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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for July 16, 2007

Edited by Steve Medcroft

Vinokourov: heroism breeds popularity in Tour

By Jean-FranÁois Quťnet in Tignes with assistance from Steve Medcroft

Victor in the 2006 Vuelta a Espana
Photo ©: Unipublic
(Click for larger image)

When the 2007 Tour de France started, race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was riding under a slightly tarnished image when it was revealed that he worked with controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari. But there's nothing better than a spectacular crash and the grace of a rider gritting his teeth and performing while injured to bring about a sympathetic response from the fans.

Not to say that Vino's crash on stage 5 (Chablis - Autun) wasn't serious; Anyone who saw him exiting the hospital of Beaune at 11.45pm on Thursday with bandages on both knees couldn't have thought he'd be able to go far in the Tour de France. Vino himself was just happy that nothing was broken. The next morning, he could hardly walk from his hotel room to the Astana team bus.

Vinokourov received between 15 to 30 stitches (according to different sources inside the Astana team) applied loose enough so the Kasakh can still pedal correctly.

Stage 6 to Bourg-en-Bresse was a crucial test for Vinokourov. He spent most of the race at the back of the bunch with three of his team-mates and managed to stay with the peloton to the end of the day. He also kept pace with the contenders in stage 7, the first mountain stage of the 2007 Tour. When he arrived in Le Grand-Bornand, he said: "Maybe I gave the impression of climbing well, but don't get it wrong, I was suffering a lot. Finishing with the best guys is like a victory for me."

Read the entire Alexandre Vinokourov feature here.

Aussies endure a 'shocker' on stage 8

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) is lifted onto a stretcher
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

After years of scrapes and injuries but usually always managing to battle through, the Tour de France's Australian contingent of six riders, to put it in the local term, had a 'shocker' on Stage 8 after three riders either abandoned or were eliminated in one day. It was undoubtedly Australia's worst-ever day in the Tour de France, a day filled with drama, one that will be remembered by many Australian cycling fans as serious crashes took out marquee riders while aggression at the front shook up the GC contest.

A senior Australian cycling figure said to Cyclingnews, "(it was) a tough stage for the Aussies last night. After the Australians more often than not avoid major incident, accident and injury in the Tour over the past seven to eight years, we have copped our negative share in one shot."

Michael Rogers in the break
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

No single rider could be more disappointed with the turn of events on Sunday than podium hopeful, three-time world time trial champion and T-Mobile's GC rider, Mick Rogers (T-Mobile).

Rogers had become maillot jaune virtuel on the road and was looking to become the first Australian to win the yellow jersey in a mountain stage of the Tour for many years. He crossed the Cormet de Roselend, 65 kilometres from the finish in the lead group with eventual stage winner, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Suddenly, on the tricky descent with 54 kilometres remaining, Rogers and fellow breakway rider, Spaniard David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) crashed on a tight left hander; the Caisse d'Epargne man went over the barriers into a ditch while Rogers hit the deck on the road surface.

Both riders seemed - at the time - to have no major damage and quickly got back on their bikes in pursuit of the six front runners. (The descent of the Cormet de Roselend has caught out a few riders in the past, including Discovery Channel DS Johan Bruyneel in the '96 TdF (see story). The nasty corner is easy to find; after a few easy bends there's a very sharp turn to the left with a tighter-than-expected exit.)

However, Rogers was injured and he couldn't hold the pace, grimacing as rode and clearly favouring his right arm and wrist. He had so much pain following the crash he was forced to abandon. A later report stated he'd dislocated his shoulder. "I could see the yellow, I could taste it Ė now itís gone," was all he could manage after the brutal stage to Tignes.

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) has reportedly suffered fractures to five of his front ribs,
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Fellow Australian Stuart O'Grady crashed out of the Tour on Sunday as well. Countryman Simon Gerrans (AG2r Prťvoyance) said he saw the aftermath of the crash but didn't know it was the popular CSC rider being loaded onto a backboard and into an ambulance. "I saw Stuey about 3 km before the crash," he said. "I was going back for bidons and Stu came past with a pocket full of bidons. As I came around a corner I saw a few guys sprawled around the road and one CSC rider who was not moving he was wrapped around a pole. I know now that was Stuey."

Initial reports from France indicate O'Grady, who was taken by ambulance to hospital after being knocked unconscious, has suffered up to eight broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) was also sympathetic to his countrymen's plight. ďI didnít know Mick and Stuey crashed out of the Tour. Thatís real bad luck," he said after the race.

McEwen is also suffering from a rare Aussie bad-luck streak at the Tour, as so often the Australians have enjoyed reasonably incident-free Tours de France, or if they have fallen, they've continued on regardless. "I have struggled since my crash and the Tour is no place to try and recover. (Yesterday), I was in the hurt bag all day. From the word go. It doesnít seem like my knee is getting better, itís getting worse. The course is getting harder and yesterday they just sprinted up the first climb and that just put me on the back foot the whole day. Still Iím happy with my stage win and thankful to all that supported me - team and fans."

McEwen winning stage 1
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

About his crash earlier in the Tour, McEwen says the damage isn't overwhelming. "The way I landed on my knee, I injured the tendon as well. The patella tendon takes a lot of stress when youíre climbing. Iím hurting more every day and itís staying inflamed and swollen. So then you try to compensate by putting more pressure on the other leg and more pressure on other spots and itís just twisting me up on the bike and itís a vicious circle."

McEwen says his prescription to make it beyond the rest day for the chance at another sprint stage win is "to manage it and hopefully I can hang on with the bunch to the feed and then just ride whatever pace I can to get to the finish and hope thatís inside the time limit. Iím fighting, literally, an uphill battle."

But the day wasn't filled with only bad news for Australian riders. Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) was in the final group and stays in the mix of top GC favorites. And overall, Gerrans said he had "a great ride mate. Different to yesterday obviously but I think I needed that ride to clear out the cobwebs." Gerrans had a specific role in the stage. "I stayed with the main guys until the last climb. I was getting bidons for Christophe and kept him out of the wind. I am pretty happy with my day."

Milram missing Petacchi

By Gregor Brown in Tignes

Milram Directeur Sportif Vittorio Algeri has been guiding his team through the 2007 Tour in search of a stage win without star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who was sidelined just prior to the Tour. The 33 year-old sprinter had a non-negative test for the asthma drug Salbutamol during this year's Giro d'Italia. Although he had dispensation for the asthma product, the levels that were recorded at the Giro were abnormally high, leading to CONI's investigation and his team has had to search for wins without him.

"Today (stage 8 to Tigne) we will try to have all the riders together at the finish and basta," Algeri said to Cyclingnews from Bergamo on Sunday morning in Le Grand-Bornand. "This is our big objective. We want to have Zabel in Green for Paris but our first objective is to win a stage."

Can Zabel bring Green back to Milram?
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Zabel became Milram's sprint-man when Petacchi was sidelined by his case with CONI. "I have not heard from (Petacchi) in these last days but we are waiting for the 24th (for Petacchi's hearing in front of the the Italian Cycling Federation)," Algeri said. "We have a lot of faith but we are also worried because these days there is an atmosphere to find guilt at any cost. And maybe in this moment they don't use the same scale for everyone. For a simple spray, he maybe could be disqualified for year. This would be truly too much.

Some sponsors have pulled out in cycling's dark moments but Algeri says he believes Milram has faith and he is assured by his riders' performance in the first week of the Tour. "We are in difficult time. However, in the first week of the Tour we have made a lot of publicity for the team with the riders and the escapes. Zabel had the green jersey, and for all of this they are content. There is bad publicity but there is also a lot of good publicity. I think they will go on [as a sponsor]."

Algeri added that Petacchi is watching the Tour on television and wished he was in France with the team. "It would have been great to have Petacchi here and winning stages. He is pedaling very well and left the Giro with good form. It is a true shame."

As for Zabel's chances at the Green jersey, stage eight discarded some of Erik Zabel's competition for the sprints including Mark Cavendish, Robbie McEwen and Danilo Napolitano. "Now we are looking for the stages after the Alps. The transitional stages will see escapes go clear and we will count on always having someone in those escapes. And then, maybe it will arrive in a sprint."

Graham Watson exhibits Tour photography in London show

Tim Maloney-European Editor

Smilin' Graham:
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
(Click for larger image)

Although Le Grand Depart of the 2007 Tour De France may seem long ago, the memories remain of the great welcome London and the UK provided to Le Tour with a broad array of festivities. Among the most memorable was a photo exhibition at County Hall Gallery, just behind the gigantic London Eye ferris wheel along the Thames River.

"Eyes On The Tour De France" honored Londoner Graham Watson with a photography exhibition that featured over thirty years of Watson's work. Presented by eyewear company Oakley, Watson's ouvre was attractively arrayed throughout the County Hall Gallery. Watson began his career as an amateur cycling photographer while working as a photographers assistant at a toney portrait studio in London and would travel at weekends to the continent to the major cycle races and stand on the side of the road for his one chance to shoot.

Three decades later, Watson's body of work is even more impressive when hung on the walls of County Hall Gallery, his perceptive, cinematic style having influenced a generation of cycling photographers. When we asked Watson at his gallery opening about his career, the always modest Londoner remarked "oh it's just a few snaps" but nothing could be further than the truth. Watson's singular determination and unique vision brought him from the side of the road to being considered one of the worlds top sports photographers. For more Graham Watson, check out his website at www.Grahamwatson.com.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews

  • Smilin' Graham: A proud Watson at his London photography exhibition
  • All Eyes On Watson
  • Mr. Jones: BBC cycling consultant Graham Jones in his heyday at 1983 Tour in an early Watson shot
  • The Tonk: Discovery Channel team director Sean Yates, nicknamed "Tonk", on his one day in the Maillot Jaune
  • Yo Bobby J: American Bobby Julich puttin the hurt on Jan Ullrich, Tour De France 1997
  • Bob & Ruby: Versus commentator Bob Roll and his daughter Ruby at Watson's photo exhibit
  • The Man Is A Fan: Velonews editorial director John Wilcockson encourages Greg LeMond at Le Tour.

Cow takes on the Devil at Le Tour

By Susan Westemeyer

The Devil
Photo ©: Andrew Kennedy
(Click for larger image)

The Tour de France can be dangerous, and not just for the riders, as the "Tour Devil", Didi Senft of Germany, found out in the Alps. Senft, who appears on the mountain stages in his devil's costume to urge the riders on, apparently found a cow who doesn't approve of his act.

The cow attacked him, and tore a sleeve of his costume, the German agency sid has reported.

Ullrich blocks documents release

Jan Ullrich's attorneys are trying to prevent Swiss investigators from turning over documents from the Bank Credit Suisse to German investigators, the German news magazine FOCUS has reported. The bank account statements were taken during a search of Ullrich's house last September and from the bank.

The documents are currently being held by the district attorney in the Swiss canton of Thurgau. The German district attorney's office in Bonn hopes to use the documents in its fraud investigation of Ullrich, by showing how much the German cyclist paid to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.

In addition, the magazine said that Belgian prosecutors are investigating Ullrich's mentor Rudy Pevenage for tax problems.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)