First Edition Cycling News for July 23, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
Only the strongest survive
Today's 17th stage of the Tour de France between Bourg d'Oisans and Le Grand-Bornand was the final race of attrition, run in searing 30 plus degree heat and over several massive climbs, including the Glandon and the Madeleine. The stage saw an early break go clear from the start containing Gilberto Simoni and four others who were caught by Virenque and Moreau on the Madeleine with 125 km to go.
In the end, however, US Postal and CSC splintered the peloton and caught the break on the last climb with around 20 km to go, setting things up for another showdown between the top GC contenders Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, Andreas Klöden and Jan Ullrich, as well as Floyd Landis who had a superb day and rode on the front for most of the final climb. Despite an attack by Klöden with 1 km to go, Armstrong again showed that he has the best legs in this year's Tour as he closed the gap to the German in the last 200m to take his third Tour stage in a row.
After the stage, Armstrong explained why he brought back Klöden's last kilometre attack with such a concerted effort. "As I stepped up to the top of the podium, Bernard Hinault met me at the top of the steps and said 'perfect.' No gifts, no gifts this year. I've given gifts in the Tour de France and very rarely has it ever come back to help me. And this is the biggest bike race in the world and it means more than any bike race in the world and it means more to me than any bike race in the world. And I wanna win. No gifts."
But Armstrong praised his teammate Landis, who showed his strength and determination today in the Tour. "He is riding super; he's a great teammate and he's given everything. Today was the best day I've ever seen from Floyd and I've had some fast guys ride tempo on the climbs. Floyd seems to be getting better and better every day...That's why I really wanted him to win the stage. For me, he deserved the win and for that matter, I should dedicate the stage win to him, because he deserved it. I think he wanted it and needed it. I asked him (on the final climb) 'how bad do you wanna win a stage in the Tour de France? And he said 'real bad'. I said 'how fast can you go downhill' and he said 'I go downhill real fast' and he said 'can I do it?' and I said 'sure you can do it; run like you stole something, Floyd.' And Jan chased him down."
As for the T-Mobile camp, Jan Ullrich explained the team's tactics in his diary entry on T-Mobile's website (t-mobile-team.com): "Klödi" didn't quite pull of "mission impossible", but it was real battle out there today. Lance is in a different class at the moment. Nevertheless, I was really hoping that it would be a stage win for my mate.
"We had arranged things between us about five km from the line: I would mark Floyd Landis and Andi would try to ward off Lance. It was perfectly set up. When "Klödi" attacked like a bat out of hell, opening up a gap of 60, 70 metres back to us, then I thought to myself: He has it in the bag!
"At the end of a stage that nobody deserved to lose, only one fact remains: Lance is too strong! We burst a gut out there today. You can be sure that we would have attacked earlier, if we could. There was nothing left in the tank to attack Armstrong today. That doesn't mean that we won't give it everything between now and Paris to oust Ivan Basso from the second place. I think that we have a good chance. After all, the CSC rider has only a minute on "Klödi". It's going to be quite a showdown!"
After he was caught in the final 20 metres of the stage, Andreas Klöden commented that, "I'm certainly not utterly disappointed, I was only lacking a few metres, but through the 12 second time bonus I made up good time on Basso."
Stage 18: Will the green jersey change hands?
By John Trevorrow
Today's 166.5 km stage from Annemasse to Lons le Saulnier may be the last big test in the green jersey competition. With the major obstacles early in the race, it is a day that is perfectly suited to Stuart O'Grady or Erik Zabel. They will have plenty of time to get back to the leaders after the category Col de la Faucille, 75.5 kilometres into the race, and it is quite possible one of them could take the stage win.
Robbie McEwen and Thor Hushovd will be watching Zabel and O'Grady very closely, but in the rolling terrain of eastern France, McEwen will have to do the ride of his life to neutralize an O'Grady or Zabel escape.
Ullrich defends Voigt
Jan Ullrich has defended his compatriot Jens Voigt, who was on the end of some rather nasty spectator abuse during yesterday's Alpe d'Huez time trial. Voigt was called a "Judas" and a "traitor to the fatherland" by German fans and media after he had sat up in the break and gone back to help CSC and US Postal chase down Ullrich the previous day when the T-Mobile rider attacked with 60 km to go. But Ullrich understood completely that Voigt was merely following orders and doing his job, as he wrote in his diary on T-Mobile's website:
"There is one thing that I want to clear up: The jeering that my buddy Jens Voigt was subjected to yesterday was not pretty. It saddens me that he was sworn at and called a "Judas" and other names. Jens was just doing what any other rider would have done if they were in his situation. There is an unwritten rule in cycling that you always wait for your captain when the race explodes. And things did explode for Basso in that stage! Jens, you did what you had to do!"
Seventh polka dot jersey for Virenque
By Melanie Leveau in Le Grand Bornand
Richard Virenque pointed his polka dot jersey to his supporters at the top of the Col de la Croix-Fry, the last climb of the 17th stage. He was not part of the leading group any more but was aware that nobody else could come back and take the lead in the mountains classification. Accidents excepted, he will win it on Sunday on the Champs-Elysées.
Richard Virenque can be proud of his performance. Never before has a rider won that classification seven times. Neither Bahamontes nor Van Impe, who stopped at six.
Virenque won the polka dot jersey for the first time 10 years ago. Since that time, many things happened in his career and that jersey pleases him particularly because it is the proof of his consistency and his temperament.
"It wasn't easy to keep that jersey because of the new rules (points are doubled at the mountain top finishes). It was almost an impossible mission for me as the general classification's leaders could come back easily. So I had to attack every day and it was very difficult. I have been consistent since Saint-Flour, in the Pyrenees and in the Alps, that is why I won. I could say that jersey is my jersey of courage.
"When Armstrong started winning the Tour, I knew I would never win it so I decided to target the polka dot jersey. At my level, I made my mark at the Tour de France and I am really proud of it," added Virenque.
The French chouchou doesn't know yet if he will be a professional rider next year. "I have to discuss it with Patrick Lefevčre and other people. In fact, I already have a few projects for my post-riding career.
Simoni goes down fighting
In the final stage that suited his climbing capabilities, Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) rode a great race, attacking from the start with four others before being caught by Virenque and Moreau on the Col de la Madeleine, riding with these two until halfway up the final climb when they were caught by the front group of the peloton. Along the way, Simoni claimed the Souvenir Henri Desgranges, the prime at the summit of the Madeleine, after a hard fought duel with Virenque to the top, salvaging some pride in what has been an average Tour.
"I didn't want to go home without doing anything," Simoni told Datasport. "We went very strongly for many kilometres, but perhaps we were too few. We didn't gain much time and in the end they caught us."
Top Aussie Rogers aims for the twenty
By John Trevorrow
Ten Australians prepared for the start of the Tour de France nearly three weeks ago in Ličge. Matt White unfortunately crashed out before the start, while Nick gates and Bradley Mcgee were cut down by injuries. But the remaining Australians have passed the final hurdle and only bad luck can stop a record seven Australians from riding into Paris on Sunday.
Mick Rogers is the best-placed of those seven in 22nd spot and is hoping to move up into the top 20 by the time the race reaches the Champs Elysées.
"I'll try and take it easy tomorrow and have a good time trial on Saturday," said Rogers after stage 17. "I was pleased with my rider today but I did it hard on the last climb. I feel like I'm coming out of the Tour all right.
"The US Postal team were just too strong today. I suffered a lot but, hey, that's the Tour."
Caucchioli slips a place
Alessio-Bianchi's Pietro Caucchioli lost a place in the general classification today after finishing 16th in the stage to Le Grand Bornand. Caucchioli moved from 9th down to 10th after Levi Leipheimer finished 7th, a minute quicker than Caucchioli.
"U.S. Postal, CSC and T-mobile don't give anything to their opponents," said Caucchioli. "It's almost impossible to move freely and, as far as I'm concerned, the situation is even more difficult because of the breathing troubles I have been suffering for some days. I'm going to fight to the last stage to be one of the top ten in the ranking. Next Saturday's long time trial will decide everything."
Alessio's Alessandro Bertolini was forced to withdraw because of bronchitis and didn't start stage 17.
Tour spectator falls to his death
An 64 year-old French spectator fell 40 metres to his death yesterday during the 16th stage of the Tour de France, the Associated Press reported. The man's body was found by police after family members alerted them to his disappearance. An autopsy will be performed on his body on Friday.
Janek Tombak (Cofidis) - Deep cut on fourth finger (right hand), taken
to hospital in Grenoble
The following riders were fined 50 CHF and penalised 5 points and 0'10 for holding onto vehicles:
Iker Flores (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Fabio Baldato (Alessio-Bianchi) - fined 100 CHF and penalised 10 points and 0'20 for the same infraction
Bernhard Eisel (FDJeux.com) - Fined 30 CHF for brief drafting behind vehicle
The following riders were fined 40 CHF for receiving pushes from spectators:
Matthew Wilson (FDJeux.com)
Directeur sportif of US Postal Service - fined 200 CHF for disobeying rules of circulation among vehicles
Countdown to Pro Tour
By Chris Henry in Le Grand-Bornand
With all systems on their way to 'go' for the new Pro Tour, the UCI is racing to complete the preparations before the 2005 season. Eleven teams have been given the green light to join, while candidatures have been submitted by 24 teams in total, with seven slots remaining to complete the initial 18 team entry. The Pro Tour will create a new league structure for cycling, assembling the top 18 teams and creating a new 26 event calendar, with each team's presence compulsory for each event. This includes all three grand tours (Italy, Spain, France), several Hors Categorie stage and one day races, and all of the current World Cup events.
Cyclingnews spoke to the UCI's manager of professional cycling, Alain Rumpf, about how preparations have been going and what remains between now and the coming season. With eleven teams getting the go ahead, the UCI has reopened the solicitation of license applications until August 15. More teams will be added between now and November, when the final Pro Tour roster will be finalised. In the meantime, specific information will be provided by teams, including budgets, sponsor and rider contracts, and bank guarantees, all independently audited per usual UCI procedure between season.
"Some of the 24 requests are clearly not valid," Rumpf noted, referring to the stack of license applications. "They have no contracts and no riders...But we're confident we'll get all 18 teams."
The fact of the matter is, as Rumpf explained, if the UCI failed to approve 18 teams for the debut of the Pro Tour, it would begin with 17. The Pro Tour will begin, that much is clear. Discord between the UCI and several top teams over the restructuring of cycling for the Pro Tour has prompted several formations to opt out, at least for the moment. The UCI is not fearful of a lack of strong teams for the Pro Tour, but does recognise that ongoing communication is important.
"We were concerned about what was going on in Italy," he said. "We wanted to give four licenses, but we weren't able to approve any teams in the first round of candidature. Now we're more confident that we'll be able to give them the licenses. Of course it's a shame if Fassa Bortolo and Saeco are not willing to join the Pro Tour. But we'll get the 18 teams, and we're still talking to them. I think we'll get their bids."
Rumpf also cites goals of the Pro Tour and the consolidation of top competition in cycling from a business standpoint, since the sport is driven primarily by corporate sponsorship.
"Teams and race organisers will be able to make longer contracts with sponsors. Just in recent months we've seen many contracts extended for three years or more. That's always been a threat to teams and to the sport. Sponsors often only confirmed for two years."
"We have concerns but not because of the Pro Tour itself, more about trends in the sport and trends that even go beyond cycling, like television air time," Rumpf explained. "The Pro Tour is a response to that, an effort to make the top end of the sport more stable. We know there may be unforeseen consequences, with teams, sponsors, and so on. But there's huge support for the plan from different players."
When asked what the remaining challenges are for the UCI and its implementation of the Pro Tour, Rumpf smiled and focused on the day to day work rather than the major structural changes facing the sport.
"The biggest challenge is getting everything done in time for Paris-Nice 2005, the first race of the Pro Tour."
2007 BMX World's in Canada
The UCI announced today at its meeting in Salzburg, Austria that it has awarded the hosting of the 2007 BMX World Championships to the Canadian city of Victoria.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)