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Tour de France News, October 23, 2008

Edited by Gregor Brown

Sastre gunning on Tour defence

By Daniel Benson in Paris

Spaniard Carlos Sastre, 2008 Tour winner, at the 2009 launch
Photo ©: John Pierce
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Carlos Sastre is looking forward to defending his title at this year's Tour de France presentation and pointed to the mountains and lack of time trailing as a main advantage for next year. The soft-spoken Spaniard and leader of Team Cervélo – sandwiched between Alberto Contador and Oscar Pereiro during the presentation – was pleased to return to the French capital to witness the new route's unveiling.

"Watching the images from this year brought back a lot of good memories for me. But as ever it's going to be a hard Tour de France. What else would you expect? A lot of the riders and I were sitting here and we all thought that it was a spectacular route," he said.

As a thoroughbred climber, Sastre was also upbeat with the profile of the major stages, with four mountain top finishes and only 55 kilometres of individual time trialling. "On a personal level I'm glad that the time trials are a little bit shorter than this year and that the mountain top finishes will be decisive. They'll be good battleground for me and will allow me to ride to my strengths. I'm very motivated and I'll aim to win, why not?

Having moved from Team CSC Saxo Bank to Cervélo Sastre hasn't had the easiest of transitions since his season ended, with news today that Scott Sunderland has left the team. However, he adamantly stated that the team would be ready for the coming season.

"My new team is looking strong, too. I have Thor Hushovd and I have guys around me who know what it's like to win big races and stages of the Tour. You can count on us being ready."

Evans: Astana are the favourites and I won't miss Kohl

By Daniel Benson in Paris

Cadel Evans was quick to summarise his impressions on the spectacular parcours and his own credentials at today's Tour de France presentation. The Silence-Lotto team leader and runner-up in 2008 also made clear that the lose of Bernard Kohl would not harm his chances of overall victory.

"One word sums up the Tour route for me, 'interesting.' It's really going to draw out the general classification riders pretty early on so I'm going to have to be very attentive throughout the race. Just like this year, though, it could come down to the wire on Ventoux. It's going to be a very tiring race."

Evans was quick to place the tag of favourites and pressure onto his rivals at Team Astana, and in particular Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong. "On paper I'd say that it's a really good Tour for Astana – perhaps even made for them. We'll have to see if Lance rides but even without him they're a really strong team."

During this year's race Evans seriously lacked help from his team in the mountains and his rivals forced him to chase them down unaided on countless occasions. Evans feels additions made to the roster will add strength and much needed cover.

"My team is also shaping up really nicely. Of course we lost someone this month [Kohl - ed.] but it's good to catch the cheats and I'm always going to stand up for the fight against doping. But it's a loss to lose a rider so late in the season, but we have Tomas Dekker and Charley Wegelius. I'll be much better supported in the mountains next year."

Tour 2009 route reactions

David Millar: "it's a lot different to previous years"
Photo ©: AFP
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The Palais des Congrès was the home to many of cycling's dignitaries Wednesday in Paris for the Tour de France presentation. Cyclingnews spoke with them to hear their reaction on what is a challenging 96th edition of the Tour de France.

David Millar (Garmin Chipotle - H30): "You can definitely say that it's a lot different to previous years. To me it looks very spectacular and you could envisage the overall changing all the time. The race certainly won't be boring from a spectator's point of view.

"The course also suits my leader Christian Vande Velde down to the ground. The first time trial will be good for him and he's better than all the climbers on a course like that. They'll be the ones chasing him up the overall perhaps.

"On a personal level though, it's all about the Monaco time trial and then the team time trial later on. But overall, it's going to be about Christian and working for him. The whole team will be geared towards this."

Andy Schleck (CSC Saxo Bank), winner of the young rider's maillot blanc: "The route isn't too bad for me as there isn't too much time trialling. I know the climbs and everyone knows that I like climbing so I should go well. But of course we'll be riding without Carlos next year. We have good young riders coming through and it's a team for the future and a team that can do well at the Tour.

"Both Fränk and I will lead, but we'll have to see how things turn out on the road as nothing is certain. The stories about my brother really affected me but what's important is to have a clean mind for the future. We're both looking forward to the race next year."

Patrick Lefevere, Quick Step Team Manager: "It's a strange Tour. We'll be going to new places that we've never been to before. The organisers are saying that there are ten flat stages but I don't agree with them. I think the stages they're talking about will be a lot harder and better suited to Tom Boonen than Mark Cavendish.

"We'll also look forward to the time trials. We have riders that will be able to compete in [Stijn] Devolder and [Sylvain] Chavanel. Last year, Devolder was sick before the Tour even began and that really affected his form. We had to right off the Tour for him right there and then but we learnt a lot and next year he'll be doing less in him preparation. He'll be aiming to win, but he'll be doing a lot less riding to get there."

Belgian Johan Bruyneel: "It's for a strong rider"
Photo ©: John Pierce
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Johan Bruyneel, Astana Team Manager: "It's for a strong rider, it's that simple. All the typical ingredients are there, with the mountains, the time trials and the addition of Ventoux. The strongest rider wins every Tour and I can't see this being any different.

"With regards to our invitation, I've not had any indication that we won't be allowed to race next year. In fact we signed an agreement with the teams that promises we'll be at the start.

"Alberto comes for sure, but we're not sure about Lance [Armstrong] yet. But you have to know that the reason he's coming back is due to his mission on cancer. We can't say for sure about the Tour until we see how he goes in his first races at the Tour Down Under and the Tour of California. At this moment we'll design a programme to get him ready for the Giro d'Italia."

"Real time the absolute rule" in 2009

By Ben Atkins in Paris

Tour Director Christian Prudhomme talks time
Photo ©: AFP
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As in the 2008 edition, there will be no time bonuses for stage winners – or at the intermediate sprints – in the 2009 Tour de France. Instead of this "official time remains the absolute reference" according to the tour's organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO). The majority of riders welcomed the absence of bonuses in this year's race, and the general feeling was that it made the overall classification much closer.

In practice this means that the sprinters will have trouble taking the leader's maillot jaune inside the first week, as was the case this year after Alejandro Valverde took the victory on stage one.

The absolute time theme continues in the team time trial, where officials abandoned the previous practice of limiting the amount of time lost. Instead of the second placed team losing a maximum of 20 seconds, the third placed team losing a maximum of 30 seconds and so on, the actual time gaps on the line will be those given. This, says ASO, is one of the reasons for the stage being limited to 38 kilometres. As usual, officials will take the time for each team on the fifth rider to cross the line.

Crédit Lyonnais renews to 2013

By Ben Atkins in Paris

Le Crédit Lyonnais announced its agreement with the Tour de France's organiser ASO to continue as a partner and sponsor of the race's yellow jersey for a further five years. The French bank has been a sponsor of the Tour de France since 1981, and yellow jersey sponsor since 1987. This new deal means that the public will see its LCL logo on the iconic maillot jaune through to the 2013 race.

LCL cited the massive brand exposure afforded by the Tour de France as the primary reason for the decision to renew its agreement. "I am delighted with the renewal of our engagement as sponsor of the maillot jaune," said LCL's Director General Christian Duvillet. "For a large bank like LCL it is an exceptional opportunity to show ourselves to our clients and the public."

Each year 15 million spectators see the race live from the side of the road and 85% of French people have seen images of the Tour on television. Thanks to this massive shop window, LCL says that 8 out of 10 French people now recognise its name.

2009 Etape returns to Ventoux

By Ben Atkins in Paris

The famed Mont Ventoux hosts 2009 Etape
Photo ©: John Pierce
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Organisers will once again hold the 2009 edition of the Etape du Tour on the slopes of Le Mont Ventoux – Monday, July 20, the Tour de France's second rest day. The legendary bald mountain last featured on the parcours of l'Etape in 2000 when hail, snow and sub-zero temperatures forced the organisers to close the course early at Chalet-Reynard, allowing only a few hundred of the several thousand entrants to finish the course.

Despite only being 172 kilometres in length, the parcours will be one of the toughest ever tackled by l'Etape. Riders will have to tackle four smaller climbs before arriving in Bedoin at the base of the mythical Ventoux: the Côte de Citelle, the Col d'Eye, the Col de Fontaube and the Col de Notre-Dame des Abeilles. None of these compares to the 21.2 kilometres at an average of 7.6 percent of the Ventoux, but will all serve to soften the legs before the serious climbing begins.


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Images by AFP Photo

Images by John Pierce/Photosport International

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