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Tour of Attrition

"Have you seen all stars and planets in one afternoon before, in broad daylight? No? I have!" former lanterne rouge Wim Vansevenant told the Belgian press after yesterday's stage. "Inhuman," he described the last few stages of the Tour. Although only eleven riders had abandoned thus far before Carcassonne, suddenly five more victims were added to that list yesterday.

"The nature of today's stage is to blame. You can't compare different Tours de France. One and a half week on the flat roads. It gives you a bit of time. But to say it wasn't hard until now...The unravelling has started!"

However Davitamon soigneur Dirk Lenaers is quoted in HNB as saying things aren't that bad. "I haven't got the impression that the riders are more tired than otherwise," he said. "On the contrary; I haven't heard them complain on the massage table. Not even after Pla-de-Beret. There wasn't a Discovery train to make the tempo. The speed of this Tour is a lot lower than was the case in previous years. Don't forget two teams didn't make it to the start at all. There's less nervousness, fewer crashes.

"We won't have to wait till the Alps though (to see guys in trouble). I know those so-called transition stages. For sure the one on Sunday towards Gap. Murder! Continuously uphill, a descent on rough asphalt. And on top of that the heat which is common in that area during the summer months. I would wait to make up an assessment about a Tour which is less hard and has fewer abandons. Within a few days, a lot can change, watch my words."

Gerrie van Gerwen (Milram), on the other hand, says the increase in comfort has made sure the riders are able to hang in longer: "The quality of the hotels has increased enormously. Our riders have been enjoying mostly air-conditioned rooms and sleep better in this heat. They are getting more specialised nutrition and comfortable buses to make the transfers with."

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