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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 16, 2011

Date published:
July 16, 2011, 1:00 BST
  • Nothing to be done against Hushovd, says Moncoutié

    David Moncoutie (Cofidis) couldn't handle Thor Hushovd's surge in the closing kilometres and crossed the finish line in second place behind the Norwegian.
    Article published:
    July 15, 2011, 21:00 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Frenchman takes second place in Lourdes

    David Moncoutié (Cofidis) admitted that there was little to be done against Thor Hushovd's (Garmin-Cervélo) show of power in the finale of stage 13 of the Tour de France at Lourdes on Friday.

    With 3 kilometres still to race, Hushovd and Moncoutié were closing in on lone leader Jeremy Roy (FDJ), and a three-man sprint was anticipated. The world champion had other ideas, however, powering away from Moncoutié and then blasting immediately past Roy to seal stage victory. Moncoutié himself also passed Roy in the finale to come home 10 seconds down on Hushovd.

    Leaning against the barriers after the finish, Moncoutié explained that while Hushovd's attack was a surprise, waiting for the sprint would only have delayed the inevitable.

    "In a finale like that I knew that weren't too many ways for me to win," Moncoutié told Cyclingnews. "Tactically it was difficult with a man like Hushovd, and when he attacked in the end I couldn't follow him, he was too strong."

    Hushovd's show of strength had begun on the Col d'Aubisque, when the hefty Norwegian was surprisingly the first attacker from the breakaway group on the lower slopes of the climb. While first Roy and then Moncoutié passed him, his performance on the Aubisque was enough to ensure that he was still in contention on the long descent to Lourdes.

    "He did well to take a bit of an advantage on the Aubisque, he was pedalling well," Moncoutié said. "I caught and passed him, but he's a very good descender and he came back to me."

    As the pair combined to chip away at Roy's lead, Moncoutié realised that their alliance of circumstance would have to come to an abrupt end once the road began to flatten out in...

  • Riis: Contador can change the Tour with a good day

    Albert Contador (Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    July 15, 2011, 22:12 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Spaniard can stay in contention even with average showing on Plateau de Beille

    On the eve of the second summit finish of the Tour de France, Saxo Bank Sungard manager Bjarne Riis has said that Alberto Contador does not necessarily need to take back time immediately if he is to win the race.

    Contador conceded 15 seconds to the group of overall contenders on the final haul to Luz-Ardiden on stage 12, and now lies over two minutes behind Leopard Trek's Fränk Schleck, with Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) and Cadel Evans (BMC) also ahead of the Spaniard.

    Speaking to reporters in Pau on Friday morning, however, Riis insisted that he was focused on his own rider rather than worrying about his rivals ahead of the tough stage to Plateau de Beille.

    "I think that the most important thing is where Alberto is. We'll see tomorrow," Riis said, adding that the Spaniard could repeat Thursday's sub-par display and remain very much in contention: "He might maybe lose 10 or 15 seconds again tomorrow but still be in the game."

    Since the opening weekend of the race, pundits have repeatedly pointed out that Contador still had several key mountain stages in which to recoup his losses, but Riis acknowledged that sooner or later his rider cannot wait indefinitely to go on the offensive.

    "We cannot say that every day," Riis said. "If Alberto had a bad day yesterday, when the good day comes then I believe the whole Tour will change again. But he needs a good day."

    While the precise state of the knee injury Contador sustained in the opening week of the Tour remains unclear, Riis was reluctant to speculate on whether the Spaniard would pay a price for the energy he expended at the Giro d'Italia in...

  • Gilbert goes on the attack for green jersey points

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) stayed away
    Article published:
    July 15, 2011, 22:56 BST
    Sam Dansie

    Cav's HTC-Highroad team attentive to Belgian champion

    Aggressive Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) took the fight for the green jersey to HTC-Highroad today in stage 13 of the Tour de France, but admitted that the squad's captain Mark Cavendish is looking good for the win in Paris.

    After the flag came down outside Pau, the Belgian national champion said his breakaway efforts were foiled and HTC-Highroad remained very attentive at the intermediate sprint 82.5km into the race when he tried to attack with about a kilometre to the line.

    Gilbert picked up just six points from the race today after he finally broke clear of the peloton on the descent of the Col du Soulor and finished in tenth place. Mark Cavendish picked up four points at the intermediate sprint.

    Asked if he thought he could muster more attacks in the coming days to win the win the jersey, Gilbert said: "I hope so. It cost me a lot of energy to fight against Cavendish and his team because they are really strong. They are looking good for the jersey. I am only with six points from today.

    "I was not feeling so good and used a lot of energy at the beginning of the stage to go in the breakaway so I felt a bit tired. [At the intermediate sprint] I thought maybe I could surprise them by coming from the back, but Bernhard Eisel was watching and he got on my wheel very quickly."

    The irrepressible Gilbert has launched continuous attacks in an attempt to take points from the bunch sprinters throughout the Tour.

    "I know how to handle my bike and it was a technical descent so from the top of the climb I decided to go full gas in the corners. I did and I took a good advantage from the bunch. Then at the bottom there was a headwind which was a big surprise because nobody told me over the radio. It was just really hard...

  • Evans brushes off ghosts of Plateau de Beille's past

    BMC rider Cadel Evans leads yellow jersey Voeckler in the final few kilometres.the
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 1:35 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Australian says stage defeat won't see him give up on Paris

    Cadel Evans (BMC) is predicting fireworks during Saturday's Tour de France stage to Plateau de Beille. The Australian currently sits 3rd on GC, 2:06 down on yellow but sandwiched between the Schleck brothers by a matter of seconds.

    "There will be fireworks tomorrow, don't worry," he said after a relatively calm stage for the GC contenders.

    "I think everyone is pretty tired from yesterday and tomorrow is a big day as well. It's a long final climb and a hard day and everyone is starting to race with less nervousness today."

    The Tour has climbed Plateau de Beille three times and on each occasion, the stage winner has gone on to claim the yellow jersey in Paris but Evans has already made it clear that he will be looking only towards Paris, ignoring any omens.

    "If I don't win tomorrow I'm not going to give up winning the Tour, put it that way. It's going to be a pretty important day and one of the key ones but we've still got a couple of others in the Alps so we'll see."

    Thursday's stage to Luz-Ardiden cemented Evans' credentials as a candidate for the yellow jersey after he matched the likes of Andy Schleck and Ivan Basso, put time into Alberto Contador and led the chase for Frank Schleck. However the Australian, who has twice finished second in the Tour, remained collected at today's finish in Lourdes, pointing out that a number of GC contenders were yet to hit their top form.

    "I think some guys are still improving like Samuel Sánchez and Ivan Basso so there will still be changes. It's not like it's going to be repeat of...

  • Video: Ben Swift's Pyrenean adventure

    Ben Swift (Sky) checks his bike
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 5:06 BST
    Cycling News

    Sky sprinter talks us through the crowds and the pain

    Ben Swift (Sky Procycling) got his first taste of the Pyrenees on stage 12, while his teammate Geraint Thomas spent much of the day on a daring escape only to be swallowed up by the peloton on the ascent to Luz-Ardiden.

    Swift finished the day in the grupetto, 33 minutes down in the winning time set by Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). The Brit was in good company though, with other noted fast men including Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel there with him.

    In this video, the 23-year-old explains that his first day on the real mountain passes of the Tour de France, gave him the opportunity to experience what the event was really all about.

    "It was good to get in the hills today and experience what the Tour de France is all about with the crowds," Swift said.

    "You just get on your bike and just ride now. I've got sore legs but everyone's got sore legs."


  • Video: Thomas won't change descending style after Hourquette d'Ancizan scare

    Geraint Thomas (Sky) was off the front for nearly the entire stage and would receive the most combative rider award.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 8:18 BST
    Cycling News

    Welshman revels in stage 12 breakaway

    Geraint Thomas had a few hairy moments on the descent of the Hourquette d'Ancizan, but the Team Sky rider says that it won't make him overly cautious when it comes to the high mountains of the Tour de France.

    The Welshman was speaking before the start of stage 13, following the day to Luz Ardiden, when he'd spent almost the entire stage away from the peloton.

    Asked how he was feeling, Thomas said he's come a long way since his Tour debut, four years ago with Barloworld.

    "I'm not too bad considering," he mused. "All I've got to do is think back to 2007 and I feel great...The stress of the first week is tiring, then obviously pedalling your bike and racing at the front is tiring as well."

    Thomas enjoyed a "great day out" on stage 12, where he along with Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun), Blel Kadri (Ag2R) and Jeremy Roy (FDJ) fought to move ahead of the main bunch.

    "I've climbed the big mountains at the Tour before but to be at the front was just phenomenal," Thomas recalled.

    However, the action for Thomas came on his descent of the Hourquette d'Ancizan where some mud on his back tyre caused a few scary moments.

    "Once I changed my bike and I got my head back I was alright," he explained. "I won't be doing anything different, I'll just descend like I always do. I always take care now but when I was a bit younger I used to throw caution to the wind a bit more – you go down fast but you definitely don't take too many stupid risks."

    Remarkably, the 25-year-old said he was unaware that there was a €5,000 prize for the first man to reach the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, letting Roy take the honours.

  • RadioShack shift focus to stage victories

    Not a good day for Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) as the German crashed on the descent of the Hourquette d'Ancizan.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 8:58 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Kloden's withdrawal leaves Bruyneel's squad with bare bones

    RadioShack will turn their attention to stage wins after their third potential GC leader, Andreas Klöden, abandoned the race on stage 13 to Lourdes. The 36-year-old German had been suffering from injuries after succumbing to multiple crashes in this year's race. After slipping off the back of today's bunch after an electric first hour of racing the German decided to throw in the towel.

    It leaves the American squad with just five riders in the race and although they still possess two riders who've cracked the top ten in previous Tours in Levi Leipheimer and Haimar Zubeldia, both are outside the top 10 with Leipheimer carrying wounds for his own tumbles from the first week.

    "Andreas tried and he wanted to start and thought that if he could get through today and tomorrow and even lose some time he could get better for the Alps and then try for a stage," said RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel.

    "It wasn't possible though. He was in too much pain and the pace was just too hard at the start of the race and he simply couldn't keep up with the peloton."

    Janez Brajkovic was forced to retire after suffering a concussion and broken collarbone in the fifth stage. Chris Horner left with a concussion and broken nose after stage eight and with Kloden and Yaroslav Popovych - who did not start stage 10 - Bruyneel's squad are down to the bare bones.

    "Levi and Haimear can both still ride a good GC but what's a good GC if you come and get 9th or 10th. That's not what we came here for but that's life.

    "From here on in we go for stage...

  • Valverde still looking for a team for 2012

    Alejandro Valverde prepares for the start.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2011, 10:15 BST
    Pierre Carrey

    Spaniard predicts victory won't be easy for Contador

    Alejandro Valverde's suspension ends at the end of this year and the disgraced Spaniard is actively negotiating with teams to restart his career. Several teams seem to be interested but the rider and his manager are being very discreet about exact details.

    Valverde told Cyclingnews there his decision depends on two criteria. "I want a team part of the WorldTour of course and to have the opportunity to race the biggest events", he explained.

    "But I need a friendly atmosphere too. The team is your second family and the riders should be real mates, not only on the bike but also when we meet for dinner and so on. Confidence is very important."

    Spanish media reported last week that Valverde was close to signing a three-year contract with Movistar, formerly sponsored by Caisse d'Epargne and where Valverde rode as a leader from January 2005 to May 2010. He trained alongside his former teammates last February at a training camp in Mallorca, and the team manager Eusebio Unzué has confirmed several times that he hopes to sign Valverde.

    However Cyclingnews understands that no deal has yet been done to ensure that Valverde joins Movistar.

    Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere admitted on Friday to Het Nieuwsblad that he was also chasing the Spanish rider. But he said his number one choice was Philippe Gilbert.

    "Many teams are interested both in Valverde and Gilbert and they will push the negotiations with Valverde once we know where Gilbert is going", one of Valverde’s entourage told Cyclingnews.

    The Spaniard’s ban for his involvement in Operacion Puerto ends on December 31.

    As a former suspended rider, Valverde won't be allowed to score UCI points for his team until 2014, according to new UCI rules. However several team managers believe it is worth signing him.

    "I've no doubts his level will be very similar [with that one before his suspension]", Unzué...