Three-up McEwen hails team-mates

Robbie McEwen and his Davitamon-Lotto team-mates get their timing just right into Montpellier, catch

Robbie McEwen and his Davitamon-Lotto team-mates get their timing just right into Montpellier, catch

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

Robbie McEwen became the first sprinter since Tom Steels won at Cap d'Agde in 1998 to win a transitional stage between the Alps and the Pyrenees when he claimed his third victory of this race in Montpellier this afternoon. McEwen was a bike length clear of Australian compatriot Stuart O'Grady at the line, with McEwen's Davitamon-Lotto team-mate Freddie Rodriguez not far behind them in third.

McEwen immediately paid tribute to his team-mates, dedicating the win to them for what he described as "the incredible work they did in pulling back nine minutes on the break on a stage coming out of the mountains when everyone is tired. I'm just awestruck by their effort," he added. "At times they were doing more than 50k's an hour after all the days we've done so far. It must have been like self-torture for them."

Another very high-speed stage began briskly with several attempts to break away. At 17km, Francaise des Jeux's Carlos Da Cruz made an effort and was joined by Juan Antonio Flecha (on the attack yet again), Chris Horner, Thomas Voeckler and Ludovic Turpin.

The five built a lead of eight minutes (or maybe nine according to McEwen), before the Australian's team-mates went to the front of the peloton to begin their job of clawing back the deficit. Just before they did, at the 76km feed zone, Alejandro Valverde abandoned the race, his knee problem evidently worsening rather than improving.

By the time the leaders reached the streets of Montpellier, with 17km remaining, their advantage over the peloton was not much more than 30 seconds and falling fast. Da Cruz tried to get clear here but was chased down by his four companions.

As the race twisted back and forth through numerous tight bends, Discovery Channel went to the front with the aim of keeping race leader Lance Armstrong out of trouble on what was a very tricky run-in. During these twists and turns, Sylvain Chavanel did manage to get clear and bridged across to the leaders.

With 10km to go, and the bunch in sight behind, Chavanel went again, and Horner was the only rider to respond quick enough to get on his wheel. It never looked likely the pair would stay away, but somehow they managed to stay eight seconds clear going into the last kilometre.

Here, though, they dallied too long. There was no time for cat and mouse with the bunch so close, but Horner stopped coming through, Chavanel turned to watch him and coast, and they only picked up their pace with 400 metres left. By then Liquigas' lead-out men were only 50 metres behind working for Magnus Backstedt.

The route switched left, then left again into the final 200 metres, but Horner and Chavanel were engulfed, sprinters flying by them on all sides. McEwen's gold Australian champion's jersey stood out as he went down the right-hand side, and the only moment of doubt about the eventual outcome was when the Davitamon sprinter lurched sharply to his right just before the line, hampering O'Grady's final effort. The Cofidis rider raised an arm in apparent protest, but it would have been harsh on both McEwen and his dogged team-mates to deny them a hat-trick of stage wins.

Stage 13, Miramas-Montpellier

1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 173.5km in 3.43.14 (46.63kph)
2 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
3 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
4 Guido Trenti (USA) Quick Step
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
6 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
7 Robert Frster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
8 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi
9 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre-Caffita
10 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
11 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
12 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux

15 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
25 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
27 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
31 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
33 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
35 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
38 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears
39 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
40 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak
54 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile
57 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank
62 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Crdit Agricole
72 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
78 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
81 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
82 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
92 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
128 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r 0.23
159 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 5.40

DNF Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears

Overall standings

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 50.13.50 (43.88kph)
2 Rasmussen 0.38
3 Moreau 2.34
4 Basso 2.40
5 Botero 3.48
6 Leipheimer 3.58
7 Mancebo 4.00
8 Ullrich 4.02
9 Klden 4.16
10 Landis
11 Vinokourov 4.47

13 Evans 5.55
16 Julich 6.37
20 Rogers 9.10
23 Hincapie 12.15
28 Horner 15.20
56 O'Grady 51.06
76 McGee 1.02.33
111 Roberts 1.34.42
112 White 1.34.52
117 Rodriguez 1.41.08
118 Davis 1.41.30
131 McEwen 1.50.07
140 Cooke 1.53.44
148 Gerrans 1.57.39

Points

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 164
2 O'Grady 150
3 McEwen 142
4 Frster 84
5 Vinokourov 81
6 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner 79

King of the Mountains

1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 160
2 Moreau 89
3 Botero 88
4 Vinokourov 71
5 Armstrong 40
6 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 34

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

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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