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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for July 3, 2006

Edited by Hedwig Kröner, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

"Too many teams" in chaotic sprint

Had trouble in the sprint: Tom Boonen - more coffee Grand Mère wouldn't have helped, either
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

After Sunday's first stage of the Tour de France, which ended in a bunch sprint taken by French Cofidis rider Jimmy Casper, riders of the Quick.Step team complained that it had been too disorganised. World Champion Tom Boonen started his sprint too soon, and after hitting an object held over the barriers by a spectator, stopped his effort with 50 metres to go.

"Four or five times we tried to get our train going," Boonen told Sporza. "Every time someone mingled and disturbed the process. It was complete chaos in Strasbourg. There also was a bad head wind and too many corners in the last kilometres. We just didn't succeed and then I was on my own." But Boonen wasn't the only sprinter left without teammates too soon before the line.

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"All the sprinters were without locomotives," he continued. "We looked at each other, but couldn't do anything. When I was alone in front, I thought 'Shit, too soon, what do I do now?' After I hit the camera, I just sat up. When I pulled on the handlebar, my upper arm cramped." Boonen is looking forward to today's second stage to Luxembourg, as he's still only 13 seconds behind Hincapie. "I'll try again in the second stage," he concluded.

Teammate Steven De Jongh was lees calm about Sunday's finale. "I have rarely seen anything like it," he said. "I just couldn't get it organised. But what can you do? There just isn't enough space for 20 teams up front. It's their right to be there, but I don't think Thomas Voeckler will ever win a bunch sprint... Even my old teammate Oscar Freire almost rode into me. Everyone suddenly thought they could win, taking far too great risks - under these circumstances, you just can't get your train in order."

Tour organisation bans PMU hands

On Sunday evening, after the hectic "sprint royal" finale of stage two in which prologue winner Thor Hushovd was thought to have hit a plastic cardboard hand which cut deep into his upper arm, the Tour de France organisation has announced that it will prohibit the use of the marketing giveaways in the last two kilometres of flat stages.

Certainly, fans leaning over the barriers and waving the objects pose another threat in the sprint finishes, which are already very dangerous. Other objects such as still or video cameras should not be held over the barriers either, as they represent the same risk. [There is actually some doubt over whether it was a PMU hand or another object, like a camera, that cut Thor Hushovd's arm - ed.]

Hushovd alright

Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd, who suffered a cut on his right upper arm in the finale of stage 1, has received several stitches to his wound in a Strasbourg hospital. He was able to leave the clinic at 19.00 in the evening. "Thor lost a lot of blood," said his DS Roger Legeay. "It was a terrible sight. The cut itself isn't that bad though. The doctors said that he would suffer more from the contusion, though. He won't feel so well in the next 5 or 6 days during the race." But fortunately, the Norwegian rider will be able to continue the Tour de France.

Di Luca out

The Tour de France has its first non-starter: Italian Danilo Di Luca will not participate in the second stage of the race, taking place on Monday, July 3. The Liquigas-Bianchi pro, who finished last season as the leading rider in the ProTour, is suffering from a prostate infection and has been treated with antibiotics for days. Now, he has to give up the race altogether.

Zabel: "Damn it all!"

Not amused about the doping scandal: Erik Zabel (Milram)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Erik Zabel is riding his twelfth Tour de France and his first for a team other than T-Mobile. The sprinter is not directly affected by the newest doping scandal - professionally, that is, but it does affect him on a personal level. His 12 year-old son Rik is, like his dad, a passionate cyclist. "When I go to a junior race with Rik, then I am always happy to note that this is still my sport in its roots; I see how I was back in those days. But all those kids and their trainers and their parents watch the Tour, too, of course, and follow the news. When I think about the message they are getting right now about pro cycling, I think to myself 'damn it all!'"

Speaking on the doping affair, he told the German Welt am Sonntag magazine, "The whole thing is very uncomfortable and I don't feel well with it. Let's face it: Cycling has lost a lot of credit through this latest affair, credit it had built up since the 1998 Festina affair. When stars like Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich or Francisco Mancebo are not allowed to start, then that is really bad for cycling," he added.

"Cycling is perhaps the sport that is most like real life," the winner of six Tour de France Green jerseys continued. "Every guy can take part in it and be successful: Big, small, fat, thin - you see all of them in the field and depending on the circumstances, each group can put its own characteristics to use; for example, a lighter rider in the mountains or a heavier one in the sprint. And just like in real life, we have gangsters and honourable men, clever ones and dumb ones. Maybe that's why everyone loves our sport so much."

Petacchi back to team training

Nearly 60 days after his accident in the third stage of the Giro d'Italia, Alessandro Petacchi will be back for some training with his team this week. The Milram sprinter had to miss out on the Tour de France, but is now preparing to get back into shape for second part of the season.

T-Mobile to continue sponsorship

T-Mobile International has confirmed that it will continue its sponsorship of the German pro cycling team. In an interview on TV channel ARD during Sunday's tour stage, spokesman Philipp Schindera said, "Through T-Mobile and Telekom we have been involved with them for 15 years and we won't break this tradition." He added, "A withdrawal now would be to bow down before the doping mafia, and that is not our style. Quite the opposite - we will do all we can to eliminate doping from cycling."

German roundup

T-Mobile

Team T-Mobile is short of not only two riders and a directeur sportif at the Tour de France, they are also lacking a mechanic and a physiotherapist. Birgit Krohme, Jan Ullrich's personal physiotherapist, has also gone home after the team's leader was suspended on doping allegations. "Birgit is an excellent physiotherapist," said team manager Olaf Ludwig. "We would have loved to have her with us until Paris, but we can understand her decision." After the damaging events of the last days, Birgit Krohme needed a little time for herself, he added. The mechanic had family reasons to leave: Stefan Ullrich left Friday with his more famous brother.

On the sporting side, Andreas Klöden is happy that the race is finally under way. "At last we can fully focus on the sport again," the lean climber said. "That's important to get your head together again after all that went down." Klöden admitted that he had been nervous about how the Tour would be received in Germany on Sunday, but his fears turned out to have been needless. "The Tour made a brief 30km incursion into Germany today," he continued. "To be perfectly honest: I was a bit skeptical beforehand and not sure about how our home fans would react to us. But I have to say, I shouldn't have worried in the first place. But the enthusiasm alongside the road was huge, so I shouldn't have worried at all. That did us good!"

Gerolsteiner

Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Fabian Wegmann is a happy camper. "So now I have it again, the mountain jersey," he said after Sunday's stage one around Strasbourg, which included one Cat. 4 climb about halfway, the Heiligenstein. "That's a pretty good feeling. And I must admit: I did sort of plan it that way. I knew I had to be in the group." Wegmann was part of an early breakaway and scored the points for the desired trophy. He was also pleased with the way in which Germany greeted the Tour. "The reception from the many fans in Germany gave me goose bumps,"Wegmann said. "It was great to be celebrated like that - despite the doping scandal."

As for the mountain jersey: "You could say that was planned," said Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer. "When we talked about it that morning and I saw the twinkle in Fabian's eyes, I knew what was up. And it worked out."

Hammer unveils new women’s organization

Reigning World Champion cyclist Sarah Hammer publicly released her new organization on Monday, July 3. The American Women’s Track Cycling Fund (AWTCF) is designed to fill a void within US cycling. American Hammer said that the organization’s mission will be to support current champions and to nurture and provide assistance to upcoming champions.

The AWTCF will be two-fold with both an elite team and development program. Hammer commented, "It’s been a dream to start a women’s specific track development program. As soon as I won worlds in June the first thing I thought was that this would be a huge opportunity to launch such a program. We already have three clinics planned locally and one in conjunction with the Eastside Wheelmen program in Colorado Springs."

On the elite side, the AWTCF will be working with a soon to be named headlining sponsor and other supporters to help found and fund the first women’s only UCI professional track team. "I’m very proud as a woman to be unveiling a team with such ambitions. We know starting out that we cannot afford a large prestigious team, so we will start with a small prestigious one! So yes, the first year it will be only me. For the 2007/2008 season we are planning on bringing on one more elite rider."

The first team event is planned for August 12 at the ADT Event Center Velodrome in Carson, California. "The first stepping stone will be raising awareness and funds at my August 12th event," she continued. "The organization will only be as strong as its supporters so we are really hoping everyone gets behind it."

More information about Sarah Hammer and her new organization can be found at www.awtcf.org.

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