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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, July 6, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Laura Weislo

Valverde seizes the yellow

By Brecht Decaluwé in Plumelec

Will he defend it
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

On the opening stage of the Tour de France, Spanish champion Alejandro Valverde displayed the kind of riding which won him three Ardennes Classics in recent years, gave him his second career Tour stage win and, most importantly, the first yellow jersey of the Tour. With that feat, the Caisse d'Epargne rider gave a seamless transition of the yellow jersey from one Spaniard, last year's winner Alberto Contador, to another.

Valverde had already shown twice in Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2006 and 2008), and once in La Flèche Wallonne (2006) that he packs a powerful uphill sprint, and on the two kilometre-long grade averaging 6.2% towards Plumelec, the 'Prince of Spain' showed the other general classification contenders that he is on top form. He was the only rider who could hold the wheel of this year's Flèche Wallonne winner Kim Kirchen, and in the final metres he blasted away towards the victory. Along with the yellow jersey, he also snuck in a one second advantage on Cadel Evans, and seven seconds on some other general classification contenders.

"I'm in deliriously happy," Valverde reacted after crossing the line. "I dedicate this victory to all the fans that supported me all these years. I also want to thank the general cycling fans along the road. Some aren't the greatest specialists, but they show up because they love cycling as a whole," Valverde said.

The Spanish champion realized that he hasn't won the Tour de France yet, although he did gave his adversaries a mental knock. "I found a finale that suited me perfectly, so no, this shouldn't be considered as a message towards my rivals," the 28 year-old from Murcia said. Even though Valverde was possibly the best suited for this stage, it turned out that he hadn't done a reconnaissance of the short climb like he probably did for the Alpine cols, or the Pyrenees. "I haven't seen this climb before," Valverde admitted, "but I was on the wheel of Kirchen and earlier I had [team-mate José Ivan] Gutierrez who delivered me perfectly at the foot of the climb."

In 2005, Valverde won his first stage in the Tour de France by beating Lance Armstrong to the line in Courchevel during the tenth stage. All sorts of circumstances kept him from other highlights in the Tour, but after a sixth place in the general classification last year, the Murcian has now stepped forward to follow Alberto Contador as winner of the Tour de France. "I wished that [Contador] was here, but I'm proud to be the next rider to wear the yellow jersey. Hopefully I can also wear it in Paris," Valverde smiled. "I realize that it is still a very long way to Paris and especially in the high mountains it's going to be very tough."

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With the next two stages expected to end in a bunch sprint, and having been awarded a one second time gap on the line in Plumelec, it seems unlikely the Spanish champion will end up losing his jersey before the time trial in Cholet on Tuesday. Wearing the yellow jersey is the dream of every rider, and it surely brings some extra pressure along with it. Valverde didn't agree with this theory though. "No, I don't think I'll have extra pressure since I'm the one who has already achieved two of his goals for this Tour, namely winning a stage and taking the yellow jersey," the 'Prince of Spain' reacted. "Keeping the jersey won't be easy because there is still a long way to go, but I'll certainly try to enjoy it while I have it."

Once again Valverde – named, but cleared in the Puerto case – was asked about his involvement regarding the Puerto case at the post-race press grilling. The question from the journalist was welcomed by a lot of sighs from his colleagues and Valverde didn't comment on the question. This speculation will probably continue to follow Valverde throughout his career. Another cycling journalist wanted to know whether Valverde feared being questioned by the CONI when the race passes in Italy in two weeks. "If they want to talk to me, that's OK. If not, then that's OK too," Valverde pointed out that he wasn't worrying too much about it.

Crash spoils the fun for some in Brittany

By Brecht Decaluwé in Plumelec

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The riders and managers predicted a nervous and dangerous first stage of the Tour, and for an unfortunate few, the fears proved to be true. On the twisty, hilly 197.5 kilometre route from Brest to Plumelec, Mid-way through the stage, Hervé Duclos-Lassalle, son of double Paris-Roubaix winner Gilbert, became the first rider to abandon this year's event after he got tangled up in the feed zone and broke his wrist. The French rider was transported to the hospital in Lorient for treatment.

Last year's polka dot jersey winner Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) and Silence Lotto's main lieutenant Yaroslav Popovych were the two of the biggest names who were caught up in separate crashes, but both riders could continue their race.

The bad luck for the team of Cadel Evans was doubled when Johan Vansummeren suffered a frightening run-in with a team car. The Belgian was chasing back through the following cars when the crash of Duclos-Lassalle caused the convoy to slow suddenly. Vansummeren, who was drafting behind the Columbia team car crashed into the rear window, but luckily wasn't seriously injured.

Team Columbia director sportif Rolf Aldag was in the car when it happened, and he expressed he had a bit of a fright. "We were returning to the front, but as we arrived there we had to brake and I guess Vansummeren hadn't seen that. I'm happy he isn't injured, because it could've been much worse. During the second half of the race it felt like we were driving a convertible," Aldag referred to the draught that was caused by the broken rear window.

Vansummeren was able to return to the peloton after the crash and finished in the grupetto, two minutes behind stage winner Alejandro Valverde. "I was just returning to the peloton when that car suddenly braked, which I didn't notice. Luckily I could turn away and crashed sideways into the rear window. It was quite a shock but I could continue without a problem," the Silence-Lotto rider said.

'Summie' continued to explain that he was alright, although he started to feel something in the finale. "On the final climb towards Plumelec I felt that I had less power than normal, so I'll certainly pay a visit to our physiotherapist."

Mark Renshaw: Building his career as a lead-out man

A pre-ride cappuccino for Mark Renshaw in Monaco.
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Among the rookies at this year's Tour de France, Mark Renshaw will be a name to watch. The 25 year-old Australian could have a direct impact on the results sheet in his new role as lead-out man for Thor Hushovd. Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet caught up with him in Monaco as he completed his training on the French Riviera.

Now in his fifth year as a professional and third at Crédit Agricole, Mark Renshaw has finally received the call up to the world's biggest bike race. Had that call not come this year, the rider who learnt his trade with Bradley McGee at Française des Jeux says he may have quit the sport he's been devoted to since the age of nine. His selection process inside the French team started back in October last year, two days before Paris-Tours, when Crédit Agricole held its gathering to prepare for the following season.

Just as fellow French squad Cofidis developed Sylvain Chavanel for the Belgian classics after losing some of its specialists, Crédit Agricole looked inside its own ranks for a successor to Julian Dean. The New Zealander's departure for Slipstream (now Garmin) had left a vacancy for a lead-out man for Thor Hushovd, a role in which the Norwegian had previously described Dean as the best in the world.

"I sat down with Thor and I told him that I definitely thought I had the power to do it," explained Renshaw, while sitting on a terrace in Monaco near to his French home. Before accepting his new role, the former track cycling star from Bathurst in New South Wales had just been one more fast guy on the B program of Crédit Agricole, looking for secondary success at the minor races. What's more, his performances in Europe had showcased little of the speed that had made him famous in the southern hemisphere.

"After that meeting I changed things and became a lead-out man," Renshaw continued. "We needed a bit of racing together. Once it happened, we matched really well at the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour of Catalunya and we sealed the deal. Coming out of my wheel, Thor won a bunch sprint at both these two races. Normally I would have gone with him at the Dauphiné as well but the Tour de Suisse appeared to be a better preparation for me."

Continue to the full feature.

Irish Paralympic team for Beijing 2008 announced

By Shane Stokes

Four cyclists and two sighted pilot riders have been confirmed as travelling to Beijing to contest the 2008 Paralympic Games there. Locomotor Disorder (Arm amputee) rider Cathal Miller, Cerebral Palsy rider Enda Smyth, and visually impaired competitors Michael Delaney and Catherine Walsh will fly to China prior to the September sixth start, with David Peelo and Joanna Hickey joining up with the latter two for their tandem races.

The Irish Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Mr. Martin Cullen spoke at the announcement held on Thursday, which confirmed the 45 athletes on the Irish team. He congratulated their selection, saying that, "very few of us get the opportunity to represent our country on the International stage. It's a tremendous honour that the athletes, their families and friends should be very proud of. I have no doubt that they will be great ambassadors for our country."

In addition to the four cyclists and two pilot riders, this comprises ten track and field athletes, one archer, four Boccia players, twelve footballers, six swimmers, five sailors, two table tennis players, and one dressage rider.

The Irish cyclists will be sponsored by An Post, which also backs the An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team plus the green jersey competition in the Tour of Ireland.

USWCDP hands out more bikes

Alicia Pastore proudly displays her new bikes
Photo ©: USWCDP
(Click for larger image)

The US Women's Cycling Development Program (USWCDP), in partnership with bike manufacturer Giant for Women, has handed out two more of its scholarship bikes to promising American youngster Alicia Pastore. The rider from Durango, Colorado has been competing in road and mountain bike events in the junior expert division and was also a top nordic skier competing at the Junior Olympics.

Michael Engleman, director of the USWCDP, had this to say about the recent scholarship: "As the USWCDP network has grown we have seen the value in not just finding young talent and helping to develop their athletic potential, but also to promote the stories of these women in all their endeavours. These athletes will stand on a lot of podiums and they will have all sorts of company logos on their jerseys when they do but they will also run companies and contribute to the success of many a cause.

"Alicia and the rest of the Pastore family is a perfect example of the sort of team it takes to create valuable citizens of the world as well as world class athletes."

The relationship between the program and Giant for Women is something the two are looking to develop even further for future riders. "Giant for Women is thrilled to be able to support and partner with the USWCDP," said the company's manager Tiffany Brown. "Both of our programs are about giving women more opportunities, education, and assistance, whether they are just starting to ride, or like Alicia, developing into world-class riders. We are looking forward to helping develop a whole new generation of racers."

For more information on the USWCDP visit www.uswcdp.org

Even more great moments from previous Tours de France

In our third installment of clips from the archives of the Tour de France, today we go from the mountains to the suffering of the thousands of cyclists who participate each year in the L'Etape de Tour, as well as looking at how riders relieve the tension and drama by clowning around when they get the chance.

Cyclingnews will be presenting video highlights of every stage just after the stage finish. The video clips are being sourced from the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the owners of the Tour de France, using footage provided by the host broadcaster. But before the 2008 Tour rolls out tomorrow, here are another four clips from the vault.

The first clip of today's batch reviews the famous climbs of the Tour de France; those brutal, long and beautiful peaks that always create the final selection in every year of the Tour. This clip looks at the history of these climbs, such as the Col du Galibier and Mont Ventoux, the 'Giant of Provence' as it's known.

The next clip we offer today is a feature on the L'Etape de Tour, that special event that's been held since the mid '90s where thousands of 'regular' cyclists test themselves by riding a complete stage of the Tour, with the roads closed to traffic for the day.

The third new clip looks at the drama of the Tour. Called 'Le Soap Opera', this feature reviews the whole range of emotions on display as riders push themselves beyond their physical limits.

Finally, the fourth clip of the day shows the Tour's humourous and lighter side, this feature includes vision from many Tours in years past, with some light-hearted moments showing how the riders break the tension along the flatter stages - by swapping bikes, or dodging errant cattle and spectators. It shows that despite all the drama and exertion, there's always time to look around and enjoy the spectacle.

Stay tuned for the first of our race highlights clips to be uploaded as soon as today's stage finishes.

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