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Cycling News Extra for July 15, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes

Boonen: "Low speed kills my sprint"

By Hedwig Kröner in Pla-de-Beret

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As the Tour de France hit high mountains in the Basque Pyrenees, it was time for Cyclingnews to catch up with World Champion Tom Boonen, much less surrounded by the media than in the first week of flat stages. Although the tall Belgian wore the yellow jersey for a few days, his appetite for success was far from being satisfied as he was unable to take a stage victory. Moreover, his other big objective, the green jersey, is currently on the shoulders of rival triple stage winner Robbie McEwen.

Just how hard was it for the Quick.Step star to feel the pressure? "It's only as hard as you make it," Boonen replied in his usual relaxed way. "If you keep thinking of it all the time, every second of the day, then it's hard of course. But if you only think about during the race, and you keep seeing the sport as a sport - and not as something that rules your life - then it's not a problem."

Some people have said that Boonen's lead-out train at this Tour wasn't the right one compared to what he had in the spring, and that this was one of the reasons for his failure to take a stage victory so far. "The lead-out train's okay, but I already said it before the Tour: We miss one more guy, so that's normal," Boonen partly agreed. "The problem is that we're the one team that tries to make up a train, a perfect train. All the other teams of the sprinters do their usual thing: try to sit on my wheel and do their sprint. Now, I don't blame them. But we made that choice before the Tour to take Garate and Rujano, two climbers, instead of two guys who were normally leading me out. That's a choice we made."

The Belgian continued, "Garate is a guy who is 300 percent motivated, and I like him a lot, and also Rujano. But they took the spot of Trenti and another guy and that makes a big difference in the last kilometres. If we just sit and wait, like the other sprinters do, then we got a different sprint - and I don't like that kind of sprinting."

Certainly, the usual scenario in the sprinter's stages saw Davitamon's Robbie McEwen and Rabobank's Oscar Freire taking advantage of the chaotic finales of the first week of racing, whereas Boonen's performance lacked its usual power. "If I look back on the entire week, every time something was wrong it was just because the speed wasn't high enough," the Quick.Step rider continued, getting to the core of he problem. "It might sound strange, but in this Tour we're sprinting at much lower speeds than ever before, at least five k's an hour slower. When you have seven guys leading you out you sprint at 70, 72 km/h, and here, I sprint not even at 65 km/h, it makes a big difference!

"I was talking to Mario Cipollini, who said he had the same problem. We both need high speeds, because then all the small guys like McEwen and Freire, they die. They stay in my wheel, and then they die. If I go 2 km/h faster, they can't come out of my wheel. But now, at these lower speeds, they wait in my wheel and then they come around. I take too much wind, the speed comes down - bam. That's the only problem there is. But that's not something I'm worried about, as it's not really my mistake. That's just the way it is."

Saunier Duval very happy with De La Fuente, extends contract

By Shane Stokes

David De LaFuente (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

Although Saunier Duval climbing specialist Gilberto Simoni lost 4 minutes and 10 seconds in finishing 18th on Thursday's big mountain stage of the Tour de France, the Spanish team were nevertheless very happy with the day. David De La Fuente impressed greatly, being involved in a long-distance breakaway and only being caught inside the final 30 kilometres. He earned the award for the most combative rider and, more importantly, was first over the Hors Categorie Col du Tourmalet plus the first cat Col De Peyresourde and Col Du Portillon.

This, together with the points gathered via his second place on the Col d'Aspin, ensured that the 25 year old is now the clear leader in the mountains classification. He has 80 points, 18 more than previous leader Cyril Dessel (AG2R-Prevoyance) and a further one up on his breakaway companion of the day, Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner). Last year's winner Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) is back in 4th with 49 points and may find himself sacrificing his KOM chances in order to help Denis Menchov challenge for the yellow jersey.

Speaking after the stage, team manager Mauro Gianetti was very happy with De La Fuente's ride. "He is an extremely tough rider, a big engine with incredible power," he stated. "What he did today is fantastic and he should wear the mountains jersey for the next few days. This morning, I was very happy to agree on a contract with him for 2007."

Arroyo’s stage win bid highlight for Caisse d'Epargne team

One year ago Alejandro Valverde won the first big mountain stage of the Tour but in his absence, David Arroyo’s 17th place was the highlight of the day for the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears team. He came home in a group 4’10 back, but had earlier made a big bid for a stage victory which may have paid off had the GC battle not been so intense.

Arroyo attacked with Damiano Cunego (Lampre) at the end of the descent of the Portillon and quickly caught the lone leader David De la Fuente (Saunier Duval). However some committed riding by Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen saw the trio hauled back before the final climb up to the finish at Pla de Beret.

"When I attacked, it was because I wanted to go and win the stage", said Arroyo, who comes from Talavera de la Reina. "Considering the fact that I was not dangerous for the general classification, I hoped they would let me go, but no way!"

Oscar Pereiro was one of the strongest in last year’s Tour but cracked in the heat of the Peyresourde to finish 26'26" behind the winner. Vladimir Karpets was better, placing 24th at 5'48'', but the Russian was also frustrated. "I never was able to find my rhythm", he said afterwards. He was 13th in the 2004 Tour and won the white jersey as best young rider.

Savoldelli downed and out

Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

2005 stage winner Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) had a tough day on Thursday, finishing a full 23 minutes and 4 seconds down in 50th place and then crashing into a spectator after the finish.

The Italian was riding back down the mountain when a spectator walked out in front of him, causing Savoldelli to fall. The Discovery Channel rider got 10 stitches to his right eyebrow, and although he was able to start Friday’s 211 kilometre stage to Carcassonne, he abandoned after 43 km.

Ullrich's alleged doping plan

The Suddeutsche Zeitung has published what it claims was Jan Ullrich's doping plan for the first week of the Tour de France 2005, based on information from Operacion Puerto. For the first seven days of the Tour, Dr. Fuentes prepared him a series of hormones, insulin, cortisone, testosterone and blood transfusions, the newspaper alleged. It claimed that there was a "Roadbook" for the Tour 2005, which investigators link to Ullrich.

On the first day, according to the SZ, the hormone HZ was listed, the second day insulin I-3, the hormone TGN and cortisone, the third day TGN and PCH (a testosterone shot), on the fourth day HMG, a hormone mixture, a "rest day" on the fifth day, the sixth day insulin I-3, and on the last day, the re-infusion of his own blood, as well as insulin I-3 and vitamin E.

The newspaper also notes that it is not clear who might have helped Ullrich with possible transfusions, and notes that experts say that Pevenage or Ullrich himself might have managed it. There is no indication that the medical or support personnel of the team were involved, according to the SZ.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Valverde back on the road this weekend

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) is rebuilding fitness after suffering a broken collarbone earlier this month in the Tour de France. He is training in a structured way under the advise of his doctor, Jose Luis Martinez Romero, and is already able to do almost one hour on the home trainer.

His doctor Martínez Romero says that things are looking good. There is a chance that he could return to training on the road this weekend, eight days after being operated on. In fact, the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears will participate in the Vuelta a Burgos, which will take place between the 6th and the 10th of August.

Although Valverde’s presence has not been confirmed at the moment, if the Spanish rider wants to ride on the Vuelta a Espańa [which begins on the 26th of August], competing in the Vuelta a Burgos would be the same preparation as he did in 2004. He went on to finish third in the Vuelta then.

The Vuelta a Burgos has two key stages; the third stage is a 13 kilometre time trial, while the following day takes the riders to the summit finish of the Neila Lakes.

Other interesting options for Valverde are the Otxoa Memorial at the end of July and the Urkiola Climb in August. He is also considering the world championships but is not certain, due to the fact that Óscar Freire wants to lead the Spanish team there. The Rabobank rider has the chance of taking a record fourth gold medal this year.

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