Latest Cycling News, July 15, 2008
Edited by Ben Abrahams
An exciting Tour takes a well deserved breather
A single second separate the top two, Cadel Evans and Fränk Schleck, after a good week of racing and with two days in the high mountains already completed. The most suspenseful Tour for years heads into the first rest day with a lot of questions unanswered. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes and Bjorn Haake recap the first ten stages.
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) became the first Australian since Robbie McEwen in 2004 to take over the yellow jersey. Evans fought bravely up the tough climb of Hautacam to save a single second on Fränk Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank). The latter was in attacking mood, but cracked towards the top. The showdown in Hautacam capped a week that had more surprises than most Tours in recent years.
In fact, the first surprise happened back in October when the route was announced. The lack of a prologue, a team time trial and in fact a long first time trial should have seen the sprinters dominate the first half of the week and the climbers the second half.
Instead, it was riders like Alejandro Valverde and Kim Kirchen who mixed it up with the fast-legged sprinters. When Robbie McEwen finally did manage to win a bunch sprint it was only for fifth place, after the sprinters' teams had failed to control a four-man break in stage three.
The next surprise was Stefan Schumacher, who beat all the favourites in the time trial, ahead of the equally unexpected Kim Kirchen. The vanquished stars against the clock included World Champion Fabian Cancellara and time trial specialist David Millar.
Thor Hushovd once and Mark Cavendish twice finally did prove that there was something to get for the fast men, while Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) gladdened French hearts with a stage victory into Nantes on day three. The French had more to celebrate, as Romain Feillu took over the yellow jersey, even if just for a day.
Saunier Duval dominated the three mountain stages held thus far, Riccardo Riccò triumphing on the sixth stage to Super Besse and on stage nine to Bagnères-de-Bigorre. His team-mates Leonardo Piepoli and Juan Jose Cobo took the first two places on Monday's stage to Hautacam, spoiling Bastille Day for France. The riders will all take a well-earned rest day before setting out on what is going to be a very interesting four days of transitional stages.
For the complete wrap-up from stages 1-10, click here.
Riccò puts Alpe d'Huez above podium place
By Gregor Brown in Pau
Riccardo Riccò, holder of the mountains and young rider jerseys and winner of two stages thus far in the Tour de France, listed the mythical Alpe d'Huez at the top of his priorities during the race's first rest day in Pau.
"Alpe d'Huez or podium? The Alpe d'Huez," said Italian Riccò during a press conference near the Pyrenean mountains that his Saunier Duval team have dominated in the last two days.
Riccò put his stamp on the first mountain-top finish, Super Besse, by going clear of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). He remained focused on stage wins as the race entered the high mountains and his drive paid off with an attack on the Col d'Aspin that garnered a solo win in Bagnères de Bigorre. One day later, he helped set up the move for team-mate Leonardo Piepoli's win on Hautacam.
The race now transfers from the Pyrénées to the Alps via four stages. More high mountains then follow with stages to Prato Nevoso and Alpe d'Huez, the latter a stage that Riccò's hero, Marco Pantani, dominated in 1995 and 1997.
Riccò clarified his interests in the race, saying he has no interest in simply riding for a podium position "First overall or Alpe d'Huez. The podium I have already obtained at the Giro d'Italia. The classification does not interest me that much - either win the overall or take another stage like Alpe d'Huez," he said.
By winning on the famous Alpine climb Riccò could make huge inroads towards sealing the mountains and young rider competitions. He is currently the leader of the former by 12 points over team-mate David De La Fuente and the latter by 1'49" over Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).
"I will keep going in the high mountains and if it happens it happens. I am not going to fight over all the small mountains for points. There is also my team-mate De La Fuente," he said of the fight for the polka dot jersey.
"Alpe d'Huez? Certainly there would be a way to take points for the jersey."
Voigt says CSC-Saxo Bank waiting to pounce
'On Fränk's climb Alpe d'Huez we'll take it from Silence-Lotto'
By Brecht Decaluwé in Argelès-Gazost (Hautacam), France
Team CSC-Saxo Bank used a lot of energy on Monday's stage to Hautacam, but it certainly paid off as Luxembourg champion Fränk Schleck rocketed from 11th to second overall, one second behind new leader Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). Providing much of that energy was Jens Voigt, who set a blistering pace up the Col du Tourmalet and then powered the CSC train along the valley road towards Hautacam.
After a brutal day in the mountains where he eventually trailed in 14 minutes after the stage winner, Voigt explained his team's tactics on stage ten. "This morning [team manager] Bjarne Riis said that it would be perfect if we have Fabian [Cancellara] in the breakaway, and that he survives the first climb so that he could work afterwards," said Voigt. "Riis told me to hold back and save my energy by not going into any breakaway.
"On the Tourmalet Volodymir Gustov and I set a hard tempo. That worked out pretty nice since I actually managed to drop Valverde and Cunego," Voigt said proudly. "To be honest, for a moment I felt like Eddy Merckx. It gives you a huge boost in motivation and morale; you just want to go faster and faster.
"You hear in the radio: this and that rider is dropped and at the top we had about 20 riders left in our group. Over the top Fabian waited for us and did the descent. In the valley we rode as fast as we could to put on as much time as we could on Valverde and Cunego. You never know that you might need that time later on in the race. Then I did the first two or three kilometres on the last climb and then it was explosion du moteur (engine explosion)," said Voigt, pointing out that he had nothing left in the tank at that moment of the race.
When Voigt dropped back Fränk Schleck and Carlos Sastre took over, but the younger of the Schleck brothers, Andy, began to struggle. "When I stopped pulling I noticed that Andy was struggling at the back of the group," said Voigt. "He's not the type of rider who likes to storm up a mountain like we did today. He needs a few kilometres to get his rhythm going."
Eventually Andy Schleck lost nearly nine minutes to stage winner Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Scott) and dropped back to 22nd in the general classification. "He's young and it is his first Tour de France," said Voigt. "Everybody puts pressure on him after his second place in the Giro d'Italia, but you can't expect that from such a young guy."
While brother Fränk Schleck was initially disappointed to miss the yellow jersey by a second, Voigt said the race situation suits his team, which should be able to conserve energy until its onslaught in the Alps. "Fränky is one second behind the yellow jersey, so that means Lotto has to defend the jersey. We can just wait, and on Fränk's climb Alpe d'Huez we'll take it over from them.
"Of course Fränk will be disappointed because he is so close to yellow. Especially since he was virtually in yellow halfway up the climb, and in the end he's losing it by only one second. For me as a domestique rider it is different. The teams who have defended the jersey so far, like Caisse d'Epargne and Columbia, totally exploded today and had nobody in front.
"From that point of view we [CSC] should be happy to not have the jersey and wait a few more days to take it. On the other hand this might also be as close as we get, you never know.
"You're happy not to work like crazy, but on the other hand it would be nice to have it."
McQuaid encouraged by Tour thus far
No sympathy for Beltran if guilty
By Shane Stokes
UCI President Pat McQuaid has expressed a belief that this year's Tour de France is cleaner than in previous years, saying that he is encouraged by what he has seen thus far.
"I'm not at the race this year but I do watch it on a passing basis from the office," he told Cyclingnews this week. "There are encouraging signs. When you see breakaways staying away until the end and another one lasting until 30 metres to go, that's something.
"So too when the bunch decides to chase down a break, they are not lined out with eight guys from one team and eight guys from another team at the front of a big, big long line. That doesn't happen... you see three or four guys from a team trying to up the pace, and at times the rest of the bunch is spread over the road. The speed isn't hugely fantastic, and that again would give you some comfort in the fact that it is different.
"There are also guys here winning stages that we know are coming from teams with very strong anti-doping stances."
The Tour de France has however had one big doping story thus far, the positive A sample returned by Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) and his exclusion from the race. The Spaniard has been found with traces of EPO in his urine and, if this is confirmed by the B sample, he will be fired by his team and suspended.
McQuaid stated that the B sample result is necessary before knowing for sure if Beltran is guilty but, if that does happen, he has no sympathy.
"I am very, very angry that individuals will still take big risks," he said. "It is time that every one of those competing at the highest level in the sport of cycling realised that the net is closing in and that we are not prepared to accept this sort of behaviour. We will continue using every means possible to eliminate individuals like this out of the sport.
"If the B test result ultimately proves that Beltran had taken EPO, then I have absolutely no sympathy for him. [In that case] I would think he is an absolute idiot."
He feels that things are moving in the right direction, but that it is naïve to expect an overnight transformation. "It is disappointing when you get a positive like Beltran. I had hoped that this year's Tour would be doping-free.
"Since the time I came because president of the UCI nearly three years ago, one of my stated objectives was to get rid of doping in the sport. I knew all along it was not going to be an overnight job, that it would take some time. There is still a bit of time to go."
Saunier Duval tops Tour prize money list
Following the first ten stages of the Tour de France, organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) revealed which teams have been scooping up the most prize money at the race so far. According to official Tour statistics, the total prize fund this year is 3,269,760 euros, with 341,350 euros already accounted for after ten stages. The bulk of the prize money is awarded once the race finishes when money is handed out to the first 150 finishers on general classification.
Not surprisingly, after three stage victories (two from Riccardo Riccò and one from Leonardo Piepoli), Saunier Duval-Scott are the team with the fattest wallets bagging a total of 50,970 euros. A close second is Team Columbia, which has 50,680 euros courtesy of two stage wins by Mark Cavendish and Kim Kirchen's stint in yellow. In third is Caisse d'Epargne with 33,970 euros followed by Cofids and Gerolsteiner.
At the other end of the spectrum, the picture is not such a rosy one. Lampre and Quick Step have won the least prize money of all teams, netting just 3,220 and 1,050 euros each.
Prize money is typically shared out among riders and support staff within each team once the race finishes in Paris. The overall winner receives 450,000 euros while all riders placed 91st to 150th take home 400 euros for their efforts. Each stage winner is awarded 8000 euros and there are also prizes for intermediate sprints, mountains, young rider and teams classifications.
Australian juniors claim team pursuit world record
The Australian women's trio of Ashlee Ankudinoff, Megan Dunn and Sarah Kent rode a world record time of 3'37.138 to take gold in the team pursuit at the Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Cape Town, South Africa on Monday.
After Ankudinoff had taken gold ahead of Kent in the individual pursuit, the Australians were clear favourites and qualified fastest to face New Zealand in the final. "We just had to beat the time to get into the ride for the gold medal so we sat on the schedule our coach (Tim Decker) set down for us," said Dunn of the qualifying round.
The final was a different story as the Australians went all out to slash more than four seconds off their qualifying time and set a new world record in an event making its debut at the world championships. The New Zealand team collected silver in 3'44.805 while Belgium defeated Russia for the bronze medal.
"My personal feelings going into it were that we definitely had the horsepower and fitness but it comes down to technique and getting the small things right," said Dunn. "In the final we had nothing to lose by going all out and Tim (Decker) told us not to look at the New Zealanders but to concentrate on what he was calling out to us during the race."
"I'm pretty rapt because I came into this Championships not expecting anything and with no pressure," said Ankudinoff, who had already claimed gold in the individual pursuit on Sunday. "When I won the IP I just wanted Sarah to experience what I had so in the teams it was great to get the win so everyone could have that gold medal feeling."
For Kent the rainbow jersey of world champion came a little later than she had hoped but has left her more than pleased with her efforts in the junior ranks.
"I came into this year and really wanted gold in the IP and it was unbelievable to again have two Aussies in the final," said Kent. "After last year racing against Josie (Tomic) I knew what it was all about but I wasn't too disappointed because I knew I'd given myself every opportunity and the staff and coaches had as well.
"I did everything I could and had nothing left at the end and I was beaten by a better bike rider of the day in Ash," said Kent. "But the team pursuit gave me another chance and it's been a dream of ours since we were selected for the team that we would all come away with a rainbow jersey and my team-mates already had one each and really wanted me to have one as well.
"I was so thrilled I slept in it and even wore it to breakfast this morning."
Stage 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 Bikeradar.com 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.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)