Tour de France: Moncoutié in the clear as doping row intensifies

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The Independent Online

For the second time in 24 hours, a Frenchman celebrated a lone win in the Tour when David Moncoutié returned to his roots with a solo victory here in his native département of Lot.

A win by a coureur régional - a rider whose birthplace coincides with wherever the Tour happens to be at the time - is rare enough, but Moncoutié's first bouquet had an unusual parfum about it for other reasons, too. In his eight-year career, there has never been the slightest whiff of a doping story about Moncoutié, a task made harder by his belonging to the squad at the centre of the latest scandals, Cofidis.

Yesterday the Frenchman helped form an early three-man break on a 164-kilometre stage peppered with minor climbs, and then made a tactically sound decision to shoot off alone on the last tiny ascent before the finish.

"I wanted to get a few seconds' advantage before holding on on the drop into Figeac," Moncoutié explained later. But right down to his victory dedications Moncoutié's individualistic attitude to cycling's doping scandals remained clear.

Whereas the Cofidis rider Stuart O'Grady said his victory at Chartres last week was partly for a team-mate, the Briton David Millar who is facing a two-year ban after admitting taking EPO, Moncoutié simply stated that his win went out "to everybody who's supported Cofidis during this difficult time".

Moncoutié has refused to use almost any recovery products whatsoever, legal or otherwise. But he is a free thinker in other ways as well: yesterday, Moncoutié - who for a long time had shocked his team by living in the centre of Paris, training on hills in local parks - had, as ever, refused to wear a race radio and risk remaining at the mercy of their orders.

His victory shone the brighter on a day overshadowed by the publication in Le Monde of comments by the former Tour winner Greg LeMond concerning his fellow-American Lance Armstrong. Whenever the issue of drugs has come up, the Texan has always been able to declare that he never has returned a positive test, but LeMond stated in Le Monde: "David Millar never tested positive - and then he admitted he had taken EPO."

LeMond's comments may further unsettle Armstrong as the Tour enters its most critical phase, with the Frenchman Thomas Voeckler still leading the Texan by 9min 35sec.

Today's 197.5km stage ends with the climb to the ski resort of La Mongié in the Pyrénées, where Armstrong won in 2002. Sadly for British fans, the closest they have to a coureur régional, Sweden's Magnus Backstedt - married to a Welsh cyclist and Cardiff-based - quit yesterday with a back injury.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

TOUR DE FRANCE 11th stage (164km, St Flour to Figeac) Leading results: 1 D Moncoutie (Fr) Cofidis 3hr 54min 58sec; 2 J A Flecha (Sp) Fasso Bartolo +2min 15sec; 3 E Martinez (Sp) Euskaltel +2:17; 4 T Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole +5:58; 5 E Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile; 6 R McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo; 7 P Bettini (It) Quick Step-Davitamon; 8 D Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner; 9 L Armstrong (US) US Postal; 10 S O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis; 11 G Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner; 12 S Sunderland (Aus) Alessio-Bianchi; 13 J Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile; 14 T Voeckler (Fr) Brioches La Boulangère; 15 L Leipheimer (US) Rabobank all same time. Overall: 1 Voeckler 46hr 43min 10sec; 2 O'Grady +3min 00sec; 3 S Casar (Fr) +4:13; 4 R Virenque (Fr) Quick Step-Davitamon +6:52; 5 J Piil (Den) Team CSC +7:43. Selected: 6 Armstrong +9:35; 7 Zabel +9:58. King of the mountains: 1 Virenque 84pts; 2 A Merckx (Bel) Lotto-Domo 57; 3 Bettini 36. Points: 1 McEwen 210pts; 2 Zabel 201; 3 Hushovd 195. Teams: 1 Team CSC 138hr 04min 41sec; 2 Alessio-Bianchi +2min 23sec; 3 Brioches La Boulangère +4:16.