Tour de France Cycling News, July 11, 2008
Edited by Hedwig Kröner and Greg Johnson
Lead change shrouded in controversy
Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher
gets up as the yellow jersey rides into the distance
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
The finish of stage 6
was somewhat controversial, with Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher crashing
within sight of the line and conceding the yellow jersey to closest rival
Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia). Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes gets reactions
to a dramatic finale at Super Besse.
With the Tour de France moving into the mountains on Thursday, it was
clear that there was going to be a shakeup in the race. Gerolsteiner's
Stefan Schumacher had a narrow lead over several dangerous rivals including
Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen - who started the day just twelve seconds
back. Several of those close to the sport
tipped that the Luxembourg rider would take over at the top.
That's what ultimately happened, but the manner of his doing so was utterly
unexpected. Schumacher rode superbly on the stage, remaining in the front
group while other better-regarded climbers such as Damiano Cunego (Lampre)
lost time. With 500 metres to go it not only looked like he would hold
on, but it appeared that he would be one of those actually sprinting for
the victory. But then it all went terribly wrong.
Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) found himself on the front after team-mate
Oscar Pereiro pulled off. He moved from the left to right side of the
road, presumably to try to get one of the other riders to come by, but
this created a ripple effect which made Kirchen swing over and - unintentionally
- clip Schumacher's front wheel. The German went straight down, hitting
the road hard. While he remounted immediately and set off in pursuit,
he crossed the line 32 seconds behind stage winner Riccardo Ricc˛ (Saunier
Duval-Scott) and 31 adrift of Valverde, Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Frank
Schleck (Team CSC) and Kirchen.
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Confusion then reigned. On normal stages, any mishaps inside the final
three kilometres have no effect on the rider's time, unless the group
splits. However on mountain stages this doesn't normally apply, due presumably
to the possibility of riders faking problems. There was nevertheless a
lot of uncertainly; Schumacher initially declined to speak to the media
circled around the team bus, being clearly gutted about losing yellow.
A team worker told those gathered there that he wouldn't talk due to the
disappointment of this loss happening due to a crash.
here to read the full feature.
Vande Velde ready for overall
By Hedwig Kr÷ner and Shane Stokes
Vande Velde will now look at his
own chances for GC
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
After putting in an excellent performance on the way to Super-Besse yesterday,
finishing 19th, 23 seconds behind the winner, Garmin-Chipotle's Christian
Vande Velde was happy with how the race went for him so far. And he even
thought about trying to find out exactly how far he can go on the overall
classification of this year's Tour de France, on which he is now ranked
fourth, a mere 44 seconds away from the lead.
"I shouldn't understate myself and I should really start looking after
myself more for the overall," he told Cyclingnews after the stage,
in which he initially wanted to work for team-mate David Millar, who had
a chance to go for the overall lead. But the final 10 percent gradient
ramp up to the ski station proved to be too much for the time triallist's
Vande Velde broke away in the company of Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval)
some five kilometres to the line. "The attack was planned. I was going
to go and then David would have a free ride to the finish. I didn't see
how he got on, though," said the American.
"My legs felt great. I was away with Piepoli who is probably the best
climber in the world. I found myself a little out-gunned, in a no-man's
land I didn't want to be in."
The pair was caught by the favourites' field as they tackled the final,
hardest bit of the climb. Vande Velde held on well but Millar lost 51
seconds to the winner of the stage, Kim Kirchen (Columbia). Nevertheless,
Garmin-Chipotle will continue its aggressive riding and hopefully score
a victory. "The team will keep attacking... not just on the climbs but
everywhere," concluded Vande Velde.
Riis holds the line in CSC's three-pronged front
By Gregor Brown in Super-Besse
Bjarne Riis, the Saxo Bank/CSC
manager, was happy with his riders' performance so far
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Bjarne Riis, CSC-Saxo Bank's mastermind, will stick to the team's three-pronged
approach, following the race's first mountain stage.
"The plan is to hit our rival teams with the Sastre/Schleck front. Carlos
Sastre and brothers Frńnk and Andy Schleck all fighting for the overall
classification." Riis otold Cyclingnews.
The trio did well yesterday despite Andy Schleck being caught up in
the maillot jaune crash at 300 metres out. It was shortly after that moment
that his older brother attacked - a move that kicked-started the move
by eventual stage winner, Riccardo Ricc˛.
Frńnk Schleck faded slightly in the end and finished fourth, but moved
up by 12 seconds in the classification, into 17th position at 1'56 back
from leader Kim Kirchen. He is one spot up on his brother. Andy Schleck
was 1'29 back going it the day, but slipped down to 1'58" - mostly due
to nearly crashing with Stefan Schumacher.
Sastre kept within sight of the leaders and remains in a protected position.
He finished eighth for the day and is now 12th overall at 1'34.
"Pretty okay, I think," was Riis' summary of the team's performance.
"We did what was expected. The climbs we did today were not that hard
and it is still a long way to go."
The race contains another four mountaintop finishes scatted across the
Pyrenees and Alps. Riis thinks that the remaining competitors will be
fleshed out over those demanding days. "With a couple kilometres to go
today, there were still a lot of riders," he warned.
Also see: An
interview with Frńnk and Andy Schleck.
Ten abnormal blood results before Tour start
French newspaper Le Monde revealed on Friday that there were
ten abnormal blood values found in samples taken by French Anti-Doping
Agency AFLD before the Tour de France. The tests were conducted on July
3 and 4, while the Tour got underway on July 5.
According to the newspaper, the results of the tests showed unusual
hematocrit and/or haemoglobin values. A high hematocrit result can be
an indication of blood doping, through EPO or blood transfusion, but there
are also other natural explanations possible.
The names of the riders involved were not published. The results were
also sent to the UCI for inclusion in the blood passport programme.
Aldag close to realizing his dream
By Shane Stokes in Super-Besse
Columbia DS Ralf Aldag
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Rolf Aldag was, along with the rest of Team Columbia, celebrating Kim
Kirchen's yellow jersey after the finish of stage
six. It took a while to receive confirmation that the Luxembourg rider
had indeed taken over the maillot jaune but once that was announced,
the directeur sportif gave his reaction to Cyclingnews. He was
happy to have the race lead, but felt that the chance of the stage victory
had slipped away due to incorrect information about the final run to the
"It was really, really close," he said. "With four kilometres to go
there was a little bit of a descent and we asked the team to bring him
to the front there, step by step, and then until the last corner. I feel
a bit guilty because the description we had from the final was kind of
wrong. We heard that from the last bend it is slightly uphill, but it
is clearly downhill.
"I think Kim wouldn't have lost four seconds if he knew the finish.
You could just sprint to the corner and then just roll to the finish,
but if you expect it goes uphill you do it differentlyů I am kind of mad
at myself, we should have known better. It shouldn't happen in the Tour
de France that you don't have the right information."
The team has had a superb Tour thus far, with Kirchen holding the yellow
and green jerseys, Thomas L÷vkvist leading the best young rider classification
and Mark Cavendish winning stage five. Aldag was happy, but felt it was
too soon to talk about Kirchen as a winner of the Tour.
"We are happy with the yellow jersey. We have to sit back and see what
we are going to do. We will have to look at the upcoming days and see
what makes sense and what doesn't make sense for us.
"For me he is still not the favourite. It is still about Valverde and
about Evans with the big climbs coming up. We have no clue so far [what
"I said before the start that if I had a dream, it was to get two stages
wins and top five in GC. Let's base things on that expectation. We had
hoped to take the second win today but that didn't work out. But no worries,
things are going great so far."
Kelly assesses stage six finish
By Shane Stokes in Super-Besse
Former world number one Sean Kelly was both a man for the Classics and
also for the Grand Tours. The Irishman was not a climbing specialist,
but could limit his losses in the high mountains when his form was good.
Cyclingnews spoke to the Eurosport commentator after stage six
to Super-Besse, and got his assessment of Stefan Schumacher's crash.
"Yesterday I said that Schumacher wouldn't have a chance of holding
on, but when I did the final climb today I said yes, I think he had a
very good chance," he said. "If he hadn't fallen over in the last 350
metres, he was certainly on for keeping the jersey. That's a huge disappointment
for him and the team because without that, he could have held on to it
for another two days."
Many riders lost time, amongst them Damiano Cunego (Lampre). Kelly said
that the first climbing stage can throw up some surprises.
"It is always difficult with the way they race and the fact that it
is the first day in the mountains, of course. It is tough to change, having
been doing some very fast racing on the flat, and then suddenly going
to the climbers' gears. It's hard for a lot of riders to adapt, and I
think you could see the results of that today."
As Kelly suggested, it was clear from the way things unfolded that Schumacher
would have kept yellow had he not fallen. Did he therefore think that
the jury's decision was fair? "Well, that is the regulation," he answered.
"In the mountain top finishes, you are not covered by the three-kilometre
rule governing crashes or mechanical problems. It is understandable because
if you allow that in there, the riders will abuse that situation on hilltop
finishes like today."
Stuart O'Grady diary
Mingling with the Royalty
Every day before we start a stage we have to 'sign on'. You ride down
to the podium, park your bike and sign a large sheet, over your name and
number. As I was climbing back down the stairs the Director of the race
called me over and introduced me to someone standing beside him. It was
none other than Prince Albert II, the ruler of my 'home country', Monaco.
We had a quick chat about the stage ahead and a few other things and
he followed the entire stage in the lead car. It was pretty cool to be
rubbing it with Royalty before the race! I asked if he wanted to change
seats for the day, but he wasn't too keen!
It was another hard stage, up and down all day with two hard climbs near
the end. The first climbs of the Tour always are difficult after nearly
a week of racing on the flat roads.
here to read O'Grady's full diary entry.
Sylvain Chavanel diary
Let's keep cycling exciting!
Sylvain Chavanel gained the polka
Photo ę: Isabelle Duchesne
As I'm writing this, I have the maillot Ó pois, getting ready
to leave the hotel for today's stage seven to Aurillac. It's really nice
to be able to wear it! Yesterday, I was on the attack again together with
two other French riders. But as we didn't get the chance to go all the
way to the finish, the only thing I could do was to take the KOM points.
I was only two minutes away on GC, so it was normal the bunch went after
us. But they never gave us more than five minutes of a lead, so it was
pretty obvious that we wouldn't be able to stay away until the finish.
All I wanted was to be the first to pass the penultimate climb, which
I did. That's what gave me the polkadot jersey, at least for today.
I'm not sure about keeping it, though. This jersey isn't won on these
small stages where there are just a few points to win. It's in the high
mountains, the big cols of the Tour that you win it. Which means
I need to try for another great escape later, in the Pyrenees or in the
Alps. I might lose it as soon as today, actually - and that's fine. If
Voeckler wants it, he can have it! I'll take it back in the next few days!
Of course, against the pure climbers, it will be hard. In the last climbs
of the high mountain stages, the points count double, which means I have
to be there with the best - that'll be difficult. But I don't think too
much about it right now, I prefer to take it day by day.
here to read more about Chavanel's thoughts on this year's Tour and
why he's been constantly on the attack.
Taking it easy at Le Tour: Adam Hansen
At the Giro d'Italia in May Adam
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Even though Adam Hansen wears the Australia national champion strip for
the time trial, he finished in 106th place in his first ever Tour de France
time trial. But such is the life of a domestique, sacrificing himself
for the glory of his teammates. The 27 year-old is a seemingly tireless
worker that is here to lead-out his sprinters and protect the general
classification riders learns Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski.
It might be surprising for an uninformed fan to see a national champion
soft-pedal in the world's biggest race, but that is what Team Columbia's
Adam Hansen did in his first ever Tour de France time trial. Of course,
for the experienced fan, it is easy to assume that there were tactics
behind this move. Indeed, in an ironic twist, Hansen was under orders
to recover as much as possible in the time trial to prepare his body for
the tortures that are to come.
"I was under instructions to go easy and recover," said Hansen. "I thought
I was going easy, but I passed the first time check and they told me to
go even easier!
"The pressure on me is to support Mark [Cavendish] and Gerald [Ciolek]
in the lead-out and I've also been told I have to help Kim [Kirchen] in
the mountains," he said. "So there are no real rest days for me except
for the TT."
After two desperate attempts on the opening stages by Kim Kirchen, Cavendish
delivered the recently renamed squad a stage victory on Stage 5. Hansen
knew it was just a matter of time before the Cavendish/Ciolek duo knocked
out a stage win.
"Mark and Gerald are perfect together," he said. "They are extremely
good sprinters and they never cross wheels. Mark is the type of rider
who doesn't want the team to work for him if he thinks he can't win. He'll
stand up and say no, work for Gerald. Especially in an uphill sprint like
on stage one."
To read the full feature, click
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