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Latest Cycling News for July 19, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes

Sunderland: Patience pays off for Schleck

By Jeff Jones

Frank Schleck (CSC)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Team CSC director sportif Scott Sunderland is not at the Tour until later this week, but was able to witness Fränk Schleck's victory on l'Alpe d'Huez yesterday from the comfort of his home in Belgium. Sunderland has worked with Schleck a lot in his one and a half seasons as a team director, and was happy to see the young Luxembourger take the most prestigious stage in the Tour.

After speaking with co-director Kim Andersen, who is at the Tour, Sunderland explained the team's tactics for stage 15 in detail. "It wasn't really planned for Fränk to be in the break today," he said. "It was planned for Dave and Jens to be. Jens was to be there for when the other riders came through, so he could help Carlos, which he did. He can die 10 deaths; this guy is amazing.

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"Fränk was there and Carlos said, 'go with it'. He did, and set it up perfectly for the whole day. When you've got guys like Dave Zabriskie and Jens Voigt driving the break, that ensured that he had the lead that he needed to have going up the last climb to Alpe d'Huez.

"It just shows you the teamwork that we work so much for and the communication between the riders and the willingness to work for one another. It was a big boost to the riders. We're now very focused on keeping the teams classification through to Paris."

Sunderland described Schleck as "a great talent. After not having a bad year last year, he's turned around and is going to go home with his first Tour stage win. If you have to win a mountain stage, Alpe d'Huez and Mont Ventoux are the two big ones, and he's done it at the ripe old age of 26. He's had to show patience, but it's starting to pay dividends for him now. Last year, he was a bit frustrated that he wasn't quick enough, but in the beginning of this year, he was riding so well, picking up the Amstel Gold Race and now refocusing on the Tour."

Turning to the general classification, Sunderland believes that while Carlos Sastre still has a chance of making the podium, the maillot jaune looks relatively safe on the shoulders of Floyd Landis. "I don't see Floyd faltering at this moment, or in the next couple of days. But for the minor placings - for the top five - there's a big fight, unlike other years."

Landis gave the jersey away in stage 12 to Oscar Pereiro, and received a fair amount of criticism for doing that. "A lot of people said it was disrespectful, but hey, this is not cycling from an era ago," Sunderland commented. "We've had a lot of things change around. It's a sign of risk taking, but calculating it. I think he and Lelangue have taken the right decision.

"Pereiro fought till the end, and only lost it by 10 seconds. Dessel can fight for a top five too. It's a Tour with quite a few new names up there, and that's nice to see," finished Sunderland.

Gerolsteiner: In illness and in health, up l'Alpe

Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Fabian Wegmann wasn't sure what to expect from l'Alpe d'Huez, but it turned out not to be as bad as expected. "To be honest: it wore me out, but I've gone up worse mountains."

It wasn't his day, though. The Gerolsteiner rider says that after having a light fever on the rest day, the mountain stage "started amazingly good. In the beginning I was always in the first group, even led it sometimes. Then after being ahead for 30 km, I suddenly had to throw up. I have no idea what was happening with my stomach." After that he settled for fetching water bottles for Levi Leipheimer before he had to fall back into the gruppetto. (www.fabianwegmann.de)

Ronny Scholz, on the other hand, is recovering from his bug. He didn't appreciate the early wake up call though. "The WADA hauled me out of bed at 7:30 a.m. They filled three tubes with blood - that's 100 millilitres. For my teammates and me, that was the second blood check during the Tour. All of them were ok."

Maybe the blood-letting helped him, as he felt better. "My flu is slowly going away. Yesterday I was a lot better than on Sunday." Scholz was even able to enjoy the day's outing. "Because I was in a group that didn't want to go up the mountain so fast, I could really enjoy l'Alpe d'Huez. The public celebrated a huge party on those final 14 kilometres - absolutely crazy!" (www.ronnyscholz.de)

Courtesy of Susan Westemeyer

Armstrong talks doping

By Simon Townley

There has to be co-operation at all levels if drugs in cycling are going to be beaten, Lance Armstrong said on Tuesday. "To fix the problem will require help on all levels: the government level, police level, governing body level, the rider's level … (it will need) harsher penalties, financial penalties," he said.

Armstrong, the seven time winner of the Tour who retired last year, who joined his former Discovery teammates at Alpe d'Huez on Monday's rest day, defended cycling's record in fighting drugs and said it was still the most beautiful sport.

"I think cycling does more than anybody else. I don't give a shit what people say, there is no sport that can say they have done what cycling has done," he said. "They have been very aggressive. I guess if there has been a cancer within the sport, we have to get rid of it. But show me another sport which has done what cycling has.

"It was a feeling of surprise, or shock when we heard about the suspensions just before the Tour; but also as a fan of cycling it is something when you look at you think: 'Oh … no, the sport doesn't need that. It's another punch in the face; but to be honest I wasn't (planning) on coming to the Tour de France. The only reason I did was because of what happened. And now I think it is time where fans of cycling have to stand up and say 'I am a fan'.

"In coming, I want to be supportive … not just for the team. Not just the race but for the sport of cycling. To me it is still the most beautiful sport there is. I don't have the answers, but I think slowly we are getting there."

Life without racing has meant readjustment for Armstrong but he still finds time for cycling. Apart from arriving for the Alps stages through to Paris, he was at the Tour of California, the Tour de Georgia and the Giro d'Italia.

"The retirement thing hasn't really worked out. I have been busier than ever. But I can't complain. I am working great. The Foundation work, we are making great strides there. Having a bit of fun. Playing with my kids," he said.

"A lot of work, different things, and new challenges. I work on my Foundation, a lot of work in Washington DC. Being a father. The last couple of years were difficult to have enough time to do that. I can't complain. I am happy."

And his tip for the race? "Floyd Landis."

Victor Cordero happy with Valverde presence

By Antonio J. Salmerón

The Vuelta a España general director Victor Cordero confirmed to El Faro de Murcia that "We will also put into practice the Ethical Code in the next Vuelta a España. There could be surprises and changes with respect to which cyclists and teams will finally participate in it."

Cordero is in agreement with the anti-doping fight carried out by the Tour de France, and insisted that "No cyclist implied in any doping investigation will participate." As far as the Astana team is concerned, Cordero explained, "The only reason the Tour of France did not allow to Astana to take part in the Tour of France is that it did not have enough riders in it," adding that he considered it "possible" that Astana would ride the Vuelta.

On the other hand, Cordero will wait until the final days before the start of the Vuelta a España before making a decision on whether Comunidad Valenciana will race. "It is advisable listen to the court decision as a consequence of the last declarations," he said. The potential loss of the Comunidad Valenciana wild card will not be covered by any other team, "because, once the invitations were assigned in March, there does not exist the possibility of being replaced by any other one."

Cordero said that he was happy about the participation of Alejandro Valverde in the Vuelta. "Valverde is a pride for us, as well as for Spanish cycling. At the beginning of this year, I said to him that it did not make sense to leave the Vuelta aside. Valverde is a charismatic leader, who we already enjoyed in 2003, when he finished third, just as in 2004. He is a type of rider who interests us, because he pleases the fans a lot."

The Tour de France of give-aways and competitions

Don't miss out at Tour time!

Resident freebies expert, Rufus Staffordshire, sniffs out some competitions where over $600,000 in prizes are on offer as manufacturers clamber for your eyeballs. Woof!

Scratch - but don't sniff
Photo ©: Trek
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The Tour de France is not only a reasonably popular bike race, ahem, it's also a great opportunity to win an incredible range of prizes and competitions on offer from manufacturers, publishers and distributors.

Many of our sponsors are offering Cyclingnews readers a schwag-fest of give-aways during the lap-around-France. The prizes on offer range from pedals and laptops through to trips to Paris for the 2007 TdF, as well as actual kit being ridden by top pros in the Tour - including top bikes from Trek, Blue, and Avanti.

So that you don't have to go hunting around the Internet for all these goodies, we've assembled the Cyclingnews complete guide to Tour freebies and competitions.

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