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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Cycling News Extra for July 18, 2006

Edited by Shane Stokes and Jeff Jones

Bruyneel goes for "best possible feeling"

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Although Discovery Channel planned to go on the attack in last weeks tough Stage 11 through the Pyrenees to Pla d'Adet, it was more like the Pyrenees attacked them and the Discovery squad discovered the hard way what it's like to be on the ropes in the Tour De France. But Johan Bruyneel didn't guide his team to seven consecutive wins for nothing, and the Discovery Channel team bounced right back with Yaroslav Popovych's Stage 12 win in Carcassonne and now looks poised to try and get back into contention in the Alps.

We spoke to Johan Bruyneel before Stage 15 from Gap to l'Alpe d'Huez and asked him the strategy for the Discovery Channel team going forward.

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Bruyneel told Cyclingnews, "Well, our GC ambitions are certainly lower now; they are no longer our main goal anymore. After our disappointing performance on the stage to Pla de Beret, we wanted to get the team back on track quickly and they came back strong with Popovych's win in Carcassonne. They were in the race all day, in the breaks and in a position to win and it was the same on the stages after. Our guys are able to respond after a bad two days; we're a big team and even after we were down, we can ride like a big team. That's important."

We then asked if Popovych could do something in the Alps. Johan Bruyneel's experience showed in his answer, as he explained, "We have to be realistic, and just see how it can't expect someone who was not good in the Pyrenees to be good in the Alps. Popovych got back in contention because of breakaway. We hope he can come back into the top 10 and maybe higher, but it's not something we're going to fight for every day. We are looking for stage wins now, to get in breaks, but with three tough mountain stages, it's going to be quite difficult to have those opportunities."

Another question to Bruyneel was about strategic alliances, specifically about the rumours that Discovery Channel may have made a deal with Rabobank. Bruyneel chuckled and said "well, I've been reading that also. Look, in Carcassonne, where Popovych won, the reason why everybody was thinking that was probably that with four guys away and one was a sprinter...Freire knew he was fastest and could wait for the others to attack. With Popovych and Ballan, there were three guys, both of whom are pretty fast. You never know what's going to happen; with three guys, it's difficult, more than a bunch sprint. That was what happened there. As for (strategic alliances), well we can't win (the Tour) so I don't care who wins. I want the Discovery Channel team to leave this Tour De France with the best possible feeling, the best possible results."

Giantkiller and legend maker: L'Alpe D'Huez and its history

Climbed just 24 times in the history of the Tour de France, l'Alpe d'Huez is nevertheless the legendary climb, with only Mont Ventoux rivalling its reputation. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes takes a look at some of the facts and figures associated with the mountain.

Today's fifteenth stage of the Tour de France is notable for a couple of reasons. It's the first in the Alps, it's the first real test for yellow jersey Oscar Pereiro and the next big opportunity for Floyd Landis and all the overall challengers. But most of all, it is notable as the race is heading to l'Alpe d'Huez, probably the most famous climb in cycling.

The mountain was first used back in the 1952 Tour de France and the dominant stage win achieved there by Fausto Coppi set a precedent which is almost always the case. Whoever wears the yellow jersey after the stage to the 1860 metre summit is, historically, almost guaranteed to win the Tour. This has been done 19 times, with the rule being broken on just five occasions. Exceptions include Laurent Fignon's maillot jaune in 1989 and François Simon's spell in yellow in 2001; however, if a superstitious rider is in yellow tonight, he'll be feeling reassured with those stats.

Coppi dominated in 1952 but the crushing nature of his win – and the suspense-killing effect it had on the race – meant that it was a full 24 years before the race returned. Joop Zoetemelk topped the podium in 1976 and started a dominant period by riders from the Netherlands, with eight out of the thirteen finishes there between that year and Gert-Jan Theunisse's 1989 victory falling to competitors from that country.

Click here for the full feature

Gerolsteiner riders sick and worried

Something is sweeping through the Gerolsteiner team, and it's not something that is very welcome. "The flu is going around," says Ronny Scholz. "Besides me, three other riders have now caught it. Unfortunately I now have to take antibiotics. No athlete wants to do that because it works negatively on your performance, gives you heavy legs. Plus my tonsils are swollen. It's very difficult to breathe, especially when I'm riding fast." (

One of the other riders who is coming down with something is apparently Fabian Wegmann. The night from Sunday to Monday "I didn't feel well at all. I could hardly sleep and felt feverish. More than once I thought about whether it was time to go home? I finally slept a little just before it was time to get up."

After a training ride and more rest, he felt better, he says, until he thinks about what is coming up on Tuesday. "I haven't even thought about Alpe d'Huez yet. That won't make me crazy. I think the bigger problem will be the mountains that come before it. You can't let yourself fall back there. Somehow I'll make it up the final climb. How often have I already ridden it? Never! I know this myth only from books and tv." (

Boogerd determined

Dutch champion Michael Boogerd was in a determined mood before the start in Gap. "Today will be really hard," he told Cyclingnews. "We will try to do our best and see where we finish up. It is true that I have really good form and I hope that I am in the same shape as in the Pyrenees.

"I hope that I can be up front today but it will be very difficult. There will be a lot of Dutch spectators today so if I am not on top, it won't have been for the lack of support, but because I was lacking something in my legs. We will see."

Eisel and Zabel anticipate pain

Française des Jeux rider Bernhard Eisel was prepared for a tough day in the saddle this morning. "It is true that l'Alpe d'Huez is a mythical place but all we know today is that we will be in a lot of pain," he stated. "But if it goes like in the Pyrenees, I won't have any problems to follow."

Six time green jersey winner Erik Zabel was anticipating a hard time. When asked how he felt this morning, the German said, "At the moment I am fine, but later on.."

"I don't know if it is harder being a sprinter on those climbs or going for the victory as a climber. I am no climber."

Armstrong at start

Lance Armstrong was at the start of today's fifteenth stage of the Tour de France. He was rumoured to have flown in from Alpe d'Huez by helicopter, and spent time in the Discovery Channel bus prior to the start. Several journalists from different media waited outside the team bus, and Armstrong spoke to TV for five minutes before escorted by minders from the bus to the SRM van, where he will spend at least part of the stage.

McEwen for crowd pleaser

Maillot vert leader Robbie McEwen has promised the Flemish Eén-station that he will cross the line at l'Alpe d'Huez doing a wheelie, providing he feels good. He has done the same in the past. While McEwen is a former BMX rider and will have little problems in doing so, the gesture is rare in road cycling.

AIS - one year on

By Kristy Scrymgeour

With the anniversary of the AIS women's team tragedy in Germany occurring today and events taking place to remember Amy Gillett who was killed when a car ran into the team whilst training on the streets of Thüringen, Cyclingnews caught up with Australian National Coach Warren McDonald to find out how the women's program had recovered from the disaster that also seriously injured Amy's five teammates.

Only two of the girls are back to racing a year after the accident. Kate Nichols is in Germany and will start Thüringen Rundfahrt this afternoon while Alexis Rhodes made a remarkable recovery to win the Australian National Criterium Championships in January and then go on to be selected to represent Australia in the Commonwealth Games in March. She raced a short stint with the AIS team in Europe earlier in the year and is now back in Australia finishing her studies and continuing her recovery to get back the resilience she lost over the break.

Lorian Graham, Katie Brown and Louise Yaxley are still recovering from the accident with lingering injuries. All of them are determined to get back on the bike and back to the level to which they reached at this time last year, but it is taking a lot longer than they had hoped.

"When it happened last year," said McDonald, "I knew it would take a long time for them to get over their injuries and get back to an elite level, but of course athletes always hope that it's going to be a quicker process. Lorian, Katie Brown and Louise still have rehabilitation to come and it's frustrating for them. Alexis and Kate Nichols are back racing and have age on their side too. They'll continue to get stronger and stronger."

The riders in the accident were the next generation expected to come through to be the cream of the crop when Australia's current top riders like Oenone Wood, Olivia Gollan and Sara Carrigan retired. "We knew when this happened," said McDonald, "that we would have a gap but it has turned out to be a little great than I thought. Shayne Bannan [High Performance Director] commented that ‘it is like a whole generation has been lost.'"

"The talent is there," added McDonald, "we have young riders coming through but you can't just throw them into to a full year of racing. You need to build them up over time."

Hence this year the AIS team has done short stints in Europe. The first block was only five weeks, after which most of the riders returned to Australia and a new group returned to Europe for a second block. A third block will come through Europe for the final part of the season.

"So in some ways we've lost a year to 18 months for the developing AIS riders and it's going to take a couple of years to fill the gap. Possibly next year will be better for the young ones as we do have a lot of talent and we are also excited that our top riders Oenone Wood and Olivia Gollan have confirmed that they'll go through 2008. Sara Carrigan may also be back after her break this year."

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