By Jean-François Quénet in Montceau-les-Mines
Rarely a Tour de France rider doesn't make the time cut in the final time trial. It has happened to Robert Hunter, although the South African had showed good form all the way, riding efficiently for Floyd Landis on the flat sections of the race. But he finished the three-week event with an horrible saddle sore. "I rode the whole time trial standing!" he said, while getting to know that he was out of the time cut because of covering the 57 kilometres more than 18 minutes and 9 seconds slower than Serguei Gonchar's. As he was supposed to finish no more than 16 minutes and 58 seconds, which was 25% more than the winning time, he's out of the race.
"What a way to end the Tour", he commented sadly. But he'll share with his Phonak teammates the celebration of Landis' victory in Paris. Hunter was the first South African to ride the Tour five years ago, then he became the first South African to finish the Tour, this year he can be considered as the first South African to win the Tour through his team captain.
The French champion Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne) will also be a non-starter of the last stage. He heavily crashed at the same place as Christophe Moreau, hitting the barricades. He has multiple fractures in his hand. "My back is also extremely sore", he said, very frustrated about not finishing a race he enjoyed a lot in the service of Oscar Pereiro.