Moncoutié becomes a local heroClose
The final stage before the mountains falls to a climber, as Cofidis' David Moncoutié wins the stagePICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE This is turning into some race for the French. As Thomas Voeckler finished in the pack to complete a week in the yellow jersey, another home rider renowned for riding on 'eau claire' (in other words, clean), Cofidis' David Moncouti, took the stage win in Figeac this afternoon. Much has been expected of Moncouti since he finished 13th and top French rider in the 2002 Tour, and he admitted in an interview with procycling earlier this year that his ambition this time was to win a stage, preferably on his favoured terrain in the mountains. Today's stage did not fit the bill exactly, but there was little flat on the rolling road between St Flour and Figeac. Appropriately, though, the finish was just 60 miles or so north of his home in Toulouse and not far from Blagnac, where he rode as an amateur. Moncouti's win was forged initially with a successful breakaway partnership with Euskaltel's Egoi Martinez. There was the usual flurry of attacks right from the start, but when this pair went clear after the second climb and were quickly joined by Fassa Bortolo breakaway specialist Juan Antonio Flecha there was every chance of them being away for a while. The only question was whether the bunch would chase in order to set up a final field sprint. That issue was resolved on the second-category Montsalvy climb, 65km from Figeac. The trio's lead was trimmed slightly from almost eight minutes to 6-40, but soon began to climb again. In this they were helped by an incursion onto the course of a herd of cows, who set a cracking pace in front of the Brioches-led peloton, but disrupted the impetus that seemed to be gathering. The leaders' advantage reached eight and then nine minutes as they bumped in towards Figeac. Nine kilometres from home, Flecha, who won stage 11 into Toulouse last year, made a good stab at imitating that winning attack, but Moncouti responded, the two Spaniards looked at each other, and effectively that was it. Moncouti, who admitted afterwards he knew the road well, pressed on and was well clear as the first-ever Tour stage winner in Figeac. Flecha was too quick for Martinez, and a couple of minutes behind them the bunch was led in by Thor Hushovd, who clawed a few points back on Robbie McEwen, who seemed to pull his foot out of the pedal early in the sprint.