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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Tour de France Cycling News for July 10, 2007

Edited by Laura Weislo and Bjorn Haake

Zabel faulted in stage two crash

By Laura Weislo

A pensive Erik Zabel
Photo ©: David Reinhardt
(Click for larger image)
Milram's Erik Zabel admitted to making the sudden move which set off a horrific crash during the finale of the Tour de France's stage two in Gent. Zabel explained that he made the move, saying, "I had to avoid Boonen, who was riding in front of me." When Zabel suddenly veered to the right to avoid running into Boonen's rear wheel, he clipped the front wheel of Liquigas' Manuel Quinziato, setting off a chain reaction that held up the vast majority of the peloton.

Gerolsteiner's Robert Förster was one of the many who hit the pavement in the wreck, and he lamented on his weblog, "Damn, all year long I didn't have any crashes, and now at the Tour I do. I hit the barriers with 65 km/h. An unpleasant experience. But how do they say: 'What doesn't kill us makes us tougher'. The team was working well. Cavendish was crossing in front of me to the right, and I thought I should go with him. Then Zabel did a little wave, the Liquigas guy got affected and then I hit the barriers. My bike was broken into three pieces.

Left standing on the side of the road, Förster was one of the many who had to take a spectator's view of the finish. "From there we followed the video screen. I would have liked to sprint there." He won't be alone in riding into France with aches and pains on stage three, the longest stage of the Tour. "Tonight it starts to hurt," he wrote, "I am all taped up and bathed in ice."

The crash, which also brought down overall leader Fabian Cancellara, sent several riders to the hospital for x-rays. Discovery Channel's Tomas Vaitkus was the worst off with a thumb broken in several places. He was forced to abandon the Tour and went in for surgery on Monday night.

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Jaksche visits the Tour

Jaksche in Germany in 2006
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Just over a week after stunning the cycling world with doping revelations, Jörg Jaksche was invited to the Tour de France stage finish in Gent by the German public TV channel ARD to talk about his experiences. The rider, who set the entire peloton on the defensive after admitting to using banned substances and blood doping, was a surprising choice after commentators Marcel Wüst and Jens Heppner were dismissed by German television, who did not want to use the former professionals because of doping confessions of their former peers Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag.

The selection of Jaksche was intended to show that the media outlet is taking the fight against doping seriously after the station was criticised for lack of doping coverage, but it has instead confused many viewers. The station was inundated with calls during the prologue from viewers wishing to hear about the race itself rather than doping.

Jaksche headed unashamedly onto Walter Godefroot's home turf after levelling serious charges that the former T-Mobile directeur sportif was involved in systematic doping - something Godefroot vigorously denied. Jaksche told Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he wasn't afraid of any legal action that might be filed against him, saying, "Why would he sue me? He knows I am right." Jaksche revealed that he will meet with the UCI and WADA soon and will also have an appointment with the prosecutors in his hometown of Ansbach in late July.

Jaksche has been accused of coming out with the revelations only because he was paid well by the magazine who published it - a charge he denies. "I only got reimbursed [for] expenses in the low five-figure numbers."

Jaksche said he felt welcomed at the Tour, especially by the younger riders, who thought it was great that he talked. "The older ones may have been a little more reserved, but I don't feel chased."

Pevenage admits links with Fuentes

Rudy Pevenage at the 2006 T-Mobile team launch
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image

Jan Ullrich's former manager and long-time adviser Rudy Pevenage has admitted knowing Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor whose clinic was raided last year, launching the long-running doping investigation known as Operación Puerto. In an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung today, the Belgian expressed his disappointment in being pushed out of the sport because of the negative press, pointing out that "half the field knows Fuentes."

Pevenage complained that the Germans were spending so much time focusing on doping to the exclusion of actual race coverage, something that doesn't happen so much in his home country. "We also have our share of doping stories with Museeuw and Vandenbroucke, but people still love cycling."

The resident of Geraardsbergen was fired from T-Mobile after the scandal, did not make the 30 kilometre trek to the finish in Gent, saying that he has "practically have no contacts to the peloton anymore." But he did reveal that many of the riders he knew were familiar with Fuentes, pointing out that Alejandro Valverde rode for Kelme where Fuentes was a team doctor.

Pevenage indicated that Fuentes' contact with cycling went back a long way, saying, "I knew him from the days when I was still racing." However, he would not go so far as to say who Fuentes actually worked with recently, cautioning that "now I have to be careful what I am saying."

Having spent his whole life in cycling he admitted that it is hard to do something else. But while he could see some benefit of talking to younger riders about the subject, he sees no point in joining the string of recent doping admissions. "So many people [have] already talked and if I say something now then I will just face lawsuits left and right."

No longer representing Jan Ullrich, Pevenage expressed his regret that the German rider's reputation was ruined, and revealed that he has no longer has much contact with his former protégé. "We phone each other regularly, but less often than before. We don't have much to say to each other anymore."

Big day for Milram's big man

By Susan Westemeyer

It was a very big day at the Tour de France for Milram's big man, Marcel Sieberg. His aggressive riding in a long breakaway brought him the red number as the most active rider as a reward, and his parents were at the finish in Gent to see him arrive.

The 1.98-metre tall German, riding in his first Grand Tour, attacked only 18 km into the stage, and he was eventually joined by Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Cédric Hervé (Agritubel). The trio built up a lead of nearly six minutes, and stayed away long enough to raise their hopes that they might make it through to the end. The sprinters' teams had other ideas, though, and finally roped them in with only 3 km to go.

"It was a beautiful stage," said the happy 25 year-old on the team's website, team-milram.com. "I had picked this stage out for an attack, because I know the area here from the Belgian classics," he told the German press agency dpa.

He even crossed the finish line in good company. "Just when I was back in the bunch, I was involved in the crash. I arrived at the finish with Fabian Cancellara."

Freiburg clinic undergoes examination

After two doctors admitted to playing a part in providing banned performance enhancing drugs to the T-Mobile team in the 1990's, the Freiburg clinic, which had employed former T-Mobile doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, has undergone a thorough investigation into its involvement in all professional sports. The doctors admitted their guilt after former T-Mobile soigneur Jef D'Hont revealed doping activities in the team in the '90's.

Immediately after the physicians' admissions, a task force was built to investigate all the facts and draw some conclusions on how to go forward. The head of the university clinic, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Jäger, has also initiated an investigation through an external, independent, entity.

The physicians' contract with T-Mobile was cancelled following the investigation, a move which irritated manager Bob Stapleton, who complained that the riders were left without any medical support for legitimate illnesses. The investigation also led to the cessation of services to professional sports other than cycling, but after an initial investigation by the department for sports medicine, services were reinstated to most sports, but cycling continues to be excluded from the clinic's services.

Pucinskaite storms to Giro lead

Edita Puckinskaite (Nürnberger)
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
(Click for larger image)

Lithuanian time trial champion Edita Pucinskaite took over the lead in the women's Giro d'Italia on Monday, taking out the 10.2 kilometre mountain time trial by a fraction of a second over Spaniard Maribel Moreno and riding herself into the pink jersey ahead of her countrywoman Diana Ziliuite. Pucinskaite rocketed up the climb to Prato a Calci, an average 7% grade with sections that kicked up to 10%, in just over 30 minutes, smashing the time Ziliuite. Pucinskaite's directeur sportif, Jens Zemke, was elated. "That was a sensational mountain time trial from Edita," he said after the stage.

Zemke was in the team car with Pucinskaite's husband Roberto Rossi, and glowed about the team's performance. "We already have won two stages. Everybody is having a lot of fun and will do everything to defend the pink jersey in the remaining five stages. We will look day to day."

Starting the race with just five riders because of illnesses, team Nürnberger is having plenty of success in Italy. "The women are all motivated," said Zemke, "even though our head count is lower than our competitors."

Landis continues book tour through American Midwest

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Wheaton, Illinois

Landis ponders
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

While rumours and speculation about when the decision of Floyd Landis' fate may come circulate, especially as the Tour de France gets underway, Landis himself has been busy promoting his new book, Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France. Monday night Landis appeared at a Borders bookstore in suburban Chicago and was welcomed by a crowd of a few hundred supporters. He greeted each fan with a smile and a thank you, and signed copies of his book until the store sold out.

"Most everything was written by the time the hearing was going on," Landis told Cyclingnews about the book's writing, co-written with author Loren Mooney. "We had to add an epilogue after but everything else was finished six weeks before, because the date was established when we thought the hearing was going to be in January. We wanted it to come out before the Tour, that's all."

"[Mooney] did the vast majority of it and did a great job -- I had never written a book before! To make it entertaining and still from my voice is another thing."

Landis spoke for a couple of minutes and then opened the floor to questions for twenty minutes. Most of the questions were rather benign, inquiring about what he is doing these days and how his hip is feeling, but a few did probe into deeper issues.

When a question on his thoughts regarding Greg LeMond surfaced, Landis quickly quipped back, "Care to make that more specific?" -- to which the crowd laughed. While keeping the mood light, Landis did diffuse the question by saying that he did not know why LeMond was brought into the preceding. "He only served to distract [from] what the hearing was about."

Of course, people wanted to know when the decision was going to come down, and if it is against him, if he will appeal. "My lawyers have not heard anything," he said. "There is no real timeline except for a ten day minimum after the hearing closes. It depends on what the ruling says. I really believe there is very little chance I would not appeal it. I don't know what they could possibly write that would convict me. But if they say 'we just don't like the guy', then it is going to be hard to appeal that!"

"I hope it is soon, but I also hope it doesn't take away from the guys who are racing this year. They deserve more credit than they are getting."

Read the full feature here.

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