Quatorze Juillet success for Moncoutié
By Shane Stokes
Frenchman David Moncoutié has taken his second-ever Tour stage victory, celebrating Quatorze Juillet (Bastille Day) in style with a superb solo victory into Digne-Les-Bains. The Cofidis rider was part of a large break which went clear approximately 70 kilometres into today’s lumpy 187 kilometre stage, opening up a good lead over an uninterested peloton.
Present in the initial 11-man move were Moncoutié, Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile Team), Giovanni Lombardi (Team CSC), José Luis Arrieta (Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne), Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto), Massimo Giunti (Fassa Bortolo), Juan Manuel Garate (Saunier Duval-Prodir), Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros-Würth), Patrice Halgand (Credit Agricole), Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Bianchi), and Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux).
These were joined shortly afterwards by green jersey contenders Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) and Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis). Robbie McEwen missed out and, despite Merckx’s presence up front, the Davitamon-Lotto team mounted what was a desperate but ultimately unsuccessful chase.
Once the break opened up a sizeable lead Merckx lit the blue touchpaper with an attack at the 38 kilometre to go point. Moncoutié countered and raced clear, riding strongly all the way to the line to follow up his July 15th stage win of last year’s Tour. Casar sprinted in ahead of Vicioso and Halgand, making it a 1-2-4 for the home riders, while points leader Hushovd outsprinted O’Grady and the rest of the fragmented break for ninth.
"It is great to win on the national holiday...It is a very important day for the French," Moncoutié said. "It was a very nice race today, especially as there were many spectators along the route supporting the French riders."