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News feature, July 11, 2006

Down, but not out: Team CSC

At the CSC press conference on the first of two rest days at the Tour de France, one got the impression that the a team was looking to get back on its feet after being deprived of its leader, Ivan Basso. The feeling even more so reigned as the squad had not shown itself much in the first week of racing, and as more unfortunate events (the crashes of Stuart O'Grady and Bobby Julich, who had to abandon) prevented the riders from refocusing on their new tasks ahead. Hedwig Kröner reports from Bordeaux.

Jens Voigt, CSC powerhouse
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Jens Voigt, of course, was the first to defend his team's achievements. "We were not present in the race?," he asked back. "Well, it was rather smart of us that you didn't see us in this first week. What's the point in wasting your energy in some desperate breakaway which is not going to be successful anyway? If we go, we go for the win, and many of these stages were sure to end in a bunch sprint."

Sports director Kim Andersen, responding to the journalists' questions in the place of Bjarne Riis, who had taken "a day off" agreed with his rider, and said that the team's morale couldn't be better.

"We are here to work, and we work with the people who are here," he described the situation after having had to suspend the team leader, Tour de France favourite Ivan Basso, even before the race had started. "I think everybody is really motivated, we do the best we can and more we cannot do. The race start was difficult, and now we have to move on. We have Carlos Sastre to protect for the GC, and we can go for stage wins. I'm sure you will see good results from us before the end of the race."

Asked which goal Sastre had focused on now that he was the team's leader, he once again showed the team spirit which has come to be the trademark of the Danish team: "You mean, which goal we are pursuing now? I don't know how far we can go. All I know is that I am really motivated and if there's an opportunity I will fight for it. There are two hard weeks ahead of us, and we can't say now where we'll end up at the finish."

Will Carlos Sastre be CSC's new leader?
Photo ©: Anthony Tan
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In the coming days, Sastre will be looked after by "riders who are not too bad in the mountains," continued Andersen. "They will go with Phonak and T-Mobile to protect Carlos. Overall, there is no reason why Carlos couldn't do well - in the past, there have been Tour de France leaders without dominant teams, too. But I know that this team is certainly strong enough to take Carlos to the last climb in a good position. Then it's up to him."

Asked if it was difficult to switch from the mind frame of a domestique to the one of a captain, Sastre said, "I am the same person that I was before. My goal was to be ready for the Tour, and that I am. I have the responsibility for my actions and I live up to that."

The directeur sportif added that, "Don't forget that Carlos was a leader before, at the Vuelta. I know the Vuelta is not the Tour, but he will do his job, that's for sure." Confronted with the fact that T-Mobile, who had similar problems at the start of the race, is now stronger than ever in comparison to CSC, Andersen replied, "We have two weeks ahead of us, and we can change it. We will. We just weren't lucky until now, with Fränk Schleck crashing badly just days before the start. And Stuart O'Grady, who was in very good form for the Green jersey, crashed too, and then it was Bobby's turn - he was very sharp. Cycling is more about gravity than psychology."

Frank Schleck (CSC)
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Finally, an update was given on Ivan Basso. The Italian "trained every day and certainly wants to come back", according to close friend Giovanni Lombardi. CSC team spokesman Brian Nygaard added that Basso was preparing his case with his lawyers. "The UCI will send the individual files out to the national federations, and then these will take over the process. We don't know how long it will take, but the UCI has promised to everyone that it will work as fast as possible. Everybody is impatient for the outcome - the impatience is on both sides of the team."

Lombardi was also asked if he knew the name of Basso's dog. He didn't, and in-your-face Jens Voigt continued, "The name of my dog is Jeany, if you want to know. We also have two guinea pigs, Emma and Lily..."

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