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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for July 18, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Soler gets presidential call-up

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) wins
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Team Barloworld's Mauricio Soler has received plenty of praise since his Stage 9 victory, including congratulations from France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, on the podium. But it was a phone call from the Colombian's homeland that came as the biggest shock, with the Colombia's president personally calling to congratulate the 24 year-old on his success.

"Mauricio, my compliment," started the call. "I'm Alvaro Uribe Velez, Colombia's President...I was engaged today in an official meeting in Medellin, but I was informed about your extraordinary performance and I have wished to express immediately my joy!"

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Soler stormed to yesterday's finish in Briançon with a 38 second gap over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto), giving his Professional Continental squad a massive boost following its wildcard entry in the prestigious race. "I'm honoured to receive your compliments, and to have given some moment of happiness to all my compatriots," responded Soler to the president's comments. "It was a really hard race, Mr President, I'm feeling so tired."

Evans: Mixed emotions over Stage 9

By John Trevorrow

Cadel Evans (Predictor)
Photo ©: AFP Photo
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Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans has mixed emotions after making a break on yesterday's Stage 9, only to be caught by the peloton. Evans, one of two remaining Australians in the peloton, currently holds fourth place on general classification, some 2.41 minutes behind yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank).

"Yeah, for a while there when they were coming back, I thought 'Geez I'm not going to make it up here', because it was a finish where you've really got to be fresh," he explained. "For that reason I'm actually pretty happy that I got caught, had to ride because of that stupid gap, and then be competitive in the finish there. Actually I wanted to sit up and recover and give Valverde a run for his money. But it wasn't to be, he always seems to have one or two more teammates than I have; and a faster sprint."

Evans said he's proud to be flying his nation's colours along the French event's route, and thanked his compatriots for coming out and showing their support. "Thanks everyone with an Aussie flag out there," he said. "There were plenty of them out there and I really appreciate the support and I feel honoured to be able to fly the flag in the Tour."

The GC contender is delighted with the support of his teammates but knows there's still a lot of kilometres to be ridden between their current position and the finish in France. "None of them are going to be a walk in the park," he said, referring to the Pyrenees. "I had Chris and Mario up there until the Galibier I just ask and they do their best and they've done that every single day. I'm not complaining one little bit of my team.

"I think the time trial will be the most interesting step," he added. "Then more of the same in the Pyrenees. Many battles towards the finish of the war."

Another strong showing by Mayo

By Shane Stokes

Proving that his performance on Stage 8 to Tignes was not a fluke, former Alpe d'Huez stage victor Iban Mayo (Saunier-Duval) showed that he is one of the contenders for final Tour victory this year when he finished fifth into Briançon and protected his third place overall. Mayo was part of a leading group of favourites which went clear on the hors categorie Galibier climb, and fought it out in the sprint for second place at the end of the tough stage.

He crossed the line 42 seconds behind stage victor Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), and four seconds behind fellow GC contenders Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto). Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) was just ahead of him in fourth place.

Mayo was in followed home by race leader Michael Rasmussen and remained 2'39 behind the Danish rider in third overall. Linus Gerdemann, who had started the day second in the general classification, dropped back to 16th. Valverde took over as closest challenger to Rasmussen, and is four seconds ahead of Mayo thanks to the time bonus he picked up at the line.

Mayo was assisted by team-mate Juan Jose Cobo on and after the Galibier and said that he was happy with how things went. "I'm satisfied with this stage, taking into account that I've been feeling cramping pains since I began to climb the Col du Galibier," he said. "I even thought of stopping to stretch it out, as I couldn't stand on my bike. But then I decided against this and chose to ride on, without joining in the changes of pace in the last part of the ascent. It turned out to be the right decision.

"With a big help from Cobo, I managed to finish among the favourites," continued Mayo. "Having a teammate assisting me was crucial, since we all knew that victory was out of the question and thus chased Contador and Evans. In the final climb to Briançon, I forgot about the cramps and gave it the full gas. The final stretch showed that we were all equally strong."

The ninth stage continued the process of elimination, with Alexandre Vinokourov and Astana team-mate Andrey Kashechkin amongst those to lose serious time and, perhaps, their chance at overall Tour glory. Mayo has himself been in this position before and said that he was happy with his consistency thus far.

"As I've already said, you can fail in any stage during the Tour," he stated. "Today we saw how big guns like Moreau, Schleck, or Kashechkin were not in the same shape as in Tignes. In my case, I didn't expect to be in one of the leading spots after the Alpine stages, so I'm very glad. The next decisive stage is the time-trial in Albi (stage 13), but I don't think it will change much. Except for Klöden, there are no big time-trialists in the leading positions. So then it will be the Pyrenees that will decide who'll win this Tour de France."

Boonen places green below worlds and classics win

Tom Boonen (QuickStep-Innergetic) is in the fight for the green jersey, leading Erik Zabel (Team Milram) by 13 points, but says winning the jersey would be "under my worlds win and the classics". Tornado Tom is confident of his chances, but will not discount his German counter part. "Touch wood, but it is looking good," he told Sports Wereld of his chances for the green jersey in Paris. "But for my part there doesn't need to be any more mass sprints."

The rest day seemed to fly by for the Belgian, who finally able to relax and watch a movie, The Godfather of Humour, at 5:45pm. Boonen even enjoyed a glass of Chignin Bergeron during dinner, kindly poured by his director Patrick Lefevere. "It's something that you have to deal with," explained Boonen of coping with Tour pressures. "The older that I get the less rebellious I am against the stresses from morning to night. Without anyone even noticing, the Tour organisers have moved the finish to prime time, and so because of this I don't make it to bed before 10:30pm. But everything is running smoothly."

Boonen is not letting himself become complacent in the race for the green jersey though, knowing all too well that Zabel is still dangerous, having labeled his opponent, then 18 years-old, the "symbol for green at the Tour". "It is not yet done and dusted, Zabel is a scary rider, and it will become a fight of life and death, but well a fair one," said Boonen. "Even if he starts the final day 35 points behind, he will still fight to the end. The German is a strange guy, during the race he won't talk to anyone, before and afterwards sure, but between the start and the finish he is a robot."

Boonen doesn't see too many chances remaining for a mass sprint, therefore reducing the threat to his jersey. "Wednesday in Marseille, and naturally on the Champs-Elysées, maybe two in between," he said. "It all depends on the riders who attack and the teams that want to chase them down to set up their sprinter. Bennati is getting better day by day, I am sure that he will get his Lampre team to ride, just like Milram fro Zabel. Tactically, Quick Step don't need to do any thing."

Should Boonen end up in green in Paris, he says that he would "categorise it just under my worlds win and the classics. So yeah, reasonably high. It is something that I have to fight three weeks for. It is the highest achievable in a grand tour".

Stage 9 quotes:

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana): "The rise to the Télégraphe top was already very difficult. Then in the Galibier I had pains everywhere. The team worked perfect for me. I gave and did all I could, but my knees were hurting me so much. It was once again a misery's day for me…"

Mario Kummer (Astana): "For the team, the most important was not to loose contact with the 'yellow jersey' group. When we saw that Vino was asking for the race's doctor in the Galibier and that he couldn't follow, Andreas Klöden stayed alone with the first group. He rode very well : the great class! Inglinskiy and Kashechkin also made a great job to help Vino. The Tour isn't over yet. We'll have to see in the next time-trial. According to me, for Vino, the most important is his health."

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne): "I attacked in the Galibier because I realized that Vinokourov was in difficulty. I felt well, with good legs to attack, and in such circumstances I knew I had to go without hesitating. I believe to have proven that I am not a rider who does not take the initiative, like it has been said and that when there is an opportunity to attack, I do it! I have the chance to can rely on an extraordinary team, with Iván Gutiérrez, which achieved an exceptional work to help me. When Contador attacked, I did not panic because I knew that Iván was in front. It was better to climb at my own rhythm and then realize a super descent. It is sure that it would have been nice to win the stage too but I am very satisfied with the development of the stage."

Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne): "I had a very good day, which enabled me to achieve that job today. We have a very good team, with riders of great quality, and today, being in front of the race, I did all that I could to help Alejandro to progress in the general classification. I came to the Tour in good condition, in order to help my team-mates. I made my best till now and I hope to be able to continue like that in the next ones."

Kim Andersen (Team CSC team manager): "Carlos did great today. He's feeling better and better. Fränk wasn't able to stay up front today, but that might mean that he'll be allowed to escape in the next couple of days. He had great help from Vande Velde out there and the whole team is looking really good actually, so I think it'll be a successful second half of Tour de France for us."

Simon Gerrans (AG2r Prévoyance): "I had a bit of a Barry Crocker (shocker) today. Strangely, I didn't recover from the rest day. To make things worse, I dropped my chain at the bottom of the Telegraphe, went straight out the back and that's where I stayed. Finished in the grupetto."

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank): "It is and will always be a recurring phenomenon for me. I can always do a little less after a rest day."

Erik Breukink (Rabobank team manager): "Denis dropped the ball but there is nothing you can do about it. He just did not have a very good day and you cannot get away with that on this level. Because Rasmussen was exceptional and the team performed admirably today. Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker were strong on the Galibier. They were able to keep the pace tight for a long time there. The first attacks by the favorites were bound to come sooner or later, and the longer that did not happen, the better it was for us. They eventually started seven kilometers from the top and that was later than I had feared. Boogie and Thomas dropped off at that moment and it was every man for himself from then on."

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel): "It is true that we were looking for a stage victory with Gusev, Hincapie or Popovich, but I was a bit surprised that nobody moved on the Galibier. I was expecting to see Moreau and Mayo try and when it didn’t happen like that, I decided to attack with five kilometres remaining.

We then had a headwind for the final 40 kilometres so it was not to be, but at least we gave a nice spectacle. There were big favourites who have lost minutes in the general classification, like Schleck, Kashechkin, Vinokourov or Menchov and I was also interested in that happening.

Besides, among all of us we have to try to ensure that the stages were not boring. We were caught by the leader's group, but I believe that our manoeuvre has been profitable enough. You never know what can happen in the Tour and those that lost time today could make me lose it later." "

Johan Bruyneel (Discovery Channel team manager): "Our first idea for today was to establish a break away that could go to the finish. So Popo and Gusev were feeling good in the first group. Unfortunately Astarloza was in that group and he was only five minutes down on GC so they couldn’t get the lead they needed to make that work. After that, Popo and Gusev just wanted to get over the climb of the Galibier since we weren’t sure what would happen next."

Merckx to captain battered T-Mobile

By Paul Verkuylen

Axel Merckx
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile director Rolf Aldag is banking on Axel Merckx to lead his troops for the remainder of the Tour de France. Merckx's rise to the helm follows on from the squad's leader, Michael Rogers, departure from the event, having crashed out on Sunday's Stage 8.

The team now need to improvise in order to save its Tour de France campaign, as the last few days has seen the team experience the extreme highs and lows of the three week event. Linus Gerdemann took victory on Stage 7, as well as the yellow and white jerseys. The following day designated team leader Michael Rogers the virtual yellow jersey on the event's first tough mountains stage when he crashed out.

By the time T-Mobile had got to dinner that evening it had also lost Patrick Sinkewitz, who crashed into a spectator after the stage while riding to the squad's hotel.

To cap off a bad run, on Stage 8, with 13 days remaining on the Tour, Gerdemann lost his lead in the white jersey competition while teammate Marcus Burghardt hit a dog, sending him over the handlebars.

Tour spectator awakes from coma

The spectator who was injured after being struck by Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile) in a freak accident after Sunday's Stage 8 has come out of a coma, the hospital has announced. The 78 year-old spectator, who hasn't been identified, was airlifted to hospital after Sinkewitz collided with him while returning to the team's hotel.

"The patient has a serious head injury, but his life is not in danger," read a statement from the hospital in Grenoble.

The accident sidelined Sinkewitz from the remainder of the Tour, another blow to the German squad on a day which saw team leader Michael Rogers crash out. Sinkerwitz suffered a broken nose, in addition to a shoulder and cuts and bruises from the accident. "I think it needs to be looked at...what contributed to the situation," T-Mobile manager Bob Stapleton told AP. "This is just the difficulty of managing such a huge sporting event."

Devolder's value doubles

After his impressive win in the Tour of Austria Belgian Stijn Devolder is being courted by numerous teams, including QuickStep-Innergetic, Predictor Lotto and T-Mobile. Additionally, the Discovery Channel rider's current boss, Johan Bruyneel, has said the squad will "at least double" his salary should the Belgian stay with the outfit.

Devolder, who is aiming for a podium finish in the Vuelta a Espana, is not discounting staying with Bruyneel's squad either. "I am not ruling out staying with Bruyneel, only he needs to find a new head sponsor for the team for next year," noted Devolder.

Bruyneel is optimistic he will find a replacement for Discovery Channel, which will end its title sponsorship of the squad at the end of this season. "The discussions are going well," he said of the sponsorship hunt. "I am waiting on a signature."

Bruyneel added that Devolder is a rider he definitely wants to keep on the American ProTour squad's roster. "We have invested years [in him] and now we are reaping the fruits of our labour," he said. "Stijn can at least double his wage if he stays with us."

Abbott enjoying the rise

A day after wrapping up her second and third American national titles, Boulder's Mara Abbott (Webcor Builders) says her mind is still coming to terms with her accomplishments. After a break-out performance at the Montreal World Cup, where she finished second on debut, Abbott bas claimed three national titles in the past week - the Under 23 women's individual time trial, and both Elite and Under 23 road race titles.

In Monday's road race, the 21 year-old college student out-sprinted TEAm Lipton's Kristen Armstrong for victory. The youngster dubbed the finish "special", with the climber showing she can sprint with the world's best - including reigning world and American Elite women's ITT champion Armstrong.

"It sort of takes a long time for your mind to catch up with what you're doing sometimes," Abbott told of her success. "[The] race was really special because I haven't been known as a sprinter. That made me aware that there were even more things that I can do than I thought, so that was really fun."

Abbott's recent success will bode well for the World Championships in Salzburg, Germany in September, where she will take on the world's top road racers including defending champion Marianne Vos (Team DSB Bank).

The Webcor Builders rider, who will feature in a Cyclingnews interview later this week, secured her position on America's world championships team following her Montreal performance. In the mean time Abbott will wear the National Champion jersey for the first time at the International Tour de Toona on July 23-27.

Fertonani blames lab for test results

Italian Marco Fertonani, who tested positive for using testosterone, has blamed the French lab in Châtenay-Malabry for the positive test during his hearing with the anti-doping prosecutor from the Italian Olympic committee (CONI). Fertonani said that the lab made a mistake during the testing of his sample, according to Sports Wereld.

"The lab made a mistake during testing, and I have absolute trust the because of this my client will be found innocent," declared Fertonani's lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, who represented the rider during the hearing on Monday with Ettorre Torri.

The 31 year-old has been suspended by his Caisse d'Epargne team after he failed a doping control during the tour of the Middellandse Sea in February, where he finished fourth.

"We have given a detailed technical report, in which we outlined the reasons why there are these minuscule variations in the values of Fertonani, which explain the mistakes by the lab," said Bongiorno.

Following the hearing Torri will decide whether Fertonani should come before the Italian Cycling Federation's disciplinary commission, which would then need to decide on a possible suspension or fine for the rider.

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