlon now hopes he'll make it to the finish in Paris on Sunday. "But there's still the tough stage tomorrow [Thursday] to come. And it will be especially tough after today. Everyone's had to ride flat out to make sure they make the time limit [the stage winner's time plus 33 per cent]. The record is 36 minutes [36.50 - held by Marco Pantani]. I did 45 minutes - so quite all right really. So hopefully I'll be all right!" Stage winner Lance Armstrong finished with 39-41. Scanlon's time of 45-27 gave him a very respectable 65th place finish on the stage, 5-46 behind the American, and well inside the time limit. Lotto-Domo's Aart Vierhouten and Davide Bramati (Quick Step) were not so fortunate, coming in 13-59 and 15-04 down on Armstrong respectively and being eliminated from the race.
Tour first-timer Mark Scanlon copes with the pace on Alpe d'Huez but is amazed by the size of the cr