By John Trevorrow in Caen
In St Quentin young Belgian lead out man Gerd Steegmans was the toast of the team as he piloted Robbie McEwen towards victory. Today he bungled the job when he hit the front way too early and left McEwen in a precarious position in the front too far from home.
McEwen could not recover and finished fifth behind triple World Road Champion Spaniard Oscar Friere holding off the current world champion Tom Boonen.
Aussie contenders Mick Rogers and Cadel Evans both avoided the crashes nearing race end and looked fairly fresh at the finish. "It was basically an easy day. Just at the end it got a bit hectic and I knocked it up a notch. You have to keep near the front in the finale even if you're not sprinting. Otherwise you can get caught in splits and crashes," Rogers said. "I kept out of trouble but it was pretty hectic at the end. It was a bit nerve wracking as the crowds are still huge and they can get a bit involved," Evans added
Stuart O'Grady must be dreading pinning on his race number 13 each morning as his run of terrible bad luck continued today when he lost more time through bad luck. "Just when you don't think it can't get much worse. I woke up a feeling a lot stiffer and even more sore. I really thought I would be in trouble, but once I got on the bike and warmed up, I felt a lot better,"O'Grady said.
About eight ks from the finish we came into this roundabout and I punctured. We were doing warp speed and the tyre rolled off the rim. I felt like Mick Doohan as the bike kicked sideways and I had to ride it like a bucking bronco. Maybe that number 13 is not so bad as I was lucky to hold it upright. Hopefully things may improve on the next stage to Vitres. It is Friday but at least not the 13th."