Merckx thrilled with stage win; L”vkvist comeback

Axel Merckx takes what he rates as one of his best victories to date on stage five of the Dauphiné L

Axel Merckx takes what he rates as one of his best victories to date on stage five of the Dauphiné L
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Being the son of arguably the greatest-ever rider has never been easy for Axel Merckx, and he's not given many chances to forget it, writes Susanne Horsdal. Even after his impressive solo win in Friday's Dauphin stage to Grenoble he was up against this shadow as the opening question at the press conference was: "Eddy, how did..." But Axel Merckx just laughed and answered the question after dropping into the chair as if he weighed a ton. "I hurt all over," he explained. That's understandable. In the 219-kilometre-long stage five from Vaison la Romaine to Grenoble, the Belgian got in the right breakaway that managed to get a gap to the peloton, and at kilometre 110 he decided to try his luck further and took off from the group. Somewhat to his surprise, the plan worked, and from there his advantage just grew until the last 20 kilometres when it began to shrink, although not dangerously. "What I've done today was really great, and I enjoy this, but it was not clever," admitted Merckx, who hadn't planned to have to be on his own for almost 100 kilometres. But he was, though the last kilometres in the hilly course seemed endless to him. "I felt like I'd never get there," said Merckx. While the son was out there struggling, Bernard Thevenet had called Eddy Merckx and said: "Who does he think he is? Does he think his first name is Eddy?" comparing the audacious breakaway to the former exploits of Merckx senior. Alexandre Vinokourov, too, expressed his respect for Axel Merckx's riding. "On the podium, he came to me and said: 'How did you do that?'" said Merckx, who believes this victory could very well be the best of his career. But even though his impressive riding also moved him up to second in the overall stadings, 2.32 behind Inigo Landaluze, he's got no illusions of winning the 57th edition of the Dauphin Libr. "Tomorrow I'll pay for the effort I put in today. The most important thing is also that I'm in good shape for the Tour," said Merckx, who's aiming for a stage win in 'La Grande Boucle'. Second to cross the finish line in Grenoble was Euskaltel's Inigo Landaluze, who finished 2.15 down on Merckx. Following a good performance on Thursday's stage to Mont Ventoux, it was enough to take the yellow jersey from Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer after a long day in the foothills of the Alps - a day that broke the peloton into numerous small groups. On Saturday an even more demanding stage awaits the riders as they take on four first category climbs and top if off with the Col du Joux-Plane. - Lvkvist suffering but optimistic After a period of anxiety, procycling 'Fab Four' member Thomas Lvkvist is back in gear after an involuntary race break. On Thursday's Dauphin stage to Mont Ventoux the Francaise des Jeux rider could - for the first time in weeks - ride without feeling anything of the tendinitis in the knee that forced him to drop out of the Volta a Catalunya. But his preparations for the Tour de France have taken a step back. "The last three kilometres on the Ventoux were just so hard. You can see all the way up to the top and I was just suffering. Between kilometre two and one from the finish we also had a strong headwind and it felt like you were going nowhere. I think I was down to doing 10 kph.," explained Lvkvist with a grin before the start of Friday's stage. "Feeling like that was hard mentally, but as my trainer told me after the stage: 'You have to be realistic. This is the level you're at.'" Nevertheless, the young Swede is once again optimistic and expects to stick to his original preparation schedule for his debut in the Tour. "Saturday's stage will be a little critical for me. But I hope to finish this race. After that it's 90 per cent certain that I'll do the Route du Sud and then I should be ready for the Tour," said Lvkvist.
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