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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News, July 27, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo & Ben Abrahams

Sastre's sacrifices pay off

With reporting by Hedwig Kröner in Saint Amand Montrond

Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

At age 33, Carlos Sastre is on the eve of realising the dream of his ten year career: he is riding into Paris in the yellow jersey, nearly assured of the final Tour de France victory. Coming into the time trial in Saint Amand Montrond, the majority of fans and journalists only gave Sastre an outside hope of stopping Cadel Evans from gaining back the one minute 34 seconds needed to strip the maillot jaune off his shoulders, but were all proven wrong.

Sastre wasn't sure how Evans felt on the course, but knew that he himself gave everything to win the Tour. As the leader of the Tour, he was the last man to start. As such, he could measure himself against the times of Evans as well as those of his team-mates including world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara. "I had the advantage of having the intermediate times of Cancellara and all of those that rode out before me," he said.

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Sastre put in the ride of his life, only conceding 29 seconds to the Australian.

"It's a fantastic feeling and I'm not sure I've taken it all in yet. I felt strong and my legs were good already during warm-up. And as it was hot and there was no wind I knew the conditions would suit me perfectly. The rest was up to me and I gave everything I had – and I couldn't expect more from myself so it was all or nothing basically," said Sastre after the stage.

For Sastre, winning the Tour is a culmination of years of either working at the service of others during the French race or falling short of expectations, mainly due to his lack of prowess in the time trials. He finished in the top ten of the Tour no fewer than five times, and has been on the podium of a Grand Tour twice before.

"I'm very happy, and serene. All my life, I sacrificed so much for this; and all of my family sacrificed so much for me to realise this dream," Sastre said. "I feel so relaxed now that I succeeded. I worked all my life for this, ever since I became a professional. It's hard to realise that I finally achieved it."

Continue to the full feature.

Out-gunned Evans still has time on his side

By Daniel Benson in Saint Amand Montrond

Evans gets a hug
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Evans or Sastre? That was the question on everyone's lips before Saturday's stage. Yet as the dust settled on a race-defining day at the Tour, the answer was clear. Carlos Sastre pulled off the time trial of his life, losing just 29 second to Cadel Evans over a 53-kilometre course from Cerilly to St Amand-Montrond. Tomorrow Sastre will wear yellow into Paris, becoming the seventh Spanish rider to win the race, with a lead of 1'05 over Evans.

Sporting in defeat and with the support of his wife and mother at the finish, 31 year-old Evans gave an honest assessment on finishing runner-up for the second year in succession. "No I'm not devastated, but I am very disappointed. I felt I rode a good time trial. I started well and got a time check from my car after 6 kilometres and I was similar to Cancellara. For me that is a good start.

"In the second half I started getting checks to the other riders and I thought what's going on here? I started really putting in effort and I gave it everything. I tried my best but didn't quite deliver in the end. I need some time to have a little look and analysis of the time checks," he said, before adding, "There were three or four there that really surprised me."

As today's race of truth unfolded Evans was only able to claw back a handful of seconds on Sastre at each of the time checks - four at the first, 23 at the second and 29 by the finish. It wasn't enough. It wasn't even as close as some experts had predicted.

Throughout this year's race Evans has constantly found himself without any team-mates at critical points and on many occasions has been forced to chase a multitude of riders - mainly from CSC - all on his own. With a stronger team, perhaps he'd have had the strength needed today. "I would have liked some more support in the high mountains. At least one team member to ride with me and help at the tough-end of a climbing stage. I would also have expected a bit more help from some other key riders when the pressure was on in the big climbs," he said.

So after such a long and draining Tour, Evans could only manage seventh place on the stage. "But I've got to be happy that I finished the race," he countered. "I'm still a bit sore and aching in places. After that crash I was lucky to be able to finish the stage. When I look back, I have to be happy with my Tour."

Of course this year's race hasn't been without its highlights for the out-gunned Australian. "To get the yellow jersey and defend it against the best, well I have to be pleased with that," he said pointing to the five days he held the lead before relinquishing it to Fränk Schleck.

So it's on to 2009 and next year Evans will almost certainly find himself riding up against 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, as well the likelihood of another strong CSC team. Having set himself four years to win the race back in 2007, he still has time on his side to reach what for him would be the ultimate goal. "Well, I have been making good progression there - eighth then fourth and on to second. But also as I said last year, I think from second to first is the hardest step to take."

But when looking at next year, perhaps it's Evans's mother that comes up with the best assessment of his chances. "It is a race and anything can happen. Why would you say anyone could win, it's not an absolute. But he certainly has the ability to."

Beijing-bound Schumacher shows winning form again

By Gregor Brown in Saint Amand Montrond

Stefan Schumacher had his race face on again
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Eighteen days after his first time trial win in Cholet, Stefan Schumacher showed his form had not been dented by multiple attacks in the Alps, blitzing the entire field with another superb display against the clock. The German bested world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara by 21 seconds to place himself amongst the hot favourites for Olympic gold in Beijing while also doing Gerolsteiner's ongoing sponsor search no harm whatsoever.

"I am lucky and satisfied. I am happy with myself. I had a good rhythm today and when we saw the circuit I knew it would be perfect for me - it was nearly the same type of circuit as Cholet," said Schumacher. "From the beginning I had a good rhythm and I knew the climb would make a difference in the finale. During the beginning I was going fast, but not so fast because I had to save energy for the end."

Besides his two stage wins, Schumacher wore yellow for two days before losing it on stage six to Super Besse when he crashed in the final kilometre. But when the Tour arrived in the Alps the gritty German went hunting for stages once more, making two long breakaways on the road to Jausiers and Alpe d'Huez. He even attempted to join a breakaway on Friday's stage to Montlucon, only to be hauled back by several teams desperate for a stage win.

"I was close to more stage wins, also yesterday in that escape and that day on the Col de la Bonette-Restefond, I was not so far off," he said. "I had many chances. For me it is the fourth three-week race, I am developing well and this is the first time I can go consistent. Normally I have deep dips in form."

His consistency paid off on Saturday, and even surprised his team manager Hans-Michael Holczer. "I did not think it was possible," said Holczer. "I thought when he started he was up on our timing, in the middle I could see he was having problems with his race radio. At the second intermediate time, we were 12 seconds behind. I thought, 'ok, this is the price he has to pay for his really aggressive riding in the last three stages'."

With the Olympic cycling disciplines coming in two weeks time, Schumacher hopes to hold his form until Beijing where will ride both the road race and time trial. Also on his mind is Holczer's hunt for a new title sponsor to replace the German mineral water company Gerolsteiner. The pair remain confident in finding a replacement, and Schumacher is expected to stay with Holczer and his future team, with an announcement expected before the Olympics begin.

"The way the team was presented and the way we were riding, we could have not done better," said Holczer. "Our riders were visible and this will help for finding a new partner."

Augustyn wants to be a GC contender

By Daniel Benson in Saint Amand Montrond

John-Lee Augustyn (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Currently lying 48th overall and in his first Grand Tour appearance, John-Lee Augustyn dreams of one day winning the Tour de France. The young South African almost pulled off a huge surprise with his daring attack on stage 16 to Jausiers, only for a crash to rob him of a chance at a stage win. Now though the budding talent says he's setting his sights firmly on coming back to this race and one day becoming a GC contender.

"I think stage races suit me best. The one-day events are too hard, but stage races do and if it gets hot and the climbs are really long then I go better on them. A lot of the older guys in my team have also told me that recovery becomes easier as you get older too and I can already feel the difference from before," he said.

And with tomorrow being his first taste of the Tour finish on the Champs-Élysées, Augustyn feels he can look back on a job well done for him and his Barloworld team, despite the failed drugs test of Moises Dueñas and Barloworld's subsequent withdrawal of sponsorship.

"I had a bad crash but I feel better now, and today I'm going to ride to the finish without pushing too hard or taking any risks. At the beginning of the race the team had good expectations but we had bad luck with Soler, then some more bad luck and before we knew it we were down to just four riders. But for sure, I dream of competing here again and of one day winning."

Maillot blanc Andy Schleck dreams of a change in colour

By Gregor Brown in Saint Amand Montrond

Widely tipped as a future Tour winner, best young rider Andy Schleck dreams of exchanging his white jersey for yellow in future Tours de France. Barring disaster in Sunday's parade to Paris, Schleck will wrap up the young rider competition with a lead of 1'17 over Liquigas rider Roman Kreuziger.

"I hope I can change the colour one day to yellow or pink," said Schleck after finishing his time trial ride. "I am going to be standing on the Champs Élysées, on the podium, it is pretty big. It is fantastic that Sastre will also take the yellow jersey."

The Luxemburger played a pivotal role in Sastre's overall victory after losing his own chances of yellow when the Tour reached the Pyrenees. Like many Tour riders, Schleck's next big rendezvous will be the Olympic Games in Beijing. "I think I am well prepared for the Olympics," he said.

Anti-doping chief calls Tour tests a success

The president of the agency in charge of doping controls at the Tour de France has called this year's tests a success. Pierre Bordry, president of the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD), qualified the remark by saying he regretted that the International Cycling Union (UCI) had not cooperated with his agency more.

The AFLD was called in to conduct the controls after the race organisers decided to hold the Tour outside the UCI's control and under the aegis of the French Federation.

The agency conducted 80 random pre-race tests during the weeks prior to the Tour, and one blood test of each of the 180 starters two days prior to the July 5 start in Brest.

The pre-race tests allowed the agency to target certain riders with suspicious blood values, which Bordry said resulted in the EPO positives of Manuel Beltran and Riccardo Riccò. The positive EPO test for Moises Dueñas was the result of a random control.

"For us to target some riders we used a mix of their results, our own information and what we seen on the race itself," he told the Associated Press. "The chief of the doping controls spent the entire month of July watching the Tour on television."

The agency will have performed 250 doping controls during the race on top of the pre-race tests. "It's more than what the UCI usually do," Bordry said. But, he said, the targeted testing could have been more effective had the UCI shared its data from the biological passport program.

"I would have preferred that the UCI collaborated a bit more with us in the fight against doping," said Bordry. "We played the game with the UCI, but they have refused to give us any information whatsoever."

Superweek tempers heating up in final races

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe's)
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

The third last race in the 17-day Superweek series in the American Midwest was a turning point in the battles for the overall and sprint jerseys. Firstly, the sprint jersey changed hands back to its previous owner Chad Hartley (Jittery Joe's) from Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) who was taking time off to attend a friend's wedding. But more controversially, what had been a hard-fought but clean duel for the yellow jersey between Sterling Magnell (Rock Racing) and Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe's) seemed to turn sour as many riders thought Magnell's tactics crossed the line.

"He was just bashing guys off the wheels, throwing elbows and doing anything to win in a very unprofessional way," said current series leader Cantwell. "Yesterday I gave him credit for the way he was riding, but today he almost killed half the bunch! My respect is just slowly getting taken away from the guy. He might be a pro but he is certainly not riding like one."

Besides Cantwell, Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) was upset over the final sprint, which Magnell contested for 14th place as 13 riders had lapped the field, including Page. Page felt so strongly about it he made his comments known during his post-race interview in front of the assembled crowd.

Magnell said he was riding in response to others, saying the 'rubbing' was going both ways. "Page in particular wanted the wheel I had and he actually punched me in the back with five [laps] to go. I'll use my skill but I'll never take my hands off the bars. A lot of guys were yelling and had problems but I didn't have any problems - I can ride my bike."

Regarding the final sprint, which seemed to cause the most uproar, Magnell said: "In the sprint I wanted to do two things, I wanted to get points on Cantwell and lead-out Dawson who was in the break. But the Colombians made the exact same move I did and I wasn't able to hold it."

Cantwell has a six-point lead on Magnell, while Hartley has a four point lead over Bahati, who has told Cyclingnews he will be back for the next race. With the infamous Downer Avenue race up next, fans can expect to see the heat turned up even more - maybe even to boiling point.

Atherton returns to the downhill circuit

By Sue George in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Québec, Canada

Dan Atherton
Photo ©: Steve Thomas / Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Dan Atherton (Animal Commencal) was back in action racing downhill on Saturday at the UCI mountain bike World Cup in Mont-Sainte-Anne in Québec, Canada, for the first time after breaking his right collarbone during training just before the World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy, in mid-June.

"My run was pretty tough. Mont-Sainte-Anne is always the hardest track on the circuit anyway, and coming back from a broken collarbone is always tough, but I just tried to survive, take my line smoothly and not pull any hero manoeuvres," said Atherton, whose sister Rachel, also a World Champion, won the elite women's downhill held just before the men's race. "I was trying to get down in one piece."

Atherton did just that and finished a respectable 23rd place in the race won by Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate). Sam Hill (Monster Energy) finished second followed by Atherton's brother and current World Champion, Gee.

"It was scary. It would have been good if my shoulder was hurting me because it would have reminded me to slow down, but it didn't hurt, and I had to keep telling myself to slow down because I'm not yet up to speed. I knew that if something had gone wrong, it was going to go wrong spectacularly."

After his crash in Italy, Atherton returned to England for surgery. He underwent a procedure using a laser to knit the broken bone back together and did not have any hardware installed.

"I'm not hurt; I'm happy," said Atherton, smiling after his final run.

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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