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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, July 18, 2011

Date published:
July 18, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Tour de France: stage 15 start gallery

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) reads all about it in Limoux.
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 14:27 BST
    Cycling News

    The riders line up in Limoux

    After the tense, tactical battle among the overall contenders in the Pyrenees, the sprinters were expected to dominate proceedings on the road to Montpellier on stage 15 of the Tour de France. The 193km route through Languedoc may be predominantly flat, but the crosswinds that characterise the region might well split the peloton on the fast run-in to the finish.

    Jeered at the start in the Vendée two weeks ago, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) was cheered enthusiastically as he signed on just before the start, but the most raucous shouts were reserved for Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). The Frenchman’s stirring defence of his yellow jersey in the Pyrenees has stoked home hopes of victory, and the crowds thronged around his team bus before the off.

    To see Cyclingnews’ exclusive gallery from the start line, click here.


  • Alexandre Vinokourov announces his retirement

    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 15:23 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Kazakhstani hopes to be part of the Astana team after crash

    Alexandre Vinokourov has announced his retirement from professional cycling after breaking his femur in a crash on stage nine of the Tour de France.

    Speaking on French television from his home in Monaco on Sunday morning, Vinokourov said he will continue to ride his bike, but hopes to have a management role at the Astana team.

    “As far as competing goes, I think I will leave it there. I don’t think I’ll get back on my bike as a professional. I’m going to call it a day now,” he said.

    “I will continue to ride my bike, but just to keep fit. I hope to find a new role at the Astana team.”

    Vinokourov turned professional in 1997 and developed into one of the most aggressive riders in the peloton. He was widely admired until he tested positive for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France. He made a comeback last spring and immediately won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. However he was booed by the crowd as he crossed the finish line.

    This year’s Tour de France was expected to Vinokourov’s last but he had also hinted that he was considering racing in 2012 to target the London Olympic Games. However, his plans ended when he crashed on a descent during the Tour's stage nine to Pas de Peyrol. He went off the road, fracturing the top of his femur. He was carried back up to the road by his teammates but was unable to ride on. He was immediately flown to Paris for an operation and is currently on crutches.

    “It’s going okay. I’m starting to walk on crutches, though it’s not easy,” he said.

  • Cavendish says green jersey not locked up

    Mark Cavendish has his eye on the prize: the green jersey in Paris.
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 18:43 BST
    Daniel Benson

    HTC-Highroad sprinter takes 19th career Tour de France stage win

    Despite picking up his fourth stage of this year's Tour de France, Mark Cavendish has played down talk of the green jersey competition being in the bag. The HTC sprinter took his tally to 19 stage wins in the Tour in Montpellier, and now holds a 37 point lead over Jose Rojas and 71 points over Philippe Gilbert. Although there are intermediate points in each remaining stage, Cavendish has the Champs Elysees to look forward to - a stage in which he has triumphed for the last two years.

    "I don't think the green jersey competition is over. Everyone thought that last year it would be a fight between Hushovd and Petacchi but then I came back. I still think it's going to be difficult because Gilbert and Rojas are still collecting points. It's certainly not in the bag," Cavendish said.

    While Cavendish refused to get carried away about the possibility of being the first rider from Great Britain to win green, he waxed lyrical over the work his HTC teammates put in as they delivered him perfectly to the line. If Cavendish needed any extra advantage over both Rojas and Gilbert it's his lead out, and today in Montpellier they were as good as they've ever been.

    The American squad chased down the day's break as efficiently as ever, but their mettle was tested in the closing kilometers as Sky and Garmin battled for supremacy.

    "I cross the finish line first as I have done 19 times, but there's only one person who can do that. Today two of my teammates rode for 190 of those kilometers and the rest delivered me to the line. I have an incredible bunch of guys. The commitment of those guys is amazing. I'm incredibly lucky.

    "I hate losing when guys have ridden out of their skin for me, and the guys do that."

    HTC's focus has shifted slightly since the race left the Pyrenees. Tony Martin has slipped...

  • Voeckler denies he can win the Tour de France

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) still in yellow, but is modest about his GC ambitions
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 19:31 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Yellow jersey dismisses talk that he can survive in the Alps

    Thomas Voeckler has admitted that he has no chance of winning the Tour de France despite his defiant defence of the yellow jersey in the Pyrenees.

    Both Lance Armstrong and Laurent Jalabert are convinced that the Frenchman has a real chance of reaching Paris in yellow but he disagrees, preferring to be pragmatic.

    "It's nice to hear, but I don't believe for even one second that I can win the Tour. I think my chances are zero." Voeckler said after retaining the jersey in Montpellier.

    "I managed to follow the favourites yesterday and I'd be happy to follow them again in the next mountain stages, but I don't think I'm at the level to do it. Yesterday, it was unusual for me to be able to follow them. The idea of doing it again motivates me but I also know what the Alps are about.

    "It doesn't affect me that people say that. I'm just remaining focused on my doing a good job and the sporting aspect of my job. I'm not here to win the Tour de France. This is not my goal. I maintain that I have absolutely no chance of winning."

    Bernard Hinault was not afraid to dampen the growing hopes in France that Voeckler had a chance of Tour success.

    "It's a dream and everyone has the right to dream", said the last French winner of the Tour de France (in 1985). "It would be great but in the Alpine stages, some gradients aren't favourable for him. Towards the top of the col Agnel, it's 12 or 14% and Thomas isn't a super climber, even if I've seen him transformed in this race."

    Voeckler agreed.

    "I don't want to lie to the public. Maybe it would be good to say I'm a possible winner of the Tour de France but I'm not interested in that. I don't want to say that I have a chance to win. The Tour has been designed...

  • Frustration for Petacchi in Montpellier

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) was unable to get into the points on stage 4
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 20:19 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Hondo explains impact of reduced lead-out train

    Another bunch sprint, another Mark Cavendish victory and another day of frustration for Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) on stage 15 of the Tour de France. While Montpellier’s Avenue des Vanières offered the fast men a perfect stage to showcase their talents, fluffed lines just inside the red kite meant that the Italian had too much ground to make up on Cavendish in the sprint.

    Petacchi was cleverly placed on Cavendish’s wheel with two kilometres to go but lost his position amid the hubbub of the fast run-in to the line. Although he picked his way through the carnage and appeared to be the quickest over the final 200 meters, Petacchi had to settle for third place behind Cavendish and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo).

    "In the final kilometre I lost a few positions and I had to get back up there," Petacchi said glumly on the steps of his team bus after the stage. "I had the legs but I had to take a lot of wind. I tried."

    In spite of his disappointment, Petacchi is still holding out hope that he can prevent Cavendish from securing a hat-trick of Champs-Elysées victories next Sunday.

    "I’m certainly I’m doing better sprints than I was doing at the beginning of the Tour," he pointed out. "There’s still Paris…"

    Petacchi arrived at the Tour protesting that he was lacking in racing miles, and apart from a third-place finish at Châteauroux, he made little impression in the opening week of racing. The composition of his team has been another factor in his modest showing to date, as Damiano Cunego’s overall challenge means that Lampre have designated just two riders to help Petacchi in the sprints.

    "The team is a little divided given that Damiano is up there...

  • Roche looking for aggressive final week

    Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is still battling for a high overall finish.
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 21:36 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Irishman hopeful Plateau de Beille was his ‘jour sans’

    After a disappointing day at Plateau de Beille, Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) is determined to put in an aggressive showing in the final week of the Tour de France to move back up the overall standings.

    Speaking to Cyclingnews in Limoux the morning after stage 14, Roche hoped that his showing at Plateau de Beille had simply been a jour sans. The Irishman dropped eight places to 18th on general classification after losing over six minutes on the final day in the Pyrenees, and explained that he had already begun to suffer on the day’s penultimate climb.

    "In the first part of the race I was feeling OK, I was riding up the front and had the team around me and I didn’t think I was going to be on a bad day until 5k to go on the Col de Agnes," Roche said, taking up the story. "I realised that something wasn’t right and I wasn’t feeling great. Eventually I even dropped out of that group on that climb and I thought ‘oh, oh.’

    "I knew it was going to be the day that I was hoping I wouldn’t have had on the Tour. I was hoping it would arrive on one of the flatter days and I’d be able to get my way around it. Unfortunately, yesterday I had the two feet on the same pedal and I wasn’t going any quicker."

    Roche admitted that he is unsure if Saturday’s setback was simply on off-day or if he will continue to struggle for the remainder of the Tour, given that a crash at the Criterium du Dauphiné in June hampered his build-up.

    "It’s too soon to tell," Roche said. "I want to stay positive and just say that yesterday was my jour sans, and that was it."

    Roche’s 15th place...

  • GreenEdge shopping for riders on Tour de France rest day

    Shayne Bannan and Neil Stephens are proud to part of this project.
    Article published:
    July 17, 2011, 22:22 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Australian upstarts will not hire riders under contract, Stephens says

    Neil Stephens has told Cyclingnews that GreenEdge will not sign riders under contract for next year, ruling out Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers, who both have contracts with BMC and Sky, respectively.

    Stephens confirmed, however, that the team would be pursuing riders on the market for next year and that the team would be comprised of "60 to 70 per cent Australian riders".

    Stephens was talking at the start village of stage 15 of Tour de France in Limoux. The former professional was in attendance with Matt White, the new head of the Australian road team. Their arrival, along with that of Shane Bannan who arrives at the race tomorrow, coincides with the Tour's rest day - a notoriously busy day in the cycling transfer market.

    "We arranged this in January of this year and we knew that this was going to be spectacular week of racing and wanted people to see that. The fact that we're here on the rest day and that there are riders on the market is just a bit of a coincidence," Stephens told Cyclingnews.

    Until August 1st UCI rules stipulate that riders and teams can not sign contracts for next year, but GreenEdge have been in discussions with a number of riders for next year, with the likes of Matthew Goss, Leigh Howard, Simon Gerrans, Matthew Hayman, Cameron Meyer and Jack Bobridge all coming to the end of their ties to rival teams.

    Australian cycling has produced a wealth of talent in recent years but fundamentally most of them share the same characteristics.

    "It would be a mistake to try and have them all. The typical Australian rider is strong, fast and courageous and the objective is to be 60-70 per cent Australian and that will be the flavour of the team, but until we start signing riders we really don't...

  • Tour shorts: Urine in restaurants, wind and traffic

    A tired but satisfied Andy Schleck at the finish
    Article published:
    July 18, 2011, 2:25 BST
    Cycling News

    Breezy day to Montpellier sketchy and stressful

    On paper, the moments following the exit of the Tour de France from the Pyrenean mountains seem simple: the stress of summit finishes behind them, the riders should in theory have enjoyed a cruisy few days in France. However the so-called 'transition' stage madness began the evening of stage 14 for Leopard Trek's Andy Schleck.

    Schleck criticised drug testing agencies after he was tested three times in the space of 12 hours. The Luxembourg climber stressed that he was still behind measures to improve cycling’s image and the fight against doping.

    Schleck was tested at the end of stage 14. He was then flown from Plateau de Beille by helicopter and once he arrived at the Leopard Trek hotel he went for dinner.

    "Then I had another one at the hotel, we hit the restaurant and had to walk through holding a cup of my own urine which I’m sure the people eating dinner really appreciated. Then I woke up and had another test in the morning.

    "The testing agencies need to communicate a little better because that’s just throwing money out of the window.

    "I’m really transparent and I think it’s great that they do a lot of controls and that helps the sport but you don’t need three controls in twelve hours, that’s just ridiculous."

    A flat stage harder than the mountains?

    Some riders called the 193km stage from Limoux to Montpellier as harder than the mountain stages just behind them. Garmin-Cervélo's David Millar...