Latest Cycling News for June 25, 2007
Edited by Gregor Brown
Valverde values Tour TTs and mountains
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Tired of the insistence to dismantle his reputation via Operación Puerto allegations, Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne is thankful when asked about the Tour de France. Before going to the Eindhoven time trial, in which the Spanish squad had a strong performance, the 27 year-old Murcian took value of the time trials (more than 100 kilometres) that await him in La Grande Boucle.
"My good results in the time trials make me more optimistic and I have more confidence in my possibilities," the Spaniard explained to Cyclingnews yesterday. "I have been working thoroughly to improve my results in the time trial. On the last occasions, I have been advised by the team biomechanic in order to correct my position on the bike. In fact, I think that I am getting better. Apart from all of that, to be concentrated will be a determining factor to confront so many kilometres."
The first individual test is day one in London, an eight-kilometre prologue run through the city streets. Stages 13 and 19 are the next two timed tests. The first one is 54 kilometres and the second, after a romp in the Pyrenees, at 55 kilometres. The latter comes on the penultimate day and it will likely wrap up the overall classification. "But it will be mainly after confronting the high mountain stages in the Alps and in the Pyrenees."
Valverde gave greater value to the mountain stages, of which there are only three moutain-top finishes. "Time trial stages are always decisive ones in the Tour, because the general classification will be more or less defined after we have confronted the high mountain stages. Anyway, I do not believe that the time trial stages will be as decisive as the high mountain stages."
Stages seven, from Bourg-en-Bresse to Le-Grand-Bornand, and eight, between Le-Grand-Bornand and Tignes, in the Alps, and 14, between Mazamet and Plateau-de-Beille, 15, between Foix and Le Louron, and 16, Orthez and Col d'Aubisqu, in the Pyrenees will be the hardest moutain days. "I do not know which stage is harder than the other; all of them are very demanding, mainly when we are talking of the Tour de France," Valverde continued.
He reconnoitred the Pyrenees stages before participating in the Dauphiné Libéré and he came away with the feeling that the battles would be played out near his home country. "The Pyrenees stages seem harder than the Alps. ... It does not matter; as noted before, all of them will be complicated. I you have a bad day, you can lose everything."
Alexander Vinokourov, Valverde's nemesis in the 2006 Vuelta a España, had a strong performance in the Dauphiné Libéré and it left no doubt of who will be rival number one for the three-week French affair. "Vinokourov is the main rival for winning the Tour," Valverde confirmed. "However, it is also necessary to consider to Carlos Sastre [CSC], Andrey Kashechkin [Astana], Cadel Evans [Predictor-Lotto], Levi Leipheimer [Discovery Channel] and Denis Menchov [Rabobank]."
The Caisse d'Epargne rider summarized his goals. "I will fight for being on the podium. ... Also, it would be very important to obtain a stage win."
Karpets happy with win
By Shane Stokes in Switzerland
Vladimir Karpets took the biggest win of his career on Sunday when he jumped from third to first overall in the Tour de Suisse. A strong time trial performance saw him run out the final victor ahead of Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) and Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel).
"It is my second big victory this season as I already won the Tour of Catalunya," he said. "This is more significant, though, as it is a bigger race. It was also a very important test before the Tour de France.
"After the victory of Fränk Schleck in Malbun, I thought that he was going to be the strongest rider in the Tour de Suisse. But things worked out well for me in the end.
"I want to thank all my team-mates of Caisse d'Epargne for the fantastic job they did during these nine stages. I also want to congratulate my fellow-citizen Vladimir Efimkin for the great race he realized. The time trail is not his speciality and therefore he lost some time today, but he nevertheless accomplished a great race."
Karpets said that he would return to his Spanish home in Pamplona and take a few days rest before continuing his build-up for the Tour de France.
He was best young rider in the 2004 Tour, finishing 13th. He's been in great form this year but plays down any suggestions that he will go there as a protected rider. "We have a clear leader in the Tour, Alejandro [Valverde]. We will ride for him there but perhaps I can get a stage win one of the days."
Tinkoff's TTT "disaster"
"It is indeed disaster! A damn 0.043 second," said Tinkoff Credit Systems team owner Oleg Tinkov to Cyclingnews Monday morning in reaction to his boys' performance in the Eindhoven team time trial the day before. The eight-man team had given it all it had, using Russian-school time trialling tactics, but it fell short to CSC by less than one second.
Denmark-based CSC took the 48.6-kilometre run for a second year in a row with a team that is building for the Tour de France, including American David Zabriskie. However, Tinkov believed he hand the boys to make the difference.
"It will be an all-Russian team there," he stated last week in an interview with Cyclingnews. "I think that the Russian school for the team time trial is the best in the world. Of course, it comes from the Soviet times, but it is still one of the best schools, and all of them know how to do it from the technical perspective. ... They must win this time trial. If they don't, let's just say I will be de-motivated."
"I received telephone calls of congratulations from people in the world of cycling whose opinion is very important to me. They say it's a great success for the squad, but I won't hide my disappointment. When Tinkoff Credit Systems got a wildcard for this race the very first thought of mine was 'That's the best chance for us to win a ProTour event this year!' and I lived these months with this thought on my mind," he continued to the Team Press Officer Sergey Kurdyukov.
"To lose less than a second after almost an hour of racing – that is inconceivable! Perhaps if I went to Holland to support the team that would have been the little bit which could have helped the guys to win.
"Of course, we started in the first group, which was not a positive thing as our time checks were the reference points to everyone. On the other hand, we remained best at all the intermediate checks – but the last one. I heard that some of the teams got caught in the rain, and Discovery riders even fell, so we weren't totally unlucky after all. And yet, I'd rather see us in the fifth line of the standings than watch these tenths of a second and feel how close we were. I mean, I wanted a ProTour win very badly."
Tinkov hopes for late-summer invites to the big races for his Professional Continental team. "We'll see whether we get some wildcards for the second half of the season, but we won't be favourites. When the ripples settle, I'll think more about the fact that this was our first Pro Tour podium, but not now."
Moreau hopes for spotty Tour
Christophe Moreau is much stronger for winning the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré this year than when he won the French event for the first time in 2001 by a single second from Russian Pavel Tonkov. For many years he has been France's main hope for a spot on the final podium of the Tour de France, but now he'd be happy with shining as the king of the mountains, he tells Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet.
It's been 10 years since any Frenchman finished on the final podium of the Tour de France. Yes, the last one was Richard Virenque in 1997 and the recent revelations, in addition to the Festina affair, have made clear that cycling in the mid 90s didn't have much in the way of credibility. No Frenchman has won the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985 - that's over 20 years France has gone without a local success in its own hallmark event.
Results from the Dauphiné however could suggest that Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) is able to produce a good final result, especially in the post-Armstrong era. Without the likes of Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis, all gone because of their alleged connections with doping, one would think Moreau stands a chance on general classification. But Moreau is 36 years old and in his 13th season as a professional cyclist. While he's not exactly the up and coming champion highly expected in France, he's definitely the best Tour de France rider the country has to offer.
Read the full interview with Moreau.
Sevilla takes Route du Sud
Oscar Sevilla has continued his ways, after a stage victory in Volta a Catalunya, by winning the 31st Route du Sud. The 30 year-old Spaniard took stage two on the way to the final overall in the four-day French stage race. Second overall was Italian Massimo Giunti (Miche).
The win flies in the face of the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP). In a meeting on June 13, AIGCP representatives voted unanimously for teams to adhere to the Code of Ethics. Also in the face of the International Association of Cycling Race Organisers (AIOCC), who on April 26 issued a statement that requested teams don't field riders linked to Puerto.
At the time when other Operación Puerto-related riders have been suspended, Basso, or retired, Ullrich, it is inconsistent that others are able to continue to race. "How irritating, to come in following Sevilla raising his arms in victory," said Yoann Le Boulanger (Bouygues Telecom) to El País in regards to stage two, where he finished third behind Sevilla.
"I live in an unjust situation," responded Sevilla. According to the Spanish paper, Sevilla would sign the new UCI document that would declare he has nothing to do with the Puerto investigation, agree to offer up DNA for comparison to the blood found in Eufemiano Fuentes' offices and pay a year's salary in penalty if found guilty of infringements.
Experienced team for Rabobank in Tour de France
Rabobank has announced its selection of nine riders for this year's Tour de France. The nine riders will be Michael Boogerd, Bram de Groot, Thomas Dekker, Juan Antonio Flecha, Oscar Freire, Denis Menchov, Grischa Niermann, Michael Rasmussen and Pieter Weening.
Team managers Erik Breukink and Erik Dekker listed Theo Eltink and Koos Moerenhout as reserves.
In Rabobank's selection no less than six riders are former stage winners in the Tour de France: Michael Boogerd (1996 and 2002), Juan Antonio Flecha (2003), Oscar Freire (2002 and 2006 – two stages), Denis Menchov (2006), Michael Rasmussen (2005 and 2006) and Pieter Weening (2005). Menchov won the young rider classification of the 2003 Tour de France and Rasmussen was the 2005 and 2006 winner of the mountains classification.
Michael Boogerd is by far Rabobank's most experienced rider in the Tour de France. Boogerd will make his twelfth and final start in the Tour de France on July 7. In 1998, the Dutchman came in fifth; his best final result so far. In 2001, Boogerd also finished in the Tour's top ten. Denis Menchov's best result was his sixth place in the final classification in 2006.
All together, the nine riders of the Rabobank Cycling Team combine for the experience of 39 starts in the Tour de France so far. While, Thomas Dekker is the only first time starter in the Tour de France squad of Breukink and Dekker.
Daniel Martin: Recycling the family name
With one Tour de France title already in the extended family, Irish youngster Daniel Martin has some big goals ahead of him. Irish Cycling News' Gerard Cromwell spoke with the soon to be professional after he inked a deal with America's Team Slipstream.
Daniel Martin will become the latest Irish cyclist to turn professional when he lines up for the American based Team Slipstream in 2008. Having a former British amateur road race champion father and a sister of a Tour De France winner as a mother, there was only ever going to be one sport in the life of 21 year-old Daniel Martin. The son of former British professional Neil Martin and 1987 Tour De France winner Stephen Roche's sister, Maria, Daniel was born in England but declared for Ireland a couple of years ago and is now carving out a cycling career for himself and hopes to follow his father Neil, uncle Stephen and cousin Nicolas Roche into the paid ranks in 2008.
"I was at my first bike race when I was ten days old," he joked, "and I've probably been to one almost every week since then, whether it was watching my Dad or later on, racing myself. I don't remember Stephen racing but I've seen videos and stuff and it's great to have people like that to ask for advice."
Now in his third year at top French amateur club VC La Pomme, the Irish Under 23 star impressed enough last season to earn a paid deal but decided to wait another year. "I had an offer to turn pro," he admitted, "but I decided to keep calm and stay amateur for another year. I wanted to continue to progress and make sure I'm ready when the time comes. I tend to be good in stage races and seem to get better as the race goes on."
Read the full feature on Daniel Martin.
Stevic delighted after maiden victory
Toyota-United's Ivan Stevic was delighted with his overall victory at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, his first stage race win in the United States. The Serbian national champion claimed the overall yellow jersey after holding out from a dominate fleet of Health Net rivals, to win the race by 27 seconds from Australian Rory Sutherland.
"I wanted to show myself I could win a stage race here in the US, especially this one because it's very important for NRC [National Racing Calendar] points for the team," beamed Stevic. "And I have to say I'm happy because winning a stage race in the US brings it to a different level – you can even make plans to win the overall NRC next year, it shows maturity as a rider."
Despite the strength of the Health Net squad, which dominated the men's race with five of a possible six stage wins, Stevic and his Toyota-United teammates fended off any threats by rival squads to hold onto the yellow jersey. After taking the jersey on the opening stage, Stevic only lost it for a single stage after the stage 3 time trial before regaining it that night and keeping it through to the end.
"Plus, I know the team is happy; I saw the guys they were just happy, that's the biggest reward," added Stevic.
Despite claiming several stage victories on US soil, including at the Tour of Georgia, Stevic had never managed to claim an overall victory until now. In addition to the yellow jersey, Stevic took home the Wheaties Sprint jersey from the NVGP.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)