- Article published:
- June 27, 2013, 20:14
- Pete Cossins
Says he not a favourite, but could be considered as an outsider
After a year that he confessed had been extremely testing in all kinds of different ways, Andy Schleck said he is feeling good and happy to be back at the Tour de France. The RadioShack rider missed last year's race after breaking his sacrum at the Dauphiné, then had another blow when his brother Fränk tested positive during the Tour.
"I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that it was easy because it wasn't. I had a rough time," he said. "But I had my family, my friends, the people sitting next to me who believe in me and helped me through this. I managed it pretty well."
Schleck acknowledged he has no idea what his prospects are for the Tour, saying he will only get an idea of this when the race reaches the first mountain stages. "I did a pretty good Tour of Switzerland and before that we did a lot of work, more than I've ever done before, but we will have to wait until the mountains to see how I really am," he said.
"I think I'm not too bad. The riders and the team believe in me and support me, and I believe in myself as well. I don't consider myself as a favourite to win this year's Tour de France. I could maybe be described as an outsider, and we'll see what I can do in that role."
He said, "I had some problems at the start of the season, which were perhaps related to the injury I had last season, but I got to the point where I thought, 'I don't want to get dragged down by negative things any more.' Instead I looked at small things like going up a climb in training with 10 additional watts and that was a positive thing for me. I was happy when I achieved small goals. That's how I got back up, by taking small steps. They say, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', and I believe in that."
The Luxembourger said it was impossible to make comparisons between his condition now and how he was in 2011 when he finished runner-up to Cadel Evans at the Tour. But he did admit that if he were contemplating this year's route with the form he had in 2011, he would be going into the race believing he could win. "Today I can't say that. This is the first time that I've ever had problems in cycling. Now I have to pay attention to details, and really small details. For example, when I first rode the Tour my off-season weight was 66kg, but now it's 71 or 72kg."
As well as working hard on his condition, Schleck has also done a lot of reconnaissance of the route, riding no fewer than 21 of the race's categorised climbs. He's very happy with most of it, but had some harsh criticism for the "queen" stage featuring two ascents of Alpe d'Huez.
"The Alpe d'Huez stage is the kind of innovation we want to see - I really like it. Well, I like the climbs, but I don't like the descent. It's very dangerous. We went to see it a week after the Dauphiné and there were other riders there looking at it, and they also criticised it," he said.
"I don't understand this, because having a descent like this is not acceptable. But we have no choice. It's very dangerous because if you puncture and crash off the road you will fall more than just a few metres. It could be 50 or perhaps even 300 metres. We were shocked by that. I hope the organisation find a solution to that. There is still time before we reach that stage to do it."
Schleck played down the significance of his lack of victories this year, pointing out that's sometimes been the case in the past. "It's true I've had no victories this year and I don't know my limits are [given the problems I've had], but maybe that's a good rather than a bad thing," he said. "I hope my condition will increase during the race and that I will finally find out what my limits are during the Tour."
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- Article published:
- June 27, 2013, 21:51
- Cycling News
Tour de France legend rails against French Senate's doping investigation
Tour de France legend and five-time champion Bernard Hinault gave a visceral response to the French Senate's doping investigation, which this week unearthed claims of an EPO positive against Laurent Jalabert, labelling the action as "bullshit".
Speaking to Europe 1 radio, Hinault said of the retroactive testing of the 1998 Tour de France samples, done by the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) in 2004, "It was 15 years ago, so we've got to stop bringing out the dead."
The French Senate ordered the identification of the riders whose samples turned up positive in the retroactive analysis, the same analysis that in 2005 enabled L'Equipe journalist Damien Ressiot to link positives to Lance Armstrong. This time one of those names was Jalabert, according to a report in L'Equipe. The resulting scandal from the positive led to Jalabert losing his position as a commentator for French television. Hinault, who works with the race organisation said, "It's like they want to kill the Tour."
The full report is due to be made public on July 18, the same day as the Alpe d'Huez stage which is expected to decide the final overall champion of the race.
The 100th edition of the Tour has already been under a damper of the disqualification of Lance Armstrong from his seven Tour de France victories after the USADA investigation and subsequent confession to doping by the American.
As the sport tries to move on from its doping past, Hinault decried the focus on cycling by the French authorities.
"Why are we always looking at cycling," Hinault asked. "Why don't samples from the 1990s (from other sports) still exist? Why haven't they brought that out? They've got to stop this nonsense.
"It's always cycling that gets it in the neck. We're maybe not cleaner than other sports but we're not dirtier either. At least I don't think so."
- Article published:
- June 27, 2013, 22:30
- Cycling News
Corsica ships in the Tour peloton
The 22 teams of the 100th Tour de France were presented in Porto Vecchio in Corsica today, with all 198 riders lining up in the port town with their respective teams.
Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Mark Cavendish appeared in his new national champion's kit, as the winner of Great Britain's road race. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) had a chance to put his new German champion's jersey on display, and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) as French champion.
The former Blanco, now Belkin team modeled their green and white strip, while Movistar debuted a new jersey with an additional sponsor, O2, added to the shoulders. FDJ turned up in an all-blue kit, perhaps to distinguish themselves from the white jersey holder in the race.
Enjoy this gallery of images from the spectacle in Porto Vecchio.
Bet on the Tour de France with William Hill and get a £25 free bet
- Article published:
- June 28, 2013, 00:11
- Stephen Farrand
Team manager clashes with Kimmage and talks about Wiggo
Dave Brailsford has predicted that the 2013 Tour de France will be won by limiting mistakes rather than making one spectacular attack on a key stage.
The Team Sky manager is known for his analytical and scientific approach to racing and as the riders count down to the hours to the start of this year's race, he is confident that in Chris Froome, he has the man to win the Tour de France for a second consecutive time.
He insisted that Bradley Wiggins will be missed in the team but refuted any speculation that Wiggins was not selected for any other reason except his knee injury.
"Rather than going out and thinking you have to do something spectacular to win this race, it's more likely that you've got to make the least errors if you want to win," Brailsford said after a packed pre-race Team Sky press conference that included a slightly tense moment with former rider and stanch anti-doping journalist Paul Kimmage.
"We've got great riders and if they do what they're capable of doing, we're going to be in the mix. So it's about making the least mistakes. That will give us the platform to perform in this year's race"
This year's far tougher route and the determination of other teams to take the race to Team Sky has set up a thrilling 100th edition of the Tour de France, which is expected to be decided in the mountains. Brailsford said he is ready for a more aggressive race.
"Maybe we've changed our tactics, too," he suggested. "We've got different riders, different capabilities and you base your tactics on what you have. What we have this year is very different to what we had last year. I think we'll surprise a few people with what we have planned."
"Every Tour is different, you start from zero, you start from scratch. It'd a different course, different riders and so it's all to play for. I think it's important to consider the readiness, the readiness to race and how fresh Chris is. Also the strengths that he has for the nature of the event this year. I think Chris is in an ideal place this year, along with the strength and the strength of the team to take on the race."
Brailsford said Team Sky selected a versatile squad suited to racing hard in the mountains.
"We debated the line-up for a long time. There are physical capabilities in the team for sure but you could question the experience. We feel it's the right team," he said.
"It was tough to leave out Eisel or Knees but we're looking for versatility. The likelihood of losing a rider in this race is very high. We don't know who and when but we hope to still cover the key elements of the race, and this year, we consider that to be climbing."
Better off without Wiggo?
Brailsford refused to accept that Team Sky is perhaps a better or more focused team without the distractions of an internal leadership battle between Froome and Wiggins.
"I don't buy that. The guy's a professional and with his engine, he'd be a loss to any team. There's simply a risk selecting a rider who is not 100% fit," he said.
"A lot of people in sport misinterpret team harmony. The best teams never have team harmony, they have goal harmony. That's what it's all about. It's an aggressive environment sometimes. But when push comes to shove, everyone lines up behind the goal."
"It's a shame for Bradley personally, it's a shame for the race and it's a shame for everybody. But when you're injured, you're injured. There's no intervention on what we could do, the cards were played for us. Everything else is just speculation."
He said that Wiggins would remain at Team Sky for 2014 and soon hopes to extend Froome's contract beyond next year and build Team Sky's Grand Tour hopes around the Kenyan-born Briton.
"He's got another year on his contract but it doesn't take a genius to work out that he's one of potential riders to be competitive in this race for years to come He's developed in Team Sky and so we'll be doing everything we can to keep him for the long term," Brailsford said.
A clash with Kimmage
Brailsford exchanged barbs with Paul Kimmage during the Team Sky press conference, with signs that the relationship between Team Sky and the Tour de France media could again be difficult.
Kimmage asked why Edvald Boasson had not developed into a Tour de France team leader under Brailsford's management at Team Sky, and asked why the team had instead brought in Froome.
Brailsford response was direct, while Boasson Hagen and the other Team Sky riders looked embarrassed and slightly offended for their teammate.
"It's called talent," Brailsford replied.
"So what's happened to Boasson Hagen's talent?" Kimmage asked.
"I'm not sure what you're asking?" Brailsford replied.
Kimmage said, "Boasson Hagen hasn't progressed under your management."
Brailsford replied, "That's your opinion. Everyone is entitled to make an opinion. But it's not my opinion."
Love for the Tour de France
Despite a long series of doping scandals, Brailsford said that his love for the Tour de France still burns strong. He used a question about his thoughts on the race to reiterate that Team Sky races clean.
"People still love the Tour de France, despite everything that has happened. When something takes a lot of hits and still keep on going, it shows its got resilience," he said.
"I know from our perspective what we do and I know that we're clean. And if people believe us or not, I know what we're doing. It gives me great satisfaction and enthusiasm for the future of the Tour de France, particularly for this new young generation of riders that is coming through now, that the long term of this race and this sport looks healthy."
"Now were seeing guys racing hard in January and then maintaining that and building on that form. I think there's a slight mentality shift. I think that is what you'd expect if you're doing it properly. I'm glad to see it. It may take some of the romanticism away from it but if you want to win, you've got to be serious."
Froome to win? Bet on the Tour de France with William Hill
- Article published:
- June 28, 2013, 02:44
- Cycling News
Australian doesn't hold back
Want to know what's going on within the Team Sky camp during the Tour de France? Richie Porte will be continuing his series of blogs for Cyclingnews during the 100th edition of the French Grand Tour over the next three weeks.
Today, the Australian begins with an update on life following his second overall at the Dauphiné and looks ahead to what's in store over the Tour's first week.
"What it's really done is given me a bit more confidence going into the Tour," Porte writes. "There was a lot of guys there being touted for the podium at the Tour and I guess they've got a lot of tweaks to do too but Chris and I had just as much to improve on as they did."
As usual, Porte is frank in his views and doesn't hold back.
Also joining the 28-year-old throughout the Tour will be John Degenkolb, and Robert Millar.
Read more by clicking here.
- Article published:
- June 28, 2013, 03:27
- Cycling News
All living finishers receive invite
Every living man who has finished the Tour de France has been invited to attend a function by the ASO in Paris on July 21, with the exception of Lance Armstrong.
Stripped of his seven Tour victories at the end of last year, Armstrong's name has been removed as winner from 1999-2005 and according to director Christian Prudhomme the blank space that remains is "the story of a real talent who lost his way."
News Limited reports that the 'Giants of the Tour' ceremony due to take place at the end of the 100th edition of the Tour de France, will not include the Texan. According to the report, ASO press officer Thomas Cariou did not answer questions as to why Armstrong was not invited nor was it expanded upon if any other riders were not invited.
Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during his seven-year reign but denies that he violated anti-doping rules during his comeback between 2009 and 2011.
- Article published:
- June 28, 2013, 04:52
- Cycling News
Suisse experience gave Belgian confidence
It's been one of the efforts of his life but Belkin's Sep Vanmarcke believes he's never trained as hard as he has to make the team for the Tour de France.
Vanmarcke, this year's runner-up at Paris-Roubaix, is making his debut at the Tour de France with the 2011 Vuelta a Espana his only grand tour previously.
"For me it would be a good Tour if there was a rest day after every stage," the 24-year-old joked at the Belkin press conference. "I've never raced in Corsica. Apparently there are quite a few curves in the road. It's not really good for a sprinters after that first stage. But I'm already ready for the Tour. I never trained as hard as I have for this race."
Vanmarcke was informed of his inclusion in the Dutch squad last Monday after a fast and furious Tour de Suisse.
"In Switzerland I did a lot of work to support the team," he explained. "It made me believe in my chances of making the team for the Tour."
The Belgian has modest goals for his debut Tour.
"The goal will be to assist our leader Bauke Mollema as long as possible in the mountain stages," Vanmarcke explained. "Then I can settle down quietly in the autobus. Of course, I would like to be part of an early breakaway, preferably one that is going to last, so I can sprint for the stage."
Vanmarcke to win? Bet on the Tour de France with William Hill
- Article published:
- June 28, 2013, 10:35
- José Been
Still considers himself the winner from 1999 to 2005
“It was impossible to win the Tour de France in my time without doping,” Lance Armstrong told French newspaper Le Monde in an interview which will be published in its entirety tomorrow. Excerpts have been sent to the media but Cyclingnews had the opportunity to read the full interview with the seven-time Tour de France winner who was stripped of all his titles.
Armstrong still considers himself to be the winner of those seven consecutive Tours from 1999 to 2005. After the USADA Reasoned Decision came out in 2012 the UCI stripped all of Armstrong’s victories from 1998 on, leaving seven editions of the biggest cycling race in the world without a winner. “It’s okay to erase my name but these Tours need a winner. I’ll leave the discussion as to who won to others but nobody has reported to me to claim those yellow jerseys.”
Armstrong calls the conclusion in the USADA report that the US Postal system was the most sophisticated doping system ever “bullshit”. The Texan says the system Spanish gynaecologist Eufemiano Fuentes implemented was 100 times more sophisticated. “Our system was very simple, very conservative and not as harmful as USADA claims.”
After a lengthy court case concerning Operación Puerto, the Spanish judge decided to have the blood bags which were retrieved from the lab of Dr Fuentes destroyed. “I am sure several football clubs influenced that decision. In any case, it’s still only cycling that serves as a scapegoat.”
Whether Armstrong considers himself to be a scapegoat, remains open. “I’ll let others decide that. My feeling are my personal feelings. I just live my life, with my family. I still ride my bike, play some golf and at five o’clock I open a cold beer.”
After the USADA report came out, UCI president Pat McQuaid said “Armstrong has no place in cycling.”
“I think McQuaid wanted to make a political statement to show he is a hardliner but obviously he had no credit in this matter. He can say and think what he likes. I think he has far bigger problems to attend to.”
Looking to the upcoming UCI president election, he said, “I believe that the nomination of Brian Cookson offers a refreshing alternative. We’ll see. Cycling needs new leadership to regain trust and credibilty. Things simply can’t change if McQuaid stays and I told him that.”
In his January interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong said he was willing to talk with a Truth and Reconciliation Committee. He still is. “Not everything has been told,” he says. “The USADA report has proved capable of destroying the life of one man but has done nothing for cycling.”
However, he claimed that the UCI is evasive about such a committee. “McQuaid tries to avoid the issue because when a committee like that is installed, he, Verbruggen and the entire UCI will fall.”
In recent weeks, 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich confessed to having been a Fuentes client. “I was suprised Jan confessed, especially now. I loved him as an adversary on the bike and I appreciate his confession. I do not expect anything from the others because the normal procedure is to just say nothing.”
Laurent Jalabert, one of the other adversaries from Armstrong’s era, denied claims that he had a positive doping test in 1998. “I respect Jalabert but he is just lying at the moment. He knows very well that Michele Ferrari was ONCE’s team doctor in the nineties.”
During his reign in the Tour de France Armstrong was known for his battles on and off the bike. He attacked many people who accused him of doping, like Christophe Bassons and Frankie Andreu. “It was okay to fight on the bike but it was not okay to do so off the bike. I couldn’t seperate those two things at the time. When it comes to Bassons, I told him that if he felt so unhappy, why didn’t he just leave. That was misinterpreted at the time.”
Like former rivals including Ullrich and Michael Boogerd, Armstrong says doping was a sign of the times. “I didn’t invent doping, sorry Travis (referring to Travis Tygart, USADA’s president) and it didn’t stop when I went away. It has always been around, and always will. It isn’t a popular thing to say but it’s reality. I understand that people are disappointed in me. I will never succeed in fully making amends but will keep trying to do so during my life.”