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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for September 3, 2007

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Pressing the flesh and back on his bike

O'Grady plans for 2008 with Beijing on his mind

By Gerard Knapp at Eurobike, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Stuart O’Grady at Eurobike
Photo ©: Gerard Knapp
(Click for larger image)

In his first full day on his feet since the accident in the Tour de France that took him out of the race – and almost out of the sport – Australian Stuart O'Grady was feeling the pinch of being a star attraction at the Eurobike trade show in Germany on Saturday.

As O'Grady said with a tired smile, "well, it's another day in the office." He visited just about every sponsor of Team CSC and shook hands, smiled and featured in countless photos of people who'd taken a valuable happy-snap of the day they met the winner of the 2007 Paris-Roubaix. Bike industry executives, European journalists from l'Equipe, Velo and Bici Sport, even executives from major sponsors of the Tour de France; they all wanted to talk to the one who never quits, who needs a life-threatening accident requiring weeks of rehabilitation to make him quit a bike race.

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Despite all the attention, O'Grady appeared not to be bothered. The sense of relief was palpable, even at the end of his tiring day. Talking at the FSA booth – he'd previously visited Cervelo, Speedplay, Descente, SIS (nutrition firm Sport-in-Science), Sigma and Zipp - O'Grady realized that things could have been worse, much worse, had a solid timber railing not literally stopped him in his tracks at over 60 km/h on the descent .

He was not only alive but only last week he'd had his first ride back on the bike: a relatively short 45-kilometre run from his Monaco residence to Italy "for a coffee", then back home, "and mate, it felt like I'd just won the Olympics again."

He admitted to actually being quite nervous about getting back on the road. "I was kind of wanting to do it, but delaying it; cleaning the bike, pumping the tyres, that kind of thing, wondering what would happen …" But when he rolled out on to the roads of Monaco and took in a few bumps along the way, and his shoulder, arm and ribs all absorbed the regular jolts of any road ride, he felt he was good to go again.

You can read the full interview here.

Koldo blames Bennati on crash

Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) roars
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Euskaltel's sprinter Koldo Fernández was hoping for a good finish yesterday, but was another victim of the huge crash that significantly reduced the front group. Fernández, who won the last stage of Tirreno-Adriatico this spring, declared after the race that "The crash was a pity. I was well positioned on the wheel of Alan Pérez, with the objective to place myself behind Petacchi's wheel." He and golden jersey Bennati got into an argument after the crash and the Spaniard revealed that "I already had a problem with Bennati yesterday, as we both wanted Petacchi's wheel and I gave in. Today I didn't hit my brakes."

But things got tight for the sprinters, who are not shy in using elbows and shoulders to get their ways. "There was no space for the both of us and it is those who are in the habit of passing in those kinds of situations who find themselves on the ground," the Euskaltel rider put the blame to the Italian. He continued to describe the war-like showdown as "we went man against man. There was tension, I was the agitator and I fell. I got hit on my butt, my shoulder and my waist, but nothing severe."

It is unusual for Euskaltel to have a sprinter on the team as they are mostly known for their uphill battles in the mountains but Fernández was looking forward to another day for fast men, stating that "Tomorrow there will be another day and one has to try again."

His team-mate Samuel Sánchez was also in the middle of the action. "I was involved in the crash, but I don't have anything. I got a small hit on the calf, but it doesn't bother me." He was looking forward to tomorrow a little more cautiously than Fernández. "Tomorrow will be complicated....In, addition, it is the day before the Lagos [stage 4 finish -ed.] We will try to pass the day the best possible way and arrive in good condition at one of the most important stages of the Vuelta, one with great tradition."

And Alan Pérez, who is the highest ranked Euskaltel rider in GC, was very content "with the sixth place overall. I know it's anecdotal, the Vuelta has barely started, but there are positive aspects for the team, for example our team car will be in sixth position in the stage of the Lagos." The Spaniard declared that those details are important, but he also didn't want to see his placing to go by completely unnoticed. "With all the sprinters here, the sixth place has its merits." Pérez emphasized that "we tried to bring Koldo [Fernández] to the front and my good placing stems from that effort." As for tomorrow he wanted to see if "we have more luck, Koldo doesn't crash and we can place us even better."

But one thing is clear for the domestique, no matter how highly he is ranked currently in GC. "My work is to assist my companions in the race with all they want."

Pereiro hopes to be OK

Oscar Pereiro, the Caisse d'Epargne rider who is the leader of his team for the first time in a Grand Tour, couldn't have had a worse start to his new role as captain of the Vuelta a España squad. He went down in the big pile-up in stage two and commented that it was "The classical fight amongst sprinters who think that the road is wider than it is in reality!" There was nothing he could do to avoid the crash. "Some riders crashed just in front of me and so close to the finish and at such a speed it is of course impossible to brake." He hopes his injuries are minor, though " my right hip is hurting a little, but I hope it is nothing serious," concluded Pereiro.

Voeckler on winning streak

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) wins
Photo ©: Régis Garnier
(Click for larger image)

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) is on a good run. Yesterday he won the GP Plouay after attacking the hot sprint favourites with less than three kilometres to go and managed to hang on to his slim lead all the way to the line. But it was the overall victory in last week's Tour du Poitou-Charentes that laid the foundation for good results in the remainder of the season.

In an interview with velo101 the rider from the Alsace, who, before last week, hadn't won a race since Paris-Bourges in the fall of last year, revealed that "it was my first victory this season. It's been a long time."

He described his season with ups and downs, with a great period until Milano-Sanremo. "After that, I didn't have great results, even considering that in Paris-Nice I got a top ten place once and won the mountains classification. But as they say 'Only victory counts.'"

He admitted that in the spring he just had trouble finding his rhythm. "I also had some trouble with my knee. Like with all the riders, there is always some small health issue going on, even if it is not dramatic," the Frenchman acknowledged that the bike racers have to constantly look out for their well-being. Because of it he didn't find himself "at the front a lot," but is now looking forward to a good end of the season.

He wants to make the French Worlds team, as he enjoyed the experience in 2006. "I went last year and I would like to return. If I can ride well until the end of the month, I should be able to make the team." But the buck doesn't stop there and "being elected is not the end of it. One also has to obtain a good result."

He already had been in contact with Frédéric Moncassin, who is in charge of putting together a team for the Worlds, but admits that "there isn't much to say. If he thinks I can place he will take me and I will give my best."

A good way of getting great results is to be mentally prepared and the win in the Poitou-Charentes may just have done that for Voeckler. "It is true that winning the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, that was really good for the head. When one trains and races but can't get the results, it's a but frustrating," the Bouygues Telecom rider described the winless phase earlier in the year. Now, I have the ambition and that victory also gave me the pep for the rest of the year."

Memories of good moments he has plenty, notably the one from the 2004 Tour, where he got t wear the yellow jersey and Voeckler admitted that "I think I will miss those moments, when I will have to stop [riding]," but he is aware that "since the 2004 I haven't done anything exceptional."

Which has changed this weekend and with the win at the GP Plouay he can look forward to the rest of the season, which will consist of the Tour of Poland, the Worlds and Paris-Bourges, Paris-Tour and finally the Tour of Lombardy.

In Plouay, sprinters in for a surprise

Thor Hushovd won the bunch sprint into Plouay, but ended up in second another time this season, as the timely (or untimely, whichever way you look at it) attack by Thomas Voeckler spoiled the sprinters' party to battle it out for first in a mano a mano. The Norwegian power house declared after the race that "I felt very good but when Thomas Voeckler attacked in the final there was nobody to close the gap." The fact that there weren't any Crédit Agricole riders left was due to "my team-mates had ridden on the front." The good thing for him was that "I won the sprint easily. It is a disappointment to finish second but I am content that it is Thomas who won."

Third-placed Danilo Di Luca kept his ProTour lead and finished third on the day. His main objective was to "take as many points as possible. I am very satisfied with that third place and I want to thank my team, who has worked very hard for this achievement." He described the very end of the race where he was able to make the best use of his team by following "in the slipstream of Filippo Pozzato and then he slowed down so I could take the most points possible. I want to thank him for that."

One rider who finished way down but still had a good day was Mickael Buffaz of Cofidis, ending up in 108th place. He was part of the main break of the day and said that "I went with Benoît Vaugrenard, Laurent Lefèvre and Nicolas Vogondy in the first lap. We managed [to maintain] the gap that the peloton allowed us."

The Frenchman was surprised that he could keep the rhythm up as the chasers got closer and was "a bit disappointed that I got caught ten kilometres from the finish."

And last but not least Bouygues Telecom was certainly happy with the day's outcome. Voeckler's team-mate Jérôme Pineau declared that the "victory of Thomas Voeckler is foremost a victory of the team. Thomas wasn't the strongest, but he knew how to ride well. He showed that when riding with your head you can beat the best."

His directeur sportif agreed that "Thomas has done something incredible today; leaving the peloton where he did was strong, but holding on was grand. One can't but admire him."

Boonen sees slim chances in Worlds

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step Innergetic)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Tom Boonen hasn't actually seen the course in Stuttgart for the upcoming World Championships, but he doesn't believe he has much chance of winning his second title there.

"This World Championships is too difficult for me to be able to ride in the finale," he told "Over the total distance you have an altitude difference of 5700 metres. That is 3000 metres more in climbs than last year."

"A lot depends on just where the finish is," he continued. "It can be difficult, but in Stuttgart, after 260 kilometres you can still have 2.5-kilometre uphill, with some places up to six percent. I wouldn't have a chance there against such riders as Di Luca, Freire or Valverde. But I will still ride there, 100 percent motivated."

Schumacher upset with Worlds plans

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) wants to get in Worlds form
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Stefan Schumacher is one of the top favourites in the upcoming World Championships in Stuttgart. The Gerolsteiner rider, who this year won the Amstel Gold Race, has shown he can win on such a difficult climbing course, and will be especially motivated to do well in his home region. But the 26-year-old is upset at the way things seem to be developing within the German team.

Schumacher's Sport Director, Christian Henn, will not be allowed to accompany the World's team, in light of his doping confession this past spring. "I just can't believe that," Schumacher told "Christian Henn is the best sporting director that I have had in my whole career. It would be very important to me that he sits in the team at the Worlds. It is a real blow to me that he won't be there."

Hans-Michael Holczer, Gerolsteiner team manager, and Jan Schaffrath, Directeur Sportif at T-Mobile Team, will accompany the German team at the championships.

Schumacher protested against the "double standards" that barred Henn but allowed Erik Zabel, who also made a doping confession this spring, to participate. "I find that shameless. Where is the logic? That is a double standard."

While Schumacher says he has no problem with Zabel's presence on the team, others worry that the team may concentrate on the sprinter rather than on him. "It could be that the team will give Zabel six helpers and Schumacher maybe just one or two," according to an anonymous insider.

"It's not up to me to put together the national team, but I have certain requirements, that is normal," he said. "A Bettini always has his helpers on the Italian team." Schumacher particularly would like to have his team-mates Fabian Wegmann and David Kopp on the team. Wegmann's chances to be nominated seem good, while Kopp's do not. "Fabian is super strong and can do a lot in the finale. But he alone is not enough. David is the perfect helper underway. I know that he will do everything for me. In top form he is one of the best German riders for one-day races. I absolutely want to have him at the Worlds."

Casper looks forward to 2008

Not where he wants to be
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Four and a half months ago Jimmy Casper narrowly escaped tragedy at Gent-Wevelgem, a semi-classic that draws its fame from the Kemmelberg, the only major obstacle on the 200-kilometre course that has to be passed three times. It is paved on both the uphill and the downhill part, making the latter especially treacherous when the peloton flies down at 60 or 70 km/h.

When it is raining it becomes an extremely dangerous section, but this year, even though it was sunny and dry, a bad crash took Casper out with several facial fractures, a concussion and three fractures in his left wrist. Rather than on a podium he landed in hospital, where he spent quite some time and had four surgeries to repair his damaged bones. There were many theories about who was to blame or even if the Kemmelberg should be eliminated altogether. Bottles definitely could be seen flying all over the place and riders trying to avoid them.

The Unibet sprinter is back in action and revealed to velo 101 that "my legs feel fine, but even at 80 percent it is difficult to make a great race. One shouldn't expect too much from me for the rest of the season." He restarted his 2007 campaign with the Tour of Denmark, continued with the Vuelta a Burgos and raced the Eneco Tour. His biggest complaint is his left hand, "where I only have 30 percent of my strength back."

He is looking forward to the future, stating that "now, I am still suffering from the aftermath of the crash, but next year all that will be forgotten. I will be back at 100 percent of my strengths."

Casper, who said he "can't grab the handle bar firmly," revealed that it was a long recovery and "it's not even finished yet." His attitude is rather positive, though and he simply shrugged that "that is the life of a bike racer." He received plenty of support, although it was more in a beginning, but then thought that it was perfectly normal. "When once crashes, there is plenty of support in the beginning and then later they wait that we make our return."

He did admit his morale wasn't the best, considering he couldn't race in his best condition this year. "Additionally, the team is folding at the end of the year. I don't know where I will be in 2008, but I am not too worried. There are good contracts [out there]," and he hopes to know more in the next couple of weeks.

Understandably his outlook on Gent-Wevelgem has changed. "I think they shouldn't descend on that side of the Kemmelberg. If they don't I will return. There was plenty of damage in that descent. I think it is time to stop the nonsense," said Casper, who had done the downhill already a few times before finally hitting the pavement.

Klöden plans on Poland, details crash

Andreas Klöden, who was involved in a training crash and missed the GP Plouay because of it, is now planning on racing the Tour of Poland, from September 10 to 16.

On his web site,, he detailed the accident that happened after "a 170-kilometre training ride. A car took my right of way at an intersection." He was quick to react and avoided the car by swerving around it, but ended up in the ditch, where "I lost control over my bike and crashed."

Because of his pains he immediately went to hospital and "got my wrist and hip X-rayed. Luckily, nothing is broken." He did a test on his bicycle Friday morning, but stopped it after only half an hour, deciding that it was better to not start in Plouay, because "I couldn't ride standing up and my hip hurt pretty badly."

He is now looking forward to some rest and trying "to heal so I can be ready for the Tour of Poland," which the German will use to get into shape for the Worlds.

Vuelta '09 to visit Liège

The Vuelta a España 2009 will make a stop in Belgium on its way from the start in the Netherlands to its arrival in Spain, it was announced over the weekend.

A delegation from the city was in Vigo, Spain, for the start of the Vuelta on Saturday, and discussed the plans with Unipublic, the race organizer.

It is planned that the Vuelta's fourth stage will end in Liège, according to hln, after which the riders will directly fly to Spain for the remainder of the race.

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(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)