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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 24, 2010

Date published:
July 24, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • On the start line in Salies-de-Bearn

    Bert Grabsch (HTC-Columbia) gets ready for a hard day in the saddle and hopefully another stage win from teammate Mark Cavendish
    Article published:
    July 23, 2010, 15:42 BST
    Cycling News

    Photos from stage 18 of the Tour de France

    After yesterday's showdown in the stage ending atop the Col du Tourmalet between Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Alberto Contador (Astana), racers were set for a more moderate 198km day on Friday for stage 18 from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux.

    The pan-flatlands of Les Landes into Bordeaux are hosting the Tour for the 80th time. It's the race's most visited location outside Paris and has a long reputation for epic bunch sprints. The long, straight finish on the Quinconces quayside is ideal for a mass finish, although you have go back to Tom Steels in 1999 to find the last sprint win here.

    It's expected that the overall contenders will want to stay out of trouble and save energy with tomorrow's time trial, the race's penultimate stage, in mind.

  • Cavendish dedicates win to Renshaw

    Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) on the podium
    Article published:
    July 23, 2010, 18:58 BST
    Peter Cossins

    Manxman also reveals that a fever almost forced him to abandon in Pau

    It says a huge amount about Mark Cavendish’s tenacity and sprinting ability that he not only won the bunch sprint into Bordeaux, but did so only hours after considering abandoning the Tour de France. “I didn’t know whether I’d be starting today when I got up this morning,” the HTC-Columbia sprinter revealed in Bordeaux. “I’ve been sick for the four days in the Pyrenees. I had bronchitis that wouldn’t go away. During last night I got a fever and I thought it was over for the Tour.”

    He continued: “But having a team like this is a luxury for a team leader. Bernie [Eisel] delivered me to the final kilometre to perfection and I moved from train to train smoothly from there. When Petacchi went with 275m left I thought, ‘Bollocks, I’ve left this too late.’ He got a really good jump on me, but I’m really happy with how well I responded. I was lucky that he went to the left as the wind was coming from the left and that made my job easier. It meant that I could come by him on the right and get some shelter from him, which played in my favour.”

    Cavendish dedicated the win to team-mate Mark Renshaw, who was thrown off the race after the headbutting incident in Bourg lès Valence on stage 11. “It’s more difficult sprinting without Mark as he makes my job really easy. He takes me to 200m in first place and I just have finish off the job. But I’m lucky that we’ve got other guys who were able to set me up in the last kilometre.

    “But I’ve missed Mark in other ways too. I’ve missed having someone around suffering more than me in the Pyrenees. I’ve missed having someone in my room who I can have a laugh with about how hard this race is. So this win is for him.”

    Asked if his win had been as easy as he had made it look, Cavendish replied: “It’s hard to know how big the gap is. I am just going...

  • Hushovd's quest for green jersey over

    A tired looking Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) finished 30 minutes behind Schleck but kept the green points jersey.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2010, 19:10 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Norwegian concedes defeat in points classification

    It turned out to be a most disappointing day for Thor Hushovd. The Norwegian sprinter led the points classification in the Tour de France but failed to hold on to the green jersey during the eighteenth stage from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux in the south-west region of France. Hushovd finished in a poor fourteenth place thus losing a massive fourteen points on Alessandro Petacchi who finished third in Bordeaux.

    The gap between Petacchi and Hushovd is now ten points in the favour of the 36 year-old Italian. Ten points is not an impossible deficit for Hushovd to make up but he simply doesn't seem to have the punch to defeat Petacchi in a direct duel. Hushovd missed a lot of competition and high-level bunch sprints due to illness this season, which could be the reason for his lack of acceleration in the bunch sprints.

    A few minutes after the end of the stage the Norwegian came out of the team bus and stated that the battle for the green jersey was over for him. “It's finished for the green jersey; it's over. I lost too many places today. I didn't do a good sprint. It was very hard today with the headwind,” Hushovd said. Though the green jersey seems to be out of reach for Hushovd he hopes to finish the Tour de France on a high note. “I want to do a good sprint on the Champs Elysées. If I can do that I'll leave the Tour happy with my performance,” Hushovd said.

  • Petacchi retakes green jersey

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) liked green so much he took the jersey back.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2010, 19:29 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Italian focused on winning points competition despite doping accusations

    Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) was unable to match Mark Cavendish's late burst of speed on the banks of the Garonne in Bordeaux but the Italian veteran made sure he finished third and so took back the green jersey from Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam), who was only a distant fourteenth.

    Petacchi scored 26 points for third place and so now leads Hushovd by ten precious points.

    With just the stage to Paris suited to the sprinters, he is now widely expected to win his first green jersey of his career. Petacchi revealed that he is ill but said he will fight for every point on the Champs Elysees.

    "It's a huge satisfaction to get the green jersey again but I've been taking antibiotics for three days and I'm riding on my knees. I'm both very tired and ill," he said, still recovering from his sprint and before heading to the podium to pull on the green jersey.

    "I went early in the sprint and I knew they'd pass me, but I didn’t want to be surprised and blocked in, especially with the headwind making it more complicated. I had to score points for the green jersey, that's my big goal. I was prepared to lose the sprint, as long as I beat Thor and scored more points than him. I did that today."

    "It'll be a real fight in the intermediate sprints and in the final sprint on Sunday but if I lose this green jersey, I'll lose with honour."

    Doping accusations

    Petacchi has been defending his honour since last Tuesday when it was revealed he has been formally placed under investigation by Italian police for doping. He has been accused of using banned oxygen transporting drug Pfc and albumin, which helps reduce blood haematocrit.

    He will be questioned by the Italian investigating judge in Padua next Wednesday but insists he can hold his head high if he wins the green jersey in Paris.

    "I don’t think it will change anything if I win the green jersey. The Tour de France ends on...

  • Procycling's daily Tour de France dispatch - stage 18

    Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) on the podium
    Article published:
    July 23, 2010, 20:14 BST

    Cavendish, Jaja, Coiffeurs, Gaffes

    Quote of the day

    “When I saw Petacchi go I thought, bollocks, I’ve left it too late again.”

    Mark Cavendish, sending non-English members of the Tour press-pack scrambling for their Urban Dictionaries.

    Worlds no laughing matter

    French riders may be enjoying arguably their best Tour for over a decade, but national coach Laurent Jalabert still thinks riders like Pierrick Fédrigo have some work to do to overcome a long-standing inferiority complex. “When I told Fédrigo last year that he could become world champion, he laughed in my face,” Jaja told Procycling in Pau the other day.

    Cav survives the cut

    While the Tour de France’s itinerant “Village Départ” has undergone something of a spruce-up this year, one of its best-loved former features is still awaiting reinstatement. Up until a couple of years ago, riders, reporters and anyone else wielding the appropriate accreditation could visit the Village coiffeur for a mid-race haircut, but must now venture out of the Tour bubble should the need for a trim arise. It’s not all bad news, though: Mark Cavendish snuck out of his team hotel for a chop on the rest-day on Monday – and the “Reverse Samson Effect” seemed to serve him well today.

    “Oh s^*t! I forgot my shoes!”

    During the Tour, living in and out of your suitcase for close to a month on end, there’s bound to be an occasion where you forget something before leaving your hotel. Perhaps it’s a toothbrush. Forget about it. Perhaps it’s a pair of undies or a T-shirt. Forget about that, too, even if the T-shirt you bought was from that trendy boutique in Covent Garden and when you handed over a hundred quid, all you got was change. But what if it is a pair of nice shoes, like the ones Procycling scribe Richard Moore left...

  • Dean sportingly accepts second place

    Garmin-Transitions lead-out man Julian Dean finds himself in search of stage wins for himself while teammate Tyler Farrar heals up.
    Article published:
    July 23, 2010, 20:35 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    McEwen hopes for better luck in Paris

    The Garmin-Transitions and HTC-Columbia teams have clashed in almost every sprint in this year's Tour de France but after Mark Cavendish dominated the sprint in Bordeaux, Julian Dean was quick to praise his sprint rival, in a show of sportsmanship that honoured the quiet Kiwi as much as his second place.

    Dean is often Tyler Farrar's lead out man but is now Garmin-Transitions' sprinter and showed that he is a high-quality understudy.

    "I'm happy with today's result. When we opened up the sprint, he (Cavendish) was clearly fastest, there was no doubt about it. Second
    is good. Of course I'd love to win, as we all would," he said.

    Dean confirmed that the wind blowing across from the river Garonne hugely influenced the sprint. Thanks to his experience as a lead out man, he is an expert at positioning and fighting for the right wheel in the final kilometre of a sprint.

    "It was pretty hectic coming into the finish with the headwind along the river," he explained. "It was tough for any team to string it out
    and I had some help from Martijn Maaskant and Dave Millar, who is getting back to form. I had enough help and the position but when I
    opened up, I couldn't follow Cav."

    Dean tried to lead out Tyler Farrar on the Champs Elysees last year. This year he will be Garmin-Transitions protected sprinter and has a
    few tricks up his sleeve. "It's a sprint that everyone knows well. When you've done it a few times, you know how it works. I've got a couple of ideas and on how to attack it."

    Third time lucky on the Champs Elysees for McEwen?

    Robbie McEwen (Katusha) arrived at the Katusha bus looking fresh but was also hugely disappointed.

    The Australian veteran has fought to finish the Tour de France after cutting an artery on stage two and then being knocked to the ground by a cameraman at high speed on stage six. He is still battered and bruised but is almost back to his best.

  • Contador and Schleck confident before final TT

    Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) leads race leader Alberto Contador (Astana) through the clouds.
    Article published:
    July 24, 2010, 1:08 BST
    Peter Cossins

    “It’s not a time trial for specialists” says race leader Contador

    Having safely negotiated stage 18 into Bordeaux, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck looked and sounded confident as they looked ahead to the Tour-deciding Bordeaux-Pauillac time trial. Defending champion Contador is the favourite to take the title as he carries an eight-second advantage and a much more impressive time trial pedigree into the key test. But both men insisted that past results count for little this far into a race as tough as this Tour de France has been.

    “I’m expecting the day to be very difficult as this time trial is not like any other,” said Contador. “It’s not really a day for specialists, it’s more about who is the strongest rider on the day. I know that I have to give all that I have to beat Andy. He won the Luxembourg time trial championship recently and I know already that he’s very strong and that it will be hard to beat him.”

    Contador admitted after stage 17 to the summit of the Tourmalet that he has ridden conservatively during this Tour, but explained: “This is the situation I wanted to be in before the Tour. I wanted to be in the yellow jersey and starting after Andy in the time trial. Our positions are more or less the same and it’s not a normal time trial coming as it does 20 days into a grand tour.” He added: “This is the last hour after a whole year of pressure.”

    Contador only looked slightly flustered when he was asked to respond to comments made in the Spanish press by Carlos Sastre, who accused the new generation of riders of acting like “spoiled brats” having been asked about the dropped chain incident on the Port de Balès. “I’m not aware of his comments as I’m not reading the press. But everyone has got a right to voice their opinion. All I can say is that I don’t agree with it,” said Contador.

    The Spaniard was happier talking about his meeting with Tom Cruise and...

  • Wiggins ready to give his best shot in time-trial

    Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    July 24, 2010, 1:40 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Sky leader looks to salvage his Tour

    On Saturday afternoon at 14:57 local time Bradley Wiggins (Sky) will roll down the start ramp in Bordeaux, chasing down a much-desired Tour de France stage win that could make some amends for his disappointing performance in the general classification.

    Before the start of La Grande Boucle the Englishman might have hoped that the time-trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac would be decisive in his hunt for a possible podium place in Paris. Instead, the past three weeks have shown us that Wiggins hasn't been able to compete with the best in the mountains this time around and he's now back in 24th overall, trailing yellow jersey Alberto Contador (Astana) by more than forty minutes.

    Right after finishing the stage to Bordeaux Wiggins was surprisingly fresh after 200 kilometres on windy roads. When asked whether he felt capable of defeating Fabian Cancellara he laughed, acknowledging that the Swiss strongman was the man to beat.

    “It all depends on how everybody's feeling on the day. It's a long one as well so it's as much a mental challenge as it is physical,” Wiggins said.

    That mental challenge might be all important for a man like Cancellara who has been working hard for Andy Schleck, even leading the main group at the foot of the Col du Tourmalet on Thursday afternoon.

    Wiggins rode the time trial course before the Tour de France and noted the strong winds that often blow in from the sea. “It's quite a strong wind as well. I've done the course in training,” Wiggins said. “All I can do is give it my best shot and see what happens at the finish line.”

    Team-mate Geraint Thomas showed during the prologue in Rotterdam that he's capable of providing competition from within the team for that stage win in Pauillac but Wiggins believes things have changed a lot since then. Nonetheless he was keen to laud his team-mate's abilities against the clock. “Obviously he proved that in the...