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Tour de France: notes from the inside


CONGRATULATIONS FROM A SENATOR

For the second day running Jonathan Vaughters received an email from Senator John Kerry congratulating the manager and his Garmin-Cervelo team for a stage win at the Tour de France.

Kerry, a senator for Massachusetts and the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 2004, is good friends with Vaughters.

"Kerry's a massive cycling fan," Vaughters told The Associated Press on Monday. "He's got a (Garmin-Cervelo) jersey and shorts, he always rides in it."

Vaughters showed the AP an email he had received from Kerry after Sunday's victory in the team time trial, adding that he got "another congratulatory note" on Monday after American sprinter Tyler Farrar had won the third stage.

Vaughters said he received the following note from Kerry on Sunday after stage 2:

"Congratulations on a terrific showing today. It was really fun to watch you guys set pace, focused and disciplined and to listen to your exhortations. Hope to get over, maybe towards the end (of the Tour). All the best, John Kerry."


EVANS FEARS THIN ROADS

Cadel Evans is worried that the roads at the Tour de France are getting a bit too thin and dangerous.

The two-time Tour runner-up has made a positive start to this year's race and was in third place overall after Monday's third stage. But Evans lamented the lacy bends near the end of the route from Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon.

"It was a nervous, dangerous stage with a fair bit of wind in the final," Evans said. "It seems they use more and more narrow roads in the Tour. It's great for excitement but puts the risk rating up a bit high."

The Australian, who was Tour runner-up in 2007 and '08, thanked veteran teammate George Hincapie for keeping him safe on the roads.

"Fortunately, George and Marcus (Burghardt) kept me in front most of the time."

The 34-year-old Evans will get a chance to test his climbing legs in Tuesday's fourth stage, which he should relish as it features a final climb with an average gradient of 6.9 percent and some sections at 15 percent.


BUMPER CROP FROM AMERICA

Ten American riders celebrated Independence Day on the roads of the Tour de France this year. It is the highest number of American riders in the race for 25 years.

Veterans like BMC's George Hincapie and RadioShack's Chris Horner were among the US riders taking stock of the bumper crop from America this year - and looking to some promising young compatriot competitors.

"Ten Americans at the Tour de France just shows you how much the sport has grown in the U.S.," said Hincapie, who is riding his 16th Tour. "You know people are really starting to realize what a grueling sport this is, and starting to respect it."

Tyler Farrar, among the world's best sprinters, became the first American rider to win a Tour stage on July 4 when he won Monday's third stage.

In 1986, 10 American cyclists competed on two teams. This year, there are four US teams: RadioShack, BMC, Garmin-Cervelo and HTC-Highroad.


by Jerome Pugmire, with Jamey Keaten
© Associated Press

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