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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News, July 5, 2008

Edited by Ben Abrahams & Laura Weislo

Valverde content with thoughts of early yellow jersey

By Shane Stokes in Brest

Valverde and Pereiro share a laugh
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The absence of a prologue plus a reportedly-tough uphill finish at the end of stage one of this year's Tour de France will lead to a very different opening day in the race. Breakaway specialists, the more versatile sprinters and perhaps even the GC contenders will all be in with a chance of nabbing the victory and thus taking yellow in Plumelec on Saturday.

Alejandro Valverde already demonstrated that he can win an uphill sprint at the opening stage of the Dauphiné Libéré, where he beat Thor Hushovd, and all eyes will be on the Spaniard to see if he will top the podium in Brittany. He was asked at the team's pre-race press conference if he would consider going for the maillot jaune, or if he would prefer to stay out of the limelight for now. His answer was that the victory would be desirable, even if it would mean his Caisse d'Epargne team would have expend energy early in the race to defend a lead.

"Having seen the parcours of this stage, it is one which would suit me perfectly," he stated. "It is the first day of the Tour and everyone will be motivated to show their form, to try to win. The roads will be twisting and it will be necessary to avoid risks. It is certain that I and the whole team would love a stage victory.

"To take the yellow jersey in the first day would be fabulous, even if taking it would also bring responsibilities. We will see how things go."

The new Spanish Champion is feeling optimistic as the Tour gets underway. After withdrawing due to injury in 2005 and 2006, he reached Paris for the first time last year. His sixth place finish was slightly disappointing to some observers, but the team stressed throughout the race that the priority was to get that first finish under his belt and to learn for the future.

This time round, he is targeting a top-three place. He is seen by many as the main challenger to Cadel Evans, and was asked if a podium finish – rather than the victory – would indeed satisfy him. "I think so," he responded. "Last year was the first Tour that I finished. I was sixth and I was very satisfied when I got to Paris. This year, as I have already said, I am here to fight for a podium. I would love to win but if I finish second or third, I would be satisfied. I have more years ahead to aim for that."

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Team manager Eusebio Unzue is feeling confident heading into the race. "We came here with a team in the best condition possible," he stated. "After the recent results that the team has got, I think everyone is in very good form. The objective for the whole team is to help Alejandro and do what we can to help him reach the podium of this Tour."

Valverde echoed this. "My form is very good and so too that of the team. We are here with the ambition of doing what we can to fight for the podium of the Tour. I think after what I showed in the Dauphiné and the Spanish Championships, my form is good. I hope that luck and health will accompany me as I chase this goal."

At the conference, the point was made that the period between the end of the Dauphiné and the finish of the Tour de France is a full six weeks. As winner of the first of these two events, Valverde was asked if he can hold his condition for that long. He's not one hundred percent certain, but feels that it is possible.

"I think winning is important, psychologically and physically, and is good for the motivation," he stated. "It is true that it is important to use as little energy as possible as to keep something for the third week. Evans, Menchov, Sastre, the Schleck brothers, Cunego will attack then. But for the moment I feel very good. I won the Spanish Championships two weeks after the Dauphiné and feel my condition is the same as in that race. I hope that things go well and stay good for the third week."

Menchov renews for two years

By Brecht Decaluwé in Brest

Denis Menchov won a stage in 2006 for Rabobank
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The Rabobank team may have one of the top contenders for the Tour's overall, but it has also been busy dealing with several non-Tour related business matters. The team announced Friday that it has negotiated to extend the contract of team leader Denis Menchov for two more years. The team's management is also dealing with agitation from Thomas Dekker about his non-selection for the Tour, and the settlements of the several lawsuits from former rider Michael Rasmussen. And all of that on the eve of the Tour de France

Team manager Harry Knebel – who joined the management for business decision in March – explained to Cyclingnews why Rabobank decided to keep the Russian rider while they have a lot of talented riders themselves. "Menchov can keep the pressure off young guys like Robert Gesink in the Grand Tours. The youth has the future, but we can't redeem their future by bringing them in too early," Knebel said.

Menchov himself was a happy man, although it was hard to read that from his body language. "It is good because I don't have to worry about my future going into the Tour de France. No major changes were necessary. I feel good in this team. It's good for both parties," Menchov reacted on his contract extension.

Menchov will not focus on the task at hand, which is doing well in the general classification of the Tour de France. "I don't have too much stress. I have some, but I try to stay relaxed. I'm ambitious and I think that I can win the Tour de France," Menchov claimed.

Knebel played down the non-selection of one of the team's young talents, Thomas Dekker, for the Tour squad – a decision which caused a lot of commotion in The Netherlands. "Dekker was not selected solely on basis of his current form; that was the only reason." The decision was taken after consultation of the several sportif directors from the team, but Menchov had a say in it. "We know he's a good rider, and especially a good climber, but he's not in a good condition. That's why we – together – decided not to take him to the Tour. I talked with the sportif directors about it, but I didn't make the decision," Menchov explained.

Rumours spread that Dekker was angry and would be looking for another team, but Knebel said that the team intends to keep Dekker for the rest of his contract. "There is still one and a half years of contract, and we from Rabobank have the intention to continue, for now," Knebel said.

Knebel has not, however, been able to iron out the situation with Dekker. He began to say the rider was not approachable, but corrected himself. "I meant that it is hard to contact him. Let's say that he's not picking up his phone too well."

GP Plouay to go radio-free?

By Jean-François Quénet in Brest

The August 25 ProTour race, the Grand Prix de Plouay in France, might be the first event contested by the professional cyclists without team radios since the advent of their use back in the mid-1990's. The ear pieces, which allow team directors in the follow cars to communicate with riders ahead have been blamed for making races too predictable. Race organizer Jean-Yves Tranvaux has sent an official request to the UCI for his event to be a test for the world of cycling to see if the elimination of the radios would spice up the action.

"In the past few years we've always had the same scenario with a regrouping in the finale," Tranvaux argued. "The spectators are frustrated that this kind of thing happens all the time. Without radios, we might have a more interesting race with more attacks like we had in Plouay in the past."

GP Plouay used to be the most thrilling one-day race in France after Paris-Roubaix until the UCI organised the world championships in the Breton village in 2000. Since then, the popular event has become somewhat boring and doesn't attract as many spectators as before. "It's worth trying anyway," Tranvaux explained. "We're always told that radio communication is important for the security. We understand it's the case in most of the races but not in Plouay where the race is contested on a totally secured and closed circuit. It's an ideal venue for a test."

Tranvaux has no intention to impose his views. He will leave the final answer to the teams and the riders.

Rabobank satisfied with Rasmussen decision

By Brecht Decaluwé in Brest

After the two recent legal decisions in court about Michael Rasmussen clearly the water around the Rabobank team still hasn't calmed down just yet. The team's PR-representative Luuc Eisinga pointed out that the team was happy with the decision from the judge in Utrecht, The Netherlands. In this case – which handled the dismissal from Rasmussen last year – the Dutch judge decided that Rabobank had the right to fire Rasmussen, but he also decided that they should've done it earlier. That's why Rabobank has to pay Rasmussen 665,000 euro, which is about 10 percent of what Rasmussen's lawyers had asked for.

"The team is happy that the conclusions from the commission 'Vogelzang' were confirmed." This independent investigation commission looked into the Rasmussen case, about his whereabouts and the following dismissal of Rasmussen from the Rabobank team.

"The commission 'Vogelzang' made two conclusions. First of all Rabobank shouldn't have let Rasmussen take the start in the Tour de France, or [it should have] taken him out of the race earlier. Next to that Rabobank had to terminate the contract earlier," Eisinga explained. This lawsuit at a Dutch court is not related to the lawsuit between Rasmussen and the CAS, in which the Danish rider wants to reduce the two year suspension he received from the Monaco cycling federation.

MPCC teams confirm no corticoid use

By Shane Stokes in Brest

The ten member teams of the MPCC (Movement for a Credible Cycling) which will ride the Tour de France met on Friday in Brest, and confirmed that none of their riders has had oral or injectable use of corticoids in the 15 days leading up to the race.

According to a MPCC press release, the health booklets of those from AG2R, Agritubel, Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Columbia, Crédit Agricole, Française des Jeux, Garmin Chipotle, Gerolsteiner and Rabobank have been verified by an independent doctor as clear in this regard. Another verification of the booklets will be made at the end of the race.

The doctors of the MPCC teams have formally requested WADA and the UCI to continue to require TUEs for corticoid use. They also request that any infiltration of corticoids (injection or oral) should be followed by a 15-day break from competition.

Bourgain sets new French record

Track sprinter Mickaël Bourgain set a new French record for the flying 200 metre at his national championships in Hyeres on Friday. The Cofidis rider set a time of 9.894 seconds, an average speed of 72.771 kilometres per hour. The new mark bests that of Gregory Baugé, 9.903 seconds, which was set in Cottbus, Germany.

Baugé was not present to defend his title, he had to miss the championships after having oral surgery.

Bourgain, a part of the 2008 World Champion team sprint squad from France also took the bronze in the individual sprint in Manchester.

Dean, Cheatley named to Kiwi Olympics squad

Team Garmin-Chipotle's Julian Dean was named to the New Zealand Olympic cycling team this week. Dean will be joined by Timothy Gudsell (Française des Jeux) and Glen Chadwick (Team Type 1) for the men's road race, while Joanne Kiesanowski will be the sole representative for the women's road race.

Catherine Cheatley, who has accumulated good results in the United States racing for the Cheerwine team, and Peter Latham have been added to the Kiwi track team. They will join Samuel Bewley, Westley Gough, Greg Henderson, Hayden Roulston, Marc Ryan, Jesse Sergent and Alison Shanks.

New Zealand had initially qualified three spots in the women's road race, but lost two after the UCI downgraded two events which had given the country ranking points. The New Zealand federation has appealed that decision, and expects to hear whether it will regain the spots. If it does, Cheatley and mountain biker Rosara Joseph will join Kiesanowski for that event.

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