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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest Cycling News, July 7, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams

Cavendish looking forward to stage three

By Shane Stokes in Saint Brieuc, France

Mark Cavendish (Columbia)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

With two Giro d'Italia stage wins and multiple professional victories already under his belt, Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) is keen to open his first Tour de France bottle of bubbly. The Manxman fell short 12 months ago due to bad luck but, a year older and more experienced, he's feeling good about his chances this time round.

The 23 year-old Briton was distanced on the tough run in to the finish of stage two but got back on to the bunch, placing 27th. His team-mate Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek were second and third. The parcours of the third stage is flatter, though, and so Cavendish is looking forward to his first real opportunity.

"Tomorrow is a better chance for me, personally," he told reporters after yesterday's stage. "It has a long, flat run-in and that should suit me better. It will give a decent opportunity for a full-on bunch sprint.

"I am feeling really good, actually," he added. "I have a Giro in my legs this year, I am more mature physically and mentally. I came here with less nervousness, but more excitement [than last year]."

The Manxman gave the thumbs up to the revised route of the 2008 Tour, saying that beginning with a road stage is a nice alternative to the usual format. "Without a prologue, it has definitely changed the first week of the Tour," he said. "I think it is a good idea because yesterday was a beautiful stage to get a yellow jersey-wearer on.

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"I think it is the right decision for the organisers to do, and it made for a beautiful race at the end," he added. "It was a great start to the Tour."

Prior to the start he had said that he was hoping that the second stage would suit him. This proved not to be the case, and the effort to get back on took the oomph out of his legs.

"It was tougher than I anticipated," he admitted. "I knew that the last kilometres would be tough, but didn't expect they'd be so hard. That is why we didn't go into the stage with a game-plan for sprinting, we were just going to leave it to the end, and you saw that we were strong as a unit again at the end.

"Unfortunately I wasn't strong enough to stay there," continued Cavendish. "I rode hard to get back, but I didn't really need to because we had two guys up there. We didn't win a stage, but we can be happy with second and third, anyway.

"Every chance we have got a chance of winning, we will go for it," he added. "We will take each stage as it comes, but tomorrow should be a decent opportunity to get a full-on bunch sprint."

Cunego: One-hundred percent Tour committed

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) hopes it won't only be his hair
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Despite being counted out as a contender by Lance Armstrong, Italy's Damiano Cunego is prepared to battle to bring home the Tour de France's maillot jaune. The Lampre rider has been building toward this goal since the end of last season, winning the Amstel Gold Race along the way. The 26 year-old told Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown why the Tour de France could be his to win.

Damiano Cunego was touted as Italy's next Tour de France contender after he won the 2004 Giro d'Italia at 23. But despite winning the young rider classification in his first appearance at the Tour in 2006, the Lampre rider fell short of expectations.

That all changed last fall when Cunego put in a brilliant ride to win the Giro di Lombardia - a performance which seemed to rekindle his desire to race at the very highest level of the sport. Following the off-season, he proved he was on track by winning a stage in País Vasco, Klasika Primavera and, above all, his first Spring Classic, the Amstel Gold Race.

Cunego then made an unusual decision for an Italian - he chose to skip his home Grand Tour to focus solely on the French goal. Until this year, Cunego has competed in every Giro d'Italia since 2003 and knows that the Tour de France will deliver a different set of obstacles.

"The hot weather, strong adversaries, climbs that are hard due to the heat - not for the gradient," he said. "Definitely, to be good at the Tour you need some time to mature and everything else.

"What I have learned in this last year - experience and great conviction - I hope to take something more [at the Tour]," he added. "We will see that there will be something more."

To read the full interview, click here.

Garmin Chipotle duo content

By Shane Stokes in Saint Brieuc, France

Team-mates Chrisian Vande Velde and Danny Pate are happy with their team's Tour de France debut so far. The Garmin-Chipotle duo were among the first riders at the start line at the beginning of stage two in Auray, the pair passing the time chatting to each other in the mild conditions.

Vande Velde comes to the race after a strong Giro campaign; he wore the first pink jersey thanks to the squad's victory in the team time trial, then finished a solid 52nd overall. He is regarded as being in the best form of his career and is the protected GC rider on the team.

"Things are good so far," he stated. "The Giro was good for my morale, even if it was mostly meant as training for us.

"Here, I would really like to do what I can in the overall," he added. "Apart from that, of course hunt for stages with the team. Whether that is in setting up one of my team-mates or myself, we will see."

Former world under 23 time trial champion Danny Pate is riding the first Tour of his career and was asked about his impression thus far. "I don't know, it is still pretty early," he replied. "I haven't seen too much yet.

"There are quite a few more people than there were at the Giro," he added. "Maybe that will catch up a bit more in the days to come, because just one big day seems not so much, but when it is every day it is a lot different.

"I will just try to stay next to Christian [Vande Velde], that is what I have to do," said Pate. "If he needs a helmet or glasses I give them to him."

Vande Velde finished 31st on stage two and ended the day 19th overall, while Pate was 159th and 138th, respectively.

McEwen disappointed after crash marred finish

By John Trevorrow

Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) was disappointed after his run to the finish on yesterday's second Tour de France stage was marred by other riders' crashes. McEwen had been a favourite for the stage, with the finish well suited to the pint-sized rider's qualities.

"Some guy crashed himself right in front of me and I had to go full on the brakes and I was already at my limit," said McEwen after the stage. "I started to work my way back with [Leif] Hoste and we were moving back up and they crashed in front of us again at the kilometre to go mark and again I had to chuck on the brakes and dive to the right."

McEwen had a third run at the finish, but the previous efforts had taken the wind from his sails. Big Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) took the second stage victory, the sixth Tour stage win of his career.

"Again I just got around them but, hey, when you come to a standstill twice in the last two kilometers, you are pretty stuffed," explained McEwen. "I tried to come back into the last 400 metres and I passed about 35 guys but it was too late. It's the same old thing in sprint finishes, guys trying to squeeze through gaps that aren't there."

The Silence-Lotto rider will get another shot at victory today, with the stage expected to again culminate in a sprint.

Hushovd's men rapt with stage victory

By John Trevorrow

Mark Renshaw is Hushovd's lead-out man
Photo ©: JF Quenet
(Click for larger image)

Thor Hushovd's Australian lead-out men were delighted with the Crédit Agricole rider's Tour de France stage win on yesterday's Stage 2. Simon Gerrans and Mark Renshaw both worked for the Norwegian sprint sensation on yesterday's stage, where he claimed his sixth Tour win.

"That was just great," said Gerrans. "It was hard work out there but it moments like this that make it all worthwhile."

Renshaw was busy being embraced by his thankful team leader when Cyclingnews approached. The Tour Down Under stage winner was equally delighted with the team's success.

"I am just so rapt," he said. "That was a great ride by Thor. I thought he had fallen in that crash about a kilometre out.

"So I decided I had better get myself into position then, at about 600m to go, I heard Thor say 'go Mark, go'," he added. "So I gave it everything and got him to the front about 250 out and I knew he would win. No one was going beat him then. Just sensational."

Hushovd out-sprinted Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek for the second stage win. The American squad is desperate to secure new sponsor Columbia a stage victory, with Kirchen having a solid attempt on both stages to date.

Sunderland enjoying dream Tour roster

By John Trevorrow

Australian Team CSC-Saxo Bank sports director Scott Sunderland has described the team's Tour de France roster as a dream. Having big-engine riders like Stuart O'Grady and Fabian Cancellara to support the team's general classification riders is a luxury, according to the former rider.

"Having Stuart and Fabian helping our GC guys is just such a luxury," he said. "Sure, Fabian has his eyes on the time trial, but to have riders of this caliber chaperoning Carlos [Sastre] and the Schlecks is pretty special.

"They know exactly how to move through the peloton without any fear," he added.

Team CSC-Saxo Bank is one of the Tour's underdogs this year, with Carlos Sastre and Schleck brothers Frank and Andy all expected to do well on general classification. While all three riders are of note, they've failed to attract the attention of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), something that could work in their favour as the even progresses.

"Like [Saturday], there was a moment where the group split and Carlos was caught out," noted Sunderland. "Stuey just got him on the wheel and closed the gap. To have guys like that with such horsepower, well most teams only dream of it."

Frank Schleck is currently the team's highest rider on general classification, sitting one second behind overall leader Valverde heading into today's third stage.

Tinkoff signs Redant as team manager

According to reports in Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen, Tinkoff Credit Systems has secured the services of Silence-Lotto directeur sportif Hendrik Redant, who will join the team next season in a managerial role. The 45 year-old Belgian likened his new position to that of Silence-Lotto team manager Marc Sergeant, saying he would no longer be driving the team car on a daily basis, except for at the Belgian races.

"I've let a few opportunities go by in the past," said Redant. "I am doing fine in my career at Lotto, but at this point I feel ready for a new challenge. I am pleased that the offer came."

The news comes a day after Quick Step's Gert Steegmans confirmed his signing with the Russian backed Professional Continental squad, which has also signed Belgian riders Kenny Dehaes (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R). "Dehaes had a good offer from Française des Jeux, but he could not say no to what Tinkoff was offering," his manager told Het Nieuwsblad.

Team owner Oleg Tinkov is reportedly seeking a co-sponsor for his team, which will provide the cash to lure several big name riders. Others thought to be on the Russian's wish list include Australian Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) and Italian Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas).

Sylvain Chavanel's diary: A beautiful day at Le Tour

Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) in the break
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Sorry I wasn't able to send in a diary entry last night, but I really had to relax and recuperate from that stage and the media attention that followed. As you will probably know, yesterday was a beautiful day for me, even though there was a bit of disappointment after I crossed the line. It could have turned out differently, but that's the sport... Afterwards, you turn the page and think of tomorrow.

Initially, I wasn't going to break away early in yesterday's stage at all, as I didn't want to waste any energy. I ended up doing it because an important escape formed with guys like Voigt and Wegmann in it. So I had to join them. Moreover, you never know what can happen on a course like that one - with such a bumpy profile, previous Tours have shown that even the yellow jersey could have been for grabs, so...

After a few guys sat up, we insisted with Wegmann and a rider from Liquigas, while Bouygues Telecom was chasing us. They caught us on the first categorized climb, but I was able to score the points anyway. Behind me, Voeckler went for the second place at the KOM, so we got together on the descent.

We rode on, and the bunch let us. With Voeckler, we had an agreement that we'd share the mountain points equally. If I would have taken all the points at all four categorized climbs, I wouldn't have had the polka dot jersey anyway. So we decided to share so both of us were happy.

During that long phase when we had a big gap, it wasn't actually that hard - it was only when Moreau and Le Lay joined us that we really gave it full gas. During those last 30 kilometres, we were really going fast. I don't know the average speed we had but it was impressive, because we had the wind in our favour.

In the finale, when the bunch came back on us, I tried again on my own. There was a bit of a headwind, and the guys behind rode like hell, so I ended up getting caught, unfortunately.

To read the full diary, click here.

Even more Tour: Video highlights and podcasts

Just can't get enough of the Tour? Well fear not because Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you video highlights of every stage plus daily podcasts courtesy of and Procycling magazine. Our video comes directly from Tour de France owners Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and will be online shortly after the finish of each stage. We've also got highlights from classic Tours of the past so click here to see the full archive.

Check out the podcasts page in our Tour de France section for a full round-up of news and views from the Tour. In Sunday's podcast, Procycling's Ellis Bacon and Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins discuss the latest bikes on display this year, providing a glimpse of what's to come in our tech section in the coming days.

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