By Gregor Brown in Autun
Robert Hunter has been inching his way toward a stage win in the Tour de France after taking fourth on stage two, fifth on stage three, then second on stage four. The 30 year-old South African is back in the Tour de France after racing last year with Phonak and is proving that his Professional Continental Team Barloworld team was a good selection for ASO.
"My sprint is coming on good enough at this moment," said Hunter to Cyclingnews Thursday morning in Chablis. "I just missed out on the luck. The last few days have been very close but I suppose that is how it always is." He had finished second on Wednesday in the sprint behind Norwegian Thor Hushovd. "It is the luck of the draw sometimes."
This year's Tour de France seems to be open for every sprinter, Hunter agreed. "I think there are a couple of guys that have really good legs and up until now there has been a different winner everyday. So, there is no team that is really dominating at the moment. It is good. I can't really complain, and I am feeling good, we will have to wait and see what happens in the future."
Hunter is using men like Kanstantsin Siutsou for his lead-out. "I think it is a bit difficult," he said of the team's lead-out train. "We are a slightly smaller team and we don't have... I can't expect anymore than what they are doing. There is no one here who has huge experience in this type of race. What they are trying to do for me is already fine; I am trying to ride off of everyone else and it seems to be working - it is not always the perfect situation but I can't complain."
After getting shelled on the final climb to Autun on stage five, he will have another chance when the Tour finishes in Bourg-en-Bresse on stage six after 199.5 kilometres of racing. "I think tomorrow will be another day for the sprinters. Tom [Boonen] still hasn't won, Robbie [McEwen] would like to get another one." He hopes to factor in to that list of sprinters on Friday. "Yeah. I would like to have another big bash tomorrow. I am sure if the other team try to get it down to a bunch sprint tomorrow then we will be up there with one or two guys to help this and see what happens from there."
Being back at the Grand Tour level is a special experience for the former ProTour rider. "The last time I was here was with Phonak. Obviously it is good to be in the Tour this year and just, basically, racing for myself."