Latest Cycling News, July 28, 2008
Edited by Bjorn Haake
Unzúe analyses Valverde's Tour
By Shane Stokes
Heading in the Tour de France, many observers felt that there were two clear favourites. 2007 runner up Cadel Evans was one, of course, but so too was Dauphiné Libéré winner Alejandro Valverde. He'd shown strong form at select points of the season and sounded confident in the pre-race press conference.
Taking the first stage of the Tour and wearing yellow for several days seemed to confirm that standing. He finished second to Riccardo Riccò on the stage to Super Besse and although he was only 23rd in the stage four time trial, he headed into the Pyrenees in sixth place, just 1'12 behind then-race leader Kim Kirchen (Columbia).
Stage ten to Hautacam didn't go so well, though. He and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) were dropped prior to the final climb and never regained contact with the CSC-driven main group. Valverde finished 5'52 behind Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval – Scott), and conceded three minutes 35 seconds to eventual Tour winner Carlos Sastre (CSC).
The rest of the race saw something of a return to form, with the exception of the penultimate day time trial. He conceded a further 1'51 to Sastre there, finally ending the race 7'12 off yellow in ninth overall.
"This Tour gave us a mixture of glory and misery," said Caisse d'Epargne general manager Eusebio Unzúe. "We had very good moments with Alejandro Valverde and Luis León Sánchez's spectacular stage wins and the general behaviour of the team. We also had very hard moments, most of all when Oscar Pereiro crashed.
"Alejandro's crash was also very significant because from then on he has never again been the same rider as he was in the first stages. He suffered from some consequences [of that] which did not allow him to be at one hundred percent in some key moments."
That necessitated a chance in targets, according to Unzúe. "It is true that we started the race with the intention of fighting for the podium and that the time lost in Hautacam, in the Pyrenees, made us change our plans. From that moment on, we worked most of all to try to win one more stage.
"To win the Tour is something very complicated because it is absolutely necessary to show regularity every day during the three weeks, in the mountains as well as in the time trials. Alejandro was with the best in 80% of the mountain stages and his performance in the Alps has been very good, but he was too weak in the time trials. That put the podium out of our reach."
Sastre will get reception – after a few more races
As is traditionally the case for the Tour winner, this year Carlos Sastre, will not get much of a breather. Tonight he will start at the post Tour criterium in Aalst, Belgium. He then will continue his racing obligations in Holland before returning home to Spain. On Wednesday, July 30, he will finally get the reception he deserves. The mayor will greet him in El Barraco, Ávila, at 18:30.
Sastre will give his only press conference at that occasion. The busy Spaniard is scheduled to fly to Beijing in early August, where he will participate in the road race. Sastre wanted to have the press conference at home. "El Barraco is a place where I developed as a cyclist and as a person. I always enjoyed the warmth and the sincerity of the people."
After the press conference, there will be a banquet in the Plaza de la Constitución, open to the public.
Evans clear for Games
Cadel Evans has squashed rumours that he suffered an injury in Paris last night. Australian media had reported Evans slipped on a wet floor and injured his knee during a post Tour celebration. Initial reports said that Evans' participation at the Olympic Games in Beijing were in doubt.
Evans confirmed to Cycling Australia that nothing was to the story. "That's what it is – a rumour. I'm flying home to Italy today and when I get there, I'll take my take my dog Molly for a walk and then go for a ride. I've got a race in Belgium tomorrow [Tuesday] and after that I'll be getting ready for Beijing."
Evans had stumbled, but did not fall in the incident.
A Cycling Australia official put the speculation to rest after meeting Evans for breakfast in Paris. "He is walking on both legs. He slipped on the floor, apparently, but he's fine."
Evans is also set to race in a post-Tour criterium on Tuesday before joining his team-mates later this week at the pre-Beijing training camp in Varese, Italy.
Evans admitted he is still 'a bit sore' from the effects of a crash early in this year's Tour de France and from three weeks in the saddle covering three and a half thousand kilometres but says he believes the Tour is good preparation for Beijing.
"I think riders who haven't done the Tour probably won't be going as well as we who have," said Evans, who last year won the time trial at the Goodluck Beijing road cycling test event less than two weeks after the Tour de France.
His stumble mishap occurred at the traditional post-race soirée, which Evans attended with his wife Chiara and his mother Helen Cocks.
Why Evans couldn't win yesterday
Quite a few people were left wondering why champagne was given out before the race had ended. Why it was said after the time trial that the race was lost for Evans. And why Evans didn't attack the celebrating Danish team on Sunday. The answer is a mix of tradition and race tactics.
If the race would have been conducted just like any other stage, Evans would not have been able to make up time on Carlos Sastre – barring accident, of course. In flat stages it would have been very hard for Evans to get away, especially given the strength of the CSC-Saxo Bank team.
Even if Evans would have been a lot closer to Sastre in the overall standings a move may not have worked, due to the lack of time bonuses. There was no way CSC would have left Evans out of sight.
Tradition has it that after three weeks of racing those who survived to the final day celebrate a bit. Everybody has some fun, such as Samuel Dumoulin and Stéphane Augé, who swapped their bike helmets with the helmets from the L'Equipe crew on the motor bikes. The Cofidis duo then went by the bunch to make everyone laugh, including Evans.
Of course someone could use these moments to attack. It would make the rider as popular as someone attacking in the feed zone or during a nature break. And it can likely spoil the future of a career. If Evans would have done such a move, he would not have (m)any friends left in the peloton real soon.
After three weeks it just turned out that Sastre was the strongest, with the best squad. Evans finished runner-up and will undoubtedly be back next year to try again.
Bettini negotiates with wins
World Champion Paolo Bettini returned to his winning ways this week, scoring a stage victory in the Tour de Wallonie on Sunday, which he preceded with a victory in the Trofeo Matteotti. The defending Olympic champion proved that his form has returned after a winless season.
Bettini is at the end of his contract with the Belgian Quick Step squad, and team manager Patrick Lefevere was expecting the Italian to retire at the end of the season. But Bettini, who will head to Beijing to seek his second Olympic gold medal, may continue to race after all. Speaking after his win in Wallonie, Bettini said that he will give Lefevere the first right of refusal to renew his contract. "I have multiple offers, but I will talk with Patrick Lefevere first. We have been working together since 1999, and it would not be fair not to let him have the first try."
"I have had it in my wildest dreams to stop after winning two consecutive Olympic titles and three consecutive world titles on my palmarès. But one thing is for certain," said the Italian, "even if I do not race anymore I will remain in cycling."
Bettini will travel to China along with the Italian men's road team of Davide Rebellin, Damiano Cunego, Franco Pellizotti and Marzio Bruseghin for the road race on August 9.
Dekker and Rabobank confusion
By Susan Westemeyer
What is happening with Thomas Dekker and Team Rabobank? It depends on which Dutch news source you want to believe. The Volkskrant newspaper claimed that the 23 year-old is on the verge of leaving the team due to "a reciprocal lack of trust" after the UCI said that he may have "irregular blood values", and that attorneys for both sides are negotiating an end to his contract, which runs through 2010. However, team manager Harold Knebel this morning told the Dutch Radio 1 Journal that such was not the case.
Dekker's manager, Martijn Berkhout told Cyclingnews that Dekker would release a statement later on Monday. Berkhout showed himself confused by the situation. "The only reaction I can give is the fact that the Rabobank-management has not contacted Thomas Dekker in person since the Tour de Suisse," Berkhout told Cyclingnews. "So Thomas knows nothing. Nobody informed him, and now they come with this very strange article."
Rabobank did not respond to Cyclingnews' request for a comment.
The Volkskrant reported that Dekker was one of the 23 riders mentioned by the UCI in May who "warranted further scrutiny" because of unusual results in their testing profiles. The Rabobank sponsor has confirmed this, the newspaper said. In his radio remarks, Knebel did not deny this. "We received a signal before the Tour de Suisse, but couldn't draw any conclusions from it. We have an eye on things, and the UCI has confirmed to us that Thomas is eligible to start in all competitions."
Pineau to Quick Step
Jérôme Pineau will switch from Bouygues Telecom to Quick Step. Pineau signed a two-year contract with the team run by Patrick Lefévère. Pineau signed the deal a couple of days ahead of arriving at the Champs-Elysées. He admitted on his web blog, http://jpineau.blogs.velomagazine.fr/, that having a compatriot at his side made the decision easier. "It is true that not being the only French rider on the team is a big relief." Pineau will join Sylvain Chavanel, who also just signed a contract with the Belgian squad.
Like Chavanel, Pineau thinks the team's focus should help his style. "The essential reason that pushed me to sign with Quick Step is that it has transformed to a team that is almost exclusively doing racing that I really enjoy – the Classics. The three races in the Ardennes [Amstel, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège -ed.] make me dream. I hope to soak up the culture to win these races."
Pineau is expecting a lot from the move. "It's a new adventure and it is this year or never." Pineau explained the difficulty of getting contracts these days. "When Patrick Lefévère showed interest in me, I jumped at the opportunity."
Pineau emphasised the fact that nothing was wrong with his current team. "I am 28 years old, I had a great time with all the members at my team and with the staff. It is not a divorce. Rather, it is a good-bye." General Manager Jean-René Berneaudeau was sad and disappointed when hearing the news. "He understood my intention to go to where I needed to my abilities would fit in, even though for him I am like a child that leaves the house, the family."
Pineau really wants to thank the team for all it had done for him. "I would like to raise my hands in victory before I leave. That would be the nicest present I could give them."
Did keirin bribe its way into the Olympics?
Keirin has been part of the Olympic Games since 2000. Documents given to the BBC suggest that $3m (£1.5m) was paid by organisers of a Japanese cycling event to the Cycliste Internationale (UCI) - the world cycling body.
According to the BBC then-president Hein Verbruggen denied any wrong doing.
The payments were allegedly made in the 1990s. The event was supported for inclusion into the Games by the UCI, and admitted in December 1996.
Keirin is a big event in Japan and also involved a lot of money. Fans can bet on the riders like in horse racing.
In the 1980s keirin was added to the world track championships organised by the UCI. Set to be dropped from the Worlds after the 1992, keirin celebrated a remarkable turnaround. Four years later it was part of the Olympics.
With Japan having a lot of money from the money making keirin events, there is some question about how much influence Japanese officials took on the UCI.
Cyclingnews will have more on the story as it unfolds.
Tour of Britain unveils finish
The organisers of The Tour of Britain, run from September 7 through 14, unveiled the route of the eighth and final stage of this year's edition of the race. The peloton will cross England's Northwest to finish in the 2008 European Capital of Culture, Liverpool.
Tour of Britain Route Director Graham Jones explained his motives. "The final leg of The Tour of Britain is always an exciting stage and this year will be no different. We've got a great finishing circuit in the centre of Liverpool, which will allow fans to see the race several times. The run in to the city is very flat, so the peloton will be at top speed when they reach Liverpool, which is sure to make for a bunch sprint, a spectacular prospect for all the spectators who come down to the finish line."
Councillor Warren Bradley was happy with the announced final missing piece of the route. "Liverpool is honoured to be hosting the finale to the Tour of Britain.... The race finale is a unique sporting spectacle and I'm sure it will draw huge crowds and make for a great sporting occasion in the city. The fans can expect live sport at its best and the riders can expect a glorious welcome."
The riders will depart from Blackpool's Southern Promenade close to the Sandcastle for the final 110 kilometres (68 miles) of the race, hugging the coast of the Irish Sea through Lytham St Annes before heading inland up the Ribble Valley to Preston, where the race will cross the River Ribble.
From Preston the stage heads across the West Lancashire Coastal Plain to Southport for the first Hot Spot Sprint of the day on the seafront. The stage then continues via Formby to enter Liverpool through Crosby and Bootle.
Once in the European Capital of Culture, The Tour will complete six laps of a city centre based circuit, giving fans several opportunities to see the closing stages of the 2008 Tour of Britain.
The field will contest two Hot Spot Sprints at the finish line on The Strand, while the final three E.ON King of the Mountains climbs are located on Churchill Way at the top of the circuit.
With a circuit passing familiar landmarks like the Three Graces, the Town Hall and the Walker Art Gallery, it's sure to be a spectacular finish to the race, with plenty of opportunities for spectators to get a great view point.
The Northwest stage of the race is supported by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), which has been instrumental in securing the region's position on the Tour of Britain map since its successful re-launch in 2004.
Liverpool has a proud history of hosting stages of The Tour of Britain, having been a fixture on the races' calendar since 2006, when Great Britain's Roger Hammond took the win outside the Town Hall. In 2007 Liverpool hosted a stage start, as the riders set off from Sefton Park on their way north to Kendal for Stage Five of the race.
September 7, Stage 1 - London Circuit September 8, Stage 2 - Milton Keynes to Newbury September 9, Stage 3 - Chard to Burnham-on-Sea September 10, Stage 4 - Worcester to Stoke-on-Trent September 11, Stage 5 - Hull to Dalby Forest September 12, Stage 6 - Darlington to NewcastleGateshead September 13, Stage 7 - Glasgow Green to Dumfries & Galloway September 14, Stage 8 - Blackpool to Liverpool
Ullrich to ride for children's heart fund
Jan Ullrich is continuing his charity work for children and will ride the "Tour der Herzen" near Cologne, Germany, on August 17. The event raises funds for children with heart problems.
Ullrich is the father of two children, "and can understand that the parents of children with congenital heart defects need support," the race's press release said. "For Ullrich, who supports children's charities around the world, it was a clear thing to spontaneously accept."
The raised money will be donated to the cardiac station at the University Clinic Köln. A (minimum) start fee of 30 Euro will provide a financial base. Other donations will also be gratefully accepted.
More information is available under www.tour-der-herzen.de. (SW)
Last chance to win in the Cyclingnews-Felt TdF competition!
It's your final your chance to win some great prizes as the Cyclingnews-Felt Tour competition closes at midnight on July 28th, GMT. The competition features 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 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 (Overseas) Limited 2008)