Third stage win for McEwen; Horner and Chavanel go close
By Shane Stokes
Aussie Rocket Robbie McEwen thundered to a third stage win in this year's Tour de France today, benefiting from a last-gasp chasedown of breakaways Chris Horner (Saunier Duval) and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) to sweep by before the line. The Davitamon-Lotto rider hit the front with about 100 metres to go, galloping in ahead of Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) and his own team-mate Fred Rodriguez. Guido Trenti (Quick.Step) was fourth while, crucially, green jersey Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) could only finish fifth, losing points to challengers McEwen and O'Grady.
The day's action was dominated by a long range breakaway group of five riders, Carlos Da Cruz (Francaise des Jeux) instigating it when he attacked at km 15. Together with Horner, Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Ludovic Turpin (Ag2R-Prévoyance) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), they opened up a maximum advantage of over nine minutes with 125 kilometres to go. However, the Lotto-Davitamon chase took chunks out of this lead and the break was barely hanging on with 15 kilometres remaining.
Chavanel cannoned out of the bunch to bridge the gap, then attacked with Horner for company. They had eight seconds with one kilometre to go, but any chance they had of staying clear went kaput when the American (understandably) refused to come through. The bunch duly gobbled them up with about 150 metres left, McEwen tearing by to take his third stage win of the race.
"It was a gamble not to go after them ourselves (at the very end)," he said. "We did all the work today. Those two guys were away at the end but the speed of the bunch is going to take back a lot of time on a breakaway like that. I wasn't too worried. I still had Fred Rodriguez in front of me."
"The thing about today is that it is not about a third win, it is not about me taking another stage. It is a about Davitamon-Lotto. You saw how my team worked today...it is maybe hard to appreciate it just looking at the screen but what my team-mates did today was truly incredible. To bring back nine minutes on day 13 of the Tour is just an incredible effort."
Despite the win, McEwen is still not optimistic about taking a third green jersey. "I took back a couple of more points today but I am still a long way behind," he stated. "I said before that I am more interested in winning stages. I am just over the moon to have win number three."