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Merckx strong, but not strong enough

Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto) was one of the main protagonists in yesterday's Stage 12, eventually finishing 7th after missing David Moncoutié's move on the Col du Corobin. Merckx found himself in a chase group with six others, and although he looked to be the strongest, he could not get them organised enough to close the 30 second gap to the Frenchman in front. Unfortunately for Merckx, Davitamon-Lotto's green jersey oriented team tactics made it harder for him to ride his own race.

On the Corobin, Merckx was forced to drive the pace up and set a hard tempo, instead of trying to go with Moncoutié. "Axel had to get rid of Hushovd and O'Grady, which worked," said team director Marc Sergeant to Sportwereld.be. "Before that I let him take it easy and made the team work to put pressure on the break, so that they had to give full gas. Everything is for the green, after all. On Friday there is likely to be a bunch sprint and maybe Hushovd and O'Grady will pay for their efforts."

Robbie McEwen is currently 35 points behind Hushovd and 13 behind O'Grady in the green jersey competition, an almost impossible task for the Australian, who has won the jersey twice in his career. But after stage 12, he was not writing himself off. "We'll see," he told Belgian TV. "I'll take it form day to day. I lost a lot of points today. Maybe tomorrow it will be different."

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