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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 17, 2010

Date published:
July 17, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Contador lands psychological blow with Mende attack

    Alberto Contador (Astana) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) attack on the final climb.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 17:55 BST
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    Astana leader pulls back 10 seconds on Schleck

    Alberto Contador (Astana) was beaten by compatriot Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) on the runway above Mende but he gained ten precious seconds on Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank). More importantly he landed a physical and psychological body blow by proving that he could accelerate away from Schleck on the steep climb to the finish.

    Contador finished second behind Rodriguez, while Schleck came home in fifth place behind the ever-impressive Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and in the same time as Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank). The other overall contenders were all further back.

    Contador is now just 31 seconds behind Schleck as the pressure grows and the Pyrenees loom in the distance.

    "It's an important psychological blow. It's good to see your body responding like that after 210km of racing," said Contador, who won in Mende at Paris-Nice in both 2007 and this year.

    "This hill really suits me. My legs felt good but I didn't know whether to go for it or not. I was on Andy's wheel and saw him looking weak for a moment and so decided to go for it. I thought I'd attack to see how he was. I managed to gain a few seconds. So it was a good end to the stage.

    "It’s always good to get a gap of some kind. I thought I might gain more than 10 seconds. I felt it was up to me to take the attack to him today and that performance was very important today. It's a pity I couldn't cap it with the win."

    Contador seemed to shake his head at Rodriguez just before the final corner, as if there was to be no gentleman's agreement about who would win the stage. Contador wanted it as much as Rodriguez but the little Katusha climber had the speed to win it anyway.

    "It's always nice when a Spaniard wins, though it would have been better if it went to someone in our team," Contador admitted.

    "Vino did a great job getting into the break. It was very important having him there. We didn't have to...

  • Schleck longing for Pyrenees after Pistolero show

    Race leader Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) fights to limit his losses to Alberto Contador on the finishing climb.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 18:20 BST
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Yellow jersey predicts shoot-out with Contador in third week

    On stage twelve of the Tour de France to Mende, defending champion Alberto Contador took revenge for the time he lost on Andy Schleck last Sunday at Morzine-Avoriaz. After a long hot day on winding and hilly roads, the stage finished on the short steep climb towards the runway of Mende, where yellow jersey wearer Schleck could not follow Contador's acceleration. The Luxembourg rider wasn't on Contador's wheel when he attacked and he was unable to close him down. The gap between the two protagonists of the general classification is now down to just 31 seconds.

    After the stage, Schleck said that he was expecting to lose some time to his Spanish rival, claiming that the characteristics of the climb suited Contador.

    “I'm not disappointed,” said Schleck. “It was really tough and I suffered a lot today. I didn't feel good all day long and knew that the finish would be tough for me. I don't like this climb. I told my team that I would try all I can but that the climb doesn't suit me too much. The climbs in the Pyrenees suit me much better."

    "I wasn't surprised that I couldn't stay with Contador on this climb. Bjarne [Riis] warned me today that I shouldn't panic when I wasn't able to stay with Alberto when he attacked because the climb suited him much more. I think I did pretty good by losing only ten seconds.”

    “This finish didn't suit me because it's short and steep,” Schleck continued. “You come down after that long downhill. You're riding on the big ring and suddenly it's so steep. You don't have time to adjust to the rhythm. You can't compare it with a mountain pass. Its steep and short character makes it really hard.”

    As the final week approaches the tension is mounting, but Schleck is confident that he will be in yellow for some time yet. “I bet he's nervous and I'm of course also nervous because I still have to take time on him. I enjoy it every time that I climb the...

  • Rodríguez now has his sights on the GC

    Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Katusha) wins the biggest race of his career
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 19:45 BST
    By:
    Peter Cossins

    Spanish climber was confident he would beat Contador

    Joaquin Rodríguez stated before the Tour de France that his goals were to win a stage and finish as high up on GC as he possibly could. Both were lofty objectives for a Tour debutant, even one as experienced as the 31-year-old Catalan, but his stage 12 victory at Mende achieved one of those goals and also set him well on the way towards the second as he moved up to eighth place overall and marked himself out as one of the riders to watch in the Pyrenees.

    Always an effervescent character, Rodríguez was beaming even more broadly than usual after outsprinting Alberto Contador for the stage win in Mende. Although the pair was seen talking as they raced towards the finish, Rodríguez denied there was any collusion between them. In fact, he admitted he was confident he would beat his compatriot. "I knew it was a great opportunity for me because I was sure that I was faster than him in the sprint," he said.

    "I knew the climb well because I did Paris-Nice and then I came back to do a reconnaissance later on, so that I knew it even better. Today I rode it perfectly. I knew that the best thing was to hold back before making an attack, and then I had to hold on when Contador came across and attacked me. That's what I managed to do and I was able to beat him."

    Having spent his career up to this year working as a super domestique for ONCE's stars and then for the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Pereiro and Karpets at Caisse d'Epargne, Rodríguez has thrived in his new role as a leader at Katusha. "I've had a great year. The move to a new team has been marvelous for me. I feel really at home at Katusha. I worked really hard for the Tour, which was my main objective of the season, and the period leading up to his race has gone perfectly for me," he said.

    His aim now is to keep that form going into the crucial final week of the race. "Initially the most important thing was to get that stage win. Now that I've done it...

  • Farrar out of Tour de France

    Tyler Farrar (Garmin Slipstream) is interviewed
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 20:23 BST
    By:
    Richard Moore

    Garmin-Transitions sprinter out through injury

    Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) finally conceded defeat in his battle to stay in the Tour de France during Friday's twelfth stage.

    Farrar has ridden with a broken wrist since a crash on stage two, and even managed third in the bunch sprint on Thursday, but he packed mid-stage after being dropped early in the company of Lars Boom (Rabobank).

    When he was then left behind by Boom he climbed off. "Even if he'd kept going he'd have missed the time limit," said his team director, Matt White.

    Farrar said: "I am devastated to leave the Tour and my teammates. You never want to leave any race, but especially the Tour. It's the event we work for all year. I've been suffering since my crash on stage two and today the pain was just too much."

    White explained that, while Farrar could overcome the pain to sprint, he paid for the effort the following day. "Sprints are easier for Tyler to get through because the adrenaline in that situation helps mask the pain.

    "Today was the hardest day of the race so far and the kind of climbing and descending these guys did is incredibly painful for an injury like Tyler's. Having to brake on the descents is probably the most painful thing to do with a broken wrist.

    "We're obviously sad to see him go but, at the end of the day, his health comes first. Tyler won't be able to heal until he goes home and rests and that's what he'll do from here."

    White said that Farrar would ride the Vuelta a España, with his focus on the world championships in late September. "The world champs course is super for him," he said, "so that's definitely a goal."

    Jonathan Vaughters, the team's CEO, noted that the team has lost three riders, and suffered at least as many broken bones. "We may not have luck on our side at the moment but we have a team of great, tough riders who will continue to be competitive here," said Vaughters.

    As to the team's revised priorities, having lost its...

  • Hushovd views Petacchi as main rival for green

    Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) is back in the green jersey.
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 21:15 BST
    By:
    Peter Cossins

    Cervélo sprinter takes back the points jersey from Lampre rival

    Long breaks through mountainous terrain are becoming a speciality for Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam). Last year he earned vital points in his green jersey battle with Mark Cavendish with a long escape through the Alps on the stage to Le Grand Bornand.

    Earlier in this race he gained some more useful points when he got in the early escape on the road to St Jean de Maurienne, and he was at it again on stage 12 to Mende, where the 10 points he earned at two intermediate sprints gave him an advantage of six over Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini).

    "It was a good move today," said the Norwegian champion. "My legs felt good this morning but I was also feeling a bit angry after the stage yesterday because it wasn't a clean sprint."

    The Cervélo rider admitted he may try the same tactic again on the stages still to come, and insisted breaks through the mountains are very much part of his make-up as a rider. "I don't think I'm a true sprinter like Cavendish. I think I more of an all-round rider, someone who rides well on all kinds of terrain, and I think that's why I won the green jersey last year. I think I can win it the same way this year but we're a long way from that yet."

    Although he refuses to count Cavendish out of the battle for the points title, his focus is very much on Petacchi. "If we all get through the Pyrenees it will be interesting. But I'm thinking more about Petacchi than Cavendish, because there's only a few points between us and he's extremely fast in the sprints and can get over the small climbs. He's the one rider I'm really afraid of now."

  • Leipheimer fights to defend sixth overall

    Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) climbs alongside Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas - Doimo).
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 22:00 BST
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    Armstrong sits up on final climb and loses 3:35

    Lance Armstrong eased up on the steep climb to the Mende aerodrome, finishing 3:35 behind Joaquin Rodriguez and Alberto Contador, but it was still a good day for Team RadioShack, with Andreas Klöden in the break of the day and Levi Leipheimer fighting strongly to defend his sixth place overall.

    Klöden's seventh place, eleventh by Leipheimer and seventeenth place from Chris Horner also secured RadioShack the team prize for the stage and moved them up to first place in overall team classification, 21 seconds ahead of Caisse d'Epargne.

    Armstrong did not talk to media at the finish. His hotel was right at the foot of the steep final climb and after crossing the line, he quickly turned around and rode back down the course, leaving his bodyguards and his special team car (dubbed Air Force One) beyond the finish line.

    Leipheimer finished 11th on the stage, 17 seconds behind Rodriguez and Contador, and fought hard to hang onto Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who is one place behind him in the overall standings. The American climber lost two seconds to the lanky Dutchman at the line but is still 21 seconds ahead overall.

    Leipheimer also lost seven seconds to Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma) and is now 35 seconds behind the promising young Flemish rider, who is fifth overall.

    "I was just cross-eyed. I saw Alberto go and there was no way I could follow him," Leipheimer said.

    "Unless you're the best guy, you always have to pace yourself. Even Andy Schleck was pacing himself today. It just comes down to getting to the top of the hills as fast as you can, whether that's by finding a wheel or making a jump at the end. I actually lost a couple of wheels and blew up a little bit."

    Leipheimer and all the overall contenders have used the last two days to recover from the huge efforts they made in the Alps. However, Leipheimer admitted he felt a little blocked up after two days riding within his...

  • Procycling's daily Tour de France dispatch - stage 12

    Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Katusha) outsprints Alberto Contador (Astana)
    Article published:
    July 16, 2010, 22:09 BST
    By:
    Procycling

    Purito, Cavendish, Holm, Lloyd, Thomas

    Cool runnings for Rodriguez

    Pro cyclists are not keen on the chills that can often be the result of air conditioning but are also determined to have a good night's sleep. So what to do when the temperatures in your hotel room are uncomfortably warm and the air con must remain out of bounds?

    At the Ibis in Valence the solution for Katusha's riders was to wedge their team issue running shoes in the door and allow the air in from the cooler climes of the corridor. It clearly had the desired effect as a very perky Joaquin "Purito" Rodríguez zipped clear for victory at Mende (right).

    Aldag's fear for Cavendish

    HTC-Columbia chief Rolf Aldag said this morning that his frustration at Mark Renshaw's exclusion from the Tour is compounded by a fear that "one of these days, someone will knock Cav off his bike".

    Bemoaning the lack of sanctions for Garmin's Julian Dean after yesterday's controversial finish, Aldag said he is "terrified" that opposing teams and riders will increasingly resort to force and skulduggery to stop his star sprinter.

    Meanwhile, those with long memories recalled that the last sprinter to receive his marching orders from the Tour was Tom Steels for throwing a bottle at Fred Moncassin in Marennes in 1997. The winner that day? Aldag's mate and Cavendish's coach Erik Zabel...or rather it would have been had Zabel not been disqualified for irregular sprinting.

    Jeroen Blijlevens, himself booted out in 2000 for scrapping with Bobby Julich, was the man left holding the bouquet.

    Holm, sweet home

    Another member of the HTC-Columbia management, the Dane Brian Holm, has been keeping busy after stage finishes at the Tour. The other day, after Andy Schleck's victory at Avoriaz, Holm returned to the HTC hotel in Morzine, pulled on a pair of pumps and ran straight back to the finish-line, some 13 kilometres and 800 metres in...

  • Reactions from the Tour's 12th stage

    A beaming Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) on the podium for his stage win.
    Article published:
    July 17, 2010, 5:00 BST
    By:
    Cycling News

    A frantic journey to a brutal final climb

    Joaquin Rodriguez (Team Katusha) - stage winner, eighth overall @ 4:58: "I am very pleased with this success, because the first victory in the Tour is a unique emotion. I'm in optimal condition and even today the feelings were good.

    When I arrived at the GPM with Alberto Contador, I realised that I could keep his pace well and, in some instances, I felt even more brilliant than he. At that point, I gained confidence and by anticipating him, I won this fantastic victory.

    Now that I've broken the ice, winning my first Tour stage, in the following staegs I'll try and race for the best overall result possible. I thank my teammates for the wonderful support and [Andrei] Tchmil for the trust that he has always shown me, giving me the opportunity to race a single event like the Tour.

    Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) - abandoned during the stage: I am devastated to leave the Tour and my teammates. You never want to leave any race but especially the Tour. It's the event we work for all year.

    I've been suffering since my crash on stage two and today, the pain was just too much. I couldn't push through. I wanted to get to Paris more than anything. Instead, I'll be watching my teammates from home. That's not where I want to be.

    But I know they'll continue to make us proud, and I'll be cheering louder than anyone. I want to thank them again now for everything they've done for me.

    Alberto Contador (Team Astana) - second on stage, second overall @ 31 seconds: It's always good to get [time] differences, although it is better to get more. They [Saxo Bank] still have the responsibility to the race and have the need to attack.

    The Pyrenees are very important, because it means that the legs respond well, and that's the most important. Andy wasn't moving when I made the jump [in the finale]. He is a very ambitious rider so that could be a sign of weakness.

    I tried [to...