First Edition Cycling News for July 12, 2007
Edited by Sue George with assistance from Susan Westemeyer
Hushovd ends dry spell
Thor Triumphs in Tour
By Shane Stokes in Joigny, France
Finally, back on top. Heading into this year's Tour de France Thor Hushovd was lacking confidence in his abilities. It seems a strange thing from the rider who won the prologue and the final stage of the 2006 race, but going ten months without a victory can play havoc with a sprinter's essential swagger. Self-belief is crucial for those who literally risk life and limb to win; a dry spell which began after his triumph on stage six of last year's Vuelta a España had planted the seed of doubt in his mind.
Today, on stage four of the 2007 Tour de France, the Thunder God roared again. After a frenzied, somewhat chaotic build-up to the sprint, the race's top sprinters went mano a mano in the final few hundred metres before the line in Joigny. The head of the bunch flicked back and forth across the road as teams tried to impose their dominance and then, with approximately 450 metres to go, Julian Dean darted forward.
Hushovd was latched securely onto his back wheel and 250-odd metres later he hit the afterburners and powered to the front. From there to the line it was all about brute strength; Robert Hunter (Barloworld), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Erik Zabel (Milram) were those who came closest to denying the Norwegian celebrations, but Hushovd had enough gas to go all the way to the line. He threw his arms up in the air and let out a huge roar of triumph; the drought was over, Thor was back.
"This win is great for me because I didn't have a very good start to the season," he said afterwards, very satisfied with the 66 km/h success. "I prepared the season to be good in the Classics, in Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but I fell sick the day before Milan-San Remo and I didn't do well in the Classics.
"Then I did the Giro. I was second twice there. It is great to win a stage because of that and I am very happy. I hope the rest of the race goes as well as today."
Hushovd paid credit to his team, who he said did vital work. "The sprint was very fast with big, wide roads at the end. My team did a lot of work for me and riders such as Sébastien Hinault and William Bonnet were helping a lot. I trusted Julian Dean; I stayed on his wheel and he started the sprint very strongly with about 450 metres to go. He led me out and then I jumped with about 200 metres remaining.
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Stage 4 Reactions
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis): "It wasn't necessarily the plan for me to be in the break, it just happened. We wanted to keep the jersey."
Rémy Di Gregorio (Française Des Jeux): "I didn't want to quit the Tour," said as he was heading to the medics."
Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole): "I was better placed as in the previous sprints. I am too happy. The team is going well, we already got second. I hope it continues like this. I hope my luck has changed."
Hushoved showed to cameramen a big scar from last year still on his right upper arm.
William Bonnet (Crédit Agricole): "We worked a lot the last few days but it didn't work out so far. But today it came together. We have great rouleurs with Julian Dean and Sébastien Hinault. It's a great satisfaction."
Fabian Cancellara (CSC): "The team was great today. There was a lot of wind. On the one hand it was nervous but on other hand it was easier for us than yesterday. I was more tired yesterday. That was the hardest kilometre of my life. I hope to keep the yellow here in France for a while longer. But when we hit the mountains it is certainly over for me. Tomorrow will be a hard. We will just look day by day."
Stéphane Augé (Cofidis): "I need to thank Sylvain [Chavanel] today. He made the decision to leave the jersey for me [by not sprinting for first place in the last KOM]. He is a great champion. I had nine points and he had six. If he'd taken the KOM, he would have passed me, so he let Knees go ahead, and now has eight points."
"Yesterday I did a bluff [when he attacked more than 30 kilometres before the KOM]. I surprised everyone, including my directeur sportif."
He explained the electric shifting system, describing that there is a battery in the bottleholder with a wire connecting to te shifters. He said, "the system works very well and I am very happy with it." He does mention some people predict trouble with it, but he is confident that it'll work fine.
Laurent Jalabert (Commentating for French TV): "The polka-dot jersey is very recognized and it is great to wear. Stéphane [Augé] already tried in the first stage and he certaianly deserves this jersey."
Alexander Vinokourov (Astana): "It was a special day because it was very windy. We always had to stay focused on the road. We got a little bit more stress than in the peloton. But the whole team did a good job today. My ankle still disturbs me. I regularly show it to the team's osteopathe. But I stay optimistic."
Gregory Rast (Astana): "Finally a real bike race! The peloton went faster, it was much more nervous. With the team, we were always in the front of the peloton to work for Vinokourov and Klöden."
Gerdemann: Cycling is "still alive"
By Gregor Brown in Joigny
The young-looking Linus Gerdemann is starting an adventure in his first Tour de France. The German of T-Mobile is charged with protecting Australian Michael Rogers has he vies for top spot on the Podium in Paris.
Linus explained to Cyclingnews that there have been some "easy" days before the real testing will begin. "Yesterday [Stage 3 to Compiègne], was really easy, it was flat," he began in clear English. "I just tried to save energy and to protect Michael while we wait for the mountain days.
"I would like to have a good stage for myself but it is my first Tour, so we will have to see what is possible," said Gerdemann, winner of a 2005 Tour de Suisse stage, who is in his third year as a professional.
"It is impressive for sure," he continued of his Tour de France experience thus far. "The Tour de France is the biggest bike race in the World. ... London was amazing. A world city and the prologue was there. It was a good sign for cycling that there were so many fans. For sure we have problems but it was great to see that cycling is still alive."
He remarked on his team leader. "He is good. It is flat and so it is difficult to say. However, he is in good spirits."
Cortinovis on Milram philosophy
By Gregor Brown in Joigny
Erik Zabel came into the Tour de France as sprint leader of Italian-German Team Milram thanks to Alessandro Petacchi's non-start. Alessandro Cortinovis explained how the team is taking its chances where it can get them and leaving Zabel to fend for himself.
"The train is not there these days because with Zabel's characteristics there is not a need for one," explained the tall, 29 year-old Italian. "He is able to arrange his sprint with his experience and he prefers to stay on the wheels of the favourites."
Zabel was perhaps too close to the favourites on Monday when the Tour de France finished in Gent, Belgium. In the sprint into the Flemish city, Zabel touched wheels with Tom Boonen. Manuel Quinziato of Liquigas went down followed by a almost the entire peloton. "He felt bad for what had happened. He was able to stay on his pedals but, unfortunately, the others behind were not so lucky. This is something that happens but he was not happy about it." All the riders were able to finish the stage.
Cortinovis noted that Miriam's philosophy is open at the Tour. "We live for the day. [Andriy] Grivko and [Marcel] Sieberg have tried their luck in attacks. ... I want to try to get in the right escape. I don't know which one." The Italian hinted his day may come on Thursday to Autun or Friday to Bourg-en-Bresse.
Kessler's B-sample positive
Matthias Kessler's B-sample has also tested positive for testosterone, with an equally "exorbitantly high value" as the A-sample, according to the Sueedeutsche Zeitung, leading the newspaper to say that he had "obviously been caught in flagranti."
Kessler, who has denied doping, also gave an explanation for the positive tests. He told his attorney, Michael Lehner, that shortly before the Fleche Wallone, when he was tested positive, he swallowed the contents of four packages "with Chinese writing on them." He had received the packages from his alternative health practitioner, and assumed they were food supplements.
The German rider tested positive on April 24, and the test showed a testosterone value of 85:1, while a normal value is 4:1. Professor Wilhelm Schaenzer, leader of the Biochemistry Institute at the Sports School in Cologne, Germany, said that a natural value of over 15 to 20 is "not possible." His is currently suspended by his Astana team.
German TV criticizes TdF doping controls
The German television channel ZDF claimed to have uncovered UCI violations of the WADA's doping control regulations. The Germans claimed that many riders who were selected for controls after stages went to the controls alone and with a significant time delay after the end of the stage.
The WADA requires that the athletes be escorted from the moment they are notified that they are to be tested.
Ullrich Hass, a sports law expert who is also a judge at the international Court of Appeals for Sport, told the ZDF that without an official escort, riders would have the chance for manipulation before giving a urine sample. The UCI did not have a comment on the situation.
Ullrich disputes translation
Jan Ullrich said that some of his comments to L'Equipe recently were falsely translated from German to French. The newspaper quoted him as saying, "I don't owe anyone anything and have enough money to live on until the end of my days." Writing on his website, janullrich.de, he said, "I never said that and didn't mean it. My statement was, that I don't owe anyone anything and am independent of sponsors, the media and federations. I never said anything about money or that I have enough of it."
He also promised to present his side of the whole story -- some day. "I will share my complete opinions of the occurrences of the last years, at the time that I find right."
Skil-Shimano's Rooijakkers extends through 2008
Dutch rider Piet Rooijakkers signed a contract extension through the end of 2008. The 26 year-old from Gerwen has been in fine form during his second year on the squad. He rode well at the Tour of Qatar, the Dunkirk Four-day, and the Amstel Gold Race, where he was awarded the Herman Krott Trophy as most aggressive rider.
"I've matured with the team over the past two seasons," said Rooijakkers. "I'd like to continue to do that next season to more often get into positions where I can win races. I also wanted to stay at this team because of the spirit, the good programme and the team's ambition to develop further. Basically, I'm really settled in here."
Skil-Shimano management is delighted with Rooijakkers' decision to stay with the team for another year. "Piet has matured into one of the mainstays of the team in the past year," confirmed Iwan Spekenbrink. "So we're happy that he'll be wearing the Skil-Shimano jersey next year too."
Gerolsteiner weighing an end to sponsorship
One doping case at the Tour de France,and it could spell the end of Gerolsteiner's sponsorship, the mineral-water bottling company has said. "Doping doesn't go with the purest food product that there is," said company director Jorg Crossek to the German press agency sid. "Nothing more like that may happen, because that would have a negative impact on our decision."
The company's sponsorship contract runs throught the 2008 season. It has sponsored the team since 1998.
"It's at 50/50 right now," said Stefan Goebel, the firm's communications director. "We haven't had any crash in our marketing research figures after the doping affairs of the last few months, but there is a slow dropping trend. This trend has to turn around."
The company will hold talks the end of August with team manager Hans-Michael Holczer. He holds the team's ProTour license, which runs through 2010.
Bad luck for Zandio
Not everyone could celebrate the successful finish of another flat stage of the Tour de France. Caisse d'Epargne's Xabier Zandio fell victim to a crash in Stage 4, during which he broke his right collarbone. Zandio hasn't had the best luck during this Tour; he took a fall in a crash in Stage 1.
Zandio crashed while in the middle of the bunch. After the crash, he was transferred to Coulommiers, where he underwent x-rays to confirm his condition. The racer from Navarra will return tonight to Pamplona, where he will undergo an operation.
"He had almost completely recovered after the crash of the first day, but it was really bad luck for him one more time," said teammate Oscar Pereiro after the race. "Xabier was one of the key pieces of the team, mainly for the mountain stages, and we will really miss him. And I do not speak only about the sportsman, but also about the great friend he is for everybody in the team."
Voigt extends with CSC
Jens Voigt signed a two-year contract extension with Team CSC, thereby ending all speculation he was looking at other teams.
"I belong with Team CSC and I'm extremely happy we've agreed on extending our contract," said Voigt on team-csc.com. "I want to spend the remaining part of my career her at Team CSC and luckily I've still got lots of time left. This team means a lot to me both professionally and personally. I fell that I'm among my best friends, when I'm at work - and who could ask for more really?
"I feel a great responsibility for the new young talents and at the same time I'm still highly motivated to make some great results of my own," said Voigt. "Even though the cycling sport is going through some rough times at the moment, I'm still one hundred percent motivated, and I feel that with our Anti-Doping Program we're helping to pave the way for a healthy and safe future. I'd very much like to be a part of that."
Voigt is already considering what might come after retirement. "I'd also like to maintain some sort of relationship with the team, when I eventually decide to park my bike in the garage," he said. Director Kim Andersen called Voigt a "big inspiration to new riders."
Knee surgery for Piil
Jakob Piil of T-Mobile Team underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, the team announced.
"The operation went well. If all goes normally, Jakob will be able to start fully training again in one to two weeks," team doctor Helge Riepenhof said on the team's website, t-mobile-team.com.
The Danish rider will be able to start racing again in about three weeks. "But we shouldn't expect too much from him. He will need time to get back into it."
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