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July 16, 2004

Abt: 'possible rendezvous with meaningful action'

IHT | Tour plays a waiting game, with big challenges near end

Add Samuel Abt to the long list of people who aren't happy with this year's race route.

The Tour de France stopped dithering in the Massif Central on Thursday and headed southwest toward the Pyrenees and a possible rendezvous with meaningful action, a missing ingredient in the race so far.

And to make sure we didn't miss it, that's the lead!

Abt points out that today's win by Moncoutie was the first in 30 years by a French rider from the same département (sort of like a US state) as the stage finish.

Returning to his main theme, that most of the race so far has suffered a "lack of overall significance," Abt mentions the six cows (and no one has posted or sent pictures of the cows!) that briefly stopped the chase:

While comic, those cows, and others decorated with yellow, green and polka dot blankets to mimic the Tour's leader jerseys, failed to lift the overall morosity that has gripped the race. Everyone is wondering when something important will happen.

Blame for this falls on the race organizers, who have packed the last week of the race with the big challenges that will determine the winner and that usually occur far earlier. These are the uphill time trial at Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday and another individual time trial on the flat July 24.

Abt quotes Alessio-Bianchi's Scott Sunderland, who says he doubts that tomorrow's anticipated stage to La Mongie, or even Saturday's stage to Plateau de Beille, will see the big boys facing off.

Even Armstrong, he says, believes the difficulties of Friday's stage "are overrated."

Sunderland says, "The big guys are saving it for Alpe d'Huez," naming Mayo, Carlos Sastre, Oscar Sevilla, and Igor Gozalez de Galdeano as the riders most likely to attack in the Pyrenees.

"They have nothing to lose," Sunderland said. "The big guys won 't let them gain that much time and so they really won't be dangerous to Armstrong, Ullrich and Hamilton.

"And those guys won't be going after each other quite yet, I think.

"For them, it's a waiting game, and there's plenty of time left to wait."

Abt mistakenly identifies Sunderland as the oldest rider in the Tour, but he's 9 months younger than US Postal's Viatcheslav Ekimov.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2004 in David Moncoutié, Tour news, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink