Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Sprinter questions accuracy of line calls

AFP , MARSEILLE, FRANCE

Aussie sprinter Baden Cooke has hit out at the absence of line cameras on the intermediate points on the Tour de France which could jeopardize his campaign to protect the green jersey.

The 24-year-old Australian, who rides for fdjeux.com, has been wearing the points competition's prize since Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, the winner of four stages, bowed out of the race on the first hill a few days ago.

Since then Cooke's French team, which also includes Aussies Brad McGee and Matthew Wilson, have been focusing all their efforts on his cause after having enjoyed three days of McGee wearing yellow at the start of the race.

Cooke claimed that at the first intermediate point, at which the first three riders are awarded six, four and two points, he actually beat compatriot and rival Robbie McEwen to the line but was somehow relegated to second, losing two points in the process.

"I had a good day but it would have been even better if I didn't lose points," Cooke said after the stage, won by Denmark's Jakob Piil and in which Lance Armstrong retained his 21-sec lead over Alexandre Vinokourov.

"I believe I won the first [intermediate] sprint ahead of Robbie. We both went for it and I believe I got my wheel over the line just ahead of him but they gave it to him instead.

"I'm pretty pissed off at that. I don't understand -- it's the Tour de France so why don't they have line cameras?

"I remember even last year it was the same when there were a few close calls between Robbie and [Erik] Zabel."

Cooke was so angry about the decision that after the stage he went to see the line judge.

However, after watching a video cassette of the sprint, just 10km into the stage at Tallard, the race officials upheld their initial decision.

Cooke, who managed to get his own back on McEwen by pipping him in the finish line sprint to grab 16 points, to the Queenslander's 15, now holds a nine-point lead over McEwen in the points standings.

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