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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News for July 30, 2007

Edited by Greg Johnson & Paul Verkuylen

Rabobank: We don't feel like partying

By Greg Johnson

The end of a three-week Grand Tour is always an opportunity for the riders and staff to relax and mingle, with many putting their hard-won endurance to good use on the Sunday evening. But not all teams will be celebrating and certainly for the Dutch squad, Rabobank, it was a Tour that promised so much, but delivered little.

Rabobank director sportif Erik Breukink confessed his squad was in no mood to celebrate the Tour de France's finish, with the Dutch squad enduring a difficult Grand Tour. The team was forced to defend its yellow jersey rider Michael Rasmussen throughout the second week of the Tour after the Dane failed to file his whereabouts to anti-doping officials on numerous occasions in the past 18 months, which led to his national federation dumping him from the country's Worlds squad. Rabobank then decided to sack Rasmussen while he was in the maillot jaune and looking likely to win the Tour.

"We obviously do not feel like partying," admitted Breukink. "There is admiration for the guys' persistence [in continuing after Rasmussen's sacking]. We have been hearing that all day. That is good because the negative reactions from the crowd here, even though there were not that many, had a severe impact. But that quickly quieted down. Respect came in its place and that is one the reasons why it is good that we stayed here to the end."

Despite the disappointment of watching the maillot jaune slip from the squad's possession, Breukink said he was proud of his rider's performance in defending the jersey during its stay at Rabobank. "The team was able to step it up a notch once we had it," he said. "The way the team functioned in the tough mountain stages was a revelation to me. Maybe for the guys too. Now they know they can do it. That might be this Tour's biggest gain for us. The team has had its breakthrough in a major tour as a strong collective on top level, and Thomas Dekker has confirmed his possibilities as a future Tour cyclist."

"Erik Dekker has already said it; the Rabo team was the strongest team in this Tour," he added. "I totally agree with that. In the last week-and-a-half we were constantly able to control the course. We dictated the events from the head of the pack. I was and am very proud of that. The unity and willpower the team displayed were unprecedented and impressive."

The squad's major backer, a Dutch banking corporation, is believed to be considering its future in the sport following the turbulent Tour.

More reactions:

Kim Andersen (Team CSC manager): "It was a shame that Fabian had bad weather, but Carlos did a very good time trial and yet again confirmed he can be at his very best even in the final week of a very, very demanding stage race."

Carlos Sastre (Team CSC): "Once again I gave my very best and I'm happy with my time trial. I knew I probably wasn't able to improve in the general classification, but it was still important for me to show that I'm among the best riders in this race."

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC): "When you love this sport then you need a small rest. Then you have new energy to look forward to new things. The next thing is the world championship."

Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile): "We're all happy to reach Paris . I have my seventh place and I earned it - but, especially, the team earned it. During the first part of the Tour I was feeling very good. I had a very bad day in the Pyrenees but I continued to give everything also yesterday in the time trial, I had a great day. I think I clinched one of the greatest results in my career."

Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile): "I've great hopes for next year. In the end, I've seen in my first Tour that I can keep up with the best."

Iban Mayo (Saunier-Duval): "I'm glad with my performance here in France, especially if I take into account how the previous editions unfolded for me. I even hit the headlines this year, and this is very important to me. Even when I was third overall I said my goal was to grab a stage win. I could have changed my mind and seek for a good overall standing, but I bid on a triumph. Unfortunately, Rasmussen managed to build a huge advantage in Tignes, and in Aubisque I was close as well."

Armstrong: Contador can only get better

By Greg Johnson

Lance Armstrong watches on during the final stage
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Just hours after becoming the youngest rider to take the maillot jaune since Jan Ullrich's '97 win, Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador has received one of the biggest compliments of all - the praise of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. The Discovery Channel part-owner arrived in France to watch his 24 year-old rider defend the yellow jersey in Saturday's Time Trial, and having seen the Spaniard's work under immense pressure first hand, the American thinks Contador may even break his own record of Tour wins.

"Records are there to be broken and if Alberto can begin winning Tours at this age we will see how far he can go," Armstrong told Spanish daily Marca. "Contador is a very talented rider who is very explosive in the mountains and also does well in the time-trials but let's not forget he is only 24 and can only get better."

"He is the great hope for the future not just for Spanish cycling but for the sport as a whole," added the Texan. On Saturday, Armstrong told Cyclingnews after the time trial, "I think we'd have to say that it's the best overall Tour we've ever had as an organisation".

Discovery Channel's team manager Johan Bruyneel echoed Armstrong's comments. "Since Lance retired people are always asking, Who is the next Armstrong?'" Bruyneel said to "I think he's up there on the podium, in the yellow jersey. They are obviously different types of riders but Alberto has many key characteristics that remind me of Lance. He is a rider capable of executing a strategy, a plan for a race. He has the world at his feet now."

The 2007 edition has seen Discovery Channel return to its former glory at the Tour, after struggling to find itself an identity in 2006 following Armstrong's retirement. The American ProTour squad will leave France this July with a swag of results: in addition to Contador's maillot jaune and young rider's jersey, Discovery has won the teams classification, victories on Stages 15 and 19, and a total of three riders in the top 10 on general classification, with Levi Leipheimer in third and Yaroslav Popovych in eight joining Contador.

Contador has a few stuffed lions
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"It's been a great Tour for us," said Armstrong. "We came to win the white jersey (for best young rider) and a stage and we are leaving with the yellow jersey, the white and stage wins. This is without doubt reason for happiness and optimism."

Armstrong rode in the Discovery Channel team car on Saturday's Time Trial, where Contador had to minimise his time loss to Predictor-Lotto's Cadel Evans, as morale support. While Contador said Armstrong didn't speak to him directly during the stage, he could hear the American in the background while team manager Bruyneel talked him through the stage.

"I tried to give him confidence and advice to keep his lead and calm his nerves but I don't know if he was listening to me because there was a lot of noise in the car," said Armstrong.

The squad's Tour success will undoubtedly add weight to its bid to find a replacement sponsor for Discovery Channel, which is withdrawing from the sport at the end of 2007. Bruyneel has recently been quoted as saying the team's management is close to signing off on the new sponsorship deal.

Contador's victory sees the maillot jaune return to Europe for the first time since Italian Marco Pantani won the event in 1998. Americans, primarily Armstrong, dominated during the eight year gap with Floyd Landis' 2006 victory tagging onto the end of Armstrong's seven consecutive wins.

Vaughters confirms Millar, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie

David Millar
Photo ©:
(Click for larger image)

Jonathan Vaughters has confirmed three new signings to his Team Slipstream squad for 2008, including the widely rumoured move of Briton David Millar. The American, who has set his sights on taking Slipstream to the Tour de France in 2008, has been courting some high profile riders for his '08 Professional Continental squad's lineup and has finally confirmed Saunier Duval's Millar as one of them.

In addition to Millar, Vaughters has reportedly confirmed on Eurosport the recruitment of two Team CSC stars in Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie.

Vaughters, the former pro rider who is stridently anti-doping, is hopeful of gaining a wildcard entry into next year's Tour as a transitional move to purchasing a ProTour licence for the 2009 season. The former pro cyclist recently denied rumours the squad was hoping to join the ProTour next season. "That is not even a consideration," he said earlier to Cyclingnews. "I haven't even examined how that works. We had a great meeting with Pat McQuaid and the head of the ProTour and asked them what they think the best thing for us to do is.

"They basically said it's a mistake to grow a team too fast, and if you have a relationship with the ASO then it is better to wait one year and transition to how the logistics work at that level," he said. "Just stay focused on getting into that race, first of all, and second actually racing in it."

The signing of three experienced Tour de France riders is a step in the right direction for the team owned and underpinned by New York business investor Doug Ellis.

Spectacular Soler delighted with debut success

Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) dons polka dots
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

As Barloworld prepared for the Tour de France the Professional Continental squad, which was granted a wildcard entry by organiser ASO, made noises of taking stage wins, but few thought the first would come from a young Colombian climber named Mauricio Soler. The 24 year-old is delighted with his success on Grand Tour debut, having taken home the polka dot mountains jersey in addition to his stage win.

"I have always been a rather serene rider," the Colombian told "I am a pragmatist and realise that if you do things well, there's no reason that the results won't follow. I came to the Tour without a definite goal but the prestige of the event is something that lures you in and extracts more from you.

"The Tour gave me a desire to exceed my expectations," he added. "My life was not very complicated before I arrived at my first Tour and I should point out that when we arrived in the Alps my condition was good and I was able to take full advantage of that. I had great form and I thought I should test myself to see how far I could go.

The Colombian's 78 point victory over yellow jersey Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) in the mountains classification was momentarily overshadowed when rumours circulated on Friday the rider had tested positive. Both Barloworld and Tour director Christian Prudhomme were quick to counter the allegations, which stemmed from a journalist mis-identifying an Ag2r Prévoyance team car at Barloworld's team hotel as a police car.

With the false allegations quashed, Soler was free to enjoy the closing stages of a spectacular debut Tour, which has seen him re-sign with the British-registered, Italian-based, South African-backed squad for two more season.

"It was a will to win that pushed me further, but also the support of my family," he confessed. "Every day I thought of my family over in Colombia and here I have lived out something that I'll remember for a long time to come."

It wasn't only Soler's family getting behind the youngster, with Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe Velez calling him personally after the Stage 9 victory. GJ

Top fifteen tested

Only a few hours before the start of the Tour de France's final Time Trial for 2007, the UCI's doping controllers were out in force. They performed blood tests on the top 15 riders in the overall general classification for the final time this year.

The results are not yet released, however it is believed that they were all negative.

Disco win Tour de Euro as well

By Paul Verkuylen

Discovery Channel has, thanks to its riders coming in first, third and eighth overall, topped the standing in the prize money as well as its overall, young rider and team classification wins. Discovery's Alberto Contador won both the yellow and the white jersey and Levi Leipheimer claimed third spot on the podium. The American squad's results sees it amassed some 723,240 Euros, almost 500,000 Euros more than second place Predictor Lotto with 235,060 Euros.

The 23 seconds that separated Cadel and Contador in the end was worth 1086,96 Euros per second for the Spaniard's team, with the 24 year-old's victory securing 450,000 Euros for Discovery versus 200,000 for Cadel's second place.

Ag2r came in at the opposite end of the list to Discovery channel winning just 12,540 Euros for the entire three weeks. The French team's take means each rider earned just 1,393 Euros, slim pickings in comparison to the Discovery boys who amassed just over 80,000 Euros each.

A noticeable absences from the pending figures below is Rabobank. The Dutch team is currently missing from the list while the UCI makes a decision on the Dane's situation, following his sacking from the squad after failing to inform authorities of his whereabouts - a requirement under anti-doping legislation.

Tour de France prizemoney per team:
1 Discovery Channel (USA)                           723,240 Euro
2 Predictor-Lotto (Bel)                             235,060
3 Team CSC (Den)                                    136,280
4 Euskaltel (Spa)                                   120,840
5 Barloworld (GBr)                                  114,950
6 Quick.Step Innergetic (Bel)                       101,920
7 Caisse d'Epargne (Spa)                             85,160
8 T-Mobile (Ger)                                     56,580
9 Lampre - Fondital (Ita)                            46,450
10 Française des Jeux (Fra)                          43,840
11 Crédit Agricole (Fra)                             38,360
12 Team Milram (Ita)                                 37,180
13 Gerolsteiner (Ger)                                33,980
14 Liquigas (Ita)                                    32,840
15 Saunier Duval (Spa)                               28,060
16 Bouygues Telecom (Fra)                            23,260
17 Agritubel (Fra)                                   15,040
18 AG2R (Fra)                                        12,540

Contador flies up ProTour rankings

Spaniard Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) has flown up the ProTour rankings, moving into second place behind Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) after winning the Tour de France yesterday. The 24 year-old Contador had been sitting in 13th position with just 78 points prior to his Tour victory.

With his brilliant ride into second place in the Tour, Australia's Cadel Evans is the sitting in third place behind the Grand Tour winners. Evans has moved up from seventh place prior to the Tour.

Standings after the Tour de France:
1 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas                       207 points
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel            191
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor Lotto                   174
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne           165
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                  157
6 Kim Kirchen (Lux) T-Mobile                          129
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne             115
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital                112
9 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank                          95
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance             88
11 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step - Innergetic            87
12 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                        86
13 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                         81
14 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC                       79
15 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel             77
16 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                76
17 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana                      74
18 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto                 74
19 Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval                  71
20 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                        69
21 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana                   68
22 Andreas Klöden (Dui) Astana                         67
23 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Astana                       66
24 Juan José Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval                  64
25 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval                 62
24 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank                        58
25 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram               56

Health Net-Maxxis tops NRC with 'Toona win

By Mark Zalewski

Karl Menzies (Health Net-Maxxis) and teammate Rory Sutherland
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

This week at the International Tour de Toona in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the NRC standings took a significant change, both in terms of the team and individual standings. Health Net-Maxxis' Karl Menzies and Rory Sutherland dominated the race with a one-two overall finish. With NRC leader Ben Jacques-Maynes (Priority Health) not in 'Toona this week, Sutherland's second place should vault him into first place in the NRC, while Menzies' two stage wins, six days in the leader's jersey and the overall win will easily move him up into the top five as well. And winning today's final criterium, making it three stage wins, confirmed this.

"It's always been a great race and well attended," said team director Jeff Corbett about the quality of the field his team dismantled. "In the spring teams like Navigators and Slipstream are in Europe somewhat. It's great those guys were here with good names. We really wanted to bring a special squad to this like everyone else does. Great courses and a true seven days - it was great to do a TTT too!"

While Health Net-Maxxis had the top two in the GC, Toyota-United occupied third through sixth, thanks to the team time trial. This means that the team NRC standings remain as close as ever, with Toyota-United slightly higher than Health Net-Maxxis, and Navigators Insurance a distant third.

'Toona represents the last road race of the NRC calendar and only seven races left in total - all criteriums with three rated 1.2 or higher. This sets the stage for a NRC showdown in the month of August.

Pucinskaite injured in freak accident

By Susan Westemeyer

Edita Pucinskaite (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) was injured in a freak accident at Saturday's Time Trial stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt in Germany. The women's Giro d'Italia winner crashed off of the starting ramp, and had to be taken to a nearby hospital.

She suffered facial injuries, and required stitches. "Fortunately she didn't have any fractures," said team manger Jens Zemke. "Apart from some team cuts she is doing well under the circumstances."

Tankink to decide Monday

Bram Tankink will decide on Monday which offer for the 2008 season to accept - the one from his current team Quick.Step Innergetic or from Rabobank.

Tankink finished the Tour de France in 42d place, an astonishing achievement in the rider's eyes "Especially the first week in the Alps I was stronger than expected," he said. "I have shown that I have grown as a rider. I show in all aspects that that I am now a step further in my career."

While he had not yet decided where he would ride next year, he said that. "My year still belongs to Quick.Step," affirmed the rider of his dedication for 2007. "I have ridden there seven years. The recent problems with Rasmussen don't have any effect on my decision."

He did note that he had eliminated T-Mobile from his list of potential teams.

Reus back to Netherlands

Kai Reus was scheduled to fly back to the Netherlands on Sunday, more than two weeks after a serious crash which saw him placed into an induced coma.

He crashed while training alone in southern France. At the hospital in Grenoble he was diagnosed with three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a hermorrhage on the left side of the back of his skull. He was placed in an induced coma for a week. Tests have indicated he should have no lasting damage from the accident.

The 22-year-old will be accompanied by his mother on the flight home, and will go into a hospital closer to his home.

Van Petegem out

Peter van Petegem (Quick.Step - Innergetic) isn't riding the Ronde van Wallonië in his home country of Belgium, which commenced on Saturday. The classics superstar has been suffering with a back injury and has been replaced by Geert Verheyen.

Ullrich plans return

Jan Ullrich is considering a return to racing - not professional racing, but a benefit race to help children in the Stuttgart, Germany, area, on October 3. "There is an invitation to the race," his manager Wolfgang Strohband told dpa. "But Jan has not yet decided whether to accept it."

If Ullrich participates, he would be the captain of a team of 50 hobby cyclists, who would ride 60 to 100 km. Other German riders who will captain such a team include Stefan Schumacher and Danilo Hondo. Tace organiser Heinz Betz told the German tabloid BILD am Sonntag that: "It is up to other people to discuss Ullrich's past. Here we are concerned with the well-being of children."

Ullrich and his wife are expecting their first child the end of September, and his participation in the race would depend on when the child is born.

Nowell passes away

Peter Nowell, one of Britain's first 'independent' racers, has died at 77. A founder member of Lune R.C.C. and an early recruit to the British League of Racing Cyclists he rode with Doug Petty in the Croad Automatic semi-professional team. He competed in many major races included the Quaker Oats Tour of Britain, the 1958 Milk Race, the Corona Tour of the West, and still hold the Morecambe to Bradford record he set 57 years ago.

Dr Nowell, well known throughout Merseyside and North West cycling, managed to combine an active racing career with almost half a century at the University of Liverpool where he was a senior lecturer in pharmacology. He worked as technical advisor at British Cycling Federation disciplinary hearings, and was a board member of the Professional Racing Association.

"He was a wise old figure who we looked up to for advice," said colleague Chris Welton. "He did sterling service for the Federation and the Association. When the professionals and amateurs were at loggerheads, he bridged their difficulties and was deeply respected by both sides."

Apart from his passion for bikes, he was still building them weeks before his death, Dr Nowell enjoyed restoring two vintage Rolls Royce cars.

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