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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 15, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Evans earns praise after Tour re-bound

Cadel Evans now has tomorrow's rest day in Pau
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Australia's Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) has received the praise of his peers in the world of professional cycling after taking the Tour de France's yellow leader's jersey on Stage 10. After having a heavy fall on the previous stage, which made the Victorian-based rider feared the worse for his Tour hopes, Evans bounced back on the latest stage to become Australia's first yellow jersey wearer since Robbie McEwen in 2004.

His little team-mate and compatriot McEwen was one of many to praise Evans' achievement. McEwen's own Tour hopes have been largely sacrificed for general classification hope Evans, with the team built around the latter's general classification hopes rather than McEwen's sprint stage ambitions.

"It's just fantastic, especially after yesterday's crash," said McEwen. "But it's a long way still to Paris and what is his lead, one second? Well CSC better help us!

"When I first heard that he could take the lead I thought 'oh no, that means we will be on the front for the next few days'," joked McEwen. "But, only joking, it's just awesome for Cadel and the team."

One of the highest compliments received by last year's Tour runner up came from rival team-manager Bob Stapleton. The Team Columbia owner described Evans' efforts to take the yellow jersey off his own rider Kim Kirchen as heroic.

"Evans rode great," said Stapleton. "For a man that was on the ground yesterday, I thought that was a pretty heroic effort."

For Evans one of the highlights came from the post-stage press conference. While sitting there, the center of the world's sporting media, Evans' first question came from his home town reporter Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow.

"You travel all the way from Australia, 16,000 kilometres and you get the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and you get in front of the world media and the first question is asked by the newspaper from my hometown," he smiled.

The former mountain biker admitted to being overwhelmed with emotion while collection the yellow jersey for the first time. Evans holds the famed jersey by the narrowest of margins, sitting just one second behind Fränk Schleck (Team CSC-Saxo Bank).

"I just can't believe it," said Evans. "This sport can be so cruel and perhaps, because of that, when it's a little bit less cruel, it can be quite rewarding. You know I've put so much into the sport and, you know, what you put in you can get back out. It's been a long time coming.

"And then to see the Aussie kangaroo and the Aussie flags all there, well that's kind of nice too," he added.

The Geelong, Victoria based Evans thanked his local community for its support. The rider hopes his taking the yellow jersey gives his supporters something to be proud of.

"I moved to this spot about an hour out of Melbourne about three years ago and I get a lot of support from the region," he said. "I even got a message from the Mayor of Geelong this morning hoping I was OK after the crash and wishing me good luck for today. I hope this is something for them to be proud of after winning the premiership (Australian football) last year."

Looking beyond today's rest day, Evans targeted Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) as his proven rivals for the remaining stages.

"I guess I'll have to look at the general classification first," said Evans. "Obviously Schleck is the closest at - what? One second? I guess he is first threat. Where is Menchov now [he is told Menchov is 57 seconds back - reporter) and Kohl would be fourth, then third is Sastre? [no fifth, Vande Velde is third at 38 seconds - reporter] gee really? He has ridden well. But the proven performers over the three weeks are Menchov and Sastre."

Vande Velde emerges a Tour contender

By Gregor Brown in Argelè-Gazost (Hautacam), France

America's Christian Vande Velde (Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30) attacks his group
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

When the Tour route was announced last October not many had their eyes on Christian Vande Velde as a potential threat to the yellow jersey. Yet since his Garmin-Chipotle team stormed to victory on the first stage of the Giro d'Italia and the rider himself slugged it out with the big guns on the Pyrenean climbing stage to Hautacam, he has become a feared contender in the eyes of his rivals.

"I was really riding within myself today and it's great to be third overall after such a hard stage," said Vande Velde, when informed by Cyclingnews that he was now third overall, only 38 seconds behind race leader Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and a further second down on Fränk Schleck (Team CSC-Saxo Bank).

The 32 year-old American had just finished the first true test for the classification, a 156 kilometre stage, covering the Col du Tourmalet and finishing at the top of the Hautacam. He made the decisive cut of fourteen men at the top of the first climb and stayed with Evans' eight-man group on the final 14.4-kilometre climb. He closed the day with Evans and Menchov, 2'17" behind the winning move and cementing his position in the general classification.

Riding for the overall is something Vande Velde knows all about thanks to his time at the sides of Lance Armstrong and Carlos Sastre. It was within his first professional team, US Postal, where he came to know not only Armstrong but Jonathan Vaughters, who would go on to become his Team Manager 10 years later.

And it was last winter that Vaughters added significant fire power to his Professional Continental team when he announced that he was signing not only Vande Velde, but David Millar, David Zabriskie and Magnus Backstedt - all men who know how to ride a Grand Tour.

The evidence was there when in its first Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, the team took the opening time trial, allowing Vande Velde to wear the race leader's maglia rosa for one day. The team continued on through the Italian Grand Tour with Vande Velde finishing a creditably but unspectacular 52nd overall.

To read the full feature, click here.

Caisse d'Epargne: Valverde's Tour hopes finished

Tour de France pre-race favourite Alejandro Valverde's chances of winning the event are over, according to Caisse d'Epargne manager Eusebio Unzue. The Spanish rider failed to match the pace of general classification rivals Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) on yesterday's Stage 10.

"For the podium, it's finished," Unzue told Reuters. "It was a bad day, that's all.

"But I don't think Alejandro was less good than on the Dauphine," he added.

Valverde's lackluster performance against Team CSC's efforts to ravage the peloton on Stage 10's climbs left the rider sitting in 14th overall, nearly five minutes behind Evans.

"It is obvious that this was not our best day, but it was not such a bad one," said Valverde. "What happened is that some riders and teams, CSC and Saunier, were very, very strong...I was more than two minutes late at the foot of Hautacam which means that it was, of course, impossible to come back.

While Valverde acknowledged the Stage 10 result was a massive setback and the team would focus on stage wins from now on, he refused to discount himself as an overall contender.

"Now we will analyse the situation," he said. "It's true that there are many stages left before we reach Paris, but I think that from now on, we will have to concentrate on stage wins rather than on the general classification."

Despite the disappointment of yesterday's stage, Caisse d'Epargne's efforts so far haven't gone unrewarded. Both Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez have claimed stage victories for the Spanish squad.

Cunego changes focus after Hautacam blow-out

By Gregor Brown in Argelè-Gazost (Hautacam), France

Italian Damiano Cunego has been forced to shift his Tour de France focus from general classification to stage wins following a mountainous blow in the Pyrenean stage to Hautacam.

"What else is there? To arrive eighth in the Tour de France is nothing," said Cunego.

The Lampre leader finished the 156 kilometre Stage 10, which travelled over the Col du Tourmalet climb and finished on top of the Hautacam, down in 18th place nearly six minutes behind stage winner Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval - Scott). Cunego was forced out of the action on the Col du Tourmalet under the pressure of Team CSC, which drove the pace high on the Tour's first mountains teaser.

Despite the help of team-mate Sylvester Szmyd and teaming up with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Cunego lost 3'34" to the group of new race leader Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto).

"CSC was making an infernal rhythm with five kilometres remaining of the Tourmalet," he said. "I thought I would be able to rejoin on the decent - they were there at 40 seconds - but then on the flat they kept adding more time. On the last climb, they also burnt it up.

"On the last climb, I went all out and doing everything I could," he said. "We pick up some riders that had been dropped. I did my attacks to try to drop some of the other riders and maybe move a bit up the classification."

Sitting 16th overall at 5'37" back from Cadel Evans, Cunego's chances of a podium finish have at best diminished. He will examine the classification charts over the Tour's first rest day in Pau today.

"Certainly, things have become difficult because my rivals are going so strong," he said.

Cunego isn't completely giving up on the overall though, although he did admit it would require an "unthinkable" turn of events. Earlier in the race he pointed out that he has won races by fighting back when the odds against him and he continued with this stance as he spoke from the team bus.

"Remember the Tour is still not over and in the last week the classification could turn around in an unthinkable way," he said.

Rasmussen wants more Qinghai wins

By Paul Verkuylen in Xihaizhen, China

Alex Rasmussen (Denmark)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

Denmark's Alex Rasmussen (Denmark) is hoping to take two more Tour of Qinghai Lake stage wins before the Chinese race ends on Sunday. Rasmussen has been seemingly invincible in this year's edition, having taken three of the opening four stages.

Rasmussen took the Stage 4 into Xihaizhen yesterday after some bad luck saw him miss out on contesting the Stage 3 sprint finish. An untimely flat tyre saw the Dane chase the leading group until the end on the wind-swept stage to Bird Island.

"I think I could have won the stage and kept the yellow jersey for another day," Rasmussen reflected. "This was definitely payback from yesterday, I was really turned on to win," he said of his stage four victory.

Tomorrow the race begins to climb, which will not suit the powerful track endurance rider. Before the race heads upwards, Rasmussen plans to take some points in the green jersey competition he is currently leading.

"Tomorrow's stage there is two bonus sprints that I want to go for but then I will take it easy for the mountains," he said. "I want to win the last and maybe the long stage, but so far it has gone perfectly with three stage victories, it's already a success."

After the Chinese tour, Rasmussen and his Danish national team will return to Denmark for final preparations before returning to Beijing for August's Olympic Games. After finishing second behind England in the teams pursuit at the UCI Track World Championships in Manchester, England, the Danes hope to go one better at the Olympics.

Rock Racing to head to Europe in 2009

By Paul Verkuylen in Xihaizhen, China

Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing)
Photo ©: Mark Gunter
(Click for larger image)

America's bad-boy team Rock Racing is planning on expanding its operation into Europe next year and will become a Professional Continental team. The squad is planning on having effectively two teams for next season, one based in Europe, the other in the USA according to team manager Haldene Morris.

"We have just re-signed Oscar Sevilla for two more years and will develop the European team around him," Morris explained. "He is still young at 31 and has a lot of spunk.

"We want to be there in the Spring Classics and the big Tours," he added. "Oscar has some good contacts with races like Catalonia and they really want to see him there."

The team is targeting races such as the Vuelta a Espana, Giro d'Italia and hopes to be granted starts in races such as Paris-Tours, Tour de Suisse, the Dauphine Libere.

"We are in the process of signing five more riders, but we have already signed David Vittoria who is Oscar Sevilla's protégé in Spain," he said.

With contracts not yet signed Morris was reluctant to divulge the names. "Two are Australians, one is Spanish another American and the last I can't say because if I told you his name, you would guess," he said.

The team will target some more riders for the National Racing Calendar events in America and give them a chance throughout the season to race in Europe, should they show potential. In addition to its contract with Sevilla, Rock Racing has Tyler Hamilton onboard for another two years. Victor Hugo Pena has one year remaining on his contract, while Santiago Botero's contract is up for re-negotiation after the Olympic Games in August.

Superweek underway with Rock in control

By Mark Zalewski in Olympia Fields, Illinois

The International Cycling Classic, affectionately known as Superweek, is underway in the American midwest. Three days of the 18 total are in the books and Rock Racing is taking control early with Sterling Magnell leading the overall into the third race with Rahsaan Bahati leading the points competition. Magnell won the opening criterium in Beverly outside Chicago, while Bahati won the next day's crit in nearby Blue Island.

"We're here to win the overall," said Bahati. "Last year we were second and we want to top that." For the first three days the two leaders only have one more teammate in Justin Williams, making it tough to control. "It's not easy to control. You get guys who you don't know that are good and you might miss out. It's been tough the first two days because we only have three guys."

The other pro team with multiple riders here is Kelly Benefits-Medifast, led by longtime Superweek rider Alex Candelario. "Kelly looks good and they ride good together - they have a cohesive team. Right now we are riding like we don't have the jerseys."

Luckily for Bahati he and Magnell will have help starting Monday. "The racing is starting off on a good note and we have some reinforcements arriving tomorrow. We'll have Peter Dawson, Jeremiah Wiscovitch, Adam Switters, Kevin Klein, Brock Curry and maybe another guy. But really this is good training because the overall goal is to win Downers Grove."

Garmin-Chipotle to ride Tour of Britain

The Tour of Britain has announced that Garmin-Chipotle has joined the list of squads that will contest this year's event, which starts on September 7 in central London. The Jonathan Vaughters-managed squad is the fifth team contesting the Tour de France to sign up for the British race.

"It is excellent news that Team Garmin will be riding this year's race," said race spokesperson Peter Hodges. "They are bringing over a strong team, and with riders more than capable of taking victory on each stage, they are bound to play a part in shaping the overall outcome of the 2008 Tour of Britain."

The American squad has evolved from a strong United States of America domestic squad into a world-class team who have competed in both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France so far this season. Headlining its provisional roster for the Tour of Britain is David Millar, who will be riding his home tour for the first time, and current Irish champion Daniel Martin.

"We're expecting many fans will also be excited by the opportunity to see David Millar racing, and the route of this year's Tour of Britain could well suit him," said Hodges.

Also named as starting is former Paris - Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, and Julian Dean, who has already enjoyed success in the Tour of Britain, finishing second overall and taking the points jersey in 2004.

Fellow Tour de France teams Agritubel, Barloworld, Team Columbia and Team CSC - Saxo Bank will join Garmin - Chipotle on the London start line, alongside a strong mixture of the top British domestic teams and UCI Professional Continental and Continental line-ups.

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