Patient McEwen takes second stage win

Robbie McEwen plays the waiting game perfectly, winning a huge sprint in front of massive crowds in

Robbie McEwen plays the waiting game perfectly, winning a huge sprint in front of massive crowds in

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

Robbie McEwen drew level with Tom Boonen in the winning stakes as the Davitamon-Lotto rider led the bunch home in front of an immense crowd lining the finishing straight in Karlsruhe. It was the Australian's second win in three days, and came partly as a result of the Australian showing patience earlier in the stage when he dropped out of a break and back into the bunch and subsequently did not contest the intermediate sprints, where vital points were on offer for the green jersey.

According to CSC's Jens Voigt, this was a pretty regular stage for the Tour de France. "It started at warp speed, there were breaks all over the place, then someone got away and we rode tempo for a while, then the sprinters' teams took over, the break was caught, and there was a sprint," explained the German as he was mobbed for interviews at the finish.

The speed dropped below warp level on the first of two categorised climbs, where Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann took the points. The young German, who won the mountains jersey at last year's Giro, pressed on, and was surprisingly joined by McEwen. The pair cooperated for 10km or so, before the Aussie dropped back to the bunch, perhaps wondering what had got into him.

That left Wegmann alone. He had clearly gone looking for KoM points and took the maximum on the third-cat col du Hantz, ensuring he will be in the polka-dot jersey tomorrow. Wegmann pressed on, his lead by now more than seven minutes. It reached a maximum of eight and a half at about the long stage's halfway point.

His advantage began to fall as the bunch picked up momentum coming into the second intermediate sprint (146.5km). Quick Step and Crdit Agricole worked hard to set up Boonen and Thor Hushovd respectively, with the Belgian taking it easily. Fifty kilometres on, there was a similar scenario and verdict. McEwen, however, was nowhere to be seen.

By now Wegmann's lead was a couple of minutes and collapsing, as the peloton's speed increased on a German dual carriageway often lined four and five deep with fans. Twenty kilometres from home, Wegmann was reeled in, his hopes of becoming the first Gerolsteiner ride to win a Tour stage and the first German to win a Tour stage on home soil gone.

Several teams tried to impose order on the front of the peloton, but none really got it under control. Discovery frequently appeared on the far side of the road with their own string, keeping race leader Lance Armstrong safe from the battle for stage-winning position.

Quick Step and Davitamon were the most prominent teams late on, but coming into the last kilometre Francaise des Jeux's Brad McGee came to the front with Baden Cooke on his wheel, and Boonen loitering behind with intent. McGee notched up the pace a bit more and released Cooke down the centre of the road. But there were quicker riders coming on the rails.

McEwen switched to the right-hand side of the road, followed by Magnus Backstedt, and this pair had a clear gap on the rest at the line, where the Australian headed the Swede by a bike length. Bernhard Eisel came on the left to take third place, with Boonen and Hushovd swamped and struggling after their earlier efforts.

There was no notable overall change, but there could well be tomorrow, when the bunch tackle the first of the weekend's mountains in the Vosges. The col de la Sclucht tops out at just over 1100 metres just six kilometres from the finish in Grardmer. It seems guaranteed that Boonen and McEwen's ongoing sprint battle will have to wait for another day.

Stage 7, Lunville-Karlsruhe

1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 228.5km in 5.03.45 (45.14kph)
2 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi
3 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux
4 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Lampre-Caffita
5 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
7 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
8 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
10 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo
11 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis

22 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
27 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile
30 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
45 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
52 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
53 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
55 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
63 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
65 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
68 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
84 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
86 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros
92 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
103 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
114 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
118 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
129 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
133 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Liberty Seguros
150 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel
154 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r
168 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
173 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
178 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 1.23

Overall standings

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 23.01.56
2 Hincapie 0.55
3 Vinokourov 1.02
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 1.04
5 Julich 1.07
6 Jos Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.14
7 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel 1.16
8 Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel 1.26
9 Basso
10 Arvesen 1.32

13 Ullrich 1.36
16 Roberts 1.38
18 Landis 1.50
24 Kloeden 2.29
26 Leipheimer 2.31
28 Beloki 2.43
32 Heras 2.58
42 McEwen 3.21
43 Davis 3.22
47 Evans 3.29
59 Rodriguez 3.57
67 Rogers 4.11
68 McGee 4.12
70 O'Grady 4.23
82 Horner 4.54
91 White 5.15
111 Mayo 5.48
121 Cooke 6.34
151 Hunter 9.51
155 Gerrans 10.06
159 Zabriskie 10.28

Points

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 133
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 122
3 McEwen 96
4 O'Grady 91
5 Forster 75
6 Furlan 73

King of the Mountains

1 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 10
2 Stphane Auge (Fra) Cofidis 8
3 Karsten Kroon (Hol) Rabobank 7
4 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 7
5 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 6
6 Christophe Mengin (Fra) Francaise des Jeux 6

Young rider: Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel
Team: CSC

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