- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 18:10
- Peter Cossins
17th consecutive start for veteran BMC pro
He may be 39 and heading into the last few months of his professional career, but George Hincapie didn't give any indication he is taking his foot off the gas when he ripped around the 6.4km prologue circuit in Liège on Saturday. He finished 22nd on the day, just three seconds down on his BMC Racing Team leader Cadel Evans, and in doing so established a new record for Tour de France appearances. This is his 17th consecutive start in the race since he made his debut in 1996.
"It's great to beat the record. When I was getting on the podium I should have been thinking more about my effort, but I was thinking how incredible it is that this is my 17th Tour," Hincapie said just after completing his prologue ride. "I think the keys to getting this far are to take of yourself – and I've had 20 or almost 30 years of doing that – and to feel that you are still enjoying yourself.
"Motivation is not so much of a problem as it's easy to stay motivated when you're making history. My priority is to help Cadel and I was honoured to make history last year in helping Cadel become the first Australian to win the Tour de France. Now I want to help him make it two."
Asked about the possibility of 15-Tour veteran Stuart O'Grady eventually beating his record, Hincapie responded: "I know that Stuey is not too far behind me. The first thing I would say about him is that he's a good friend, but he's also a very hard worker and he's been a great champion. Whichever one of us ends up with the record is certainly going to deserve it."
Following his retirement from racing, Hincapie is likely to stay closely connected with the top level of the sport via his eponymous clothing company. Hincapie Cycling Apparel already supply BMC with team kit and leisure clothing.
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 18:42
- Brecht Decaluwé
Slovak sprints to victory on stage 1
As expected young super talent Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) didn’t take very long before powering to his first win in his Tour de France debut. One day after his somewhat disappointing prologue in Liège, the 22-year-old Slovak set things straight by sprinting to the victory in the first road stage, a 198km long loop from Liège to the neighbouring town of Seraing.
“I’m very happy that I won today and it was more special because of the bad luck I had yesterday in the prologue,” Sagan said. During the prologue, Sagan went fast through a roundabout but was unable to hold the line and started slipping, clicking his foot out of the pedal and coming to a near stop. “Yesterday I was not feeling good and it wasn’t a parcours for me. I’m happy I didn’t crash. In Switzerland it was a completely different course that went up and down. Here it suited the real specialists like Wiggins and Cancellara.”
On Sunday, Sagan was the only rider who was able to keep up with race leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) on the steepest part of the 3km long finishing climb, the Côte de Seraing. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) bridged up a little later but the Norwegian had nothing left for the sprint. Sagan easily won the sprint, with the peloton following on the trio’s heels.
“Today I felt better than yesterday. I’m very happy that I have won,” Sagan said. When crossing the line Sagan didn’t throw his arms in the air as a rider traditionally does but made a bodybuilder-like pose. “After the Tour de Suisse I returned home to recover a bit. I talked with my friends about what I would do if I won and that was it.”
It turns out that Sagan is the youngest rider – he is 22 years and 157 days old – to win a stage in the Tour de France since Lance Armstrong won the stage in Verdun at the tender age of 21 and 296 days back in 1993. There are some within the Liquigas set-up who believe Sagan can follow in the American’s footsteps. “Did they say that? I would love to but I’m still at the beginning of my career. It’s too early to tell what’s possible and we’ll see if I can get a career like him.”
Sunday’s stage wasn’t quite a spectacular one until the speed went up brutally in the peloton inside the final 30 kilometres. There were some crashes and eventually the peloton headed at full speed towards the Côte de Seraing. Sagan described what he went through in those hectic kilometres.
“It was a tricky finale with lots of roundabouts and dangerous corners. Thanks to Nibali I was still up front in the last kilometre. In the last climb it was very hard. When Chavanel attacked I realized I had to follow him,” Sagan said. “Then I ended up on the wheel of Cancellara. Before the day’s stage I spoke with my team manager and we said that Fabian Cancellara was the right person to follow. He is in very good condition right now,” Sagan said. “I’m sorry for Fabian that I didn’t take a pull but he was very strong.”
It wasn’t the first time Sagan rode the finale of a big race. Despite his tender age Sagan won three stages during his debut in the Vuelta a España, adding those to his already high number of wins in stage races like Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie, Tour of Poland, and a staggering eight stages in the Tour of California. Sagan didn’t expect to be impressed by the Tour de France but on Sunday he admitted that it wasn’t quite as he had anticipated.
“It’s not a race like the other ones, especially with the big crowds along the course and media at the finish. There’s much more stress in the peloton when heading towards the finish because everybody wants to be in front. I have 19 more stages to discover what the Tour is about.”
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 19:40
- Daniel Benson
Astana leader pleased with opening weekend
When he outshone Alberto Contador at the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné, it looked as though Janez Brajkovic had arrived as a stage race contender. However, it's been two years since and the early promise he showed in Sorgues and on Alped'Huez has been followed by a trail of frustration and injuries.
Now 28 and with a new start at Astana, Brajkovic believes that he has turned a corner, matured into the role of a team leader - something he perhaps struggled with at RadioShack - and regained his confidence.
In this year's Dauphine, he finished a solid 7th – not the same calibre of performance he showed in 2010, but an indication that his peak form may arrive in July. He followed that up with victory in his home race, the Tour of Slovenia, two weeks before the Tour de France began.
After two days of racing, Brajkovic lies in 14th place, just five seconds off last year's winner Cadel Evans.
"This the Tour," he replied when Cyclingnews asked if this year's race was a pivotal moment in what has so far been a stuttering career.
"I'm on a new team, I'm the leader and the guys are helping to protect me. This is my Tour and I have to be as good as possible and show that I'm capable of riding with the best.
"At the Dauphiné last month, let’s just say I was consistent. I'd just come back from altitude training and I was pretty happy with my condition. But this isn't the Dauphiné and I have to survive the first week here. If things go well I can go top ten here and maybe hope for something a bit more."
On stage one to Seraing, Brajkovic paid close attention when the pace of the peloton picked up, and was close to Wiggins and Evans when the final climb stretched the GC contenders. With a nervous few days to contend with, he was relieved to have navigated the first stage without issue, backing up his solid ride in yesterday's prologue.
"It was very stressful, just like every year at the start of the Tour. Everyone is fresh and nervous. The roads are wide then small and there's so many accelerations and braking. Today we were riding 70kph with the tailwind and coming into the final climb it was totally stretched out.
"It was a good day, though, and for us there weren't many crashes and we survived. I finished with the first group and that's a pleasing result. The legs felt good and I was pretty happy with my prologue time yesterday. So far I've not shown that much form in the TT and the prologue isn't my specialty, but I was up there with some of the main favourites.”
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 19:59
- Peter Cossins
Reveals that he looked over Seraing stage after winning yesterday’s prologue
Fabian Cancellara may have missed out on the stage win in Seraing, Belgium today, but the RadioShack-Nissan rider said he had gained a huge amount of confidence from his performance. Having maintained his grip on the yellow jersey after the first stage of the Tour de France, he said his goal now is to keep hold of the jersey until the race reaches France. He even hinted that he would like to hang on to it until the Tour reaches his native Switzerland at the end of this week.
Cancellara revealed that he had looked over the closing sections of the Seraing stage after winning yesterday’s prologue. “Just 20 hours ago I looked over the course with my team director, Alain Gallopin. I noticed that there was a section of cobbles and looked at the climb up to the finish,” he admitted.
“When I saw Albasini and Chavanel attacking on the hardest part of the climb, I was thinking about the fact that we’d spent the day defending the jersey. I’d seen the work my teammates had done all day with absolutely no help from the other teams and I decided the best form of defence is attack. Of course, I missed a chance to win another stage, but it still gave me a lot of confidence.”
Pressed on why he had continued his effort up to the line despite the lack of cooperation from Peter Sagan, the Swiss rider explained: “I’m not the kind of guy who gets to a point 500 metres from the line and decides he’s going to stop his effort. That’s not me. When I attack I go all the way to the finish. Of course, I’ve ended up second.”
He later reflected: “You never know what’s going to happen from one hour to the next or from one day to the next. That’s why I give it everything I can. I don’t want to reach a moment where I’ve got regrets about what I’ve done. I can say now that I’ve given 100 percent and that’s why I’m satisfied.”
Cancellara also spoke about the low points he has had since crashing out of the Tour of Flanders with a broken collarbone three months ago. “The hardest thing after the crash was coming to terms with having such great condition, as I think before the crash I was at my highest level ever, and spending five months working hard, then losing everything just because of a bidon.
"The problem for me is that I have very high expectations of myself when I’m riding. When I came back at the Bayern Rundfahrt and could see how big the difference was between my form then and how it had been in the races before the break it was hard to take on board. I’m not used to that, but I learned a lot from that situation.”
Clearly pleased with his performance despite losing out to Sagan, Cancellara admitted: “I’m looking forward to watching what I did today on TV and tomorrow we’ll keep on defending the yellow jersey. But I really hope the other teams will help out because it’s a flat stage that’s 100 percent for the sprinters.”
He continued: “I hope to bring the jersey to France, just as I have done in other years. Tomorrow we’ve got a sprinters’ stage so nothing should happen. We’ll see what happens in Boulogne-sur-Mer. I think that’s going to be a tricky stage with a hard final. We’ll have to see what happens with the weather and the wind. From there the race goes closer and closer to Switzerland.”
“Spartacus” is back and evidently not thinking of letting the yellow jersey go yet…
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 21:12
- Peter Cossins
Wiggins and Boasson Hagen impress, bad luck hits Froome and Rogers
Team Sky left Seraing, Belgium generally happy with the way their day had gone after Edvald Boasson Hagen went close to winning the Tour de France's first road stage and team leader Bradley Wiggins kept his main rivals in check. Chris Froome and Mick Rogers weren't so fortunate, however. Froome punctured when the bunch was in full cry with 15km remaining and finished 1:25 down, while Rogers fell with 22km but recovered to finish in the front group.
Team boss Dave Brailsford explained he was generally happy at the end of what he described as "a sketchy stage". "All in all it was important that Brad didn't lose any time. Froomey punctured with about 15k to go, which took him out. Mick crashed with about 20k to go, which was disappointing, but he'll be all right. It got really nervous once that first crash happened. But we've come through it. The first stage is done and we're still here to fight another day."
Brailsford was particularly impressed with Boasson Hagen and Wiggins. "Eddy was going to go for the stage and I think he bridged across really, really well, but I think by the time he got there he'd just about run out of legs. It was a good effort," he said of the Norwegian champion.
Asked why Wiggins had been seen a long way back in the bunch during the closing kilometres of the stage, Brailsford said: "I think Brad just drifted back a little bit and then he was with Bernie [Eisel]. They knew on that flat final straight with a tailwind that he would just come around. It was easier to move up on the climb than on the flat because he had the tailwind, so he just waited for that and moved up very easily on the climb. As everyone was going full-gas up there he was going around the outside and taking 10, 15, 20 places. He looked comfortable."
Brailsford was also asked about Mark Cavendish's decision to sit up a couple of kilometres from the finish. "Cav sat up but said he felt good. Once he knew he wasn't going to be competitive there was no reason whatsoever for him to empty the tank. He knew that Eddy was there trying to battle for the stage," the Sky boss said. "He did go for the intermediate sprint. The thing with those sprints is that the first few guys get a good number of points but then it drops down to just a point differential so as long as you're in that little mix you're not going to lose a whole host of points."
Brailsford also admitted that he had also been impressed with the performances of stage-winner Peter Sagan and yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara. "Sagan was very cunning. He positioned himself very well on Cancellara's wheel. It was a bit reminiscent of Milan-San Remo. You could see that Cancellara was going to take Sagan to the line, as he did with Gerrans in San Remo. And so he should have done because he had a good chance of winning the stage himself and it was a hell of an effort he made to try to achieve that. But, for a young lad in his first Tour, Sagan showed a lot of cunning and credit to him."
Rogers didn't look too shaken up by his tumble as he warmed down after the stage. Looking back on his crash, he said: "I was pretty lucky actually. I kind of almost came to a stop before I crashed. We were probably only going about 30k's an hour. That's the Tour! It's a miracle if you get through it without a crash."
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 22:25
- Brecht Decaluwé
RadioShack-Nissan director Demol pleased with outcome of stage 1
The Tour de France couldn't have started better for the RadioShack-Nissan team with the prologue victory from Fabian Cancellara and his successful yellow jersey defence during stage 1. While stage wins are important, there's also the part of the team that's focused on a good result in the final general classification in Paris. Andreas Klöden made it through the opening weekend of the race well while teammate Fränk Schleck is struggling to control the damage. Klöden is currently eleventh overall at 12 seconds from top favourite Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
The prologue in Liège on Saturday wasn't Schleck's preferred battleground and he ended up losing 31 seconds to GC favourite and prologue runner-up Bradley Wiggins (Sky). One day later Schleck nearly lost time again in the stage that concluded with a 2.4km long uphill finish in Seraing but he managed to salvage things. He is now 45th in the general classification.
"We controlled the race in the beginning [for Cancellara] but in the finale it was tricky," Schleck told Cyclingnews right after the finish line in Seraing. "It was pretty nasty on the finale there, but in the end I had Chris [Horner]. He got stuck, with me, behind and he brought me up there (to the front). Once I knew I was going to be in the first break it was cool. The team did a good job for Fabian."
For Horner, though, the efforts to bring Schleck back resulted in a loss of time during the final kilometre and he eventually crossed the line 55 seconds behind the lead group. Horner received a late call-up to the RadioShack-Nissan Tour de France roster when team leader Andy Schleck was forced to skip the Tour after fracturing his pelvis in a crash during the Critérium du Dauphiné. Horner finished tenth in the 2010 Tour de France, and later ninth after the disqualification of winner Alberto Contador. Despite this he doesn't have a protected role in the team, according to director sportif Dirk Demol, due to his age and fragile health condition.
Demol was content with the team's performance when he talked with Cyclingnews once all his men rolled in. "On a finish like this you know there can be time gaps. Unlucky enough we were a bit disorganized. This was due to a flat tyre from Tony Gallopin in the last 20 kilometres and a broken bike from Maxime Monfort. He didn't crash but his bike blocked and he couldn't continue.
"We had just helped Gallopin so we weren't immediately there to help him (Monfort) and the mechanic even had to run 100 metres to get to him. Of course, they were the two boys who were appointed to deliver the team at the foot of the climb. The goal was to keep the yellow jersey and, if there was a chance, to win the stage with Fabian. We tried but he was confronted with a super-Sagan," Demol said.
The Swiss rider didn't receive any support from Sagan in the final kilometre to keep the breakaway going and that way the Slovakian saved energy for the sprint. Cancellara kept going, as there was the possibility to extend his overall lead and a chance for the stage win. "We told him to keep going, that he was the strongest and that he would maybe win the stage," said Demol. "Of course you know that if Sagan is there that it would be difficult. Overall, we're pleased with the outcome."
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 23:38
- Cycling News
X-rays on wrist for German while Pineau also in doubt
Tony Martin's Tour de France has gone from bad to worse. After a puncture knocked him out of competition in the prologue, a crash near the beginning of the first stage sent him to hospital for x-rays. His Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammate Jerome Pineau also went to hospital after being hit by a spectator.
"We take a decision until Monday or even Tony will come at the start of the second stage," said Alessandro Tegner media officer for Omega Pharma-QuickStep. "We wait to see what the night brings, and how Martin recovers from his injuries."
After only 11 kilometres, Martin and three others crashed, but all continued. The world time trial champion paid numerous visits to the race doctor's car, getting pain pills. His official diagnosis from the race doctor was a bruised leg and an injured wrist. He also had visibly lost skin on his left elbow.
Martin has made clear that his main priority this summer is the London Olympics, and not the Tour. A serious injury now would put an end to his dreams for 2012.
"My hand hurts and riding along I felt every pothole," he told Radsport-News.com after the stage. He didn't think of abandoning, though. "If necessary I would have come to the finish as the last rider." It wasn't necessary – in fact he finished in the same time as winner Peter Sagan, which gave team manager Patrick Lefevere reason to hope. "It can't really be that bad. He rode strongly in the finale."
It might really be that bad, though. Team doctor Helge Riepenhof examined him in the team bus and said, "I am usually optimistic, but it doesn't look good."
"I hope that it is only a bad bruise and not a break," Martin said. "Then I will try to fight my way through until the time trial on the coming Monday."
He was joined at hospital by Pineau. The team reported that he hit by a spectator on his right shoulder 25km from the finish and was unable to move his arm after the race.
- Article published:
- July 2, 2012, 00:56
- Cycling News
Sagan takes the win everyone has been waiting for
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) scored his maiden Tour de France victory in a scorching battle against yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) on Sunday.
In a battle of the strongmen, Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen was third.
There was drama aplenty in the final 25km of the 198km stage to Seraing, with Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Michael Rogers among those to come to grief just as the peloton started to put on the pace.
Cancellara retained his overall lead, while some of the time trial specialists dropped out of the Tour's top 10.