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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for July 9, 2007

By Greg Johnson & Bjorn Haake with assistance from Steve Medcroft

Rocketing Robbie rebounds

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) over Boonen
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Robbie McEwen shrugged off a crash to take the twelfth Tour de France stage victory of his career. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes reports from Canterbury:

For many years Erik Zabel was the undisputed sprint king of the Tour de France, taking six green jerseys and winning twelve stages in all. With his total of three taken thus far, Robbie McEwen is some way off equalling Zabel's number of maillots verts, but he matched the second statistic when he galloped to success in Canterbury on Sunday.

In truth, the victory over Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), Tom Boonen (Quick Step Innergetic), Sébastian Chavanel (Française Des Jeux) and the other 177 riders in the main bunch seemed very unlikely with 23 kilometres to go. McEwen was one of several riders who came down in a crash only to face a hard chase with his teammates to regain contact with the back of the field.

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Once they made contact with the race again, McEwen still needed to work his way up through the peloton and then make the sprint against a host of fresher – and less bruised – competitors. But strong work by his Predictor Lotto squad plus a powerful finishing effort by McEwen produced that impressive result.

"I have got a very sore knee and wrist but all in all, it has been a fantastic day," he said at the post-race press conference. "I am a little bit worried about tomorrow as when I got back on my bike after the crash I could hardly move my hand and my wrist, and was generally very sore. But when you get going after a fall and just ride, the adrenaline means it can feel okay.

"After some time [in the peloton] and a bit of rest it felt better. However it is overnight that everything gets stiff. I will face that problem tomorrow; right now I am pretty happy."

Read the entire Robbie McEwen feature here.

Stage details, Full results, report & photos, Live report, Video

Stage 1 rider reactions

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC): "We had a fairly quiet stage and it was very nice to be riding through the English countryside wearing yellow. It kinda dawned on me sometime during the stage that I was really wearing it after having dreamt about it and worked towards it for a couple of months. The team did a great job in defending it out there today."

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC): "Today has been quite tranquil for us. We have worked to maintain the yellow of Fabian Cancellara. The team has done great work in a day that was important to be in front, because its quite complicated phase, with many crossings, islands and roundabouts. The team has tried to roll always in the front of the peloton, that is a surer and more tranquil place. The stage was determined by a sprint, without any consequences for us - that was important. Another thing that has caught my attention is the quantity of spectators that have lined the stages. This it is my seventh Tour and I believe that today was the most people I have seen along the gutters. This is something that encourages us riders and helps us to continue fighting."

Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto): "The boys bought me back into the bunch and I honestly can't believe I won the stage. But that is huge. I thought I had broken my wrist when I first crashed. I was pretty pissed off actually and the guys just did an awesome ride to get me back It was a good day but now my wrist is swollen and my knee is sore. But I am worried about my wrist as it's swollen considerably. I'll get some ice on it and see how I come up tomorrow."

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana): "The traffic islands on the road are always very dangerous. And finally, it was very nervous as usual in the Tour de France. The peloton finished very powerfully. Everything is okay for me except my ankle - which hurts me again a little bit."

Andreas Klöden (Astana): "The stage was very fast. I felt good even if the road was sometimes dangerous. But we understood each other very good with Alexandre Vinokourov and Sergueï Ivanov, that allowed us to ride constantly."

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne): "I believe that everybody was happy to arrive in Canterbury, because the stage was not really an easy one, with dangerous roads and many roundabouts and curves. The stage has also been a very fast one but I think that we saved the day and that is the most important element."

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne): "What we wanted today was first of all to avoid the problems and the crashes. It is really a pity that Xabier Zandio was involved in one of them and I hope that it is nothing serious and that he will be able to go on. The day has been a complicated one, very nervous, but I believe that what we had the opportunity to experience on the roads of England deserved the pain. I am really impressed by what that we have lived here."

David Millar (Saunier Duval): "Early this morning, it dawned on me that I had to do something for the people who supported me yesterday. Everybody was crazy about me, and this is my way of say thanks. I'd made the decision of launching an early attack, but had told no-one about it. When I broke away, the only thing I could see was that I was riding fast, so I said to myself, "Go ahead!" When my lead was five minutes, I waited on the quartet chasing after me. In the final part of the race, it became more difficult, but my team did a great job, using a very smart strategy. Grabbing the jersey wasn't one of my goals, it just happened. To me, the only important thing was putting up a good show for my fans and followers. I think it happens once in a lifetime only, with such huge enthusiastic crowds lining the roads. It surprised us all, even me. Now, my aim is keeping the KOM jersey on my shoulders. And I believe that, if things go well, I'll be able to wear it at least until we come to the Alps."

Michael Rodgers (T-Mobile): "My heart goes out to Mark Cavendish today. From the moment the Tour organisers announced the route, this stage had sprint finish written all over it. Everybody wanted to be towards the front going up the final climb to be well positioned for the run in," said the Aussie in his diary. "Luckily the rest of us stayed out of trouble. I knew these climbs and narrow roads from the Tour of Britain last year and realised I had to be at the front to stay safe. Well that's the English stages done and dusted now - I think every rider I have spoken to has said that the crowds here were about the biggest they'd ever seen at a bike race. I certainly enjoyed the few days!"

Riccò renews, Simoni to Savio for 2008?

By Gregor Brown

Gibo: King of Zoncolan
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Gilberto Simoni might be riding for Gianni Savio for 2008. The 35 year-old, twice winner of the Giro d'Italia, is talking to the Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia team's general manager who he's known for many years. Simoni's possible departure from Saunier Duval-Prodir has cleared way for 23 year-old Riccò Ricardo to renew his contract through 2010.

Legendary Italian Savio will have the support of Diquigiovanni for the third year next year, with the sponsor willing to up its involvement. The company's increased investment will be partnered by a new co-sponsor in LRC. Details have yet to be finalized according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, but that settlement revolves around technical rather than financial aspects. 'Gibo' is reported to receive €800,000, similar to the amount that he was paid with his current Spanish team.

Diquigiovanni and communication company LRC are looking to bank some extra publicity by having Simoni in the squad. The rider from Palù di Giovo, winner of Monte Zoncolan and fourth overall in the 2007 Giro, wants to have another run at the Giro, while preparing for the Olympic Mountain Bike event.

Simoni has extended his passion for two wheels to mountain biking. He will race today in the Dolomiti Superbike of Villabassa (Bolzano), the second round of the Marathon World Cup.

Riccò, winner of the Giro's Tre Cime di Lavaredo stage and friend of Simoni, has prolonged his contract with Mario Gianetti's Saunier team at an estimated €600,000. The contract, upped greatly from his current €40,000 contract, reportedly includes a table of premiums that would increase his salary. In the event of a Giro victory the figure would reportedly double, while a Tour win would see the numbers increase four fold.

Biondi's back in le peloton

By Tim Maloney in London, England

Ag2r Prévoyance directeur sportif Laurent Biondi
Photo ©: Tim Maloney /
(Click for larger image)

Ag2r Prévoyance directeur sportif Laurent Biondi has had a difficult few years after being falsely implicated in a French domestic doping investigation in the spring of 2005 and a trial in Bordeaux that had accused him of trafficking illicit substances. Recently, the Grenoble native was completely exonerated of any involvement and after a difficult 18 months, Biondi is back full-time at Ag2r Prévoyance. "It's a great moment to be here today; I'm really happy I can come back to Ag2r Prévoyance," said Biondi. "It's been like a nightmare, these past 27 months, that is finally finished. Now I've found my honour and dignity again and that is something very important."

Biondi was grateful for the support he enjoyed during the time he was suspended from Ag2r Prévoyance. "I really have to thank all the people who kept their confidence in me, above all Vincent Lavenu (the team's general manager) and Guy Chanal, the Grenoble sports authority director," he said. "They are two persons who were really behind me during all this time. Plus, there are a lot of friends who have welcomed me back into cycling; before this problem happened, I think I had a very good image and that helped me because people just didn't believe I was guilty of the charges brought against me and that helped fight these charges to the end."

Biondi will be on the road with Christophe Moreau, new French Champion, during the 2007 Tour and it is positive that the long, lean man from Belfort will have a good Tour De France this year. "Moreau isn't at the top of his game at 36 years old by accident," he explained. "He's got so much experience at the Tour. He's very motivated and has made an excellent preparation; perhaps he's in the best shape of his career. Moreau is more focused than ever before, especially with things like the birth of his daughter Margaux and his recent big wins in the Dauphiné and the French championships will help us see the best Moreau ever."

Maignan remains Tour chief Prudhomme's driver

By Tim Maloney in London, England

Gilles Maignen
Photo ©: Tim Maloney
(Click for larger image)
Stage 1 of the 2007 Tour De France marked the official Tour de France debut of Christian Prudhomme as race director. Last year was the Jean Marie Le Blanc's final year as race director, so Prudhomme and French time trial champion Gilles Maignan, who drove Prudhomme last year, have moved up to car number one - the top voiture at Le Tour.

When cornered by Cyclingnews at The Mall Sunday morning, Maignan revealed what its like to work with Prudhomme. "Exceptional! Well, today is the real start of the Tour and it's really magnificent here in London, with beautiful weather and [it is] something special," he said. "To work for Christian is something special too; he's someone who really deeply loves sport in general and especially cycling and the Tour De France above all."

"[He's] very attentive to the traffic in the caravan during the Tour, he's very calm and gives people confidence about what is going on during the race," revealed Magnien of Prudhomme's secret. "He knows what he is doing out there!"

Maignan gave us a rare look at the control panel on the Tour de France race director's car with its elaborate radio system. "There are four channels; one for the key Tour De France only, then Radio Course, a channel for the Race Caravan and another channel for the Police. He checks these constantly, in addition to his mobile phone contacts."

Hushovd still chasing first win of the year

By Jean-François Quénet in Canterbury, England

Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

They all say sprinters need confidence, a fact that Thor Hushovd has admitted to being nervous about, having not posted any victories this season. At 29, he keeps trying to improve both his sprinting abilities and his strength for the classics. "Usually, I collected good results in February even though I didn't peak for the early season," he explained. This year, he skipped the first races in the South of France on purpose, and did not return to Australia for the Tour Down Under, even though he enjoyed it a lot in 2006.

He resumed racing at the Tour of California at the end of February and realized there were new sprinters coming up, like CSC's 'JJ' Haedo, who won two stages in the race in the Western United States.

Last year he got his first win at Tirreno-Adriatico, but he didn't repeat it this year. "I spent the whole early season building up for Milan-San Remo, that was my biggest goal for the Spring," said the 2006 winner of Gent-Wevelgem, who wanted to go one step ahead in the quality of his classics record book. But he got sick the night before the Classicissima, suffering stomach troubles and never came back with his full capacities for the Northern classics.

After his usual break in his Norwegian home of Grimstad, on the south coast of the Scandinavian country, he resumed racing at the Giro, where he was twice second but never won before pulling out in Briançon, as planned. "I chose to do the Giro because I wasn't used to sprint against the world's best sprinters before the Tour and I wanted to arrive at the Tour at my best", he explained.

Instead of winning one bunch sprint at the Four Days of Dunkirk, in the Tour of Catalunya and at the Dauphiné, as he was used to, he chose the hardest way. But at the Dauphiné, there was only one sprint and it was the day of glory for German-Aussie Heinrich Haussler. Hushovd escaped on the last day in the mountain but the battle was hard between the top climbers behind him.

At the Norwegian national championship he got trapped by the best local team, Maxbo Bianchi. "I came to the Tour de France with no win but a lot of strength," he told Cyclingnews in London, after finishing 28th at 41 seconds on the Prologue. "The course didn't suit me as much as in Strasbourg, but I wasn't happy with my result."

"This is too much of a gap," he said prior to the start of Stage 1 in London. "I'd better forget about the yellow jersey for this year. I'll still go for stage wins and the green jersey. If I sprint for bonus, it'll be only because of the points." Counting goes fast at the Tour de France, though. Coming second to Robbie McEwen in Canterbury, Hushovd remains in search of his first win of the year, but he collected 12 seconds bonus on the finishing line and entered the top ten on general classification.

"It would take three or four days to reach the first place," Crédit Agricole's team manager Roger Legeay explained after Stage 1. "You can't expect Thor to get 20 seconds for winning and his rivals to get nothing, so you have to be patient. I'm proud of what he did today." Hushovd was happy as well, saying: "The first sprint of the Tour is always a dangerous one. I'm satisfied with coming in second. I'm still missing some speed compared to McEwen. I did the time trial flat out. That kind of effort stays in the legs for the next day and I could feel it."

"Winning the green jersey is a question of regularity," Legeay explained. "It's important to be up there every day."

Livingstone hails 'best ever' Grand Départ

By Cyclingnews UK Editor Ben Atkins in London, England

Christian Prudhomme and Ken Livingstone
Photo ©: David Reinhardt
(Click for larger image)

Yesterday's prologue and the stage depart this morning were the denouement of several years of meticulous planning for the Transport for London and the city's mayor, Ken Livingstone. Livingstone's first comments reflected what many of the riders said after their prologue rides: that the extraordinary beauty of the course, combined with the sheer numbers of spectators who turned out produced a race that no one will forget in a while.

"They're saying it's the best Grand Départ that anyone can remember, and so we planning for when we can do the Grand Départ again. I don't think we can do it before the [2012] Olympics, but we hope to win the right to do it in 2013, 2014, something like that."

Simply hosting the start every now and then is not enough, though, for his vision for London as the premiere sporting city; the plan is for London to become a regular part of the Tour. "We're also going to bid to try and get on two tours, to try and get a stage through London.

"So, we're hoping that somewhere between now and the [2012] Olympics, two years in which they'll have a stage coming through London."

Cycling is very much a minority sport in the UK where the mainstream press and TV are not affording the sport the same coverage as their European neighbours. Livingstone is perplexed by this, and that there is no British team at this level of the sport, but sees that this must surely change.

"I think now, considering how amazing this has been, the British media, which has largely not been terribly interested, it's amazing that this wasn't live on one of the terrestrial channels. I think you'll now get a much greater interest from the media in the race, but also it's just bizarre that one of the large British corporations isn't sponsoring a team. I think that having seen this, and the excitement around Wiggins and so on, we've got a good chance of a British firm sponsoring a team, which the nation would start to identify with."

"I mean, when you actually look, apart from Lewis Hamilton [in Formula 1] this is about the only great news we've had in British sport this year, isn't it. This incredible Grand Départ and Lewis Hamilton, and so perhaps we should get a bit more of the sponsorship that currently goes into other sports."

As for the second objective, to encourage Londoners to abandon their cars and get around the city by bike, he feels that this weekend has been a great success: "This is bound to have an impact, because bikes were associated with being poor, it was the idea that you switched from a bike to a car. It had almost died out ten years ago in London; it was terrible."

That rather negative image seems to have been redressed now, he feels, "we got it across to people that it isn't just sensible; it's sexy."

"Our long-term aim is to be somewhere between Berlin, with ten percent of journeys by cycling, and Copenhagen with twenty percent. It's a long haul; it's a decade or more. Every year, we're just getting more cyclists on the road, we'll never be able to have the network of segregated routes, the streets are too small, but the bus lanes have become so extensive now, they are effectively cycle lanes as well."

So, the overall verdict for the weekend? "We're over the moon."

Lancaster recovering after tough day

By John Trevorrow in London, England

Australia's Brent Lancaster is looking forward to getting some rest overnight, having endured a rough 24 hours since the Tour de France-opening London Prologue. The Team Milram lead-out man battled with illness prior to Stage 1 only to be brought down in another rider's crash during the day's stage."An Agritubel guy hit one of the traffic islands about 50 kilometres to go and the next thing I know, I'm flying through the air," recalled Lancaster. "The main thing was to turn in the air so I didn't land on my bad collar-bone. I managed to save the shoulder but I've got a real sore back though."

The accident only compounded the Tour debutante's problems, having suffered from a lack of sleep and inability to eat the previous night. "I was throwing up and only got about two hours sleep. I couldn't keep anything down this morning either, so I rode the stage on nothing and I can tell you I am pretty knackered," he explained. "Not the way I wanted to start my first Tour de France. It can only get better!"

New evidence against Ullrich?

New evidence uncovered in documents taken from Rudy Pevenage shows that he and Jan Ullrich spent three days in Madrid, days which Ullrich claimed to have spent at his home in Switzerland, the German newsmagazine Focus has reported.

The documents were found in a search of Pevenage's house in Belgium. The dates correspond to entries on a calendar of Eufemiano Fuentes, allowing the Bonn, Germany, prosecutors to conclude that Ullrich and Pevenage were in Madrid visiting the Spanish doctor. The documents also indicate that Ullrich paid Fuentes at least 25,000 euro.

Fantasy Le Tour game - still time to register

(Click for larger image)

McEwen's out of nowhere command of stage one today doesn't appear to have been a big surprise to many of the Fantasy managers today. With the top manager today scoring over 3000 points you might think that it's too late to join this year's game. There's no disadvantage to joining the game now.

You can enter teams until Stage 4 begins on Wednesday 11th July. Unlike most Fantasy games, this gives you the chance to try out the game for free and experiment with different strategies without having to pay for mistakes. If you don't get time to create your teams before Saturday's start you can still take part with just as good a chance of winning as a manager who joined before the Prologue began. Just make sure you register and finalise your teams before Stage 4 begins. Remember the deadline is 10am (Paris local time - UTC+2 or GMT+2) on Wednesday 11th July.

Manager "Where's Erik" with his team "Anne now....." from the UK wins the second of 21 "Daily Stage Prizes" - a pair of BBB's BSG-23 Winner Team Quick-Step glasses. There will be 32 prize winners with over 40 prizes making up this year's roster.

Choosing your Mountains and Sprints Riders

In what's set to be the most wide open Tour in decades picking your team of 15 riders couldn't be more challenging. If you are relatively new to the Tour it can be a daunting prospect choosing your 15 riders from Saturday's start list of over 200 riders. You need to choose your riders carefully for all 4 elements of the game. The new ranking system can tell you some of the answers you need to know based on last year's results. Here's some direct links to real life riders that scored well in the 2006 Le Tour Fantasy Game:

Best Climbers TdF 2006

Best Sprinters TdF 2006

Best General Classification Riders TdF 2006

Best Stage riders TdF 2006

Win a Cervélo Soloist Carbon
Photo ©: Tim de Waele/TDW Sport
(Click for larger image)

Go to the Top Pro Riders page and click on the "How to find top climbers/mountains and sprinters/points riders..." link at the top of the page to reveal more. All you need to do now is bring this information up to date by reading the News here at Cyclingnews for this year's Le Tour!

Fantasy Upgraded

We've added some great improvements to the game this year:

1. New ranking and results service, offering new depths of rider statistics on races over the last four years.
2. See your friends exact selections in the this year's game as it happens.
3. Look up the winning managers team selections for last year to improve your selection this year.
4. Follow the progress of the key fantasy managers whilst also tracking your friends' progress in the new "Watch Teams" tool.
5. Build your own Mini-Leagues.
6. Try out the Forum/Chat area, which provides new ways to communicate with your fellow players from around the world in real time as the races unfold.
7. New stage selection system to make sure you never miss a stage pick again.

Even if you don't win the Grand Prize of a Cervélo Soloist Carbon CSC team replica bicycle, the Fantasy Le Tour game is a great way to follow the Tour each day here at Cyclingnews. It's free to play the first three stages - try it out today. You don't need to be a cycling expert to win prizes. Registration has already begun.

Even better prizes!

From one Grand Prize and one First Runner-up to three each Second, Third, and Fourth Runner-up prize packages, there are eleven chances for you to win based on your overall performance in the 2007 Le Tour Fantasy Game. There are also 21 daily prizes for each stage's top performer. All prizes are as listed (substitution requests cannot be honoured). The roster of prizes so far is as follows:

Grand Prize - from Cervélo Soloist Carbon CSC team replica bicycle worth $4750 USD. Equipped with Shimano Ultegra 10-speed, R-550 wheels, FSA cranks, bars & stem, Selle Italia Marco Ponza saddle, Cervélo aero carbon seatpost, and Vittoria Diamante Pro Lite tyres.

BBB's BSG-23 Winner Team Quickstep glasses
Photo ©: Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Daily Prize - from BBB Parts - 21 pairs of BSG-23 Winner Quick-Step World Champion glasses designed for Tom Boonen - one for each day of tour.

10x Runners-up Prizes - Cycleops Powertap 2.4 Wireless, Set of Shimano Dura Ace WH-7801-SL Wheels - three sets on offer, Maxxis Courchevel road tyres - 10 sets on offer, Descente Classic Chevron design clothing - four sets on offer, PRO Carbon Bottle Cage - x10 on offer, Speedplay - Zero stainless steel pedals - 3 sets on offer
* Giro Atmos Helmet - x3 Giro Atmos Helmet,

More prizes will be announced in the coming days. To find out more visit the prizes page.

What is Fantasy Le Tour all about?

The online game allows you to assume the role of a professional team manager for the 2007 Le Tour and create your own dream team from any of the real life riders in this year's Tour. Based on the live racing action, you will take up the challenge of using your knowledge and tactical skill as a race team manager to compete with other virtual managers from around the world. Follow the races live and use your skill and knowledge to win some great prizes. Remember you can still enter teams until stage 4 begins. You can re-edit and re-enter teams for stages 1-3 of the Le Tour 2007 competition up until stage 4 begins. Unlike most Fantasy games, this gives you the chance to try out the game for FREE and experiment with different strategies without having to pay for mistakes. If you join the Tour after the start date you can still take part with just as good a chance of winning as a manager who joined before stage 1. Try out a team today!

For more details, register for free now. It's a great way to follow Le Tour 2007.

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