The Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia teams have clashed in almost every sprint in this year's Tour de France but after Mark Cavendish dominated the sprint in Bordeaux, Julian Dean was quick to praise his sprint rival, in a show of sportsmanship that honoured the quiet Kiwi as much as his second place.
Dean is often Tyler Farrar's lead out man but is now Garmin-Transitions' sprinter and showed that he is a high-quality understudy.
"I'm happy with today's result. When we opened up the sprint, he (Cavendish) was clearly fastest, there was no doubt about it. Second
is good. Of course I'd love to win, as we all would," he said.
Dean confirmed that the wind blowing across from the river Garonne hugely influenced the sprint. Thanks to his experience as a lead out man, he is an expert at positioning and fighting for the right wheel in the final kilometre of a sprint.
"It was pretty hectic coming into the finish with the headwind along the river," he explained. "It was tough for any team to string it out
and I had some help from Martijn Maaskant and Dave Millar, who is getting back to form. I had enough help and the position but when I
opened up, I couldn't follow Cav."
Dean tried to lead out Tyler Farrar on the Champs Elysees last year. This year he will be Garmin-Transitions protected sprinter and has a
few tricks up his sleeve. "It's a sprint that everyone knows well. When you've done it a few times, you know how it works. I've got a couple of ideas and on how to attack it."
Third time lucky on the Champs Elysees for McEwen?
Robbie McEwen (Katusha) arrived at the Katusha bus looking fresh but was also hugely disappointed.
The Australian veteran has fought to finish the Tour de France after cutting an artery on stage two and then being knocked to the ground by a cameraman at high speed on stage six. He is still battered and bruised but is almost back to his best.
"I felt really good coming into the sprint and was waiting to open up. But when I crossed the line I felt like I hadn't sprinted," he said in
"I've been up there in the sprints despite all the crashes and I've been getting fourth and fifth. It's getting a bit boring really but I had to give absolutely everything just to run fourth. Today I feel I've done half a sprint and got fourth."
"With the headwind you had to constantly try and pick your way through. Guys kept going from behind out of the wheels and them coming
to a standstill. It opened up on the right, I thought 'Beauty' and I followed Freire but then they came from left to right and shut everything down. I was freewheeling and had to back out from behind someone and then go again. I passed a couple of guys and end up with
fourth but I was really hoping to get that lucky gap but it just didn’t come."
McEwen will try to recover as much as possible during Saturday's time trial and then hope things go his way on the Champs Elysees. He won the big final Tour de France sprint in both 1999 and 2002.
"I had good legs in the finale which is a big change to what I've had in the last three weeks," he said. "I just hope I'll have something
extra in the tank for Sunday after not really sprinting today. If I can get the gap I didn’t get this time, I feel like I'm moving well enough in the sprint to win a stage. You've got to keep believing. I reckon I'm due some luck."