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First Edition Cycling News for July 24, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones and Shane Stokes with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Stage 20 wrap-up

Landis finishes in yellow; Hushovd brings 'em home on the Champs-Elysées

Floyd Landis (Phonak)
Photo ©: Sirotti
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American Floyd Landis (Phonak) has secured the final maillot jaune in the 93rd Tour de France, finishing 69th in the last stage on the Champs-Elysées. The stage finished in a bunch sprint, and it was prologue winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) who unleashed a powerful kick in the final 200 metres to come past Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) and win by three bike lengths, with Stuart O'Grady (CSC) third. Although he claimed the maillot vert of best sprinter, McEwen said that he didn't have the legs to hold off mighty Thor today.

The stage from Antony to Paris Champs-Elysées was typically ceremonial: Floyd Landis and his Phonak men led for much of the early part as the peloton wound its way through the suburbs of Paris and into the city centre. Once the bunch his the Champs-Elysées with 52 km to go, the racing started in earnest. The most serious attack started at 40 km to go, initiated by Thomas Voeckler, Jens Voigt, Mikel Astarloza and Fabian Wegmann. They were joined by a dozen others, and the break got half a minute until Cofidis and Liquigas - who weren't represented up front - chased them down.

It was all together with two laps to go and stayed that way, despite the best efforts of Flecha, Hincapie, Popovych and Quinziato to get clear. Gert Steegmans led McEwen to the final corner in first place, with Hushovd right behind the Aussie. Then Peter Wrolich started the sprint at 250m to go before McEwen came past, but he had no match for Hushovd's power across the cobbles.

Click here for the Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video.

Hushovd: two weeks of suffering for the Champs-Élysées

By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
Mighty Thor Hushovd
Photo ©: AFP
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Thor Hushovd is a man for something new every year. He debuted in the Tour de France in 2001 and won the team time trial. In 2002, he won his first individual stage with two days to go in Bourg-en-Bresse. 2003 was his most frustrating Tour when he unsuccessfully paired with Stuart O'Grady. In 2004, he wore the yellow jersey for the first time and won his first bunch sprint in Quimper. In 2005, he didn't win any stage but claimed the green jersey. This year, with the prologue, two days in yellow and the final stage on the Champs-Élysées, it's all new again.

Hushovd stopped focusing on the green jersey when he got relegated in Caen after a strange decision by the commissaires that even the 'victim', Bernhard Eisel, didn't agree with. Hushovd also gets noticed for his misfortune. He became famous for cramping after a breakaway in 2002; this year, he shocked a few people with the incident of the green hand/camera at the end of stage one. His arm was cut, he collapsed after the finishing line, and suffered from this injury all the way to Paris, although it doesn't bleed anymore. "The improvement on my scar shows how long the Tour is!" Thor joked after winning in Paris.

"It's always good to win a stage in the Tour de France," he continued. "But for a sprinter, winning on the Champs-Élysées is extraordinary. I've dreamt about that for such a long time. I've suffered like hell in the Alps and the Pyrénées but I kept thinking of the Champs-Élysées as a motivation for staying in the race."

He looked even more delighted than when he was in yellow. "Wearing that jersey and winning a stage give different feelings, he said. Leading the race is good but it's not a win. Winning here is the best symbol for a sprinter. With one kilometre to go, there was a hole in front of me, Sébastien Hinault closed it, then Julian Dean overtook everyone else for me until I took Robbie McEwen's wheel. He opened the sprint but I was stronger than him today. I was just stronger than anybody else."

See you next year for another invention by Thor, the thunder God!

Post-stage quotes

By John Trevorrow in Paris

Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto, 2nd)

Are you disappointed about missing out in the sprint? "Oh no, not really. Steegmans went past everybody on the right and we hit the last corner on the inside – not well - and lost all our speed. From that moment I thought ‘this is going to be really difficult.' Looking back, I should have let Steegmans go into the corner and then came through behind the Credit Agricole guys. I could have changed my line and adjusted my speed through the corner. Instead I was bogged down and I went from just over 250 (meters from the line) and it was too far. At one hundred metres to go I was blown. Overall I'm very happy. The team and I had to work very hard for this (green) jersey."

Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto, 5th overall)

Evans and McEwen
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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"I'm pretty happy with fifth (overall); very satisfied. I've ridden two tours now and to get eighth in my first tour and now fifth, well you've got to be pleased. A couple of things were out of my control. When certain guys got up the road, I don't have a GC team so there was not much that could be done. With a bit of luck I could have gained a couple of spots but that didn't happen. I didn't make too many fatal errors; I managed to stay upright so it was a pretty good tour."

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile, 10th overall)

Well done Mick, you now join Phil Anderson and Cadel as the only Australians to finish top 10 in the Tour de France.

"Really, oh wow, well that's great. I feel honoured to have done it. That's pretty illustrious company to be in."

I don't know of too many top 10s who spent the tour as a domestique? "I'm happy. I've had some pretty hard days and had to sacrifice. If I had have been able to just follow the wheels then I am sure I would have finished a lot higher but hey I'm a professional and I do what I'm paid to do. I did my job. I'm happy the team's happy so that's the most important thing."

Simon Gerrans (AG2R, 79th overall)

Was this a tough tour because of your limited preparation? "I was pretty happy to get to the finish actually. I was pretty happy to get to the start but even more so to get to the finish. This last week has been really tough for me. I have had to dig pretty deep. I really felt the lack of racing I'd had."

How do you rate the performance of your team? "This was a great tour for the team. We have two guys in the top 10, a stage win and a day in the yellow jersey. Our guys were up there the whole tour. It was great to be a part of it."

Ekimov retiring in September

Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery Channel)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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The oldest rider in the Tour de France, Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery Channel), will retire in September, according to his team. The 40 year-old was able to bid fans on the Champs-Elysées farewell as the Tour came into Paris on Sunday by riding ahead of the peloton and waving to the crowd. In the final lap, he also tried an attack, but it was unsuccessful. Ekimov finished his 15th Tour de France in 84th position, but will be remembered in recent years for his superb work for Lance Armstrong, who he helped to several of his Tour victories.

After retirement, Ekimov will take a role as a team director for Discovery Channel next year.

ProTour rankings following Tour

The ProTour leader's jersey did not change hands following the Tour de France, with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) still holding it by a margin of 20 points from Tour winner Floyd Landis. In third place is Frank Schleck, who moved up from fourth to third ahead of Tom Boonen (Quick.Step). Cadel Evans (20th - 6th) and Christophe Moreau (13th - 7th) also moved into the top 10 as a result of their good Tour performances.

Team CSC won two stages in the Tour and kept its lead in the teams rankings over T-Mobile, while Italy resumed its place atop the nations table, just in front of Spain.

Rankings as of July 23, 2006

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse D'Epargne-Illes Balears  195 pts
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems                         175
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                      150
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step - Innergetic                          145
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                         138
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                                 120
7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance                           118
8 Jörg Jaksche (Ger) Astana Würth Team                              110
9 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                           110
10 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                             106
1 Team CSC                                                          246 pts
2 T-Mobile Team                                                     226
3 Caisse D'epargne-Illes Balears                                    216
4 Phonak Hearing Systems                                            213
5 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team                                208
6 Rabobank                                                          204
7 Lampre-Fondital                                                   188
8 Astana Würth Team                                                 185
9 Davitamon-Lotto                                                   177
10 Gerolsteiner                                                     168
1 Italy                                                             523 pts
2 Spain                                                             515
3 Germany                                                           364
4 United States Of America                                          352
5 Australia                                                         239
6 Belgium                                                           237
7 France                                                            226
8 Netherlands                                                       215
9 Switzerland                                                       158
10 Luxembourg                                                       150
Click here for the full rankings: Individuals, Teams, Nations

Gerolsteiner not up to snuff

Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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Once again, Gerolsteiner went into Saturday's time trial stage with high hopes, and once again, their hopes were dashed. Only Sebastian Lang, fighting a cold, was able to do well and uphold the team's honour, finishing fifth on the day, 3'18 down on the winner.

"I wasn't 100 percent fit today. But that just makes me all the more satisfied with my performance," said the German time trial champion. "Too bad that Seppel is sick," said team manager Hans-Micheal Holczer. "When I heard him this morning, I didn't think he would be able to deliver such a great ride."

Markus Fothen had planned to win back the white jersey for best young rider, being only five seconds behind Damiano Cunego in that ranking. But it wasn't to be. Cunego finished a surprising 31 seconds ahead of Fothen. "I did everything I could," said Fothen. "But Cunego simply had a fantastic time trial."

Holczer took it philosophically. "You take it as it comes. Markus had a good time trial. And you have to remember that he finished behind someone who two years ago won the Giro d'Italia."

A revolution within T-Mobile?

The firings may not be over at Team T-Mobile: it looks like team manager Olaf Ludwig and Sport Director Mario Kummer could be the next, according to L'Equipe. Kummer is to be replaced by former rider Rolf Aldag, the paper says, but it fails to explain who would buy the team and Pro Tour license from Ludwig and his Olaf Ludwig Cycling GmbH. Bob Stapleton, directeur sportif of the T-Mobile women's team, is allegedly set to become either Ludwig's assistant or his replacement.

Christian Frommert, T-Mobile spokesman, said that "we are discussing everything. The discussions will take place after the Tour team's reception in Bonn," on Monday. He added that, "Aldag has been working as an advisor for us since he stopped riding."

According to L'Equipe, the proposed changes have nothing to do with Operacion Puerto, but are part of a general team reform. "We will be looking at everything," said Frommert.

He elaborated on this to www.spiegel.de, although these comments seem to play down the removal of Ludwig. "Stapleton has been with the team a couple of months, at the Tour, too, and Rolf Aldag has been advising us this year. After our return from France we want to talk about how the two can play a more intensive role. But we've been planning that a long time. It has nothing to do with throwing out or buying out Olaf Ludwig."

The team has "a lot to talk about", he added. "We will all sit down together: management, sport directors, and riders. Then we will talk about everything: how to prevent another Jan Ullrich case, and how to be prepared for something like that, with new rules of conduct and internal changes."

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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