PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
All publicity is good publicity, or so the saying goes, although Tom Boonen may not agree. Having seen Robbie McEwen ruin his 100 per cent record in bunch sprints so far at this Tour, Boonen was tonight left ruing an advertisement for one of his team sponsors which may just have put enough fire in McEwen's belly to propel him ahead of the Belgian in the closing metres of stage five to Montargis.
McEwen tonight described the advertisement placed by mattress manufacturer and Quick Step co-sponsors Innergetic in Wednesday's L'Equipe. A photograph of Monday's blanket finish, in which Boonen ran out a comfortable winner and McEwen was disqualified for impeding compatriot Stuart O'Grady, the ad hinted that Boonen's success may be due to the Belgian's superior sleep hygiene. "Well rested?" said the caption pointing to Boonen, while, next to him, McEwen's head lay horizontal on O'Grady's shoulder underneath a second caption: "Tired?"
It emerged this evening that Quick Step pleaded with Innergetic not to run the advertisement, fearing that it might inspire McEwen and his Lotto-Davitamon team-mates. "Davitamon makes vitamins, so maybe tomorrow they'll place an ad suggesting that Tom didn't take his vitamins," McEwen joked.
The Aussie's sixth Tour de France stage victory was, of course, the best possible commercial for employers, to whom the 33-year-old paid tribute tonight. "It has been us and Quick Step controlling this race every day, so this is a fitting reward for my team-mates," he said. McEwen went on to reveal why his victory celebration - with fingers pointed defiantly towards his own jersey - was to be read as a double entendre: "It meant that I was the fastest sprinter today and that my team and sponsor deserved this win.
"Today I was very motivated throughout," McEwen explained. "I must have seen a picture of the finish in my head at least one hundred times during the stage. But today's win doesn't change my feelings about my disqualification the other day. Sean Kelly and Eddy Merckx both said that it was unfair and those two guys certainly know what they're talking about. It's also put a big hole in the green jersey competition and made sure that it will be a lot less exciting than in the past few years."
Despite his victory today, McEwen, the defending champion in the points competition, still trails Boonen's green jersey by some 45 points, a deficit which he is unlikely to overhaul before the race reaches the Alps next Monday. Boonen appeared to acknowledge that tonight when he was philosophical about his narrow defeat on the line.
"I think that I wound the sprint up too early," said this year's Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix champion. "When [Janek] Tombak fell, [Guido] Trenti and [Stefano] Zanini had to do a great job to bring me back to the front and I entered the last kilometre in a good position. That was when a Crdit Agricole rider came through on my inside and obstructed me. I had to start from zero again. Overall, though, I'm happy to have more or less consolidated my lead in the green jersey competition."
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM