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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, July 10, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Kirchen on all fronts

Kim Kirchen (Columbia), leader of the points competition - but what else is he capable of?
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

Luxemburger Kim Kirchen is currently wearing the green jersey of best sprinter, but the possible aims of the Columbia rider reach much further than 'just' this jersey. Kirchen has proved in the recent past that he is a man to be counted on when it comes to climbing - even high mountains - and time trialling, so he has every reason to target the yellow jersey of overall leader during this Tour de France, and even eye a possible podium finish on the Champs Elysées in the near future.

Kirchen is currently ranked second overall behind Stefan Schumacher, at only 12 seconds of the lead. The finish to Super-Besse today suits the 2008 winner of the Flèche Wallonne: his abilities in the mountains have significantly improved, and he also has that fast edge especially in uphill finishes.

"To me, Kirchen could well take the yellow jersey all the way to Paris," even boasted five-times Tour winner Bernard Hinault to Dutch Telegraaf. It remains to be seen how the Luxemburger will deal with the mountains in the company of specialists like Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and the Schleck brothers (CSC Saxo Bank). Still, he finished seventh overall in last year's Tour and even won stage 16 [after Alexandre Vinokourov was officially stripped of his win because of blood doping - ed.].

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His second place in the time trial two days ago once again confirmed his excellent skills against the clock, which he could repeat on the penultimate stage in Saint-Amand a little more than two weeks from now. "He did some wind tunnel testing and we improved his position," commented team manager Bob Stapleton.

But for the moment, Kirchen also feels comfortable with the green jersey: "All jerseys are good to me," he told L'Equipe. While he may not be a top contender for sprint finishes, this year's trophy for the best points finisher can also be won in the mountains. "He will take the points in the mountains - where the sprinters can't get them," said Crédit Agricole manager Roger Legeay, conscious of the threat Kirchen represents for Thor Hushovd. "A complete rider can win the green this year."

Freire cut short of fourth Tour stage win

By Gregor Brown in Châteauroux

Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Oscar Freire's surge for a fourth-career stage win in the Tour de France was cut short to a second place by younger Mark Cavendish Wednesday in Châteauroux.

"I did my best and that is the most important," three-time World Champion Freire, 32, stated to Cyclingnews after the finish of the sprinters' stage in France's Loire Valley. "I saw the Cavendish was very, very strong."

Freire lays claim to three Tour de France stage wins; he took one in 2002 and another two in 2006. Adding a fourth win against top rivals at the world's biggest bike race would help him in his 2009 contract negotiations.

But the Spaniard was conscious of what held him back. "All the best sprinters in the world are here, of course it is not easy," Freire continued.

He normally does not count on many team-mates to carry him to victory. Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha made the task easier with support in the finale.

"Flecha was really, really good. In the last kilometre, he took me to the front and then it was my job. I had a good result. First place was not possible, but maybe another day."

Contract extension with Rabobank

One thing is certain: If victorious, Freire will score his wins for his team Rabobank in the next two years. The Dutch squad officially announced the 2-year contract extension of the Spaniard on Thursday morning, while rumours of an agreement were perpetuated in the press since last week-end.

"With Oscar, with have a world class sprinter that has already done a lot for the team. We know his worth and that is why we are really happy to continue the collaboration with him," said team manager Erik Breukink.

Valverde lucky

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) gets treatment from the race doctor
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Spanish overall victory hopeful Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) got a good scare in yesterday's stage five to Chateauroux. The team captain hit the deck after 87 kilometres raced into the stage. The tarmac scraped off some skin on his right shoulder, upper leg and knee, but did not do any more damage that could have proved fatal for his Tour victory plans.

Valverde was helped by his team-mates to ride back into the bunch, but soon went to see the race doctor's car. Dr Gérard Porte treated his wounds superficially and the Caisse d'Epargne leader was able to continue the race.

"He was a bit shaken, but he is fine now," Eusebio Unzué, Valverde's directeur sportif at Caisse d'Epargne, said to AP. "Nothing serious. He will see the team doctor to have some checks."

Things could have been much worse - the Spaniard already crashed out of the Tour de France in 2006. "He fell at 55 km/h," Unzué said. "When you hit the gravel at that speed it is tough. He did not see (the debris), and was surprised."

The medical communiqué of the Tour stated that Valverde had "wounds and bruises" on the right side of his body. John Gadret of AG2R La Mondiale was also involved in the crash. The French climber fell on his left side and sustained similar injuries than Valverde.

But the team was reassured even during the stage. "I don't think there is any problem," said Unzué to Spanish Marca. "He came to the team car after 50 kilometres to say that he felt no pain. If there was anything bad, there would be other symptoms of pain or inflammation."

Lowe "into the groove"

By Gregor Brown in Châteauroux

Trent Lowe (High Road) in yellow at the Tour de Georgia this year
Photo ©: Kurt Jambretz
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Trent Lowe has found his feet the 95th Tour de France - his first Grand Tour. "I feel well and I feel fit. I feel like I am getting into my groove," stated one of Garmin's GC riders - Lowe - to Cyclingnews minutes before the start of stage five to Châteauroux. Lowe forms Garmin's two-pronged classification approach with team-mate Christian Vande Velde.

Lowe is currently 6'26" down in the general classification. He will feel more comfortable when the Tour de France enters the high-mountains of the Pyrenees and Alps.

"Nervous? I think I was worse off the first couple of days and now it has settled down a bit. Hopefully, it won't be quite as tense now. Maybe tomorrow to Super-Besse will be tenser."

Lowe will be charged with the well being of Vande Velde and, above all, David Millar. The Scot is third overall in the general classification and has his eyes on the maillot jaune.

"It is so close, the first three classification riders are not separated by much at all. There are some hard climbs leading to the finish climb," Lowe continued of stage six to Super-Besse. "On the last climb it will be 'game on' and 'general time' again tomorrow."

He counts on Millar to have a go at the yellow race leader's top. "There are a lot of guys who are going to try to get yellow. Millar? Yes, if we are that close for him."

Nevertheless, Lowe warned of escapes spoiling Millar's ride into yellow.

Missing the Tour: Tom Danielson

Tom Danielson returned to racing with Team Slipstream-Chipotle, but is missing this year's Tour
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

2008 was supposed to be Tom Danielson's debut Tour de France, but once again he's had to sit out the race. Last year it was stomach problems, this time he was not been selected by his team due to a delay in returning to top form. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke to the 30 year-old American about his season, his frustration and his plans for the rest of 2008.

For many of the top riders in the world, the first weekend in July saw the start of their biggest race of the year. For Tom Danielson, though, it was a time of frustration and regret. Sidelined initially last year due to the effects of parasites, then because of a bad crash in the Vuelta a España, the 30 year-old fought to get back into condition.

Danielson's big goal for the season was to ride his first Tour de France. It is also the debut Tour for his team, Garmin-Chipotle, which increases the significance of the race, both on a personal and professional level. However disappointment was to follow with a back problem related to his Vuelta crash delaying his return to form, and he was told that he'd need to ride well in the last big stage race prior to the Tour in order to earn his place.

"The team told me that they really wanted to see me get a strong result overall in the Route du Sud, and if I did, that I would go to the Tour," he said. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be there. I was pretty shocked by it, and I was definitely not 100 percent prepared to do that yet. My body really wasn't 100 percent recovered from my injuries.

"I did the best I could, I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself in the uphill time trial," he added. "I gave it my all but went out a little bit too hard and I was losing a lot of time at the end. I also started getting frustrated."

To read the full feature, click here.

Passeron fourth to abandon

Aurélien Passeron (Saunier Duval) is the fourth rider having to quit the Tour de France. The Frenchman was not at the start of Thursday's stage 6 to Super-Besse in Aigurande this morning, as his injuries from crashing into a spectator on Wednesday made it impossible for him to continue.

Passeron collided with a woman standing too far on the road in Chateauroux yesterday. With only six kilometres to go before the finish, the 24 year-old hit the woman at high speed while the peloton was chasing the breakaway just in time for a bunch sprint finish. He finished the stage, but was transported to hospital in Chateauroux because of pain in his back and abdomen. The spectator sustained a broken arm.

Before him, Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis) crashed out of stage one, Ángel Gómez Gómez (also Saunier Duval) abandoned on stage three, and Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) had to step off the bike during stage five because of injuries sustained on the first day of racing. Spanish team Saunier Duval is therefore already down to seven riders.

Brooks stable after violent crash

Team Type 1's Ben Brooks is hospitalised in stable condition following a violent crash Wednesday during the opening stage of the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon.

The 29 year-old Australian fell victim to one of a half dozen cattle guard crossings along the 83-mile (133.5 km) Prineville road race. A cattle guard is a series of parallel metal bars installed in the road to deter cattle and other hoofed animals from crossing. The gaps between the bars are wide enough for an animal's legs to fall through.

Team Type 1 sport director Ed Beamon said riders who witnessed the crash told him the cattle guard sent Brooks into a spin that catapulted him off his bicycle as the 150-rider field was racing a mostly flat, but twisting, section before a descent about 50 miles (80 km) into the race.

"They had to be going about 60 km/h (37 mph) and it was single-file, full gas at the time," Beamon said. A rescue squad rushed Brooks to a local hospital after finding him unconscious.

"We have a good crew here on the job but it was a bad crash and so he could use some positive thoughts and prayers," said Team Type 1 director Ed Beamon, who accompanied Brooks to the hospital. "Everything is stable and he is getting good care."

Brooks's wife, Rachael, was en route to Bend Wednesday night, Beamon said.

Bike trek fundraiser for micro finance

On June 8th, six recent college graduates set out on a cross-country bicycle trek in the name of micro finance, an approach to alleviating world poverty. The group, dubbed MicroBikeUSA, has partnered with Accion International with a goal to raise $50,000 to improve training and technological resources for micro finance institutions in the developing world, who use small loans to help the poor escape the trap of poverty.

It is estimated that half the population of the world - totaling 3 billion people - live on less than $2 per day, are isolated from the traditional financial system, and in many cases have no choice but self-employment. Micro loans have provided a dignified form of relief to millions of people who have made their livelihoods more efficient and profitable.

The MicroBikeUSA riders has already spent four of a total of nine weeks biking about 80 miles a day. Leaving from Darien, CT, the team has to overcome the Rockies before finally ending their journey in San Francisco, CA. Tyler Heishman, rider and graduate of Bentley College, explained, "Since hearing about micro finance at last year's Time/Bentley Leadership Conference, I have found the idea incredible. Throughout the trip, I will be motivated to teach people about micro finance and think about ways to tackle the world's problems."

The group is soliciting invitations to speak to various audiences about micro finance and encourages those near the route to write to them. To contact the team or help them to reach their $50,000 goal, visit,, or email

Book review: We might as well win

Johan Bruyneel's new book We Might as Well Win
Photo ©: Houghton Mifflin
(Click for larger image)

Johan Bruyneel's book, We might as well win, written through the pen of cycling journalist Bill Strickland, is best described as seeing something already well known but from a new and rarely-available angle. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski rolls up his sleeves and digs into the former Discovery Channel directeur sportif and current Astana team manager's book.

Cycling enthusiasts, and most non-cyclists, (even the sports commentators that do not even think cycling is a 'real' sport,) know the story of Lance Armstrong. Many have gained insight into the seven amazing Tour de France victories through Armstrong's books. Bruyneel's book attempts to allow readers to experience the wins before and after the Lance-era from the place where he spends the majority of his time: the driver's seat of a team car – his proclaimed "office" – as well as inside the team bus, at the team's hotel and points in between.

At times the book is insightful and interesting, giving Lance-junkies likely one of their biggest wishes, to sit shotgun in the Postal or Discovery team car on the ascent of Alpe d'Huez. But at other times, the prose is interrupted with elementary explanations of cycling 101. While it is understandable that Bruyneel (via Strickland) must write to the lowest common denominator of cycling knowledge in order to be inclusive, it only intensifies the already noticeable disconnect between subject and (ghost)writer.

"For the real specialist it is a little simplistic," Bruyneel readily admitted. "That was the easy part, but I wanted to reach a broader audience and that is why it is more broad."

Bruyneel said his thoughts for the book began when the US Postal Service sponsorship concluded, as the team converted to Discovery Channel, and that the seed-planting event set the tone for the book itself. "It came at the end when Postal sponsorship stopped, because I got a request from [USPS] to speak to a select group of employees. They wanted me to use the team's philosophy as an example for running the Postal service. I never did it at the time, but I thought if I could write about it in a book I could explain it a lot better."

Click here to read the full review.

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