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Cycling News Extra for July 21, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, Shane Stokes and John Kenny

Freire goes home

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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).

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Oscar Freire will not start stage 18 in Morzine. The Spaniard, winner of two stages, is sick and is on his way home. Freire nearly abandoned stage 17, but battled on in the hope of feeling better after a night's rest. But there was no improvement, and Freire decided not to start on Friday. His departure means that Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) basically just has to finish the Tour to win the green jersey, as he has an 80 point advantage over Erik Zabel (Milram).

Bjarne Riis: Landis is the favourite now, but there is still room for surprises

By Brecht Decaluwé in Morzine

Following Floyd Landis’ jump back into contention on yesterday’s 17th stage of the Tour de France, CSC boss Bjarne Riis has said that the Phonak rider is the most logical favourite for the final yellow jersey.

Providing things don’t change on today’s stage, Sastre will have an advantage of eighteen seconds on Landis heading into Saturday’s 57 kilometre time trial . "I don't think it will be enough,” admitted Riis. “So for me, Landis is the favourite. He was strong today."

"We tried but there's nothing more we could do. That's just cycling… I'm a little bit disappointed that Landis got so much time but I'm happy that Carlos [Sastre] did so well."

This year’s Tour has been the most open and unpredictable in many, many years. The nature of the 2006 race means that Riis is not giving up all hope just yet. "The Tour is not over yet, so there's still some room for surprises," he laughed. "This is a crazy but nice Tour de France!"

The Dane also answered questions about his team’s tactics during the stage. There has been much talk that CSC and T-Mobile should have started chasing a lot earlier. But Riis said there was a reason for their caution.

"It was late of course, but otherwise we would have lost our team too early. Maybe it would cause the same result [Landis’ time gap] if we would've worked earlier on."

During the descent of the Joux-Plane, Sastre lost almost 0'30 on Landis and on most of the other riders in the pursuit. Riis commented on Sastre's style. "He was not bad, but he didn't take the risks the other guys took." Those 0'30 could prove very important knowing that there's only the long ITT left. "In the ITT we'll know how important it was."

Schleck: Chapeau for Landis

By Brecht Decaluwé in Morzine

As teammate of CSC's Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck has a close view on how this Tour de France is unfolding. Schleck managed to lead out Sastre for a solo which gained Sastre valuable time on his rivals. Only one rider was able to gain time on Sastre, and that was Floyd Landis.

"They didn't let him go, but he was just so strong in the beginning," said Schleck. "We didn't think that he could make it too the end. But he made it to the end, so he's a f***ing strong rider. Chapeau for Landis!"

Carlos Sastre has an advantage of eighteen seconds on Landis, but there's an ITT coming up which is a discipline that suits the American more. Sastre must feel the pressure is mounting now. "Of course, but we wont put any pressure on Carlos as we know he's going to do his best. We don't expect anything more from him."

Finally, we asked Fränk Schleck what he thought about the strange things that happened during the last week in this Tour de France: "It was just amazing!"

Jens Voigt: Not seen this for 10 years

By Brecht Decaluwé in Morzine

Jens Voigt, the German teammate of Carlos Sastre, knew that the Spanish rider was able to gain time on his rivals: "We knew that Carlos was very strong. When the mountains get steeper, he gets better."

Still there was one man that was even stronger today: "That's just Floyd Landis. Yesterday wasn't good, so today he would attack. He's a great champion with a strong mind. It was a great move from him and I've got all possible respect for him," Voigt said.

The last three days will sort out who will be the winner of the Tour de France. We asked whether Voigt still believes in the chances of his teammate: "He's only twelve seconds away from the yellow jersey. Everything is still possible so we hope for the best. Sastre is a super strong time trialist. It will be the most important time trial of his life. It is all just very exciting, I think we haven't seen something like that for ten years."

Post-stage quotes

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC, 2nd at 5'42)

Carlos Sastre (CSC)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
(Click for larger image)

"I'm happy as I've done the best I could do. This Tour has certainly been the most spectacular ever.

"The gaps between the top three riders are very tight for the time trial...

"The Tour has been very hard, and we are all very tired now, so I don't know how we will end up. I'll try to recuperate tomorrow, and do the time trial flat out."

What do you think will be most important for the TT? "Everything - you need strength, motivation and technical ability for the time trial. It's a combination of factors."

What do you think about Landis' performance today? "I have a lot of respect for him, he is a great rider. Today, he had a sensational ride."

"We tried everything and we battled ourselves back into the race. Maybe it will be difficult for the time trial, but we will see what will happen. I will do my best in the time trial, but that's all. Now it's important to recover to be ready for the next couple of days. I will see what I can do."

Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile, 8th at 7'08)

"At this Tour, anything's possible. I knew the climb, but I had bad legs today and just tried to follow."

Why didn't you try to follow Landis? "I don't play roulette that early in the stage - it was all or nothing. Landis had a hunger knock yesterday, and came back strong today. "Tomorrow, I'll just try to recuperate as much as I can and stay cool."

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile, 22nd at 12'34)

"The Joux-Plane was the hardest climb of the Tour. It wasn't the right day for me for that climb!

"Floyd went off like a motorbike, unbelievable! He was doing 40 km/h uphill! That he's able to rebound like this is fantastic. Congratulations to him.

"At T-Mobile, we had no tactics today. We just tried to hang on as long as possible. We thought the last climb would be the decisive one. Klöden had problems from the start; me too. We both struggled today. We never expected Landis to do so well today."

John Lelangue (Phonak team manager)

"Yesterday was an off-day for Floyd, but as I told him, we lost a fight, but not the war. I was convinced the Tour wasn't finished, and had a good chat with Floyd over a beer last night. We did in the Col des Saisies what is normally done in the last climb. It was a team effort, and then Landis could not be held back by anyone.

"I told him that he'd have to do two time trials in three days...

"I'm happy for him as well as for myself, because we received a lot of criticism about our team and our tactics lately. There was a lot of criticism on what we did during the last week. When Landis attacked, we didn't think about the GC, but we were thinking to come back on the podium. We wanted to win the stage to show that Floyd is a real Tour de France rider.

"There was just one day where Floyd was a bit less than usual. Everybody has that from time to time; we all have that day when we don't want to go to the office. We knew that after such a bad day, he could only be better today. We talked a lot, in his room and the restaurant, we drank a beer. We sorted out that maybe we had lost, but we shouldn't regret any decision we made during the race. There were still three nice days left to make something of our Tour de France.

"My father is a bit more realistic and he told me that the podium was still possible. Eddy Merckx called me as well, and he said that we maybe lost a battle, but not the war. If he says something like that, we definitely had to try something."

Pre-stage 17 quotes

By John Trevorrow in St Jean de Maurienne

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)

"Well, this is the first berg for the day (he was riding up the hill to the sign on). I'll be glad when I'm out of these bloody mountains. I had an average night's sleep, when you're this tired it's hard to sleep well but I feel alright, I feel rested.

"Today is a big day for Cadel. It's going to be all or nothing on the Joux-Plane I reckon. If he can pull some time out from a few guys I'm tipping him to actually win the time trial. I'm still saying he's a potential winner of the Tour.

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)

How do you think you will go today? "Well, hopefully I'll go okay; I seem to ride pretty steady in the mountains unlike some guys who have great days one day and bad ones the next."

This is your final chance to win the Tour? "Yes, if there's anything in the tank I'll go for it. We've been over a lot of mountains in this tour and there's lots still to go today. "

You are not running on fumes are you? "Not yet anyway."

Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto)

"This will be the day for the GC guys. It's a big day for Cadel and a big day for the team in general. I think Cadel can take time out of all the other guys in the time trial, he just needs to get some time on Pereiro today. If he has a great day, if he woke up and just had the best legs of the year, he could take more than two minutes out of Pereiro in the time trial but it's a lot to ask. Cadel is so consistent he just doesn't have a real bad day."

Simon Gerrans (AG2R)

"I suffered a bit yesterday but I had a really good night's sleep. Did all the usual stuff, massage, relaxed. I've just got to hope I get through today alright.

"Tomorrow will be a hard day although we are out of the mountains because it is the last chance for the breakaways so there will be a lot going for it. Anyone who's got any legs left. Hopefully I'll be one of them.

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)

Bradley, how are you enjoying the mountains? "Getting through them, last day today."

You mentioned earlier in the tour you hoped to do a big ride in the time trial? "No that's not on the agenda now. I'll use it as a rest day. It's been a pretty hot and demanding tour and if I pulled out all stops I might get a top 20, but I don't think it's worth it. I'm pretty happy with how I've been going as I've been doing lots of work. Í am better to try and do something on one of the other two stages."

Mick Rogers (T-Mobile)

You were very impressive yesterday, Mick? "Yeah, we rode well, I had to a bit in front. We did not expect Pereiro to hang on like that. I was happy with the job I did, Klöden told me to put the pressure on when he could see Landis was in trouble and everything worked out well and I did my job.

The job's not over yet? "No, bugger it. It will be a huge day today, it's a really hard last climb and to do that after three big passes, it's hot but we will definitely be putting the pressure on over the last two climbs.

Stuart O'Grady (CSC)

"Today is a big day for the team and it's a chance for Carlos to take the yellow jersey today. I won't be able to be much help for last two climbs but I'll be doing whatever I can for him until then. The team is really geed. I mean that last climb is really steep and that suits Carlos."

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
(Click for larger image)

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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