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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 11, 2009

Date published:
July 11, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Wiggins surprises many on the Tour climbs

    Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) cracked the top 10, finishing 7th.
    Article published:
    July 10, 2009, 19:22 BST
    Richard Moore

    A lighter Wiggins mixes it up with the GC favourites

    For many, the revelation of the Tour's first stage in the mountains was Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream). As he sat on the tailgate of a team car after the finish, Wiggins himself said he wasn't surprised to be climbing alongside the favourites for overall victory and even attacking 300m from the finish line of stage seven.

    "I've been saying all along that I knew I had the physical capabilities to go well here," said Wiggins, who is fifth overall. "I proved in the prologue I had the climbing legs. I've ridden a near perfect race so far, except for that one day [stage three] when we got caught with our pants down.

    "I felt great on the climb," he said. "I was trying not to get too excited because it is only the first day in the mountains, and I will get tired as race goes on. I didn't want to get carried away. But I said to Christian [Vande Velde, the Garmin-Slipstream leader] that I was still at his aid when he wanted me. It got hard toward the end but everyone was hurting.

    "I'm really pleased," he added. "I've worked my arse off for this."

    That can be taken literally, with Wiggins citing his weight loss - he is six kilograms lighter than when he last rode the Tour, in 2007 - as a major factor in his newfound climbing ability. "I've finally switched," he said, "from world class rider track rider to becoming a roadie.

    "My goal was top twenty on GC," said Wiggins. "That remains the goal and Christian is still the leader. I've never been in this position. I think I can get through the Pyrenees in good condition, then it's the Alps. That's the big thing for me, to see how I get through the third week. I'm not saying 'I'm going to do this or that', but I'm in the form of my life, so I'll just keep plugging away."

    As for Contador's attack, Wiggins said, "I think everyone had the fear of god when he went, because it's Alberto. Everyone went, [I] better not go with Alberto. And it was a headwind. Lance looked like he had...

  • Contador's attack not part of Astana plan

    Alberto Contador (Astana) riders into second place on general classification.
    Article published:
    July 10, 2009, 20:15 BST
    Richard Moore

    Armstrong not surprised, however

    Though they both race in the colours of Astana, Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador continue to be more convincing as rivals than teammates.

    As he recovered at the summit finish to Friday's seventh stage, Armstrong dropped another hint or 10 that he and Alberto Contador, who attacked his group with 2 kilometres remaining, are racing to different agendas.

    Asked if Contador's move had been pre-arranged, Armstrong said, "That wasn't really to the plan, but I didn't expect him to go by the plan, so [it was] no surprise."

    Astana was prominent as stage seven saw the Tour enter the mountains, assuming responsibility for chasing down the break, with Armstrong sitting comfortably close to the front, Contador on his wheel. The order from team director Johan Bruyneel, said Armstrong, had been to "chill out a bit, slow down," as they climbed to the finish at Andorre Arcalis, even though Armstrong - or indeed Contador - had a good chance of taking the yellow jersey.

    As it turned out, Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) claimed the lead by just six seconds, with Contador moving up to second, Armstrong to third, just two more seconds behind his teammate. Missing out on the jersey was no bad thing, suggested Armstrong, since it was "better to preserve the team a little.

    "Like I said, I wasn't surprised [by Contador's attack, but] it was windy, so it was hard to be alone in the wind," continued Armstrong.

    "When you've got a guy away, like I've said all along, my obligation is to the team. You've got to stay on the wheels. [Andy] Schleck put in some good moves, Cadel [Evans] put in some good moves, Wiggo [Bradley Wiggins] at the end put in a good move."

    Armstrong confirmed that he is climbing better than he was at the recent Giro d'Italia. "I have a lot better legs than at the Giro, that was to be expected." But the climb - and the headwind - may have been a factor in keeping the main group largely intact. "It's not a very...

  • Competition: Win a Felt F2 SL road bike

    Enter to win this Felt F2 SL road bike.
    Article published:
    July 10, 2009, 22:11 BST
    Daniel Simms

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  • Brice Feillu reveals talent

    Stage winner Brice Feillu (Agritubel) made France proud.
    Article published:
    July 10, 2009, 23:11 BST
    Hedwig Kröner

    First pro year, first victory – and what a beautiful one it is

    In the press conference after stage seven to the ski station of Arcalís, the young Agritubel rider was speechless. Brice Feillu, 23 years of age, had won the first mountain stage of this year's Tour in his first season as a professional rider, and didn't realise it at all.

    After spending the day in a breakaway, the younger of the Feillu brothers was able to distance his rivals in the last few kilometres of the final climb, and the overall favourites' group around the Astana team did not come back on them as expected.

    There are a lot of "firsts" in this story: first pro season, first Tour de France, first mountain stage, first victory. On top of all that, Feillu took the polka dot jersey of best climber - no wonder he was overwhelmed. "This stage win is great... it hasn't sunk in at all," Feillu said when he recovered his voice.

    The Agritubel rider, not to be mistaken with his older brother Romain Feillu, escaped the bunch early on in the stage together with eight other riders. As they powered through the Pyrenees, their advantage over the bunch was sufficient to make them reach the foot of the final climb with a considerable lead.

    With five kilometres to go, Feillu attacked his breakaway mates. "There was sort of a dead moment, and I thought that this was the right moment to attack," he explained. "I believed I had a chance, as it was a finale to my taste."

    The stage winner got a 10-second gap over the remainder of the break, namely Christophe Kern (Cofidis) and Johannes Fröhlinger (Milram), but also Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R), who took the yellow jersey. "With four kilometres to go, the gap was still the same. Then, it increased about ten seconds every kilometre, but in the last kilometre, it went down again and I got really frightened. I really dug deep then."

    Feillu already scored many victories in the amateur ranks, but he was overwhelmed as he realised he was going to win a stage of the Tour de...

  • Euskaltel headed towards home turf

    Mikel Astarloza feels at home in the mountains.
    Article published:
    July 10, 2009, 23:19 BST
    Hedwig Kröner

    "Everything still possible" for Astarloza

    With the Pyrenees coming up on the Tour de France route this weekend, the Basque team of Euskaltel-Euskadi will be gearing up to ride into the limelight on its home roads. Already present in the break en route to Barcelona with young gun Amets Txurruka on Thursday, and in Friday's escape with Egoi Martinez, the orange squad's most important Tour days are coming up.

    "For us, the next days in the Pyrenees are really important," the team's leader Mikel Astarloza told Cyclingnews. "All of our supporters are waiting for us now, and that makes it very special. We will try to show ourselves and go for results, be that a stage win or a good placing for the general classification for myself."

    Astarloza is the team's captain, aiming at a good overall result. He finished ninth in the Tour last year, and hoped to be up with the best once again. "I feel well," he said. "Compared to the other overall contenders, everything is fine for the moment."

    Astarloza crashed twice in Thursday's rainy and slippery stage to Barcelona, and was afraid this might be a disadvantage on the way to Arcalís today. "I knew it was going to be a dangerous stage for me today. I hurt all over... But I'm happy as I managed to get through it quite well and didn't lose a lot of time. I'm not very far away of the favourites." He finished 26th in Andorra and now sits in 32nd position on the general classification.

    Still, he was hopeful with respect to the other leaders. "We saw that some of the leaders were very strong, and other lost some time. I begin to assess my rivals. Within the GC guys, I'm average. There are the real favourites in front of me, and some other favourites behind me. Everything is still possible."

    The Euskaltel squad rode the stages through the Pyrenees one month ago, and "knows all the roads really well."

    "I want to achieve a good overall placing, and maybe win a stage. But more importantly, I want to take advantage of...

  • Fröhlinger's greatest success is bitterweet

    Johannes Frohlinger and Rinaldo Nocentini racing toward the end of stage seven.
    Article published:
    July 10, 2009, 23:22 BST
    Hedwig Kröner

    First pro victory soon to come?

    Johannes Fröhlinger of the Milram squad showed on Friday in Arcalis that even though he is relatively unknown, he might soon be a force to be reckoned with for stage wins. The young German placed third on stage seven to Arcalis, after already working hard to prepare Gerald Ciolek's sprint up the Subida de Montjuic in Barcelona on Friday.

    Fröhlinger had spent a lot of energy, but he still jumped in the breakaway in the Tour's very first mountain stage and looked good until the end. Only the Frenchmen Brice Feillu (Agritubel) and Christophe Kern (Cofidis) were a tad stronger - which obviously bummed the German as he recovered his spirits in the finish.

    "It's a bittersweet feeling right now, because I wasn't too far away from the victory," he told Cyclingnews. "But a third placing is also a really great success for me. I just feel so crushed right now - it's so surreal. I still have to realize it."

    The Milram rider, a mere helper to the team's captains Linus Gerdemann and Gerald Ciolek, was surprised that the breakaway wasn't caught. "I thought that it would be very tight. I don't know what the situation behind me was. With five to six kilometres to go, it became clear that we would stay away. And in the last three kilometres, I realized I was going to be able to contend for the win."

    Riding his first Tour de France, the 24-year-old was proud to have made it into the limelight. "This is definitely the greatest result of my career so far. I also got second last year in one stage of the Giro - I'm still chasing that first pro victory!"

  • Nocentini has the day of his life at Tour

    Italian Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) celebrates on the podium.
    Article published:
    July 11, 2009, 12:09 BST
    Gregor Brown

    First Italian in Tour's yellow since Elli

    Italy's Rinaldo Nocentini became the surprise race leader of the Tour de France yesterday in Andorra. He claimed the prestigious yellow jersey from Swiss Fabian Cancellara after his daylong escape group succeeded up the Arcalís climb.

    "I thought it would remain only a dream. Instead, today is the most beautiful day of my life," he said of the race leader's yellow jersey, or maillot jaune.

    Nocentini (team AG2R), 31, started the day in 32nd and 3:13 behind Cancellara in the overall classification. He formed part of a nine-man escape group at 34 kilometres into the 224-kilometre stage from Barcelona to Arcalís. Being the first mountaintop finish of the 2009 Tour de France, he was not thinking about taking over the race lead.

    "I wanted to make the escape, but it was never in my mind to take the yellow jersey. I thought it was possible to arrive with an advantage and fight for a stage win, but not the race lead."

    Behind their escape, race favourites fought to defend themselves against an attack by Alberto Contador. Contador is now second overall at six seconds behind Nocentini.

    There are two more days before the rest day in Limoges. Both days include climbs over 2000 metres in elevation, but lack mountaintop arrivals like yesterday.

    "The team has Vladimir Efimkin as a captain," said Nocentini. "I will try to defend the jersey, but I did not come here to try to win the Tour. I will try to keep it as long as possible, in these next two days and then to the rest day. Then, there are still two more weeks to try for a stage win."

    Nocentini has won 12 races in his 11 years as a professional, including the Méditerranéen Tour's Mont Faron in 2007 and a stage at the Tour of California this year. He is the first Italian to take the leader's yellow jersey since Alberto Elli in 2000. Elli took the lead in Tours and kept it for four days, when Lance Armstrong took over.