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Latest Cycling News, July 8, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake & Greg Johnson

Pozzato focused despite likely Liquigas departure

By Gregor Brown in Nantes, France

Pozatto may leave Liquigas, but he hopes to keep winning
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Italy's star rider Filippo Pozzato faces a team search by season-end as Team Liquigas restructures with Ivan Basso. The 26 year-old Pozzato, who has two career Tour de France stage wins and won the 2006 Milano-Sanremo, is rumoured to be CSC-Saxo Bank or Tinkoff Credit Systems-bound despite a high asking price.

"We have not renewed with Pozzato and I believe he will change teams for the next year based on technical and economic reasons," Liquigas team manager Roberto Amadio told Cyclingnews.

Pozzato joined the team in 2007 from Quick Step. During his stay with the Italian outfit he has brought in a number of wins, such as the 2007 Omloop Het Volk. Amadio emphasised that Liquigas and Pozzato have a strong relationship despite his likely departure, which shows in its commitment to the rider at the Tour de France.

"We are racing for him and there are no doubts about that," he said.

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Pozzato isn't the only big name linked to Tinkoff Credit Systems for 2009, with Belgium's Gert Steegmans confirming he will leave Quick Step for the squad next year. CSC-Saxo Bank Team Manager Bjarne Riis refuted he had signed Pozzato.

"If I had an unlimited budget I would take him," stated the Dane.

There is a chance that budget will be found within the acid-green team to keep Pozzato. If the rider wins a stage at the Tour de France then owner Paolo Del Lago could be convinced to dig deeper into his pockets.

Pozzato is concentrated on giving Del Lago a win before the race reaches Paris on July 27. "It is important to concentrate on the Tour now and give my best to Liquigas through the end of the year - it is important to be sincere," 'Pippo' told Cyclingnews.

Pozzato feels good within the Italy-based team, and added that he would like to stay with it, despite lucrative contacts from other teams.

"Yes," he responded when asked if he had been contacted by CSC-Saxo Bank or Tinkoff Credit Systems. "Definitely, there are some good offers, but I have always said that here I feel good. Now, I am thinking of racing and then I will think of contracts."

Rabobank caught out on French wind and rain

By Brecht Decaluwé in Nantes

Menchov does not look happy after losing 38 seconds yesterday
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

A tricky descent 26 kilometres from the finish line in Nantes, after a day of wind and rain in the Brittany countryside, has caused severe damage in stage 3. When the almost expected crash happened, Quick Step started to form echelons in front of the peloton. Our French colleague in the press room shouted, "ça va casser!", which basically means that the peloton would break into pieces. Which is exactly what happened, with three distinct, large groups fighting towards the finish.

The main victim of the split in the peloton was general classification contender Denis Menchov. The Russian team leader from Rabobank got stuck behind the crash. Despite the help from his own team-mates and the support from the Saunier-Duval team he never made it back to the front, losing 38 vital seconds.

Menchov obviously did not comment on the race, but other Rabobank people chimed in on the time loss from their leader. Directeur sportif Erik Breukink kept it short. "This shouldn't have happened, you've got to stick to your place," he said. "We told him so: at that corner you need to be up front." Erik Dekker, the other directeur sportif shared his opinion. "This is what I feared for," Dekker claimed. "The stress, the crashes. It's the weakest point from Denis, and today that showed."

When asked if he felt the gap was still reasonably small, Dekker responded, "Well, even if Denis rides well and keeps riding well I think the gaps [in the general classification] will be small. So I think 38 seconds is a lot" He pointed out what it was all about today. "It's not about how it happened, it's about the fact that you're behind the crash. You don't have to blame anybody, because it's about the strong and weak points of someone, but still it's something to be fed up with," Dekker expressed his deception.

Team-mate Bram Tankink explained in detail what happened in the dangerous descent. "It was very hard to stay together in that descent. Joost [Posthuma], Koos [Moerenhout] and Laurens [Ten Dam] were with him. Three hundred metres before the end of that descent he was still ahead of me. Then there was that corner to the left and he was suddenly 50 metres behind me. That's cycling. You're riding here with 200 riders who all want to be up front at that moment. Flecha and I immediately dropped back and then Sebastiaan [Langeveld] joined us later; then we started to pull to control the damages," Tankink said.

"We gave all we had, but it was the nine of us against all the others and that wasn't easy. It's a pity." When asked whether he felt Menchov made a mistake, Tankink protected his leader. "I don't think you should blame Menchov, because he gives all he has and he also knows that he should be riding up front. He's just not a 'wringer', he's not that type of rider. Sadly enough, that's just what you need to do in stages like this. It's something you can or something you can't [do], but you can't blame him for that," Tankink continued.

As a team-mate Tankink knows Menchov quite well, but he couldn't predict how the Russian would react on this setback. "I don't dare to say how he'll react. Normally he's cool and very motivated, but this is a lot of time. If you look at it you would expect it would come as a hit. But we have to put ourselves over this as the Tour isn't over after today," Tankink concluded.

Australian Stuart O'Grady expressed what many riders must have thought. "I'm looking forward on getting out of this place. These are the sort of stages that never seem to end."

Devolder's right-hand man Barredo

By Gregor Brown in Cholet

Carlos Barredo is happy his father is better again
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

After making an impressive debut in the Tour de France 2007 and riding to a tenth place in the Vuelta a España, Spaniard Carlos Barredo has become the trusted man within Team Quick Step for general classification contender Stijn Devolder's chances.

"I need to stay near Stijn up until the end. I will see what he can do in the classification, staying at his side," 27 year-old Barredo, winner of Paris-Nice stage 5, expressed to Cyclingnews.

He indicated that Cyclingnews diarist Devolder will allow him the chance to fight for a stage win if the opportunity comes, and that is similiar to last year. "My role does not change much in the team without Tom Boonen being at this Tour de France."

Barredo fought through a tough period in the weeks leading up to the Tour de France. A problem with his dad meant that he was not able to concentrate on training 100 percent.

"I am thinking more of the team than myself. In the last month, I had some problems at home with my dad and I lost concentration – it was hard to train. I am not quite sure how my form is."

He explained that his dad is recovered. "My dad had a problem with his heart, so the whole family was down for about seven days. He is back at home and watching the Tour on television."

Redant confident about Evans' chances in time trial

By Brecht Decaluwé

Hendrik Redant is going to be in the team car behind Cadel Evans when the Australian rides the 30 kilometre-long time trial in Cholet today. The Belgian directeur sportif has been in the news lately regarding a possible move to Tinkoff, but he pointed out that he hasn't signed anywhere and is focusing on the Tour de France.

Cyclingnews asked Redant about the time trial and the chances of Cadel Evans one day ahead of the stage. "It's the first test. I don't think there will be minutes lost there. If I look at the course it looks good. There will be some headwind and [some] tailwind. We will do a good reconnaissance, also in the morning. Cadel has to go full out a first time, that's logical. We'll see how it goes," Redant said.

Spanish champion Alejandro Valverde had a fantastic start in this Tour de France and he now holds a psychological advantage over the other general classification contenders. "If Valverde does the time trial he rode in the Dauphiné, then he'll win because he was super there. During the first couple of days he has left a tremendous mark," the Belgian said.

His own rider Evans hasn't been in big problems up until now and Redant sounds confident when he talks about Evans. "Sometimes he's sitting at the back, which I think is risky. But he's moving up to the front just like that so he's in top form. I expect him to be up there. If he makes the same progression as he had in the Dauphiné, then he'll battle along for the time trial victory. Together with the first mountains stage towards Super-Besse two days later this is the first important appointment," Redant realised how important the time trial would be for the chances of Cadel Evans in this Tour de France.

Redant's move not confirmed

By Brecht Decaluwé in Saint-Malo, France

Rumours that Silence-Lotto's director sportif Hendrik Redant will move to Tinkoff Credit Systems next year are premature, according to the Belgian. Redant said his squad is focusing on winning the Tour de France with Cadel Evans for now, and any transfers - be they with riders or staff - wouldn't be discussed.

"Well, everybody asks me about that this morning," Redant laughed. "I've also read about it in the newspaper, but up until now there's nothing official about that. So, as we agreed within this team we wouldn't be discussing any transfers during the Tour and I'm going to keep that."

The Belgian sports director did confirm that he's free to talk with other squads. He brushed aside any talk about where he might go if he were to change squads next season.

"Nothing has been signed," he said. "But I'm free to talk with whoever wants to put an offer on the table since I'm at the end of my term in this team. In the newspaper it seemed as if it was already certain that I would be moving over to them, but only time can tell."

Redant said his main focus at the moment is securing the Tour victory with Evans. The Australian rider finished runner-up in last year's Tour to Alberto Contador and is determined to go one better this year.

"Anyway, I'm not super busy with that right now, although it is in the back of my head," he added. "You see, if you have been working towards a goal [Tour de France victory with Cadel Evans] for four years in a row, then you keep going for that.

"I feel it would be very sad if that was put into a corner, also because I've put a lot of energy into it myself," he added. "Besides, it's a great feature on your curriculum."

Redant laughed as he daydreamed about all the teams that would be trying to lure a Tour-winning directeur sportif in their cars. Tinkoff Credit Systems has spent big money lately, signing Quick Step rider Gert Steegmans and is reportedly in talks with Liquigas' Filippo Pozzato.

While Tinkoff Credit Systems owner Oleg Tinkoff is used to talking big numbers, astronomical amounts relating to a possible Redant deal are believed to be overstated. Redant also added that he's keeping his options open regarding his future for now.

"I read in the newspaper that it was 30 million! Well, if it is 10 million, then it is already good enough for me," laughed the sturdy Belgian. "The Russians seem to be super rich, but I'm pretty sure there are super rich Americans and super rich Belgians as well.

"We'll see if it's true when we're up to it," he added. "I think you need to see everything in its proportion."

Voigt: I'm waiting to explode

By John Trevorrow

Team CSC-Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt hasn't been too active to date in the Tour de France. But that's okay for the German, who likened himself to a spring.

"I am being saved for something special," smiled Voigt. "I am like a tightly coiled spring and I'm just waiting for Bjarne to pull the trigger and release me and then - bam, I will explode into the race."

Voigt is contesting the French Grand Tour with his Danish ProTour outfit in a support role. The Bjarne Riis-owned team has three cards to play at this year's event, with solid general classification riders Carlos Sastre and brothers Fränk and Andy Schleck.

In addition to Voigt, the three overall contenders have a solid squad backing their efforts. Time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara and former Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O'Grady are on hand, as are less experienced, yet strong, riders like Nicki Sørensen.

Sweet dreams: Longo Borghini's escape

By Gregor Brown in Cholet

Paolo Longo Borghini spent 208 kilometres in the escape only to come up short when the artilleries were launched. The 27 year-old Italian's dream did not come true in stage three to Nantes, but now sits 35 seconds off of general classification leader Romain Feillu.

"I think we started to believe we could make it when we arrived with 25 kilometres remaining," Longo Borghini explained to Cyclingnews of the four-man escape that went in the first kilometre. "It was a dream; it is a dream of every cyclist. Now I just miss the win. Maybe the next one."

The Barloworld was the first rider dropped when the heat was turned up by escape companion and eventual stage winner Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis). The Frenchman fired his missile at 1500 metres remaining.

He declared he felt that his legs were burnt in the final 30 kilometres. "We went from the gun and worked hard in the final kilometres to make sure to arrive clear. Unfortunately, I arrived in the finale with my legs not at their best. When the first attack went I felt the legs would not go."

Longo Borghini has been on double duty in the team that took two stage wins in last year's Tour de France. His legs were likely feeling the burn from working for the team's leaders.

"In the last two days I was working hard: the first with Mauricio Soler, to bring him back into the group, and pulling for Baden Cooke and Robert Hunter in stage two."

Longo Borghini is not a noted time trialist, but at just 35 seconds he could stand a chance at taking the leader's maillot jaune from Feillu on the 29.5 parcours around Cholet.

Cobo annoyed, can still reach top 10

Juan José Cobo was ticked off at getting left out of the first large peloton
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval - Scott) wasn't happy with losing time to the main general classification contenders in yesterday's stage 3 at the Tour de France. Cobo was distracted as the main bunch split into three groups during the stage's closing kilometres, seeing him finish 40 seconds behind the main overall contenders.

"It´s a pity and I´m really pissed off," he admitted. "I was in the lead all throughout the race, and I got distracted for a moment and fell behind. It was stressful, since there's a change in direction and everyone wanted to find a place up front. I was alone at that moment and then, although we gave it a try with Rabobank, it was impossible to reach the leading bunch again."

While the Spanish rider admitted the gap would make little difference in the overall classification, he was clearly annoyed by what happened. The peloton split as the front half increased its efforts to draw back the early breakaway, which it never managed to do.

"I guess they won´t be terribly difficult to overcome in the end, but it´s annoying, you know?" he said. "I´m feeling good, I´m in good shape, and I think I can place well in the general classification.

"My goal is finishing in the top 10," he added. "It's reasonable, taking into account my performance last year without much preparation and losing a lot of time in one of the stages. I'd prefer [the] time trial to be tougher, with changes of pace. I shouldn't lose much time to the favourites, less than one minute would be great."

Cobo's Italian team-mate Riccardo Riccò was also annoyed with finishing in the second of the three large bunches. The outcome doesn't affect Riccò's aims for the Tour, the rider said.

"These kind of Tour stages are always stressful. Everyone wants to be in the lead and the one thing to avoid is crashes. Losing 30 seconds is no big deal to me, because my goal is scoring one stage win. I know I'll lose time in the time trial, but I can fight for victory on Thursday."

Gómez crashed out of race, again

Saunier Duval-Scott rider Ángel Gómez suffered a fissure in the right hip when he crash badly in yesterday's stage three of the Tour de France. The peloton had just started to really get going in order to catch the breakaway, when a divider in the road brought down Gómez, Danish road champion Nicki Sørensen (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Frenchman Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom). While the latter two continued, Gómez was unable to get up. He was carried off on a stretcher and transferred to a hospital in Nantes.

Initial exams showed no signs of a fracture, but Gómez was unable to put any weight on his right leg. Further X-rays then revealed a fissure or hairline fracture. The doctors ruled out any surgery, but advised Gómez to rest for at least a month to let the fissure heal completely. He will receive anti-inflammatories to help along recovery.

It is the second time the 27 year-old had a bad accident this season. Following a spectacular crash in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Spaniard recovered in time to appear in his first Tour de France.

Gómez was released from hospital in the evening and spent the night with his team-mates at the hotel. He was scheduled to return to Spain on Tuesday morning.

Sastre: A stage to wear you out

Carlos Sastre was happy to not have lost time in the nervous stage 3 of the Tour. When the peloton split in three, the Spaniard was glad to have solid team-mates all around him. "Riding with people like Cancellara, O'Grady, Arvesen, Voigt or the Schleck brothers ... gives you a feeling of tranquility and an impressive calmness. It was a stage that wore out all the teams."

Sastre expected such a stage with all the cross winds and rain in the past few days. And he knew that the tail wind in the final sections would make for a fast, furious and possibly dangerous finale. "The final was very nervous and there was a lot of tension. As we could see, there were important riders for the overall who lost time."

Overall, Sastre was happy with the first half of the first week. "Another day gone by where the form is not bad. And Tuesday – with the first time trial – those of us who think about the general classification have the first important test in this race."

Contentpolis-Murcia announces stagiaire riders

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Javier Chacón will get a chance
Photo ©: Antonio J. Salmerón
(Click for larger image)

The Spanish elite riders Javier Chacón, Francisco Torrella and Pedro José Vera will be stagiaire riders for the Pro Continental Contentpolis-Murcia team from August until the end of the season. The three have been racing for the U-23 and elite Cafemax-Contentpolis-Murcia, getting good results. They also have raced with the Spanish National Team.

"We wanted to test some of the U-23 and elite riders before finishing the season because all of them need to have an opportunity in professional cycling. Chacón, Torrella and Vera will debut in August, when we have some interesting races for them. Once the season has finished, we will take a decision; that is, they could be incorporated to the pro-continental team for 2009," the Contentpolis-Murcia's director, Manuel López, explained to Cyclingnews.

Chacón won the Trofeo Diputación de Pontevedra, one of the elite races in the Copa de España. Apart from that, he has also collected several medals in national time trial and track events.

Torrella led the Copa de España in 2007, after winning the XXIII Memorial Rodríguez Iguanzo, and recently finished second in the Vuelta a Cartagena (U-23 and elite). He won the stage three time trial.

Vera recently won the first stage of the Vuelta a Segovia (U-23 and elite), and is an accomplished track rider.

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.

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