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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for July 19, 2007

Edited by Sue George and Laura Weislo

T-Mobile racers and others react to Sinkewitz' positive test

By Brecht Decaluwé in Marseille and Sue George

Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

After Stage 10 of the Tour de France ended in Marseille, the T-Mobile riders looked hammered, but it wasn't just the day's effort that was getting them down.

Nearly a year after Floyd Landis' positive Tour de France testosterone test, news broke Wednesday morning of T-Mobile team member Patrik Sinkewitz' positive test for testosterone in a June 8th out of competition test control a few days after the Bayern Rundfahrt during a team training camp. The news comes not long after several riders for the team's predecessor Team Telekom, including 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, admitted to doping.

Former wearer of the yellow jersey and Germany's hope for the future, Linus Gerdemann, talked with Cyclingnews about his teammate's positive test. "It's difficult to say something right now because we heard it just before the start. If it's true, then it is bad news for us, but it also shows that the system starts to work. It shows that the possibilities to dope are getting smaller.

"For sure it's not good for our team," said Gerdemann. "When someone is doping in the team, then he is also not sensible because it's not only his job [to be affected], but also that of 200 professionals."

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Gerdemann still believes in the direction of anti-doping efforts. "I said it before that we're on the right course, but we're not at the finish yet. That's what I said Saturday [when he won stage 7] and that's what I say now. It's very difficult to dope in our team. I hope the control system evolves even more in this way, that's the future of cycling," Gerdemann concluded.

T-Mobile's Marcus Burghardt was also passionate in his response, but chose to express himself by getting into a breakaway Wednesday and eventually finishing eighth.

Stapleton disappointed

T-Mobile team general manager Bob Stapleton
Photo ©: Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews
(Click for larger image)

Team General Manager Bob Stapleton was glad to talk with Cyclingnews in Marseille after hearing the news. "Clearly if the B-sample confirms the A - which is entirely likely - then it is a bitter disappointment," Stapleton said.

"On the other hand, it shows the testing works with this form of out-of-competition testing and the internal tests we do," said Stapleton. "They [the tests] have a powerful message: if you cheat, you have a good chance to get caught, and if you get caught, there are consequences.

"We go out of our way for these athletes, and we know we demand a lot in return. But there was trust and that has been broken. That is very disappointing."

When asked how he personally felt towards Sinkewitz, the American didn't hide his feelings. Stapleton said, "This is a guy we supported and who we gave every chance to do the right thing. When he puts all of his teammates at risk and puts the team and the sport in jeopardy, then I find that a gross disappointment and irresponsible." But he asked that the other riders in the Tour de France still receive the respect they deserve.

"We knew this [anti-doping project] was going to be a tough fight when we started it, but it was something that we felt was possible. We're going to stay and fight. The [team's] riders were informed by the media right as they were leaving today. They were obviously shocked, but they headed for their bikes and wanted to show that they believe in what they're doing," Stapleton said

Lefevre and McQuaid respond to curtailed TV coverage

Sinkewitz' test prompted German public TV station ARD/ZDF to stop broadcasting their live coverage of the Tour de France until his case is resolved. IPCT President Patrick Lefevre shared his thoughts with Cyclingnews. "I regret what happened because our international sponsors are missing out on 80 million people who can't watch the race anymore. I also regret that it took five weeks before the results were known. Everybody came to London to make a beautiful Tour de France, to avoid scandals. Sinkewitz wasn't positive in the Tour de France, but he shouldn't have been at the start since he was controlled much earlier.

Sinkewitz withdrew from the Tour de France earlier this week after suffering a broken nose and a shoulder injury following a collision with a spectator. If his B sample also proves positive, he may be subjected to a two-year ban from the sport and a fine of one year of his income. He is presently suspended by his team, pending an outcome in the case.

According to Reuters, UCI president Pat McQuaid declined to comment until results of the B sample are in although he speculated on a possible positive outcome, "I think it is very unfortunate if this is the case." Sinkewitz will have five days after receiving written notice to request a test of his B sample.

Christian Frommert, director of sports communication for sponsor Deutsche Telekom AG, commented on team's website about the future of the company's cycling sponsorship. "After the Tour de France, everybody involved will sit down to discuss the way forward in a calm and considered way."

Clerc comments on Sinkewitz and no German TV coverage

By Gregor Brown in Marseille

ASO President Patrice Clerc made a special announcement only moments after Cédric Vasseur won stage 10 in Marseille. The Frenchman wanted to speak his mind about Patrik Sinkewitz' positive test and German television's subsequent decision to pull the plug on its Tour de France coverage.

"I heard about the positive control of Patrik Sinkewitz today," said Clerc to the gathered Tour de France press on a sizzling hot day in southern France. "I am surprised," continued Clerc. "I think the riders know that we are determined to fight doping. It is a big risk on the part of the riders to make this kind of joke. The controls are more and more effective and it is a risk for them."

A year after the Eufemiano Fuentes affair, Clerc is disappointed that his race has a positive test result linked to it. "I am also sad and I thought the riders understood and that they can't do these kind of things."

"I heard about German television deciding not to air the Tour de France," finished Clerc. "I don't understand why they made a decision against us because we are working hard and... I don't know. Maybe they prefer we don't do controls and don't find anything. But if we find something it means we are trying and to fight against doping. It is not fair to take this decision while we are showing hard that we are fighting hard against doping."

Frenchman bookends career in Marseille

By Jean-François Quénet in Marseille

Cédric Vasseur (Quickstep-Innergetic) on the podium.
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)
Quickstep's veteran French rider Cédric Vasseur bookended his career with a stage win in Marseille, besting his breakaway companions in a frenetic sprint to the line.

Ten years ago, Cédric Vasseur began his Tour de France career by winning stage give to La Châtre and taking the yellow jersey for five days, while today he reiterated that he will retire after taking the victory in stage ten of his last Tour de France. "I'm stopping at the end of this year for sure," he confirmed after his victory.

Vasseur rode like a master in breakaway, limiting his work in the final kilometres and timing his sprint to perfection. "I marked two men: Flecha because he hadn't worked much and Voigt because he's always fearful," the Frenchman explained. "When Halgand attacked, I followed Voigt. I knew how it would happen on the Col de la Gineste - I know this climb, in ten years, I've had many opportunities to climb it at the Tour of the Mediterranean or at other races. I suspected that the other riders would have problems."

Despite putting in one dig in the final five kilometres, the 36 year-old sat at the back of the small group and watched like a cat ready to pounce. "I gambled everything on my sprinting," he explained, still drained from the heat which reached 37 degrees on the day. "After 230 kilometres, the heat was hard to handle. With 200 meters to go, as I was in last position of the group and everyone was looking on the left, I surprised them on the right. I never lost the advantage of the speed, that's how I managed to keep one tyre ahead of Casar. I felt they were pushing behind me."

Read the full feature here.

Veteran delivers a lesson

By Brecht Decaluwé in Marseille

Winning a Tour de France stage from a small breakaway is an exercise in patience, cunning and ruthlessness, and the perfect example was given in Wednesday's stage ten in Marseille by veteran Quickstep rider Cédric Vasseur. To the 26 year-old Swiss rider who wound up third, that lesson was hard to accept. Liquigas' Michael Albasini was in a good position to take the stage, but although he has a solid sprint, it just wasn't enough on the day. "This hurts," Albasini admitted, "and I know I was riding a lot in the wind today but it wasn't that work that made the difference."

Albasini was marking the other former Tour stage winner in the bunch, which wasn't a bad idea. "I was on the wheel of Voigt which is normally not the worst position," he explained. "Being in the second position I had at least five metres on Vasseur who was in last position," he said of the start of the sprint. "I was very nervous because this was a golden opportunity, but after 200km you don't have the same sprint in your legs as you normally would have. It was a long sprint and Vasseur started very fast, he was very strong and more explosive," he explained to Cyclingnews.

Quickstep hat-trick couldn't have gone to a nicer guy

The sprint into Marseille
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Green jersey Tom Boonen watched the sprint of his winning teammate on television, and was impressed by the Vasseur's timing. "He rode the perfect sprint. He does the same like I do but I'm a bit more blocked," Boonen laughed. "He starts his sprint at 250m from the finish, but he started really fast and that did it." It was the Quickstep team's third win in this Tour de France- a great success for the team, and Boonen was overjoyed for his teammate. "When I heard he won from Fitte [directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters -ed.] it was perfect, this is fantastic as he is a great guy."

At the finish line in Marseille, Quickstep's general manager Patrick Lefevere was also celebrating the win. "I'm super happy for him especially since he already announced this is his last year as a professional, but also because he is the most sympathetic rider in our team. He's always there when you need him; yesterday we talked about his schedule and he wants to ride every race until Lombardia," Lefevere smiled.

The Belgian manager hired Vasseur in 2006 when he came over from team Cofidis. "I hesitated very long before I took him on," Lefevere described how and why he wanted Vasseur. "He's someone who's very friendly, but that's obviously not enough to ride for us," Lefevere laughed. "Mainly he's very versatile and we could use him possibly to support Bettini in the Spring Classics but he was also usable for the Grand Tours as he's a rider that will stay in the race. So now my confidence in him was rewarded and a rider can never give you a better present than showing you're in the right."

"It was already perfect," continued Lefevere before the field came barreling into town some ten minutes later, "and if Tom [Boonen] wins this sprint for 12th position he's another step closer to the green jersey," Boonen eventually finished 13th but gained three more valuable points on his rival Erik Zabel.

While happy with the win, Lefevere was already looking forward to a fourth victory in this Tour de France. "Tomorrow is a stage that should suit us very well - we'll go for a bunch sprint - and I think Cédric is someone who will now work twice as hard tomorrow."

Predictor's Americans waiting for Pyrénées

By Gregor Brown in Marseille

American Fred Rodriguez (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Predictor-Lotto's Americans Fred Rodriguez and Chris Horner may be different types of riders but they have one goal in common, which is to help Cadel Evans win the 94th Tour de France. The Aussie currently sits in fourth at 2'41" behind Maillot Jaune Michael Rasmussen.

Rodriguez is the team's sprinter after Robbie McEwen missed the time cut on the climb to Tignes and while he will be leading the charge in Thursday's stage to Montpellier, he will dedicate much of the rest of his Tour to helping Evans in the early phases of the three Pyrenean stages.

He confirmed he will suffer in the mountains but wants to try his hand in the sprints when the chances arise. "The Pyrénées will be tough on me and I am mostly hoping for one of these transition stages to be a field sprint. As long as I can be there; there will be riders like Boonen and Hushovd, and there is a good chance I can also get in there."

With temperatures soaring upwards to 37 degrees, many riders were suffering, but not this Colombian-born Californian. "I enjoy this heat," stated 33 year-old Rodriguez to Cyclingnews. "A lot of guys are going to be trying to go into breakaways but that is not our objective, our objective is to try to win when the stakes are high, when it is in a field sprint or when it is in the mountains with Cadel. He is our main guy for any kind of mountain stage and I am the main guy for any sprint stages."

Chris Horner (Predictor-Lotto)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Horner is also enjoying the warm weather and biding his time for the mountains. "I really prefer this over the cold; it is warm, it is not too bad at the moment," said the 35 year-old. "However, it is not something where you just want to be sitting in the sun either."

After the 54-kilometre Albi time trial on Saturday, he will be faced with three stiff Pyrénéan stages where his services will be called upon in the finale. "It is my job but, of course, it is everybody's' job on the team too look after Cadel, let's be clear on that," he said of the current 'transitional stages' in southern France. "However, ninety percent of the work will be on everyone else, while my job will be to look after myself so when we get into the mountains I can do a better job for Cadel than I could if I was using up energy right now on work that other guys on the team could be doing."

Rodriguez and his fellow Americans Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde are all without contracts for 2008, but Rodriguez said he's not negotiating as of yet. "Not at this point," said Rodriguez. "Everything is kind of just waiting until the Tour is over so I can start [searching]." HE declined to comment on which teams he would like to work with. "Right now I would rather not comment; I don't like to speculate on where I am going or what's going on. I am pretty happy with where I am now, so, we will wait until after the Tour to start speculating."

Eisel eases through the tough days

By Gregor Brown in Marseille

Sprinter's talk between Bernhard Eisel and Thor Hushovd
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
(Click for larger image)

T-Mobile's Bernard Eisel is still making his way though the Tour de France after suffering on the Alpine stages. The 26 year-old Austrian sprinter hopes to take advantage of the trip to flatter terrain on Thursday in Montpellier to go for his first ever Tour stage win. Eisel reflected on his Alpine pains before the start of stage 10.

"It was okay," remarked Eisel to Cyclingnews about Tuesday's stage to Briançon. "It was just I had problems on the first climb when we started from kilometre zero straight up to a hors catégorie climb. ... I tried to warm up on the rollers but it does not make a difference. If I go to the village [Départ] and have two coffees it is the same as... It is better; it is more motivation for me, actually."

"Really, I hate to do days like that. I was dropped last year on the Galibier and this year on the Iseran. Okay, we come back on the descent, but it is just the whole run, suffering and suffering... you have to kill yourself." Eisel stayed with a group of non-climbers and sprinters that eventually finished in a 73-man group at 28 minutes back on winner Mauricio Soler. "We tried to keep it together at the bottom, control the race a bit, but when they start to attack it is just, 'boom!'"

Eisel is looking towards stage 11 to Montpellier. "I think tomorrow will be a nice day for the sprinters," he continued. "Then, the next day, is too hilly, and we go to the time trial and then up to the mountains... We will have to suffer again!

"I will suffer but I love the Tour and it is for me, it is a passion. It is really nice that they [the team directeurs] decided to bring me here. I will even do everything [I can] to come back nest year."

The German team managed by Bob Stapleton reached new peaks when it grabbed the Maillot Jaune and stage win with Linus Gerdemann. The jersey was lost when the brave, young rider faded on the finish to Tignes, but Eisel continues to have high aspirations for the rest of the Tour.

"Tomorrow is my chance for the sprint," noted the likable Eisel. He is given a free card to play even with Gerdemann and Kim Kirchen as GC riders. "We have six riders and at the start we have free cards, and Linus can look over himself because he is smart enough and strong enough. We also have Kim Kirchen; they are working pretty well together."

The team has had the extremes of fortune in the Tour so far, with Gerdemann's stint in the yellow jersey off-setting the abandons of crash victims Mark Cavendish, GC-favourite Michael Rogers and Patrik Sinkewitz, who collided with a spectator. Eisel still thinks the team has a good chance despite having less strength in numbers. "We still have a pretty good team but with six riders it is not... It is a strong team but the not the biggest one. We had some really bad luck the other day."

The team would like to have Gerdemann end the Tour in the Maillot Blanc of best young rider but Eisel thinks it will be tough. "We will try but like we said even before the Tour, his biggest rival for the white jersey is [Discovery's Alberto] Contador. He showed it yesterday just how strong he is."

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