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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, March 16, 2009

Edited by Sue George

Sánchez predicts Tour de France win is "impossible"

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

A happy Sánchez thanked his teammates
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
Sunday in the south of France, Luis León Sánchez achieved the goal he has pursued for the past three years: to win Paris-Nice.

"It's great, I've really moved one step forward in my cycling career," said last year's Tour de France stage seven winner.

Despite the possibility that comes with his Paris-Nice win, Sánchez ruled out the option that he might race for a win at the Tour de France.

"It's impossible. In the Caisse d'Epargne team, we all have our respective programs and goals well established. At the Tour de France, our captains will be Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro. I'll be there for the purpose of helping my teammates."

"In particular, the Tour de France is Valverde's only goal for this year, and I'll gear up exclusively for that."

Should Valverde's chances be compromised for any reason, Sánchez offered a second explanation why a Tour de France win is not an option for him. "It's almost impossible to beat the Astana team. Its riders will have all the responsibility of the race on their shoulders."

That doesn't mean he'll never get the chance to beat his good friend Alberto Contador, who was loyal enough to warn buddy Sánchez that he would attack him during the final stage of Paris-Nice.

"Within two or three years, I hope I'll fight for the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, too."

Some have drawn analogies between Sánchez and Miguel Indurain, the five-time Spanish winner of the Tour de France. Indurain collected a win in Paris-Nice at age 25 on the way to what would be his first Tour de France win at age 27.

"I'm proud to be compared to him, but winning Paris-Nice like him doesn't mean I'll achieve everything he did after that," said Sánchez. "I'd be more than happy with one Tour de France win. I can only promise that I'll work hard to get more results."

After his triumph at Paris-Nice, Sánchez will stay on the French Riviera for a recovery period, and then he'll prepare for Milano-Sanremo with Oscar Pereiro. After the Vuelta a País Vasco, he'll take a month and a half off racing before resuming again at the Dauphiné Libéré in June.

Contador wins over French fans

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Alberto Contador on the final stage at Paris-Nice
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
In one week of racing during Paris-Nice, Alberto Contador conquered the hearts of French cycling fans who had remained skeptical about him. He made the 2009 edition of Paris-Nice a fabulous race to watch until the end.

Contador tried to win the final stage to Nice even when he knew the leading trio's gap wasn't enough to dethrone Luis León Sánchez for the overall and as he realized he wasn't as fast and powerful on the flat Promenade des Anglais as his compatriot Antonio Colom, a teammate last year who subsequently moved to the Russian Katusha team.

Contador was once linked to Operación Puerto before his name was later cleared. He also won the 2007 Tour de France as a member of Team Discovery Channel – not the most popular team in France after it had helped the then-retired Lance Armstrong to seven total Tour de France wins.

"It's well known that French people don't like the greatest winners," said Astana's directeur sportif Alain Gallopin, a Frenchman himself, after the last stage of Paris-Nice. He rated his protégé Contador as "the moral victor of Paris-Nice", considering his performances.

Contador himself wasn't bothered by finishing fourth place overall after the finish in Nice. He had held the leader's yellow jersey for a time during the race which it seemed quite likely he would win before he lost time after bonking on Saturday's stage seven.

"I'm very happy with this Paris-Nice," said Spain's Contador. "Before the last stage, I told my team I wanted to try something. I had nothing to lose. I prefer attacking than staying in the bunch like everybody. I come out of Paris-Nice with a good feeling. I've won the key stages. Everything is going well."

Contador's message was a serene reaction to the comments of his teammate Armstrong and manager Johan Bruyneel.

"Amazing talent but still a lot to learn," Armstrong had written of Contador on Twitter.

"What else is there to say than he didn't race intelligently? He only had to look after Sánchez," Astana's team manager had told L'Equipe.

Astana's directeur sportif Gallopin adopted a position the closest to that of Contador. "These are positive criticisms," he said. "It's true that Alberto is still a young rider with some weaknesses. Clearly the absence of Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner cost us the victory.

"But what Alberto did this week is worth more than another win at Paris-Nice. He has showed what he's able to do. He's got panache. He likes what he does. He's naturally an attacker. He has won the heart of the people. He hadn't ridden in France in a year and a half, but now everybody knows he's a beautiful champion."

"We haven't won Paris-Nice, but in the car behind him, I've realized how much the fans cheer for him now. We have produced a great piece of cycling this week. Had we won Paris-Nice, we would have attracted more criticism."

Contador will return to France for the Dauphiné without his teammate Armstrong, who has chosen a different program that will put him in France for his first race this season at the Tour de France.

No penalty for Chavanel despite offense

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Sylvain Chavanel kept his green jersey
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)
Quick Step's directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters was fined 200 Swiss francs for irregular feeding but it wasn't for what everyone saw on TV. Earlier in the race, Peeters had already broken the rules when he fed Jérôme Pineau. Then on the downhill of the col d'Èze, Peeters gave his rider Sylvain Chavanel a bottle although there were only five kilometres remaining. Feeding is prohibited inside the final 20 kilometres.

Peeters also tried to shelter Chavanel behind his car after a bike change, but the commissaires were prompt to tell him to stop cheating. In a meeting after the race, they decided not to punish the French racer because he had been left with no bottle on his new bike, a change he made as a result of a crash earlier at the beginning of the downhill. A 20-second penalty would have demoted him from the final podium.

As he stepped onto the stage to claim the green jersey of the points classification winner, Chavanel was bleeding from his hand.

"The road was slippery, and I couldn't avoid crashing," he said. "My chain was blocked after that, and that's why I had to change my bike.

"I took a lot of risks to save my third place on the GC."

Quick Step takes two jerseys home from Nice

Chavanel follows his teammate Seeldraeyers
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)
Team Quick Step left Nice happy after the final 119km stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday. Sylvain Chavanel and Kevin Seeldraeyers defended two leaders' jerseys. Chavanel took home the green points jersey and finished third overall while Seeldraeyers claimed the title of best young rider after he finished seventh overall.

Despite a crash with about 15 km to go, Chavanel took third position in the general standings and won the points classification ahead of Alberto Contador and Antonio Colom.

"In today's stage I lost the overall second place," said Chavanel after the finish, "but I can't be disappointed. It's my best Paris-Nice ever. I won the white jersey in this race in 2003, and this year the green one, and I took third place on the podium with a stage victory. What more can I ask for?"

"It was not easy," said the 22-year-old Belgian Seeldraeyers of his race. "The stage was hard and now I have to say that I'm really tired, however satisfied!

"It was my first Paris-Nice and also the first best young rider jersey of my career. I'm very proud of it."

The Quick Step team finished fifth overall.

Monfort impressed by Paris-Nice level of racing

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Maxime Monfort (Team Columbia-Highroad)
Photo ©: JF Quénet
(Click for larger image)

Team Columbia's Maxime Monfort was not surprised by the attack of Team Astana's Alberto Contador during the final stage of Paris-Nice, but he was generally surprised by the high level of racing throughout the week. He was also amazed to watch "the lack of reaction as other riders let Contador go."

"It was a terrible race," said Monfort, who was not happy with his performance of 12th on the final day and 12th overall. "Had I had a good day on Friday, I would have climbed the Montagne de Lure two minutes faster and that would have put me in ninth position, which was still far from my target of being in the top-five."

Monfort's state of fatigue at the end of the week-long race on the Promenade des Anglais illustrated just how competitive Paris-Nice was this year. In 2008, Monfort's race experience was quite different; he finished the race with a second place in the final stage behind Luis León Sánchez and a 14th place overall.

"One week ago, I thought I would race better than that, but it wasn't possible to do what I expected this year. I was only able to follow."

"The level of this Paris-Nice was very high," he said, but he did note the level of each race varies from year to year. "I'm not disappointed about this year. It was just how it was."

Kreuziger sidelined with tendonitis

By Jean-François Quénet in Nice

Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger
Photo ©: Christophe Mury
(Click for larger image)
Roman Kreuziger was one of the 25 riders who pulled out of Paris-Nice during the final stage. He cited an injury as the reason.

"One of the tendons in my knee was inflamed, and I will need about three days of total rest before I can start again," he told Cyclingnews.

"I'm sad about that, but the season is long and far from over." Kreuziger, a Czech rider with the Liquigas team, was impressive inside the early breakaway on Saturday's stage prior to Luis León Sánchez's decisive attack that took him to both a stage and an overall win.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the final stage of Paris-Nice.

Klöden's time trial victory propels him into overall lead

By Bjorn Haake

The German won the time trial
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Andreas Klöden (Astana) took over the lead in Tirreno-Adriatico with a dominating performance in the 30-kilometre stage five time trial to Macerata. With his time of 41:32 he beat his closest rivals, Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-Highroad) by over 20 seconds. Lövkvist is now second overall, just six seconds back, ahead of Michele Scarponi (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) in third, at 21 seconds and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) at 41 seconds.

An exhausted Klöden was quite happy at the finish. "This was a nice time trial for me. The parcours was for me with lots of up and down and a flat part in the middle.

"On purpose I started very fast. I had the best time at the first time split which was good for my confidence. At the second time split I was second, but had a better time than my competitors for the general classification. It gave me a boost and extra forces to tackle the difficult climb at 4km from the finish. The finish was hard.

"I was a bit uncertain because of three crashes in the last two days, but my condition is so good that it didn't  prevent me from performing very well. I really worked hard to be good in this race. I succeeded."

Klöden was pensive about Monday's queen stage. "We'll see, it's a long and hard stage. Lövkvist is a good rider, who has a good team."

Tirreno-Adriatico finishes on Tuesday. Monday's stage will feature is a tough and long 235km stage, between Civitanove Marche and Camerino and with two classified mountains.

"A few days ago we lost Jani Brajkovic after a crash, but I have big confidence in my other teammates. It will be hard but we will defend this leader's jersey," said Klöden.

Ballan withdraws from Tirreno-Adriatico

World Champion Alessandro Ballan withdrew from Tirreno-Adriatico before stage five. Ballan and the Lampre-NGC staff decided he should withdraw since he was still suffering from a virus that he caught last weekend.

"During the race, I've been tired and could not rest properly," said Ballan. "I prefer to train in a quiet way and to have the necessary rest time. It would have been great to realize good performances in Tirreno-Adriatico.

"I'm sorry to quit the race, but I think it's the best solution in view of Milano-Sanremo and the Northern Classics."

Ballan had plans to do light training on Sunday morning before heading home.

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage five of the Tirreno-Adriatico.

Rock Racing makes Iberian tour

By Gregor Brown

Mancebo at the Tour of California.
Photo ©: Emory Ball
(Click for larger image)
Team Rock Racing is will race on the Iberian Peninsula for the first time in the coming weeks. The first race of the American team will be the Vuelta a Castilla y León stage race from March 23 to 27 in Spain.

"Tyler Hamilton will be there. In Mexico's Telmex Tour he did a lot of work for the team despite having bronchitis. He is going to beat Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador," predicted Directeur Sportif Rudy Pevenage to Cyclingnews.

Team owner Michael Ball gave Pevenage the OK to take the team to Castilla y León. Hamilton arrives on the 18th and will stay at Sevilla's home in Albacete with Victor Hugo Peña and Fred Rodriguez.

The team for the race will include Hamilton, Peña, Sevilla, Rodriguez, José Enrique Gutierrez, Francisco Mancebo, David Vitoria, David Martín Velasco and Glen Chadwick. [Pevenage will cut one rider prior to the race. - ed.]

"'Paco' Mancebo is coming back for Castilla y León; it is home race. Even though he broke his hand in California he is OK to come back."

Mancebo won stage one of the Tour of California in Santa Rosa. Six days later, when he was the leader of the mountain's classification, he crashed on a descent.

Pevenage will take most of the same riders to the one-day Gran Premio Llodio, two days after Castilla y León. After Spain, the team will travel to Portugal to race the Volta ao Alentejo em Bicicleta stage race from April 1 to 5.

Spaniard Contador won the Castilla y León in 2008. This year's race will be the first opportunity for team Astana's Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong to race together prior to the Tour de France.

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