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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for July 23, 2007

Edited by Sue George and Greg Johnson with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

Pain in the Pyrénées

By Paul Verkuylen

The peloton making its way along this beautiful river.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

After the display put on by the climbers in yesterday's stage to Plateau-de-Beille, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was the last mountain stage of this year's Tour de France. In fact, you'd need to look back a number of years to find the last time pure climbers were truly battling it out for the Tour's yellow jersey.

But with five mountains in today's stage to Le Louron, today could once again redefine the leader board. The 15th stage, which travels through the heart of the Hautes-Pyrénées, from Foix in the Ariege region, sees riders tackle the day's first climb after 27 kilometres of racing.

The Rabobank team of yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen showed the world yesterday it is up to the task of protecting its leader in the mountains. The Dutch ProTour team's youngster Thomas Dekker, and the ever popular Michael Boogerd, who is contesting his final Tour, put in strong performances on the 14th stage to protect the Dane's lead. Today should see the team once again on the front, guiding Rasmussen to the final 9.7 km Col de Peyresourde climb, but Rabobank won't have the luxury of another team helping this time as was the case yesterday with Saunier Duval. The Spanish squad tried to tear the race apart for Iban Mayo, who in the end didn't have what it takes to match it with the leaders on the final climb.

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) proved that he is climbing strongly and the general classification contender will have another opportunity to gain time on his rivals on today's stage, where he will be hoping to steal the yellow away from Rasmussen. Discovery Channel leader Levi Leipheimer minimised his losses on Stage 14, and still stands a chance of reaching the podium in Paris, providing he can take more time out of Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto).

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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Stage 9 victor Mauricio Soler, Barloworld's sensation of the Tour, is currently minding the polka dot jersey for Rasmussen. The Colombian was seen sprinting for the King of the Mountain points yesterday, in an attempt to take the outright lead in that competition, but was still trailing by two points at the end of the stage - thanks to Rasmussen's strong final climb to take second on the stage. The Colombian could attack again on Stage 15 in order to build a lead in the mountains classification and being 11 minutes down on classification, he poses no immediate threat to the yellow jersey, which may just be enough for the leaders to let him go.

Evans suffered in the final part of yesterday's climb and lost almost two minutes to Rasmussen, as well as his second place on GC. The Australian will try to stay with the leaders and, if the legs allow it, take back some of the lost time from his rivals.

Astana's Andreas Klöden or Alexandre Vinokourov could well attack today. Klöden cracked early on yesterday's final climb, but was able to keep a steady tempo to re-capture and finish with Evans. Like Evans, Klöden will be looking to take back some time and should be recovered from his fall in the time trial.

After Saturday's time trial and yesterday's mountain stage, there is bound to be lots of heavy legs in the peloton, which will make today's stage even more exciting.

Stage 14 reactions

Erik Breukink (Rabobank manager): "The captain cannot perform without a strong team behind him, and the efforts by Thomas Dekker, Michael Boogerd, and Denis Menchov are to no avail if the captain is unable to finish it. This was a dream scenario come true. Before the race you think about what could happen and then you are hoping that Rasmussen will have someone by his side for as long as possible. He started the concluding climb with three men with him and they held on for a long time too. It almost could not have been better. It was perfect.

"We have increased the lead on Evans and Klöden, and that is today's gain. We quickly found out on Plateau-de-Beille that Klöden and Evans were not in superb shape. That is why Boogerd gave a little extra while in the lead and Menchov also gave a major tug. That paid off. But Monday will be completely different. A stage with five climbs spread out over the entire day. That will be very hard to control."

Thomas Dekker (Rabobank): "I used to watch the Festinas do this. This shows that I am in good physical condition because there is no way you can do this if you are not. In the end I limited my own losses to five minutes. It is very satisfactory that I can take on this role in my first Tour de France and it proves that much can be expected from me in the future."

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank): "Thomas and I kept up a pretty good pace while we were in the lead. We had no choice but to defend and we did that really well today. Rasmussen yelled 'ho, ho' at first but, looking back on it, I am glad that I kept going for a little longer because we did good business today. I was hoping for the role I have now because I would like to conclude properly. This is a good start. But I know the Tour pretty well by now, and I know things are still going to get rough."

Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval): "I feel bad, because my fans traveled far only to cheer on me and also because the team were great. I really wanted to offer them a triumph. I believed I was doing better. The team dragged the peloton very well in Pailhères, but in the final stretch I hardly felt my legs and I had to slow down. Perhaps what happened today was a consequence of yesterday´s time-trial, I don´t know... Then, in Plateau-de-Beille, when I realised I wouldn´t be able to make it I didn´t even try because, as I said before, my goal here is to grab a stage win. Maybe on Monday or Wednesday... who knows."

Andreas Klöden (Astana): "It was a very tough day for me. I suffered a lot because of my injuries at my right knee that I had since yesterday after my fall in the time trial. Well, there are still two very difficult stages to overcome. I'll see day by day."

Antonio Colom (Astana): "As my place in the overall ranking isn't important, I waited for Klöden and Kashechkin as Contador and Rasmussen passed me by. It's my job to work for the team, in order to be on the podium at the end. Today, I'm happy with my performance but I'm also a bit sad for the team. After yesterday's stage, I thought we could make it again today. But that's life…"

Kim Andersen (Team CSC manager): "Sastre delivered today and he demonstrated that he is between the strongest riders in the peloton again this year. We knew, he wouldn't be able to keep up with Contador and Rasmussen if they were on form, so his chance would present itself if they were to run out of strength at some point, like some of the other favorites did today."

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile): "I performed as well as I could have expected to. Already on the second last climb, the tempo of the favourite's group was incredibly high. I knew then that I wouldn't be able to stick it on the last climb, so I rode at my own rhythm."

Rabobank behind Rasmussen

Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

While the queue of sponsors leaving cycling continues to grow, banking giant Rabobank has thrown its support behind its embattled Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen. A spokesperson for the Dutch multinational has declared the organisation has "no reason to doubt" Rasmussen, whose Tour success has been shadowed by his axing from the Danish national team after failing to follow anti-doping protocol.

"Of course, we are totally behind him," Rabobank spokesman Raymond Salet told AFP. "There is no reason to doubt him."

Rasmussen's dumping from the national squad will see him miss the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany in September as well as the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The decision by his national federation comes after Rasmussen failed to declare his location to authorities on numerous occasions, a requirement under anti-doping legislation in case a rider was to be visited for random, out-of-competition anti-doping testing

Rabobank's stance has reassured the Dutch ProTour team's management, after T-Mobile sponsor Adidas announced it would be reviewing its half a million Euro sponsorship deal of the German squad following Patrick Sinkewitz' positive out-of-competition test. In addition to Adidas' review, car giant Audi is reviewing its commitments to the sport, according to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, while a spokesperson for Volkswagen - the parent company of Skoda Automotive - has told The Guardian it would not pull its support during the Tour, but will review its four year involvement and decide whether to continue.

Reus slowly being awakened

Doctors in Grenoble, France, have started waking Rabobank's Kai Reus from his induced coma, with mixed success. They reduced his medication on Friday to bring him around, but he reacted with violent convulsions. Things went slightly better on Saturday when Reus was able to recognize his father before the convulsions set in again. He was then put back into the coma.

"He is making slight progress," a team spokesman told the Belgian website vrtnieuews.be. "He recognized his father, which is positive." He also added that the convulsions "seem to be a normal reaction."

The 22 year-old crashed while training alone. He suffered three broken ribs and a broken collarbone as well as a brain hemorrhage.

Sinkewitz update

By Susan Westemeyer

"I advise all the athletes who I represent to confess, if they have something to confess to. And I advised Patrik [Sinkewitz] that way, too," attorney Michael Lehner told the German press agency dpa. "I don't know if he has anything to say or not."

Sinkewitz tested positive for testosterone. The A-sample results were announced while he was still in the hospital recovering from severe injuries suffered in a crash following the eighth stage of the Tour de France.

Team T-Mobile Sport Director Rolf Aldag visited the suspended rider in the hospital the end of the week, and said that his operation had been a success. "Patrik had surgery on his nose," he said on the team's website, t-mobile-team.com. "And his jaw was stablized with an elastic bandage." Sinkewitz has since been released from the hospital. His B-sample is not expected to be opened before July 24.

Lehner, who has also represented Danilo Hondo, Matthias Kessler, and Jörg Jaksche, said that he had not yet met with his newest client, but would do so in the coming week.

The doping test was made at a T-Mobile training camp in the Pyrenees the beginning of June. According to the German television sender ZDF, it was possible that the riders were informed of the "unannounced" control while they were training. In addition, the riders have claimed that the tests were not properly carried out because the room where the sample was taken was open to the public.

Appearing on ZDF's "Sport Studio" Saturday night, Helmut Pabst of the German anti-doping agency denied any irregularities in the testing procedure. "The athletes were held in a large meeting room of the hotel. The urine samples were given in a neighboring toilet in the presence of only the controller."

Lehner said that he had spoken with the other riders tested, who described a chaotic situation in the testing room. Pabst denied that as well, saying "Other than the riders, only the team leader and two soigneurs were there. Strangers would have been told immediately to leave the room." The attorney indicated that if the B-sample is also found to be positive, it would be up to the German federation, the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer, to prove that the sample was not manipulated by a third person.

Stablinski passes away

Four time French national champion Jean Stablinski has passed away, having succumbed to a long-term illness. The 1962 world champion took his first French title in 1960, before returning to the podium's top step in '62, '63 and for the final time in '64. Stablinski, who took five stage victories during his 12 Tour de France appearances, was also the victor of the inaugural Amstel Gold Race.

Following his retirement from professional cycling, Stablinski went on to guide the careers of budding young riders - most notably Lucien Van Impe and Bernard Hinault. Stablinski was 75 years old.

Rhodes returns to Thüringen Rundfahrt

By Greg Johnson

Australian cyclist Alex Rhodes will join compatriot Katie Brown (Vrienden Van Het Platteland) in returning to the event where the horrific crash that claimed the life of the pair's Australian Institute of Sport teammate Amy Gillett took place, after being named in her T-Mobile squad's lineup for the 20th Internationale Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen. Rhodes, who will lineup with Australian T-Mobile teammates Kate Bates and Oenone Wood, is returning to the event for the first time since the 2005 accident after missing last year's race.

Rhodes and Brown were amongst the six cyclists hit by an 18 year-old women who lost control of her vehicle, striking the bunch who were on a pre-Thüringen-Rundfahrt training ride at the time of the incident. Brown announced last week the July 24-29 race would be her last in Europe for the time being, with the rider planning on returning to Australia to continue her recovery.

Rhodes will be riding for German powerhouse Judith Arndt, who has enjoyed a strong season to date. Arndt missed last year's race after suffering from a viral infection.

"Judith has proved herself to be the most reliable tour rider this year with excellent results in Tour de l'Aude and Giro and I expect another awesome performance from her at Thueringen, especially as it is so close to home for her", said T-Mobile director sportif Anna Wilson.

Arndt will also have the resources of fellow German Anke Wichmann and the squad's highest placed rider at last year's event, American Kim Anderson.

"I finished the Giro feeling really good and I'm in top-fit condition. I want to win here," said the 2004 World Road Race Champion.

T-Mobile Internationale Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen roster: Kim Anderson, Judith Arndt, Kate Bates, Alex Rhodes, Anke Wichmann, Oenone Wood.

Vos retains European title

Team DSB Bank's sprint sensation Marianne Vos has retained the Under 23 women's road race European Champion title after taking out the event in Hungary over the weekend. Vos outsprinted Italy's Marta Bastianelli and Lithuanian Rada Leleivyte to take the title.

The 20 year-old reigning elite women's World Champion was delighted with what she described as "a beautiful victory, I gladly again had to win. I am quite glad that I succeeded."

Fellow professional youngster Linda Villumsen (T-Mobile), who narrowly missed out on the young rider's jersey at this month's Giro d'Italia Femminile, took the European Under 23 Time Trial Champion title at the weekend's event. GJ

Bruyneel still looking

Johan Bruyneel is still looking for a new sponsor to replace Discovery Channel. "It's not easy to find someone who writes a $15 million check," he told the AP.

He said that he might ask Lance Armstrong to help him with the search. "It's only done when it's done," Bruyneel said. "There might be strong interest and there may be people who are recently coming to talk."

Bruyneel's search may get easier after Discovery's successful week of racing. Allan Davis took the final stage and sprinter's jersey at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China Sunday. He wore the green jersey from stage 1 until the end of the race.

Meanwhile, on another continent, Bruyneel finds himself in the enviable position of still having two serious Tour de France GC contenders in the mix. After Sunday's Stage 14, Alberto Contador Velasco sits second at 2'23" and Levi Leipheimer is in fourth at 4'29" behind yellow jersey wearer Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank). Contador also wears the white jersey of the best young rider leader.

Jaksche hoping for comeback

"I'm glad I confessed. I don't have to lie to anyone any more," Jörg Jaksche said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper NZZ.ch. "I want to help cycling change."

Jaksche confessed earlier this month to having used banned substances and blood doping. He hopes to ride in the peloton again in the 2008 season, and is looking for a reduced suspension because of his confession. He intends to provide prosecutors and investigators with information about those who deal in doping products, but won't name other athletes, "who are always the weakest link."

The German called for a basic change in cycling, saying that "doping is long established and passed on from generation to generation." He said that doping in the 1990s was not seen as fraud, since everyone did it. "Jan Ullrich is right in saying that he didn't defraud anyone. He didn't, except maybe for the three percent who were clean."

Milram for Sachsen Tour

Team Mliram is looking for stage wins in the International Sachsen Tour, which starts and ends in Dresden, Germany, and runs from July 25 to 29.

Milram for Sachsen: Martin Mueller, Bjoern Schroeder, Sebastian Schwager, Elia Rigotto, Dennis Haueisen, Sebastian Siedler, Carlo Scognamiglio, Niki Terpstra.

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