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Tour News for July 24
Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto, 1st stage)
"I had staked a lot on the prologue in Dunkirk. Unfortunately, a week before the start, I was hit by a car and that upset my preparation. I had a cranial trauma which gave me violent migraines for three days."
"In the mountains, I saved myself for now. I thought only of that; I already missed the victory by a small margin in Strasbourg."
"I can't choose my best win between La Fleche Wallone and this stage. Over there, I was in front of my fans while here, I was noticed by the whole world."
Marco Pinotti (Lampre, 2nd stage)
"I did not know anything about Verbrugghe. I was unaware that he was coming up so quickly. It was my fault, I should have been wary. What I was really scared of was the group catching me."
Nico Mattan (Cofidis, 5th stage)
"I rode in the group for the first hour to find the right attack. When I saw the composition of the break, I told myself that it was necessary to watch Petacchi, who was the fastest in the sprint."
"He came to chat with me when the other two had escaped. He asked me to ride, but I did not want to bring him home in an armchair."
"I was wearing my old shoes that I used in the Classics. That gave me confidence."
Pascal Lino (Festina, 16th stage)
"It was a poker game. I tried in the finale, but there was a descent which did not suit me."
Erik Dekker (Rabobank, 17th stage)
"I was especially trying to help Boogerd. He felt very good. It could have been his day because, since the start, he has not had much freedom".
Laurent Brochard (Jean Delatour, 23rd stage)
"It is obvious that this course was perfect for me. I had enormous pressure; I didn't have a lot of strength. With three riders, we tried to play our cards with Gilles Bouvard."
"There is still tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. I missed success today. Since the beginning of the Tour, the whole team has worked hard, we are always on the attack, it is good. It is a good experiment for the years to come".
Laurent Jalabert (CSC, 63rd stage)
"The first part of the stage was very fast until the break went. I was one of the riders wishing to be a part of it."
"I am feeling better than after the last rest day. I hope to show myself again soon. It can be tomorrow. It can be any time. The 6th place of Nicolas (Jalabert) was a good performance. There were 23 in front, he could have come 23rd."
Winner's profile: Rik Verbrugghe
Wins in the Critérium International, La Fleche Wallone and the prologue of the Giro d'Italia this year have elevated Rik Verbrugghe to another level in the professional peloton. The recently turned 27 year old added another prestigious prize to his palmares today by taking the 15th stage of the Tour de France, from Pau to Lavaur.
His results have put him in a strong bargaining position with his Lotto team, his contract runs out at the end of the year, and he has received several offers from other teams. For example, ONCE want him for three years, and other Spanish teams are also interested.
"I have received some very nice proposals," he said today. "I am a rider with ambition, who wants to progress further. I will give my priority to Lotto. We must discuss things, but this time discuss seriously."
He is married to Valérie, and has a two year old daughter Daphné, both of whom were present to see his triumph today. He lives in Chaudfontaine, near Liège, and speaks both French and Flemish. His younger brother Ief, is also a professional rider in Lotto.
Johan Bruyneel interview
Cyclingnews spoke with the man behind Lance Armstrong, or if you prefer, the man in his ear, as US Postal's directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel chatted in the Village Depart this morning before the long stage from Pau to Lavaur.
CN: How do you feel about having accomplished your goal?
JB: "Well the goal isn't quite accomplished yet. Everything is looking good, but there's still one week of racing to go."
CN: How do you plan to defend the yellow jersey? In the past you haven't used the classic strategy to close down all gaps.
JB: "Well it's difficult. We're going to defend the advantage we have, but it's better to let groups go sometimes. Our goal is to keep the team together. Not to put people in a break."
"In the last week there are other interests in the Tour. The green jersey, the team GC. Riders looking for [a position on GC] between 5th-10th place. The key is deciding which break to let go and which to chase."
CN: What about your decision to bring on board three new riders (Roberto Heras, José Luis Rubiera, Victor Hugo Peña)?
JB: "Of course there was some controversy, some criticism, some questions. This year there were a lot of questions about Rubiera. He was injured in the Bizikleta Vasca this year. We decided to let him take it easy and focus on the Tour de France as his main objective. When things got hard during the first weeks of the Tour, he would ease off, but he showed himself first in the time trial, then came good in the mountains."
CN: Johan Museeuw told us that he considers you one of the most intelligent team directors in the business. You learned a lot from Manolo Saiz (ONCE director)
JB: "Oh I've learned a lot from everybody I've worked with good and bad, I tried to pick up the good things."
Jalabert secures KOM jersey
During today's 15th stage, Laurent Jalabert (CSC) managed to secure his polka dotted jersey of Best Mountain Climber, which we won with his long escape during stage 13. Jalabert, with 257 points, leads Jan Ullrich (211 points) and Lance Armstrong (195 points), and even if one of these riders wins every mountain sprint from now until Paris, they will only gain 35 more points - not enough to overtake the combative Jalabert.
Jalabert won the green jersey of best sprinter in 1992 and 1995, and will - provided he finishes the race - become the only rider other than Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault to win both points and mountains jerseys in the Tour de France.
This morning before the start of stage 15, Cyclingnews spoke with several riders from the Telekom team, who now have a chance to refocus their energies for a final stab at a stage win and/or the green jersey.
Green jersey candidate Erik Zabel said "I'm feeling better now that the mountains are over. And I'm going to go for the green jersey. But it's going to be hard with O'Grady and the entire Credit Agricole team."
We questioned the always aggressive (on the bike) Alexandre Vinokourov on his chances of a stage win. "We'll see. I'm still tired from the mountains."
Finally, how about Udo "Ironman" Bölts: "I'm feeling good. Tired but feeling good."
Are you going to try anything more? "No we're finished," he said.
Fassa Bortolo's aims
We spoke with Fassa Bortolo's Fabio Baldato before the start today, and he gave us the run down of the team and its performance so far. Firstly, what were you doing in that break in the mountains the other day?
"The break started in the flats but I kept going after I was dropped on the first climb," said Baldato. "I wasn't trying to win the stage. The next day it worked b/c I felt better on the road to Luz Ardiden."
"Fassa Bortolo has had a lot of bad luck on this Tour: Casagrande's abandonment, Ivan Basso's crash (a second broken bone in his right hand was diagnosed), Serguei Ivanov was crashed out by a photographer, (and broke his left collarbone). All we have left was Belli, who finished second in stage 14."
What are your plans for stage wins? "Myself, [Matteo] Tosatto and [Oscar] Pozzi, and as we get closer to Paris I'll be leading out Petacchi for the sprints."
The Vaughters jinx continues
Credit Agricole's Jonathan Vaughters has been forced to abandon his third Tour de France in three starts, after he was stung on the right eye by a wasp during the rest day in Pau yesterday. At the start this morning, his eye was swollen shut, after he was not allowed to treat the sting with anti-inflammatory cortisone, due to UCI medical restrictions (he hadn't declared cortisone at the start of the race).
"I hope I can make it to the finish," he told Cyclingnews this morning, but only lasted 10 kilometres before he abandoned the race.
Doctors in Pau had told him that a corticoid treatment would have alleviated the symptoms in a few hours, but Vaughters had to obey the anti-doping regulations and use a slower acting treatment. He will be OK within three to four days, by which time the Tour will have nearly reached Paris.
Roger Legeay (CA director) commented that: "The rules are clear. This rule, which is identical to the Olympic anti-doping code, stipulates that the use of corticoids is tolerated provided that it has 'a medical justification', that the application is 'local' and that, in injections they are also 'local'."
"In Vaughters' case, a treatment could only be considered in a general way (oral or intravenous) and not local. He could therefore not resort to it under penalty of controlling positive."
"But, we are within the case-type of therapeutic justification, and not at all within the umbrella of doping or of performance enhancement.
Corticoid traces found in half of urine tests
Eight of the sixteen urine samples taken at the end of stages 13 and 14 in the Pyrenees have been found to contain traces of corticosteroids, a restricted substance on the UCI's list. This information will be published by Le Monde newspaper in Wednesday's edition, spoken by Anti-Doping Council (CPLD) president, Michel Boyon.
None of the controlled riders will be declared positive, because they had prior authorisation to use corticosteroids for "therapeutic justification." Unfortunately, Jonathan Vaughters (see separate item) had not declared corticoids at the start of the Tour, and subsequently had to abandon after he couldn't treat a wasp sting with them.
"The controls taken after these two stages reveal the following facts: one out of eight positive on one of the stages, and seven out of eight on the other," said Boyon to Le Monde. "In the CPLD, we are convinced that in 95% of the cases of therapeutic corticoid justification, there is a medical alternative."