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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 18, 2009

Date published:
July 18, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Pellizotti takes Tour de France's mountains lead

    Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) worked hard all day and reigned in the rain to overtake Egoi Martinez (Euskatel-Euskadi)
    Article published:
    July 17, 2009, 21:53 BST
    Gregor Brown

    Eyes polka dot jersey in Paris

    If Franco Pellizotti's mad dash for minor points in Thursday's six lower category climbs seemed somewhat excessive, it all paid off when he moved into the lead of mountains classification at the Tour de France in Colmar on Friday.

    The Liquigas rider clawed out a mere seven points on the stage 12 run to Vittel to begin Friday's stage 17 points adrift of Egoi Martínez in that competition. But with higher mountains and more points on offer in stage 13, the 200km trip to Colmar was a much more important contest for the climbers.

    "We fought for all the mountain points. Egoi Martínez marked my wheel at all times," said Pellizotti, who lost one point to his foe on the day's second climb.  But he would soon get the better of the Spaniard on a cold and rainy climb up the Col du Platzerwasel. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider was distanced on the category 1 ascent and Pellizotti was able to move closer to the lead with nine valuable points for fourth place at the top.

    The 12 points Pellizotti took on the day's final climb, the Col du Firstplan, was enough to catapult him into the lead with 98 points to the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider's 95, and he ended his afternoon atop the podium draped in the white and red polka dot jersey. Now Pellizotti plans to carry that jersey to the race's end, July 26 in Paris.

    "It was a difficult day due to the weather, but I took the jersey. I have seen many famous riders wear it in the past, so to put it on now brings many emotions," said Pellizotti.

    Tomorrow's stage contains two lower-ranked mountains with fewer points, but Sunday's stage is a high-mountain stage with an 8.8-kilometre mountaintop finish, but the Italian is looking further down the road to the most important days for the mountains classification.

    "It will be a day for the favourites on Sunday, but Tuesday and Wednesday will be decisive."

    Both Tuesday and Wednesday's stages (Bourg-St-Maurice and Le...

  • Surgery successful for Leipheimer

    Levi Leipheimer crosses the finish line after being involved in a crash during the final kilometres of stage 12.
    Article published:
    July 17, 2009, 21:58 BST
    Gregor Brown

    American's loss weakens the team, says Armstrong

    The Astana team lost a valuable rider when American Levi Leipheimer had to abandon the Tour de France on Friday morning. A broken scaphoid bone in his wrist meant the Californian would spend his day having surgery rather than contesting the mountainous journey to Colmar.

    Doctors in the Hôpital Jeanne d'Arc in Dommartin-lès-Toul fitted a 22mm titanium Herbert Screw in the bone before sending Leipheimer on his way. He will return to the United States while his team finishes out the race, weakened by the loss of Leipheimer, who had been placed fourth overall before a crash on Thursday's stage ended his race.

    Lance Armstrong rued the loss of his teammate on Friday morning. "It is a serious blow to our team. We had a nice four-headed approach, now 25% of that is gone," said Armstrong. "Not only does it hurt us, but it helps the others in terms of morale, they will think the team has been weakened. It's unfortunate, but it's part of bike racing."

    Leipheimer crashed in the final moments of the 211.5-kilometre stage from Tonnerre to Vittel. It left him with multiple bruises and road rash on his back and hip, and a fractured bone in his wrist.

    "I am very disappointed, my wrist hurts a lot," said Leipheimer. "The disappointment does not compare to the pain of the Tour leaving me behind and my not being able to ride with my teammates."

    "We've had a big battle so far and we're the favorites and I wanted to be part of that. For sure I wasn't the biggest favorite, but it was a tactic that we could play. If I went up the road, the others would have had to chase. A day like today would maybe have offered possibilities for me."

    Astana will face one of its toughest tests on Sunday during the stage to Verbier. The stage ends with an 8.8-kilometre climb that could see Rinaldo Nocentini lose his overall lead. Astana is poised to take over the maillot jaune with Alberto Contador is second overall at six seconds...

  • Cork finale for Tour of Ireland

    Marco Pinotti (Team Columbia) was a deserving
    Article published:
    July 18, 2009, 10:22 BST
    Shane Stokes

    St Patrick's Hill will cap off three day event

    Following on from the recent announcement that the 2009 Tour of Ireland would be a three-day, rather than five-day race, organisers have provided more details about this year’s event. The previously-detailed 196 kilometre first leg to Waterford will be followed by a 196 kilometre stage to Killarney before the race concludes with a 184 kilometre race to Cork city on August 23rd.

    “We had to slim the race to three days in view of the economy and we have found a route that provides a real challenge for the teams,” said Event Organiser Alan Rushton. “It was important to ensure that each of the stages will be a proper challenge, given the quality of the field we have attracted to Ireland. It will also showcase Ireland as a fine holiday destination and I think in this respect too, the route will show the country off well." The main sponsor of the race is Failte Ireland, the Irish Tourist Board.

    “We will be issuing more details of the route next week,” he continued. “However we felt it was important to let people know about the start and finishing locations as soon as possible. Many fans have contacted race headquarters looking for information so they can make travel and accommodation plans.”

    Day one on August 21 will begin at the pre-race headquarters at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Powerscourt, Enniskerry and will cross Mount Leinster en route to Waterford. The next day the riders will line out in Clonmel and scale three categorised climbs before finishing in the centre of the tourist haven of Killarney.

    Last year the race ended with several ascents of the ferociously steep St. Patrick’s Hill, and this tough, crowd-thronged climb will return again in 2009. The Sunday stage will begin in Bantry and head along the coast to Cork city, where there will be several laps of the gruelling finishing circuit.

    “We are delighted to confirm that the last stage finishes on the same...

  • Roche says Contador should bide his time

    Stephen Roche knows all about power struggles within pro teams
    Article published:
    July 18, 2009, 10:30 BST
    Shane Stokes

    1987 Tour winner disappointed by stage 13

    Astana are playing down the talk of discord but Alberto Contador is in the uncomfortable situation of wanting to win the same race that his teammate, Lance Armstrong, is gunning for. Contador won the Tour in 2007, beginning a run which would see him complete the treble of Tour-Giro d'Italia-Vuelta a España in record time.

    Prior to that, Armstrong set his own record when he took seven-consecutive Tours de France. While both start the Tour on supposed equal status, the Texan's close relationship with general manager Johan Bruyneel and the dynamic of the team leads many to believe that Armstrong would be favoured if it came down to a straight tête-à-tête.

    Stephen Roche was in a similar situation in the 1987 Giro d'Italia, aiming to win the race despite the fact that his Carerra team clearly preferred that the flash Italian - and defending champion - Roberto Visentini came out on top. After losing the lead in a time trial, Roche threw down the gauntlet on the stage to Sappada and directly attacked the Maglia Rosa Visentini. The rebellion earned him the pink jersey but also a very tense final few days.

    Cyclingnews spoke to Roche on Friday, asking him what he would advise Contador to do as the race heads towards its big showdown. "Stay where he is," he answered. "The race will unfold itself. If I was in Contador's shoes the only thing I would be worried about is that Armstrong is basically an unknown quality because he has come back after retirement, he is 37 years of age. We also know from the past that he gets better as things go on. But if I was in Contador's shoes in Verbier, I would just let things unfold."

    While an attack by Armstrong would, in theory, require Contador to hold back – or otherwise declare all out war - Roche feels that the Spaniard has a stronger card to play, even if that attack transpires.

    "I think that if Armstrong goes up the road, he will be followed. Then of...

  • Freire responds to shooting incident

    Green jersey contender Oscar Freire (Rabobank) makes an adjustment to his saddle before a training ride.
    Article published:
    July 18, 2009, 12:08 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Rabobank expresses security concerns

    Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has spoken about the incident that saw him shot at during the Tour de France's stage 13. The Spaniard was descending the Cote du Platzerwasel in the peloton on Friday when he felt a stabbing pain in his thigh. Later during the stage Freire pulled a pellet, identified later as being fired from an air pistol, out of his leg.

    "It must have been the action of a madman," the three-time World Champion said Friday evening, according to “It is just bad luck that I was hit.”

    After the stage, Rabobank team doctor Dion van Bommel, tended the wound. Van Bommel is also a doctor in the Dutch army, and recognized the pellet as coming from an air pistol. "I am leaving in December for four months in Afghanistan," said Van Bommel on Friday evening. "There you expect such things, not here in the Tour de France."

    Freire's teammate, Juan Manuel Garate, said he heard three shots. Freire noted that at the time of the incident, “there was no spectators there. We were riding through a forest."

    Coincidentally, it was not the first time that Freire has been shot with an air gun while riding. The first time occured was when he was 16 years old and riding a motorcycle.

    His team is not taking the incident lightly. "We often laugh over cyclists such as Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong having bodyguards at the Tour with them," said team spokesman Luuc Eisenga. "But this is really frightening. A cycling is not completely secure, you can not have two hundred kilometers of barriers in place."

    The team reported the shooting to race organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), who refered the incident to French police. Freire had himself attempted to report the shooting the race jury during the stage, but was unable to communicate with the commissaires.

     “[I went to their car], but they did not understand me, apparently they did not speak Spanish or English. I...

  • Skil-Shimano renews Tour riders' contracts

    The Skil-Shimano team's four Dutch riders: Koen de Kort, Piet Rooijakkers, Albert Timmer and Kenny Van Hummel.
    Article published:
    July 18, 2009, 12:21 BST
    Richard Tyler

    Extensions for six riders

    Skil-Shimano announced on Friday that it has renewed the contracts of six riders who started for the team at this year's Tour de France.

    Dutchmen Albert Timmer, Piet Rooijakkers, Kenny van Hummel and Koen de Kort have all signed new deals, while German rider Simon Geschke and Frenchman Thierry Huppond have also agreed to extend their contracts.

    Rooijakkers, van Hummel and Koen de Kort will stay with the pro continental squad until the end of 2010. Huppond and Timmer have signed on for a further year, continuing with the team through 2011 and Geschke has confirmed until the end of next season, but has an option to extend into 2011.

    The Dutch team is currently racing in its first Tour de France after receiving a wildcard entry from race organiser, Amaury Sports Organisation.

    The team have had enjoyed mixed fortunes in the Tour so far. The team finished in last place in the stage 4 team time trial around Montpellier, in the losing Piet Rooijakkers in the process, who broke his arm in a crash during the stage. The team's luck turned around somewhat on stage 10, as Thierry Huppond claimed the combativity prize on Bastille Day, after taking part in a four man breakaway.

    At the start of stage 14 on Saturday Kenny van Hummel was still the Tour's lanterne rouge, last place on general classification, 2 hours and 16 minutes behind current leader, Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale).

  • Špilak allowed to remain in Tour

    Simon Spilak is great support for Ballan and Lampre.
    Article published:
    July 18, 2009, 12:54 BST
    Gregor Brown

    Officials overlook Colmar's time limit

    Simon Špilak considers himself lucky to start today's Tour de France stage to Besançon. He finished Friday's 13th stage to Colmar alone and outside the time limit, but race officials have allowed him to continue in the race.

    "On the descent of two climbs fans were on the road," he told Cyclingnews.

    Rain and cold temperatures made the Tour's 13th stage to Colmar more difficult for riders. The 200-kilometre stage covered two big climbs, the Col de la Schlucht and the Col du Platzerwasel.

    "He had to ride the last 100 kilometres on his own. His legs were just not going and it became worse when he encountered traffic and fans on the road," said Lampre team director, Maurizio Piovani.

    Špilak still feels sore from his two crashes in the stage from Girona to Barcelona, eight days ago. Although officials likely based their decision on the Slovenian encountering fans and traffic, rather than the 22-year-old's condition.

    "Afterwards, I thought: 'I have to finish the Tour,'" Špilak said.

    It is Špilak's second Grand Tour stage race after racing the Giro d'Italia in May. He finished yesterday's stage 45:45 behind winner Heinrich Haussler and is in 128th overall, one hour and 28 minutes behind leader Rinaldo Nocentini.

  • Spectator killed at Tour de France

    Article published:
    July 18, 2009, 14:42 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Two others injured in accident involving a Republican Guard motorcyclist

    A spectator was killed Saturday and two others injured in an accident involving a motorcyclist of the Republican Guard on the 14th stage of Tour de France between Colmar and Besançon. The victim, a 61-year-old woman, died in the hospital at Besançon.

    "A woman crossed the road and was hit by a Republican Guardsman on a motorcycle," Alain Etienne, a spokesman for the gendarmerie, told Reuters. "Then the motorcycle slid and hit one or two more people."

    Two injured spectators, a 37-year-old woman and a 60 year-old-man, were transported by helicopter to a hospital in Mulhouse, according to AFP.

    The accident occurred in Wittelsheim, 38 kilometres after the start of the stage.