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Calzati says French hopes increased from 20 to 99%

By Jean-François Quénet in Mâcon

Hailing from Lyon, Sylvain Calzati was racing on home soil on the way to Mâcon. He was the first rider from the 15 men breakaway to attack, going clear with 50km to go. This initiative didn't exactly make him popular. Some of the other Frenchmen away criticized him for doing it. "I didn't care who was French or not," Calzati answered. "And I don't care about what they think. The place where I attacked was the last possibility for me to create a difference, because I'm not able to break clear at 70km/h. I don't regret I did it."

Having won stage 8 to Lorient, he was probably the less frustrated of the losers in Mâcon. "I'd have liked to win again," he said. "At the beginning of the Tour, I already announced that I wanted to do well in that particular stage. At least I pleased the people who came especially for seeing me on the road side. For a while, our advantage was only between 3 minutes and 3 and half, but in the Ain valley, they let us go. I'm still disappointed that I couldn't race for the stage win at the very end."

With his AG2R team, Calzati has been a major player in the 2006 Tour de France. "The Tour has been great for us," he reckoned. "I hope it'll be even better next year. People say it's a ‘Tour à l'ancienne', a race like it used to be in the past, it means that many riders take risks, they're not afraid of losing, they don't wait for the last climb to put an attack. This Tour is hard, many riders are tired at the end, but the event is full of happiness. I believe it's a great race to watch."

He's encouraged about French riders taking more initiatives than in the past. "Before, we used to start with 20% of chances to win a stage, now it's 99%. I probably had the same good shape during my first Tour de France two years ago, but it's been fantastic to have an impact on the race this year, for GC as well as for stage wins. I hope I'll improve again. I'm younger than my current leaders Christophe Moreau and Cyril Dessel, so maybe in the future there'll be a spot for me with more responsibilities."

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