Latest Cycling News for July 30, 2007
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Dismayed Rasmussen speaks
In addition to his nickname 'Chicken', Danish rider Michael Rasmussen will forever be known as the man who didn't win the 2007 Tour de France. Right or wrong, the Rabobank rider was ousted from his team under questionable circumstances and Rasmussen is now seeking answers, reports Cyclingnews' Greg Johnson.
The tale played out like something from the script of a Hollywood blockbuster. Last Wednesday night Michael Rasmussen was stashed away in a secret cottage before fleeing the country the following morning on a jet privately chartered by his Rabobank team. But Rasmussen's exit from the Tour de France was anything but glamorous, with the then maillot jaune dismayed at the sudden action taken by his team.
While exactly how Rasmussen was dismissed by his team, and swept out the back door while holding the Tour's prestigious yellow jersey, remained somewhat of a secret until now, the reason for the actions has been the focus of the world's sports media. Tucked away in his Italian residence since last Thursday, Rasmussen finally gave an extensive interview on the past week's events to Denmark's TV2.
"It's a surrealistic situation, don't you think?" Rasmussen said of the situation. "I just had the greatest day of my cycling career and won on top of the Col d'Aubisque in the yellow jersey, and in reality I won Tour de France that day. Only to be kicked out of the hotel hours later."
To read the full feature click here.
Aussies celebrate Evans' podium finish
"I'm sorry I didn't win it," says Evans
By Gerard Knapp
Cadel Evans' feat of becoming the first Australian cyclist to make the final general classification podium of the Tour de France has received wide coverage in his home country, with the country's mass media running high-profile stories that focused on his achievements at the Tour, rather than the doping issues that grabbed the headlines in the previous week.
The vision of Evans humbly apologising for his second place on GC - "I'm sorry I didn't win it," he told television reporters after the final stage into Paris - has received wide exposure throughout the country. Indeed, newsreaders on the country's largest TV network were suggesting Evans' performance could be the catalyst for an Australian ProTour team in Europe. "It's the next logical step," said one.
While Evans is not the first Australian to be on the podium in Paris - Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen have both won the green jersey competition - it is his overall achievement on GC that has made headlines.
His fellow cyclists have been warm in their praise, with the CEO of Cycling Australia, Graham Fredericks, also predicting it will help the fuel sport's strong growth in the country.
"Australian cycling is extremely proud of the achievement of Cadel Evans to be the first Australian to finish on the podium of what is the ultimate event in road cycling," Fredricks said. "No doubt this will further the growth of cycling in Australia."
The other Australian in the TdF who was seen as a hope for the overall classification, Mick Rogers (T-Mobile), speaking from his home in Italy where he is recovering from his injuries in the eighth stage of the Tour on July 15, said Evan's second-place "has once again confirmed his class to the world".
Rogers was actually the maillot jaune virtuel when he crashed heavily on a descent in stage 8 and dislocated his shoulder. Rogers said, Cadel "has made steady progress in the past few years and will be the man to beat next year.
"Having an Australian finish on the podium in the Tour de France is a huge leap ahead for the sport of cycling in Australia," he added.
Evan's team-mate in Predictor-Lotto, the sprinter Robbie McEwen, who was also forced out of the Tour in the dreaded eighth stage, described Evans' performance as "a fantastic ride all the way through."
McEwen, a three-time winner of the points competition in the Tour de France, also returned home after missing the time cut in stage 8. Rather than abandoning, McEwen finished the stage but he'd fallen too far behind the leaders' winning time and was eliminated. While he's not a noted climber, McEwen had always managed to make the time cut on the tough mountain stages but this time he was off the pace, largely due to injuries he sustained in the very first road stage of Tour (which he won).
Speaking from a car on his way to the first of the 'post-Tour criteriums' (a series of lucrative circuit races held in various European cities that feature many of the stars of the TdF), McEwen thought his team-mate had put in a "brilliant effort."
McEwen said he observed Evans after the finish of the three-week race. "I think Cadel was a little disappointed to be so close yet so far, and he was looking at points where he could have done better, but really, hindsight's a terrible thing because he did fantastically well.
"His goal and the team's goal was to have him on the podium, so to finish second is a brilliant effort." While there has been speculation that Evans may have made the top step had he more support from his team in the mountains, McEwen said his understanding was that Evans was still contracted until next year and that ideally it would be good to have another rider to help him the mountains.
Indicative of the support for Evans in his home country, where viewers had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to see the finish, was arguably the country's leading female track cyclist, world record-holder, Olympic and world champion in the 500m time trial, Anna Meares.
"I think it's really great for cycling and for Australian cycling in particular. Sport is always a great motivator because it unites people and I was one of those up late cheering him on during the time trial and other stages as well. I think it's really fantastic."
As for Evans, he said yesterday, "I think you may have to talk to me in a week when it really sinks in. My only regret is that I relied on other teams into Loudenvielle and lost 55 seconds to (eventual race winner Alberto) Contador. Now I think everyone understands why I was so frustrated."
It's likely that frustration will be focused into Evans' 2008 Tour de France effort, as the cyclist has already indicated he plans to return and win. Until then, he will relax for a couple of days before heading off on a camping trip with his wife.
Unzúe analyses Tour for Caisse d'Epargne
At the end of the 94th edition of the Tour de France won by Alberto Contador, Eusebio Unzúe, the directeur sportif for Caisse d'Epargne, analysed the Tour. He expressed that "if one is at the start with the hope of a win, but then goes home with sixth, the first reaction is that we didn't meet our objectives." The Spaniard pointed out, however, that "we were confronted with an atypical Tour. Despite all that, I am satisfied with the Team's general conduct all along the Tour, as it was always attentive. A stage victory would have been welcomed and I believe deserved, but on the other hand, two of our riders are classified in the top ten overall and we are taking the second place overall in the team's classification, which shows our force and consistency."
Unzúe also commented on his captain Alejandro Valverde, who finished the Tour for the first time. The directeur sportif sees it as a benefit that "Valverde has gained experience which will serve him in the future and the fact to make it to Paris in his third participation is very important for him. He was brilliant in the first part of the Tour, but less so in the second part."
Unzúe believes that what Valverde learned is really important for him in the future. He also commented on Oscar Pereiro, who still doesn't know if he finished first or second last year. He was very content with Pereiro's performance as well, as after his status of podium man, "he entered the race this year as a much more controlled rider and didn't have the possibility to go into breakaways like last year. But for the first time he did a race with great consistency, without having a bad day, and that is very important for his development."
The third rider Unzúe had good words for was David Arroyo, who "has demonstrated another time that he is a very consistent rider. He is very important for the team and offers a lot of security in the mountains." And concerning Ivan Gutiérrez, he was the nice surprise on the team, being present in the most difficult escapes, on the most important days in the Tour. Unzúe added the team also could count on Txente García Acosta and the good work of Fran Pérez et Nicolas Portal. "Vladimir Karpets was also very important for the team."
The directeur sportif concluded that "the team Caisse d’Epargne was riding at a high level and had a strong and balanced event. We should not forget that Xabier Zandio was a crash victim at the beginning of the Tour. We lost an important man who would have allowed us to act even better."
Gerolsteiner's time trial woes
By Susan Westemeyer
Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher ought to have been satisfied with his 15th place finish in the Tour de France's time trial Saturday, but he would have finished higher if only...
The German had set new best times at both intermediate time checks along the 55.5-kilometre route, ahead of Leif Hoste and even Fabian Cancellara. But it started to rain, and with only 12 kilometres to go, his bike slipped away from him at a traffic circle and he went down. He still managed to finish 3'17" behind winner and former teammate Levi Leipheimer.
"Schumi" wasn't the only Gerolsteiner with bad luck in the time trial. "Paco" Wrolich also went down, but even more spectacularly. "After only eight kilometres I had a flat tire on a descent and crashed into a ditch. Fortunately I was ok."
His bike wasn't ok, though, and he needed a new one. "The dumb thing is that my replacement bike was on the auto that drove behind [teammate Heinrich] Haussler. So I had to wait three minutes. That put me into a panic about the cut-off time limit, but it worked out." Wrolich finished next to last, exactly 11 minutes back.
But at that he wasn't the slowest Gerolsteiner. That honour belonged to a rider who didn't even fall on the course. "Last place today! Clever, wasn't it?" said sprinter Robert Förster, happy to have it behind him. He was saving himself for the sprint finish Sunday in Paris, hoping to win the Tour's finale as he did the finale in the 2006 Giro d'Italia. He enjoyed the ride, noting the "wonderful atmosphere and the many fans," he wrote on radsport-news.com.
He and teammate Sven Krauss had been the first starters for Gerolsteiner, starting in the morning, so they took advantage of their free afternoon to watch the rest of the race on TV and dream of Paris.
Förster ended up dead last, 11'04" back.
Riders reflect on doping in Le Tour
By Brecht Decaluwé and John Trevorrow
A couple of riders commented to Cyclingnews about their opinions to the doping mess of the 94th Tour de France, highlighted by Rabobank sending home its captain, Michael Rasmussen, while the Dane was wearing yellow
Tom Boonen from the Belgian Quick.Step Innergetic team mentioned that "I was sad in the beginning. It's not right to be sad, it's better to be happy. The guys who cheat have to get out, that's easy. The controls are getting better and that's why they get caught. Now they [Tour organisers and UCI] know where and what to look for. It would be more worrying if they have no positive cases."
Runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia also thought that the news were better rather than bad, stating that "The cheats are getting caught obviously and you have to say that the UCI is doing a good job. Cycling is doing a much better job than any other sporting organisation."
The Predictor-Lotto captain does see some difficulty of proving things one way or the other. "We may never be really sure. That's the way the world is - unfortunately." But he is optimistic in that "Cycling is far more controlled than any other sport. Cycling is a beautiful sport and millions enjoy it and follow the Tour," leaving the 2007 edition with a good image for the future.
La lanterne rouge
By Brecht Decaluwé
Wim Vansevenant had one main goal in this Tour de France and that was working for the team. Next to that the Belgian had his own small target in this Tour and that was finishing as lanterne rouge, or last place, in Paris, just like he did last year. The lanterne rouge refers to the red lantern that used to be on the last train wagon. On his bike the Belgian had a small lanterne rouge attached, a gift from the Dutch NOS TV crew.
By claiming his second consecutive last spot in Paris, the Belgian enters into the history books as one of only three riders to claim the double. Frenchman Daniel Masson did it in 1922-1923 and Austrian Gerhard Schonbacher in 1979-1980. Finishing as lanterne rouge isn't earning Vansevenant a lot of money in the Tour de France but afterwards it often turns out to be a good promotion stunt in the post-Tour criteriums.
The Belgian didn't aim on a nice result on the Champs Elysées, he only wanted to stay on his bike. "I was afraid that it would rain but luckily it stayed dry." Thanks to his unselfish work and his personal 'result' the likeable Vansevenant has received a lot of media attention. Besides his family there was also a big group of cyclists from his hometown Eernegem. "I have to be thankful that these people are here," an enjoying Vansevenant said.
Aldag reflects on Tour
By Brecht Decaluwé
Rolf Aldag looked back with Cyclingnews on T-Mobile's Tour de France. "It was ups and downs for us. We had Linus in the yellow jersey and winning a stage," Aldag said. But then things started to go down. "The next day we lost our captain Michael Rogers who was in really good shape. He was in the breakaway when he crashed, so he had a really good chance to ride with the best in the Tour. That was bringing us down a lot but we fought back with Kim," Aldag continued with an up.
Another down for the team was the positive doping test from Patrick Sinkewitz, a test that was performed earlier in June. Meanwhile in the Tour Luxemburger Kim Kirchen managed to get into the top ten. "Kim wasn't the leader when we came to the Tour, we thought that he could do good in one single stage but he rode himself into this Tour and that was really nice to see, especially the way he came to get it.
"He was really relaxed, he was really fighting on the bike," Aldag described how Kirchen managed to claim his seventh place in Paris. "He had two really bad days but he kept fighting. Also the way he led the team was a really positive way. That's really good to see that people develop in the Tour, that people have something extra."
Sprinters coming close
By Brecht Decaluwé
Thor Hushovd came close to racking up another win on the Champs Elysées but he was beaten by Daniele Bennati. After the finish Cyclingnews talked with the Norwegian giant about his Tour de France. "I did a good Tour de France since I won a stage and could also take two second places," Hushovd said. "The best souvenirs were the crowds along the course and my stage win of course. Especially here along the Champs Elysées it was fantastic with those big crowds and that special ambiance, I hope it stays like this," Hushovd continued. About today's stage the 'bear from Grimstad' reconciled to the facts. "I lacked freshness although I was close to repeating last year's win; I was stopped by a strong Bennati."
Robert Hunter was another one of the fast men that came close to a second stage win in the Tour de France and his first on the Champs Elysées, but he struggled with his position in the run-up to the sprint. "The difference was that I was in the wind from the corner - with 250m to go - so that was still a long way. Tom was on my wheel and Zabel in front. When we came out of the corner there was a bit of a headwind. I couldn't get in a wheel so I went as hard as I could," Hunter explained to Cyclingnews.
The South-African was very happy with his performance in the Tour de France since he proved he is a real world-class sprinter. "If I would've had one more victory it would be different but I can't complain, I'm happy. I definitely made a mental switch but I'm also more concentrated when I go to the finish." He mentioned that the green jersey battle helped him to focus on the sprints even more, adding that "knowing that you have to be there to battle for the green jersey is certainly motivating. Next year we will have a couple of more guys to help me in the team. This year I was really good in Milano-Sanremo, although I only finished tenth since I couldn't sprint 100 percent after a crash," Hunter looked forward to more wins in the future.
Hincapie wins again
George Hincapie knows very well the feeling of bringing home a captain in yellow onto the Champs Elysées, having been the only rider to be around in every single Lance Armstrong Tour win. It was number eight for Hincapie on Sunday, July 29, and the New Yorker was pleased with the outcome, saying that "We're happy that we won."
He also felt that it was an eventful Tour de France in which it became clear that the public isn't stepping away from the sport. "From the beginning it was beautiful in London and then we went through some tough days. We had a great race and if you look around you know that cycling is doing great. I think we've put on a good show for them," Hincapie smiled.
Personally Hincapie couldn't claim the stage win he hoped for but he wasn't too downhearted by that. "I wanted to win the prologue but it didn't happen. I felt good and I did a good job for the team . We win the Tour de France again so I'm happy." He also partially revealed his plans for the remainder of the season, "I'm going to a take a rest and then I'd like to participate in the world championships."
Klöden not ready to quit yet
Andreas Klöden may have indicated that he was thinking of quitting, but if so, it won't be immediately, even if he doesn't really know what the future will hold. He is scheduled to ride a criterium in Rhede, Germany, on August 3, and after that is looking to the Worlds in Stuttgart.
After hearing the news of Alexander Vinokourov's positive blood doping test and of his Team Astana leaving the Tour, "I had to deal first with the shock, and have taken a little break," he said in an interview on radsport-aktiv.de. "I don't know how things will go further with Astana. After the first disappointment and many discussions with friends, I have decided to continue training, so that I can possibly be nominated for the world championships at the end of September in Stuttgart. I would be very happy to be able to present myself in top form to my fans there."
"I am very proud of our team," said T-Mobile Team technical director Luuc Eisenga. "The Tour was anything but easy for us, but I think we can be satisfied with it. The whole team gave its all and did its best."
In an interview with Eurosport.de, he said that the highlights for the team were "the super stage win by Linus Gerdemann and the honour of wearing the yellow jersey. Kim Kirchen's performance with the eighth place in the overall was also great." The low point was the loss of captain Michael Rogers in a crash on the eighth stage.
The announcement of Patrik Sinkewitz's positive doping test for testosterone came during the Tour, even though the test was done at a pre-Tour training camp and unrelated to the race in France. Although the team suspended him after that result was announced, "There is still no decision over Patrik's future," Eisenga said.
The many doping scandals have caused many backers, including T-Mobile, to question their continued sponsorship. The telecommunications giant has said that it would review its participation, with an announcement expected soon as to whether it would honour its contract through 2010. Eisenga didn't know what that decision would be, stating, "we don't have anything new to report, but of course I hope that the sponsor will continue to support us in our fight for a new image."
Gerolsteiner proud of its Tour
Team Gerolsteiner may not have won anything in the Tour de France, but it was one of the few teams to arrive with all nine riders in Paris Sunday afternoon. "I consider that a real success," said team manager Hans-Michael Holczer.
"It is a very good sign for us and for the future that we arrived in Paris with nine riders," he said. Gerolsteiner was one of the youngest teams in the race. Quick.Step Innergetic was the only other team not to have any personnel losses during the race.
"Sure, there were a lot of problems, especially in the mountains. But they all bore down and came through," he said. "I wouldn't have dared to believe that three weeks ago."
The team had four Tour debutants, all of whom performed well, he said. Sven Krauss was a "tireless helper" for sprinter Robert Förster, Heinrich Haussler brought in a top ten result, and Stefan Schumacher was on his way to a top ten finish in the last time trial before he crashed. "But we don't want to complain about the possibilities that we might have had," Holczer noted.
He was especially happy about the fourth rider, Bernhard Kohl, who showed his potential especially in the third week. The little climber showed an improved performance in the Pyrénées and moved his way up to a final 31st place overall, making him the best-placed Gerolsteiner in the Tour.
A disappointment, on the other hand, was Marcus Fothen, who placed 34th this year, after finishing 15th in his debut in 2006. He had some health problems before the Tour and never really found his form during the last three weeks. He did bring in the team's best stage result, though, finishing second in the 17th stage.
"We weren't brilliant," Holczer summarized. "But we can be proud of our results."
Youngster finishes Tour
At only 21 years of age Geraint Thomas of Cardiff in Wales was the youngest rider in this year's Tour de France. He became the first Welshman to finish the event since Colin Lewis' 84th place in 1967.
Thomas told BBC Sport Wales that he enjoyed the sprints but acknowledged that "as soon as we hit the Alps it was a different kettle of fish." He was tired, but happy in Paris, declaring that "everyone dreams of riding down the Champs Elysées and finishing the Tour. I'm happy to get here but feeling it."
Thomas finished 140th, nearly four hours behind winner Alberto Contador, but getting to the end was the real achievement for the Welshman. He was expected to gain some experience, then pull out of the race. Thomas had other ideas. "I was always going to go as far as I could."
The Briton admits that he "couldn't imagine what it would be like before, but I wanted to get stuck in and see what it was all about, I don't think you can imagine how hard, fast and chaotic it is out there until you actually do it."
He especially felt the mountain stages to be very taxing, admitting that "When we got to the mountains I was just trying to survive, taking it day by day."
Thomas, who wants to have a few beers to celebrate, will be resting for a few weeks. "Going to bed is the main aim!"
Thomas said he did not want to focus on the drug problems that blighted the Tour, but he feels that something good may come from the scandals. "It's obviously not been great, but times and attitudes are slowly changing," the 2004 World Junior Track Championships gold medallist admitted. He feels that "it's good for the future that people are getting caught now. His hope is that "people don't tarnish all Tour de France riders as drug takers."
Victory for O'Brien in Belgium
By Shane Stokes
As the Tour of Ireland draws closer, the country's only Continental team, the equipe named The Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group/M. Donnelly Sean Kelly, has had its morale boosted through a win by Paídi O'Brien on the fourth stage of the Ronde van Vlaams Brabant on Saturday.
The Irish rider went clear with team-mate Derek Burke in an 18 man breakaway group, and then put in a strong attack on the final climb to solo to victory.
The Kanturk rider crossed the line one second clear of the main bunch, which was led home by Krish Boeckmans (Wielerploeg CLC) ahead of Jurgen Roelandts (Davitamon Win for Life). He ended the day 10th overall, 54 seconds behind the overall leader Kurt Van Goidsenjoven (Royal Cureghem Sportief).
"It is a really important result for us," said Kurt Bogaerts, manager of the Irish registered, Belgium based team. "Paídi has been going very well and Derek did great work to help the move stay clear. The gap was never more than a minute and towards the end the peloton was closing in on the break. Paídi jumped away just before the peloton caught them and held on to take the victory."
Two More Teams Announced for Tour of Ireland
By Shane Stokes
Professional Continental team LPR has been confirmed for the Tour of Ireland, joining those who have already been announced for the 2.1 ranked event.
The team will line out alongside ProTour squads T-Mobile, CSC, Unibet.com, Pro Continental setups Slipstream Chipotle, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, Navigators Insurance and the Continental teams Murphy and Gunn/Newlyn Group/M. Donnelly/ Sean Kelly, Colavita Sutter Light, South Australia.com and Recycling.co.uk.
LPR has selected Roger Beuchat, Borut Bozic, Marco Marcato, Samuele Marzoli, Allesandro Maserati, Narenzo Rossi and Roberto Traficanti for their provisional lineup, with 35 year old Swiss pro Beuchat guiding what is otherwise a young team.
Beuchat has represented his country in four world championships and has raced for Phonak, Swiss Post and Barloworld. He has competed in the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de Romandie, the Tour de Langkawi and the Tour de Suisse. Bozic and Marzoli showed good form earlier this year when they finished second and third respectively in the final stage of the 2.1 ranked Tour of Slovenia.
Also confirmed for the five day Irish race is the Plowman Craven/Evans Cycles team. The British Continental outfit has taken three national titles including the men’s national criterium championship, and its riders have performed well in other events of late.
New Zealander Gordon McCauley won two big town centre criteriums in July while Tony Gibb took victory in the Premier Series Blackpool GP road race. He outsprinted a quality field that included Liquigas professional Magnus Backstedt.
McCauley has ridden the world championships and Commonwealth Games for his country and his experience will be a plus for the team.
Simon Barnes, team founder and boss of Hertfordshire based Geomatics company Plowman Craven, is delighted the team have been given the opportunity to race in Ireland. Barnes is himself a former racing cyclist who rode in the Raleigh/Dunlop Tour of Ireland in the 1970’s.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for Plowman Craven / Evans Cycles to really show what we can do,” said the team founder Simon Barnes. He competed in the Raleigh/Dunlop Tour of Ireland three decades ago. “We've won two British Cycling Premier Calendar events with Simon Gaywood and Tony Gibb this year. Gordon McCauley has also been up there in every race and all three will be riding in Ireland. It will be an incredible experience for the guys, as it was for me riding in Ireland back in the 1970's."
The Tour of Ireland is organised by The Events Groups in association with Shadetree Sports and is backed by the Irish tourist board Fáilte Ireland. It will begin in Kilkenny on August 22nd and concludes in Dublin on August 26th. The race will be screened in many countries worldwide.
Danish Champ signs for Italian team
The Danish cyclo cross champion Joachim Parbo has signed for the Italian CCV team. Parbo signed the contract last week in Bologna and will be racing all of the upcoming season with them, which will start in the US with the Excel Sports Cross Vegas.
Parbo plans to keep his base in Denmark, where "I am active in promoting cycling for CK Aarhus," his hometown club. He chose CCV for its strong anti-doping program and its hand-made custom frames, among other things. The multi-lingual Parbo (Danish, English and German), is a political science master student.
The team CCV was founded in 2004 in Italy by five friends who wanted to promote cyclo cross in Italy. This year the team won the Italian U23 event.
Parbo's goals for the season are again the Danish championship, but he targets also the 14 races he is planning on doing in the US.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)