Tour de France: Jérôme Coppel fighting through illness and hoping for Paris
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Tour de France: Jérôme Coppel fighting through illness and hoping for Paris

by Kyle Moore at 4:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Frenchman’s GC hopes have faltered since picking up a cough

Jerome CoppelJérôme Coppel, the general classification hope for French wildcard team Saur-Sojasun, has spent the better part of a week fighting off illness, making for a difficult Pyrenean stretch for the Frenchman. He finished with a main group on stage 18, just 16 seconds behind stage winner Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling), and seems stuck in 21st place overall.

But the path to the Champs Élysees has been a difficult one for Coppel, especially in the past five days. He finished with the main group on stage 13, maintaining his 14th place overall in the Tour, but reported a cough during the stage.

“I had a fever earlier in the stage. I had a cough and my breathing was blocked,” Coppel said then. “I went to see the doctor during the race. In the end, the feelings are a little behind. Going forward, I think it will be okay.”

He held his position over the next two days, even sounding hopeful after stage 15 on Monday, heading into the rest day.

“I am a little better than yesterday at this hour,” Coppel remarked on Monday. “The bronchus and the trachea hurt when I breathe, but overall it’s a little better. With the rest day, I should be fine.”

But Coppel did not come good out of the rest day, losing big time in stages 16 and 17 through the Pyrenees. He lost over eight minutes to the main leaders on stage 16, followed by almost 16 minutes a day later. The time loss was enough to drop him to 21st overall, a place he is likely to maintain. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is more than two minutes ahead in 20th, and Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) is over five minutes behind in 22nd.

Saur-Sojasun had illness circulating early on, as Brice Feillu was isolated from team-mates, and finishing in the back of most stages. Feillu has since recovered, which Saur-Sojasun management chalked up to overall freshness, having contracted the sickness early in the race. With Coppel already fatigued when the bronchitis hit, it would not be as easy to recover.

Though basically flat, stage 18 brought no rest for the weary Frenchman, as the 222km ridden at a high pace bore into the tired legs in the peloton. Coppel salvaged his overall spot but suffered in the process.

“I think this stage without a doubt was one of my top five worst days on the bike,” he explained after stage 18. “When it’s long and it’s raced like that, do not be sick. If it was not the Tour, I would not be here. I will be very happy to get to Paris, but in fact I only have one desire – to be at home and leave the bike in the garage! I hope the worst is over. Tomorrow in the time trial I will do my best.”

“Jérôme has real merit on his bike, and it is clear that he is empty,” Saur-Sojasun rider Jean-Marc Marino admired. “He said nothing. He fought like a madman to stay with the peloton on the last climb. It is heroic, even if it goes completely unnoticed.”


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