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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Cycling News Extra for July 22, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones, Shane Stokes and John Kenny

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).

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Tour Green jersey almost assured for Robbie McEwen

By John Trevorrow

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"It's a strange feeling to know it's unlosable," said Robbie McEwen on Friday evening. "Saying that, I still have to make it to Paris and there are still two days to go. Hopefully, I don't have a dog run out in front of me, or someone steps out drunk. As long as I make it to the line, that is all I have to do."

McEwen could be set to win the points competition with the biggest margin in recent years, especially after his chief rivals Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) pulled out of the race due to illness. To his credit, he had a good margin on both and was the most likely winner of the competition, whether they continued or not.

Prior to stage 18, McEwen said he still needed to be careful. "Mathematically Zabel and Hushovd can still win if one of them won both stages and a couple of sprints," he said, then added. "I feel a bit for Oscar. When you are climbing the bergs and you're crook [ill - ed.] there is no chance to recover. His wife gave birth last Sunday as well."

At the end of Friday's 18th stage McEwen was a full 79 points clear of six time maillot vert winner Erik Zabel (Milram) and a further fifteen ahead of last year's winner Thor Hushovd. It is a big change from the scenario of recent years, when the green jersey competition goes down to the final sprint on the Champs Elysees.

"It's strange because I normally have to fight like anything to win or lose it," he said. "It is just starting to sink in now. But I am still concentrating on the stage. I want to get on the podium twice.

"The hardest work I did was in the second week and in the transitional stages. In the first week my teammates were working. They pulled the sprints. In the transition stages I really had to follow the attacks and keep an eye on Bennati, Freire, and Boonen. The three of them were attacking - and Hushovd too. They were all attacking all the time.

"I never take a radio with me, but I did have one that day. I was going: 'Boonen is going right … Bennati is going left. That was the hardest part of it all, that sort of stuff."

As regards his thoughts on winning three maillots vert, he said his job as a sprinter is hectic but, ultimately, very rewarding if it all works out. "Racing for the green jersey is very stressful. There is the stress of being up there in every stage possible, the stress of containing breakaways and deciding what intermediate sprints to go for. It is just stressful. But it's all worth it when you cross the line in Paris. To win three will be fantastic."

Finally, he was asked if the media can call him the greatest sprinter in the world at the moment. McEwen's answer? "You can do that. I don't mind," he smiled.

Evans angry with CSC

By John Trevorrow

Boogerd, Evans, Schleck and Menchov
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Cadel Evans was unhappy with what he felt was unfair tactics by the CSC team at the end of Friday's 18th stage. "I think CSC did a little dirty trick there," he said at the finish. "They put Sastre in the front then sat up behind to try and make a gap in the group … very unprofessional. I don't know if they made a split but when everyone is sitting up behind you can't even get through.

"I started yelling at the people in front of me. Moreau was right in front of me and didn't do anything."

The provisional results did indeed show a gap, with Sastre the last in the front part of the group and those from Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) backwards losing time. However the race organisers later eliminated this time difference.

Evans was then asked how he felt about the time trial, but indicated that he wasn't thinking about it right then. "I'll worry about that in the morning," he stated.

Rogers aiming for good TT

By John Trevorrow

Michael Rogers
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Michael Rogers said after the finish in Mâcon that his T-Mobile team had to concentrate during the stage to make sure nothing dangerous happened. "It was pretty lumpy at the start," he stated. "It was a fast start too … obviously, downhill. We had to control the breaks and we didn't want CSC to threaten us for the team classification. So that's important, the lead, and to keep it to Paris.

"At the end we just tried to set a little bit of pace so they [Levi Leipheimer, who was in the break] wouldn't threaten my top 10. It would be nice for the team to finish with two in the top-10. It is going well so far."

Rogers had a tough final day in the Alps but is hoping to be good in the race against the clock. He'll be wearing the rainbow jersey as world time trial champion and would be very happy to improve on the fourth place he achieved in the last big TT. He said that he's hoping to recover.

Simon Gerrans
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
(Click for larger image)

"My body chose yesterday to have a bad day. I struggled the whole day. I had my tail between my legs at the start today, but I was feeling better at the finish. Tomorrow I'll push it the whole way. I haven't seen the TT course yet. I'll probably plan to wake up early tomorrow and go over it early. It is important for us all to go full gas as we still have to think about the team's classification."

Finally, he was asked for his opinion about the sacking of Jan Ullrich by T-Mobile "I just found out after the stage," he replied. "The team had to make a decision, it looks like they made a decision and it is final. Of course, we are sorry. You don't wish that upon any teammate. But that is life and the team has to march on."

Gerrans impressed with team-mate, looking forward to Paris

By John Trevorrow

Speaking prior to the start of stage 17 in Morzine, Simon Gerrans said that Christophe Moreau's ride on the Joux Plane was a notable one. "He was awesome yesterday," he stated. "To ride away from most of the GC contenders up that monster of a climb, well that was pretty special. He must have gone mighty quick down the descent as well because he nearly caught Sastre. That descent was pretty scary, especially after you've raced so many kilometers and you're dead on your feet."

"It looks like I will get to race into Paris again. I'm looking forward to that."

A day in the convoy

By John Trevorrow

Today we decided to get amongst the action in Le Tour. We dropped in behind the breakaway and floated between them and the peloton for a while before positioning ourselves amongst the team cars and press cars behind the break.

It is absolute mayhem in there. There was one row of a dozen team cars on the right, a dozen media cars on the left, four or five TdF cars mixed everywhere and about a dozen media motorbikes buzzing backwards and forwards. Oh, and another dozen police on motorbikes, just to make it even more chaotic.

Now grab that mix in your mind and imagine racing down through a tiny French village at 75 km/h with the horns blaring and the tyres squealing and you may just get a bit of the picture.

But the fun really starts when either the team cars need to service their rider, or a media car tries to move up. This means a third lane is attempted and it is hilarious to watch the dancing vehicles doing this bizarre tango. But it rarely becomes a tangle.

It's probably the best bit of organized chaos I've been a part of. It certainly gets the adrenalin pumping.

Being the driver and an old road sprinter, I loved every second of it. My journalist mate sitting in the passenger seat was not nearly as impressed. As a matter of fact he hardly said a word for the two hours we were doing the dance. I thought he may have gone to sleep. "No bloody way," he later said.

The science behind an exploit

Earlier during the Tour we talked to Floyd Landis’ training adviser Allen Lim about the Phonak rider’s form and preparation for the race. His storming ride back into contention during stage 17 prompted another chat; what tactics, mental approach and power outputs came into play on the twisting, gruelling road to Morzine? Cyclingnews’ Shane Stokes reports.

This is the way
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

At 17.34 on Wednesday evening Floyd Landis’ Tour hopes seemed to be finally over. He had started the day ten seconds clear of Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) and a full 2’02 up on Cyril Dessel (AG2R-Prevoyance) and every expectation was that he would continue to extend his lead in the two remaining Alpine stages. However Landis suffered a dramatic collapse on the final climb up to the 1,690 metre summit finish of La Toussuire, losing 8’23 to the other overall contenders and ending the day 11th overall, 8’08 down.

Game over. Jersey gone. C’est fini.

Or so we thought. Landis, though, had other ideas. Theories abounded as to what could have happened; hunger knock, heat exhaustion, his dodgy hip. The Phonak rider put it down simply to a non-specific ‘bad day,’ the notorious un jour sans which is the fear of every Tour contender, and vowed to go down fighting. On Thursday he came out all guns blazing, attacked 72 kilometres after the start, caught and dropped each of the 11 riders who were clear in a breakaway group and reached the finish in Morzine 5’40 ahead of Carlos Sastre (CSC) and 7’08 up on maillot jaune Oscar Pereiro. Once the various time bonuses were factored in to the post-stage equation, he ended the day third overall, just 30 seconds off the race lead. It was a spectacular turnaround.

"Floyd went to bed last night knowing that he was the best athlete here and also being angry with himself for having such a bad day," his training advisor and physiologist Allen Lim told Cyclingnews on Thursday evening. "He woke up again this morning still feeling angry, and had something to prove.

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