Pre-stage 12 comments

By John Trevorrow in Briançon

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)

Now that Boonen is out of the race, how much does it change things for you? "Yes of course Boonen is a very strong sprinter and was riding well but for the last few days he has been in a lot of pain. Now Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen are my main rivals.

Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)

"I think it was going to be a pretty interesting battle as it was because I can't see any more bunch sprints until Paris. Now that's Boonen's out it opens the comp even more."

Today looks the perfect profile for you. "Normally I would agree 100 percent with you. Today I would like to try and get in a breakaway, but now I am second for the maillot vert, no one is going to let me go up the road. There is no way Lotto and Credit Agricole will let me go.

"I have just gotta hope for a stage like a few days ago where it is tough enough, when the other sprinters get dropped and I can hang in there and pick up some points."

Matt White (Cofidis)

"Just heard the news Tom Boonen is out, that's gonna open the sprint comp right up. You've got Thor now in the lead and he is definitely not the fastest one here. Definitely Robbie is the fastest sprinter and Stuey is in front of Robbie, so it's gonna make it real interesting, especially at the start and those first couple of sprints. I was talking about this with Stuey the other night, and in past years Stuey was saying it was won with between 200 and 300 points. This year it looks like it will be won with 160 to 170 points. It just shows you the sprint competition has changed."

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)

How are the pins? "Don't know yet, we will see when we get started."

You said you have had a rough couple of days: "Yeah I have. We have just come through a rough couple of stages, especially the one yesterday. I made it through inside the limit OK, but I still have to suffer like a dog to do that. We came in 40 minutes down, I felt pretty good all day except for the last five or six km of the Galibier.

"I don't know I think I might have had something a bit off at breakfast this morning, I feel a bit crook, we will see how it goes for the rest of the day.

You know that Boonen's out - how does that change things for you. "It doesn't change things a lot because Hushovd was only 5 points behind Boonen, it means instead of chasing 37 points to Tom I am chasing 32 points to Thor.

"It's still a long way to go to Paris and a lot can happen, but I am still at the point where I am saying it's a hell of a lot to make up, we will just see what happens. Sure Hushovd can have a shocker but I know from past experiences, like last year when Hushovd had an 11 point lead and that was hard enough to bring back, let alone take 32 points of someone in the last 10 days of the race.

"The chances of getting a bunch sprint before Paris are pretty much zero, especially without Boonen's team riding with us, so it means you can only take two points here, one point there. So to take back 32 will take a hell of a long time.

"This has been the hardest tour I have ridden so far. This is my eighth tour and I can't remember it ever being this intense every day and the speed so high. We have had some really hard stages with a really high average speed. I don't know what the Tour average is at the moment. I could look in the paper but I can't be bothered."

Simon Gerrans (Ag2r)

How did you pull up after yesterday's monster climbs? "Pretty well actually, I struggled a lot more the day before. I went in a bit hunger flat and finished the stage a bit cross-eyed. Yesterday I got through alright but I was crapping myself before the start. I found a good group, rode a good tempo, and got through without too much drama so that was good."

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