After Baden Cooke's near miss in stage 4, La Francaise des Jeux has decided that it will ride a more aggressive race. In today's sixth stage, the boys in white could be seen on the front, keeping Cooke out of trouble on the finishing circuits. It didn't quite pay off this time, with Cooke finishing 16th, but better than his 190th position in stage 5.
"I had good legs up there and the boys did an awesome job," Cooke told Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow after the stage. "It's not bad when you can race Fassa on the front with a couple of neo-pros. The boys were on the front for 10 km and that was saving my legs and I had good legs for the finish. When Robbie let Henk go, it was a pretty good move and you wouldn't have thought he could take it all the way from the corner, and as it turned out, he nearly did.
"Brett Lancaster came past and I got on his wheel. That was perfect. He stopped pedaling, and I sort of jumped a bit, I hesitated, then I realised I can't do that. But then, two people had already passed me, and got their handlebars past mine. There was nothing I could do. I kept trying to sprint into gaps that weren't there. I felt good, it was just an error of judgment. There's nothing worse than having good legs and not being able to sprint."
Cooke's injuries from his finish line crash in stage 4 have improved markedly after the arrival of his personal physiotherapist yesterday. "Ben drove for nine hours from Monaco yesterday and gave me a two and a half hour rub last night. It straightened out all the problems, and today I felt 100 percent better. Yesterday, everything was out of whack, my neck was sore, I had a spare bike that didn't fit. Today I had the right bike and I felt good."
There is still ongoing tension between Cooke and Paolo Bettini's Quick.Step team, combined with the fact that Fassa Bortolo hasn't managed to win a stage. "The Italians aren't real happy," said Cooke of the ambience in the peloton. "It's like they've had things their way for so long and it's their race, and we're out there racing so hard and they're taking offense at it, with Bettini whinging and carrying on about what's happened and the Quick.Step guys are at me at random. Zanini tried to push me off the wheel today and Bettini said 'just let him go'. 'Nah, stuff him,' said Zanini.
"Fassa are also getting upset, and they're obviously rattled. In the past they've just got their train to ride on the front. Now they've got us taking them on, Lotto taking them on, everyone's taking them on. They're panicking. And when they finally get the lead off us, they just drop themselves! I was right behind them and I just managed to dive underneath. Apparently their director is putting a lot of pressure on them, really getting into them, and it's probably not helping them. Petacchi, who rides on confidence a bit, obviously hasn't got any at the moment. Especially now after dropping himself.
"The legs are there anyway. I need one little chance and I'll get a win."
Cooke's teammate Matt Wilson echoed his comments, saying, "We've decided that maybe we should just take it up the front and keep Baden out of trouble. Last time we did that it worked really well. We have a couple of young guys, really strong, who are all beside themselves. They're taking it to Fassa. It's pretty good, a couple of neo-pros taking it up to the Fassa boys, and now they're getting frustrated compared to last year when everyone just say behind Fassa and Petacchi got the best run possible. It's different now, there's a real battle, and they don't know what's going on. I think they're under a lot of pressure."
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