- Article published:
- July 1, 2010, 19:21
- Cycling News
But seven-time Tour winner decides not to hold a press conference
Lance Armstrong continued to keep a low media profile as the hours tick down to the start of the 2010 Tour de France, only briefly speaking about his hopes, fears and ambitions for this year's race during the official team presentation.
Most major teams hold pre-race press conference to unveil new sponsors and talk to media on the Thursday or Friday before the start of the Tour. Armstrong's annual appearance in the press room used to be the biggest moment before in the final countdown to the start of the Tour. But his RadioShack team has confirmed their will be no press conference this year.
It has been suggested that Armstrong may want to avoid facing any questions about the recent Floyd Landis accusations and the alleged on-going Federal investigation in the USA.
There were no questions about Armstrong's former US Postal Service teammate when he rolled onto the stage of the team presentation with his RadioShack teammates, and the seven-time Tour winner looked relaxed and eager to race.
"I feel great right now," he said. "Holland is good place to race bikes, I've learned that over the last 17 years, by riding the Amstel Gold Race, seeing the fans and how integrated the bike is in the lifestyle here."
Armstrong announced via Twitter earlier this week that this year would be his last Tour de France, and gave the reasons for his decision.
"I'm almost 39, so I can't go on for ever. I'll ride my bike for as long as my body allows me to, but I've got four kids at home and a fifth on the way and riding with them is more important."
Armstrong admitted his nerves and those of his fellow riders will grow before Saturday's prologue and before the section of cobbles on stage three on Tuesday.
"I'm not stressed now, but the day after tomorrow the stress level will be at the maximum for all 200 guys," he said. "The opening stages make it dangerous for us, but spectacular to watch. We've got to stay cool and stay safe but we've got to make sure it's a great race for the fans."
War of words
Armstrong warned, perhaps in a war of words with Alberto Contador and his other rivals, how the opening and closing days of this year's Tour de France will be vital. He gained 41 seconds last year when the peloton split in the wind near the finish in La Grande Motte and will perhaps be looking for similar gains next Tuesday.
"The first three or four days and the last three or four days make it a complete race," he said.
"It's important to be good from start to finish. Just try to avoid crashing is not enough in the opening days. there's going to be a selection, with pave and the wind. You've got to be up front."
- Article published:
- July 1, 2010, 21:00
- Laura Weislo
Teams bring on new partners, get extra attention for existing ones
In a sport funded by sponsors, the biggest event of the year is an important opportunity to get the maximum impact out of any parternship. At the Tour de France, the increased attention of the world press makes it a prime opportunity to announce new sponsors or promote the business of existing ones.
Following on the example of Teams Saxo Bank, Garmin and HTC-Columbia, all of whom announced new sponsors prior to the Tour in recent years, Lampre-Farnese Vini announced its partnership with AMPO - a Basque concern in the oil and gas industry. They will boast the new logo on the team's cars and buses, but did not bring new team clothing bearing the AMPO name to the race.
The Cervélo TestTeam gained DSM, a Dutch life and materials sciences company, which signed with the team through 2012.
Along with newly signed partner Skype, the HTC-Columbia team will also work with internet megalith Google and SRM to allow real-time transmission of the team's speed, heart rate, power output viewed with Google's applications Google Maps, Street View, Google Earth, Android, and My Tracks.
Perhaps the most outrageous publicity stunt comes from the Belgian Quick Step team, which announced that sponsor Latexco, a mattress maker, would follow the team around the entirety of France providing each rider with his own Innergetic mattress and pillow.
If the logistics of such a venture boggle the mind, Quick Step reassured, stating, "The French firm Literie Benoist will support the initiative. Together with Quick.Step, they will ensure that nine mattresses will follow the 20 stages of the Tour from 3 to 25 July next, thus demonstrating that a good night's rest can add to the success of a sports team."
The press release boasts that the mattress cover "helps increase the oxygen content in the blood by more than 8% in less than an hour. In this way, the body temperature is better regulated, blood circulation improves and muscle pain is quickly relieved. Which improves the odds of getting a good night’s rest – and winning the race."
To be fair, the Rabobank company will also take part, with Dutch mattress manufacturer Maxtras taking care of setting up the Innergetic beds for its riders.
- Article published:
- July 2, 2010, 10:16
- Les Clarke
Race management confident of luring Armstrong back
Round one of the UCI ProTour, the 2011 Santos Tour Down Under, was presented today in Adelaide, Australia, with a slightly shortened route and a management team confident its biggest drawcard in recent years, Lance Armstrong, may be back to compete.
Boasting the slogan, "See the real superheroes" the 2011 edition, to be held January 18-23, covers 758km which represents a slight decrease in overall distance compared to this year's edition (795.5km) but it retains the much-loved Old Willunga Hill on the race's penultimate day.
While the week of racing kicks off with the Cancer Council Classic criterium on Sunday, January 16 - which once again isn't included in the event's parcours - the town of Tailem bend will host a stage start for the first time next year. There's little change to the usual format of the event, with the addition of Black Top Road, Germantown Hill and Dawesley Hill as Skoda King of the Mountains points the most obvious alterations.
Talk amongst local press gathered at the launch was of the event's field, though; that of this year's edition was arguably the strongest ever, with the likes of UCI road world champion Cadel Evans, Armstrong, US national champion George Hincapie, Alejandro Valverde and Liquigas' Peter Sagan all attending and animating the racing.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann is confident that Armstrong will again choose the state's capital, Adelaide, to begin his 2011 season, however. "I've been in contact with him as recently as last night - he's very aware that we want him to come back and obviously he's focusing on the Tour de France... his last Tour," said Rann.
"He has set up a team, which is of course very important to him; so while this will be Lance Armstrong's last Tour de France it certainly won't be his last bike race, I know that for sure and we're looking forward to talking to him after the Tour de France."
By his own admission, race director Mike Turtur believes it's the "riders who make the race" regardless of the sprinter-friendly route, making it vital that he and his team can attract the best field possible.
He added that the event's ProTour status, combined with the favourable racing conditions, creates the ideal situation for the world's best riders to attend the race. "The majority of the teams - if not all of them - get what they're after here. They ride every day, get a good quality race and it starts the year off well for them."
There was even talk from the Premier and Turtur about the possibility of attracting the Fränk and Andy Schleck to the event, provided the new team they've been linked to can gain ProTour status. While Turtur admits that's a distant eventuality at the moment, he was keen to stress Armstrong's likelihood of competing beyond this season and hence ride the 2011 Santos Tour Down Under.
"I think it's important that he stays part of the team in it's second year of existence," said Turtur. "I think he's keen to continue competing with the group into the second year...
"We're reading between the lines to a degree and I know the force of the announcement about the Tour de France but it would be unlikely that he stops all together, because of the team. He knows it's a good quality race [the Tour Down Under] and he gets what he wants out of it."
The 2011 Santos Tour Down Under race details:
Stage 1 - January 18: Mawson Lakes - Angaston, 138km
Stage 2 - January 19: Tailem Bend - Mannum, 146km
Stage 3 - January 20: Unley - Stirling, 129km
Stage 4 - January 21: Norwood - Strathalbyn, 124km
Stage 5 - January 22: McLaren Vale - Willunga, 131km
Stage 6 - January 23: Adelaide City Council Circuit, 90km
- Article published:
- July 2, 2010, 10:18
- Hedwig Kröner
Belgian team reconfigures from sprint support to attacking mode
In the absence of Tom Boonen, the Belgian Quick Step team had to switch its mindset drastically just a few days before the start of the Tour de France. The Belgian sprinter has been forced to skip cycling's most prestigious Grand Tour due to injury, and this meant the squad will adopt a completely different strategy for the event.
"Without Tom, it is quite different," Carlos Barredo instantly admitted at the team's press conference in Rotterdam on Thursday afternoon. "We will have a different approach in the race, as it will all be about attacking instead of preparing a sprint. Especially in the first week, and in the stages travelling through Belgium, which are very important to us."
Terms like "baroudeur" and "puncheur" arent't easy to tranlsate into English, but they essentially designate riders able to set out on a mid-race or late breakaway and hold a chasing bunch off until the finish. Barredo, just like Sylvain Chavanel, Maarten Wynants and Kevin De Weert, are such powerful riders, whose preferred battlegrounds are the Classics roads in Belgium and Northern France that will make up the first days of this year's Tour.
"This first week will even more nervous than normally, as we start in the Netherlands, where there can be lots of wind," Chavanel told Cyclingnews. "Wind echelons are bound to split the race. Then, we'll have the cobblestones, where we risk massive pile-ups, too. The first week will just be very tiring."
Directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters is happy to have Chavanel on the Tour roster, as the Frenchman just recovered from serious injuries he suffered in a crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. This will be the Frenchman's 10th Tour de France, and his experience as well as rising form could save the Belgian team's Tour outcome.
"My form is nearly at the top right now," he explained. "I actually feel very fresh, as I had zero competition during the month of May and now only raced the Tour de Suisse and the French Championships. I don't think I ever came to a Tour feeling as fresh. My objective is to take at least one stage win, and if my overall placing is good towards the end, I hope to do at least as well overall as I did last year, when I finished 20th."
But first, the pavés of the third stage on Tuesday have to be mastered. "I like the pavés," he continued. "I'm eager to race, as I haven't raced much recently. You have to be motivated, as the first days will see some aggressive positioning in the peloton, which is very dangerous. Just before the cobbles, that's where it will be most dangerous, that's where racing with elbows out can cause massive crashes."
With rising form, Chavanel could also be seen in front of the race in the second or even third week, where several stages could suit his caracteristics. "I have the whole of the first week to get more racing rythm into my legs," he said. "I have to strong in my head, and regular. Then, there are some stages that could be interesting for me."
Moreover, Peeters can count on Kevin Seeldraeyers, best young rider of the 2009 Giro d'Italia. The Tour de France rookie is also determined to perform well. "Of course the Tour is more difficult than the Giro," commented Peeters. "His goal here will be to learn, and we will see how he will cope with the pressure and the intensity of racing at the Tour. But I wouldn't be surprised if he'll be a protagonist in the mountains."
- Article published:
- July 2, 2010, 10:20
- James Huang, technical editor
Past Tour winners get a special present from SRAM
SRAM-equipped riders in this year's Tour de France will include four past winners - Alberto Contador (Astana), Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) and Lance Armstrong (Team Radioshack) - and the Chicago-based company will again celebrate the occasion with a specially finished Red component group for each of them.
Last year's white graphics treatment will be replaced with yellow this time around and all of the group's usual silver bits are now anodized black. Special etching is featured on the rear derailleur mounting bolt, too, and the press-on cassette backing plate is black as well.
One critical difference from past special editions, however, is consumer availability as SRAM will now offer this Limited Tour Edition set to the public, from September. Though functionally equivalent to standard Red packages, the limited edition graphics package will nonetheless command around a 10 percent price premium - putting it right around US$2,500 for a complete group.
According to SRAM road PR and media manager Michael Zellman, production won't be limited in terms of numbers but rather time, with production of the Limited Tour Edition Red groups slated to cease in June (2011).
- Article published:
- July 2, 2010, 10:22
- Susan Westemeyer
Andy Schleck says Swiss rider flies over the pavé
Fabian Cancellara is looking forward to racing on the cobbles at the Tour de France on Tuesday and hopes to be wearing the yellow jersey during the stage after success in the prologue time trial.
This year's Paris-Roubaix winner rode the pavé sections of stage 3 with his Saxo Bank teammates twice on Wednesday. “Unbelievable,” said Andy Schleck after seeing him on the pavé. “Fabian doesn't rattle over the stones, he flies.”
Cancellara admitted he enjoyed the ride. “It was a wonderful feeling to see the pavés in summer for a change. I am ready to master them with the yellow jersey on my shoulders.”
Cancellara skipped the Swiss national championships this year, and his last race was the Tour de Suisse. Last year he won his home stage race and went on to win the Tour de France prologue and wear the yellowe jersey for six days. He won the opening time trial in the Tour de Suisse this year but was only 56th overall and was only second in the closing time trial, 17 seconds behind HTC-Columbia rider Tony Martin.
He blamed it on the weather. “I wasn't 100% motivated after riding so long in the rain. In my head I was already at the Tour,” he said.
It will be interesting to see if he will be back to his dominant best on Saturday in the 8.9km Tour de France prologue around Rotterdam. A question also remains regarding his future. Team owner Bjarne Riis is still looking for a sponsor for 2011, but has said the team will continue no matter what. Unlike the Schleck brothers, Cancellara is under contract with Riis for the 2011 season and so may have to stay with him even if the Swiss-registered BMC team would love to sign him.
The recently sacked directeur sportif Kim Andersen was an important figure for Cancellara at Saxo Bank but he will not be at the Tour de France as he is setting up his own team in Luxembourg. However, the prospect of a different directeur sportif doesn't bother the World and Olympic champion.
“When I won Flanders and Roubaix in April, Thorsten Schmidt sat in the team car. It will work with him too,” he said, dismissing the possible effects of the loss of Andersen.
- Article published:
- July 2, 2010, 11:15
- Daniel Benson
Canadian will look for his own chances as well as helping captains
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) will put his all-round skills to the test in this year’s Tour de France. The Canadian will provide help for Tyler Farrar and Christian Vande Velde, and also aim at a stage victory for himself.
“I got through the Tour du Suisse in good form considering the conditions and the way I started that race. When I got back to Girona I recovered well. You just have to make sure you recover and fine tune the feelings,” he told Cyclingnews.
Hesjedal has had a breakthrough year. Last autumn he won a stage in the Vuelta and in 2010 he has followed that up with a number of strong performances, including second in Amstel Gold and a stage win in the Amgen Tour of California.
So far he’s raced 45 days this season, roughly the same at this stage in 2009, except he has structured his year differently. “I’ve spread things out a little,” he said. “Last year I started at the Tour Down Under but this year I started later.”
His role in the team though could be pivotal for Garmin’s success, with himself and Dave Zabriskie in line to provide Vande Velde with solid support on the climbs.
However, should Vande Velde falter or the right opportunity arrive, Hesjedal is more than willing to take it. He showed his ambition during the Classics, attacking in Amstel Gold as well as the recent Tour de Suisse. “I’m here to contribute to the team’s objectives. We have a few interests in the race and everyone is going to be busy. One of the interests will be me getting a result in the right opportunity.”
“But in the mountains it’s going to be crucial to take care of Christian for as long as possible. Once it’s really going down there wont be too many guys there to help their leaders so I need to be there for as long as possible.”
“I’ve had consistency and I’ve been near the front in Pro Tour races this year. I was able to take a break right before the Tour of California and I’ve had to really great season so far.”
- Article published:
- July 2, 2010, 11:17
- Jean-François Quénet
Kazakhstani has been training in Sicily
Alexandre Vinokourov is back at the Tour de France three years after being ejected due to a failed doping test, when it was found he transfused blood, and the Kazakhstani rider is grateful for the opportunity to once again ride the season's biggest race.
The controversies of his comeback seem to be behind him - he was booed in Belgium after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April - and was warmly welcomed in Holland as he embraces his role of super lieutenant for defending champion Alberto Contador.
Two months ago, the Dutch public already showed their sympathy for Vinokourov at the start of the Giro d'Italia. As the unique captain of Astana at the corsa rosa, he managed to wear the maglia rosa for five days but failed to win a stage and make the final podium. His sixth place overall proved his capacity of performing at Grand Tours again.
He hasn't raced since the end of the Giro in Verona on May 30th. "But I've been to the beach!" he told Cyclingnews, smiling. "I've been for four days to Kazakhstan to visit some sponsors and friends and to eat Kazakh meat. After that I've taken some days off with my family in Monaco. Then I've prepared for the Tour."
Vinokourov isn't a fan of the reconnoitre of stages prior to a Grand Tour, preferring altitude training camps. "But I didn't go to Saint-Moritz or Tenerife, the places that some people don't like me to go to!", he added with a laugh.
Controversial cycling doctors Michele Ferrari and Eufemiano Fuentes have organised training camps in Saint-Moritz and Tenerife in the past. After winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Vinokourov had been harassed with questions by reporters about the location of his training camps.
"I went to Sicily on the Etna volcano this time", he revealed. "It was something new to me. It was wonderful. I had great weather conditions for the 12 days I was there. I think my form is very good for the Tour de France. I've done my own tests on the road and I know myself very well.
"It's special for me to return to the Tour de France. It brings me a good feeling. It's a communication with the public and I thank the organisers for letting me back in the race."
Vinokourov isn't at the Tour at the age of 35 only for the pleasure of participating. "We have a good chance of winning the race", he said. "There aren't many Tours left in my career. This one is one my last ones so I want to give my best for Astana to win it. I'm confident in Alberto [Contador].
"As I've said for a long time, I'll ride for him only. I'm excited about the first few stages. It's been a long time that I haven't ridden on the pavés though but if I have good legs, it will be no worries. I like the course of stage two as well."
This is on the roads of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In late April, Vino's comeback was still controversial. But two months later, after Ivan Basso'a win at the Giro d'Italia, the riders who have served their ban seem to be no longer a target for media and fans.