- Article published:
- July 03, 2009, 20:15 BST
- Richard Moore
Cell phone maker angling to become title sponsor
Bob Stapleton has revealed that his team's new co-sponsor, HTC, could eventually replace Columbia as main sponsor. He also said that HTC rejected an opportunity to become involved with Formula One in order to enter cycling sponsorship instead.
The Columbia-HTC manager unveiled the team's new kit on the eve of the Tour, just as he did when Columbia came onboard exactly a year ago, and admitted that finding the new sponsor in the current economic climate had been one of the toughest challenges he has ever faced.
"I've been a general manager for twenty-five years," said Stapleton, "and this is the toughest environment I've been in for business. HTC have big goals as an international brand, they're strong and ambitious, they want to expand in Europe, and it was lucky they had goals relevant to ours.
"They were approached by Formula One, and other sports, but cycling, in terms of the technical aspect, the lifestyle and fitness aspects, appealed; the buyers of their phones are engaged in cycling."
Stapleton added that HTC could eventually become the team's main sponsor. "They have the ambition to be the number one sponsor. They're a strong, stable company. Columbia are contracted through to the end of next year, HTC through to the end of 2011."
This fits in with the team's long-term plans. "We're building a longer runway for the plane," said Stapleton.
Stapleton also spoke about the difficulties of selecting the nine riders who make up the Columbia-HTC team, only four of whom featured in last year's successful Tour team. "It was very difficult – we have enough guys for two teams," he said. "We had fifteen guys on the long list, but we got down to exactly where they are in terms of their fitness, and broke it down stage by stage.
"It's a Swiss army knife of riders – we have different riders for different jobs. We have guys who can help to chase down breaks, guys who can defend jerseys and set up...
- Article published:
- July 03, 2009, 20:18 BST
- Laura Weislo
Garmin-Slipstream sprinter looking for first Grand Tour stage win
The circus that is the Tour de France is about to be underway in Monaco, and there will be a new rider keen to be showing himself in the bunch sprints: Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar. The 25-year-old from Wenatchee, Washington will embark on his first Tour start on Saturday, but will be revisiting some familiar roads around Monaco.
"I actually lived in Beausoleil during the first year of my pro career in Europe, so it's good to come back. I haven't been here for three years - and it's nice to see my old training roads and the places where I used to hang out a lot," Farrar told Cyclingnews.
The promising young sprinter is excited to get started in the "big show", and is feeling well-prepared for the race and for the hype that surrounds it, especially after having gotten his first Grand Tour start in this year's Giro under his belt.
"The Giro was nice preparation both physically and for all the other stuff that goes along with the Grand Tours. But the Tour is different - there's nothing else that really compares with the circus that goes along with it - it's interesting to be here, that's for sure."
Farrar has made steady progress in the very specialized arena of road sprinting. He took his first professional win in 2007 while riding for Cofidis, and steadily worked his way into consistent top 10 finishes after joining the Garmin team last year. Earlier this year, he achieved something very few people have been able to do over the past two years: he beat Mark Cavendish in a bunch sprint on stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
But unlike his British rival, Farrar is polite to a fault and refuses to rise to journalists' bait and engage in any pre-race smack-talk. When asked if he thought he could repeat that win over Cavendish, Farrar would only say that he is feeling confident in his condition.
"I came off the Giro pretty well. Had a good month in between - I won a few races and got some really solid...
- Article published:
- July 03, 2009, 22:14 BST
- Anthony Tan in Monaco
Cervélo rider responds to Armstrong calling 2008 Tour "a joke"
"It's his point of view, his words, his life – I'm not interested in anything about that. I think he's a great champion – he won seven Tours de France, the world [road] championship… he's a great rider. But just behind every rider must be a person, and in that respect, maybe he needs to learn something more."
No guesses for working out who Carlos Sastre was referring to at the Cervélo TestTeam press conference Friday in Monaco. The defending Tour de France champion had been asked about Lance Armstrong's comments in a recently-published book, gushingly entitled, 'Lance Armstrong: The World's Greatest Champion'.
Certain extracts of the book have spread like wildfire on the Internet, particularly in reference to remarks Armstrong made about last year's Tour de France. "I'll kick their asses," he told author John Wilcockson in a conversation soon after the 2008 Tour, discussing his planned comeback. "The Tour was a bit of a joke this year. I've got nothing against Sastre… or Christian Vande Velde. Christian's a nice guy, but finishing fifth in the Tour de France? Come on!"
Honesty and humility appear to make Sastre a more likeable figure among the press than cycling fans, who tend to gravitate towards stars with more boisterous, larger-than-life personalities. And for this reason, the innocuous meeting room used for the press conference at the Novotel Monaco – a modest, by Tour de France standard, three-star hotel that lacked the bells and whistles of some bigger budget teams – was far too small.
Continue to the full feature.
- Article published:
- July 04, 2009, 9:33 BST
- James Huang
Out-of-the-box thinking for Trek's new Speed Concept time trial bike
Trek Bicycles has borrowed a page from automotive aerodynamic design for its latest Speed Concept time trial machine, first seen under Alberto Contador (Astana) at last month's Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and soon to be used by teammates Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer as well for the Tour de France start in Monaco. Just as the sharply squared-off trailing edges reduce drag on high-performance vehicles – and high-mileage ones like the Toyota Prius – Trek says the unconventional shape will make its new Speed Concept the slipperiest machine on the road.
The Speed Concept's Kamm tail 'virtual airfoil' design features what is essentially an 8:1 airfoil but with an abruptly chopped trailing edge. According to Trek, air passing over the Kamm airfoil surface simply doesn't realize the rear section is missing and still cleanly reconvenes afterwards as if it was still there. It's not a new idea but it's very well proven in motor sports and Trek says it has also validated the concept with its own wind tunnel testing.
Quite conveniently, the truncated Kamm airfoil thus yields the lower drag figures of an 8:1 section but still neatly fits within the UCI's now-infamous 3:1 airfoil 'box'. According to Trek, the blunter shape's aero advantage only continues to increase at greater yaw angles up to about 15 degrees, too – exactly what time trial bikes typically see in real world conditions.
Moreover, Trek claims the squared-off shape also makes for a lighter and stiffer structure. Even with its lower drag numbers, the Speed Concept prototype framesets are said to be a significant 200g lighter than the current Equinox TTX SSL and yet 17 percent more rigid for better handling and more efficient power transfer.
Up front, Trek adopts the increasingly popular external steerer tube design, which maintains a deeper and more aerodynamic total section depth but in an especially narrow package that...
- Article published:
- July 04, 2009, 12:15 BST
- Hedwig Kröner
Possible showers move Astana's top men around
Looking at Saturday's weather forecast, Astana might have made a wise decision yesterday when deciding on its riders' starting order for the opening stage of this year's Tour de France. Looking at the time schedule for the 15.5km time trial, and knowing the capabilities of the outfit's star riders against the clock, you'd expect to see the names of Lance Armstrong or Levi Leipheimer towards the end of the stage. But the squad have chosen to make them roll down the start ramp early, in 18th (4.17pm) and 38th position (4.37pm) respectively. Andreas Klöden and Alberto Contador, on the other hand, will race later, as the 138th (6.17pm) and 178th riders (7.05pm) to start.
As it is the teams' own choice to establish a starting order, Cyclingnews asked Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens why they took this decision. "Armstrong and Leipheimer actually preferred to start early, even though it does mean that they will not have any good intermediate times for reference," he said on Saturday morning. "Also, as we have four riders that are really good time triallists, it seemed a good option to mitigate the risks of deteriorating weather conditions. It's true that if it rains,
at least this way we might have a chance to save some of our riders from racing on wet roads. Of course we don't know if it's going to rain at all, or if that will be at four or seven o'clock."
During the last few days, weather in Monaco was hot and humid, with clouds always rising up during the afternoon. There was never any rain, but the weather forecast for Saturday did evoke a risk of thunderstorm for the later afternoon, just in time for the Tour's Grand Départ. On this particular course, wet tarmac could be a major factor as the second half of the circuit around the city of Monte Carlo is all downhill, on twisty and small roads. If a thunderstorm does break lose towards the end of the afternoon, this could set back many of the overall favourites, including...
- Article published:
- July 04, 2009, 12:50 BST
- Hedwig Kröner
Luis León Sánchez aims for third week
An admittedly battered, but not beaten Caisse d'Epargne outfit showed up at the Tour de France team's presentation on Thursday evening. Rolling up the ramp towards the stage in front of Monaco's glam harbour, one could not help but feel the absence of the team's main leader, Alejandro Valverde, and wonder if the riders of the French-Spanish squad were going to be able to make up for it.
Due to his alleged involvement in Operación Puerto, Valverde was banned to race on Italian soil by the Italian Olympic Committee. As the Tour will move through Italy on stage 16 – and following the wishes of the team's main sponsor, who feared Valverde's participation might damage its image – the team removed the rider from its line-up prior to the start.
Valverde's teammate Luis León Sánchez bemoaned his absence, but still thought that the team had good chances for a successful Tour. "Not having Valverde here at the start changes everything, of course," he told Cyclingnews. "Fortunately, we have other riders that can also do a good Tour, and we hope to be lucky enough to still be in front."
Asked if Oscar Pereiro will be able to fill the space left vacant by Valverde, Sánchez replied, "I think so. Oscar has already won a Tour de France, and we are lucky to have him with us. He is in good shape, and our goal is to try for stage victories and put him in a good position for the general classification. Nevertheless, this race is all about taking it from day-to-day, you never know what will happen."
The winner of this year's Paris-Nice meanwhile admitted that his own shape still had to improve over the next two weeks in order for him to be truly competitive towards the end of the race. "My intention is to recover racing rhythm rapidly and hopefully get to the last week in perfect condition, to try and be in front then. If I have the opportunity, then I will definitely go for a stage."
- Article published:
- July 04, 2009, 13:55 BST
- Shane Stokes
Former Tour winner predicts son's Tour chances
Former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche has added his voice to those who have said that they expect Alberto Contador to take a second Tour title this month. The Irishman, who triumphed in 1987, outlined his favourites for the race, nominating the Spaniard as the clear leader of the Astana team.
He felt that Lance Armstrong would have a solid, rather than a spectacular performance overall.
"I think Contador will be the winner," he told Cyclingnews. "Menchov will be good too. I think Cadel Evens will be his normal self but I can’t see him winning. I think he will be good, but not good enough.
"I think it [the final general classification] will be Contador, second Menchov, third Evans, or someone like [Andy] Schleck."
Asked about last year’s champion, he said that he wasn’t expecting a stellar performance from Carlos Sastre. "He will just be himself. He hasn’t done much this year, and I can’t see him winning it. He will put in a performance but it will be limited. As for Armstrong, I think he will finish in the first ten, but I doubt if it will be in the first five."
Instead, he gives a surprising nomination. "Going on his Tour of Switzerland performance, I think that [Fabian] Cancellara will be in the top five. He’s got great form and has lost six or seven kilos."
This year’s race will be of particular interest to Roche as his son Nicolas, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday, will be riding his first Tour. He was 13th overall in last year’s Vuelta a España, and while he hasn’t shown that kind of climbing form yet this year, his father thinks a good ride might well be in store.
"I think he is capable of finishing this year in the first twenty, going on his performance in the Vuelta last year," he said. “But at the same time, he has to climb a lot better than he climbed in the Dauphine. He is going better now because he has...