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Mont Ventoux
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News, July 28, 2008

Edited by Laura Weislo

Tour party spoiled by fourth positive

Dmitriy Fofonov (Crédit Agricole)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

The Tour's finale on the Champs-Elysées was spoiled a bit by news that a fourth rider tested positive for a banned substance during the race. Kazakh rider Dmitriy Fofonov of Crédit Agricole tested positive for the stimulant heptaminol after the stage 18. Fovonov finished the tour 19th overall behind Spaniard Carlos Sastre.

"Fofonov tested positive for a banned stimulant, we have notified him with the news today," Pierre Bordry, the president of the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) told Reuters. "The substance is heptaminol." Heptaminol is a stimulant which is sometimes used to relieve bronchial spasms and to treat low blood pressure.

Fovonov was one of four riders to receive such news during this year's Tour. Spaniards Manuel Beltran and Moises Dueñas and Italian Riccardo Riccó all tested positive for EPO during the first week.

The 31-year-old Kazakh has been a professional since 1999. He began his career with the Collstrop team before moving onto the Cofidis squad for five seasons in 2001. He took his first win in six years on the final stage of the Dauphiné Libéré.

Contador happy for Sastre

Spaniard Alberto Contador was not allowed to ride the Tour de France as defending champion, but said that having his fellow countryman Carlos Sastre win this year's race was the next best thing that could have happened.

"I am glad that a rider like Sastre wins. He improves every year. Not spectacular, but efficient," Contador said in a statement that offered up his congratulations to the CSC-Saxo Bank leader. "It is the crown on his career. Moreover, Carlos Sastre rode very intelligently this Tour. He knew what he wanted and he worked for it from the beginning."

The Team Astana leader was impressed with Sastre's attack on Alpe d'Huez, where Sastre escaped from the group and gained more than two minutes on his team-mate Fränk Schleck and closest competitor, Cadel Evans. That move won Sastre the yellow jersey, which, against all odds, he defended in the final time trial on Saturday.

"Today he rode the best time trial of his life," Contador said after the showdown. "He could already celebrate before reaching the finish line. I congratulate him and wish that he enjoys the stage to Paris."

Contador's Astana team was not invited to the Tour this year despite the squad having re-tooled after suffering multiple doping scandals during last year's event.

Freire the first green Spaniard

By Daniel Benson in Paris

Freire now has a massive 47-point advantage
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

Oscar Freire rode into Paris today to become the first-ever Spaniard to win the green points jersey. The former triple-world champion has been mister consistent in this year's race, bagging a stage in Dignes-les-Bains, along with a string of top ten places throughout the past three weeks.

What makes the achievement even more rewarding is that he's done all the work without the help of a dedicated lead-out team, as team Rabobank set itself up around Denis Menchov before the start of the race.

"To win the green jersey is an important achievement for any sprinter. In my case, I never had a lot of luck in the last years because of my health problems. This time around, I came to the Tour in the best condition. I was able to put on the most consistent performance, so I think I deserve to win it," he said as he warmed up for yesterday's time trial.

Freire has a lead of 42 points over Erik Zabel (202), with Thur Hushovd third on 198, ahead of the final stage to Paris on Sunday where points can be won at intermediate sprints with the most available at the finish line.

The winner of Gent-Wevelgem will be completing only his second full Tour de France. In 2003 he finished 12th on the Champs-Elysées.

O'Grady finds satisfaction in support role

By Daniel Benson in Paris

Stuart O'Grady had to work a lot
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

If you've been thinking where has Stuart O'Grady been during this year's race you're probably not alone. In past editions of Le Tour the quiet Australian has carved himself a reputation as a breakaway-specialist with an almost, but not quite deadly sprint. This year however, O'Grady has seen his role morph within the CSC team. The man who wore the yellow and the green jersey during the 2001 Tour has taken on a new role, that of a super domestique for Fränk Shleck and now Carlos Sastre.

"It's given me a real deep satisfaction. In this team it's not all about crossing the line first or getting in the break. It's about being part of the team and working for the whole. That's why you've seen me use my energy riding tempo up the mountains like the Galibier. It's something which I've never done before, but I've given it one hundred percent," he said, illustrating just how far he's come since the young sprinter turned professional with Gan in 1996.

O'Grady revealed that is this new path has been down to the influence of one man, team manager Bjarne Riis. "Bjarne has been a huge factor on me in the last few years. If I had not come here (CSC) I probably would have hung up my wheels by now. He's been so important for getting the best out of us and it's been proved with how I've done in the Classics."

With only one stage left in the Tour O'Grady has already turned one eye towards Beijing and the Olympics, where he'll compete in the road race alongside Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans, Michael Rogers and Matt Lloyd. Lining up in his fifth Games, it's on that he'll be relishing. "It's a pretty strong team. Evans has shown how strong he's been at the Tour. Gerrans will play a big role too. The rest of the guys I'm sure have trained really well without doing the Tour. The whole team will be good."

Maillot vert masters

It's not easy being green: Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

As the Tour de France winds down today, there's still one more battle to be played out on the Champs-Elysées. While the sport's great sprinters ready for their final showdown in Paris, Stefan Rogers remembers some of the great battles for the maillot vert.

Introduced by the Tour organizers in 1953 to reward riders who had no hope of winning the race overall, the maillot vert, or sprinter's jersey, is the most sought after jersey that isn't yellow. The points are awarded along the route as well as at the finish of each stage. Typically thought of as a sprinter's competition, the winner must not only be a fast finisher, but a consistent one.

Oscar Freire's (Rabobank) likely victory in the Tour de France sprint competition today is a well-deserved prize for the Spanish rider. No one can doubt the quality of a rider who has equaled the great Eddy Merckx, with no less than three World Championship titles on the road. But Freire might well be the first to tell you that he wasn't the fastest sprinter in this year's Tour. That honour would have to go to Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia), who was simply untouchable once he saw the finish line.

But in spite of his four stage wins, Cavendish learned that perhaps the most difficult challenge for sprinters in the Tour is making it to Paris. Whether it's dragging those huge sprinter's muscles over the high mountains, or simply the fatigue of a three-week race covering more than 3,500 kilometres, the battle for the green jersey has usually been as much about who could finish as they have been about who's the fastest sprinter. Over the past 20 years, there have been a number of competitions that highlight the complex drama of trying to crown the Tour's best sprinter.

1988: The name Planckaert has been a famous one in cycling for decades, so it was fitting that younger brother Eddy won the green jersey in 1988, 22 years after his brother Willy had won his. Eddy Planckaert managed to win the green jersey despite never placing higher than third in any of the stages. In fact, Jean-Paul van Poppel - who now manages women's Team Flexpoint - was clearly the fastest sprinter in the race, taking four stages including the finale in Paris.

But van Poppel, who had won the green jersey competition the previous year, suffered the fate of many great sprinters: he couldn't climb. While the Dutchman was bringing up the rear on the more difficult days of the race, Planckaert was able to grab a few points here and there. Planckaert's closest competition actually came from American Davis Phinney, who finished second, and Sean Kelly who finished in third.

Continue to the full feature.

Pozzato delays Katusha contract

By Gregor Brown in Saint Amand Montrond

Contrary to previous reports, Italian Filippo Pozzato has not finalised his contract with the newly formed Team Katusha. The 26 year-old cyclist explained Saturday morning at the Tour de France that he is reviewing the Russian team's contract offer, but has yet to ink the deal.

"I need to look over everything well now. Everyone is saying that I have already signed. I have not signed anything," Pozzato said to Cyclingnews.

The winner of the 2006 Milano-Sanremo will leave his current team, Liquigas, by the end of the season. He previously linked himself to the Katusha team during an interview with Rai television.

"I have to see that it is the right choice. There is a great chance, but the signature is not there – it is ninety percent there." The Katusha squad has not announced a new contract and the team's general manager, Stefano Feltrin, confirmed that the team would make an official announcement September 1.

Another name linked with Katusha is Belgium's Gert Steegmans. He and Pozzato would help create a formidable one-day race team. "My focus will be the Classics and I will try to be at my best there," said Pozzato.

Olympic village opens amidst doping, pollution concerns

The Olympic village in Beijing opened its doors to hundreds of athletes on Sunday, ahead of the Games which begin on August 8, with the Chinese delegation being the first team to check in to the athlete's compound. But with the build up to the Games gathering steam, concerns about the continued problem of doping as well as poor air quality hang over the Olympic village.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, interviewed in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, said he expected 40 athletes to be caught doping during the Beijing Games. Rogge based his statements on increased doping controls, when compared with previous Olympic Games. At the Sydney Games in 2000, there were 12 positives from 2,500 tests. This year, there will be 4,500 controls performed at the Olympic Games.

As athletes arrive, concerns have been raised about air pollution in the Chinese capital, which worsened despite efforts from the government to order cars off the streets. It has spent some $17 billion to relocate coal-fired power plants and steel mills and other measures to control air quality, but smog still remains a problem. While gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrous dioxide have been reduces, the fine particulate matter in the air remains, and can cause problems for the lungs of endurance athletes such as cyclists.

Rogge said last year that some endurance events may be delayed if the air quality is poor. For the past three days, the air index in Beijing has been above 100, or "unhealthy for sensitive groups" such as children and the elderly - a common level of pollution in many large urban centers like Los Angeles.

The first cycling event will be the men's road race on August 9.

One-day 'Toona still lucrative

What was once a seven-day tour is now one high-speed event held on Sunday July 28. The city of Altoona is set to host the 2008 International Tour de Toona criterium through the downtown streets.

The event is well known for offering equal prize money between the Pro men and women peloton. Race director Larry Bilotto continues to pave the way for sport parity offering a $15,000 prize purse and each field. Both categories will also compete in a 65-kilometre race.

The venue has not changed from what was the seventh and finale stage of the previous tour. The one-mile, eight-corner circuit offers something for every type of rider. It begins with a false flat up hill through the first two corners followed by a gradual descent. The riders must take on two sets of technical chicanes before the finale corner to the finish line.

Key riders include 2006 winner Kyle Wamsley (Colavita/Sutter Home), Bill Elliston (Rite Aid Pro), Dave Fuentes (Batley-Harley Davidson), Jackie Simes (Time Pro Cycling) and Elliot Gaunt (Hershey Cancer Institute).

On the women's side Pocono's Mountain native, Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) and US criterium champion Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) look to add to their list of career victories. Other notable riders include Sarah Caravella (Tibco), Laura McCaughey (Juice Plus), Sue Palmer Komar (Advil ChapStick) and Veronica Martinez (JVR Sports).

According to Bilotto, the event was downsized to allow the race committee to re-tool and come back stronger for next year's 2009 event.

Last chance to win in the Cyclingnews-Felt TdF competition!

You can win this!
Photo ©: Felt
(Go to the competition page)

It's your final your chance to win some great prizes as the Cyclingnews-Felt Tour competition closes at midnight on July 28th, GMT. The competition features a prize roster of kit that is being tested in the world's greatest bike race by some of the world's leading cyclists.

Our lead prize is the 2009 model Felt AR road frame, currently being ridden in the Tour de France by members of the Garmin-Chiplotle professional cycling team, as well as supplementary prizes from Craft - manufacturer of team clothing to CSC-Saxo - and eyewear from BBB, supplier to Team Barloworld.

The US-based Felt Bicycles is becoming one of the world's leading bicycle manufacturers, with its bikes now being raced by the USA's Garmin-Chipotle in the 2008 Tour de France. The team are riding the 2009 model Felt AR, which combines Felt's expertise in time trial and track bike technology, while maintaining the necessary ride and handling characteristics of premium road bikes.

But wait! There's more. All entrants in the Cyclingnews-Felt 2008 TdF competition will also go into the draw to win great supplementary prizes from our friends at Craft and BBB. Cyclingnews also has four 2008 model Team CSC jerseys, designed and made by Craft, one of the world's leading technical clothing manufacturers, as well as 10 sets of BBB's BSG-29 Attacker eyewear, the exact eyewear used by riders from Team Barloworld in this year's TdF.

Our thanks to our friends at Felt, Craft and BBB for providing such awesome prizes. Hurry and enter now to be in the draw. Good luck!

Stage video highlights and podcasts

Just can't get enough of the Tour? Well fear not because Cyclingnews has expanded its coverage once again this year to bring you video highlights of every stage plus daily podcasts courtesy of and Procycling magazine.

Our video comes directly from Tour de France owners Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), and will be online shortly after the finish of each stage. We've also got highlights from classic Tours of the past so click here to see the full archive.

Check out the podcasts page in our Tour de France section for a full round-up of news and views from the Tour.

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