- Article published:
- July 13, 2012, 15:50
- Barry Ryan
Second win in two days for Europcar
After a troubled start to the Tour de France, Pierre Rolland claimed Europcar's second stage win in as many days at La Toussuire on Thursday, following in the wheel tracks of his team leader Thomas Voeckler.
The darlings of the French public twelve months ago – when Rolland announced his arrival at world level and Thomas Voeckler spent a remarkable ten days in yellow – a shadow was cast over Europcar's fairytale on the eve of this year's race. As the Tour began in Liège, it emerged that the squad had been placed under investigation for suspected use of corticosteroids and intravenous vitamin solutions in 2011.
"At the beginning, I didn't pay any attention to the story, but I was affected when I was jeered during the prologue," Rolland said in his post-race press conference. "That evening I was depressed and I even thought of going home if the Tour was going to be like that, but the public was more supportive once we got to France."
Rolland, who had struggled with a knee injury earlier in the season, saw his general classification aspirations dented during the crash-littered opening week. The Frenchman quickly took the decision to focus exclusively on chasing stage victory, even if his efforts on Thursday saw him move up to 9th overall."
"Moving up a place or two on GC, from 10th to 9th and so forth, is important for WorldTour points, but in terms of racing, only the podium counts," he said. "When you're not looking to defend a placing, it means that you can take more risks to win stages."
Rolland duly infiltrated the early break, which formed ahead of the Col de la Madeleine, and thanks to his teammate Christophe Kern's pressing on the Col de la Croix de Fer, he was part of a four-man leading group as the final climb to La Toussuire began, alongside Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) and Vasili Kiryienka (Movistar).
It was familiar situation for Rolland, who took victory on a strikingly similar stage to l'Alpe d'Huez last year, dropping no less a figure than Alberto Contador in the process. The Frenchman repeated the dose here, jumping clear of his companions on the early slopes of the final ascent, and holding off the chasing yellow jersey group to claim the second Tour stage win of his career.
"It was a similar stage to l'Alpe d'Huez, a short stage but with long climbs," he said. "There were 60km of climbing in that stage last year, 70km this year. It was the most beautiful stage of the Tour."
Earlier, Rolland had fallen on the descent of the penultimate climb, the Col du Mollard, but mercifully, he was quickly back in the saddle. "I just thought of my mother and hoped she wasn't watching," he said. "I've had too much bad luck on this Tour to give up."
While Rolland's stage victory means that his Tour is already a success, he was optimistic about his chances of making a further impact later in the race, particularly given his experiences of twelve months ago. "From the stage win at the Alpe and working for Thomas [Voeckler], I learned that I was capable of going well in the third week," he said.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2012, 18:27
- Barry Ryan
Sagan strengthens grip on green jersey
The green jersey sits ever more securely on Peter Sagan's shoulders on Friday evening after Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) was docked 30 points when he was adjudged to have impeded the Liquigas-Cannondale rider in the bunch sprint for sixth place on stage 12 of the Tour de France.
After finishing three places ahead of Sagan in the intermediate sprint at Marcilloles, Goss had appeared set to cut his deficit in the points classification to 22 points but instead sees that gap stretch out to a hefty 56 as commissaires deemed him guilty of changing his line in the sprint and placing his colleagues in danger.
Although Goss won the sprint in Annonay, he deviated from his line in the final 100 metres, with a visibly aggrieved Sagan raising an arm in protest. The commissaires agreed with the young Slovak's interpretation of events and duly awarded him sixth place ahead of Goss. Indeed, Goss would have been relegated lower than seventh place had the judges not ruled that there was a one-second gap between the pair and the remainder of the peloton.
Speaking to reporters after he emerged from the Orica-GreenEdge bus shortly after the finish line, Goss had been informed that he would be relegated but was not yet aware of his 30-point penalty. He acknowledged that he had veered slightly from his line in the sprint, but felt that he did not deserve to be punished for an infraction, and instead felt that Sagan's reaction had exaggerated the incident to such an extent that the commissaires were alerted to take action.
"You guys be the judge," he said. "Look, I definitely moved, but I don't think I stopped his sprint at all. It was a bit of a combination - he had come into my wheel as I was moving left and most of the movement came from him trying to miss the wheel and then over-exaggerating. But I don't have to worry about it. The decision's been made."
A disappointed Goss wondered if the judges had paid too much attention to the overhead shot of the sprint, which he claimed provided a deceptive image of what had taken place. "It probably made it look a little worse than it probably was but if you look at it from the front angle it doesn't look all that close," he said. "It's just the overhead shot that's made it look a little bit worse."
As he spoke to reporters, Goss was under the impression that he had been relegated to the very back of the peloton, although the timekeepers subsequently confirmed his sense that it had been a two-man sprint for sixth place.
"I don't think there were any others really in the sprint, so I shouldn't be at the back of the peloton, but they are the rules and I don't make them," Goss said.
That Goss was relegated only to seventh place will only slightly soften the impact of his points deduction, and in any case, he was appears increasingly aware that he faces a Herculean task to dispossess Sagan, who holds such a commanding lead in the classification.
"I lost a lot of points," Goss said. "It's disappointing because there was a lot of hard work from the guys for me today, they rode a lot on the front. We got points in the intermediate but not in the end, and that's why it's disappointing."
As he drifted through the mixed zone after descending from the podium, Peter Sagan explained his visible annoyance at the finish line. "It was incorrect sprint," he said. "When I'm beaten normally, I can be angry but I keep it inside me. But when it's an incorrect sprint, it comes out."
Informed that Goss had been relegated, Sagan shrugged his shoulders. In spite of his tender years, Sagan is more than versed in the laws of the sprint jungle. "I heard that he was disqualified, but it's not my fault," he shrugged.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2012, 19:28
- Daniel Benson
Race-saving stage victory for Garmin-Sharp
While one British rider dominates the Tour for the first time, stage 12 to Annonay Davezieuz saw another turn back the clock, with David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) winning his first Tour de France stage since 2003.
The 35-year-old Garmin-Sharp rider formed part of the day's main break and used his experience and guile in the closing kilometres to take a memorable stage win. As for his team, which he partly co-owns, it was a race-saving day after the squad had lost Ryder Hesjedal and Tom Danielson in the opening week of racing.
Millar's win was a poignant moment for two other reasons. As an ex-doper, a tag Millar is rare to shy away from, the stage signified Millar's first individual Tour stage win since his comeback from suspension. And on the 45th anniversary of Tom Simpson's tragic death on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, Millar admitted that the win had more than the typical emotional significance.
"Yes I've won in the past but today is very special, it's the 45th anniversary since Tom Simpson's death and it's very emotional. It's also a symbol. I'm a rider who has made mistakes and I'm an ex-doper but I'm clean now and it's very important to show what you can do when you're a clean rider. That you can win races," he said.
Millar's career, with its bright start at Cofidis, followed by the drugs and then his second chance, has stood out as one of the most important chapters in cycling's recent past. Millar is a rider who broke the rules, learned his lesson and now is a clear advocate for clean sport and transparency.
"I don't think there's any point in hiding [the past]. The reason I was given a second chance was because I have a duty not to forget where I came from and to remind people of where our sport has been. I'm quite representative of our sport as a whole I think, so we're in a great place and the future is looking very rosy but I don't think we should forget the past."
As well as losing riders through crashes Garmin was also linked to USADA's investigation of Lance Armstrong and several other individuals from the former US Postal team. De Telegraaf published a story during the opening week of the Tour consisting of incorrect information and naming several current riders from Garmin as part of the witness list in the case.
When asked about the subject in his winner's press conference, Millar stressed that the racing aspects of the Tour had been the most challenging encounters for the team.
"We came into this race with Ryder Hesjedal who won the Giro, who won the Giro clean, and we're very proud of what we do as a team and for our sport. We came here five years ago with a mission to help change the sport and prove to people that it could be done different. We're transparent and profess that we're clean and I'm incredibly proud of my team. The reason it's been rough is because we lost Hesjedal, and Tommy D.
"We came here to get the podium on GC and win the teams classification so we've had to very quickly change our objectives and that's what has been tough for us. I think we've proved our character by not missing a break in the last five or six day, and today winning, and that's what I'm proud of."
- Article published:
- July 13, 2012, 20:16
- Cycling News
DS discusses team's GC ambitions, evolution of cycling since the '80s
The morning before stage 12 was dominated by the aftershocks from the previous stage when Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins defended his yellow jersey on the climb to La Toussuire. On paper, it was a successful stage for Wiggins and his Sky team. Time was gained on a number of rivals, including the defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC).
However, the stage brought up a potential spoke in the works when Chris Froome dropped his team leader, Wiggins, on the closing stages of the final climb. It was another indication of Froome's superior powers in the mountains and, despite waiting for Wiggins, Sky faced several questions relating to the team's hierarchy in the race.
Wiggins leads, with Froome now in second, 2:05 down, and at the team bus on Friday morning directeur sportif Sean Yates played down any talk of Froome assuming the mantle of team leader, emphasising that the team was in a ‘perfect position' and that gambling with the yellow jersey may not pay off.
"Our goal from the start has been to win the Tour. We're in the perfect position now," Yates said "We can't play the roulette, we need to be conservative and keep our cards in the right places.
"It's not the swashbuckling days of the '80s when Hinault was attacking left, right and centre."
In this video Yates talks about Sky's GC ambitions, how cycling has evolved since the 1980s and the commercialisation of the sport that has led to an affect on the tactics of racing.
- Article published:
- July 13, 2012, 22:02
- Barry Ryan
Tired legs for Frenchman on Col du Granier
There is no more daunting school for a young rider than the Tour de France and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) has had a wide range of lessons in his two weeks on the greatest race of all.
For the most part, Pinot has passed his tests with flying colours. He coped admirably with the pressures of riding in front of his home fans at La Planche des Belles Filles and then soared to a stylish victory at Porrentruy the following day.
That win prompted a crash course in the demands of an expectant French media, and while Pinot flagged slightly in the subsequent Besançon time trial, he lifted himself once again as the Tour entered the Alps, tilting nonchalantly at some lofty reputations on the road to La Toussuire.
On what seemed set to be a routine transitional day, however, Pinot suffered his most trying moment to date during the early exchanges of stage 12 to Annonay Davezieux. As Sky set a fierce pace to stifle the flurry of attacks on the 1st category Col de Granier, Pinot was among those riders jettisoned off the back of the peloton.
For once, the graceful climber appeared leaden-legged as the road veered upwards, and Pinot found himself two minutes off the back and suffering by the time he reached the summit of the Granier. Fortunately, his teammate Jérémy Roy was on hand to help guide him back to safety, and Pinot returned to the peloton as its urgency slackened on the long drop towards Saint-Cassien.
"I could feel yesterday's stage in my legs and I felt really bad early on," Pinot said after crossing the line alongside the main favourites in the peloton. "Luckily things calmed down and I was able to get back on.
"I had been hanging on as best I could before Jérémy Roy dropped back to give me a hand. After that, it was important to try and stay well-placed and to pay attention in the finale, and I managed to finish in the main group."
Such was the fearlessness with which he attacked on both the Col du Mollard and La Toussuire en route to second place the previous day, it was easy to forget that Pinot is just 22 years of age and the youngest rider in the Tour. Given that this is the first time he has tackled a race more than a week in length, it was inevitable that his precocity would begin to show at some point.
"It's the first time that I've done two consecutive weeks of racing so it's all a bit new for me," Pinot admitted. "I gave everything yesterday so I didn't have a lot left today. On top of that, I didn't sleep very well last night, so it was hard."
Young and carefree
As Pinot walked from his bus to his hotel in a baseball cap and with a backpack slung over his shoulder at La Toussuire previous evening, he had looked more like a student ambling home from a lecture than a man who had just outclimbed the yellow jersey of the Tour de France.
It was easy to understand, then, how Friday's L'Équipe had described him as the "definition of insouciance". But in reality, Pinot's attitude is perhaps more pragmatic than simply carefree, and in spite of his tender years, on stage 12 he held his nerve even as he encountered the dreaded jours sans.
"It was just a bit like the day after my win at Porrentruy [when he lost over five minutes in the time trial – ed.] I was tired because I'd done a nice race the day before and given everything," he said.
Pinot remains in 10th place overall, and just 1:54 off the white jersey of Tejay van Garderen (BMC). On Friday's evidence, Pinot's lack of Grand Tour experience may well be telling in the third week, but for now, the Frenchman is not looking more than one day ahead. "Tomorrow's stage to Cap d'Agde seems easy on paper but in reality it could be quite nervous," he warned. "It's a stage that could cause problems."
Before he pedalled off towards the FDJ-BigMat bus, Pinot was asked if he had been affected by the attention his stirring displays had earned him. "A little bit," he admitted. "I've been swarmed by the media and so on, and that does affect your recovery time a little bit." Another lesson learned, even if he might just have to get used to it.
- Article published:
- July 14, 2012, 00:10
- Jane Aubrey
Armstrong's former team manager facing lifetime ban
Former team manager of Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel will fight U.S. Anti-Doping Agency charges which allege he engaged in anti-doping rule violations.
"USADA can confirm that in accordance with the rules that are compliant with federal law and were approved by athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and all Olympic sports organizations, Mr. Bruyneel has requested to move forward in the process and have his case heard at an arbitration hearing, which can be open to the public," the Agency announced via a statement.
"As in all cases, during the arbitration hearing, all the evidence will be presented, witness testimony will be subject to cross examination and will be given under oath, and an independent panel of arbitrators will ultimately determine the outcome of the case."
On June 12, Bruyneel was informed that he was being charged with:
- Possession of prohibited substances and/or methods including EPO, blood transfusions and related equipment (such as needles, blood bags, storage containers and other transfusion equipment and blood parameters measuring devices), testosterone, hGH, corticosteroids, and masking agents.
- Trafficking of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, hGH, corticosteroids, and masking agents.
- Administration or attempted administration of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, hGH, corticosteroids, and masking agents.
- Assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up, and other complicity involving one or more anti-doping rule violations and/or attempted anti-doping rule violations.
- Aggravating circumstances justifying the period of ineligibility greater than the standard sanction.
Bruyneel faces a lifetime ban if found guilty.
The Belgian was Armstrong's team director in his career following his remission from cancer, beginning with United States Postal Service in 1999. Bruyneel, currently team director for RadioShack-Nissan, chose not to travel to the Tour de France in light of the charges but has stated his innocence.
"I have never participated in any doping activity and I am innocent of all charges," read a statement on Bruyneel's personal website on June 15. "I am dismayed that once again doping allegations have been raised against me, this time by USADA.
"Following a Department of Justice Grand Jury investigation, no charges were filed against me. It cannot be right that I or anyone else can be pursued from court to court simply because our accusers do not like the decisions made along the way and so attempt to find a court which will get them the result they want."
Earlier this week, three others named in the case - Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral (cycling team doctor), Dr. Michele Ferrari (cycling team consulting doctor) and Jose "Pepe" Martí (cycling team trainer) - received lifetime bans for their anti-doping rule violations.
- Article published:
- July 14, 2012, 02:07
- Barry Ryan
Sky manager downplays Froome acceleration
After Bradley Wigggins and Chris Froome got their wires crossed on La Toussuire on Thursday, speculation rapidly began to mount as to the possibilities of an internal leadership battle on Team Sky's Tour de France team.
Wiggins holds a commanding 2:05 lead over Froome at the head of the overall standings, but in spite of the yellow jersey's mastery in the time trial, Froome has appeared the stronger in the mountains. That sense was reinforced by events at La Toussuire, when Froome accelerated and Wiggins was briefly distanced from the group of favourites.
Speaking to reporters in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne before stage 12 on Friday morning, however, team principal Dave Brailsford insisted that there were no problems between Wiggins and Froome.
"We're very happy to have two riders of the quality of Bradley and Chris here," Brailsford said. "Everyone thinks it's a problem but I don't think that. Having the 1st and 2nd rider on the GC at the Tour de France isn't a problem. If we were 20th and 21st, we'd have a problem, but 1st and 2nd isn't a problem."
Wiggins lost contact with the group of favourites following Froome's sustained forcing a shade over 4 kilometres from the summit of La Toussuire. Froome was quickly ordered to relent via his radio earpiece, and when he sat up, Wiggins was able to safely latch back on to the group.
Brailsford dismissed the idea that Froome had looked to attack the yellow jersey and said that his subsequent acceleration within sight of the finish - which gained him two seconds by the line - had been an agreed tactic.
"If Chris wanted to attack, he would have continued until the summit but he didn't do that," Brailsford said. "In the final 500 metres he did attack but the two of them rode together until then. I think that everybody wants there to be a story, but there's no story."
Asked if he wanted to have two Sky riders on the final podium, Brailsford stressed that his sole aim was to hold the yellow jersey in Paris. "Right now, we're 1st and 2nd but the aim is to win the Tour de France above all," he said.
Media interest in a potential Wiggins-Froome leadership contest was whipped up still further when their respective partners appeared to argue about Froome's contribution via Twitter. Perhaps understandably, Brailsford was not keen to wade into that particular debate. "I'm not a marriage counsellor, I'm here to win the Tour de France," he said.
After he reacted forcefully to a press conference question concerning comparisons with US Postal and insinuations of doping aired on Twitter, Wiggins himself said that he was trying to ignore most of what was written in the media and on social networking sites, a stance supported by his manager.
"I don't think that's different from any leading global sports star, is it? If you read everything in the press and you spend your time reading Twitter then you're not doing your job," Brailsford told reporters. "Your job is to write the media, other people to read it and our job is to ride our bike and win a race."
Brailsford was succinct when asked what he would advise his riders regarding reading race coverage. "Ignore most of it, don't read it, that would be my advice," Brailsford said, before adding: "We're not here to read Twitter; we're here to win the race."
- Article published:
- July 14, 2012, 03:29
- Cycling News
Millar outwits Peraud for victory in Annonay Davézieux
David Millar won the fourth Tour de France stage of his career on Friday, and the first of this 99th edition for his team Garmin-Sharp on Stage 12.
Millar had been part of the five-man breakaway which took advantage of a heavily fatigued peloton following a tough few days in the Alps. Ag2r-La Mondiale's Jean-Christophe Peraud fought with Millar until the very end of the 226km stage, but the Scot's experience was evident as he outkicked the Frenchman to be first across the finish line.
Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins remains the overall leader.