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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News for July 17, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Astana's cold war

By Gregor Brown in Tignes

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

Alexander Vinokourov's Astana may not be living through the brightest of days. The Swiss formation held its conference on rest day one in Tignes on the same day that Eddy Mazzoleni has announced his departure from the team.

The 94th Tour de France could be the last run for Vino and it is in the typical do or die state for the 33 year-old from Kazakhstan. His Tour was put into jeopardy on stage five to Autun when he crashed with 25 kilometres remaining. It sent his entire team on the defensive, expect for Andrey Kashechkin and Andreas Klöden, who were allowed to stay with the front group.

The mishap banged up his knee and a loss of 1'20". Combined with stage eight's loss of 2'32" to GC favourites Valverde, Evans and Schleck, he now sits at 5'23" back on the general classification.

Monday at the Club MMC hotel in the dammed valley below the posh ski resort of upper Tignes, the finish of Sunday's stage, Vinokourov appeared to be in a happy state, smiling and joking with his wife and daughter. However, when the time came for him to speak to the press a different face appeared.

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"I am more troubled when I walk than when I ride," he mumbled in barely audible French in a lobby bustling with vacation goers and Tour de France fans. The front seemed to be built in the wake of recent doping news. First, it was Matthias Kessler who was busted for Testosterone usage before the start of the Tour. Now, one of the team's Italians, Eddy Mazzoleni, who finished third overall in the Giro d'Italia, is being investigated by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for his involvement in 2004's Oil for Drugs case and increasing pressure caused him to annul his contract.

The 33 year-old, already suspended by the team June 29 due to CONI's investigation, announced his departure from Astana on Friday, July 13. However, he is not retiring from the sport, as initially announced by the team. It had issued a statement that said he was stopping, and that "out of respect of his family and teammates, Mazzoleni decided on his own to take this decision."

Andreas Klöden, third in the 2006 Tour, literally kept his head down during the press conference. Eye contact was limited due to the bill of his cap and responses were minimal when the press officer informed, especially addressing the German journalists, that the questions would not be answered if they were related to doping.

Klöden’s domestique duties should be saluted. He dropped back for Vino on Sunday when his captain needed him; that is what he was paid to do when he signed for Team Vino from T-Mobile in the winter. The 32 year-old German pledged his faith to the Kazakhstan-backed team this last March after winning Tirreno-Adriatico. "I ride for Astana, and for Kazakhstan," he declared at the time.

Vino, winner of the 2006 Vuelta a España, might have the assistance of Klöden but there have been doubts about his compatriot Kashechkin. Thanks to his freedom to stay with the front-runners in the stage to Autun and his ride up Tignes, 'Kash' is now 2'52" behind in the GC and on par with the top contenders. His faith in Vino is rumoured to be thinning and a run for the race overall could crack the team armour.

Maxim Iglinsky believes the abilities of both 'Vino' and 'Kash' and may want to spread his wings on Tuesday's stage to Briançon. The 26 year-old won the stage of the Dauphiné Libéré that covered the same legendary ascension and said to Cyclingnews that he is ready to strike again.

"This is the third time for me to do the Tour de France. I feel good and normal. Tomorrow [stage 9], I am already familiar with this stage. I have won the stage in the Dauphiné that covered the Télégraphe... The stage is not difficult but it is one I like.."

The coming weeks' stages, specifically in the Pyrénées, should define the state of Team Vino.

Cancellara likes the CSC family

By Brecht Decaluwé in Val d'Isère

Fabian Cancellara in yellow
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Fabian Cancellara had a tremendous second half of the 2007 season so far and during the first week of the Tour de France - where he has been wearing the yellow jersey until stage 7 - he stated that it was impossible to reflect on the past few months. For Cyclingnews he made an exception and next to the swimming pool of Hotel Le Blizzard in Val d'Isère we talked with the Swiss 26 year-old about his development, the team, his Spring Classics season and his future.

Cancellara described how he has developed in the past few years as a rider. "I've become more professional now. I learned so many things, I'm using a completely different way of training, a different way of living. Of course it's not always possible to live as a professional but I certainly raised it a level up," Cancellara said.

The CSC team is the critical factor in that change, the man leading the Danish team is Bjarne Riis. "He is the man behind the improvement I made but it's more than that. I feel very good at CSC, it's the whole atmosphere in the team, it's about the values they cherish. It's the team for one, and one for the team. For instance when Fränk Schleck was working so hard for me during the first Tour de France week when I was in yellow, I thought it was too much as he had to be fresh for the mountains. But he just did it 100% for the team and I'm going to give it back," Cancellara promised.

"Champions are riding for you, there are no egoists in the team. Other teams have egoists but they don't bring the team any further," the Swiss powerhouse talked about the team cohesion. Early on in 2007 the wins didn't roll in for Cancellara and it was only in the Tour de Suisse that he captured his first victory flowers. "I didn't have to worry when I didn't win for so long early on in the season as there was no panic in the team. In [the Tour de] Suisse I knew that I had worked well, then I took part in the Giro d'Italia because my body needed it, I needed races. After the stages in the Alps I knew I would be ready for the Tour de France", Cancellara looked back on his troubled early 2007 season where he was unable to clinch wins.

The Swiss national time trial champions pointed out that it's not always the best rider that wins a race. "I guess when one can win a race without being in the best form, it means that you're a smart rider. When you're in top form you're trying to force it too much," Cancellara reflected. Another product of cycling's new generation is Belgian Tom Boonen, he also mentioned the factor luck after finally winning his first Tour de France stage since 2005 on Friday 13.

"For me it's easier than for Boonen because the sprint is a lottery," the former winner of Paris-Roubaix said about another former winner of the cobbled classic. In 2007 Cancellara was unable to turn his favourite's role into a close finish as he suffered a lot with the heat. "In Paris-Roubaix my body wasn't ready for the heat, I had a few percentages too much fat. I wasn't in the perfect condition that people thought I was. I also found it hard to deal with the media attention; the two weeks before Paris-Roubaix were unbelievable, probably even more intense than in the Tour de France," Cancellara looked back on the press pressure during the Spring Classics.

A week before his 19th place in Paris-Roubaix the Swiss pulled off a strong performance in the Tour of Flanders where he was destroying the field in a fierce attack with Gert Steegmans on his wheel, but in the end it turned out that his attack started too far out and Cancellara eventually finished on a rather disappointing 53th place. "Now I know that it wasn't clever what I did in Flanders, nevertheless I will keep going for the Spring Classics," Cancellara looked forward to return to the cobbles and hills in Flanders and Northern France.

The rest day on the Col d l'Iseran

The Italian team Lampre used the rest day to recover from the previous week's activities. But besides getting a mental and physical break from racing, the eight remaining riders (Napolitano arrived outside the time limit on Sunday), did some training as well. 60 kilometres doesn't sound like a superlong ride, and fitting with the normal one to two hours that teams regularly cover during a rest day.

Lampre, however, decided to do a reconnaissance ride of parts of stage 9 by taking in the Col d'Iseran. They weren't the only ones as hundreds of cyclo-tourists and recreational riders rode up the same roads as well. Milram and Gerolsteiner joined the fun as well.

Fabian Wegmann of Gerolsteiner described on his website,, that the rest day didn't really deserve its name as the press conferences and the training up the Iseran took a big chunk of time out of the day. Wegmann has respect but also feels better than in previous Tours at the same time. He finished sixth on the first mountain stage on Saturday.

Wegmann has also taken on the role of team psychologist for his roommate Markus Fothen, who had hoped to improve on his 15th place last year, but is now back almost ten minutes in 32 place. The Gerolsteiner riders are also preoccupied with the accident of T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz, who collided with a fan after Sunday's stage and was forced out of the Tour with a broken nose.

Milram also decided to make the rest day an uphill battle, but at a moderate pace. Ralf Grabsch acknowledged that it "is a nice mountain, but not really my thing. We'll see how it goes tomorrow [Tuesday]." After the start together they formed multiple groups and Christian Knees, who shared the Lanterne Rouge up the hill with Marcel Sieberg, said that "the race isn't until tomorrow." Sieberg added that "I hope the [ski] lifts are running tomorrow, otherwise there is a problem."

At the top there was a great, scenic view that the riders won't get to enjoy in stage 9. And of course there was time for some photos with the cyclo-tourists. Team Rückenwind ("Tailwind") quickly placed Erik Zabel in their centre to get a unique shot for their team album.

On their website Milram claimed that they "were the only team to make it to the top." Should be a good sign for stage 9, then.

Everything yet to race for in open Tour

Nine days of racing completed, twelve to go. As the riders take a breather on the first rest day of the 2007 Tour, Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes takes a look at what has happened thus far.

The suspense builds. After over a week of competition, the 2007 Tour de France is very much a wide-open affair. There have been three race leaders since the Tour start in London last Saturday week, but a clear picture has yet to emerge as to who will be the definitive contenders for the final yellow jersey of the race.

For now, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) is firmly wrapped up in the maillot jaune, following a trademark long-distance attack across the Alps which also netted him the stage win plus the lead in the King of the Mountains classification. However, by his own admission, the Dane is no time triallist and so he will need to get considerably more time in the remaining uphill stages if he is to stand a chance of winning the Tour overall.

For the full rest-day wrap up, click here.

Sieberg describes stage 9 in his own words

Marcel Sieberg (Milram)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)
Marcel Sieberg of Team Milram described the stage from Val d'Isère to Briançon. He has already memorized the profile, "so I gave away the map." He acknowledged that it will be a very difficult stage and hopes that "I will still get a lift ticket, otherwise it can end pretty badly."

Sieberg revealed that the day after a rest day is always special, and stage 9 starts out with a climb of 15 kilometres immediately. Even though it is the shortest of the Tour, Sieberg thinks the fact that the whole stage is broadcast on TV, will add additional zest to the race as riders are looking for TV exposure. "My main goal is the first climb - it is also the highest point of the Tour. After that it is all downhill until kilometre 86."

Sieberg says he wants to try to stay in the peloton until the Télégraphe. He sees the whole team "fighting for survival, not for the stage victory." His hopes are that they climb the first mountain easy and "let five or six get away who don't play a role in the overall." He didn't think any Milram rider would be in such a group except maybe "Kneesi [Christian Knees]. He has good legs."

But the real race will likely start at the Télégraphe, Sieberg thinks. "Five or ten of the usual suspects will fight for the stage victory. We, on the other hand, will just see that we can reach the finish in time."

Armstrong wins time trial title again

Kristin Armstrong (Team Lipton)
Photo ©: Matthew Moses
(Click for larger image)

Reigning World Champion Kristin Armstrong won her third consecutive national time trial title by beating Amber Neben with a margin of 50 seconds at Seven Springs on Friday, July 13, 2007.

She now hopes to also defend her Worlds title in Stuttgart. "Defending this jersey was really important to me," Armstrong explained. "It was my second priority." The first is defending the rainbow jersey she won last September at the UCI World Championships in Salzburg last September - an opportunity she will have two months from now in Stuttgart, Germany.

A large field of 59 competitors were looking to unseat Armstrong. Kori Seehafer (Louisville, Colo./Team Lipton) set the early benchmark in the race against the clock, posting a time of 32'38"16. Seehafer's time held up until the seventh-to-last rider, Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo./Webcor Builders) surpassed it with a 32'16"58, assuring her the U23 title. Armstrong was the last to go and shaved nearly a minute off the fastest time to claim her third consecutive national time trial title.

The course was very different from last year, but it didn't bother the rider from Boise, Idaho. "I like competing on different courses," Armstrong explained. "Certain riders can master certain courses, but the strongest rider can master different courses consistently. Today's course was a true time trialist's course."

Armstrong, and most of the elite women's field were forced to endure a mid-race rain shower, but with all of the top seeds subject to the same weather, the playing field remained equal. Armstrong spoke of the course and the competition, "I didn't get to pre-ride the course at all, and then the rain came, but we all had to deal with the same conditions, so it was good and fair. I knew Amber and Christine were motivated to win and the last thing they want to do is get beat."

Australian to try for Masters Hour World Record

Australian Jayson Austin will attempt to set a new world record for the Masters 2 on the track on September 21. The start is scheduled at 6pm at the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney. The current record is 44.838 kilometres set by Jean Philippe Meret of France.

Due to the physical demands and costs involved very few attempts are made worldwide, let alone in Australia. Previous attempts have seen Australian elite cyclists Bradley McGee (50.52 kilometres) and Anna Wilson (Millward) (45.399 kilometres) set Australian records for the Hour in Adelaide in 1997. Lindy Hou and pilot Toireasa Gallagher set a World Record Women’s Tandem of 42.93 kilometres at the Dunc Gray Velodrome in 2005.

Austin will make the attempt under the UCI rules that allow for an aerodynamic position and equipment. The Australian has enlisted the help of power coach Peter Montford and positioning expert Steve Hogg from to help him reach the goal of a new record. Austin unofficially broke the record four weeks ago.

He also hopes to compete at the UCI World Masters Track Championships on October 16 2007. Austin is a former UCI World Masters Points Race World Champion(2004), silver and bronze medallists in World Masters Pursuit Championships(2004 &2005), former Australian Pursuit, Points Race and RTT champion(2005 and @006) and current NSW Pursuit champion.

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