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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, July 25, 2009

Date published:
July 25, 2009, 1:00 BST
  • Wiggins confident in top Tour spot

    British rider Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) gets home support at the start of the time-trial in Annecy.
    Article published:
    July 24, 2009, 17:49 BST
    Gregor Brown

    Mont Ventoux to decide race's overall

    Bradley Wiggins will become Britain's best rider in the Tour de France in 20 years if he can stay with the favourites on the Mont Ventoux climb tomorrow.

    "I think it is going to be a close race. Barring a blow up, the worst I am going to finish is seventh," said Wiggins this morning.

    Wiggins (Garmin) is fourth in the overall classification. He is 5:36 behind race leader Alberto Contador (Astana), but only 15 seconds behind Lance Armstrong (Astana) in third.

    He jumped up two spots after yesterday's time trial around the lake in Annecy. He finished sixth, the best-placed classification rider besides stage winner Contador.

    "It was a brilliant ride yesterday," said Wiggins. "Alberto was on another level again, as he has been the whole race. I was pleased with the gaps I made on the classification guys, which is what I was after yesterday."

    The race finishes Sunday in Paris with a flat stage, but tomorrow's mountaintop finish on Mont Ventoux will likely force changes in the classification. The 22.1-kilometre final climb features gradients from nine to ten percent in some spots and the last kilometres are always hot and windy/.

    Wiggins is worried about the men he bettered in yesterday's time trial, riders who are more accustomed to climbing. Andreas Klöden (Astana) is two seconds back from Wiggins in fifth, Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 23 seconds and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 1:39.

    "There is Fränk, who will want to get on the [final] podium and Nibali has been going strong in the mountains," said Wiggins.

    Wiggins is likely to become the highest placed Brit since Robert Millar's tenth place in 1989. Should he place third he would better Millar's fourth place in 1984.

    The only other Brit to ride in the Tour's top ten was Tom Simpson, who was sixth in 1962. He died five years later at the Tour de France on the Mont Ventoux climb.

  • Poulidor weighs in on Mont Ventoux

    Raymond Poulidor at the 2009 Tour de France.
    Article published:
    July 24, 2009, 18:14 BST
    Peter Hymas

    The 1965 Tour's Ventoux winner looks forward to this year's Ventoux showdown

    France's beloved Raymond Poulidor, "the eternal second", finished on the Tour podium eight times in his career, thrice second and five times third, and never wore yellow for one day of the 14 Tours he started. Despite never attaining overall victory at the Tour, one of Poulidor's most memorable wins occurred during the 1965 Tour de France's 14th stage, 173 kilometres from Montpellier to the summit of Mont Ventoux.

    On paper, 1965 should have been Poulidor's year to triumph in the absence of arch-rival Jacques Anquetil, but nobody expected 22-year-old Italian Felice Gimondi, in his first year as a professional, to capture his solitary Tour victory.

    However, Poulidor drew great satisfaction from his triumph on Mont Ventoux during which he moved into second place overall and reduced his GC deficit to only 34 seconds behind Gimondi. Poulidor bested Spain's Julio Jimenez, who he had been in a break with for much of the stage, by six seconds.

    Gimondi made a superhuman effort to close the gap to Poulidor to 1:34 on the day, finishing in fourth place.

    "Felice Gimondi took quite some time from me in the first part of the Tour that year. In the mountains I was able to distance him but it wasn't possible to make up all the time on him," Poulidor told Cyclingnews.

    "That day, I won on the Mont Ventoux ahead of [Julio] Jimenez and Gimondi was in difficulty. He was able to restore the situation to his advantage in the end, and finally won the Tour de France. But the Mont Ventoux that day was part of my greatest victories, it was a revelation."

    Poulidor commented on what makes Mont Ventoux such a special fixture in professional cycling. "You climb it from the south side, during a very hot season, in the beginning of the afternoon. It's practically a desert! There is no vegetation, nothing... the heat is unbearable, you can't breathe.

    "The finish on top of the Ventoux is the finish of the stage, so you've already...

  • Roche harbors ambitions for green

    Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) finishes in second place
    Article published:
    July 24, 2009, 18:41 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Irish champion thinks a maillot vert may be in his future

    While Nicolas Roche currently sports the green jersey of Irish national champion, his experiences in the 2009 Tour de France have started him thinking about a different green jersey, the maillot vert. Competing in his debut Tour and with a top 20 finish in last year's Vuelta among his palmares, Roche thinks that he could focus on the green jersey in years to come.

    "My Tour has been pretty good but yesterday I was looking at the green jersey scores and saw I was sixth, and thought, 'that's not bad'," said Roche. "I'm a long way away from Cavendish and Hushovd but in the next couple of years if I keep practicing my sprint and maybe get a bit better on the climbs perhaps I can go for the jersey. I'm not saying it's my main focus, but why does it have to be 100 percent for the sprinters?"

    The Irishman, who currently sits 23rd overall and fifth in the race for green, demonstrated his keen eye for a break by joining the main escape in today's stage from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas. The AG2R La Mondiale rider was part of a 20-man escape, which included teammates Luis Arrieta and Christophe Riblon, as well as Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia-HTC).

    However, with a fierce pace being set by Rabobank in the peloton, the group's lead never got above 2:45 and was brought to an end on the final climb before the finish. "I was really hoping that this was the one," said Roche who has a second and fourth place to his name in this year's race. "We had a tough climb and once again I was with some top class riders, too many of them to mention.

    "Unfortunately Rabobank had different plans to us. We had three of us [AG2R La Mondiale riders] in the break and were playing for the team classification as well as the stage. People watching on television must be really enjoying what they're seeing as it's been really hard core."

    Roche, who has a strong anti-doping stance and publicises this through Bike Pure, added...

  • Sastre apologises for press conference rant

    Carlos Sastre crosses the finish line in Vittel.
    Article published:
    July 24, 2009, 19:29 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Spaniard regrets voicing "tactless opinions"

    Spaniard Carlos Sastre issued a public apology for the bitter rant he gave during the Tour de France's second rest day in Martigny on Monday. The defending Tour champion criticized the press for focusing solely on Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, and called the race "boring".

    On Friday, Sastre recognized his mistake and apologised, saying he was in a "bad frame of mind" when he spoke to the media that day and "voiced some fairly tactless opinions".

    "Regardless of my professional opinion of each journalist, I made the mistake of generalising in my criticisms when not all journalists and not all cyclists are the same. There are many professionals and journalists who have always treated me well, to say the least, especially during and after my victory in the 2008 Tour.

    "Also, I don’t think I showed a good attitude towards my team mates and assistants because they’ve been making an effort to help me and I haven’t always accepted their help very graciously. I hope to have learned from this situation so that it won’t happen again in the future."

    The Tour de France has been a difficult race for Sastre, who sits in 15th place overall, 17:23 down on overall leader Alberto Contador. His performance is in stark contrast to his brilliant Giro d'Italia where he took two stage wins and finished fourth overall. It is his worst Grand Tour since he last played a domestique role for Ivan Basso in the 2006 Giro.

    "For various reasons, despite believing that I’d come to this Tour in excellent physical condition, in a good frame of mind and well-prepared, the truth is that I’ve felt something was wrong since the beginning; things weren’t going as I’d expected. I tried to pull myself together and perhaps I made the mistake of becoming too absorbed in myself and taking my problems out on others.

    Sastre, normally a gracious and sportsmanlike competitor, said he has gotten...

  • Italian police raid homes of Di Luca and Santuccione

    Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) after the stage.
    Article published:
    July 24, 2009, 20:10 BST
    Daniel Simms

    Di Luca denies having taken CERA

    Italian police on Friday searched the homes of Danilo Di Luca and the doctor who is accused of supplying him with the illegal drug for which he tested positive.

    The International Cycling Union (UCI) announced Wednesday that Di Luca twice tested positive for the banned blood booster CERA during the Giro d'Italia in May.

    According to AP the Carabinieri anti-doping unit raided Di Luca's house near Pescara and the nearby residence of Dr. Carlo Santuccione.

    Di Luca was suspended for three months in 2007 for maintaining a working relationship with Santuccione after the doctor had been banned for life by the Italian federation for supplying athletes with prohibited performance enhancing drugs.

    Di Luca, who placed second in this year's Giro d'Italia has denied having taken CERA, and has demanded that the B-sample analysis be completed by a different laboratory.

    "I hope the truth comes out and the truth is that I haven't taken a drug, I haven't taken this drug," he said.

  • White expects a battle for Wiggins

    Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) climbs the Col de la Colombière with Lance Armstrong (Astana) on his wheel.
    Article published:
    July 24, 2009, 21:15 BST
    Gregor Brown

    Podium spots two and three to be decided on Mont Ventoux

    Brit Bradley Wiggins is fourth overall heading into the Tour de France's penultimate stage tomorrow, finishing atop Mont Ventoux. Depending on his climbing abilities and teams' tactics, Garmin-Slipstream team director Matt White believes Wiggins may rise to third overall.

    "We would like to get Bradley on the podium, but it is going to be one hell of a battle," said White today.

    Spain's Alberto Contador (Astana) leads the race by 4:11 over Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and the Spaniard is likely to win his second Tour de France title in Paris on Sunday.

    There are three riders behind Contador and Schleck who are within 38 seconds of each other. Contador's teammate Lance Armstrong is in third at 5:21, Wiggins fourth at 5:36, Andreas Klöden (Astana) fifth at 5:38 and Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck sixth at 5:59.

    "The Schlecks are going very, well and I am sure they are going to give it to Bradley as much as they can. And the dynamic of Astana is interesting because they have three guys who could all be on the podium if they do things right."

    Mont Ventoux is a 22.1-kilometre climb that comes at the end of a 167-kilometre stage. It features gradients up to 10.6 percent as it rises to 1912 metres. The final kilometres to its rocky, barren summit become even more challenging due to the expected oppressive heat and the lack of trees to buffer the characteristic high winds.

    Wiggins stayed with all the overall favourites except Contador on the Tour's previous mountaintop finish, Sunday's Verbier stage. He survived Tuesday's mountain stage to Le Grand-Bornand, but lost time on the Colombière climb Wednesday.

    "I have a lot of faith in Bradley and his abilities," said White. "His results are not a surprise. He is the best track rider, the best endurance athlete in the last 10 years on the track. Why can't people see that an endurance machine on the track can do the same thing on the road?"


  • Phinney hospitalised after concussion in Cascade Classic

    Taylor Phinney (Trek/Livestrong) making up time on the downhill.
    Article published:
    July 25, 2009, 9:32 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    Pursuit world champ falls in Bend

    Reigning individual pursuit world champion Taylor Phinney was hospitalised at the St. Charles Medical Centre in Bend, Oregon with a severe concussion after crashing 100km into stage four of the BMC Cascade Cycling Classic.

    "Talyor has a third degree concussion," said Trek-Livestrong directeur sportif, Axel Merckx. "He will stay overnight and will be re-evaluated in the morning."

    Phinney was caught up in an accident after the front end of the peloton hit the brakes to avoid a parked truck on the side of the road during the Cascade Lake Road Race. Several riders went down in the accident however, Phinney bore the brunt of the injuries in the fall.

    The talented youngster was using the six-day stage race as a preparation for the upcoming U23 national championships. "My main goal in racing here is to prepare for nationals where I want to try to qualify for world’s in the time trial," said Phinney before the start of the previous day’s time trial. "The time trial here should be good prep for nationals becuase it is a similar course."