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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, July 21, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Laura Weislo

Gerrans digs for dream stage win

Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole) produced a masterful ride
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Australian Simon Gerrans added to his country's successes in this year's Tour de France by taking a hard-fought stage win on Sunday's finish at the Italian ski resort of Prato Nevoso. The 28-year-old said that a Tour stage win has been his goal since he began racing in Europe. "It still hasn't really sunk in yet," said Gerrans. "It is great to be able to say I have now won a stage of the Tour. It is amazing."

The Crédit Agricole rider was one of four men who made up the stage-long breakaway; he joined Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R La Mondiale) and Danny Pate (Garmin-Chipotle) at the 16 kilometre mark, and the quartet went into the final climb with more than ten minutes' advantage on the chasing bunch.

"When we started that final climb with such an advantage on the peloton I thought we could hang on. It was only then that I began to think it was possible to stay away but it wasn't until the last couple of hundred metres that I thought I could win," Gerrans said.

The Melbourne native was in danger of being dropped by the accelerations of Pate and Martinez, but fought to stay in contact on the category one climb. "I was really in trouble, but once I caught [Danny] Pate and [Egoi] Martinez again, I did what I could to hang on."

Gerrans spent the early part of the Tour working for the team's sprinter Thor Hushovd, but had also been trying to make the breakaway without success. "In the few stages leading up to today, I thought suited a breakaway and I was trying and trying and trying to get in the move. It just wasn't happening for me.

"A big mountain stage like today is not one in which I'd usually back myself to go for the win but I thought, 'I've got nothing to lose, there's a rest day tomorrow' and I gave it everything to get in the break. Once I was there it was just a matter of racing with three other guys and not the whole peloton.

"It was only in the last kilometre that I started believing that I could get the better of the other guys. They were climbing better than me that's why I wasn't giving them much support at the finish, but under the red kite I realised I was in with a real crack at the win."

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Gerrans is one of nine Australians who started this year's Tour de France, and has been seeking out a stage win since his debut in 2005. "It's been my aim at every Tour de France to try and win a stage this is my fourth one and it's taken until now to finally pull it off but it's better late than never, huh?"

The win may help shore up the team's sponsor search. Crédit Agricole decided to end its sponsorship, and manager Roger Legeay has been busy seeking out a replacement for the bank. Gerrans wrote earlier this week on his personal web site about how the Tour's doping scandals might hurt the delicate sponsorship negotiations.

"What really concerns me is if he [Legeay] has a sponsor that hasn't yet signed on, will they now not [sign] because of the doping fiasco? That is the biggest concern for me at this point.

"When guys like Riccò are caught cheating they don't realise the influence it has on the cycling industry - not only on their team-mates, but other teams as well, which is really sad."

Read more about Simon Gerrans here.

Schleck inches closer to goal

By Brecht Decaluwé in Prato Nevoso

Frank Schleck dons the coveted yellow jersey
Photo ©: AFP
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After six days of riding just one second from the yellow jersey, Fränk Schleck finally gained the coveted garment in Prato Nevoso, Italy. The CSC-Saxo Bank team played a tactical battle with its two leaders, Carlos Sastre and Schleck, using the renewed climbing strength of Schleck's younger brother Andy to put the morning's leader Cadel Evans into difficulty.

Schleck made his first step at putting himself into yellow jersey contention on stage ten to Hautacam, where he attacked the group of Evans to gain back all but one second of the time he lost in the stage four time trial. His second step came on Sunday's stage 15, where he attacked in the final kilometre to gain nine seconds on Evans to take yellow. However, his result could also be viewed as an 18 second loss to Rabobank's Denis Menchov, who was further up the road behind Sastre.

While their tactics placed Schleck in yellow and moved Sastre 37 seconds closer to former leader Cadel Evans, CSC-Saxo Bank's two leaders will need to gain more time on Evans and Rabobank's Denis Menchov, both of whom are superior time trialists, before the penultimate day's 53 kilometre race against the clock.

To fulfil his dream of taking the overall victory in Paris, Schleck now faces the difficult prospect of taking the sole mountain top finish on l'Alpe d'Huez to gain enough time to hold the yellow jersey through the time trial. But the Luxembourg champion didn't want to think about the hard road ahead, but only wished to enjoy his moment.

"Don't kick me now that I'm happy," Schleck said. "I know that I have to gain more time on some guys, but let me enjoy it for now. I know that I'll need to attack again if I want to win the Tour. Just leave me alone," Schleck said, half-jokingly. "I missed out on the yellow jersey by only one second [on Hautacam], and finally I was able to gain back some seconds on Evans.

Continue to the full feature.

Riis happy with 'perfect' CSC performance

By Gregor Brown in Prato Nevoso

Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Team CSC boss Bjarne Riis praised the "perfect" team-work of his riders that allowed Fränk Schleck to take yellow on stage 15 of the Tour de France to Prato Nevoso. As expected, the Danish squad flexed its collective muscle in the Italian Alps, placing three men in the final 10-rider move and allowing both Fränk Schleck and Carlos Sastre to gain time on an outnumbered Cadel Evans by the finish.

"It was okay," said Riis with a grin. "We wanted to put the pressure on and we also knew the climb was not that difficult. We need more climbs to make more selection in the group. I think it worked out great. It was good to see Carlos up there, he put the pressure on and Fränk could take advantage of that - it was perfect."

On the climb's lower slopes, the stinging pace set by Andy Schleck, the younger of the Schleck brothers, had put Evans into difficulty, before Sastre launched an attack with Denis Menchov, Bernhard Kohl and Alejandro Valverde.

"I think he did an excellent job," Riis said of Andy Schleck. "I was happy to see him work so hard for the team and then stay up there to fight until the end. He showed his class."

The race takes its second of two rest days tomorrow in Cuneo, where Riis will sit down with his riders and plan the two remaining alpine stages to Jausiers and L'Alpe d'Huez. Riis said his team was not worried about defending the race lead, but knows it will need to take more time out of Menchov and Evans before the final 53 kilometre time trial at Saint Amand Montrond.

"The next two days won't be any different because we are following our plan whether or not we have the yellow," said Riis "We have a rest day tomorrow and then we will think about what we will do. We need a little bit more time, we know that. But we still have a couple of days where we can try to do the best we can. Maybe it will happen, maybe not."

Cavendish's Tour: Over and out

By Gregor Brown in Prato Nevoso

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia)
Photo ©: John Pierce
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Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish has called time on his Tour de France campaign, electing not to start Sunday's 15th stage from Embrun to Prato Nevoso. Cavendish, who made it through the three-week Giro d'Italia in May, believes the Alps are too much for a young and developing rider.

"Maybe I could carry on and suffer a bit more, but I don't think there is any gain," he told Cyclingnews on the morning of the stage 15. "I don't know how I would have gone without doing the Giro, but I think in a way those climbs helped me. I realised I could get through them and suffer. I came here and I did suffer."

The Manxman leaves with a fantastic Tour under his belt, having taken four stage wins and proven beyond doubt that he is the world's faster road sprinter. He now travels home to the Isle of Man for a week-long break and will then head to Manchester to sharpen his track skills before flying out to Beijing. Despite his withdrawal, Cavendish underlined that saving himself for the Olympics was not behind his decision to leave La Grande Boucle.

"It was not a matter of hurting my Olympic chances; it was a matter of hurting my career," he said. "There are a lot of riders who have had their careers messed up just by one Tour de France and to do the Giro and the Tour is maybe the worst thing."

Cavendish will return to fight for the points competition in future Tours de France. He left the 2008 edition 63 points behind points leader Oscar Freire and insisted he would not watch the final week of the race on television.

"I spoke with my coach yesterday and he warned me it is maybe not the best thing to do. Whether I stay or whether I go, I am always going have regrets. If I go and watch the TV then I am going to have regrets that I left. The best thing to do is to go home and recover.

"I think Oscar has a good lead and he is favourite to win it. I hope [Columbia team-mate] Kim Kirchen can do something in the mountains and maybe bridge the gap, closing in on the yellow jersey. He has been really strong and I think in the Alps his tour is only just beginning, even if he has already worn the yellow."

Childhood dreams come true for Kohl

By Hedwig Kröner in Prato Nevoso

Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Stage 15 from Embrun to Italy's ski station Prato Nevoso will forever remain in Bernhard Kohl's memory. The young Austrian climber from German team Gerolsteiner realised his biggest career goal; one he had since he started cycling when he was just a kid.

Finishing fifth behind the day's winner Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole), Kohl jumped from fourth to second on general classification, and scored the mountain leader's jersey on the way. Although he did not win the stage, the polka-dot garment gave him podium honours on the mountain top finish. "Ever since I was a little kid I dreamed about getting up on that podium once in my life, so it's unbelievable," an incredulous Kohl said after the ceremony. "Moreover, to be second on the classification is enormous. My fan club was here today, too; my whole family cheered me on with two kilometres to go. That gave me so much motivation."

The Austrian was able to stick to the favourites' group on the final ascent to Prato Nevoso, and even put a few seconds into Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Chipotle). In the lead up to the final climb, the German team worked for its new captain to put him into a perfect position, and get a shot for the polka-dot jersey, which he took over from his team-mate Sebastian Lang.

"It was a really hard race today," Kohl said. "The whole team worked so well, I really have to thank them. Sebastian Lang sacrificed himself to get me to through the first climb and to the mountain points at the top. I don't take that for granted, you know.

"At one point I crashed but nothing happened. Then, in the final climb, I was just so motivated, and I could take advantage of the work of Team CSC again. Andy Schleck did an excellent job and made the pace all the way up. Then, Fränk Schleck attacked once, then Sastre. Afterwards, Fränk couldn't chase as he had Sastre in front. And I caught the right moment to attack again. At the moment, I'm lucky to always use the right tactics. But it's just unbelievable that it worked out so well in the end. I'm overjoyed."

The chase for the yellow jersey gave him an extra boost in the final kilometres. "I heard in the earpiece that it would be very tight for the yellow jersey, so I gave it everything that was left in my body," Kohl continued. "But tactically, it's not so bad to be second, at only seven seconds. And I'm very happy with the second place, as it's more than I ever expected."

Kohl couldn't quite decide which of the two - the mountain jersey or the second overall placing - meant more to him. "Now, I'm just happy to have the polka-dot jersey, which was a childhood dream," he explained. "I never even dared to dream about yellow. To be so close to it is crazy. I hope that one day in my career I will wear it - but now I really need that rest day. I will try to get the jersey, but it'll be very, very difficult."

Thinking about his possibilities in the near future, the Austrian revised his overall goals in the race after today's feat. "My goal was to finish top ten in Paris; now, I'm targeting top five. I hope that I can succeed," he said.

His team manager Hans-Michael Holczer also knows that it will be difficult to do better, or even hold that overall position. "Coming out of the Alps, Kohl needs at least 1'30 to two minutes on Evans before the time trial," the Gerolsteiner boss said. But with two decisive Alpine stages yet to go after the rest day in Italy, the classification is far from being set in stone. Especially with the top three riders all being less than eight seconds down on the new overall leader Fränk Schleck, and at least five other riders still in contention.

Pereiro out with broken arm

This image shows just how far Oscar Pereiro fell
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Spaniard Oscar Pereiro's Tour de France ended Sunday when the Caisse d'Epargne rider crashed on the descent from the Col Agnel. Pereiro crashed over the barricade on a rain-slickened switchback and fell down a rocky embankment to the lower part of the road. He suffered a displaced fracture to his left humerus, the bone between the elbow and the shoulder.

Pereiro, who was declared winner of the 2006 Tour after the disqualification of American Floyd Landis, was lying in 15th overall at the start of the Tour's stage 15 from Embrun to the Italian town of Prato Nevoso. Following his crash, he was airlifted to a hospital in Turin, where he will undergo further tests to determine the extent of his injuries.

Barloworld team to continue under new name

By Gregor Brown in Prato Nevoso

Claudio Corti (Barloworld manager)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Barloworld manager Claudio Corti aims to continue the team he took over in 2006 despite title sponsor Barloworld pulling the plug following the failed doping test of Moisés Dueñas. "Barloworld does not want to be on the jersey anymore. They will not be on the jersey, but the organisation goes on," Corti told Cyclingnews Sunday morning in Embrun.

French Gendarmerie escorted Dueñas out of the Tour de France the morning after the rest day in Pau when information leaked of his positive test for Erythropoietin (EPO), stemming from a test taken at stage four's time trial in Cholet. "It is a problem with the sport, when this mess can be created by just one person," Corti said. "Yesterday he admitted that he organised it all alone with a Spanish doctor and paid 2000 euro."

Barloworld announced its departure as a sponsor Saturday. Following the Tour de France, it will no longer be on the team's jerseys or cars. "It is too bad because the team has always become better and better, both with its image and the riders' level," Corti added. "We will continue, and maybe even better."

The good news is Corti will have financial support for his riders through to the end of 2009. Barloworld will fulfil its contract in an action similar to T-Mobile last year where general manager Bob Stapleton continued the T-Mobile Team, known as High Road, until he found title sponsor Columbia prior to the 2008 Tour. "The situation is definitely not easy, but Barloworld does not want to stay," said Corti. "It will be a little like [High Road]. Of course, it is just talk now and we need to sit down at a table and work out the details. They recognise it is not a problem with the management of the team."

Chris Fisher, head of Barloworld corporate marketing, confirmed the South African company's support in the immediate future. "Discussions are underway for a replacement sponsor and we pledge our support to Claudio Corti. We will honour all of our contractual obligations," Fisher said to Cyclingnews at the start of stage 15. "It is a similar situation to High Road. Fortunately, there are a number of sponsors showing a good deal of interest. This is the event where all the serious parties that are interested in cycling are present."

The company was "saddened and angry" with the first failed test since it started sponsoring cycling, and Fisher explained it was one doping case too many for Barloworld. "Barloworld has always had a zero-tolerance policy towards doping. Through team Barloworld we promote the values of Barloworld - integrity, honesty, respect - and we have over the last five years made it clear to the riders that we cannot afford to have any of our riders positive."

Your chance to win in the Cyclingnews-Felt TdF competition!

You can win this!
Photo ©: Felt
(Go to the competition page)

Here's your chance to win some great prizes while the 2008 Tour de France is underway, featuring a prize roster of kit that is being tested in the world's greatest bike race by some of the world's leading cyclists.

Our lead prize is the 2009 model Felt AR road frame, currently being ridden in the Tour de France by members of the Garmin-Chiplotle professional cycling team, as well as supplementary prizes from Craft - manufacturer of team clothing to CSC-Saxo - and eyewear from BBB, supplier to Team Barloworld.

The US-based Felt Bicycles is becoming one of the world's leading bicycle manufacturers, with its bikes now being raced by the USA's Garmin-Chipotle in the 2008 Tour de France. The team are riding the 2009 model Felt AR, which combines Felt's expertise in time trial and track bike technology, while maintaining the necessary ride and handling characteristics of premium road bikes.

But wait! There's more. All entrants in the Cyclingnews-Felt 2008 TdF competition will also go into the draw to win great supplementary prizes from our friends at Craft and BBB. Cyclingnews also has four 2008 model Team CSC jerseys, designed and made by Craft, one of the world's leading technical clothing manufacturers, as well as 10 sets of BBB's BSG-29 Attacker eyewear, the exact eyewear used by riders from Team Barloworld in this year's TdF.

Our thanks to our friends at Felt, Craft and BBB for providing such awesome prizes. Hurry and enter now to be in the draw. Good luck!

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 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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