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First Edition Cycling News, Monday, July 6, 2009

Date published:
July 05, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • "Realistic GC goals" at Columbia-HTC

    Luxembourg's time trial champion Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia-HTC).
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 4:43 BST
    Hedwig Kröner in Monaco

    Kirchen and Rogers to aim for stage wins

    Team Columbia-HTC probably had the most difficult task in chosing its Tour de France line-up, and put together a very strong team primarily focused on stage victories. But with Kim Kirchen and Michael Rogers also included in the squad, Columbia-HTC nevertheless brings its own stage race contenders to the Tour, even if the team management's expectations for the two remain "realistic".

    Speaking with Cyclingnews during the race's first time trial in Monaco, sports director Rolf Aldag outlined that the team did not have any particular plans for Rogers with regards to general classification, and preferred him to go for stage wins instead.

    "Rogers doesn't focus on the general classification," Aldag said. "After going full gas at the Giro for three weeks, it would be mentally as well as physically hard to race another three weeks flat out. Also, for him, it wouldn't really make a difference if he would achieve another 9th or 11th placing in the Tour - that can't be his goal. Instead, he picked some stages because he'd really like to add a Tour stage to his palmarès."

    Moreover, the Australian will act as a support rider for Luxembourger Kirchen, whose ambition it is to replicate his previous achievements at the Tour. "With Kim Kirchen, we have somebody that has earned our support as he got seventh last year and eighth in the year before," he continued. "So when we need Rogers, he'll be there for Kirchen, and apart from that, he'll get his chances for a stage win."

    Aldag explained further that because Rogers would hopefully be seen up the road on certain stages, he was also asked to retain his strengths on other days. "There will be days for Rogers where he will consciously preserve himself. If we had both of them going full gas at this race, then in the end, they probably wouldn't be able to help each other any more once the race gets to the Alps. So it makes more sense to have one of them hold his horses every now and...

  • Cavendish dreams of winning in green on the Champs Elysees

    Cavendish: Hungry for Tour success
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 17:30 BST
    Richard Moore

    Sprinter pays tribute to team and looks to Paris

    Mark Cavendish described the award of his first green jersey of Tour de France points leader as "a beautiful moment" and admitted that “to win on the Champs Elysees in the green jersey is a dream."

    The 24-year old won stage two with apparent ease, being delivered by the final man in his lead-out train, Mark Renshaw, to around 250 metres from the line. When Cavendish began sprinting the gap behind him opened, and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) was around five lengths back by the line.

    Once again Cavendish paid tribute to his Columbia-THC team-mates, each of whom he embraced after dismounting his bike in the finish area. "They are all really intelligent riders and they all believe we can win," he said. "When you see it's the first proper stage and I had eight riders all riding for me. We were always confident and I'm glad I could win for them. That's why we all embraced at the end."

    Until a kilometre to go, when Cavendish’s team took over it had looked hectic as other teams’ trains tried to get in on the act. And Cavendish reacted angrily to an incident at 2km to go, when a Skil-Shimano rider – falsely identified by Cavendish as Kenny Van Hummel, though it was apparently it was Piet Rooijakkers – appeared to make contact.

     "He had his hands off the bars and hit me in the final 2km," said Cavendish. "I’m going to have to speak to him about that – it’s a really dangerous stunt. It’s a privilege to be here riding the Tour de France and you shouldn’t be doing things like that."

    Otherwise, he was happy: "It’s beautiful to be able to wear green. It’s a big goal for any sprinter, so it’s emotional for me to be able to wear it. It came as result of winning the stage, that was the goal. We took control [as a team] and finished it off in spectacular fashion. When you can win the stage and take the green jersey it's a very nice finish to the day."

  • All aboard the Columbia train

    He's got the perfect train: Cavendish on stage 2
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 17:46 BST
    Richard Moore

    Columbia-HTC leave their mark on stage 2

    The Columbia-HTC lead-out train showed the others how to do it on stage one of the Tour de France, propelling Mark Cavendish to his first stage win of this Tour, and fifth in total.

    And yet it had looked, in the final kilometres, as though the well-drilled yellow, white and green machine wouldn’t have things all their own way. Team Milram, with former Columbia man Gerald Ciolek, the Cervelo Test Team, with Thor Hushovd, and Garmin-Slipstream, with Tyler Farrar, sent their own trains up to the front, all of them competing for the same small space of road at the head of the peloton.

    Whether they continue to put such effort into setting up their sprinters in the days ahead – given the almost embarrassing margin of Cavendish’s victory in Brignoles – remains to be seen. But it was telling that, no matter how many other teams swarmed to the front, creating no end of chaos and distraction, the Columbia boys stuck doggedly to their task, and the train remained intact.

    Mark Renshaw was the last man, as per the plan, taking over from Tony Martin, who in turn had relieved George Hincapie of pace-setting duties. Earlier, the rider described by manager Bob Stapleton as the team’s "workhorse," Bert Grabsch, put in a big shift helping to pull back the four-man break, helped at the front by another man assigned to that task – Bernhard Eisel. Get used to seeing their faces at the font of the bunch.

    Renshaw, a strong sprinter in his own right, admits that, "I give away a lot of chances [to win] to help Mark, but that’s what the team pays me to do. I knew that when I signed [from the disbanded Credit Agricole] and I had no qualms about it.

    "Mark and I have a good relationship," he continues, "and we’re becoming good friends, which helps a lot. I have an important role; I need to get him to the front in the perfect spot, and it’s worked well this year. The Giro is where it really started...

  • Cancellara survives the heat to stay in yellow

    German Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) leads teammate and Tour de France race leader, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 18:06 BST
    Richard Moore

    Saxo Bank retain the jersey despite difficult conditions

    Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) successfully defended his yellow jersey on day two of the Tour de France, and admitted later that the searing heat had proved a bigger challenge than the four-man break that dominated the stage, before being reeled in with 10km remaining.

    "It was fast at the start, fast up the first climb, and fast all day," said the Swiss, a commanding winner of Saturday’s stage one time trial. "There was great work from my team, who were focused on [defending] yellow. The heat hurt a lot, but it hurt all the other riders, too.

    "With 40km to go I asked Bjarne [Riis] how many degrees it was, and I was told forty. I knew it was hot, but I didn’t know it was that hot. I focused on drinking, drinks at normal temperature, then with 30 or 40km to go I started pouring water over my head. I have extra kilograms [over a lot of the other riders] so that makes things much tougher."

    The crash towards the finish didn’t distract him, Cancellara said. "It’s normal, it happens in any race, especially in the heat," he said. "That’s when riders are not as focused as they could be, but I was never in a risky situation."


  • String of near misses frustrate Farrar

    Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) wins stage three at Tirreno-Adriatico
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 19:52 BST
    Hedwig Kröner

    Garmin sprinter down but not out

    Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream only had one man left between himself and the Tour de France's stage two finish line in Brignoles on Sunday: Mark Cavendish. Again, the young American finished second in a Grand Tour bunch sprint, and as much as he was happy to be up there with the best, he admitted that it was starting to frustrate him.

    "This is my first Tour, and to become second behind Cav, well I can't say that I'm unhappy," he told Cyclingnews after the stage. "Still, this must be my ninth second place this season, and after a while that does tend to get frustrating. But there will be more opportunities to come, starting tomorrow."

    The 25-year-old may have been beaten to second several times this year, but he also came out victorious against Cavendish in the third stage of Tirreno Adriatico this year. A win against the world-class sprinters is therefore well within the American’s reach. So what does it take to beat the Manxman?

    "There really is no trick to beating Cavendish, except to be really, really fast. But the way he is sprinting right now, he's was unbeatable today," said Farrar.

    Belgium's star sprinter, Tom Boonen, was not up with the best today as a crash in the final kilometre hampered the Quick Step rider. In tomorrow's stage three to La Grande-Motte, Boonen will aim try again for a victory. "Boonen is also one of the best, and I have a lot of respect for him," said Farrar. "But personally, I try not to focus too much on the other sprinters, because when you do that, you miss what's happening. But I've sprinted against Boonen many times already, so I know him well."

    Farrar, who didn't see the crash that ruined Boonen's chances, didn't have any complaints about the preparation for his sprint today. "I didn't see the crash, as it happened behind me. Julian Dean drove me into the finish, and once again did a perfect lead-out to put me in perfect position. But then, Cavendish was just so fast...

  • Dessel powers back to form

    Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale)
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 20:20 BST
    Hedwig Kröner

    A good day for AG2R La Mondiale

    Sunday's stage two of the Tour de France, taking the peloton from Monaco to Brignoles, was dominated by a four-man breakaway before the inevitable bunch sprint. Cyril Dessel of AG2R La Mondiale was one of the escapees, together with Stef Clement (Rabobank), Jussi Veikkanen (Francaise des Jeux) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis).

    Dessel, who won a stage in the 2008 Tour and wore the yellow jersey in 2006, had a hard day out in the saddle, and not only because of blistering heat in the South of France. Together with his colleagues, he escaped the bunch early on, and then saw his ambitions melt like ice cream in the sun as the peloton charged to make way for the sprinters.

    "I knew that it was going to be tight, as we were only four," Dessel told Cyclingnews. "Saxo Bank controlled the bunch from behind, so we didn't have much hope. The route was not easy, and it was very, very hot. But I still had fun, and the spectators cheered us on."

    But the most important thing about his escape effort was that it gave him and his team a boost of confidence. The French squad has been struggling for results so far this season, and Dessel, the outfit's main hope at this Tour, has doubted even his own abilities.

    Dessel crashed during the Tour of California and hurt his back. Even though neither the crash nor the injury was serious, the Frenchman suffered a crisis in confidence. Without any wins this season, Dessel believes that this breakaway could be the beginning of better days to come.

    "It's true that I gained some confidence back, and I am in good physical shape," he said. "In the Dauphiné, things didn't turn out as I wanted, and I think I was a little tired. We had changed my racing schedule a bit, and I think that had some consequences. Now, I feel well, and catching the right break today was a good thing. For me, personally, but also for the team. Now, we will be able to continue this Tour feeling a little more...

  • Jurgen Van De Walle out of Tour

    Jurgen Van De Walle (Quick Step)
    Article published:
    July 05, 2009, 20:44 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Quick Step rider crashes out on stage 2

    The Tour de France lost its first rider of the race Sunday evening when Jurgen Van De Walle was forced to pull out after crashing during stage 2.

    The Quick Step rider hit the deck after 35 kilometres and was immediately taken to hospital in Marseille where he was diagnosed with a punctured right lung and a fractured left collar-bone.

    Quick Step’s press manager Alessandro Tegner described what happened: "There was something in the road, maybe a rock, and Jurgen was the first rider to go down. He landed hard as the peloton was going pretty fast."

    The rider will remain in hospital for further observation.