Lake cycling shoes
BBB Parts
Procycling magazine

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
(Click for larger image)

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."

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).

WAP-enabled mobile devices: http://live.cyclingnews.com/wap/

Schumacher 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.

"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 feature.

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," said Evans.

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 stages.

"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
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)
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.

"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 very well.

"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 I am."

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
(Click for larger image)

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 Duval)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

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..."

Even more Tour: Video highlights and podcasts

Just can't get enough of the Tour? Well fear not because Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you video highlights of every stage plus daily podcasts courtesy of Bikeradar.com and Procycling magazine. Our video comes directly from Tour de France owners Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and will be online shortly after the finish of each stage. We've also got highlights from classic Tours of the past so click here to see the full archive.

Check out the podcasts page in our Tour de France section for a full round-up of news and views from the Tour.

Previous News    Next News

(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing Limited 2008)