Cycling News Extra for July 13, 2006
Edited by Jeff Jones, Shane Stokes, John Stevenson & John Kenny
By Jean-François Quénet in Pau
Coming up on
Cyclingnews will cover the 60th edition of
the Dauphiné Libéré live
as of stage 4 on Wednesday, June 10, at approximately 15:00 local Europe
time (CEST)/ 23:00 Australian time (CDT)/ 9:00 (USA East).
WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/
Cyril Dessel (AG2R)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
AG2R was one of the most devastated teams at the start of the Tour de
France in Strasbourg, but they are now over the moon as they are leading
the team competition as well as the overall classification and king of
the Mountains competition with Cyril
Dessel. After Sylvain Calzati's stage win in Lorient,
they are also full of hope for a top three finish with Christophe Moreau
One year ago, AG2R was an invited team at the Tour de France, much as
Agritubel is this year. As they were trying to enter the Pro Tour, they
did their best to attract top riders. "For a while we hoped to get Alexandre
Vinokourov back," team manager Vincent Lavenu explained. "He had won big
races with us, like the Dauphiné at the time of the Casino-AG2R team.
Maybe he had too big ambitions when he thought that Liberty Seguros would
be more helpful than us for him to win the Tour de France, but we can't
Lavenu made it clear with Moreau that there would be another leader.
It became Francisco Mancebo instead of Vino, but the whole project fell
through prior to the start of the Tour. Two days before, the Spaniard
didn't hesitate one moment before signing a piece of paper stating that
he had nothing to do with 'Operation Puerto'. Then he rode flat out while
training with his teammates. He gave them an explanation: "This is the
last time of my life that I hurt my legs on a bike." He knew it was all
over. Since he returned to Spain, he has reconsidered pulling out of cycling
for good, but either way his future will not be with AG2R.
"Some riders weren't too motivated at the start," Lavenu recalls. "It
has taken a lot of work to put the team back together thanks to the friendship
between the guys." AG2R might have a long history with riders from the
former Eastern bloc, they're now composed of some Spaniards and one Australian
(Simon Gerrans), but they're a local team from the Rhône-Alpes region,
born in 1992 under the name of Chazal-Vanille et Mûre. Lavenu hails from
Chambéry in the Alps, where the team is based. Dessel and Calzati are
from Lyon, as is Samuel Dumoulin whose girlfriend Magalie Lavenu (Vincent's
daughter) is the team's press officer. "There's a family atmosphere here",
Gerrans realized last year.
"Having the yellow jersey in the Tour de France brings a lot of happiness,
it's so rare in a team," said Lavenu. However this isn't the first time
he's been in this position as Jaan Kirsipuu led the race for six days
in 1999. It also gives confidence once more to the French cyclists, who
can see they're able to influence the race. "We'll try to defend it intelligently.
We've got resources for the mountains. We hope this situation will help
Moreau on GC as well. We all know that Moreau has the potential for a
top 10, but with the top 5 riders from last year all missing, it's reasonable
to believe that he can make a top 5. So our goal is to place him on the
final podium in Paris. He has time trialled better than in the Dauphiné;
if he climbs just as well as in the Dauphiné, the top three is something
Jurdie delighted for Dessel
By Brecht Decaluwé in Pau
Photo ©: Sirotti
Julien Jurdie is one of the directeurs sportif in the AG2R team, but
more than that, he's one of the best friends of the new yellow jersey
Cyril Dessel. Cyclingnews spoke with him at the finish line: "It
was a great day for me to see him perform so well. We know each other
for so long and he's a really good friend. In the past, we were racing
together until our paths diverged. That was because I stopped riding the
bike and became a directeur. Starting this year, we've been working together
again and he did great. He has lots of confidence and recovers really
well. He must be capable of keeping the jersey longer than one day."
Australians survive Day 1 in the Pyrenees
By John Trevorrow in Pau
The first day in the Pyrenees has provided a big change to the leader
board, but the names probably won't mean a huge amount for the final classification.
In fact, guys like new maillot jaune, Frenchman
Cyril Dessel, stage winner and second on GC, Spaniard Juan Miguel Mercado
and Italian Cristian Moreni, will almost certainly drop out of contention
as the race continues.
It was a strange race on stage 10. The eight man break got a lead of
11 minutes before the T Mobile squad of leader Serguei Gonchar and Aussie
Michael Rogers started to lift the tempo. Matthias Kessler, winner of
stage five, was very strong on the climbs and set a good pace but not
fast enough to reduce the gap and keep the yellow jersey. Gonchar never
looked comfortable and looks certain to drop well back in the real climbs.
There doesn't seem to be any team in charge, unlike in past years with
Lance and Discovery/US Postal, who never let a break get such a big lead
while one of them was in yellow. In the end, Rogers had to join the fray
and, although the time lost will not mean anything in the overall picture,
it was energy spent that would have been better saved.
Cadel Evans looked very comfortable on the climbs. He sat near the front
and appeared to be cruising.
Robbie McEwen was worried about this stage before the start. "Because
it is 35 kilometres from the final climb to the finish, Oscar Freire could
be close enough to the main peloton to win the stage," McEwen said.
But as it turned out, it wasn't Freire, but Bennati and Zabel who led
the bunch in and grabbed a handful of points back. However McEwen still
comfortably leads the battle for the Maillot Vert by 23 points.
Pre-stage 10 quotes
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) was spotted discreetly
hiding behind a newspaper in the "Champion" marquee in the official village.
Being the sponsor of the best climber competition, few would think to
find him there.
"I got the girl to put the chairs in front to give me some peace but
you found me anyway," Robbie quipped. It wasn't that difficult as the
green jersey does stand out, even from behind the pages of L'Equipe.
Robbie went on to talk about the stage and felt that it wouldn't be
a stage for the contenders but would be a dangerous day for him. As the
final climb was 35 kilometres from the finish, he felt that Freire could
be close enough to the main peloton to win the stage. But he wasn't too
perturbed as he felt there would time to get those points back.
Cadel Evans (Davitamon) told us, "I'm looking forward
to the Pyrenees. I've always preferred them to the Alps. It's just a shame
we don't have more days here. Today won't be a day for the contenders.
I reckon a break could get away and take the stage. But tomorrow is a
Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) said, "I've been enjoying
it so far and we're half way now. The next week will be hard and I would
like to come out of the mountains feeling good enough to do a strong time
trial. But that's a long way off."
Axel Merckx renews with Phonak
The Phonak cycling team has announced that Axel Merckx has renewed his
contract with the Swiss-bases outfit for another year. "Merckx will ride
for our team next year as well," said the team's general manager John
Lelangue. "I'm convinced that his experience and his personality will
help to develop our team further."
Merckx will therefore end his career with Phonak. "After 2007, that's
it," he said. "Then it'll be time to set priorities and focus on my family
and life after professional cycling."
Nevertheless, Merckx feels his 15th and final year as a pro won't be
a sinecure. "I still feel capable of setting the course athletically,
and doing the hard work is a lot of fun on this team," he said.
Lelangue said that Phonak plans to renew the contracts of all its riders
who are currently taking part in the Tour de France while the Tour is
Vuelta opens door for Astana
By Antonio J. Salmerón
Manuel Díaz, commercial director of Vuelta a España organizer, Unipublic
announced yesterday that the organisaiton plans to apply the same ethical
rules to the Vuelta as had governed this year's Tour de France. However,
that doesn't necessarily mean that the Astana team which was excluded
from the Tour, would be unable to race the Spanish event.
Diaz said that Astana's participation in the Spanish tour was "very possible,"
adding that, "the new sponsor is very interested in the Vuelta a España."
Díaz described Astana's situation as "atypical".
"Astana left the Tour because it did not have sufficient riders to participate,
but not for another reason," said Diaz. The entire Astana team was excluded
from the Tour de France because five of its nine Tour riders were under
investigation as part of Operacion Puerto. With those riders removed under
the ProTour teams' ethical code, Astana was left with too few to start
the race. However, the organisers of the Tour had previously expressed
their determination to prevent Astana from starting.
According to Diaz, the managers of the Astana team were in the process
of negotiating to buy the team. "This gives us the possibility of having
Astana in the Vuelta a España and seeing the Vinokourov-Valverde duel,
that we were not able to see in the Tour de France," he said.
Tour de Gastown to raise funds for cancer research
Organisers of the 26th Annual Tour de Gastown, in combination with other
events, held on July 19 will again donate all funds to BC Cancer Foundation.
Last year $100,000 was raised.
The event begins with a family bike festival and then a 1.2 km race through
the district's historic cobblestone streets, where over 180 elite racers
will compete for over $15,000 dollars in prize money.
"The Tour de Gastown has become a great fundraiser for the BC Cancer
Foundation," said foundation president and CEO Mary McNeil. "It is an
exciting way to celebrate some of the world's best athletes and support
a major local cause and we are proud to be part of this prestigious event."
The Tour de Gastown is the centerpiece of BC Superweek. The event attracts
many of the top racers in North America. Large crowds are expected - last
year over 35,000 people turned out for race day. Past winners of the Tour
de Gastown include seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, Gord
Fraser, Gina Grain and North Vancouver's Allison Sydor.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)