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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, July 17, 2008

Edited by Hedwig Kröner

Younger Schleck now out for stage win

Andy Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) still hopes to score in the Tour
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

The younger of the Schleck brothers, Andy, had been hailed as one of the favourites for this year's Tour de France after he finished runner-up in the Giro d'Italia last year. But the 23 year-old, excellent climber had a bad day on the Tour's second high mountains stage on Monday. As the race tackled the final ascent of the Hautacam on stage 10, Schleck could not keep up with the rest of the overall contenders and lost almost nine minutes on the stage winner, Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval).

This set him back to 22nd place on the general classification, 8'34 minutes behind yellow jersey Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). "I had a fringale [hunger knock - ed.] on Hautacam," explained Schleck about his counter-performance on Monday. "I guess it's a lack of experience. It was a short stage. I always said I am here for learning."

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Indeed, Andy Schleck went into the race without pressure, as his older brother Fränk as well as Spaniard Carlos Sastre were the designated leaders of Team CSC-Saxo Bank. After capturing the white jersey of best young rider on stage nine to Bagnères de Bigorre - and losing it one the very next day - Andy Schleck now wants to be at the service of his brother and Sastre, second and sixth on GC respectively. But he also has the firm intention of receiving podium honours once again.

"The Tour is not finished yet," he said. "I hope to get back to the podium, to celebrate a stage win."

Read more on CSC-Saxo Bank's plans to conquer the yellow jersey in the Alps by clicking here.

Frischkorn hopes for Vande Velde yellow on L'Alpe d'Huez

By Gregor Brown in Foix

Will Frischkorn wants to see team-mate Vande Velde take the yellow jersey
Photo ©: Fj Hughes
(Click for larger image)

Garmin's William Frischkorn believes the ideal scenario would be if team-mate Christian Vande Velde took the Tour de France's maillot jaune on Wednesday's stage up the mythical L'Alpe d'Huez.

"I think that Alpe d'Huez day could be pretty epic. Early? I think from there in it is pretty manageable," Frischkorn said to Cyclingnews of the ideal day for the Garmin's team leader, Vande Velde, to make the 38-second gain needed to take over the race lead from Australian Cadel Evans.

USA's Vande Velde solidified his standing on the last day in the Pyrenees when he stuck with the favourites' group on the Hautacam. Between him and Evans on the classification is Team CSC's Fränk Schleck - one second off Evans' lead. Schleck's team appears the strongest near the race's mid-way point. "They are aggressive and they race well," Frischkorn said of Team CSC.

If Garmin takes over the race lead, then it could find the work difficult to manage. The team lacks the depth of CSC in its first Tour de France, but does seem on par with Evans' Silence-Lotto. "If we were in a situation where we had to defend I think that we would surprise some people. We definitely have to look out for Christian's current spot and hopefully take advantage of what we got already."

Frischkorn, second in stage three, worked hard in stage 11 to Foix. Attacks from the gun and a category one climb in the day's finale meant that he did not have a moment's rest. "It was a fast start and a big split went off. We all settled in. It seemed relaxed and then halfway up the cat. one climb, CSC threw the hammer down."

Vande Velde kept safe and Frischkorn's job was finished. The work satisfied him. "It has been an amazing Tour. Having this situation with Christian, where he is now, and I think we have exceeded the expectations that a lot of people had for us here."

Concern voiced over doping controls

By Shane Stokes

Concern has been raised over doping controls held at this year's Tour de France, with a manager from an un-named team contacting the UCI in relation to the selection of riders and the actual method of gathering samples.

The AFLD [French national anti-doping agency] has been appointed by race organiser ASO to carry out the tests in the aftermath of its split from the UCI. According to the team manager, only about fifty riders were tested thus far, with several being tested more than once. The Spanish are being examined most frequently, while testing of French riders was said to 'rarely occur.'

He gave an example of a lack of testing of a French team, saying that of the Crédit Agricole riders, only stage winner Thor Hushovd was tested since the start of the race.

In addition, concern was raised about the actual testing process. The chaperones were described as 'incapable,' with the manager saying that on the eleventh stage, one was unable to correctly fill out the required forms. Also, when large numbers of riders were required for testing, the area was said to be not sufficiently large and that some of the riders were required to wait outside beside journalists and photographers.

ASO and the AFLD said before the race that they would be focusing on targeted testing rather than a scattergun approach. Two Spanish riders have already tested non-negative for EPO and been ejected from the race, namely Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) and Moises Duenas Nevado (Barloworld).

Moreau abandon raises questions

Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) was disappointed to abandon, and now faces a questioning press
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Ever since Agritubel's Christophe Moreau abandoned the Tour on stage seven from Brioude to Aurillac, the Frenchman's reasons have been questioned. Moreau complained of severe backaches and general fatigue that caused him to quit the race prematurely, to his own great disappointment. What intrigued French media, however, was that his own team management knew nothing of the rider's physical distress in the lead-up to his abandon. Moreover, rumours circulating of 10 to 20 riders in the peloton having irregular blood values prior to the Tour' start did not help Moreau's case.

The Agritubel leader rejected that he was one of the persons notified by the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD. "The AFLD confirmed it - I am not concerned by this list," said Moreau to L'Equipe on Wednesday. "They're splitting hairs and analysing everything in the wrong way. No, you have to justify yourself when you're winning, but also when you're losing."

Explaining why his neither his team-mates nor team managers knew of his physical problems, Moreau said that it was because of his "pride and stubbornness. I didn't want to deceive anyone as everybody trusted me. They expected so much of me that I was finally caught in my own trap. I hid my problems until the end."

However, French newspaper Le Monde has cast doubts over the former Tour de France stage winner. Confirming that Moreau's blood values did not present any anomalies prior to the Grande Boucle, the paper however alleged that Moreau was sent a letter from the French federation doctor after Paris-Nice this spring. In the letter, the rider was notified of his too low blood cortisol values and asked to stop competing for a while.

Along with hematocrit, haemoglobin and reticulocytes, cortisol is part of the French "suivi longitudinal" anti-doping controls, a system similar to the UCI's blood passport, but that has been in place since 1999. Low cortisol in the blood is said to be directly related to the intake of corticoids, which block the natural production of cortisol. According to Le Monde, Moreau is the only French rider who was notified with a "counter-indication to the practice of cycling" in this way.

Agritubel manager David Fornes meanwhile declared to L'Equipe on Thursday that "Moreau was out of competition after Paris-Nice, but because he was ill. Now, if there are facts against him, show them to me and I will express myself on it."

Dueñas transferred to French court

Spanish rider Moises Dueñas was transported to a court in Tarbes on Thursday morning. After testing positive for blood-booster EPO, police found several forbidden substances in the Barloworld rider's hotel room, which is why he was arrested and held in custody overnight. Dueñas will now have to explain himself about the doping substances to a criminal court.

In France, the possession of doping products is a criminal offense. The 27 year-old could face up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to 75,000 Euros if severe doping products like EPO or anabolic steroids were found. The nature of the products seized has not yet been revealed. A team spokesperson told Cyclingnews, "The doctor of the team is not involved as the substances weren't given by the doctor."

Rahsaan Bahati: One leg tied behind his back

Bahati found a home with Rock Racing.
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Rahsaan Bahati is one of top criterium racers in the U.S., and he's had a strong season since joining the Rock Racing team last year. Yet his wins have come despite a multitude of injuries which have left him able to pedal fully with only one leg. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski talked with Bahati on the team's 'bling-bling' bus during Philly week.

Back in 2000 Rahsaan Bahati turned quite a few heads by winning the U.S. elite criterium national championship... as a junior. That win launched his career through several top teams; Mercury, Saturn and TIAA-CREF (now Slipstream.) But none of the teams seemed to match his personality, until 2007 when he found himself on the upstart Rock Racing team. The kid from Compton was 'home,' and his win at the CSC Invitational put the new team on the map.

This year, just when he should be making a career jump equal to the size of his team, Bahati has been quieted by a long-standing set of injuries. Nonetheless he crossed off a major career goal by winning the infamous Athens Twilight criterium and recently defended his win at Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, but did so mostly using one leg.

A little has been already written about Rahsaan Bahati and his chronic leg injury; but to be more specific it is actually a combination of four separate ailments, each of which would cause a cyclist significant pain.

"The first thing, what is giving me the most problems, is that my L5 vertebrae is crushed," he said. "It hasn't actually slipped out, it is just crushed. I had a MRI done on it because I get these huge lumps in my back when I race – they are really big. I can stretch it out but then it always comes back. When I finally got the MRI they did it in two halves – when they got to my back they saw my L5 is crushed. But they also found this tendon called the triremeal is completely torn!"

"They said we can do surgery on that and totally fix it, but you'll be out for like 8 weeks to heal."

Click here to read the full feature.

Boonen on track for August

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was consoled at the Tour of Austria
Photo ©: Klaus Titzer
(Click for larger image)

Belgian top sprinter Tom Boonen feels he is coming up to his desired form after competing in the Tour of Austria, where he won the last stage. The Quick Step rider, who was left uninvited to the Tour de France following a positive test for cocaine consumption in the end of May, consoled himself with a victory in Vienna in front of Roberto Ferrari (LPR) and René Weissinger (Volksbank).

"This finale in the centre of Vienna was a bit like the finish on the Champs-Elysées," he mused to Belgian Sporza. "Now, I can put another city on the list of the capitals where I already won: Paris, London, Brussels and Madrid. My condition is already very good. I think I will achieve top form in the end of August."

Just in time for the departure of the Vuelta a España, where Boonen hopes to vindicate his absence from Le Tour, which he nevertheless watches closely. The Belgian did not miss out to see the victories of Mark Cavendish (Columbia) in France on TV: "Cavendish is someone against who you don't have the right to make any mistakes. But until now, not one of the sprints was led out perfectly," he said. "If I'm able to beat him? I've done it several times!"

After the Vuelta, Boonen will concentrate on the World Championships in Varese, of which he said, "the course suits me."

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