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Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer tonight heralded David Moncouti's Bastille Day victory in stage 12 of the Tour de France as "the best possible response to the doping scandals which have struck the Tour de France over the past 48 hours".
Amid jubilant scenes outside the Cofidis team bus in Digne Les Bains this evening, Boyer told journalists that Moncouti's superb solo win was "rich with significance". Boyer was referring, naturally, to the timing of the first French stage win of the Tour, on July 14, but also to the fact that the rider known in his homeland as 'Monsieur Propre' or 'Mr Clean' had triumphed on another day when talk of doping threatened to overshadow the Tour.
"David's win proves that this is a sport worth fighting for," Boyer beamed in between ecstatic bear-hugs from Cofidis directeur sportif Francis Van Londersele and Sylvain Chavanel. "How could we react after what has happened over the past 48 hours? Would we go home and feel sorry for ourselves or would we try to learn our lessons, draw on our resources and fight for cycling?" Boyer demanded.
"David loves his sport, which is also his art," he continued. "He rides his bike like an artist and his bike is his medium. He is an enormous talent. He has similar physical gifts to a Jalabert or a Hinault, but we just wish that he would realise it. If he does, when he does, he'll become more consistent and achieve even more."
While rejecting the comparisons with Hinault and Jalabert, a euphoric Moncouti tonight admitted that he had perhaps not done justice to his natural ability thus far in the Tour.
"I wasn't at my best in the Vosges or in the Alps and some of the criticism of me, even coming from my own team bosses, may have seemed justified," said the 30-year-old climber, a winner of a similar stage to Figeac in last year's Tour. "I tend to let people say what they want, but I don't think that there was any need to make inferences about me being amateurish."
Moncouti was referring to comments made by Van Londersele earlier in the Tour, and gave a different explanation for his 84th place finish in the second Alpine stage to Brianon yesterday.
"Us French riders seem to be a little bit off the pace in the high mountains here at the Tour. I've come to realise that I can compete with the best in the Dauphin Libr every June but not in the Tour. Yesterday, on the Galibier I could see that the pace was too high and I thought that it was pointless to bust a gut to stay with the leaders. At best, I could have perhaps finished 30th.
Asked whether he saw his French compatriots' lack of success at the Tour as a result of their unwillingness to resort to the kind of desperate measures which landed Dario Frigo in a police cell yesterday, Moncouti said that he didn't want to "court controversy".
"As long as we don't have the proof, we can't make allegations. I would ask people to wait until the end of the Tour and then draw their own conclusions. There's no doubt, though, that what happened yesterday is a bit of a kick in the teeth for everyone," he commented.
'Mr Clean' shines throughClose
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