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Tour de France Cycling News for July 26, 2005

Edited by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

Vinokourov to Liberty Seguros

Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile)
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Liberty Seguros-Würth has signed Alexandre Vinokourov for next three seasons, the team announced today, ending a great deal of speculation about the Kazakh champion's future. Vinokourov will also be bringing Sergei Yakovlev with him to Liberty from T-Mobile.

Team manager Manolo Saiz was interested in Vino "...for his competitiveness and his leadership capacity, especially in the Tour de France, but not only that. Besides, throughout his career, he has demonstrated a mentality that coincides perfectly with that of my team. Vinokourov, besides a leader, will be a teacher for the youngsters in the next three years.

"Together with Roberto Heras, he will form a good tandem that will allow us to have enough leeway not to pressure the youngest riders, who will have to rest in future. Vinokourov does not come to substitute anybody, but to complement and strengthen Liberty Seguros-Würth both in the grand tours and in the classics, another area where he has demonstrated that he is a master."

Heras weighs up Tour disappointment

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)
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Roberto Heras was hoping for a strong ride in the Tour de France but instead was unable to approach anything like his top form. The climbing legs which carried him to three wins in the Vuelta a España and some fine performances in previous Tours were absent, leaving him to struggle on to finish 45th in Paris.

Although it was a big disappointment to realise that he wouldn't be a factor in the Tour, the strong motivation within the Liberty Seguros camp ensured he continued in the race. "My experiences in this year's Tour were not very good in terms of my personal expectations," he said, "But as far as the team goes, it has been great. We have been able to maintain a good group level and that pleases me, even if I haven't been satisfied with how I was going myself."

"Despite my being unable to ride for the general classification I finished the race, unlike 2004. The difference this year is that we have maintained a good team spirit and for that reason, there was no moment when I considered pulling out. Finishing the Tour is also a good way to prepare for the Vuelta a España, because the efforts made in this final week will serve me well in the future. So that was a factor, and so too the fact that I am a professional...for that reason I wanted to complete what I had begun."

In the early days of the Tour, Heras believed he was on course for a good ride. "Until the stage to Courchevel I felt very well and I had great hope for the mountain stages. I was optimistic until then, but on Courchevel things turned out badly for me. The situation didn't improve the next day on the Madeleine, either. I was better on the Marie Blanque and the Col d'Aubisque, but on the previous day I didn't feel good. One day things worked, the next day they didn't."

"It disappoints me that once again I have not reached the level that I wanted. But, looking towards the future, it won't have a lasting effect because I am convinced that you learn a lot from bad moments in life."

In line with that philosophy, Heras is already looking towards his next goal, turning things around for the Vuelta. He's shone there on many occasions, most recently when he equalled Tony Rominger's record of three overall victories in 2004. The Spanish climber now has a chance to go one better. "The record is an incentive, all right," he states, "But the true motivation for me is simply to be first once more."

"I think the Tour will serve as good preparation. Already I have begun to think about the Vuelta and every day it is getting closer. My objective now is to recover over the next few days and then to begin to my preparation. What happened in the Tour will not affect me, because in the same way that everything before the Tour does not count in July, I think it will be the same with for the Vuelta. At the Tour of Spain, I will set the counters to zero, because how things went a few weeks before is not going to affect my performance there."

Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros)
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When Heras is asked how the Vuelta suits his style better, he explains that there are several differences between the two races. "In order to really understand the variation, it is necessary to be first a rider and then to do both," he states. "But the two races have things about them which are very different. The pressure, the teams that take part and the mountains are an example. But it is necessary to experience the race from the inside to really understand what I'm talking about."

The fact that Heras tends to be in better form in the Vuelta than in the Tour means that next year, the team may try something different. During the Tour de France, Manolo Saiz said that his star rider may take part in the Giro in 2006, in the hope that he will come into top form for July.

"The thinking is based upon my experiences of the last few years, in which I have not been able to perform well in the first big tour, but do a very good second one," he elaborates. "I am better after making a first big effort. At the moment nothing is decided, but we will see next year. The Giro is a great race; I liked it very much in 1999, the year that I took part. It is not as intense as the Tour in its first ten days, and it has some very tough mountains that I like."

On the subject of the Tour, Heras feels that the retirement of Armstrong does not really mark the end of an era, because the others from his generation will continue. "But it is true that with him not racing any more, a very important chapter has closed," he says.

"It is going to motivate people, now that he has gone, but more so those who finished on the podium in recent years. Basso, Ullrich or Vinokourov. I was only fifth in 2000, so it's probably going to have a bigger effect on them."

"As regards my own desire to go back to the Tour, I will see next year. It is necessary to think about these things with a clear head during the winter. For now, it is too soon to say if I have a desire or not to go back to the race...we will see."

T-Mobile team satisfied

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With a third place for Jan Ullrich, victory in the team classification and a final day stage victory by Alexandre Vinokourov on the Champs Elysées, T-Mobile summed up its Tour performance as satisfying. "We missed out on our goal of winning yellow, but the bottom line is that we are pleased with our Tour performance," said team manager Olaf Ludwig. "The team stayed together, showed a fighting spirit and kept a high morale. We can be proud of that."

For the seventh time, Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) defied T-Mobile and every other team in the peloton to win the biggest bike race in the world. "Lance was imperious again this year," said sporting director, Mario Kummer.

In the mountains, T-Mobile Team isolated Armstrong from his team on a number of occasions, but that wasn't enough to overcome the Texan. "All the favourites had bad days and let their performance drop, except for Lance," said Ludwig, who said that T-Mobile would look at its performance this year. "We got closer to Lance Armstrong than in 2004. We have made clear progress this year, now we have to carefully assess what we need to do to further advance our performances."

For the T-Mobile captain, Jan Ullrich, who went into the event with such high ambitions, the Tour started inauspiciously. One day before the start in Fromentine, the 31-old crashed through the back windscreen of a team car during a motor-pacing session. It didn't help him on the next day, when Lance Armstrong passed him on the stage one time trial.

Ullrich maintained that that incident or his second crash on stage 10 to Mulhouse get him down. "Jan picked himself up, attacked and battled to the bitter end." On stage 18 the T-Mobile rider made up 37 seconds on the third placed rider overall, Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) of Denmark, thus paving the way for his final assault on a podium place. He realised that goal in the final time trial in St. Etienne, where he stormed to second behind Armstrong. "My third place is thanks to a team that kept on attacking and always stayed on the offensive," said Ullrich, who was perhaps at his most aggressive in this year's Tour.

With the teams classification, three stage wins, three second places and three third places, T-Mobile's Kummer assessed, "Together with Discovery, we dominated this Tour."

There was Vinokourov's failure on the stage to Courchevel, followed by his impressive stage win in Briançon. The team also lost Andreas Klöden following stage 17 to a wrist fracture. "The team showed great moral courage. Each rider performed his role perfectly," said Olaf Ludwig. "[Stephan Schreck] contributed positively to the team cause, both through his support work and his engaging personality. [The others] all contributed in their own way to a harmonious and cohesive team performance."

Finally, Ludwig said that it will be impossible Alexandre Vinokourov when he leaves the team for Liberty Seguros after this season. However, he has high hopes for Michael Rogers and Patrik Sinkewitz, who will ride for the magenta team next year. "These engagements are all about looking ahead," finished Ludwig.

Hushovd writes Norwegian history

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
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Thor Hushovd, Crédit Agricole's strongman, wrote history by being the first Norwegian cyclist to win the green points jersey in the Tour de France.

"I don't care about not getting a stage win in the Tour," said Hushovd. "It's important to me that I'm writing some history in my own country. Never before a Norwegian rider was on the final podium of the Tour de France. In Norway, I've helped to make cycling popular and I'm in the top five of most popular athletes, with, for example, rally pilot Solberg and skier Björndalen.

"From now on, I want to win green every year!"

Father Per (55) and mum Unni (53) followed their son around France in a camper. Mother Unni was even cooking, as Thor isn't particularly fond of French cuisine.

"I get fed up with all that pasta," said Hushovd. "Most of the time I'll leave the diner table still hungry. Now and then I ask mum to make me some solid Norwegian meals. She always put a delicious cream sauce with it. Kjöttkaker is one of my favourites. That are meatballs with potato flower and fried onions and boiled potatoes."

That beats overcooked haricots verts and boiled chicken.

Untitled Document

The Tour de France of give-aways and competitions

Don't miss out at Tour time!

Resident freebies expert, Rufus Staffordshire, sniffs out some competitions where up to $1 million in prizes are on offer as manufacturers clamber for your eyeballs. Woof!

Lucky 7 Sweepstakes'
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The Tour de France is not only a reasonably popular bike race, ahem, it's also a great opportunity to win an incredible range of prizes and competitions on offer from manufacturers, publishers and distributors.

Many of our sponsors are offering Cyclingnews readers a schwag-fest of give-aways during the lap-around-France. The prizes on offer range from Volkswagens and vaccuum cleaners through to trips to Paris for the 2006 TdF, as well as actual kit being ridden by top pros in the Tour - including top bikes from Trek, Cervelo, and Avanti.

So that you don't have to go hunting around the Internet for all these goodies, we've assembled the Cyclingnews complete guide to Tour freebies and competitions.

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