Tour de France Cycling News, July 9, 2008
Edited by Sue George and Greg Johnson
Yellow a confirmation for Schumacher
By Brecht Decaluwé in Cholet, France
Schumacher waves to the crowd
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Gerolsteiner scored an important victory in the Tour's Stage
4 time trial, where Stefan Schumacher took the stage win and the leader's
yellow jersey. The team is in search of a replacement for the bottled
water company, whose support runs out at the season's end. The victory
in France might be just what the squad needed to seal a new deal.
Schumacher, who has had significant victories like the 2007 Amstel Gold
Race and two stages and a stint in the 'maglia rosa' in the 2006 Giro
d'Italia, still wasn't amongst the favourites to take the win and yellow
in Cholet. That honour belonged to world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara
(Team CSC-Saxo Bank) and Garmin-Chipotle's David Millar. But Schumacher
didn't count himself out.
"I've never focused on the time trial – for instance at the world championships
- but two years ago, I did well in the Giro d'Italia [fourth - Ed.] and
I've won the time trial in the Tirrenno-Adriatico [in 2007 - Ed.]. I must
admit that I was surprised to take yellow. I know I was going well, but
this is amazing."
expects to hold onto the yellow jersey after tomorrow's stage [five],
which is suited to the sprinters, but knows that the 11 kilometre uphill
finish in Super-Besse the following day will present the biggest challenge
to his defense of the general classification lead.
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"The stage to Super-Besse will be very difficult. Guys like Kirchen are
only at 12 seconds and they'll surely attack me. I will need very good
legs to keep the jersey," he said. "Anyway, I'm not here to win the Tour
de France. I wanted to wear the jersey and win a stage and that's what
I achieved; everything else is a bonus. We know that it will be difficult
to keep it for a series of days."
Read the complete
Evans delivers time trial punch
By Gregor Brown in Cholet, France
It was only 29.5 kilometres and still two days before the first mountain
test, but Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) turned Tuesday's time trial in Cholet,
France to his advantage. The 31 year-old delivered a punch to fellow general
classification rivals, with the closest - Denis Menchov (Rabobank) - finishing
seven seconds adrift.
"It is a good start, but it is a long, long way to Paris," said Evans.
The pundits were impressed with the Tour de France favourite, who finished
second in last year's race, after he delivered the goods in the first
real test for general classification riders. Evans finished fourth on
the day - behind Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia)
and David Millar (Garmin-Chipotle) - but took time that he will seek to
defend when the mountains arrive.
Evans put seven seconds into Menchov, around a minute into Damiano Cunego
(Lampre) and Andy Schleck (Team CSC-Saxo Bank), and 1'07" to Alejandro
Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).
"I just wanted to see my level against the others," said Evans. "From
Dauphiné [Libéré] to here, if you look at the time trial results, I am
on a good progression I think. In my mind this is the first appointment
for the general classification favourites - so far so good."
Good indeed. Evans now holds a 1'06" buffer over Valverde in the classification
standings. "Every minute and second I can gain on him is a very good sign,"
Evans will be allowed the role of defence for Thursday's mountain-top
arrival to Super Besse, something that gives him comfort. Even with a
time buffer up his sleeve, Evans faces men who know how to pull off giant-killing
"Like we saw yesterday, day to day, everything changes," he said. "For
now, it is a good start."
Holczer happy with an eye toward future sponsorship
By Shane Stokes in Cholet, France
Schumacher went all out
Hans Michael Holczer was a very happy man at the finish of Stage 4, realising
that Stefan Schumacher's victory had given him a big boost in the hunt for
a new team sponsor. Gerolsteiner will pull out at the end of the season
and, as the German told Cyclingnews earlier
this week, they are using the Tour de France as a platform to show prospective
backers what type of exposure they could get.
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
"This is definitely good," he said. "When we were winning
Paris-Nice with Davide Rebellin, I said that it [a big victory] doesn't
hurt in searching for a sponsor. Winning a Tour de France stage and then
being the yellow jersey, I tell you that this is the best that could happen
in this case."
Twenty three riders started behind Schumacher and so he had a long wait
to find out if he had won. Holczer gave his reaction prior to the finish
of the others, and at that point he recognised that his rider had performed
very well. However, he was also very nervous, having experienced some
defeats in the past.
"It is a very good ride and I think that the course today suited
him perfectly," he said. "The riders had to go up some hills
against the wind, so they had to have a lot of power. Then he [Schumacher]
had a tailwind so he could really roll; I think he can do both things
"At this moment I hope that the miracle comes true and this works
out," he added. "I have won the Grand Prix des Nations four
times, the last time with a double win, and so I know what it is like
to stand on the finish line. And I have already lost some World Championships
in the last second. It is a nervous wait now but we will see."
Once it was confirmed that the team had indeed taken the sought after
stage victory and, more importantly, the yellow jersey Holczer
admitted that he wasn't sure that Schumacher would beat Fabian Cancellara.
"I am pretty confident in his time trial ability," he said.
"But there always remains a small piece left, something that would
make me say I have to see it before being one hundred percent convinced.
Today I saw it. I was in the car behind, I saw it.
"I expected him to be in the first 10," he added. "But
winning is a nice surprise, even if Schumi himself is less surprised than
Schumacher was close to a win on Stage 1, but attacked too early after
the team was mistakenly told that the last 200 metres were flat. The time
trial win made up for this, and also for his races earlier in the season.
"For him it is very important because he was not so content with
himself after his early season in the Classics. He came here and attacked
on the last climb on the first stage, but he miscalculated a little bit.
He was not content with his result there.
"He told me all the day that he had good legs, that he knew he could
do it, but to be honest Fabian Cancellara is here and he is almost unbeatable.
I am very happy that he managed this today.
"We had one bad experience together two years ago in the Deutchsland
Tour, when I really pushed him in the first kilometres. He had the best
intermediate time, but then he was totally wasted. I think he finished
outside the first time.
"Today we said that we would try it again," he added. "I
said that I would try not to push so hard but I would push in the end
and, as you can see, it worked."
A bunch sprint is the most likely outcome on Stage 5. However, the first
summit finish of the race comes the following day; does Holczer think
that Schumacher can hold on?
"We will defend as much as possible," he said. "Let's
see, we will take it day by day and we will try as long as possible. Schumi
is not a real hill climber, but before today he was not a real time trialist.
So we don't know what to expect."
Green-clad Kirchen going strong
By Brecht Decaluwé
Kim Kirchen (Columbia) defended
his green jersey
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Green jersey holder Kim Kirchen was expected to lose some positions in
the general classification after the time trial in Cholet, France but
the rider from Luxembourg surprised many by finishing as runner-up once
again in Stage 4.
Second is a position where he also finished during Stage
2 towards Saint-Brieuc; he lost out on the victory only in the final
portion of the first stage in Plumelec.
"I'm in a very good form," Kirchen said. The rider from the
Columbia team had already said recently that he had been working hard
on his time trialing, and that effort had paid off.
"I've been trying to win stages every day, just like today, but
although I didn't win, I'm happy with my time trial anyway," said
Kirchen. "I'm coming from Switzerland where I was climbing really
well, and we'll see if I can keep this form until the last week. I'll
give my maximum to do so."
By claiming second place, Kirchen strengthened his leading position in
the points classification in which he now has a margin of 27 points over
Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).
"The green jersey isn't my goal and I'm not going to battle against
the top sprinters," Kirchen said. "We have other guys for that
like Mark Cavendish. Nevertheless, it is possible that I'll try to position
myself as well as possible up near the front of the bunch," he said,
keeping all options open.
Millar to hunt for yellow on Super Besse
By Shane Stokes in Cholet, France
As Jonathan Vaughers told Cyclingnews this
week, Garmin Chipotle were hoping to take the maillot jaune in either
the Stage 4 time trial, or on Super Besse this Thursday. The team will
now aim for that Plan B, with both David Millar and Christian Vandevelde
within striking distance after the race against the clock.
The two riders finished third and eighth on the stage, conceding 18 and
37 seconds respectively to stage winner Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner).
They are third and sixth overall, 12 and 33 seconds back.
Both were extremely determined during the time trial. Millar came across
the start line, wheeling to a halt soon afterwards and sitting down on
the ground, exhausted. Although he didn't beat Schumacher's earlier time,
he was surrounded by a scrum of reporters hunting for quotes and had to
quickly get back up to his feet.
"I just enjoyed it so much, being back to my best," he said.
"It was fun. It's not a disappointment. I went 100 percent, I could
really push myself. I am happy. Second isn't bad, the person who beat
me was better. [Millar ended up finishing third after Kim Kirchen also
clocked a faster time. - ed.]"
He admitted that he was not expecting that result. "Schumacher did
a good time trial," he said. "It is a surprise, he was not in
the favourites. This has put me in a good position [overall]. Plan A was
to try to get the yellow jersey here, so I am going to have to resort
to Plan B now Super Besse."
Saunier Duval-Scott's leaders lose more time
Italian Riccardo Riccò (Saunier
Photo ©: AFP
Both of Saunier Duval-Scott's leaders, Riccardo Riccò and Juanjo
Cobo, lost more time in Stage 4's time trial than they were expecting
according to the team. Riccò finished down by 3'36 while Cobo clocked
in at 3'45.
The finish should not trouble Riccò, who has already indicated
he is not competing for the overall, but Cobo is fighting for a good place
in the GC.
"I don't know why I was so slow," said Cobo. "I'd been
feeling OK but today it wasn't the case. My heartbeat was 160, and you
can't give it the full gas at that pace. I didn't feel comfortable on
my bike, so my performance was less than perfect.
"I hope it's just a bad day, my only bad day in this Tour. I know
I'm in good shape," he said hopefully. "We'll see what happens
in the upcoming stages..."
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