By Jean-François Quénet in Angoulême
Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux) finally won a stage in the Tour de France after trying many times with no success. In 2005, he finished second twice, and he did so again last week in Marseille behind Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep - Innergetic). "I had come second too many times. I could have been fourth today, it didn't matter. Only the victory counted," he said.
"It's a relief," said team manager Marc Madiot who advised his riders prior to the start that to increase the chance of a French win, it was best to breakaway with other Frenchmen. A gentleman's agreement between Casar and Bouygues Telecom's Laurent Lefèvre also worked for the good of the man with the four leaf clover jersey.
Casar's win wasn't enough to cancel out all the bad news for French cycling. "It remains a sh** Tour," added the FDJ boss. But it gives a bit of hope as Casar and his team have stood clear against drugs since 1998. "On Sunday next week, I [will] organize a bike race for Under 17 [racers]. There will be more than 100 starters, and I want these kids to have the will to become bike riders," Madiot said determined, but optimistic.
Madiot said he was proud to see Casar taking the initiative with about three kilometers to go. As the rest of the group was going on the right side of a roundabout, Casar attacked on the left. "Boogerd chased me down quite hard," Casar said. "When they caught me with 300 meters to go, I thought it was over for me, but I persisted because I wanted this win very badly. I wanted to do well for all the crowd who supported us again today."
He had crashed after only 27km of racing due to a dog that crossed the road unexpectedly in front of him. "We hadn't created a big gap to the bunch yet, so we were riding flat out when a dog crossed the road. Dogs always get crazy when the crowd yells. I thought I had avoided him, but he blocked my foot, and I went down. I thought I wouldn't come make it back across. Because of circumstances, I did thanks to Axel Merckx who was in between the break and the bunch."
Casar has been a talented professional ever since he joined FDJ in 1999. Now he's got the freedom to set his own goals. "Because of finishing sixth at the Giro last year, I gave it a go in the GC here at the Tour this year, but once again, I've struggled a lot in the mountains," he said. "Attacking is my way of racing. Breaking away is what I like. I hate staying on the wheels in the peloton. Now I know that I'll forget about the GC, and I'll go for stage wins again in future Tours de France."