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Tour de France Cycling News for July 4, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones

Whitey gets going in his first Grand Boucle

By Anthony Tan in Les Essarts

When Cofidis' Matt White rolled down the start ramp in Fromentine on Saturday, the Tour de France finally began for him after years of bad luck. "Yeah mate, it's just a relief to get the ball rolling," he said to Cyclingnews before the start of the second stage in Challans.

In 2004, he was all set to take part in his first Tour, but Lady Luck wasn't shining on the Sydneysider, and a silly crash saw him exit the race with a broken collarbone just hours before the prologue. This year, 'Whitey' made it to the start house, finished the time trial and made it through a hectic first road stage from Challans to Les Essarts today.

However, the 31 year-old isn't looking at simply finishing his first Grand Boucle: "I didn't come here to finish - I came here to do something," he said. "I've been racing for a long time, and sure, it's the only event I haven't done, but I've done two Olympics, four Vueltas, three Giros, three Commonwealth Games... I'm not a neo-pro, mate!"

Neo-pro he certainly isn't - 2005 marks his 10th year as a professional - and while he's already completed the entire Giro d'Italia this year, White said he's feeling well recovered for his inaugural lap around France.

"Five weeks is plenty of time to recover. I did the teams time trial in Holland two weeks ago, but I think it's going to take me one or two days to settle into that rhythm," he said. "I haven't done too much stuff behind the motorbike or anything like that, but mate, it's a three-week Tour, and after the teams time trial [Stage 4], I think I'll be doing nicely."

Someone that's already doing very nicely is the maillot jaune of Dave Zabriskie. White said the American got a bit of help with the less breezy conditions at the start of the opening stage time trial, versus later that afternoon when all the GC favourites rode, but also admitted his performance didn't come as a shock. "Not a surprise for me," he said.

"I don't think many people including Dave would have thought he'd beat Armstrong, but mate, the guy won a time trial stage of the Giro, came second in the other [time trial] stage, came fourth in the world championships - he's a time trial specialist. He had a bit of help from the wind, but that's smart planning to put him off early."

Speaking of planning, is Whitey planning on pulling out any crazy 'cycling' accessories at Le Tour, such as the outrageous shades he wore on the rest day of this year's Giro d'Italia?

"I've got a few surprises to pull out, but it's a bit early for that... " he said with a grin.

Also see: S&M - The Stuart O'Grady & Matt White diary

Dumoulin crashes twice

The shortest rider in the peloton, Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) hasn't had the best of starts to his 2005 Tour. In Sunday's second stage he crashed twice, including a rather spectacular flip in the final kilometre which caused a split in the peloton.

"I'm hurting all over," he told L'Equipe. "Both elbows are injured. I'm bruised everywhere. I touched a wheel while leading Jean-Patrick Nazon in the sprint. I'm scared."

Dumoulin didn't finish the Tour last year after he hit a dog.

Lombardi on Zabriskie

CSC's 36 year old Giovanni Lombardi is one of the most experienced riders in the peloton and the Italian sprinter, who is in his 13th year as a pro rider told Cyclingnews about his perception of Zabriskie. "He's a really down to earth guy; very simpatico. Zabriskie has fit in really well with our team and I think he found people that want to see him do well on CSC. Me, David, Basso and Piil just did a training camp together in Tuscany and we really worked well together. He likes to joke around, but when he's on the bike he's a very serious professional."

An interview with Sean Kelly

King Kelly speaks Part I

As the Tour de France gets underway, a host of ex-professionals will be meeting up once more, reminiscing about old times while they check out the current wave of pros. As he has done for several years, Kelly will be on this year's Tour in his role as commentator for Eurosport. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes caught up with him recently to chat about his tips for the race, his impressions of the current pro scene and to reminisce at length about his own career.

Signing autographs still...
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
Click for larger image

Strolling around the Villages du Départ in the morning or heading to the press room after the race, your attention is grabbed by the number of familiar faces. It might take a second to filter out the effects of age and make the connection between Now and Then, how they look versus how they used to be, but being on the Tour provokes countless jolts to the memory. TV commentators, journalists, organisation staff, team managers, car drivers and publicity roles; the list of areas served by former champions is endless and far reaching.

One of the most recognisable faces is that of Sean Kelly, hard man extraordinaire. Over the course of his career he took many of the top prizes in the sport. At the Tour he landed five stage wins; a then-record four points jerseys, plus fourth, fifth seventh and ninth places overall. He took the 1988 Tour of Spain plus a staggering seven consecutive Paris-Nice races, and also won a range of Classics, including Milan San Remo, Paris Roubaix, the Tour of Lombardy and Liège-Bastogne-Liege.

Cyclingnews: Sean, first off what is your opinion of the way Lance Armstrong has been going in the run up to this year's Tour, in particular in the Dauphiné Libéré?

Sean Kelly: I think it is the same as last year...he is just coming into form at the right time. Looking at him in the Dauphiné, it seemed as if things were going perfectly in the right direction. For the Tour, I don't see at the moment who can beat him, unless we get a very good Ullrich.

Of course, Lance needs to arrive in form at just the right time. If he is in top shape early, he always has problems. We saw it a couple of years ago - when he was going very well in the Dauphiné, he had problems in the last week of the Tour. But he came into form at just the right time last year, and he was unbelievable right through the Tour.

Click here for the full interview

Merckx: Ullrich disappointing, Armstrong impressive

Lance vs. Jan
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Eddy Merckx is very disappointed in Jan Ullrich. "Ullrich is not capable of behaving as he should. Talent alone is not enough. If you don't work hard, you'll never make it to the top."

In an interview in the July 4 edition of the German Spiegel news magazine, Merckx predicted that Lance Armstrong will win the Tour again. "I think Armstrong is simply in better form. Plus, Lance is ending his career after the Tour and wants to go out as a winner."

When he first met Ullrich, Merckx said, he was sure that he was an immensely talented rider who could win the Tour more times than even the "the Cannibal" did. "I was sure of it, in light of his superiority...But he can't stand up to the pressure and most especially, he doesn't have the necessary motivation.

"Jan is a nice guy, but he doesn't have the overwhelming ambition of an Armstrong," he continued. "Jan started in cycling very young and from the beginning, the demands were very high. He had to win. But when you are confronted with the stress of competitive sports too early, you have to pay the price one day. Your psyche can't accept it any more, the hunger to win fades. Then either you stop or you make yourself comfortable. Like Jan. I can imagine that he said to himself, 'I'm a good enough cyclist, I may as well turn pro."' He doesn't have the passion for it - the sacrifices are too big for him."

Merckx started out impressed with Ullrich and now sees him more negatively, but his feelings for Armstrong have gone the opposite direction: "He was a young bull of a man, powerful, wild, too heavy for the big climbs, a typical rider for one-day races or flat stages. And he didn't live just for his sport. He liked to drink, and he didn't always eat right. There's nothing wrong with a beer or two, but he didn't always control himself. The cancer totally changed his whole life. Now everything he does is solely to contribute to his success."

He is sure that Armstrong will win the Tour again this year. The two made a short training ride together this spring, and Armstrong "repeatedly said, 'I'll give everything for the Tour one more time, then it's over.' It's perfectly clear for him that he will win. Since then, I am convinced that he will leave the stage as a champion."

Merckx rejects any comparisons between himself and Armstrong. "I was maybe the best in my time, as Lance is in his - nothing more."

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Oppy's Grand Tour

Oppy!
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Click for larger image

Oppy the Kangaroo, also known as the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under promotional vehicle in the Tour de France, has filed his first diary from France on the JCTDU official website:

"Today was the first road stage and a huge eye opener. The stage started in Challans and finished in Les Essarts, 181.5 gruelling kilometres - and that’s just from the car!

"I am used to hard work but was not quite prepared for the VERY long days and the constant change in the weather. A typical day involves departing from the hotel at 7.00 am, driving more than 100km to the race start, driving the next 200km of the race route and then on another 100km to the next hotel where we will bunk for the evening, It is safe to say tonight will be an early night - we have to pace ourselves so there is no exhaustion - how the riders perform so well over such distances is simply amazing.

Click here to read the full entry.

Ferretti frantic as Fassa sponsor search flops

By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Tours, France

For the first time in two decades, Giancarlo Ferretti isn't at the Tour de France with his team, instead, the 64 year-old Italian Fassa team manager is in his office in Lugo, Italy, working the phones to find a new sponsor to come on board to the tune of a three year, €30 million deal. Although recent reports have claimed that Giancarlo Ferretti had found a new sponsor to replace Fassa Bortolo for 2006, it looks like he's having little luck in finalising the deal.

Despite Ferretti's request to his riders to wait until the end of the Tour to sign elsewhere, some riders have already began the process of seeking a new squad for 2006. Marzio Bruseghin will likely go to Lampre, while classics man Juan Antonio Flecha is reportedly talking to Rabobank, Fabian Cancellara is looking at Discovery Channel as a possible new team, while Kim Kirchen likes Liquigas-Bianchi. Ferretti's jewel in the crown, super-sprinter Ale-Jet Petacchi is also shopping, and his entourage includes Ongarato, Velo, Sacchi and Tosatto, and the spendy price for the speedster and his leadout quartet is said to be €3 million. As Erik Zabel may either retire at the end of 2005, or move elsewhere, a logical and lucrative new home for Petacchi & Co could be global telecom giant T-Mobile, who have the deepest pockets in the peloton. But old man Ferretti may just pull a rabbit out of his hat.

"It seems like there may still be a probability I'll find a sponsor, but I don't have a lot of hope right now", lamented a somewhat hangdog Ferretti in an interview with L'Equipe Sunday.

Wauters with Rabobank for another year

During the Tour de France, Marc Wauters has reached an agreement with CEO Theo de Rooij of the Rabo Cycling Teams to extend his contract by a year. The two-time Belgian individual time trial champion will continue racing with Rabobank until the end of 2006, his last year in cycling. Earlier, Erik Dekker made the same decision over the continuation of his career with Rabobank.

For 'Iron Man' Marc Wauters, who is riding his 13th Tour de France, 2006 will be his 16th year as a professional rider. His final year will also be his ninth year with Rabobank.

In this year's Tour de France, Wauters is currently the best ranked Rabo rider. During the Tour de France in 2001 Wauters won the stage in Antwerp, Belgium and wore the yellow jersey the next day. In 1999, Wauters won the World Cup classic Paris - Tours, while 'Soldaat' ('Soldier' as he is nicknamed by his teammates) wore the national champion's jersey as the best Belgian time trialist in 2002 and 2003.

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