- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 02:24
A punishing pace under the blistering sun
Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) - fifth on stage, 40th overall @ 10:20
"Again we were fighting it out for victory right at the 'gates' [to the finish]. Sorensen hit out at the right time, succeeded in opening a hole and he had time to enjoy the victory.
Today I've seen that Pellizotti will be a tough rival for the mountains jersey. We must ride the right way and play our cards. It was a tough stage; one that leaves thousands of hours' worth of wear [on the riders]. Tomorrow is another day and we are prepared for it to be hard."
Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) - 66th on stage, 16th overall @ 2:52
"As everyone expected, the 12 stage of this Tour was a fast and hectic stage on badly-surfaced roads... a really wearing day in which the breakaway took place after 90 kilometres of racing. There was a lightning pace throughout the whole day and it was very hot and wearing.
"Tiredness is accumulating in the majority of the pack and there are three days left along these roads which will frankly make the last week difficult.
"On the other hand, I didn't have any setbacks today. The team did a great job and were on the watch for breakaways all day. Thor is continuing in his fight to gain points to win the green jersey. It will be complicated considering Cavendish, but he keeps fighting to achieve it and the team will try to support him 100 percent so he can attain his goal."
Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) - 139th on stage, 85th overall @ 39:02
"The truth is that I am riding this tour better than expected, but I've still faltered on some important stages. People are going very fast... I'm looking forward to a couple of good days in the Alps and enjoying my time on the Tour.
"Egoi Martinez is doing a great job and if Mikel Astarloza has the legs, he can finish among the best. I still don't have much hope [of a win] but I'll help the team."
Angelo Furlan (Lampre-NGC) - abandoned during stage
"Suddenly I had no energy; I had strong pains because of yesterday's crash and I couldn't pedal in a good way, so it was impossible to follow the pace of the bunch. I'm sad to leave my teammates and such a prestigious race; tomorrow I will fly to Italy from Basel."
Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) - ninth on stage, 117th overall @ 1:04:32
"Cavendish was on my wheel all day. I did what I could for the points sprints," Hushovd said. "We talked last night about how the team should help me in the sprints and it was good to see the team work to set up the sprint. Cavendish was able to beat me again today, but I still focus myself on winning another stage."
Markus Fothen (Team Milram) - fourth on stage, 104th overall @ 54:58
"Today we had planned to be in the decisive group. After we had been in every group to go, I was lucky enough to be in the right one.
"In the finale we waited at first, when Nicki Sörensen attacked. Unfortunately we waited too long. But I tried everything today. It wasn't enough for a place in the top three but I am still very satisfied with myself."
Brett Lancaster (Cervélo TestTeam) - 27th on stage, 134th overall @ 1:14:04
"I know Cav was on Thor's wheel. They gave us a bit of a free run. Hayden [Roulston] was a bit more motivated and we had Andreas [Klier] up there, so it was better to have another rider to set up Thor.
"Tomorrow, Thor could pick up some points if he can get over the first climb, and you can bet that the entire Columbia team is going to be out there trying to stop him. I'm going to be helping Thor every day and then help Carlos at the bottom of the climbs, get some bidons. I weigh 80 kilos, so that's about all I can do."
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 09:06
- Les Clarke
Howard pens two-year deal
Australian rider Leigh Howard is the latest Australian to join the ranks of ProTour outfit Columbia-HTC, the 19-year-old signing a two-year deal overnight.
A talented road rider who has also enjoyed bountiful success on the track during the past three years, Howard joins the American squad known for its multitude of wins, most recently at the Tour de France with Mark Cavendish.
"To be honest I didn't expect to sign ProTour for next year, I always hoped that I would, but didn't think it would actually happen so soon," said Howard. "Columbia-HTC is the perfect team for me really, it has all the tools and experience necessary to develop me into the rider I want to become."
A track world championship title in the omnium in addition to wins in the Tour of Japan and Thuringen Rundfahrt have signalled Howard's continued growth as a force on the road, something recognised by Columbia-HTC staff. The team already boasts Australian riders Mark Renshaw, Michael Rogers and Adam Hansen, while Australian ex-professional Allan Peiper is a directeur sportif.
"Having a strong Australian connection in the team was really a bonus for me and it is going to make the whole transition into the ProTour ranks a lot easier," said Howard. "Allan Peiper has been a great help so far guiding me through the process.
"Riding with Team Jayco-AIS [he'll finish this season with the squad] has given me a lot of experience in Europe and my strength on the road has increased so it will be really interesting to test myself next year in the ProTour ranks," continued Howard. "Track for me is still my main focus right through until London and Columbia-HTC has given me the chance to combine both."
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 11:01
- Gregor Brown
Tour favourite says classification battle unfinished
Russia’s Denis Menchov has pledged to continue his fight to advance in the Tour de France’s overall classification. The Rabobank rider is 27th and five minutes behind after 11 days of racing.
"The situation is not good, but I am not stressed,” Menchov told Cyclingnews. “If I have good legs I will do something in the last week, if not, no problem."
Menchov lost 1:31 in the opening day's time trial in Monaco on July 4, then lost 41" to Armstrong in stage three, crashed in the team time trail and lost 1:02 minutes on the stage to Barcelona. He is 5:02 minutes behind leader Rinaldo Nocentini in the overall classification, 4:56 minutes behind Alberto Contador and 4:54 minutes behind Armstrong.
"The race is not how we expected, but we still have some hard stages to come,” said Menchov. “A stage win is not my goal, it is better if I can change my position in the general classification. Sure, I will take a stage win if there is a chance, but I am not going to try for escapes."
Despite saying today’s stage to Colmar will be tricky, Menchov doesn’t believe it will impact the overall classification. Sunday's stage to Verbier and Wednesday's stage to Le Grand-Bornand are the difficult days, according to Menchov. Time differences will also form on the final time trial and the penultimate day's stage to Mont Ventoux.
Menchov's relaxed attitude is in part due to his Giro d'Italia win in May. He won the Cinque Terre time trial and carried the race leader's jersey for the final nine days. Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Carlos Sastre all finished behind him at the Giro, but just one month later the tables have turned.
The final Giro time trial in Rome almost cost Menchov the win and delayed his Tour preparations. He crashed in the closing kilometres on wet pavement, but despite injuring his hip finished the stage and won the race.
"My hip is not the same, but it is okay now. It took a long time to heal,” said Menchov. “I think at the beginning of the Tour I still had some problems because the muscles were still tense."
Menchov finished third in last year’s Tour and fifth in 2006. Menchov has won two of the three Grand Tours, with the Giro win joining his Vuelta a España victory in 2007.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 12:19
- Gregor Brown
Alps to help shuffle top places
Czech Roman Kreuziger is confident in achieving a top 10 finish at the Tour de France despite being over two minutes behind the race favourites. Kreuziger is 2:40 back in 14th place following Stage 12.
"A lot of riders ahead of me will drop out,” Kreuziger told Cyclingnews. “We are nearing the third week and a lot of riders will start to feel tired. I want to go strongest in the second and third week, just how I was hoping before the Tour."
Kreuziger, 23, stared his second Tour impressively with a seventh place in the Monaco time trial. He lost ground, one minute and one second, on the first mountaintop finish to Arcalís.
"I think I can be happy with where I am at this point,” he said. “I did not go very well the day to Arcalís, but from that day on I was going well. I had three days of stomach ache in there, but it's better now."
Kreuziger has not previewed Friday's stage to Colmar. He believes the classification favourites will stay in one group for the finish, 20.5 kilometres after the Firstplan climb.
"Sunday and the days after the rest day will be deceive," he said.
Sunday's stage ends with the 8.8-kilometre climb to Verbier. The riders face two back-to-back mountain stages Tuesday and Wednesday, the stage to Bourg-St-Maurice and Le Grand-Bornand.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 12:43
Attorney - WADA intervention vindictive, personal and ruthless
Tyler Hamilton’s attorney has described the World Anti-Doping Agency’s efforts to ban the retired rider for like as vindictive, personal and ruthless. WADA has pursued its right under the World Anti-Doping Code’s Article 13 to seek maximum penalty for Hamilton, despite the rider already signing an agreement with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to accept an eight year ban without pursuing the matter legally.
“WADA’s insistence on a lifetime ban against Tyler is a vindictive, personal and ruthless attempt to destroy a man who suffers from a serious illness, has ended his career, and has already accepted the penalty imposed upon him," said Hamilton Attorney of Record Chris Manderson.
Manderson reiterated Hamilton’s taking of Mitamins was to address clinical depression. “There is no reasonable basis to have the maximum penalty imposed upon Tyler Hamilton for taking an herbal anti-depressant that happened to contain DHEA,” he said. “Tyler has been diagnosed with and is battling clinical depression, an illness which many people suffer from, and which took the life of his grandmother and has afflicted his mother and sister.”
Manderson was clearly unimpressed with WADA’s handling of the announcement. The attorney highlighted WADA’s announcement questions the actions of one of its own members in the settlement.
“Even worse, WADA has stated that the eight year sanction ‘warrants scrutiny from an independent tribunal’ because ‘it was the result of an agreement between USADA and the athlete’, as though Tyler and USADA had somehow colluded in wrongdoing by agreeing to a sanction within the acceptable range under the WADA code,” he added. “WADA did not even notify Tyler nor myself of its intent to pursue this action; we learned of it through the media.”
WADA appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) to have the eight year ban overturned and the lifetime ban imposed.
Hamilton tested positive for Testosterone in an out-of-competition doping control taken before the Tour of California in February. He claimed the positive came as a result of homeopathic medicine he was taking for depression, before accepting an eight-year ban on June 11, 2009.
Since Hamilton previously served a suspension for homologous blood doping in 2004, the second offense can lead to an eight-year to lifetime ban. WADA is seeking the maximum penalty.
"The procedure will be conducted in accordance with the Code of Sports-related Arbitration and as a general rule a final decision will be rendered within four months," CAS said.
Hamilton announced following the positive test that he would retire from the sport.
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 14:06
- Les Clarke
Stage eight victor sums up Tour's first half
It's been a bittersweet Tour de France thus far for Luis León Sánchez. The Caisse d'Epargne captain has lost two teammates - Oscar Pereiro and Rui Alberto Faria da Costa - but the Spanish rider also captured a stage win in Saint-Girons, taking his Tour tally to two victories.
As the race heads into the Alps, he reflected on his Tour so far and what lay ahead on the road to Paris. Sánchez didn't get off to an ideal start, admitting that he couldn't correctly gauge the rhythm necessary to ride well and was unhappy with his opening time trial performance. It wasn't long before that was rectified, albeit whilst losing co-captain Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 champion forced to abandon on July 11, the day of Sánchez's success.
"At the beginning of the second week I felt much better and the victory arrived at the very beginning of the week on the occasion of the eighth stage," he said. "It is true that I suffered a lot during the first days. I did not manage to increase the rhythm and it was very hard, also from a psychological point of view. The fourth day - the team time trial - things went rather well for us. I noted that my heart rate could go higher and that I was able to maintain the rhythm much easier.
"From there on my feelings improved each day more until the day of Saint-Girons which turned out to be the perfect day," he added.
Sánchez was a fancied candidate for a stage win in this year's Tour, the team pinning its hopes on the 25-year-old and Oscar Pereiro ahead of the start in Monaco. Despite the less-than-smooth opening week his victory was a massive boost to his morale.
"It goes without saying it has been very important,” he said. “On a personal level, it was further confirmation of the fact that when you work very hard you can obtain great victories and also that self-confidence is a fundamental point."
"For my team it as very important too because with the absence of Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro's abandon that same day, it would have been easy to be discouraged. Victory arrived at the best possible moment," he added.
Despite a parcours that may suit another attack from Sánchez, he doesn't believe today’s stage from Vittel to Colmar will determine much on the general classification. "I don't think there will be changes in the general classification but that we will have to wait till next Sunday before the favorites decide to attack each other," he said.
That may well suit the Spaniard, who sits in 11th overall, 2:16 behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini. Another daring escape while the favourites are watching each other could bear him more fruit in this year's Tour, although he's not looking too far ahead, preferring to focus on the immediate tasks at hand.
"I want to go day-by-day, to concentrate on each stage and we will see which place will be mine in Paris," he explained.
"The most important thing for me is to see what I am able to achieve in a three-week race and if my legs can be alright until the last day. That is the most important for me, for my future in this race,” he added. “The point is that the Tour is a very hard race and every day it becomes more difficult because you're increasingly tired. We will see how I feel the last week. I hope to maintain the level which is mine today and if I can improve it, it will even be better."
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 14:53
- Gregor Brown
Colmar stage to be tough, but how important overall?
Saxo Bank team director Bjarne Riis was one of many at the Tour de France warning how difficult today’s 200 kilometre stage to Colmar would be on the peloton. Yet despite the position many have taken, saying the stage with three significant mountains would be difficult, nobody is sure what impact it might have on the overall classification.
"It is an important day, but I am not sure if it will be a big day," Riis said after Thursday's stage to Vittel.
The stage to Colmar has two high mountains - Col de la Schlucht and Col du Platzerwasel - and a final climb with 20.5 kilometres remaining. Riders should be able to regain lost time in that amount of distance the finish line.
Saxo Bank has two riders - brothers Andy and Fränk Schleck - positioned in the top 15 of the classification. Andy is in ninth at 1:49 minutes behind race leader Rinaldo Nocentini while Fränk is 13th at 2:25 minutes.
Cervelo TestTeam rider Carlos Sastre, who won last year’s race with Riis’ team, also expects the stage to challenge overall hopefuls like himself. "We're finally getting to some terrain that's more favourable to my characteristics,” he said. “We'll see what happens, even if tomorrow doesn't see any big changes it's going to be harder than people think.
“After all these days of heat, the stage is over steep roads, sharp descents, high speeds," he said.
Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was also cautious of the stage ahead after finishing yesterday’s stage in the bunch. “Tomorrow is hard, that is a real stage,” he told Reuters. “The climb up Col du Platzerwasel is difficult, it is a long way. It is a longer day and anything can happen. I know the area, but not that particular climb,” Armstrong added.
Despite his caution heading in to today’s stage, Riis believes the general classification race might continue to simmer until Sunday. "I think the real battle for the classification will start Sunday, and then more in the next week," he said.
The riders face the first mountaintop finish in nine days on Sunday's stage to Verbier. The 207.5 kilometre stage covers the Col des Mosses and the 8.8-kilometre Verbier climb.
Nocentini holds a slim lead in the general classification ahead of today’s stage, but has hinted he expects the yellow jersey to change hands when the peloton arrives in Colmar. He is six seconds ahead of Astana team-mates Alberto Contador and eight seconds ahead of Lance Armstrong.
“It’ll be hard tomorrow with the bad weather,” he said. “I held the jersey for six days and everything else is a bonus now.”
- Article published:
- July 17, 2009, 15:06
Bitter disappointment for Astana
Levi Leipheimer has been forced to abandon the Tour de France after breaking his wrist in a crash on stage 12 of the race on Thursday.
Cyclingnews spoke to an Astana's press officer, Phillipe Maertens, who confirmed that Leipheimer would not start stage 13 on Friday.
"He wasn't too bad last night but this morning, the pain was too much," he said. We took him to the hospital in Vittel, where scans revealed a transversal fracture of the scaphoid bone of the wrist. He is still in hospital now. He will certainly want to go home as soon as possible, but we haven't organised a flight yet."
Leipheimer sustained the injury in a crash 2.5 kilometres from the finish of stage 12 into Vittel. The Astana rider, who was in fourth place on GC, described the incident after completing the stage. "I was a bit surprised by a left corner and my tire was sliding. I couldn't quite save my bike from sliding out...so I slid out and hit the curb."
Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto was also involved in the crash, but came away relatively unscathed. "My knee hurt. So instead of taking the bus to the hotel, I rode my bike," said Evans. "It was only four kilometers but enough to feel that there is no problem with the knee."
A disappointed Leipheimer, 35, confirmed the news on his Twitter account on Friday morning: "My wrist is broken. I can't describe how disappointed I am" read the post.