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Cycling News Extra for July 6, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

An interview with Robbie McEwen

Keeping it in the family

"The secret of my win today might be the fact that yesterday we had a great evening in our hotel near Ličge. Everybody's family and friends came over for the night. We were like a big family, because there were more than 60 people over there.<

"I think it has boosted the morale of everybody in the team. The fact that our team bus is damaged again can't take that away," smiled McEwen after his tenth Tour de France stage win, intent on keeping the green jersey in the Davitamon-Lotto family. Brecht Decaluwé reports from Saint-Quentin.

Robbie McEwen does it again
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Q: It was remarkable to see how convincingly you won. Did you feel so strong, or were the others showing weaknesses?

Robbie McEwen: I saw in the road book that this finish suited me perfectly to my characteristics as a sprinter, being slightly uphill and with a slight corner to the left with 200 metres to go. I had a tactic in my head already since last Wednesday for this sprint.

I told Steegmans what we would gonna do with about 100km to go. I told him just to keep listening to me, and just wait for me to give him the signal. He almost took off too early, but I got him back on the rails.

We waited until 450 meters to go and from then we came out of the wheels. We went flat out, and imagined that the finish line was at 200 meters to go. He did exactly to the letter what I said. It made it simple for me, but I didn't dare to look around. Now I saw on TV that there was nobody in the neighbourhood. I want to dedicate this victory to Freddy [Rodriguez], who had to abandon yesterday.

Click here for the full interview

Wiggins almost wiggles out a win

By Brecht Decaluwé in Saint-Quentin

Bradley Wiggins was in the most important breakaway of the day. From kilometre 18 until two kilometres from the finish, he was in the break with four other guys. Mengin, Lefčvre, Coutouly and Martinez de Esteban were his compatriots on the road.

"I knew we would never stay away. It would be a matter of time before Quickstep brought us back although it surprised me that we were caught that late," Wiggins told Cyclingnews.

There were some attacks in the last few kilometres, but Wiggins didn't interfere in them: "Typically, the French rider played some cinema by attacking in the final. Maybe if we stayed together we could have made it to the finish. We were holding well at 0'45 as five, but then the French guy decided to attack. I hesitated a little bit with Mengin, and once it was 60 meters we decided to let ourselves get caught."

The collaboration in the breakaway looked alright, but maybe Wiggins felt something else: "Unfortunately for the break, Egoi Martinez de Esteban was there; he wasn't too far away in the GC. He always took the bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints, so probably Quick.Step didn't want to take any risks with him.

"If he wouldn't have been there, maybe we would have gotten nine or ten minutes. We realised that when we were held at four minutes we would never make it to the finish. In the end, I'm happy that I could show myself today."

One wouldn't have expected to see Cofidis send their specialist for the time trial into the attack, as this Saturday brings the first long individual time trial, but Wiggins said "it was the plan with the team this morning to be in the break.

"I shouldn't spare my energy for the time trial of Saturday because I don't have a chance in a big race like this. I'll go flat out, but normally it will be too hard for me. The prologue was alright, although the second half was better for me than the first half," he said.

Third top ten finish for Eisel

Française des Jeux.com's Bernhard Eisel wasn't expecting to do much when he learned he was being nominated to the Tour de France team, but things haven't turned out the way he expected. Wednesday's fourth stage saw the third top ten finish for the Austrian sprinter. "Today was my day, I had great legs," he said.

With 400 meters to go, he was behind Thor Hushovd, whose teammate Julian Dean crashed. "Naturally we all had to avoid him, and Thor forced me over to the left side. I just barely missed the barricade. At that point I had the large gear going and had to do a full brake. So of course I couldn't get back into it. I think I could have had a place in the top five today. Too bad!"

Later it was announced that Hushovd was relegated for cutting Eisel off, Eisel noted that he had not protested the Norwegian's actions. "A fine is ok. He can afford it. Thor Hushovd is fighting for the green jersey. I don't want him to have any problems or lose any points because of me. So that's why i didn't protest," he told Cyclingnews. But Hushovd did lose his position in the end, and a valuable 24 points.

Valverde wants to come back for the Vuelta

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears rider Alejandro Valverde arrived at Valencia airport from Brussels today. He was then drive back home to Murcia accompanied by his wife, Ángela, and the Caisse d'Epargne manager, José Miguel Echávarri. Valverde was examined in Murcia's La Vega hospital, where Dr. José Luis Martínez Romero confirmed the broken collarbone diagnosis of the University Hospital in Maastricht.

Valverde gave permission to be operated on in order to come back to competition as soon as possible. "I am already thinking of my next competitions," said Valverde. Speaking after the end of the Tour's fourth stage in Saint Quentin, Valverde's director, Eusebio Únzue, agreed with José Miguel Echávarri: "We all know that Valverde wants very much to return to competition, but we need a certain guarantee of success before thinking of the Vuelta. Therefore, once recovered, we will have to study what is the most advisable competition."

T-Mobile car searched by customs

The T-Mobile Team is being watched more closely during the Tour de France, following the Operacion Puerto affair news. During Wednesday's fourth stage, a team car being driven by team physiotherapist Aldis Cirlus was stopped on the border between Belgium and France and searched by customs officials. The luggage aboard, the interior of the seats and the entire engine area and trunk area were all thoroughly searched. "The customs inspection lasted about ten minutes and nothing was found," said team spokesman Christian Frommert.

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

The Ludewig affair

By Susan Westemeyer

When Jörg Ludewig was a 22-year-old amateur riding for the Team EC Bayer Worringen and hoping to break in to the pro ranks, he wrote a letter asking about doping products. Now, eight years later, that letter has come back to haunt the T-Mobile rider. On Tuesday the team announced it was investigating the letter. On Wednesday, Ludewig issued a statement concerning it.

Ludewig's statement:

"The letter is from me, among others. In 1998 I inquired into medical preparations that could increase my performance. But the note about EPO on the margin is not from me!

I welcome the action being taken by my current team, T-Mobile. They are going about the matter fairly and openly.

The year 1998 was a difficult year for me: I had private problems (including breaking up with my girlfriend) and in addition I had various severe health problems to overcome (such as mononucleosis and a chlamydia infection). There were also persons in my immediate circle whose exaggerated enthusiasm and expectations led to a lot of pressure on me. And my instable health was always denounced.

It had to do with my future and my job. Team Gerolsteiner let me know informally what the consequences would be if I should used forbidden substances: an immediate dismissal and the end of my career! (Ludewig's first pro contract was with Gerolsteiner - ed.)

So I immediately rejected all my intentions and possible "bad deeds"! In addition, a pharmacist told me about all the massive health risks. All of these factors fortunately had a lasting effect on my ethical and moral attitude towards doping. I even cancelled my planned trip to Rhodes. (The Greek island where he planned to buy the illegal substances - ed.)

I repeat, that now, as ever, I distance myself from doping. Since 1992 I have had about 70 blood and urine tests, some unannounced, and all were negative.

My blood values have remained the same. My steps to increase my performance are limited to my alternative medicine practitioner, by SRM supported training plans and altitude training at my own cost.

I am very sorry if it have caused bother to those who looked after me at the Team EC Bayer Worringen, T-Mobile Team, Team Gerolsteiner, my private sponsors, my family and my friends because of my behaviour in the year 1998. I beg forgiveness for mistakes made in my younger years."

T-Mobile responds

T-Mobile Team is continuing to look into the matter. Team communications director Christian Frommert told the Suddeutschen Zeitung, "We have no proof of doping, but this evidence of the intention gives us cause to look into the matter." When asked if the team would fire Ludewig without notice, team spokesman Luuc Eisenga told www.sport1.de, "We would first have to think of the employment rights situation."

Gerolsteiner responds

Gerolsteiner Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer didn't mince his words: "I would have fired him immediately and risked the employment rights lawsuit!", he told www.sport1.de. Holczer noted that he gave Ludewig his first pro contract "on the recommendation of Jörg Jaksche. He wanted to have a chance and rode for very little money." Ludewig stayed with the team for only one season.

Spanish Sports Council also asks for González and Landaluze to be sanctioned

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Although the Competition Committee of the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) decided to not to sanction Euskaltel-Euskadi's Aitor González and Ińigo Landaluze for doping offences in 2005, the Spanish Sports Council has, along with the UCI, asked for them to be punished.

According to todociclismo, Rafael Blanco has decided to take the Aitor González affair to the Spanish Sports Disciplinary Committee. It is likely, therefore, that the Court of Arbitration for Sports denies the Aitor González hearing and leaves this affair in Spanish hands.

With respect to Ińigo Landaluze, his legal defence convinced the RFEC Competition Committee that his high testosterone level was not abnormal. However, the UCI has disagreed with his and has asked the CAS to impose a penalty.

Lehigh women's challenge cancelled

The Lehigh Valley Velodrome (PA, USA) has cancelled this Friday’s International Women’s Challenge and has tentatively re-scheduled it for September 1. Gates will open on the 1st at 6:30 pm and racing will begin at 7:30 pm. For further information please visit www.thevelodrome.com

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