Jakob Piil vows to keep on attacking, Simoni keeps going despite Martinelli split, Brits take over t
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE PIIL’S LASTING EFFECTS The irrepressible Jakob Piil has vowed to keep adding to his running total of 551km off the front of the Tour de France peloton. The Dane, whose efforts have yet to be rewarded with a stage victory, has put his wanderlust down to good form and finding himself in the right place at the right time. “As the stages go by I feel better and better every day. But I don’t know why I do it every day,” he said. “I’m lucky: I never attack and I always find myself behind the guys who initiate the moves. When you have good legs, all you have to do is pedal. If I was capable of winning sprints, I wouldn’t go to all of this trouble.” Team CSC chief Bjarne Riis can only bow in admiration: “Nothing scares him. What he’s doing is unbelievable. He is in such good form and there’s no point trying to calm him down. You just have to let him get on with it.” Piil, 31, now intends to emulate the stage victory he notched in Marseille in the 2003 Tour. “I’m not going to stop myself attacking,” he smiled on Sunday. “In previous years I attacked even when I wasn’t on form. Now, I’m here, there, everywhere.” SIMONI STAYING IN TO GET OUT? Mystery still surrounds the mid-race exchange between Gilberto Simoni and Saeco boss Giuseppe Martinelli on stage seven of the Tour on Saturday. The conversation, which had looked like the prelude to Simoni’s withdrawal, in fact had the reverse effect, spurring the Italian into a breathless 27km pursuit to rejoin the peloton. Hours later he had finished safely in the pack in St Brieuc. On Sunday, Simoni even deigned to sign the start sheet, something he had declined for do the previous two days. At the finish-line in St Brieuc, Simoni complained of “hurting all over”, “having a million things on his mind” and “the injustice” of his team time trial dbacle on Wednesday. Any questions about his meeting of minds with Martinelli were skilfully deflected. Martinelli was also reluctant to elaborate. He curtly instructed any inquisitors to “go and ask Gilberto.” The inevitable and logical conclusion was that, over the past few hours, cracks in their relationship had become crevasses. The tension between Martinelli and Simoni has its origins in the recent Giro d’Italia. Then, if Simoni felt that his team-mate and eventual usurper Damiano Cunego had undermined his status, he probably blamed Martinelli, Cunego’s mentor, for allowing it to happen. Saeco then laid their cards on the table by multiplying Cunego’s salary by 16 (!). A plan to parade their “Little Prince” to the Tour press pack may now be shelved – Martinelli admitted the other day – because “it may detract attention from Gilberto.” If Simoni thought better of quitting on Saturday, it was almost certainly with a view to boosting his market value over the next two weeks, with a return to the Lampre team in the offing. Matinelli’s powers of gentle (!) persuasion probably also played a part. Forty-eight hours after the event, not even the Italian media is any wiser as to the tenor of Simoni and Martinelli’s conversation. As was the case in St Brieuc, over the next few days, actions will speak louder than words. BRITAIN’S HAPPY ETAPERS There my be no British rider at the Tour de France for the first time since 1976, but any notion that cycling is dead in the land of Queen Elizabeth and Yorkshire pudding was dispelled on Sunday when almost 2,000 Brits took part in the 12th edition of the tape du Tour. Remarkably the British invasion accounted for a quarter of the 7,245 participants in the tape. Ridden on an exact replica of a Tour de France stage route, this year’s tape borrowed the 237km and nine classified climbs which await the Tour proper on Wednesday’s 10th stage between Limoges and Saint Flour. By now well-established as the world’s pre-eminent cyclo-tourist event, Sunday’s “tape” welcomed 29 nationalities and was concluded by 6,555 entrants. tape veterans, the former Vuelta a Espana winner Abraham Olano (718th) and ex-F1 star Alain Prost (364th), were both among the finishers, as was 1997 Wimbledon tennis champion Richard Krajicek (5,277th). First across the line was former GAN pro Jean-Christophe Currit in a shade under seven hours.