Cycling News Extra for July 18, 2006
Edited by Shane Stokes and Jeff Jones
Bruyneel goes for "best possible feeling"
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Although Discovery Channel planned to go on the attack in last weeks
tough Stage 11 through the Pyrenees to Pla d'Adet, it was more like the
Pyrenees attacked them and the Discovery squad discovered the hard way
what it's like to be on the ropes in the Tour De France. But Johan Bruyneel
didn't guide his team to seven consecutive wins for nothing, and the Discovery
Channel team bounced right back with Yaroslav Popovych's Stage 12 win
in Carcassonne and now looks poised to try and get back into contention
in the Alps.
We spoke to Johan Bruyneel before Stage 15 from Gap to l'Alpe d'Huez
and asked him the strategy for the Discovery Channel team going forward.
Bruyneel told Cyclingnews, "Well, our GC ambitions are certainly
lower now; they are no longer our main goal anymore. After our disappointing
performance on the stage to Pla de Beret, we wanted to get the team back
on track quickly and they came back strong with Popovych's win in Carcassonne.
They were in the race all day, in the breaks and in a position to win
and it was the same on the stages after. Our guys are able to respond
after a bad two days; we're a big team and even after we were down, we
can ride like a big team. That's important."
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We then asked if Popovych could do something in the Alps. Johan Bruyneel's
experience showed in his answer, as he explained, "We have to be realistic,
and just see how it goes...one can't expect someone who was not good in
the Pyrenees to be good in the Alps. Popovych got back in contention because
of breakaway. We hope he can come back into the top 10 and maybe higher,
but it's not something we're going to fight for every day. We are looking
for stage wins now, to get in breaks, but with three tough mountain stages,
it's going to be quite difficult to have those opportunities."
Another question to Bruyneel was about strategic alliances, specifically
about the rumours that Discovery Channel may have made a deal with Rabobank.
Bruyneel chuckled and said "well, I've been reading that also. Look, in
Carcassonne, where Popovych won, the reason why everybody was thinking
that was probably that with four guys away and one was a sprinter...Freire
knew he was fastest and could wait for the others to attack. With Popovych
and Ballan, there were three guys, both of whom are pretty fast. You never
know what's going to happen; with three guys, it's difficult, more than
a bunch sprint. That was what happened there. As for (strategic alliances),
well we can't win (the Tour) so I don't care who wins. I want the Discovery
Channel team to leave this Tour De France with the best possible feeling,
the best possible results."
Giantkiller and legend maker: L'Alpe D'Huez and its history
Climbed just 24 times in the history of the Tour de France, l'Alpe d'Huez
is nevertheless the legendary climb, with only Mont Ventoux rivalling
its reputation. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes takes a look at some of the
facts and figures associated with the mountain.
Today's fifteenth stage of the Tour de France is notable for a couple
of reasons. It's the first in the Alps, it's the first real test for yellow
jersey Oscar Pereiro and the next big opportunity for Floyd Landis and
all the overall challengers. But most of all, it is notable as the race
is heading to l'Alpe d'Huez, probably the most famous climb in cycling.
The mountain was first used back in the 1952 Tour de France and the
dominant stage win achieved there by Fausto Coppi set a precedent which
is almost always the case. Whoever wears the yellow jersey after the stage
to the 1860 metre summit is, historically, almost guaranteed to win the
Tour. This has been done 19 times, with the rule being broken on just
five occasions. Exceptions include Laurent Fignon's maillot jaune in 1989
and François Simon's spell in yellow in 2001; however, if a superstitious
rider is in yellow tonight, he'll be feeling reassured with those stats.
Coppi dominated in 1952 but the crushing nature of his win – and the
suspense-killing effect it had on the race – meant that it was a full
24 years before the race returned. Joop Zoetemelk topped the podium in
1976 and started a dominant period by riders from the Netherlands, with
eight out of the thirteen finishes there between that year and Gert-Jan
Theunisse's 1989 victory falling to competitors from that country.
for the full feature
Gerolsteiner riders sick and worried
Something is sweeping through the Gerolsteiner team, and it's not something
that is very welcome. "The flu is going around," says Ronny Scholz. "Besides
me, three other riders have now caught it. Unfortunately I now have to
take antibiotics. No athlete wants to do that because it works negatively
on your performance, gives you heavy legs. Plus my tonsils are swollen.
It's very difficult to breathe, especially when I'm riding fast." (www.ronnyscholz.de)
One of the other riders who is coming down with something is apparently
Fabian Wegmann. The night from Sunday to Monday "I didn't feel well at
all. I could hardly sleep and felt feverish. More than once I thought
about whether it was time to go home? I finally slept a little just before
it was time to get up."
After a training ride and more rest, he felt better, he says, until
he thinks about what is coming up on Tuesday. "I haven't even thought
about Alpe d'Huez yet. That won't make me crazy. I think the bigger problem
will be the mountains that come before it. You can't let yourself fall
back there. Somehow I'll make it up the final climb. How often have I
already ridden it? Never! I know this myth only from books and tv." (www.fabianwegmann.de)
Dutch champion Michael Boogerd was in a determined mood before the start
in Gap. "Today will be really hard," he told Cyclingnews. "We will try
to do our best and see where we finish up. It is true that I have really
good form and I hope that I am in the same shape as in the Pyrenees.
"I hope that I can be up front today but it will be very difficult.
There will be a lot of Dutch spectators today so if I am not on top, it
won't have been for the lack of support, but because I was lacking something
in my legs. We will see."
Eisel and Zabel anticipate pain
Française des Jeux rider Bernhard Eisel was prepared for a tough day
in the saddle this morning. "It is true that l'Alpe d'Huez is a mythical
place but all we know today is that we will be in a lot of pain," he stated.
"But if it goes like in the Pyrenees, I won't have any problems to follow."
Six time green jersey winner Erik Zabel was anticipating a hard time.
When asked how he felt this morning, the German said, "At the moment I
am fine, but later on.."
"I don't know if it is harder being a sprinter on those climbs or going
for the victory as a climber. I am no climber."
Armstrong at start
Lance Armstrong was at the start of today's fifteenth stage of the Tour
de France. He was rumoured to have flown in from Alpe d'Huez by helicopter,
and spent time in the Discovery Channel bus prior to the start. Several
journalists from different media waited outside the team bus, and Armstrong
spoke to TV for five minutes before escorted by minders from the bus to
the SRM van, where he will spend at least part of the stage.
McEwen for crowd pleaser
Maillot vert leader Robbie McEwen has promised the Flemish Eén-station
that he will cross the line at l'Alpe d'Huez doing a wheelie, providing
he feels good. He has done the same in the past. While McEwen is a former
BMX rider and will have little problems in doing so, the gesture is rare
in road cycling.
AIS - one year on
By Kristy Scrymgeour
With the anniversary of the AIS women's team tragedy in Germany occurring
today and events taking place to remember Amy Gillett who was killed when
a car ran into the team whilst training on the streets of Thüringen, Cyclingnews
caught up with Australian National Coach Warren McDonald to find out how
the women's program had recovered from the disaster that also seriously
injured Amy's five teammates.
Only two of the girls are back to racing a year after the accident.
Kate Nichols is in Germany and will start Thüringen Rundfahrt this afternoon
while Alexis Rhodes made a remarkable recovery to win the Australian National
Criterium Championships in January and then go on to be selected to represent
Australia in the Commonwealth Games in March. She raced a short stint
with the AIS team in Europe earlier in the year and is now back in Australia
finishing her studies and continuing her recovery to get back the resilience
she lost over the break.
Lorian Graham, Katie Brown and Louise Yaxley are still recovering from
the accident with lingering injuries. All of them are determined to get
back on the bike and back to the level to which they reached at this time
last year, but it is taking a lot longer than they had hoped.
"When it happened last year," said McDonald, "I knew it would take a
long time for them to get over their injuries and get back to an elite
level, but of course athletes always hope that it's going to be a quicker
process. Lorian, Katie Brown and Louise still have rehabilitation to come
and it's frustrating for them. Alexis and Kate Nichols are back racing
and have age on their side too. They'll continue to get stronger and stronger."
The riders in the accident were the next generation expected to come
through to be the cream of the crop when Australia's current top riders
like Oenone Wood, Olivia Gollan and Sara Carrigan retired. "We knew when
this happened," said McDonald, "that we would have a gap but it has turned
out to be a little great than I thought. Shayne Bannan [High Performance
Director] commented that ‘it is like a whole generation has been lost.'"
"The talent is there," added McDonald, "we have young riders coming
through but you can't just throw them into to a full year of racing. You
need to build them up over time."
Hence this year the AIS team has done short stints in Europe. The first
block was only five weeks, after which most of the riders returned to
Australia and a new group returned to Europe for a second block. A third
block will come through Europe for the final part of the season.
"So in some ways we've lost a year to 18 months for the developing AIS
riders and it's going to take a couple of years to fill the gap. Possibly
next year will be better for the young ones as we do have a lot of talent
and we are also excited that our top riders Oenone Wood and Olivia Gollan
have confirmed that they'll go through 2008. Sara Carrigan may also be
back after her break this year."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)