Boonen happy, Freire back to winning ways, and Isasi a surprise; but more woes for Dean, and the cra
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It's a toss-up between a good day and a bad day for Tom Boonen, but then when you've successfully defended your yellow jersey
for the second day, surely it can't really be considered anything other than good. Still, Boonen had to face the inevitable press questions about not yet having won a stage. "In the sprint, it's up to me in the last 300 metres, and I made a mistake today," Boonen said. "My team has been fantastic, but I admit I am a bit nervous. It's been a strain to keep the yellow jersey, but I'm close to getting the green, which is my main objective here." And what about how easily he could win at Paris-Nice in March, and yet seems to be struggling here? "This isn't Paris-Nice," Boonen replied, more than a little sniffily. "Despite many of the same riders being here, everyone's nervous, and riders take far bigger risks. And it's the same for me. When you're relaxed, you win; when you're not, you don't. That's the Tour for you." At the end of the day, it was happy thoughts for the Belgian, having extended his grip on the yellow jersey to 13 seconds over Michael Rogers thanks to the 12-second time bonus for second. Bet he wishes it had been a 20-second bonus for first, though.
Of course, winning the stage makes for a good day in anyone's books, but it's only the Spaniard's second stage victory at the Tour, with his first one having come four years ago between Luxembourg
and Sarrebruck. "I'm going a lot better this year than last," Freire said, "and today decided to take some risks to try for the win, and it worked." Besides the stage win, the Rabobank rider also jumped to third on the overall classification thanks to the accompanying 20-second time bonus, and is now 17 seconds down on Tom Boonen. Any thoughts of trying for the yellow in the coming days? "I will be trying for another stage win, but it will be hard to get the yellow jersey as there are so many other sprinters so close overall," said Freire. "My first objective here was to win a stage, and I've done that already, but of course I'd be delighted if could win another one."
The feeling in the press room that some sprinters may not quite be on top of their game, including Boonen and Zabel, has perhaps filtered through to the peloton. Basque all-rounder Inaki Isasi mixed it with the big guns and scored third on Thursday's fifth stage behind Freire and Boonen. Might there be a stage win in the 29-year-old Euskaltel rider's legs yet? It's certainly rare to see Euskaltel riders - known typically to be mountain goats - contesting the sprints, but he's certainly getting closer, having recorded two 12th places already in the opening two road stages, and now a third.
Bad day for Julian Dean? The worst! Having crashed in the finishing sprint on Wednesday's fourth stage, Dean found himself on the deck again on Thursday, caught in a crash with 4km to go, injuring his knee. But that came on top of the news that he was being fined 200 Swiss francs for 'irregular riding' in Wednesday's sprint that led to his first crash. Perhaps a little harsh considering the only person he hurt was himself, but rules are rules. Let's hope for some better luck for the bruised Kiwi in the coming days.
Egoi Martinez and the crash club
The agony-and-the-ecstasy nature of the race showed itself once more as one of the heroes of Wednesday's day-long breakaway, Discovery's Egoi Martinez, was brought down to earth with a bump on Thursday. He joined the rest of the day's crashees on the day's communiqu medical, including Caisse d'Epargne's Isaac Galvez and Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), who fell at the same time as Julian Dean, both suffering nothing worse than some cuts and bruises, and David 'Moncoucou' Moncouti, who fell 175km into the stage and injured his left knee.