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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for July 9, 2007

By Bjorn Haake

More riders' reactions to stage one

Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Stage one developed as most people expected. An early break that would get some leeway from Team CSC, who was defending the yellow jersey, before the sprinters' teams took over. The usual crashes also happened, with stage winner Robbie McEwen seemingly being one of the riders affected the most. His hand hurt so badly he couldn't shake hands later in the evening and he is just hoping to be able to start stage two.

Here are some reactions from stage one.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep - third): "I did a good sprint, I am not disappointed, but the speed was really high in the last kilometre. I was well-placed in the front group, but McEwen arrived at the back [of our group] at a speed slightly higher than ours. When he is launched like that it is practically impossible to beat him as the sprint started very close to the finish. McEwen is faster than anybody else in the world in the last 50 metres.

"Monday, with the finish in Gent, Belgium, the stage victory is obviously a major goal, for a Belgian team like ours and for myself."

Oscar Freire (Rabobank - seventh): "When the others went, the sprint was very fast and I couldn't enter it. Our team is different than McEwen's, which only works for the sprints. We have other objectives. I will try to win a stage. The green jersey could be an objective if I had a team that would work for it."

Romaine Feillu - (Agritubel - fifth): "I was surprised with the speed in the last 20 kilometres. For the sprint, I was orientating myself on McEwen. It is a pity, I was a bit closed in by McEwen and Hunter."

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Simon Gerrans (Ag2r): "That was amazing," said Gerrans to Cyclingnews' Trevorrow. "I've never seen so many people anywhere. It seemed that half the population of London and southern Britain were out on the road. It was a pretty quick stage and I got caught behind both crashes. I got stuck behind the first one and just as we got back on to the group there was another crash so we got stopped again. I managed to hang on even though it strung right out over the climb.

"I'm not feeling too bad and the chest is clearing up a little. Hopefully I will keep improving over the next few days.

"Gee, Robbie was way out the back and that was pretty special. Just the fact that he got back on, I mean there was no way I thought we would see him again. And then to get up and win, well that was something else."

Scott Sunderland (directeur sportif at CSC): "The whole weekend has been pretty amazing. The crowds have been huge and I would have to think back to when the Tour went to Germany in 2000 in Ulrich's home town, to see anything like that. It wasn't just the size of the crowds but the enthusiasm."

To run one of the highest profile teams in the biggest race in the world Sunderland declares that "Well, it is pretty special but I have been doing it in a lot of other big races and you have to treat this like any other race. Of course, the Tour does create extra pressures because it is such a huge event. It's important to keep on your toes, early mornings and late nights.

"There are more people around and we all have more commitments to our sponsors. But it's important to treat this like any other bike race whenever possible. You still have to get up and have breakfast just the same The biggest thing is for me to try and perceive things that are going to happen and be prepared for them.

"Of Course with Fabian in yellow that's great for the team and we will try and keep him up there for another day or two. It would be pretty special if he could wear yellow into Compiègne, being a Paris-Roubaix winner.

"Carlos and Fränk are both in good form and it is important to get them to the mountains in the best possible position. They will both lose time over Vino and Klöden in the time trials, so they need to put some time into them in the Alps."

Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole): "I was feeling well, I did a few kilometres in the front. When I went [into the break], I believed in it, but it wasn't the good one. In the team, there is no question. Everyone gets their chance to attack. But the Tour, it's really a different race. In the finale the race is very fast, and there is twice as much bumping going on [as early on in the race]."

Wegmann hasn't seen anything like it

Fabian Wegmann
Photo ©: Andrea Hübner
(Click for larger image)

Fabian Wegmann thinks that the British aren't known for their bubbling temperament, but this weekend they tried very hard to set a good mood, the German reports on his website,

The Gerolsteiner rider had hoped for many spectators at the prologue, but he didn't expect that they would be standing six or seven-deep in every town and every small village that the peloton passed.

"I have never experienced anything like that," the German Champion contended, and elaborated that there were so many people that it was actually hard to take natural breaks. "It is a stupid situation. You are cycling along and hope that after the next curve there is no fan so you can releave yourself."

Wegmann was somewhat surprised with that because of all the doping discussion in the past weeks. "Journalists that wrote that cycling is dead were proved wrong."

As for his personal goals he still maintains it is a stage win. He also thinks that the team's sprinter, Robert Förster, has a good shot at it. His teammate finished sixth yesterday, and was the rider "with the highest speed at the end," declared Wegmann.

The day ended hectically and the riders hastened to the busses to catch the Eurostar train back to mainland Europe.

Förster satisfied

German Förster
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Robert Förster of Gerolsteiner finished sixth in stage one and is happy with the result. The German sprinter mentioned in his diary on that it always takes him sometime to get into a rhythm in a stage race. He had the highest end speed, although that was too late. Förster acknowledged that his father would say "you are world champion in getting from 20th to fifth."

Like everyone else he was mightily impressed with the crowds and was happy that "despite the problems we have in our sport right now, there is still a lot of interest and enthusiasm."

After the ceremony on Tower Bridge and the 40-minute neutralized start, Förster and colleagues found it hard to find a spot to take a natural break with all the spectators and they had to go in to a quiet side street.

He spent a lot of time talking during the race, only waiting for the finale to try to sprint for the day's victory. One of the talk topics was that he weighed in as the heaviest rider at the medical check, with 87.5 kilograms. "All I can say is that I am sure the scale was off," joked the likeable rider in his diary.

Describing the end of the race, he revealed that "after the last mountain top it was full speed. Wrolich and Haussler worked super until 1500 metres to go. My friend 'Kraussi' (Sven Krauß) was cooked today, so he couldn't help. That happens sometimes," the sprinter showed no disappointment.

He then acknowledged that he started the sprint too late again, so he was boxed in a bit. But he didn't think the outcome was a surprise as "at the beginning of a Tour he [McEwen] is just outstanding."

Förster is hopeful for the next days as his form is there.

Basso visited by anti-doping inspectors

By Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso was visited by anti-doping inspectors Wednesday, July 4, for a surprise 'out of competition' control. The 29 year-old Italian, suspended June 15 for two years, was visited at his home in Cassano Magnago for a control ordered by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on the behalf of UCI and WADA.

"Ivan is out training," said his wife Micaela according to La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna. Basso has not raced since March 30, the last day of the Castilla y Leon, but he continues to train even though he can't return to racing until 2009 (October 24, 2008 the disqualification expires - ed.) due to his suspension by the Italian cycling federation (FCI) for involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. CONI's investigation resulted in Basso admitting to being linked to Operación Puerto via the 'Birillo' code name.

Basso still retains his racing license with the FCI authorized by the UCI and, as such, is subjected to surprised controls. To not be controlled Basso would have to write a letter of "resignation" for his license to be annulled. However, Basso continues to complete the required UCI forms for his daily whereabouts and he has decided to continue to be subjected to quarterly blood checks at UCI-accredited laboratories even though he is not required to do this since he is not engaged as a rider.

"In my career I have never used doping products or resorted to blood transfusions," Basso claimed at the time of his admission. He was said to have only extracted blood to Fuentes but never had it transfused. "It was a weak moment, but I am aware that attempting to dope is the same as doping. I will serve my sentence and return to the work I love."

Webcor Builders extends sponsorship

Webcor Builders announced to return in 2008 as sponsor of UCI Elite women’s team. The American outfit will complete at least one block of international racing overseas in 2008. Andy Ball, President and CEO of Webcor, stated that "becoming a UCI Team and racing internationally was the logical next step for our women’s team. This year, more than any other, we have clearly demonstrated the depth of our squad and that the collective team is truly capable of competing as well as winning at the highest level. It was time [to move up a level]."

Webcor Builders is the longest running title sponsor of a North American women’s professional cycling team in existence today. Its goal is to help riders achieve their true potential. It started out in 1999 with supporting Alto Velo in the Bay Area, an amateur racing club that has more than 400 members.

Webcor Builders helped sending 1994 World Champion Karen Brems to the 2000 Olympics. Karen went on to become directeur sportif, and was instrumental in molding Christine Thorburn into an Olympian when the professional women’s team started in 2004.

Webcor also supported a professional men's squad, which capped off a great 2004 year by winning the San Francisco Grand Prix, beating top teams like US Postal Service on its home turf. The Webcor Builders women’s team is currently ranked number one in the U.S. National Racing Calendar Team rankings, and holds three of the top five spots in the individual rankings.

ÖRV does unannounced doping tests after Nationals

All the Austrian teams tested clean after the national championships, the national cycling federation has announced. It conducted unannounced controls on the main teams, Elk Haus, Volksbank, RC ARBÖ Resch & Frisch Gourmetfein Wels and Swiag, all of which are also riding the Tour of Austria.

"The ÖRV wants to take care of everything and ordered the controls as a security measure before the Tour. Yesterday we got the results, and they were all negative," said ÖRV finance director Herbert Kocher.

Australians celebrate trio of victories

Australian cyclists were celebrating a weekend of success with Queensland's Robbie McEwen claiming the first stage of the Tour de France in England while at the Schladming MTB World Cup round in Austria Sam Hill and Tracey Hannah took out the men's and women's downhill finals.

McEwen's win equals the record of Germany's Erik Zabel for the most stage wins by a rider still competing. McEwen won the first of his twelve Tour de France stages in 1999 on the Champs Élysées in Paris. In 2002 he won the stages in Reims and Paris; 2004 in Namur and Guéret; 2005 in Montargis, Karlsruhe and Montpellierin and last year he won in Esch-sur-Alzette, Saint-Quentin and Vitré.

While McEwen was sprinting to victory on a slightly uphill finishing straight in England mountain bikers Hill and Hannah were barreling full speed downhill in Austria. It's the second victory in two weeks for the reigning World Champion Hill, 21, who won the previous round at Monte-Sainte-Anne in Canada.

The West Australian, who rides with the Iron Horse-Monster Energy team, clocked 3'51"44 for the win, a clear five seconds faster than second- placed Gee Atherton of Great Britain. Queensland's Nathan Rennie was eighth in 4'00". Hill, now on 807 points, continues to lead the Downhill Nissan/UCI World Cup series ranking and is 168 points ahead of second ranked Steve Peat of Great Britain.

In the women's downhill final, 19 year-old Tracey Hannah of Queensland, 2006 Junior World Champion, upset her more experienced rivals to win in 4'41"50, ahead of 25 year-old Frenchwoman and World Cup Series leader Sabrina Jonnier, who clocked 4'43"06. The Australian teenager is now ranked fifth on the series standings.

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