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Tour de France Cycling News for July 7, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Evans happy with build-up

By Shane Stokes in London

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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Having placed fifth in 2006, Australian rider Cadel Evans heads into this year's Tour de France as one of the contenders for overall victory. He said on Thursday that he was happy with his preparation for the Tour.

"So far, so good," he said at the Predictor-Lotto press conference. "Things have gone well in the run up to this. It's maybe been a bit lighter in terms of racing than last year but the only thing that matters is how things go in the next three weeks.

"As regards the main rivals, I think they will be Vinokourov, Klöden, Sastre and Valverde."

Evans has said that if he is feeling good, he will ride an aggressive race. This is a very open edition of the race and he knows that it is important to seize opportunities. "In the Tour, if you have got the legs to attack you do," he stated. "If not, you hang on until you have the legs to do it. If I have got the legs, I will attack whenever I can."

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Predictor-Lotto has two protected riders at the Tour de France, and between them they cover all terrains. Triple green jersey winner Robbie McEwen is the man for the sprints, while Evans comes into the frame in the time trials and when the roads pitch upwards. He said that the two have a good relationship. "I am here to do my race and he is here to do his. When he does well, I am happy for him, and when I do well, I am sure he is happy. It works well between us."

T-Mobile: Rogers over injury problems

By Shane Stokes in London

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: AFP
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Having finished tenth in last year's Tour de France, Australian Michael Rogers will lead the team in this year's Tour de France. His participation looked a little uncertain when he pulled out of the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago due to a knee problem, but T-Mobile's Luuc Eisenga has said that this is no longer an issue.

"Michael is okay, his knee is better," he told Cyclingnews. "We will take it from here. He is the likely leader for the Tour but we also have Kim Kirchen, who did a very good Tour de Suisse, and Patrik Sinkewitz. He is also going well. We don't have a clear favourite for the Tour and I see that as an advantage.

"We will take things how it comes, leading off with Michael at the start. We think that top 10 is a possibility, and if he finishes in the top five that would be great. But there is no really big pressure to win the Tour."

The team is not just about these three. "We have other guys here who are in the race to gain experience, to try and win a stage. Mark Cavendish is of course excited, especially as it starts in London. It is probably the only time in his career that the Tour will start over here.

"There will be no pressure at all from us. It would be stupid to say that he has to win a stage. He is here to gain experience and that if he gets good results, well then that is fine."

Eisenga declined to say if Cavendish would be the team's protected sprinter. T-Mobile also has Bernhard Eisel here. "I am not going to discuss the tactics already," he said. "But both he and Eisel are definitely the best sprinters that we have on the team."

Livingstone's Grand (Départ) vision

By Ben Atkins in London

London Mayor Ken Livingstone (l) at Tour route announcement
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone addressed a reception for London's media at the Leadenhall Market in the city's financial quarter last night. He spoke passionately about his vision to make London the premier cultural, artistic and sporting city in the world, and how hosting the Tour's Grand Départ this year will play a major role in that.

The 2007 edition will be the first time that the Tour has visited Britain's capital - and only the third time it has visited the UK - but Red Ken, as he has always been known, is confident that it will not be the last time. British cycling fans has waited thirteen year's for the race to return, but he's hoping that not only the race, but the Grand Départ itself will be back again before too long.

"As soon as it is decently possible, we will bid to do this all over again," and with the spectacular course on offer, and viewership expected in the "hundreds of millions of people," he is pretty confident that future bids will be successful.

The Tour de France is just one event that Livingstone and the city authorities have encouraged and attracted to the city, and all of London's sporting events will be building up to the crescendo that will be the Olympic Games in 2012.

The Grand Départ, and other events, are all part of the grand plan to put London at the top of the list of cities to visit and to do business in: "When I was a young man, it seemed like everything that was happening in the world was happening in New York, great business, great culture, great art, the whole world wanted to come to New York. We're close to getting to that point for London."


Parliament and the grand buildings of the Victoria Embankment
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
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Adding a note of defiance, after recent attempted bombings in central London have had the potential to disrupt many of the capital's events, Livingstone praised London's status as one of the most multicultural and tolerant cities in the World. "The single most important thing," he said, "is that in this city, you can be yourself. You can live your life as you choose, so long as you allow everybody else to do the same." It is of course a coincidence, but the fact that Saturday's Prologue falls on July 7th, the second anniversary of the suicide attacks on London's public transport system is not lost on him.

As well as a sporting and cultural event, to add to London's standing throughout the world, and a massive marketing opportunity, the Grand Départ is a fantastic chance to enthuse London's youth about taking up cycling as a sport. "This weekend there will be kids in this city who will watch the fastest people on cycles hurtle through the streets of London and... say: "I want to do that!"" This theory does have a great precedent to draw upon, as Bradley Wiggins was famously inspired by his trip to watch the Tour as a boy, last time it visited the UK.

As well as in a purely sporting sense, Livingstone and Transport for London see the humble bicycle as one of the solutions to London's traffic congestion issues. Cycling in Britain's capital has increased by over 80% in the last five years, and getting cycling to levels seen in cities like Berlin and Copenhagen is the target. Getting more and more Londoners out of their cars and on to their bikes will have the triple effect of "reducing congestion, reducing pollution, and making those who do it very much healthier."

More and more, Ken Livingstone hopes to see London as the number one city in the world, in terms of arts, culture, and - most importantly - cycling.

Medical checks and pre-race action

CSC on a training ride
Photo ©: AFP
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The 189 riders of the 94th Tour de France underwent pre-race medical checks today in London. Tour doctors performed the standard physical examinations on the riders such as height, weight, lung capacity, etc. Originally aimed at ensuring that riders have no medical problems that should prevent them from riding, the medical checks are now mainly a prime opportunity for cycling journalists to capture the stars looking bizarrely tanned and thin.

While not being poked and prodded by the doctors, the riders hopped on their bicycles to spin their legs out in preparation for Saturday's 7.9 kilometre race against the clock. Most of the riders were treated to an odd change of pace as they were forced to ride on the left side of the road - something that comes naturally to the British and Australian riders like Wiggins, Evans, Rogers and O'Grady.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

Millar time again?

Millar gives it his all
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Having returned to the sport last year and proved that he can, once more, perform to a similar level as before, David Millar is now rightly regarded as one of a few red-hot favourites for Saturday's Tour de France prologue in London. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins and Shane Stokes have been in regular contact with him as he builds up to what will be the biggest day of his season.

David Millar has always had something of a love/hate relationship with the Tour de France prologue. Victory in the millennium edition (which, at just over 16 kilometres long, was technically stage 1) was the win that really put him on the map, but the following year he crashed badly on the final bend while pushing too hard. He finished in a respectable fifth place in 2002, but once again, disaster struck in the centennial Tour as his chain jumped off on the Parisian cobbles, robbing him of victory by eight hundredths of a second. Last year's unspectacular 17th place behind Norway's Thor Hushovd marked his return to racing, without the impact he was hoping for.

This year, his results from the second half of last season – including a Vuelta stage win over the to-be World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara – combined with the fact that it is starting in the British capital has put him firmly amongst the favourites.

Millar seems to display the typical mind-set of the British rider, preparing to ride the biggest race in the world on home soil: one of nervous anticipation, while trying to remain focused on the job in hand. An initial: "Yeah, I am excited." is tempered with a more measured: "To be honest I'm not really thinking about it emotionally so much at the moment, trying to think professionally on it, on the whole thing."

When he spoke to Cyclingnews earlier in the year, Millar expressed an initial liking for the course, after having checked it out last year. "It's good for me but, to be honest, when I am at 100% most of them are. This one seems to be as good as any of them, I suppose.

Read the full interview with Millar.

Open Tour departs London

Could 2007 be the year for Moreau?
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For the first year, the Tour de France Grand Départ will have no rider wearing the dossard 1 number of the previous year's champion, no clear favourite for the overall win, and a challenging parcours that will likely leave the general classification wide open until the penultimate stage. Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo tips the favourites and a few who could surprise in this year's Tour.

Coming into the second year of the post-Lance Armstrong era, no single rider has donned the iron gauntlet of domination that Armstrong employed. Floyd Landis' feel-good Hollywood comeback story turned horror-show doping case of last year is still unresolved on the eve of the Tour. Instead, over the last year, the sport has been cleaning house in the wake of Operación Puerto.

Gone from Le Tour is Ivan Basso who admitted his 'intent' to blood dope for last year's Tour. Likewise for Jan Ullrich, who remained quiet but was betrayed by his own DNA and retired. Also taking a back seat in this year's race will be CSC Manager Bjarne Riis, who admitted to using EPO to win the 1996 Tour and was guilted into stepping back. Out is green jersey hope Alessandro Petacchi, who used too much asthma medication in the Giro and is facing a possible one-year ban.

What we are left with is a seemingly level playing field, which will make for another exciting and unpredictable Tour. In last year's race, a poker game between the teams let a break take nearly 30 minutes on stage 13, giving Oscar Pereiro the yellow jersey he'd hold until the second to last stage time trial - and he still has a chance to get it back one year later.

With Pereiro unlikely to be given another 30-minute buffer, the favourites for this year's Tour can be drawn from the top of last year's heap with few exceptions. The main exception is Alexandre Vinokourov, who missed out on the 2006 Tour because of Liberty Seguros née Astana links to Operación Puerto via Directeur Sportif Manolo Saiz.

Read the full preview of race favourites.

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