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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News, July 25, 2008

Edited by Bjorn Haake

Casar getting better and better

Sandy Casar (Française Des Jeux)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Sandy Casar is on his way to get his best result at the Tour de France since he came 16th overall in 2004. He's the best Frenchman again. But nothing would make him happier than a stage win, as he told Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet after the Alpine stages.

The starting area of stage 18 in Bourg d'Oisans was absolutely crowded and chaotic but it was a relief for the riders to look up and watch the mountains for the last time. The hardest part of the Tour was over. Sandy Casar of Française des Jeux revealed his physical state. "For the first time since the start of the race in Brest, I feel tired."

Maybe because of that, he was one of the first riders to crash en route to Saint-Etienne. He wasn't hurt like Damiano Cunego would be later on but he could feel all the fatigue of almost three weeks of racing on his shoulders. It means he was right to skip the Giro this year, a race he finished in sixth position two years ago before struggling badly at the Tour de France.

Several times, Casar was reportedly tired even before the start of the Tour de France. "But I can't refrain myself from racing during the Spring," he explained. "I like cycling so much. Whether I do the Giro or not, every year it's the same, I start the Tour with about 65 days of racing."

In Brest, he was scared of the first stages. "That's not what I like", he explained. "It's extremely nervous in the bunch, the crowd is big and enthusiastic. The risk of crashing is huge." In fact, after only four days of racing he was 7'31 down on the maillot jaune! And that was in Cholet, a town where he used to live and study when he was 19.

His 124th place in the overall standings didn't bother him. "After a few disappointments I have decided to ride the Tour without being stressed by the overall classification." His stage win in Angoulême last year made him much happier than anything else he experienced at the Tour de France since he started doing it in 2002. The best result he got in Paris was 16th in 2004. France is so desperately looking for somebody to ride GC that he has had a lot of pressure for doing so.

Read the full Casar interview.

Chavanel opts for Quick Step

By Hedwig Kröner in Roanne

Sylvain Chavanel signed for Quick Step for the next seaon
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel will change teams and ride for Belgian squad Quick Step as of next year. The Cofidis rider has decided to focus on the Flemish Spring Classics, where he scored two impressive solo victories this year: Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Brabantse Pijl. "Quick Step, to me, is the best Classics team," he said on Thursday morning at the Tour de France stage 18 start in Bourg d'Oisans. "I discovered what I can do in these races in the beginning of the season. So now I'd like to confirm my worth in a very good team."

The 29 year-old is thereby following the footsteps of other Classics specialists such as Nick Nuyens and Stijn Devolder, whose career breakthroughs were achieved in Patrick Lefevere's team. Chavanel also hopes for this, even though he knows a good part of his job will be to help Tom Boonen to further victories. "I think that I can be a luxury domestique for Boonen," he continued. "But depending on team tactics in certain races, I will be able to play my card. I think this strategy has served many riders before, like Nick Nuyens and Stijn Devolder. We will see if I can take advantage of it."

Chavanel has been with French team Cofidis for several years. He was hailed as one of France's biggest cycling hopefuls until he finally delivered the long-awaited victories this year, winning stages in Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya, as well as the above-mentioned half Classics. But Chavanel said the Belgian team wanted to sign him before. "My victories in Waregem [where Dwars van Vlaanderen ended -ed.] and at the Brabantse Pijl helped this transfer, but Quick Step had made offers to me in the last few years. I think that signing me is also good for their sponsor, which needed a French rider."

Asked if there were other French riders joining him at the Belgian team, he replied, "For integration, it would probably be nice if that was so. But you'll have to ask the other riders if they will."

Cunego out of the Tour

Cunego bravely fought on, but will not be able to start stage 19
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Following his horrendous crash in stage 18, Damiano Cunego will not take the start in the Tour with only three days remaining. Initially hopeful to continue, Lampre's PR Manager Andrea Appiani confirmed to Cyclingnews last night that Cunego would have to abandon.

After the stage Cunego was immediately transferred to a hospital in St. Etienne. The Lampre rider suffered no fractures, but many contusions at the chest and the belly, at the face and at the arms. He received five stitches on the chin and bandages on chest and arms. He felt pain when breathing.

Cunego left the hospital and, after having talked to the team's doctor, Dr Andreazzoli, and the technical staff, the decision to abandon was taken.

Cunego fell after 30 kilometres in stage 18. He was quickly over seven minutes behind. Four riders of his team, Massimiliano Mori, Marco Marzano, Daniele Righi and Paolo Tiralongo, waited and paced Cunego into the finish inside the time limit, constantly about 10-12 minutes behind the peloton.

It would have been nice to see the award of the most combative rider given to Cunego, who bravely fought to the finish, despite his injuries.

Hansen makes movie on Alpe d'Huez

Adam Hansen (Columbia) seen here attacking in the Giro, had a day 'off' for once from team duties
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Adam Hansen keeps a diary of his Tour de France. Without team obligation (other than to finish inside the time limit!), he had some time to become director and producer of a little video clip on Alpe d'Huez. Read Hansen's entertaining story.

Sorry it's been a few days since my last update, but we've had a few mountains to climb... But I'll make this a longer update.

The second rest day was SOOOOO much better than the first. There was so much free time, it was incredible! We had no physio checks, no press conference and just a lot more time. I crashed in my room for most of it, trying to catch up on the internet, laying on the bed and watching a movie. I also saw my family – my mother and sister are watching the race. They brought some relatives around which was wonderful.

Stage 16 I struggled because I had a stomach problem, which made it impossible to keep any food down. I know I've said that everything is faster here, going uphill and all. But even going downhill is faster. It's amazing, when you really think about it. We have climbed all these mountains and are going down super-fast. A lot of us are worn out and not 100 percent switched on, but we still do everything perfectly without crashing. Going 90kph around these corners that I have never done before, and I'm sure a hundred other guys haven't either! It's amazing to me, but I guess you just call that pro cycling.

But I guess we don't all do it perfectly. I was in a group behind the Pereiro crash and we were going really fast. When we saw it we all slowed down and it was a huge eye opener. We took it a lot slower after that. I thought he was a goner when we rolled past – he was just laying there. But thankfully he is okay.

Rewad the rest of the diary here.

Sastre enjoyed first day in yellow

Carlos Sastre's baby dedication from 2003 was unnecessary in 2008, with his youngest already four years old
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Carlos Sastre knows the feeling of a stage win in the Tour. But wearing yellow for the first time was a new experience for the Spaniard and he enjoyed every moment of it.

"It is the first time that I wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and it was a very nice experience. Above all, people remembered yesterday and talked about it. For me, it was a very special day."

In the beginning of the stage, Sastre couldn't enjoy showing off his new jersey, though. In the first hour, the riders covered 55.7 kilometres. "Regarding the stage, it started out very fast. Once the break established, we could pedal a bit more relaxed."

CSC is leading the teams classification, thanks to constant good finishes among the top three riders per stage. But there is another thing Sastre valued. "The team controlled the race in every moment, without any problems. That's why this was a day where I was able to enjoy the yellow jersey and just feel very good. It was also a day where I was well recovered [from the efforts in Alpe d'Huez] and I could already think about tomorrow [Friday] and how close we are already to Paris."

Sastre attacked on the bottom of the famous Alpe d'Huez climb in stage. He put more than two minutes into his closest rival, Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). This time Sastre did not have to carry a pacifier in his pocket. "My kids are too old for pacifiers now." Sastre has a daughter and a son. In celebrating his Tour stage win five years atop the Plateau de Bonascre, Sastre pulled out a pacifier and put it in his mouth as he crossed the line.

Sastre holds a lead of 1'34 over fourth-placed Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto). His team-mate Fränk Schleck is in second, 1'24 behind, Austrian Bernhard Kohl in third, at 1'33.

Corti looks ahead

Team Barloworld had a rough Tour. The worst part was of course the doping case involving Moisés Dueñas. A lot of the other riders had to abandon. But team manager Claudio Corti is looking ahead and was really impressed with the youngsters, John-Lee Augustyn and Chris Froome.

Corti also sees a chance for his sprinter, Robert Hunter, to take a stage. "Despite all the problems, our young riders have shown they are talented and we think Hunter has a great chance of winning in Paris on Sunday."

Barloworld is down to four riders (Hunter, Augustyn, Froome and Cheula), but Corti remained upbeat. "Without a doubt it's been a difficult and unlucky Tour de France for us but we're very proud that John-Lee Augustyn and Chris Froome have emerged and shown their talent for stage racing despite both riding the Tour de France for the very first time."

Augustyn is only 22 but impressed in the Pyrenees and was amazing on stage 16 in the Alps to Jausiers when he was first to the summit of the Col de la Bonnette climb, the high point of the Tour de France. He dived down the descent towards probable stage victory but a crash on a corner suddenly wrecked his chances.

23 year-old Chris Froome has also been in the spotlight and not only for his Kenyan roots. He caught the attention of the media thanks to his ability to stay with the best riders on the toughest climbs. Froome clearly showed both his character and potential for major stage races.

"They've both got a great future ahead of them, cycling needs young riders like Chris and John-Lee," Claudio Corti said.

Italy's Gianpaolo Cheula has also done well during the Tour de France, often sparking attacks and getting in early breaks. "Gianpaolo is on form and he showed this in the Alps," Corti said. "He's a fighter and his presence in the team is very important."

Team Barloworld's Tour de France has been badly affected by numerous crashes and as a consequence four riders have been forced to retire during the race. First to go was Mauricio Soler. Last year he had an unforgettable Tour de France when he won a stage in the Alps and won the best climber's polka-dot jersey. He was unlucky this year and a crash during the first stage eventually forced him to retire.

Both Paolo Longo Borghini and Felix Cárdenas crashed out on stage 11. Longo Borghini fractured his right collarbone, while Cárdenas suffered a three-centimetre muscle tear in his right thigh. The next day Australia's Baden Cooke also crashed in the early part of the stage and suffered a back injury.

Unfortunately it was not only the crashes that made Team Barloworld's Tour de France so difficult. Corti was frank about it. "Moises Dueñas' case also created problems. However the team's stance and behaviour has always been crystal clear: whoever behaves incorrectly will always be caught and distanced from the team. We've always had a zero-tolerance policy towards doping and we've always worked professionally and honestly. It is for that very reason that we decided to carry on in the Tour de France and face the final stages of the race with renewed optimism," Corti concluded.

Lead at Superweek up in the air with three to go

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sterling Magnell (Rock Racing) hopes to get the lead back from Aussie Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe's)
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

The International Cycling Classic, known as Superweek, had been dominated in the overall by Rock Racing and Sterling Magnell. However, Australian Jonathan Cantwell (Jittery Joe's) has slowly and quietly climbed up the overall since arriving here a few days after the start. With the help of team-mates Chad Hartley and Ryan Sullivan he took the leader's yellow jersey from Magnell during the Whitnall Park road race on Wednesday, due to the double points on offer, and successfully defended it during the Racine Criterium.

The result is that both Cantwell and Magnell are just a few points apart from each other with three fast and technical criteriums to go in the 17-day series. Both riders wrote about their thoughts on the changing of the jersey on their own web sites. "After two weeks of battling Rock Racing for the yellow jersey, I finally took it off them today," Cantwell wrote on "I feel strong and confident that I can keep my hands on it and the last four races are criteriums, so I should be able to manage."

Magnell had a more subtle approach on his site, with only a picture of a crumpled dollar bill, symbolising the one point difference between him and Cantwell that was announced after the race. (Officials corrected the results to three points later in the evening.)

Cantwell subtly put a warning to his adversaries based on his Down Under roots. "I can only imagine what Rock has in stall for me in the next few days, but they better realise that I'm an Aussie and we are built tough!"

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