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Tour de France Cycling News, July 6, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Suspected fracture for Soler

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Last year's king of the mountains, Juan Mauricio Soler of Barloworld, might not get the chance to repeat that performance after he crashed near the end of stage one of the Tour de France. The Colombian fell with nine kilometres to go on the same wrist that he fractured in the Giro d'Italia, and suffered a suspected broken scaphoid. He also sprained his right wrist, which he injured in last year's Coppa Agostoni.

"The scaphoid is a small round bone in the wrist and you can't always see if it's fractured or not after a wrist injury," Tour medical officer Gerard Porte told AFP. The bone sits at the base of the thumb, and because it has limited blood circulation to it, the scaphoid can be slow to heal.

Soler expects to make a decision whether or not to continue before the start of the second stage on Sunday. Soler suffered through his wrist fracture in the Giro d'Italia for nine stages before finally abandoning on stage 11.

Jégou hoped for stage win and a baby

By Jean-François Quénet in Plumelec

Lilian Jegou (Française des Jeux)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Française des Jeux's Lilian Jégou became the first rider of the 2008 Tour de France to wear the red number of the most aggressive rider after spending most of the 197.5 kilometre stage in a breakaway. Jégou launched the first attack just two kilometers after the real start given on the magnificent bridge Albert Louppe at the exit of Brest. "We are four Breton riders at FDJ and we were really motivated to get away," Jégou said. "Today, it was me, tomorrow, it will be another one."

With seven other breakaway riders, Jégou spent more than 190km away, and was the last man caught with Spaniard David de la Fuente with seven kilometres to go. "We would have needed 10 or 15 minutes lead to be able to believe in the possibility of a stage win. Unfortunately, the bunch didn't let us have more than eight or nine minutes."

Jégou had a good day anyway, especially in the second part of the stage which passed close to the town of Vannes where he lives. He hails from Nantes where he owns a bike shop with his brother Jean-François, but he knows that stage three is built for pure sprinters and he has less chance to win in his native city. "It was great to cross Brittany in the lead group," he added. "Many people shouted my name, I hope they'll remember and come and cheer again next winter when I'll be taking part in cyclo-cross races here." Jégou claimed his first and only pro win so far at the Tour du Limousin last year, but he is a very popular rider in the west of France.

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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A couple of minutes after crossing the line in Plumelec, he wondered if he had become a father while he was battling on the road. "My wife is expecting a baby in the next few hours, I should call and find out," he said. No such news arrived for him on the day of his epic ride at the Tour de France, so he was able to focus again on the next stage. "I'll be tired after what I did today but we have something good to try with Philippe Gilbert who came second to Valverde, we'll try to get him the yellow jersey in Saint-Brieuc", a smiling Jégou concluded

Stapleton pleased with stage one

By Shane Stokes in Plumelec

Kim Kirchen (Columbia) tries to follow Valverde
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Although Kim Kirchen came up a little short on his attempt to win the first stage of the Tour de France, team manager Bob Stapleton was in an upbeat mood after the finish. He praised the effort made by the Luxembourg time trial champion and also by the team in general, saying that everyone pulled together to try to take the victory.

"We had a great chance there," he told Cyclingnews. "Kim rode a great race, the guys did great. You could see them all at the front in the last twenty kilometres. We couldn't be happier with their performance.

"Kim came in fourth but it really didn't matter. We were going for the jersey. Second or third is first or second loser...but he did a great job. I think he showed he is fit and the team is motivated...they rode great. They really controlled the last ten kilometres, and perhaps the last twenty. They are in form, they are doing everything right, but Valverde was just too much for them."

He is optimistic that things will turn Columbia's way soon. "We are going to get our chances in the next few days," he continued. "I don't think we are disappointed at all. I am sure Kim is because he could probably feel it and taste it and thought he was there, until this rocket ship came right past him. Valverde gained 50 metres in the last 100 metres...it was pretty explosive.

"I initially thought that Schumacher might stay away, because those behind were really not organised at all. Kim exploded up to him, but I think he went a bit too early. The finish is pretty deceiving ľ in the race manual it looks flat in the 200 metres, but it is not...it is still climbing all the way. With the excitement of the finish sign, everybody might have pushed themselves a little too early. Schumacher clearly did, other guys did. But Valverde was there right at the end, looking strong."

Both Stapleton and the riders themselves often mention what they say is great team spirit on the squad. Stapleton said this was reflected in the performance of the riders today, using Adam Hansen's long effort at the front as an example. When asked if that team spirit was down to anything in particular, he suggested that it was partly to do with their beliefs ľ referring presumably to the anti-doping stance ľ and also because of the successes that they have forged together.

"I think that the thing that is strongest in the team is the fact that they really like each other, respect each other and they work together," he said. "They really will sacrifice themselves for each other. There is a lot of shared values on the team, they have sort of self-selected [themselves]. They believe in what the team is about, they have been through adversity together, they have raced a lot and had a lot of success.

"There has been a lot of pressure, but also positive rewards in having such success in a group. Thirteen different guys have won races this year, which is unusual, so I think they feel like they have all got chances. When they have a chance, their team-mates will support them as well. So we have been able to keep that balance, and that is what I think makes it a special team.

"Mark [Cavendish] is a great rider, Hincapie is a great rider, we have got great talent, but it is not built around superstars. It is built around team-work and guys who step up with the support of their fellow team-mates."

The finish of stage one featured a 1.7 kilometre climb, averaging 6.1%. This proved too much for the pure sprinters, but Stapleton believes that Cavendish and Gerard Ciolek will have a better chance in the days ahead.

Schumacher can't convert pole position into victory in Plumelec Grand Prix

By Brecht Decaluwé in Plumelec

As the peloton streamed towards the 'flamme rouge' near Plumelec in stage one of the Tour de France, a desperate attack from Romain Feillu was neutralized by a brutal acceleration from Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher. The German kept the pole position for a while, but he was then caught by a group with Kim Kirchen and Alessandro Ballan.

After being passed, the fading Schumacher could hardly make it up to the finish line to come in twentieth, and he didn't have to say a word to make it clear that he had given everything he had, as his body language said more than enough. After a while he summarized what had killed his effort. "There was too much wind," Schumacher sighed. When asked if he had attacked too early, the bold German agreed. "Too early? Yeah, but that's cycling I guess."

Schumacher wasn't too disappointed and was already looking forward to have another go to glory in the Tour de France. "There are other stages for me, maybe tomorrow. Actually, I'll try everyday," Schumacher smiled and rolled on towards the Gerolsteiner team bus.

Gerrans working for green

By Shane Stokes in Plumelec

Simon Gerrans (CrÚdit Agricole)
Photo ©: JF QuÚnet
(Click for larger image)

Australian rider Simon Gerrans was smiling at the start of day one of the Tour de France in Brest, enjoying the bright weather and the good atmosphere at the sign on area. He has come to the race in good form, winning the first stage of the recent Route du Sud, and appeared to be looking forward to helping team leader Thor Hushovd.

"With Thor in the team, the first week is all about him and trying to get him in yellow," he stated. "We will have our work cut out helping him out. On a day like today it will be pretty important to have somebody in the break as well, in case a group does stay away. We will be trying a bit of everything, I guess."

With riders such as Tom Boonen and Alessandro Petacchi missing from the Tour peloton, many are tipping Hushovd to take his second green jersey. Cyclingnews asked Gerrans if this increased the stress on the team.

"I don't know," he answered. "I think there is always pressure on the team here with a big leader like Thor. The pressure is always on, it doesn't matter who is here or who is not here. He is always a favourite. Anyway, you can't take anything away from the field here this year, I think there's going to be good sprints."

His own characteristics mean that he could find success himself from a breakaway. He said that he was pleased with his sensations in the DauphinÚ LibÚrÚ and the Route du Sud, and freshened up well in advance of the start of the Tour. He and the rest of the team have a big incentive to do well; CrÚdit Agricole is ending its sponsorship at the end of the season and, at this point, no replacement has been secured. A Tour de France stage win or green jersey might give the team extra leverage.

For now, the riders must wait and see what happens. "We have been told all along that we are going to find out at the beginning of August at the latest," he stated. "Roger [Legeay] has had good contacts and talks with prospective sponsors, but nothing is signed yet. That is all we know so far."

L÷vkvist hoping for good Tour

By Shane Stokes in Plumelec

Thomas L÷vkvist (Columbia) signs an autograph
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

When asked to list the riders to watch in the Tour de France, Schleck brothers Frank and Andy both mentioned Thomas L÷vkvist in a recent Cyclingnews interview. He is a real contender for the white jersey of the race but, if things go well during the Tour, he could also finish up with a high overall placing.

The 24 year-old former Swedish road race champion transferred to Team High Road (now Team Columbia) at the end of last year and has been riding strongly. He was third on a stage in the overall of Tirreno Adriatico, third on a stage of the Tour of Georgia and in the GP Kanton Aargau Gippingen, and also repeated that placing in two races recently.

"I was home doing the Swedish championship, going there straight after the Tour de Suisse," he told Cyclingnews before the start of the Tour de France. "I was third in both road and time trial. I was feeling good but I didn't really have luck in the road race. In the time trial I rode well but the others were stronger than me."

L÷vkvist said that he was happy with his 2008 form, and was hoping to convert his good performances in shorter stage races into consistency in the three week events.

"I have been climbing better this year than I have ever done," he stated. "The Tour de France is different, though. Earlier I have been riding well in one-week races, but I have never been really good in a three week Tour. I hope I can change that this year.

"I have done four Grand Tours so far, three Tours and one Vuelta. Last year I had a lot of problems with my pelvis getting twisted. I couldn't get any help from physios, but this year we have good people around and I think that will make a difference."

L÷vkvist finished 37th on the opening stage of the Tour, seven seconds behind winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). He said that he will take the race day by day, but hopes to see an improvement. "I will try to hang in there as long as possible, and if I am able to climb well enough, I will continue. Also my goad will be to support Kim at the same time. Otherwise, I will do my work for Kim as long as I can and then go in the grupetto when I have done my work, going for a stage. We will see how things develop."

He moved to his team from La Franšaise des Jeux and is happy with his new home. "The atmosphere on the team is very good," he said. "We have a lot of fun together. Okay, it is the Tour de France and you can feel the pressure building, but everyone seems very relaxed and we are having fun together."

Tour diaries: Chavanel, O'Grady

Sylvain Chavanel of Cofidis and Stuart O'Grady share their impressions of stage one in their Tour de France diaries.

Chavanel: Not a great beginning

I have to admit that today wasn't such a great beginning of the Tour de France for me and my team Cofidis. Like every year, this first stage was very nervous. The guys were all over each other, and there were several crashes. People thought I had crashed, too, but I didn't have any problem. Actually, at one point, I stopped to urinate, and that's when another crash happened right in front of me. Which is why I chased back to the bunch at the same time than the guys that had crashed, and it made it look like I had been involved, too. But fortunately, I hadn't!

During the stage, I made sure I always within the first 20 or 30 riders. But in that last, long descent before the finish, I was a bit further back, and I got trapped. I couldn't chase back when the bunch fell apart. The field split up into several groups, and I came through the finish at 31 seconds. So that's not a very satisfying result...

O'Grady: A chaotic start

It's always nice to get the first stage of the Tour de France outta the way. The few days sitting around before a big race are the worst. It feels like every day is never ending.

It was really strange starting without a prologue. It's the first time in my last 12 Tours de France that we haven't had a prologue and I must admit, you can't beat the feeling of rolling down the start ramp, nerves and adrenalin pumping.

It seemed like a bit of a shame just rolling outta Brest and racing without a maillot jaune in the peloton. Still, it certainly made for a chaotic, nervous and dangerous opening stage because 99 percent of the guys on the start line were 'dreaming' they'd be in yellow tonight.

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