Tour de France Cycling News for July 23, 2007
Edited by Sue George
Rasmussen fortifies lead over all but one rival
By Shane Stokes, with additional reporting by Gregor Brown
Rasmussen got second
Michael Rasmussen surprised many with his strong stage
13 time trial and, if anything, he looks more like the possible winner
of this year's Tour de France after a storming stage
14 ride to Plateau de Beille.
Photo ©: Sirotti
The maillot jaune dropped all of his rivals bar the Spaniard Alberto
Contador, and while the Discovery Channel climber won the sprint for the
stage, Rasmussen was the day's big winner. Their ferocious pace consigned
many GC contenders to the 'better luck next year' heap, with Alexandre
Vinokourov, Christophe Moreau, and Iban Mayo completely collapsing on
Sunday. Moreau was worst off, finishing 34'52" back, but Vino was
just 6'02" quicker. He said afterwards that he 'had no legs today,'
and also had a tumble on the penultimate climb. As for Mayo, he finished
9'31" behind on a stage he was aiming to win and, once again, must
be wondering what he must do to have a consistent Grand Tour.
Other challengers limited their losses today, but all conceded important
time. Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel),
and Carlos Sastre (CSC) all finished between 37" and 53" back.
Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Cadel Evans (Predictor Lotto) lost 1'52",
while Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
were 2'33" and 3'45" back respectively and can wave goodbye
to their yellow jersey aspirations. It was a long, tough day and many
paid a price.
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Rasmussen was, as might be expected, very happy with how the stage turned
out. He's now 2'23" ahead of Contador and over three minutes ahead
of the rest.
"Obviously Alberto Contador and Discovery Channel were the ones
making the race hard in the end," he said after the presentation.
"I tried to take advantage of that. Eventually Contador and I got
isolated, and we had an interest to take as much time from our competitors
as possible. In the end he was better and passed me in the sprint for
Contador and Rasmussen
He said that there was no arrangement to give the Spaniard the stage, even though
Contador appeared to later contradict this. "We didn't speak about
the stage win, I think everyone could see that we were both going for it.
We went all the way to the line. It is the Tour de France, we don't give
presents here. It is a well-deserved victory for Contador, he was very strong.
Photo ©: AFP
"This is the Plateau de Beille and it has been won by Pantani and
Armstrong in the past. I would have rather beaten him in the sprint than
given the victory to him," said Rasmussen.
Given the devastation behind, Rasmussen was asked if this day made it
more likely that he would win the Tour. "First of all we will see
how tomorrow goes," he answered.
He agreed that Contador is now his main rival. "Yes, certainly.
Disco still has two cards to play. Leipheimer is still close in the classification.
We still have more than 400 kilometres of riding in the Pyrénées
and everyone knows that nothing is over until we reach Paris."
If Rasmussen does win the Tour, he will be a controversial victor thanks
to the news that he has missed four out of competition tests and is on
his final warning. The missed tests were split between UCI and the Danish
national anti-doping agency, and so this 2-2 score means that the Rabobank
rider falls just short of the three missed tests for either body that
would result in him being banned. Recently, a former mountain biker has
also accused Rasmussen of trying to trick him into transporting a blood
He was asked again today about the cloud over him but, as was the case
yesterday, declined to answer such questions. A journalist then asked
him how he could justify not discussing the subject at a time when there
is general suspicion about cyclists. "For now, I am trying to stay
focused on cycling," he answered. "I have one more week of competition.
If I have to deal with everything else, then I go crazy."
The Spanish hope for a successor to Miguel Indurain
By Brecht Decaluwč
All is well for Discovery Channel after stage 14, with brilliant performances
by Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Yaroslav Popovich. Cyclingnews
talked with the team before the start and got first reactions after the
Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)
seems to smile
Photo ©: Sirotti
After two weeks in the Tour de France the peloton hit the Pyrénées,
the chain of mountains separating France and Spain, will likely separate
the wheat from the chaff. Many Spaniards were aiming on success near their
homeland but when the peloton hit the ultimate climb to the Plateau de
Beille they were gasping for breath as a train of Rabobank and Discovery
Channel riders maintained a high pace.
Michael Boogerd and Yaroslav Popovych were the last to take a pull and
then a firework of attacks followed even though there were more than seven
kilometres to cover before the summit. There was only man who could respond
to an acceleration by Alberto Contador with six kilometres to go, and
it was yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen from the Rabobank squad. The two
worked their way to the top where the young Contador outsprinted Rasmussen
and grabbed his first ever Tour de France stage win. It was the first
win for Discovery Channel in this Tour de France and the first Spanish
winner in this Tour.
The young Spaniard - Alberto Contador Velasco in full - was delighted
with his victory. "It's a dream come true, a stage win in the Tour de
France," Contador smiled. "This was so impressive," he continued, "with
all those people along the side of the road. I want to thank everybody
who supported me, my team and my family and everybody who was also there
in the bad times," Contador said. The Spaniard had a huge clot in his
brain after a crash in the Vuelta de Asturia back in 2004.
He overcame this life-threatening situation and returned to the scene
in 2005 with a stage win in the Tour Down Under and he continued his recovery
by also taking stages in the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour de
Romandie. He ended his first Tour de France in 31st position and looked
forward to do better in 2006. That was impossible as Contador and his
Liberty Seguros team weren't allowed to start because of the Operación
He was a victim of speculation because soon after the Tour de France
he was cleared. The Spanish climber didn't regret that missed chance too
much. "It's a pleasant surprise to be in this situation now if you compare
it with last year," Contador said at the post-race press conference, "but
after that incident I focused on the new season and a new Tour de France."
The talented climber did that in style by becoming the first Spanish winner
of Paris-Nice since Miguel Indurain and by winning the Vuelta a Castilla
To read the complete feature, click
Cioni and Horner shepherd Evans to Cognac
By Gregor Brown and Brecht Decaluwé in Montgailhard with additional
reporting by John Trevorrow
Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: AFP
The Predictor-Lotto team is thin on mountain domestiques to help Cadel
Evans vie for the maillot jaune but Chris Horner and Dario Cioni
have promised to do all they can so that their leader reaches Paris in
top spot. Stage 14
to Plateau de Beille saw the Aussie come under fire from Contador and
Rasmussen and lose time. He is currently in 3'04" back in the overall
classification, however, the 55.5-kilometre Cognac time trial still looms.
Evans, who lost almost two minutes Sunday, realized his chances were
smaller but he didn't want to give up for the overall win just yet. After
the stage, Evans said, "They kept attacking, attacking, and putting
me over my limit. I had to stay with them and accelerate with them to
show that I wasn't weak but unfortunately, maybe, that was what cracked
me, and that was their focus. I just have to stay consistent – it's not
over yet. It's my first day of the Tour that hasn't gone as I wanted so
I need some time to consider the next few days but every second counts."
Just like Evans, directeur sportif Hendrik Redant didn't want to panic.
"Evans ran short against two pure climbers, Contador showed earlier
that he is the better climber. We expected this scenario where Rasmussen
would attack. He had to do that as he needs at least 2.5 minutes for the
time trial," Redant referred to the penultimate stage. "For
now, we didn't lose the war," Redant said. "There are still
two hard stages coming up and we will see in Paris who the strongest rider
The team came to the Tour de France with two types of leaders, Robbie
McEwen for the sprints and Evans for the overall. However, a difficult
day meant that the sprinter went home and that the team has now shifted
its entire focus on a GC push. "We have been protecting Cadel from
the beginning," explained Cioni on Sunday morning in Mazamet.
"It the beginning, we also had Robbie to look after, so we were
divided in two groups, one with Cadel and one with Robbie. Unfortunately,
Robbie went outside of the time cut in the first mountain stage, and since
then, the team has really only been for Cadel." Van Summeren, Rodriguez,
Vansevenant, Aerts and Hoste also remain in the team of eight.
Evans' solid crono on the roads east of Albi moved him into a
brighter spotlight. "Let's say that now there is no more hiding.
Up to now there were quite a few race contenders and now there are bit
less even if it is still not decided."
The race was further decided by Sunday afternoon when Vinokourov and
Valverde dropped out of contention.
"It is difficult, you sort of make plans before the start and then
something else happens," Cioni continued on the team's role."
Going into the first Pyrenean stage, Sunday, Horner said,. "We are
not done with the Tour yet so we don't know. At this moment I would not
see any a problem with having the jersey or being one minute back."
The 35 year-old American is in fine form. He was the last Predictor
rider to stay with Evans on the Plateau de Beille, and reckoned that the
hardest stage will be Monday, the 196-kilometre day that ends in Loudenvielle
"My legs are fine, I did not ride hard yesterday [in the time trial],
I rode on the low side of hard just to save something for the mountains.
I am sure if I really wanted I could do a minute or two minutes in the
time trial, but that was not the plan, what was that going to do?
"I think tomorrow is the most threatening, Monday's stage. ... Tomorrow,
you will have multiple climbs in a row with a final descent [off
the Peyresourde]." Rasmussen had to follow everyone up the climb
Sunday, but Monday, "He has to follow them down the hill. You can't
cover all of them [the GC men]. You can cover all of them going up the
climbs but you can't cover them going down, it is impossible.
"Rasmussen's most dangerous stage has got to be tomorrow's [Monday's]
stage because if he goes over the top without any team-mates then he is
going to be in trouble."
Gerrans getting by
"My legs aren't too bad"
By Gregor Brown in Montgailhard with additional reporting by John
"I am okay," said Australian Simon Gerrans at the start of
stage 14 to Plateau
de Beille. The 27 year-old went down with team leader and French Champion,
Christophe Moreau, in a gusty Tour de France stage to Montpellier, but
he is determined to do all he can for Team Ag2r in the Pyrenean stages
The rider from the Victorian Alps was worried about the 197-kilometre
stage on tap. "At the moment I am okay, but it might be a little
bit different in about ten kilometres," he noted with concern to
After the stage, he said, "Tough day today. It went out of the blocks
up the cat 2 which hurt. Then things settled down until the Hors Cat where
the bunch split up. I ended up back in the grupetto and we finished at
around 35 minutes down." Gerrans ended up with Moreau. The duo will
have to focus on two remaining stages, Monday and Wednesday, the day after
the rest day.
The scenery was stunning on stage
Photo ©: Sirotti
He welcomed the sunny start in Mazamet, home of Laurent Jalabert, after
Saturday's rain-soaked time trial affair. "There was no point in
me going flat out yesterday. I am a long way down on the GC and so there
is a no use hurting myself any more than I had too. It rained on me from
start to finish."
He had seen time trial World Champ Cancellara slide-out in a right-hander
but he explained his day out was a lot less intense. "He went really
close a couple of times. He did not back it off at all, he just kept pushing
it and he eventually went down. It was the last sort of tricky corner
where he went down.
"I took it really easy on the descent to avoid crashing. It was
only that first descent that was tricky." Gerrans finished with a
time of 9'30" down over the 54 kilometres. "So, otherwise, I
just rode tempo to the finish, it was a long way."
Gerrans and Moreau will focus on taking a mountain stage for the team.
Gerrans explained that Moreau's lost time might help his escape chances.
"He was on a really bad day. After his crash, he was shook up a bit.
Now he has nothing to lose, he is a long way down on GC so I think he
will be looking for a stage win. ... The next three days are going to
be hard, and I am not really worried about any particular stage. My legs
aren't too bad."
Pippo passing Pyrénées
By Gregor Brown in Montgailhard
Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) has
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Filippo Pozzato may have the Milano-Sanremo and Het Volk on his palmarès
but that does not mean he stands a chance in the hot and demanding stages
of the Pyrénées. The Italian from Veneto, winner of the
Tour de France stage to Autun, is looking to pass the Pyrenean climbs
and is focused on his last three stage possibilities.
"It was calm and very cool," Pozzato explained to Cyclingnews
of the time trial around Albi. He was one of the many riders who road
in the rain over the 54 kilometre test but fortunately there was no pressure
on him to perform. Just like in the current mountain stages, he is looking
to save himself for the flatter days to come. "I will need to save
myself and I hope for the best."
His Byelorussian teammate, Aleksandr Kuschynski, tried his luck in the
stage to Plateau de Beille while 'Pippo' rode in the gruppetto
to finish 34 minutes back.
"After the mountains there are two nice stages and then Paris. I
hope to be able to do something good," said the tall, 25 year-old.
The Tour will finish with closing circuits on the Champs-Élysées
as normal. "I would really enjoy winning in Paris because Paris is
a grand bel arrivo but I have to arrive there first."
Pozzato had pointed toward stage
12 to Castres after his win in Autun but he was a little held up in
the finale, where he ended fourth behind team-mate Murilo Fischer. "We
had a problem with the round-about after the last kilometre banner and
we lost a little bit. It was also a little bit of a mess in the sprint;
I bumped against Ballan but it was fine, the same."
The next chance for Pozzato will come on Thursday,
with the 188.5-kilometre stage to Castelsarrasin.
Coalition of Predictor and Rabobank?
By Brecht Decaluwé in Montgailhard
Going into Sunday's mountainous stage 14, two teams shared mutual interests
and were well set up to lead the peloton through the Pyrenees. The two
Dutch-speaking teams Rabobank and Predictor both wanted to defend the
yellow jersey; Rabobank held the maillot jaune while Predictor
was not far behind with Evans one minute down on the Danish captain of
the Rabobank team. Evans proved that he can take at least one minute back
on Rasmussen in a long time trial which made him, at least before Sunday's
stage, perhaps the top candidate to wear the maillot jaune in Paris,
considering that that there's a time trial scheduled for the penultimate
stage of the Tour de France 2007.
Before the start of the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees, the two
directeur sportifs gave their view on a possible low-countries-coalition.
Erik Dekker, whose Rabobank team was leading, said things would have to
change for his Dutch team. "It's obvious that we're not in the most
ideal position," said Dekker. The former quadruple Tour de France
stage winner explained to Cyclingnews that the team built up a
lot of confidence in Rasmussen after his strong time trial in Albi.
"Riding a time trial like that proves how strong he is," said
Dekker of Rasmussen's strong stage 13 time trial. "I'm not surprised
that he stood tall but it's obvious that his time trial was of exceptional
class." Dekker explained that Rasmussen was confused about the reference
times he had asked for Alejandro Valverde. "Up until now, he still
thinks that he received the split times from Boogerd from Breukink but
when he spotted Valverde with 10km to go, he received an enormous boost."
Approaching the big mountains, Dekker predicted that Predictor would lend
them a hand and work hard at the front of the race.
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Marc Sergeant, a manager for the Predictor team, confirmed that the Belgian
team would support Rabobank in the day's stage. "I don't know who
the other guys are, but for sure there will be a few of our guys,"
Sergeant said he wouldn't force the complete team to work. "We have
the same interests as we both want to reach the mountains together. We
don't want groups to get away where dangerous guys are featuring, like
Moreau," Sergeant explained why the two teams would work together.
The Belgian manager was quietly hoping for the biggest prize of all in
Paris, but he'd said earlier that the team was not strong enough to defend
a yellow jersey at the moment had Evans managed to collect it after Stage
13. "If we would've drawn out a pattern before the Tour showing us
where we would like to be before we hit the Pyrenees, well than it would
be just like it is now," Sergeant said before Sunday's stage. One
minute behind the less talented time-trialist Rasmussen and 1'31"
before the number three seems to be perfect.
"After yesterday I think both Rasmussen and Evans received an enormous
boost," Sergeant said. When asked to give away his three names for
the podium in Paris in random order Sergeant picked Evans, Rasmussen and
Klöden. "Depending on the order I will be happy, very happy
and super happy," Sergeant laughed and then focused on getting the
team car ready for the first mountains stage.
He may not be too far off in his prediction. Even after Sunday's stage
14 GC shake-up in the mountains, his three picks remain in first, third,
and fifth, all within 4'38" of leader Rasmussen. However, he may
need to re-evaluate, taking into consideration two strong Discovery riders,
best young rider Alberto Contador, now sitting in second at 2'23"
and Levi Leipheimer, in fourth at 4'29".
As the Tour crawls its way to the ultimate time trial, Rabobank and Predictor
are likely to work more as rivals. Rasmussen will be trying to gain time
on Evans and other key GC riders, such as the two Discovery racers. "Let
us first start the last week and try to gain time. For sure now it [Rasmussen's
advantage in GC] is not good enough but it's better than what we expected
24 hours ago," Dekker smiled. Rasmussen's advantage over second place
is even greater after today.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2007)