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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for September 14, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Vino's victory: Strength or strategy?

Asked whether his remarkable feat in Stage 17 of the Vuelta was due to strength or strategy, new race leader Alexandre Vinokourov said it was a bit of both: "Thanks to the strategy of the whole team, we have obtained this result, but when I saw that Valverde was approaching [on the descent into Granada], I decided to attack alone and there it was a question of force."

Explained Vinokourov, "The day before [Stage 16] was different because it was after a rest day and Valverde was very strong. But I knew there still remained two days [in the mountains] and he [Valverde] could be without his team. [At those moments], I could make up some differences.

"I had good legs and I knew that like that I could make these difference in the last 15 kilometres. Now, I have to try to keep the maillot. I hope that the team continues well, because it will not be easy," he said.

On the possibility of attacking in today's stage that finishes atop the Sierra de la Pandera after 153 kilometres, the Kazakhstani was cautious about revealing his hand, but seemed to believe the final time trial to be of greater significance. "It will also be a very hard stage and [there] still remains the last time trial, which will be very important to win the Vuelta. It will be necessary to study it," he said.

"Race far from over," says CSC

Despite a moment of weakness on the final climb in yesterday's Stage 17 of the Vuelta, tough-as-nails Spaniard Carlos Sastre fought his way back to the group containing race leader Alejandro Valverde, maintaining his third position overall. His tenacity gives renewed hope to the Team CSC camp that the race is far from over.

"We were in deep trouble when Valverde escaped and Carlos was in between the two groups, but he was fantastic and fought his way back on the descent," recalled directeur sportif Kim Andersen on team-csc.com.

"It might've been a mistake on Valverde's behalf not to wait for Carlos, because it was pretty obvious that he still had spare energy - otherwise he wouldn't have been able to bridge that gap. Regardless it was a fantastic stage, and again we showed, that we're one of the stronger teams in this race.

"Tomorrow's stage [Stage 18] will without a doubt be extremely exciting, because there's not that much time separating the riders at the top. And today just went to show that the race is far from over yet," Andersen said.

Carlos Sastre: Fight until the end

Team CSC rider Carlos Sastre is a rider who always appears to be patient and polite to the myriad journalists who are competing for his time. His politeness and good manners are rare qualities, especially for elite sportspeople in their dealings with the press. Sastre is still within striking distance of the lead in the Vuelta a España although he has not been the strongest climber in the race. Despite this, he has vowed to fight all the way to Madrid. Cyclingnews spoke to Sastre on rest day 2.

Carlos Sastre (CSC) smiling at the start
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

"I have reached the last week of the Vuelta in good condition," said Sastre. "I am calm, I am relaxed; things are okay. The team is doing fantastic, splendid work and has been super-important to me so far. Now I may need a lot of them because we approach to the final straight and we must `use all the bullets´ to try to win the Vuelta a España. I need to be at 100 percent but I also need of them."

Sastre's chances to attack are in the mountain stages. "Yes, of course," confirmed the CSC rider. "They are the places where differences can appear. I am a rider with the characteristics of a climber; if I have some strength this is where I have to make time gains, where I have to supplant my rivals. Of course, any mountainous stage like the three coming stages is good. Any chance is good."

Sastre intends to choose his terrain carefully when he attacks before the end of the Vuelta. "With my characteristics, to attack on an intermediate climb is crazy because I can not do a race alone against a whole team. There should be some circumstances that are good for me to play a strategy like that. Therefore, at first, it's important to wait until the last moment. That is when races are won and when a real difference can be made. I will try to wait for a promising situation, for a rider to fail, or simply when I find myself feeling strong. I will try to get the maximum performance from my legs in that stage."

Click here to read the rest of the feature.

Saunier Duval never say die

Although lacking the raw power of Alexandre Vinokourov, José Ángel Gómez Marchante was the only rider able to stay with him and team-mate Andrey Kashechkin on yesterday's climb of Alto de Monachil.

However, in true Vinokourov style, the Kazahstani shot away on the long descent into Granada, and Gómez Marchante ended up finishing in the group containing Kashechkin and race leader Alejandro Valverde. As a result, the Spaniard keeps his fifth place overall, but at more than two minutes behind the fourth place of Kashechkin, he'll need to be on the offensive today to have any hope of standing on the podium in Madrid this Sunday.

Saunier Duval-Prodir directeur sportif Joxean Matxin Fernández concedes the difficulty of this possibility, but is nonetheless optimistic about David Millar taking a second time trial victory or Francisco José Ventoso winning the final bunch gallop into Madrid.

"I believe the team still have a lot to show in this Vuelta," said Matxin Fernández. "It would be great to have Gómez Marchante on the podium, but I think this is quite difficult. However, his performance has been great. On the other hand, we can still grab a stage victory on Saturday with Millar [in the time trial] or on Sunday with Ventoso. If this happens, our Vuelta will have been great."

Lang favourite for Länder-Tour

Already after the first stage of the 3-Länder-Tour, three riders enjoy a six-minute advantage over their nearest competitors, and more than 20 minutes over most of the field. More than likely, stage winner and race leader Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile Team), Frank Schleck (Team CSC) or Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) will be the overall winner when the race finishes in Frankfurt on Sunday.

Said CSC directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman: "Frank was really strong out there and very motivated to show that he's ready for the last part of the season.

"With the lead those three riders have now, it actually looks like the race might've been decided early, which would be in Lang's favour, because he's already the favourite for the time trial the day after tomorrow [Thursday]," Hoffman said on team-csc.com, who unfortunately has to do without Jakob Piil for the remainder of the race. "But Sunday's stage is a hilly one as well, so that might change things a bit."

"That was a super prelude, couldn't be better," said Gerolsteiner DS Christian Henn in a team statement. "Sebastian really rode strong; he went with each attack and gave everything."

About Jakob Piil's early exit, Hoffman said: "Jakob was actually in the break, but had problems with a sore, which kept getting worse as the day progressed, so he chose to abandon."

Ullrich wins a round against Franke

By Susan Westemeyer

Jan Ullrich has won at least one of his legal battles. A court in Hamburg, Germany, has upheld an injunction which prohibits anti-doping crusader Werner Franke from claiming that Ullrich spent 35,000 Euro in one year for illegal doping products.

"Many statements about me are pure speculation," Ullrich said. "In light of the number of things being said, I do not comment on individual statements. But I am glad that the court has put a limit on this subject."

Quick.Step for upcoming races

The Quick.Step-Innergetic team will field the following line-ups at the Kampionschap Van Vlaanderen and GP d'Isbergues on Friday and Sunday respectively.

Kampionschap Van Vlaanderen - September 15, Koolskamp, Belgium

Riders: Serge Baguet, Francesco Chicchi, Wilfried Cretskens, Steven De Jongh, Servais Knaven, Hubert Schwab, Cedric Vasseur, Geert Verheyen, Wouter Weylandt, Maxim Vantomme (stagiaire)
D.S.: Rik Van Slycke

GP d'Isbergues - September 17, France

Riders: Serge Baguet, Tom Boonen, Juan Manuel Garate, Nick Nuyens, Ivan Santaromita, Jurgen Van De Walle, Cedric Vasseur, Geert Verheyen.

D.S.: Wilfried Peeters

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