By Brecht Decaluwé in Digne-les-Bains, France
Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher tried to grab another stage win on the fourteenth stage of the Tour de France, jumping away with Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agriubel) less than 500 metres from the finish in Dignes-les-Bains. The move ultimately came to nothing after the pair were swept up by the sprinters, but Schumacher said he has to use the element of surprise against pure sprinters like stage winner Oscar Freire.
"There were not so many teams to control the race, and after that climb I had a good position," Schumacher said. "I came a bit from the back and ended up on the wheel of Feillu. If he could've gone a bit longer then I would've had a chance. I had to pass him early and with 150 metres to go the sprinters came and it was over for me; it was too early.
"I have to take a long shot because when it comes down to a man-to-man sprint with guys like Freire, then I'm lost," added Schumacher. "I can keep my speed a little longer, but I don't have their acceleration in the last 50 metres. I have to surprise the sprinters."
The German has been trying to win stages right from the start of the Tour in Brest. During the first stage he had a gap on the uphill finish in Plumelec, but just like today it ended up being an effort that began too early. Schumacher took the stage four time trial around Cholet and held the yellow jersey for two days, before an untimely crash on the stage to Super Besse ended his run.
Two weeks into the race, the rider who turns 27 on Monday is still able to battle for stage wins, but acknowledged that the efforts are finally catching up with him.
"I'm really tired and I was surprised that I was in the front," he said of Saturday's finale. "The Tour is really long and actually it feels like it has been longer than two weeks now. The hard stages are still to come. We'll do our job for Bernhard [Kohl] for the general classification, but for me the general classification is not so important.
"Then I'm getting ready for the Olympic Games. I am really motivated for that."