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Latest Cycling News for July 8, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

Rogers is ready for yellow

By Brecht Decaluwé in Saint-Grégoire

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Saturday's stage features the first long time trial, and it is expected that Tom Boonen will not be able to keep his yellow jersey. There are several GC riders close to the world champion, but there are also some time trial specialists within reach of the Belgian. David Millar and Michael Rogers, for example, might be able to grab the yellow jersey if they can pull off a great time trial. Michael Rogers is closest to Tom Boonen on GC, and Cyclingnews spoke with him at the finish in Vitré on Friday.

"I hope to do well tomorrow. I expect to have a good ride because I feel quite good. I'll do the best ride I can."

Rogers has the best cards to make an attempt in grabbing the yellow jersey. "Certainly, there is a possibility of the yellow jersey but also, there are some other very good riders behind me like Hincapie, Landis, Evans, Millar - heaps of guys who can take the jersey as well. Because I'm second in GC doesn't mean I will take the jersey. I will have to ride very quick but I'm looking forward to it."

The length of the time trial suits the Australian rider perfectly, but at first sight, the course doesn't look that easy. "The first half is rather up and down. The second half is very fast, open, flat and I think that's good for me. Normally, no matter how the course is, you go well," Rogers concluded.

No excuses from Boonen

By Jeff Jones

A wan smile
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Tom Boonen has been coming under increasing pressure in the last few days to win a stage in the Tour. Not happy with just the maillot jaune, the world champion sprinter has been frustrated in all his attempts to win one of the bunch sprints. Robbie McEwen has three, Jimmy Casper and Oscar Freire one each, and Matthias Kessler also managed to sneak under the sprinters' noses. But the closest Boonen has been able to get is second, and that hasn't made him happy.

Before the start of stage 6 in Lisieux, Boonen wasn't talking to the press, partly because it has been critical of his sprinting tactics. And after the stage finished in Vitré, he also didn't offer any comments. No more excuses, Boonen just has to win. But McEwen, so far, has proved himself to be the fastest, while Boonen has lacked explosivity.

"Tom is really happy with the yellow," team director Wilfried Peeters explained to AD yesterday. "Many teams would love to be in our situation. That Tom doesn't win, is hard. But in fact, we can only lose. Tom couldn't sprint well again today. He was boxed in."

Yesterday, it appeared to be more than that, however. The peloton was in one line, with Quick.Step's Tosatto leading out until 500m to go, before Alessandro Ballan took over for his captain Bennati. Boonen's last man De Jongh was ready, but when Gert Steegmans came from behind with McEwen on his wheel at 400m to go, Boonen wisely switched trains and tried to jump onto McEwen's wheel. The Steegmans TGV proved to be too fast, and when McEwen jumped past the big Belgian with 150m to go, he already had a massive advantage. It looked like Boonen just didn't have the power or the snap to match the two Davitamon riders.

As aggressive as ever
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Boonen also rode an aggressive race yesterday, getting into a breakaway after 50 km and working hard for another 25 km, before CSC and Lampre pulled it back. Tour stages in the first week typically aren't ridden like Belgian classics, where it's important to be up front to make the selection. The Tour peloton normally stays together. And if he wasn't the most marked man in the peloton with the world champion's jersey on his back, he certainly is with the yellow jersey! But, that's how Boonen likes to ride, and it has won him plenty of races already, including 17 this season.

One (or two) stage wins will change everything for the charismatic man from Balen, and he will have two more chances before the first mountain stage next Wednesday. At least after Saturday's time trial, he won't have the pressure of the maillot jaune.

Le Lance coming to Le Tour

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Currently preparing to host the ESPN ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, Lance Armstrong told the Austin American Statesman's Suzanne Halliburton that he has changed his mind and his program, and will now attend the Tour De France later this month. Armstrong was originally planning to visit Le Tour when Cyclingnews chatted with him at the Giro d'Italia in May, but since then, his busy schedule was keeping him away from his kids and Armstrong had decided to stay in Austin in July.

However, Armstrong told the Statesman's Halliburton Friday, "I'm not gonna run and hide like some other former champs might. With all that happened before the start (of the 2006 Tour), I feel as if the sport and even the event needs fans and supporters right now," Armstrong declared. "It's not the time for me to run and hide. I need to stand up and say how great cycling and the racing is."

Armstrong will likely revert to his original plan to come to the Tour in the last week to provide moral support and key advice to his Discovery Channel teammates, and not to snack at the Village Depart and have coffee with Jean-Marie Le Blanc.

Brard shows the tricolore jersey

Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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French champion Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) was one of the three breakaway riders, together with Magnus Bäckstedt and Anthony Geslin, in yesterday's sixth stage into Vitré. As usual, the sprinters' teams caught them with four kilometres to go, and another breakaway was finished.

"Of course we know it is almost impossible for a break to go to the finish during the first week of the Tour, because the sprinters' teams won't let you, but if you don't even try, no chance!" said Brard after the finish. "Today's stage pleased me a lot because we entered a territory where cycling really drives the public crazy. I will try again on July 14, because it is the national festival of my country, but I know it won't be that simple because everybody will expect me to do so. I already looked at the course and I like it because there is a climb a few kilometres after the start and I will try to go there. If they left me, of course!"

MDonnelly Junior Tour

By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent

The MDonnelly Junior Tour riders will face six days of intensive competition in one of the ancient kingdoms of Ireland whose rulers, the O'Connors were displaced by the Anglo-Norman De Burghs in the 13th century. Not that they'll be overawed by that information, but the event, which runs between July 11-16, is based in Co. Mayo were tourism is a big factor, and indeed the cycling promoters in the region have been instrumental in making their contribution.

The 'JT' as it is known, has an excellent sponsor in MDonnelly. The modus operandi is entirely out of Castlebar, which makes life that little bit easier for the organisation and the competitors alike.

The route for the 29th edition of an event which in the past has brought past winners to the fore on the world cycling stage is testing. There is an interesting mix of terrain and next Thursday, the competitors will visit Achill Island, which is Ireland's largest island, for a complete stage. The island has an area of 148 square kilometres. This will be the first time that an entire race has been run here and the stage distance will be 72 miles.

The stages

Stage 1 - July 11: Castlebar/Time Trial, 2.8 miles (19:00 start time)
Stage 2 - July 12: Westport-Westport, 69 miles (12:00)
Stage 3 - July 13: Achill Island, 72 miles (12;00)
Stage 4 - July 14: Ballina-Ballina, 67 miles (12:00)
Stage 5 - July 15: Thurlough-Windy Gap, 66.5 miles
Stage 6 - July 16: Castlebar-Castlebar, 59 miles

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