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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for July 18, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Fignon and LeMond meet again

1989: LeMond's moment
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image
Laurent Fignon versus Greg LeMond. Who hasn't heard about the now infamous showdown between the Frenchman and the American on the Champs-Elysées on July 23, 1989, where Fignon saw his 50-second lead evaporate in only 29 kilometres of time trial racing? The two had swapped the lead several times during the three-week race, with the American coming out on top in the end by eight seconds.

Laurent Fignon now works for French television channel France 2 as a commentator and Greg LeMond stopped by for a casual visit yesterday, saying it took him one hour of listening to the prologue coverage to figure out that the voice belonged to his former teammate in the Renault team. LeMond had ridden L'Etape du Tour with his son Geoffrey, an annual event organized by French cycling mag Vélo magazine, where recreational riders and non-racers can test themselves on the same route as the professionals (this year's edition followed the route of stage 15 to Loudenville)

As the two sat next to each other and watched the replay of that time trial on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Paris almost twenty years ago they avoided looking at each other. Fignon forced a smile, but it was clear that the day is still haunting him, despite saying otherwise. LeMond revealed, though that the two played golf "about seven or eight years ago and [I] realized that we both won that day. Eight seconds? It's nothing," said the American, talking in French during the live broadcast.

The only thing that made LeMond smile over the years is that Fignon didn't "use the [time trial] bars." He pointed out that it was [Cyril] Guimard that brought all the aerodynamics, including wheels, to Renault. "I think it was Guimard who decided that day Fignon wouldn't be able to breathe [with the aero bars restricting breathing]," the American continued. He was certain that "if he [Fignon] would have used that aero equipment he would have beaten me, that's for sure."

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Fignon replied that "it was nice of Greg to say that, but the truth is we both used our weapons. I was slightly stronger in the mountains, he was a better time trialist. And the difference was eight seconds, voilà". Fignon elaborated that the pain has fortunately vanished over the years. "That's the sport. Someone wins and someone loses." And when they play golf they talk about other stuff.

Lemond's bet with his son riding the 196-kilometre long L'Etape du Tour pushed him to the limits so that "I was more tired than in any stage of the Tour."

At the end the host gave a present to both; Fignon received a book about the history of the Dauphiné Libéré, LeMond about the "Cols Mythique du Tour de France." There was no way they wanted to remind Fignon about the Tour anymore, who has since shed his un-aerodynamic pony tail.

Grabsch reveals race plan

Ralf Grabsch (Milram).
Photo ©: Andrea Hübner
(Click for larger image)

Milram rider Ralf Grabsch described plans to tackle the upcoming stage 10 on the team's website, He expected the long stage to get pretty warm, as currently southern France is suffering from a heat wave that has also sparked several forest fires.

Grabsch thought that it would be a stage where "a group will make it. And I want to be in it for sure." He said he'd try, anyway. "As often as needed, until I can achieve it [to be in a breakaway group]." Grabsch wrote on the team's web site that he'd try every stage now, "with the exception of the Pyrénées. At some point it has to work."

Grabsch has the knowledge of the route "from the Grand Prix Haribo. We crossed the same mountains. They should be pefect for me. The ascents stretch out a bit, but one can go over it with power."

He'd hope that there are about five to ten riders in the group. And that it would contain Jens Voigt (CSC) and José Vicente Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), "as they are specialists." Other then that he mentioned that the peloton will expect the typical rough, French tarmac and two mountains at the end where a potential group will split apart. "Those will bring the decision."

Spaniards doing well at Tour de France halfway mark

By Pierre Serisier

The Tour de France has a strong Spanish accent with four Iberians in the top ten of the overall standings as the race leaves the Alps.

On Tuesday, Alejandro Valverde emerged as a serious candidate for victory when he ended the 159.5-km ninth stage in second place behind Colombia's Juan Mauricio Soler.

The Caisse d'Epargne rider is within reach of yellow jersey holder Michael Rasmussen of Denmark, two minutes 35 seconds behind him. Valverde, second overall, leads compatriot Iban Mayo by four seconds.

Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador was one of the most aggressive riders of the stage, keeping Soler's pace during most of the ascent of the out-of-category Col du Galibier.

The 24-year-old Contador, who won the Paris-Nice stage race earlier this year, took the white jersey for the best young rider off German Linus Gerdemann's shoulder.

"I don't want to think of the yellow jersey because I don't want to be disappointed," said Contador, who lies fifth overall, 33 seconds adrift of Valverde.

"I just want to focus on the white jersey because I came here to gain experience. It's a shame I have not been able to beat the favourites but there is still one week remaining." A climber, Contador will be a potential threat to everyone when the peloton reaches the Pyrenees for three stages.

Another Spaniard, Carlos Sastre, is seventh overall. The CSC rider has the edge over team mate Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who finished Tuesday's stage 02'45" behind the favourites' group. "We have a plan and we stick to it. Our goal is to bring Carlos to the podium in Paris," said CSC team manager Alain Gallopin.

Sastre up to seventh place

Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre did well in the 160-kilometre ninth stage of Tour de France from Val-d'Isère to Briançon. As Team CSC reports on their website,, the Spanish rider was tenth in the stage and advanced to seventh place overall.

The stage was quite hectic thanks to an early break with several dangerous riders as well as a fast pace in the peloton set by the Rabobank crew. As a result the peloton was split several times and numerous riders were dropped as the different groups were remodeled.

Sastre stayed in the best of the favourites's groups the whole way through except for a few kilometres towards the finish line, where the group was split in two, but they eventually came back together.

In the end Barloworld's Colombian Juan Mauricio Soler took a great victory, while Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen hung on to the yellow jersey. Sastre is 3'39" behind him, but only 1'04" behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) in second place. Fränk Schleck finished a couple of minutes later along with Christian Vande Velde and is now 13th overall.

"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," said Kim Andersen.

Crash with fan revives concerns about spectator safety

The 78-year-old man hospitalised in a coma after being struck by rider Patrik Sinkewitz was in a stable condition on Monday, a day after the accident in the Tour de France, news agency AFP reported.

Sinkewitz was riding to his hotel after Sunday's stage when he hit the Luxembourg men and also was taken to the hospital for stitches in his lower lip and right knee. He was released from hospital but forced to drop out of the race.

The incident revived concerns about safety in the race, which prides itself on the ability of spectators to get very close to the cyclists to cheer them on, with some even offering a push in support of the competitors.

"I think it needs to be looked at ... what contributed to the situation," said Bob Stapleton, manager of Sinkewitz's T-Mobile team. "This is just the difficulty of managing such a huge sporting event."

Mishaps with fans are nothing new.

Last year, Norwegian sprint specialist Thor Hushovd sliced open his right arm when he brushed against a green advertisement cardboard that a fan held over a safety barrier lining the final straightaway. Similar publicity hands are being given away along the course route this year, but this time they're made out of foam rubber, not cardboard.

In 2003 Lance Armstrong crashed when his handle bar got tangled up in a cloth bag a spectator had in their hand, and in 1999 Giuseppe Guerini was knocked down by a spectator trying to get a real close-up shot of the Italian. Both Armstrong and Guerini went on to win the respective stages.

Despite all that Fabian Wegmann, who was disturbed to hear the news about Sinkewitz, said in his diary yesterday that "An accident with spectators, that is always a possibility in cycling. The people close to the road are also part of our sport. Everybody behind barriers? I wouldn't support that.

The women's challenge at Lehigh

This Friday, July 20, 2007, the "International Women's Challenge" will take place in the Lehigh valley velodrome. In addition to the women's competition, there will be professional men's racing with strong international fields.

Among the field of riders will be T-Town Express team member Lip Reap, who just last week claimed the title of North American Omnium Champion, Norway's May Britt Hartwell, Argentina's Veronica Martinez, and local favourite Ashley Kimmet who is determined to take home the title of Rider of the Year once again in 2007 and will be vying for points every chance she gets. Also going head to head this week are U.S. pro road rider and track all-star Theresa Ryan and Plane Team Revolution's Mindi Martin. On hand for some high-speed sprinting action are Juliet Earle and Jocelyn Rastrick from the New Zealand National Sprint Team.

Joining the women this weekend are Australia's Pete Fitzpatrick and Gary Ryan, the men of the New Zealand National Sprint Team, Haseem Maclean and Jonathon Rollins from Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina's Sebastian Alexandre and Gustavo Artacho, along with a host of riders from Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

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