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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Edition Cycling News for July 13, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake and Laura Weislo

Vinokourov soldiers on

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) grits
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After finishing stage five with his shorts ripped open, his knees dripping blood and his backside missing skin, Alexandre Vinokourov's bid for the final general classification in the Tour was as bruised as his body. With just one flat stage before the Alps and two days until the daunting mountain top finish in Tignes, Vinokourov's fall came at the worst possible time. The steely Kazakh is determined, however, to soldier on. "I'll be back," he told "I must continue, I haven't broken anything."

Vinokourov spent the evening at the hospital in Dijon where it was determined that he had no fractures, but had two deep contusions on both knees, his elbow and abrasions on his hip and buttocks. It is expected that he will take the start for stage six, but the decision will be made Friday morning.

Vinokourov blamed the crash, which came on a fast descent with 26 kilometres left in the fifth stage to Autun, on a mechanical, explaining, "I think that my chain skipped, and as a result I lost my balance." His long, tense chase to the finish was made more difficult by the category three Côte de la Croix de la Libération just 8.5 kilometres from the end. "If the finale of the stage had been flat there would have been no problem [getting back -ed]."

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His Astana team sent six riders back to assist with the chase, pulling Vinokourov back within one minute of the peloton by the final climb, but when the Kazakh reached the narrow roads of the ascent his progress was slowed by a road block of dropped riders and team cars. "With that hill and the fact that the commissaires made a 'barrage', a return was impossible. No sooner had I crashed than the race burst open.. Otherwise I would have certainly returned to the group."

Andreas Klöden had slightly more luck following his crash. He was initially feared to have a tailbone fracture, the same injury that forced him out of the Tour in 2003. After some more X-rays and additional tests, however, the German is cleared to ride with 'just' a hairline fracture. According to sid Astana's directeur sportif Mario Kummer reported that "it's not as bad as initially feared." Everybody is aware, though, that the injury is quite painful for a cyclist and it remains to be seen if Klöden will be able to finish the Tour, in which he is currently ranked second.

Zabel's consolation prize

Zabel in green
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Milram's sprinter Erik Zabel had the bittersweet experience of taking the green jersey on a stage he very much wanted to win. Zabel has won the points classification in six consecutive Tours (1996-2001), but found his time on the podium to be a bit of consolation for failing to take the stage five bunch sprint, which was won by Liquigas' Filippo Pozzato.

Zabel's last Tour stage win was in 2002, and he was hoping to break the long dry spell, but was glad to be back in green. "It's fantastic to be back in the green jersey. The last time I won it was in 2001 and the last time I wore it was in 2002 so, for me, it's a long time ago but it fits well."

Zabel, who celebrated his 37th birthday during the Tour, had long since given up serious aspirations of winning the Tour's green jersey and came to the Milram squad to work with his younger team-mate Alessandro Petacchi. With the Italian missing the Tour, and still awaiting a decision from the Italian Olympic Committee regarding the high level of the asthma drug Salbutamol in his urine during a Giro doping control, Zabel's role was changed at the last minute. "Normally I would have come to this Tour to lead out the sprints for Alessandro Petacchi," Zabel explained. "Last Wednesday my team manager told me, 'Okay, now you have to sprint.' I had just two days to think about this but I'm pleased to be able to get a reward."

The affable German, who takes his frequent second place finishes with good humour, is honest about his abilities. "I know that I'm not the fastest anymore," he admitted, "but I'm still there and I have a lot of fun in the peloton so that the most important thing for me." His time in the green jersey is a welcome positive experience after a few grim weeks in June following his tearful admission to EPO use in the 1996 Tour.

Whether he will pursue the jersey to Paris is unclear. "I'm happy to wear the green jersey for another day," Zabel explained, "I'll think about it from day to day: Paris is so far away in my mind so I'm only thinking about tomorrow... I think this year it's a little bit different because there's no absolute favourite in the sprints: everybody can beat everybody so the interest in the points classification remains high."

McEwen suffers

Robbie McEwen was feeling stiff
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Robbie McEwen had a hard day at the office on stage five. The winner of the first sprint stage into Canterbury overcame bad luck on that stage when he recovered from a crash, chased back on and then won the day. However, as the days go by, the effects of the crash are hampering his efforts, and on the lumpy parcours from Chablis to Autun, the Australian gave up on any thought of contesting the sprint and finished more than 11 minutes behind with Stuart O'Grady. "I'm having big trouble with my neck, back and knees," he told Cyclingnews, "but today would have been too hard in any case. I did suffer a lot more than normal.".

McEwen's luck ran out after his stage one victory, and on stage two in Gent, where he narrowly avoided the big crash that held up most of the field, but lost enough momentum to finish back in sixth place on the stage won by Quicksteps Gert Steegmans. On stage three he finished seventh in a chaotic sprint which saw the Maillot Jaune take a surprise win.

His narrow escapes continued on stage four to Joigny where he finished 16th. McEwen described the sprint to Cyclingnews, "I wanted to make a run on the left hand side, but two guys came together and nearly crashed themselves. Then something flew off somewhere and cut my arm (again), and one Agritubel guy lost control and was all over the place.

"I needed to get up on the left but there was just no where to go," he described. "When I did get a run, the guys on the front swung across and blocked my run again. There was almost another crash and I hit the wheel of one guy."

The nervous sprints are starting to take their toll on the 35 year-old, who put his confidence level at about "80%" after stage four. He'll have one more chance on stage six to Bourg-en-Bresse before the Tour hits the Alps.

Disco shares the pain

By Brecht Decaluwé

The Discovery Channel team hasn't been excluded from the Tour's bad luck, and after Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus' abandon following his crash on stage two, the team could be down one more valuable domestique after Benjamin Noval ran into the Bouygues Telecom team car on stage five.

Discovery directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel said the Spaniard is "Pretty messed up" according to the team's website, Noval crashed through the window of the Bouygues Telecom car, and is the second rider to have that type of mishap after Agritubel's Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez ran into the Caisse d'Epargne car on stage one. While Ramirez was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone, Noval was able to finish the stage, despite having deep cuts to his armpit. "He finished the stage so I think he'll be able to start tomorrow," Bruyneel commented after the stage, "but it will depend on how he looks in the morning. He's definitely going to hurt a lot but I think he can start."

Bruyneel blamed the crash on the Bouygues team director, explaining, "We've seen the images of the crash now on the television. The car had a French TV crew inside the car and the director was entertaining the camera, explaining race tactics as he was driving and going all out downhill."

"I think it's pretty dangerous to do that," he continued. "There are some people who talk about the danger or usefulness of using radios in a race and I have my opinion on that, but I definitely have my opinion about TV cameras in the race cars. Seeing certain directors trying to be the star of the show and wanting to entertain the TV while they have to drive and think about the safety of the riders. It's definitely very dangerous. That's why we never have TV cameras in the car, or at least if we do we pretend that they are not there. I don't think we can say the same of everybody."

The injury of Noval is another blow to the team after the abandon of Vaitkus. Dirk Demol described some more details of Vaitkus' injury to Cyclingnews. "We immediately brought him to the hospital in Waregem because it was a complex fracture, there was a muscle involved. He was unlucky to hit the barriers directly with his thumb," Demol said. The thumb was fractured in five places, and it was sad for the friendly Lithuanian rider as he was very motivated for his first participation in the Tour de France.

"A month before the Tour we informed him that he would make the selection. He only needed to lose three kilograms, in the Dauphiné he was already on weight," Demol said. Vaitkus wasn't supposed to be sprinting in this Tour, but in Gent he did take part in the build-up. "In Gent he was allowed to sprint along as he has many friends there, it's a pity that it goes wrong just then," Demol said to Cyclingnews.

"The purpose for him was to join a breakaway later on in the Tour," Demol regretted the loss. After dropping out of the race, Vaitkus rebounded and returned to the start of the third stage where he wished his team-mates the best of luck. The team's mechanic told Cyclingnews that Vaitkus didn't need any help. "He just wanted his bags as he knows a lot of people in the area, he'll be all right."

Lequatre out of the Tour

Geoffroy Lequatre (Cofidis), who crashed heavily yesterday and rolled into the finish 44 minutes and four seconds behind winner Filippo Pozzato, spent the night in hospital for further treatment, according to AFP. His multiple wounds to knee, elbow and hands were initially cleaned before the rider had to be stitched up in multiple places. He was kept in hospital overnight as a precautionary measure.

Lequatre arrived outside the time limit, which is a percentage taken off the winner's time. The time cut depends on the difficulty of the stag and the average speed reached by the winner. For yesterday's moderately difficult profile and the winning average of 39.67 km/h, the time gap allowed was six percent or 16 minutes and 45 seconds. The jury decided to reinstate the rider into the race, however, due to his crash.

But Cofidis' manager, Eric Boyer, has made clear that Lequatre will not be able to continue the Tour.

Lehigh Valley Velodrome to sell naming rights

The Lehigh Valley Velodrome, or 'T-Town' as is affectionately known, could be getting a new name in the near future. The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners approved a bill amending the lease agreement between Lehigh County and the Velodrome Fund Inc. to allow the Lehigh Valley Velodrome to sell the naming rights to the facility.

Velodrome President and CEO Erin Hartwell explained the move was intended to help the facility's bottom line. "Having the ability to sell the naming rights to the Lehigh Valley Velodrome is critical to our desire to expand the quality of our programs and services to the cycling community and the Lehigh Valley," Hartwell explained. "The additional revenue and marketing potential brought forth by this level of sponsorship will forever positively impact this incredible sports facility."

Originally named the Lehigh County Velodrome and later the Lehigh Valley Velodrome to reflect greater regional involvement in the facility, this will mark the first time in the venue's 31 years that a corporate partner will place its name on the marquee.

"We understand implicitly the importance of securing a corporate partner whose mission and corporate philosophy compliments the fitness and wellness vision of the Velodrome Fund Inc. It's our duty to make sure that we partner with the appropriate business," said Hartwell.

Course announced for the US Pro Championships

USA Cycling announced the courses for its profession championships to be held in early September. The race, which will crown the national champions in both time trial and road race, will be held in Greenville, South Carolina again, and will take place on similar courses as last year's championship.

The 32.4 kilometre time trial course will be the same challenging and technical route that CSC's David Zabriskie road to victory, beginning at The Cliffs at Mountain Park and ending at The Cliffs Valley. Zabriskie is expected to defend his title."I will be back to defend the national time trial championships. The course is very challenging because of the technical aspects of it, so I have to take it very serious in order to do well," said Zabriskie, a time trial specialist who finished second in the Time Trial World Championships last year.

The road race Championships, now in its 23rd season, will be contested on a slightly shorter course this year of 177 kilometres. Current champion George Hincapie is expected to defend his road race title, which will include four laps over the famed Paris Mountain.

"It was great to have the entire U.S. cycling scene in my backyard and see firsthand why I live in Greenville. I am looking forward to racing in front of my family and friends again and I can only hope that I could repeat my performance from 2006. Obviously anything less is going to seem like a disappointment," said Discovery Channel's Hincapie, who is a two-time winner of the Professional Road Race Championship (1998 and 2006).

The field for the USA Cycling Professional Championships will be announced in August. Additional spectator events are being planned, such as a health and wellness expo, public concert, and the "Stars and Stripes Challenge" fundraising bicycle ride on September 2.

Route maps and details for each professional race can be found at the official web site, In addition, the web site offers online volunteer registration and hospitality tickets for purchase. While admission to both races is free for spectators, there are fees for hospitality passes. The Hospitality is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (tickets available for purchase on-line)

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