Pozzato Wins Stage 7 of Tour
Filippo Pozzato (Fassa Bortolo), the youngest rider in this year's Tour, has given his team its second stage win of the 2004 Grande Boucle. The 22-year-old Italian took a three-up sprint from Iker Flores (Euskaltel) and Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) to win Stage 8, a rolling, 204.5-km run from Chateaubriant to St. Brieuc, in 4:31:34. Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangere) remains the maillot jaune.
From the start, the racing was fast. Massimo Giunti (Domina Vacanze), Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), and Karsten Kroon (Rabobank) took an early flyer, but the bunch reeled them in. At 55 km, however, Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Thierry Marichal (Lotto) attacked. The pair's lead maxed out at 8:30 before Brioches La Boulangere began to chase.
With 50 km left, CSC joined Brioches La Boulangere at the front. The peloton split, and the favorites were all in the lead group. Green jersey Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) and yellow jersey Voeckler were in the second group and had to chase to rejoin the leaders.
With 24 km remaining, Jakob Piil (CSC), Evgeni Petrov (Saeco), Cancellara, and Cente Garcia (Illes Balears) attempted to bridge up to the leaders. Four km later, the counterattackers caught and dropped Dekker and Marichal. With 16 km left, the leading quartet led the field by 0:30.
La Francaise des Jeux.com, Quick Step, T-Mobile, and Gerolsteiner led the chase. With nine km left, the bunch caught the break. Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) made an abortive sally, and then Jose Gutierrez (Illes Balears), Flores, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze), Mancebo, Pozzato, Laurent Brochard (Ag2r), and Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) escaped. The real race was on.
With two km left, Brochard attacked, but Flores, Pozzato, and Mancebo caught and dropped the former world champion. With 800 m remaining, Mancebo had a go, but Pozzato and Flores caught the Spanish champion. With 200 m left, Pozzato came around Mancebo for the win.
The first week has been nerve wracking, and the crashes are evidence of this. Tyler Hamilton (Phonak) noted, however, that Stage 7 was different. "It was more relaxed, less stressful," he said. "Everybody was a little more relaxed after yesterday's chaotic stage."
In the overall, Voeckler leads O'Grady by 3:01 and Sandy Casar (La Francaise des Jeux.com) by 4:06. Stage 8 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 168-km run from Lamballe to Quimper will probably end in a bunch sprint. Who will take it? Erik Zabel (T-Mobile)? Robbie McEwen (Lotto)? Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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