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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for July 8, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo

Rainbow warrior - Cancellara takes first honours

Cancellara wears the first maillot jaune
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara took the first yellow jersey of the 2007 Tour de France with a scintillating ride in the prologue. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes heard his reaction in London.

As he did at the Tour de Suisse three weeks ago, Fabian Cancellara today blitzed the field in a prologue time trial and ended the day firmly wrapped up in the yellow jersey of race leader. It was just as well; he's been running a bit low on team kit since arriving in England.

"I have a message for British Airways," he told the media at the end of his post-race press conference on London's Mall. "I would very much like to get back my suitcase. If someone finds it, please return it to me. Okay, I have a yellow jersey to wear now but maybe in a couple of days I will need my usual one."

Before the 7.9 kilometre race, Cancellara was seen as one of the major favourites. There were several reasons for this but the fact that he was heavily tipped meant that this experience was quite different than his victory on day one of the Tour in Liège, three years ago.

"I think the big difference [compared to before] is the pressure," he stated. "To take the start in London with the world champion's jersey on my shoulders and to ride as one of the favourites meant that I had a lot of pressure on me.

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"Everyone spoke of me because I made a demonstration in the races in the Tour de Suisse. I am in good condition today. At Liege [in 2004], nobody spoke of me. Okay, a couple of people said to watch out for Cancellara, but it was different then.

"Today the thing that helped me a lot is what I learned in Paris-Roubaix this year, taking the start there with a lot of pressure. That was certainly something that gave me the ability to be calm today and give my maximum."

Click here to read the full feature.

Prologue rider reactions

David Millar (Saunier Duval):

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: AFP
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"In spite of the prologue's results, I'm optimistic. It was a nice day and I really gave it everything to clock the best time. But Cancellara was outstanding. Pity Wiggins couldn't make it in the end, because he was my favourite in case victory eluded me."

Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval):

"I felt OK all through the race today, but it's obvious I've been over one month off the road. I had to make a considerable effort. From now on, I'll try and do my best over the first week but I won't let this to become an obsession. I need to be cautious and build up the physical stamina I'll need in the hilly stages. I hope I'll reach these stages healthy enough so that I can fight for a stage win. After having notched up a stage victory in the Giro, I'd love to make it here."

Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital):

One rider looking to finish close to the top of the list was sprinter Daniele Bennati, but instead he conceded 33 seconds to Cancellara - a margin that will be difficult to make up in the bonus sprints. Bennati had this experience once already this year in the Tour de Suisse, where he was unable to make up just a handful of seconds on the reigning World Champion. "I'm not satisfied at all," Bennati commented. "I didn't feel the right sensation and especially in the final part I couldn't change the pace. I would have liked to lose less than ten seconds. However, the positive thing is that in the sprinters group only Hushovd was ahead of me."

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne):

After finishing in 6th position, 26" behind Cancellara, Karpets said, "I did not get a bad time, but I think that Klöden at first and then Cancellara, really had big ones. I started quite early, and that allowed me to lead the classification for a long time, but it was not sufficient. I am very motivated for this Tour de France and I hope I will be able to do good things here."

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne):

Pereiro (left) and Valverde
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"It is always possible to do better, but that is not bad at all. That type of time trial is not really adapted to my characteristics because what you needed was pure force. But I think I must be happy with my time today, most of all if you consider the first part of my season that was not so good! The most important thing is that I had very good sensations. I still need that little something to fight with the very first, but I believe and I hope that at will arrive at 100% very soon."

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne):

Although he finished 32nd, 43" behind Cancellara, Valverde was satisfied with the result. "It is not an exceptional one, that's true, but it is neither a bad one and I feel personally satisfied. I had good sensations and I immediately found the rhythm of the race and that is the most important thing as for now. With the exception of Klöden who really did a great time trial, the gaps between the other favourites are not so important and we don't have to forget that we still have three long weeks ahead!"

Carlos Sastre (CSC):

"The stage today has been spectacular as far as the pursuit of the public. The streets of London were filled with people," observed Sastre. "The race against the clock today did not go well... but I feel content with the result." He continued, "For the others, I think that it has been a beautiful day for the team with the victory of Cancellara. I believe that the race has begun very well for all of the CSC team."

Andreas Klöden (Astana):

Andreas Klöden (Astana)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

"I am very happy. All went as I expected. It was nevertheless important for me to get as much time as I could to my direct adversaries in the race. Now I wish to concentrate on the following stages."

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana):

"I am not a prologue specialist, even if I felt better and better during the stage. The result of Andreas Klöden doesn't surprise me. The Tour has just begun, I'm not worried about my today's result. All this public on the course, it was just fantastic. It's the best publicity for cycling here in Great Britain, even if we are staying only two days."

Belgian domestiques' prologue reactions

By Brecht Decaluwé

Frederik Willems was the first Belgian to get underway in London, the Liquigas rider clocking a respectable but not spectacular 9'45 for 84th position. "It's a nice course although I didn't see much of the buildings, there was no time for that," Willems told Sporza. "There were many people along the course. I spotted fans from my hometown, that's great."

Willems is making his debut in the biggest race in the world, and like many domestiques, is hoping to reach the Champs-Élysées in three week's time. "I want to make it to Paris. I'll have to work a lot for my team leader Manuel Beltrán. We take turns within the team to support him," Willems explained. "We've got a team full of attackers and everybody can have a go. Filippo Pozzato has most experience, he has already won a stage in the Tour."

Last year Wim Vansevenant (Predictor - Lotto) finished as the lanterne rouge in the Tour de France, and his ambitions in this Tour haven't changed much. "The GC doesn't interest me, I'm here to work for the team," Vansevenant said to Sporza.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile), riding his 16th and last Tour de France, had high praise for the London prologue. "This is the most beautiful prologue I have ever ridden in my career," Merckx said to Sporza. "London is a very beautiful city and the course is fast. You can keep riding, you never need to brake."

"I really want to win a stage in my last Tour de France," he added. "It doesn't matter where but probably I have better opportunities in the second or third week, then I'll try to join a breakaway." T-Mobile is aiming on a stage win during the first week with young Mark Cavendish. "He can save himself during the prologue," Merckx noted.

Mario Aerts was happy with his performance in London's prologue. The Belgian went to sleep the night before knowing he would be chased down by prologue specialist David Zabriskie (CSC). "I didn't sleep well but in the end I succeeded in my goal, I didn't want to be overtaken by Zabriskie," Aerts told Sporza when cooling down on the rollers. "It's a great course and there were many people along it, something I didn't expect; it's fun for a Tour start."

The Predictor-Lotto veteran who aimed for stage wins during previous years is no longer chasing glory himself but working for the team's Aussie pairing of Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen. "I'm doing that without a problem but I have no longer ambition for stage wins because it's too hard. In the mountains I'm going to try to stay with Evans as long as I can."

Aerts has already ridden the Giro d'Italia this year and the former winner of Flčche Wallonne is thinking about making it a Grand Tour triple by riding the Vuelta a Espańa too. "Otherwise the season is too short for me and I want to take part in the world championships in Stuttgart as well," Aerts explained. "I heard that the course in Stuttgart is difficult and that suits me. When Boonen became world champion, I was in the team as well."

With a time of 9'30" Rik Verbrugghe didn't ride a bad prologue. "I'm already happy to be here after last year's crash in the Tour," the Cofidis rider told Sporza. "I'm proud of myself although I'm still missing some explosive power in my legs. I'll have to train hard for that during the coming winter because for a really good prologue I'm not good enough yet."

"There are still days that I feel the pain of my knee but it's going better and better," continued Verbrugghe, who is celebrating his 33rd birthday on July 23. "There's a nice stage scheduled on that day but first we have to see if I make it to that day."

Verbrugghe's teammate and compatriot Staf Scheirlinckx made his debut in the Tour but was unhappy with his performance. "I gave all I had but it was a tough course. I was also too nervous for my first Tour," Scheirlinckx admitted. "London is a great city but the prologue was disappointing. I didn't use my biggest gear that often, that's something which only the best riders can do."

O'Grady disappointed with prologue tumble

By John Trevorrow in London, England

Stuey O'Grady
Photo ©: David Reinhardt
(Click for larger image)

Australia's first Paris-Roubaix winner, Stuart O'Grady, was disappointed with his Tour de France start after 'biting the dust' in the opening prologue. The Team CSC rider crashed on a section of the London opening which he had already identified to his squad as a cause of concern.

"It was a disappointing day," he confessed. "A very special day with an amazing crowd and a brilliant buzz, but it was terrible spot to bite the dust. I told the team this morning that it could be the most dangerous place.

O'Grady had been on the limit, well on the way to posting a potential stage-winning time, when he clipped a barricade on one of the course's final corners.

"It was the fastest corner and also the narrowest," he described. "I had been on the limit for nine minutes and I just went in a fraction too quick. I thought I had a good apex but obviously I didn't get it right. I was in the zone and unfortunately I was doing about 60 kph when I should have been doing 58."

"But the worst part is the frustration," added the South Australian. "The Tour is the biggest event and you really want to get it right and it is really disappointing to crash. I felt like I was on a good ride but that was not too be.

Despite his mistake O'Grady had a positive outlook on the remainder of the event, where he will work for the squad's general classification men Carlos Sastre and David Zabriskie.

"I am looking forward to the next week and I reckon there is going to be some exciting racing," he concluded.

Britain's young guns go for it

By Ben Atkins in London, England

Mark Cavendish
Photo ©: PhotoSport International
(Click for larger image)

Two local riders with nothing to lose enjoyed their baptism of fire at the Tour de France this afternoon.

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) and Geraint Thomas (Barloworld) are two of the youngest riders on the race and therefore had none of the pressure of expectation that their more experienced compatriots had to endure.

Cavendish finished a highly respectable 69th; losing just 52 seconds to rampaging World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara. He's here for experience, and to see how he fares in the sprint stages and so the prologue was really an opportunity to enjoy the home support.

"Yeah, massive it was amazing!" was Cavendish's verdict on what it was like to ride his first 7.9 kilometres of Tour de France in front of a very vocal home crowd. "I've got no ambition to do well in it, so it was just a case of getting a nice big blow out before I start the week really."

The Manxman has ridden - and won - some major races in first his full season in the ProTour, but has yet to experience anything as big as the Tour, especially when such a large part of the crowd were cheering for him. "[They were] amazing, just like a wall of noise the whole way round it was just amazing to see, you know."

The prospect of taking on big sprint rivals like Boonen and McEwen (who he has already beaten this season) doesn't worry him now as he feels good about his form going in to the first road stage. "Yeah, I had quite good legs to be honest. We'll have to see, it's my first Tour you know, I'm not going in with my head in the clouds about it, so we'll just see how it goes."

Welshman Geraint Thomas is a member of Great Britain's World championship winning pursuit team and so was well suited to the course. As this year's youngest Tour rider there was no pressure whatsoever, but he still managed 45th, 47 seconds back.

He too found that the British fans getting behind him inspired his better than expected performance. "When I rode round in the warm up it was just awesome... hearing people call my name, it was just a real experience. I mean I've been in the Tour of Britain and I thought that was great but this was just another level, and I think it's what the Tour is all about really."

Geraint Thomas
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

Starting two minutes behind Cavendish, Thomas had a rival to chase, but they are team-mates on the Great Britain track squad, so their friendship showed through right up to the start house. "It was the same in the Electra Tour the other week, so I gave him a cheer when he went off."

"Obviously it would have been good to beat a fellow Brit, [he actually did, by five seconds] but we're really good mates and I'm looking forward to the next few days racing together."

All riders seemed to find the middle few kilometres tough, into the westerly wind, but the headwind turned to a tailwind for the last section, and a powerful pursuiter like Thomas was always going to take advantage any help form the elements. "Just going out it was real hard, a bit of a headwind, a bit of a block headwind, a really rough road as well, but on the way back it was just a blast. You know when you're on it, you can really tell, it was fast down that little descent."

These guys are only in the Tour to learn, but they're both learning pretty fast.

Fertonani tests positive

Caisse d'Epargne rider Marco Fertonani, who is not part of the Tour de France team, is currently awaiting the decision of the Italian antidoping authorities after he returned a positive for testosterone. His team suspended him on a provisional basis pending the outcome of the CONI decision. Fertonani, who finished fourth in the Tour Méditerranéen tested positive in February at the time of the race.

The 31 year-old Italian was informed of his result in mid-April and voluntarily ceased racing at that time. His team stated that they "respected the presumption of innocence" but suspended him in compliance with the ProTour ethical code. If Fertonani is convicted of doping, he will be dismissed from the team.

T-Mobile boss critical of Lefevere

Patrick Lefevere
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile General Manager Bob Stapleton had strong words for the director of the Quickstep team, Patrick Lefevere today, according to AFP. Stapleton called Lefevere part of "the old guard" of cycling, and criticised him regarding the reports in the Belgian newspapers earlier this year that claimed he was involved in systematic doping and the fact that his was the last to sign the UCI rider agreement.

"He has been doing this job for 30 years and he's accused by a Belgian paper to have encouraged doping in the past. And his team was the last to sign the UCI agreement, that is unacceptable," Stapleton complained in an interview to Welt am Sonntag. "A lot of the people currently responsible for the teams have been deep in the system for years, even decades, and they don't think they can be competitive without doping, " added Stapleton.

"We have to convince the old guard that it is possible to fellow a different track; with more than half of the ProTour teams it is difficult to establish a co-operation, there is a lack of solidarity and there are deficits at the management level.

"Let's say if all the world would be clean, it'd be difficult to predict the Tour and there wouldn't be any favourites," he emphasised. Lefevere is president of the ProTour teams group, the AIGCP, and has been prominently featured with UCI president Pat McQuaid and Tour director Christian Prudhomme as a promoter of antidoping efforts.

However, a squabble broke out at the AIGCP meeting this week when T-Mobile and several other teams voiced objections to what they claimed were other, mainly Spanish, teams not abiding the terms of the UCI rider agreement the riders signed in the past weeks.

Sarkozy to visit the Tour

Newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that he would attend one stage of the Tour de France, but did not specify which, in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche. Sarkozy expressed his support for the Tour de France director for overcoming the doping scandals to present a compelling event once more. "I will go there more especially because Christian Prudhomme, the new director of the Tour, took remarkable action against doping. It is not at the time which the leaders of the Tour endeavour to cleanse this sport when one must drop them!" he exclaimed.

Sarkozy declined to choose a favourite rider to win the Tour, but put his hopes in Christophe Moreau. "I am convinced that the Tour de France is part of the spirit of the French. A July without the Tour de France would not be July," he said.

First winner of Fantasy Game - plenty time left to join

BBB's BSG-23 Winner Team Quickstep glasses
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
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After Fabian Cancellara's dominating performance in the Prologue today, the Tour Fantasy game well and truly off to an interesting start. Manager "El Burro" with his team "Alabama Hot Pockets" from the USA wins the first of 21 'Daily Stage Prizes' - a pair of BBB's BSG-23 Winner Team Quickstep glasses

Want to give Fantasy cycling a go? You can still enter teams until Stage 4 begins on Wednesday 11th July. Unlike most Fantasy games, this gives you the chance to try out the game for free and experiment with different strategies without having to pay for mistakes. If you don't get time to create your teams before Saturday's start you can still take part with just as good a chance of winning as a manager who joined before the Prologue began. Just make sure you register and finalise your teams before Stage 4 begins. Remember the deadline is 10am (Paris local time - UTC+2 or GMT+2) on Wednesday 11th July.

Choosing your mountains and sprints riders

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In what's set to be the most wide open Tour in decades picking your team of 15 riders couldn't be more challenging. If you are relatively new to the Tour it can be a daunting prospect choosing your 15 riders from Saturday's start list of over 200 riders. You need to choose your riders carefully for all 4 elements of the game. The new ranking system can tell you some of the answers you need to know based on last year's results. Here's some direct links to real life riders that scored well in the 2006 Le Tour Fantasy Game:

Top 2006 Mountains Riders

Top 2006 Sprinters

Top 2006 General Classification Riders

Top 2006 Stage Points Riders

Go to the page and click on the "How to find top climbers/mountains and sprinters/points riders..." link at the top of the page to reveal more. All you need to do now is bring this information up to date by reading the News here at Cyclingnews for this year's Le Tour!

Descente Classic Chevron designer clothing
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
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Fantasy upgraded

We've added some great improvements to the game this year:

1. new ranking and results service, offering new depths of rider statistics on races over the last four years.

2. see your friends exact selections in the this year's game as it happens.

3. look up the winning managers team selections for last year to improve your selection this year.

4. follow the progress of the key fantasy managers whilst also tracking your friends' progress in the new "Watch Teams" tool.

5. build your own Mini-Leagues.

6. try out the Forum/Chat area, which provides new ways to communicate with your fellow players from around the world in real time as the races unfold.

7. new stage selection system to make sure you never miss a stage pick again.

Even if you don't win the Grand Prize of a Cervelo Soloist Carbon CSC team replica bicycle, the Fantasy Le Tour game is a great way to follow the Tour each day here at Cyclingnews. It's free to play the first three stages - try it out today. You don't need to be a cycling expert to win prizes. Registration has already begun.

Even better prizes!

Prize summary: From one Grand Prize and one First Runner-up to three each Second, Third, and Fourth Runner-up prize packages, there are eleven chances for you to win based on your overall performance in the 2007 Le Tour Fantasy Game. There are also 21 daily prizes for each stage's top performer. All prizes are as listed (substitution requests cannot be honoured). The roster of prizes so far is as follows:

Grand Prize from Cervelo Soloist Carbon CSC team replica bicycle worth $4750 USD. Equipped with Shimano Ultegra 10-speed, R-550 wheels, FSA cranks, bars & stem, Selle Italia Marco Ponza saddle, Cervelo aero carbon seatpost, and Vittoria Diamante Pro Lite tyres.

Daily Prize from BBB Parts - 21 pairs of BSG-23 Winner Quickstep World Champion glasses designed for Tom Boonen - one for each day of tour.

10x Runners-up Prizes

Giro Atmos Helmet
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
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* Cycleops Powertap 2.4 Wireless * Set of Shimano Dura Ace WH-7801-SL Wheels - three sets on offer * Maxxis Courchevel road tyres - 10 sets on offer * Descente Classic Chevron design clothing - four sets on offer * PRO Carbon Bottle Cage - x10 on offer * Speedplay - Zero stainless steel pedals - 3 sets on offer * Giro Atmos Helmet - x3 Giro Atmos Helmet

More prizes will be announced in the coming days. To find out more visit the prizes page.

What is Fantasy Le Tour all about?

The online game allows you to assume the role of a professional team manager for the 2007 Le Tour and create your own dream team from any of the real life riders in this year's Tour. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with other virtual managers from around the world. Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win some great prizes.

Remember you can still enter teams until stage 4 begins. You can reedit and re-enter teams for stages 1-3 of the Le Tour 2007 competition up until stage 4 begins. Unlike most Fantasy games, this gives you the chance to try out the game for FREE and experiment with different strategies without having to pay for mistakes. If you join the Tour after the start date you can still take part with just as good a chance of winning as a manager who joined before stage 1. Try out a team today!

For more details register for free now. It's a great way to follow Le Tour 2007.

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