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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for July 17, 2007

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Paul Verkuylen

CSC plots Tour from Val d'Isère

Dave Zabriskie has been struggling
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC has had a good run in this year's Tour de France so far thanks to two stage wins by Fabian Cancellara and seven days in the race leader's maillot jaune. The second phase has started and the Swiss has promised himself to team leader Fränk Schleck and Carlos Sastre, while the team has had to deal with the blow of losing Aussie Stuart O'Grady. Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown reports from the team's rest day press conference in Val d'Isère.

"Yesterday, we saw that the team was strong again," began directeur sportif Kim Andersen. "The riders that needed to be there were there. We are ready to go on for the next phase of the race." Schleck stayed with a group containing Valverde and Evans and he is now 3'14" behind GC leader Rasmussen, while Sastre trailed in the next group and sits at 3'35".

Yellow jersey push aside, Andersen noted the loss of a key teammate, Paris-Roubaix champion Stuart O'Grady. "I would like to thank Stuart for his great work for the team for the whole week. We are sending our thoughts to the hospital where he is now; we will go on and try to win for him." The Aussie touched wheels with a rider, crashed on the descent of the Hauteville climb, and is reported to have broken five ribs, his shoulder blade and collarbone.

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In contrast to O'Grady's misfortune, Cancellera reflected fondly on his seven days in the golden fleece, but is now ready to ride for the team. "When I look back they were beautiful days but there were also hard," said the 26 year-old Swiss. "I think that the Colombière will cause me to pay for a week. I told the whole team I was feeling sorry. The yellow is beautiful but it is also a hard job [to have it]. There is no time for recovery. There is always stress, with the media, the controls... It was not an easy week. Now I am for the team to help Carlos and Fränk."

To read the full feature, click here.

Evans looking to Tour time trials

By Brecht Decaluwé in Tignes

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

With Cadel Evans in sixth position after the first mountain stage and their stage win in Canterbury courtesy of Robbie McEwen, the Predictor-Lotto team were happy to talk to the press during the first rest day. Despite green jersey contender McEwen being forced to abandon the race, the team was upbeat about their chances for GC success with Cadel Evans.

The Australian was quickly asked why he didn't attack during Sunday's stage. "We're all close on GC and because of that the racing might look less exciting," was Evans' response, a strange response considering the Tour de France has not been more open in a decade. "With US Postal you knew that when Popo [Yaroslav Popovych - ed.] pulled off there would only be ten guys left behind him and for sure you knew who was the strongest," Evans said.

French champion Christophe Moreau made sure that the French crowds would all be behind him from now on as he started attacking the race right from the foot of the ultimate climb. "I'm glad he did it, otherwise they would come back on us. Obviously, we wouldn't work with him as he was clearly the strongest," Evans commented. "For sure the strongest riders attacked yesterday but on the other hand less strong riders could hang on in a group as the headwind benefited them."

Some media are continuously trying to lure the Australian to ride a more attacking style and make some daring quotes, but insiders know that this isn't the style of Cadel Evans. "Moreau was so strong that I couldn't attack but when the opportunity is there I will try," Evans said, perhaps trying to keep the press happy. Cyclingnews asked him why he would attack since he can take time on the pure climbers in the time trials. "It's true that my strength lies in my consistency. Some guys are better in the mountains but when there's an action there's also a reaction, so they have their weaknesses," Evans explained.

Last year Cadel Evans was also in a good position to battle for the Tour de France podium and he was asked if he had changed since then. "I'm more used to it, I don't get distressed that much anymore when we're in a traffic jam when returning from Le Grand-Bornand," Evans laughed. "Up until now I haven't suffered that much in the mountains this year so I'm happy. That's because I'm totally focused on the Tour de France I guess. During previous years my season was: being good in April and being good in July, hoping to be in form twice. This year my goal is to do better than last year's fifth place and if I wanted to do so then I had to gear everything up for the Tour de France."

This year together with his personal coach Roberto Damiani, the Australian worked out a schedule that would see him ready for the Tour and as a part of that there was also a reconnaissance of the main climbs. "We've seen most mountains stages," Evans said. When asked if he copied the approach invented by Armstrong, by riding all the main stages beforehand, Evans responded: "Back since I was a young MTB'er I have been pre-riding the races, so I wouldn't say that Armstrong invented it, he might have refined it."

The arrival of Damiani in the Predictor Lotto team was requested by Evans himself who had worked with Italian when he started his road career with the Mapei team. Evans was more than happy with Damiani joining the team as during his contract negotiations the management mentioned the possibility of hiring a specific directeur sportif with stage race experience.

"The Belgian directors certainly aren’t bad but they are specialists for the classics. Damiani and I have the same work ethics so we'll be fine," Evans said to Cyclingnews earlier this year. Combining the better coaching there's also the technical improvement. "Our bike manufacturer Ridley really got behind us. They asked me if I wanted to have the best time trial bike of the world. Of course I'm happy to hear that. I hope the team benefits from all the wind tunnel tests we did in Brussels. Gaining minutes at the Tour de France can make a huge difference."

With Rasmussen in the yellow jersey it seems like the moment to attack him will be in the time trials, a discipline where Evans should be able to take a lot of time back on the Chicken. "I'm glad we did some work on the time trial this year with the team as I think it will be decided there," Evans said. "Looking at the past of Rasmussen I'm not really afraid of him, that's in contrast to Menchov who has proven to be the more consistent rider of the Rabobank team."

When Robbie McEwen arrived at the finish past the time cut on Sunday Evans lost his only compatriot in Predictor Lotto's Tour de France selection. As a result the team is now completely at his disposal. "It's unfortunate that Robbie had to leave the race but when we turn this negative point into something positive it's true that everybody is working for me now."

Evans expressed his satisfaction with the team's commitment during the first week and picked one rider out for special praise. "Wim Vansevenant has been most impressive so far. The cameras are not often there when he does his work but when you expect him to be dropped he's there again to pull," Evans said of the current lantern rouge of this year's Tour de France.

Last year Vansevenant was in the same spot in Paris and earlier in the Tour the Belgian expressed that he wouldn't mind finishing there again. When asked if there would be a Predictor Lotto rider in first and last position in Paris the Australian laughed the question away. "I think there's not a lot of money to win if you bet on him finishing as last rider," Evans laughed.

After the press conference team manager Marc Sergeant talked with Cyclingnews about the team's tactics for the two upcoming weeks. "We're not hiding that we don't have the team to defend the yellow jersey. So if Evans can grab the yellow jersey in Cognac that would be the ideal scenario for us."

Caisse d'Epargne with no designated captain

By Jean-François Quénet in Tignes

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) has the kick
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

With Alejandro Valverde lying in fourth position, 2'51 down on Michael Rasmussen, and 2006 runner-up Oscar Pereiro about one minute behind (14th @ 3'54), the Caisse d'Epargne team has two cards to play in the second part of the Tour de France. Valverde might have a more fearsome reputation but is mindful of his past performances in the Tour. "I don't know what the third week of the Tour is about," he said on the first rest day in the Alpine town of Tignes. "I've never done it."

In fact, when he rode for Kelme and Communidad Valenciana, his team was no longer welcome at the Tour de France although the whole Fuentes connection wasn't public knowledge at the time in 2004. In 2005, he outsprinted Lance Armstrong in Courchevel but had to pull out because of a tendonitis after the Alps. Last year, he broke his collarbone on Stage 3.

After last year's Vuelta a España where he was overhauled by Alexandre Vinokourov, Valverde isn't ruling out a possible win from the Kazakh star despite his injuries. "He suffered on the last climb but I've seen that very well before," said Valverde of the climb to Tignes on Stage 8. "We were all flat out at the end and it was impossible to drop him off earlier on. We didn't definitely get rid of him but it was the best way of racing."

While Valverde was up the road on Christophe Moreau's wheel, Pereiro was able to watch Vinokourov more closely. "The media have an obsession with Vinokourov who is introduced as the strongest rider of the Tour de France," said Pereiro. "But for now, because of the circumstances of his crash, I reckon Kashechkin and Klöden are stronger than him. They rode very intelligently so far. It's been an important day for them yesterday. Vino is unpredictable."

Caisse d'Epargne and Astana were sharing the same hotel together with Ag2r in Tignes during the rest day, and there is a lot of respect between the Spanish and the Kazakh teams.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"Our intention was to come out of the Alps with the best possible ranking for both [myself and Valverde]," Pereiro explained. "We have made it. Karpets isn't far behind and Guttierez is also in an ambush position. We hope to confirm the good form day after day."

For the past two Tours de France, Pereiro has proven himself to be the strongest rider of the third week, something that Valverde still has to experience.

"The race remains widely open," Valverde said. "Personally, Stage 8 has given me a lot of confidence. But I could see that our rivals are very strong. We'll have to keep our attention high. Moreau is the strongest. There's also Kashechkin who can play his cards. Rasmussen isn't a very good time triallist but we can't let him gain more time uphill."

There is one more Alpine stage before the transition towards the Pyrénées. "It would have been a more dangerous stage with the Galibier if Rasmussen wasn't the leader," predicted Pereiro. "With the likes of Thomas Dekker, Peter Weening, Denis Menchov and Michael Boogerd, Rabobank has a lot of good riders for controlling the race. I bet there will be a breakaway in the Col d'Iseran, at the back, we'll see how it goes."

Directeur sportif Eusebio Unzue gave the final assessment: "The group of favourites race with their minds on the Pyrénées. Apart from Rasmussen's solo ride up to Tignes, something he's used to doing every year now, nobody wants to give it all in the Alps because the Pyrénées are more difficult this year."

Historically, the Pyrénées suit the Spaniards the best.

Cancellara could ride Olympic individual pursuit

By Brecht Decaluwé in Val d'Isère

As the current World Time Trial Champion, CSC's Fabian Cancellara naturally has one eye on Olympic gold in Beijing next year, but the Swiss powerhouse has also indicated a desire for a second Olympic title, by riding the 4km individual pursuit.

Speaking with Cyclingnews at Team CSC's rest day press conference in Val d'Isère, Cancellara pointed out his special mission for 2008. "It's an important year with the Olympics," he said. "I want to do the time trial but maybe I'll also do the 4km individual pursuit. The team will probably agree as - with my results - I'm going the right way for them."

In the future Cancellara also wants to develop into another type of rider. "My wins outside a time trial were always captured in a special way, think about Paris-Roubaix or the stage win in Compiègne. There I knew the corners and the street but I was surprised by the bad condition of the cobbles though; no wonder that they hurt everybody after 180km on flat roads.

"I want to prove that I'm more than a time trialist. In Compiègne I realised that I should try more often to attack instead of sitting back in the peloton defending a good GC position. My example is Jens Voigt who did it so many times in the past. Everybody is tired after 180km and if I feel good I should use the attack more often."

Kazakhstan: Riding on Vinokourov's shoulders

Astana literally means high-tech, and while still a young nation, its determined to put its name on the map.
Photo ©: AFP Photo
(Click for larger image)

Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana teammates are carrying more than the weight of its fans, its carrying the weight of a nation. Felix Lowe sat down with the political heavyweights who are building a national image with its cycling superstars.

The rest day could not have come sooner for Astana, the de facto Kazakh national cycling team whose Tour de France is not going according to plan. Prior to the race, team leader Alexandre Vinokourov, a sports star bigger than David Beckham in his home country, was being feted as yellow jersey elect. His expected victory in the world's most grueling sporting event was seemingly a mere formality; the President of Kazakhstan, a fervent cycling fan, was no doubt conjuring up yet another national honour to bestow upon him.

But cycling is a cruel sport and rarely - the regularity of doping scandals aside - keeps to the script. With 15 miles left to ride of Thursday's Stage 5 to Autun, Vino took a nasty tumble that resulted in heavy road rash, two deep contortions on both knees, thirty stitches, and an evening in Dijon hospital without any dinner. To make matters worse, his teammate and fellow podium hopeful, Andreas Kloden, fractured his coccyx after slumping into a ditch. Not an ideal injury when you spend six hours a day in the saddle.

"I'll be back," deadpanned a bloodied Vino. "I must continue. I haven't broken anything." While he might have sounded like Terminator, he was the one who was tormented on his way up to Tignes on Sunday, where he lost more precious seconds over his opponents in the first big mountain stage of the race. Even the sight of a roadside fan wearing nothing but a luminous green Borat-style thong was not enough to inject the belief back into his body. On Tuesday, the race resumes with a legendary mountain stage finishing in Briancon, a carbon copy of which Vino won back in 2005. It will take a rest-day recovery of epic proportions if he is going to repeat the feat.

To read the full feature, click here.

Aussies reflect on battlefield stage

By John Trevorrow

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) hits the deck
Photo ©: ASO Video
(Click for larger image)

Sunday was a black day for Australian cycling. Michael Rogers crashed out of the Tour de France while within reach of his first maillot jaune. "I could see the yellow, I could taste it - now it's gone," a shattered Rogers said. He almost certainly would have become the first Australian since Phil Anderson in 1981 to take the coveted golden fleece in a mountain stage.

To add to the tales of woe, Stuart O'Grady crashed very heavily and is also out with eight broken ribs, a broken shoulder and collarbone. Robbie McEwen has made it a trifecta, getting eliminated for finishing outside the time limit. "With the pain I've been suffering and the fact that it's been getting worse then, at the moment the peloton, for me, is not the place to be," said McEwen. "Since the day after the crash I haven't been able to generate the same power out of my leg."

"I always start the Tour with the aim to win a stage and then of course to finish," continued the Queenslander. "This is my 10th Tour and I finished the other nine. But when you're injured, and depending on the type of injury, sometimes riding with it can do more damage. I plan to get home recover and get back into it as soon as possible."

That means the Aussie contingent is now down to two: Cadel Evans and Simon Gerrans. Gerrans rode strongly to finish 41st, 13 minutes down. "That was terrible news about Mick and Stuey," Gerrans said. "I saw Stuey about 3 km before the crash. 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. It was more like a battlefield than a bike race."

O'Grady update

Stuart O'Grady is in a comfortable but sore position after his fall during stage 8 and will remain in hospital for some time. His injuries are well documented and have left him sad and sorry.

In true Stuey style, O'Grady has thanked the pole he hit, as it could have well saved his life, prevented him from tumbling over the edge of the descent down the huge drop to no man’s land.

O'Grady's pregnant wife Anne Marie son Seth and brother Darren O’Grady are keeping him amused in hospital, although they are trying to not make him laugh too much as even a small cough pains the tough aussie.

Stuey has been able to raise a smile and is giving his thumbs up to indicate he’s fine, but just talking hurts him like hell. A true professional, it is not yet known when he will be released from hospital, but he is already thinking about his return, hoping to be back on his bike in two to three months.

Stuart's manager, Max Stevens, would like to thank the many well wishers from all over the globe for their support, on behalf of Stuart.

Klöden sticks with his captain

Vino thanks Klöden
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden stuck by his injured Astana team captain Alexandre Vinokourov on Sunday's final climb to Tignes, despite having the strength to ride with the favourites group of Christophe Moreau, Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde. However, for Klöden, who has found himself in a similar position before with former team-mate Jan Ullrich in previous Tours de France, it was the logical tactic to adopt.

"When we didn't have any helpers left, Vino asked me to take over the lead work," he wrote on his website, "I rode a regular rhythm and in the distance could see that the riders ahead of us weren't working well together. We slowly got closer to them and had almost joined them, when Vino started having problems.

"Sure, I could have gone on alone, but we quickly agreed that I would wait for Vino and that together we would try to keep the time difference as small as possible, which worked out."

The German now sits in 12th overall, 3'46" behind race leader Michael Rasmussen while Vino is down in 22nd, 5'23" back. "I can understand the fans' complaints," continued Klöden, "but cycling is a team sport. If one of us stands on the podium at the end of this Tour, then everyone on the team will have contributed."

Quick Step leading Tour de Euro

Thanks to stage wins by Tom Boonen and Gert Steegmans, as well as Boonen's lead in the points classification, Quick Step is leading the financial stakes of the Tour de France so far. In one week on the Tour, the Belgian super squad has earned 37, 030 euros, more than ten times that of French team AG2R who have earned 3, 340 euros.

1. Quick Step-Innergetic: 37,030 euro
2. Rabobank: 30,900 euro
3. T-Mobile: 26,040 euro
4. Team CSC: 21,540 euro
5. Crédit Agricole: 19,080 euro
6. Cofidis: 17,830 euro
7. Liquigas: 15,710 euro
8. Milram: 15,350 euro
9. Predictor-Lotto: 12,510 euro
10. Barloworld: 12,300 euro
11. Française des Jeux: 12,270 euro
12. Saunier Duval: 12,120 euro
13. Gerolsteiner: 10,680 euro
14. Astana: 10,200 euro
15. Discovery Channel: 9,880 euro
16. Euskaltel-Euskadi: 9,250 euro
17. Agritubel: 8,760 euro
18. Bouygues Telecom: 7,210 euro
19. Lampre-Fondital: 6,920 euro
20. Caisse d'Epargne: 5,630 euro
21. Ag2r: 3,340 euro

Rest day doping tests

51 riders were required to do a blood test yesterday in Tignes during the first rest day of the Tour de France. Riders from six different teams (CSC, QuickStep, Euskaltel, Bouygues Telecom, Saunier Duval and Barloworld) were tested between 8am and 8.45am during the surprise tests.

Of the 51 tests, all came back negative, and all riders are allowed to start Stage 9. Since the start of the Tour a total of 104 tests have been carried out.

Mazzoleni not retiring

By Paul Verkuylen

Contrary to earlier reports from his Astana team, Eddy Mazzoleni has said he is not retiring from the sport of professional cycling. Earlier this week, a team Astana spokesperson told ANP that their rider, Mazzoleni, who was third in this year's Giro d'Italia, had decided to retire from the sport, stating that "due to the investigation of his involvement with the doctor Carlo Santuccione and the 'Oil for Drugs' case, he has decided to stop," referring to the case that was heard by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) last Friday.

However, Mazzoleni himself has denied that he is retiring. "It is not true, I am not retiring from cycling, I have only cancelled my contract with Astana," he told SportWereld. "It is true that a lot rides on what happens on Friday, but today I have been training and I have no intention of stopping."

Mazzoleni began his professional cycling career with Saeco in 1995 and has ridden for a number of other teams including Polti, Tacconi, Vini Caldirola, Lampre, T-Mobile and Astana. As well as his third place in the 2007 Giro, the Italian has also won a stage of the Tour de Romandie, and the Tour de Suisse.

Hushovd on antibiotics

Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd has a cold and was treated with antibiotics on the rest day, according to his Crédit Agricole team. The 29 year-old who won Stage 4 into Joigny is expected on the start line for Tuesday's Stage 9 beginning in Val d'Isère.

Devolder targeting the Vuelta

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) who earlier this week won the final classification at the Tour of Austria has aspirations to win the Vuelta a España later this season. "In the Vuelta, I want to be in top spot," he told SportWereld.

The Belgian decided to ride the Tour of Austria and avoid the Tour de France this year, as he didn't want to ride in a support role for the team, preferring instead to be top dog for the Vuelta in September.

"It was a hard tour, with the tough climbs and the time trial," he said of the Tour of Austria. "It was really beautiful to win such a tour."

"Of the GC riders, I was the best time trialist and in the mountains I was able to stay with the best," he continued. "This tour is comparable with the Tour de Suisse, only this time it wasn't a ProTour event."I have even more confidence now for the Vuelta, where I want to be in top condition. I want to finish on the podium in Spain."

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