- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 20:00
- Peter Cossins
Brailsford: Brad's still on his bike and that was the main goal
Last year Bradley Wiggins' challenge for the Tour de France ended on the race's seventh day. Twelve months on, the Sky team leader was one of the few likely contenders for the yellow jersey to emerge unscathed from the equivalent stage into Metz. But it wasn't all good news for Sky.
Richie Porte crashed no fewer than three times, including the melee 24km from the finish that held up so many of Wiggins' rivals. Mark Cavendish escaped this pile-up but was held up by it as he was chasing back up to the bunch after puncturing.
"For three-quarters of the day it looked like everyone was trundling along and getting through the stage when all of a sudden everything changes and all hell is let loose," said Sky boss Dave Brailsford.
"When you see the likes of Hesjedal, Frank Schleck, Gesink, Bauke Mollema and Scarponi all in that group behind, you then realise the importance of spending that little bit more energy to be at the front of the bunch. It's well worthwhile. The energy you expend chasing is going to be greater than the energy you expend at the front of the bunch."
Brailsford revealed that Wiggins had only moved up to the front of the bunch three or four minutes before the crash happened. "He came up to the front with Christian [Knees] and that's one of the best moves he's made so far," said Brailsford.
Wiggins' key mountains lieutenant, Richie Porte, was less fortunate. He crashed three times on the stage, starting with a tumble in the neutral zone in Epernay. "In one way it was a bad thing, but in another he got them all out of the way. We'd like to think that's him done with the crashing now," said Brailsford.
"The main thing is he's OK. He's lost some skin off his knees and his back. It looks superficial. I don't think there will be any broken bones. I'm sure he will be fine."
The Sky boss described world champion Cavendish as "disappointed" after he missed out on the chance to get involved in today's bunch sprint. "Mark felt really good today, which is the real disappointment," said Brailsford.
He admitted that it must have been frustrating for Cavendish to puncture and find himself isolated. "I think it's hard for Mark when you've got a GC rider like Brad and all of the guys are riding at the front and disappearing into the distance when you're stuck there. On previous teams, the whole team would probably have stopped for him. He's the world champion and I'm sure being in that situation is hard."
Asked about the stages just ahead, Brailsford suggested that today's crash could change the complexion of the race in many ways. "I think all the teams will go away tonight and reflect on what's happened. It might make it a little calmer, because I think the responsibility will lie with three or four teams. But it will be interesting as some of the good climbers will be thinking, ‘I've got nothing to lose now.' They've got to animate the race and try to get some time back."
Ending on an upbeat note, Brailsford concluded: "The first phase of this race is now over and we're going into the second phase. Brad's still on his bike and that was the main goal. Plus, he hasn't lost any time. Overall, that's a big positive – so far, so good. We've gone a little bit further than we did last year…"
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 20:45
- Barry Ryan
Tour debutant makes it three with sprint victory
It takes a particular breed of confidence to turn up for a race with a bell on your handlebars, but then Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) appears to be operating on an altogether different plane to his rivals in the opening week of this Tour de France.
After seeing off the puncheurs at Seraing and Boulogne-sur-Mer, the so-called "Tourminator" duly added the pure sprinters to the growing list of his vanquished as he powered to victory on stage 6 in Metz on Friday. In a frenetic finishing sprint, he held off the challenge of André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) to claim his third win of the Tour, consolidate his grip on the green jersey and confirm his pre-eminence as the stand-out personality of the race's opening week.
"I was very happy when I won today because I was also surprised," Sagan said, admitting that he thought the pure sprinters would have too much for him in Metz. "I was thinking before for second or third place."
The technical nature of the run-in perhaps helped to tilt the balance back in the favour of the explosive Sagan. With Lotto Belisol unable to string things out completely for Greipel, Sagan was able to zip around him to claim the win in the shadow of the striking Centre Pompidou.
"Today was a very good arrival because the last turn was inside the final kilometre," Sagan said. "After the turn we were always increasing in speed. It's not good for me when we spend the last 5km in a line at 60-70kph because I can't go past, but when we go a little bit slow and then you go faster, it's good."
In keeping with his exuberance earlier in the week, Sagan struck an Incredible Hulk pose as he crossed the line, but perhaps more noteworthy was the bell that adorned his bike at the start in Epernay. "The motorbikes are always beeping and looking for space here at the Tour, so now I can do it myself," he said by way of explanation as he went to sign on, although the said accoutrement was no longer on board when he got down to the serious business of winning the stage.
It is difficult to recall such a young Tour debutant making such an immediate and lasting impact on the race in modern times. While riders such as David Millar (2000) and Eric Vanderaerden (1983) enjoyed opening day time trial victories, young sprinters have often needed to get one Tour under their belts before stepping up to the mark.
For the 22-year-old Sagan, the transition to the greatest stage of all has been seamless, and there is already an air of inevitability about his march to the green jersey in Paris, a competition which he now leads by 31 points from Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).
"I am very happy for today because I took some points," Sagan said. "But the Tour de France is still long and I still need to save energy for the third week, so we'll see."
Given the high-octane nature of his performances thus far, saving energy has never appeared particularly prominent on Sagan's list of priorities. In spite of what the metallic "Tourminator" custom paint job on his bike suggests, however, Sagan insisted that he too had experienced the same travails as the mortals.
"In the second part of my first year as a professional, I was often empty," he said. "And last year at the Vuelta, I had some days when I was in crisis, it's something that I've tried to eliminate. I hope I don't have one at the Tour."
- Article published:
- July 6, 2012, 21:40
- Daniel Benson
Evans, Van Garderen unscathed in crash-filled stage
The stage 6 Tour de France finish line in Metz resembled a war zone rather than a bike race on Friday. Medics rushing from team bus to team bus attending to riders with torn kit, lacerated limbs and broken bones overshadowed the continuation of Peter Sagan’s progression, after a crash inside the final 25 kilometres turned the race on its head.
Ryder Hesjedal lost over 13 minutes, with Alejandro Valverde, Frank Schleck, Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink all crossing the line with less skin than they started with and more time in their general classification tally than before.
But through the carnage and the panic Cadel Evans and his BMC Racing team came home unscathed. Luck of course plays its part in sport, and cycling is no different, but the defending champion’s team have been too consistent to merely put their strength on staying out of trouble down to the role of a dice.
Stacked with Classics riders and experience Evans has used his team sparingly but at key moments in this year’s race and at the start of this morning’s stage white jersey Tejay van Garderen pointed to the team’s Classics cast as a central part of BMC’s ability to marshal Evans at key points.
At the finish in Metz that was reinforced. BMC’s bus was just yards from Garmin’s and by the time the first Garmin rider had crossed the line BMC were all accounted for.
"We heard there was a big split, but we didn't drive it at the front or anything," Van Garderen said. "We just tried to keep good position and stay safe. We're lucky to have such strong guys on the team. It's a shame and I hope everyone's OK, but crashes are part of the game. That's why we're expending so much energy to stay at the front and stay safe."
While no one at BMC will be rejoicing the list of injured competitors, they will be satisfied with the ride thus far in the Tour. The deficit Evans currently has on Wiggins is less than ten seconds and although Monday’s Besançon stage should see the Sky rider take advantage in the race for yellow, stage 8 to La Planche des Belles Filles offers the defending champion at least the opportunity to put Wiggins’s credentials under a small amount of strain.
"We'd normally say the real test starts tomorrow, but maybe it started today," Evans said. "I'm feeling pretty fresh at this point. It hasn't been the hardest first week we've had, that's for sure. Not since the Tours I've ridden at least – eight of them now. But now the guys' legs are starting to get softened and tomorrow will be the first real test of who has really come here for the overall contention."
- Tour de France
- Article published:
- July 7, 2012, 00:28
- Cycling News
White jersey candidate abandons after stage six crash at the Tour
Stage six of the Tour is one which many of the riders would happily forget. The mass pile-up which occurred inside the final 30km of the stage involved approximately 100 riders. Some were merely held-up by the riders sprawled across the road but others like Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) were not so lucky.
Poels had been sitting in 20th place at the completion of stage five but all of this hard work was undone in the high-speed crash. The 24-year-old was rushed to a local military hospital in Metz where his injuries were diagnosed with a ruptured spleen and kidney, bruised lungs and three broken ribs. This is the second year in a row that Poels has been forced to abandon the Tour due to injury.
A spokesperson for the Vaconsoleil-DCM said: "His condition is stable, we have learned from team doctor Peter Lagrou".
It’s another disappointment for Poels who had been touted as a potential winner of the young rider classification at the Tour. He proved his worth in the list of favourites after a top-20 finish at the Vuelta a Espana in 2011, highlighted by a second-place one the brutal stage to Angliru.
- Article published:
- July 7, 2012, 06:12
- Cycling News
Competitors left behind after five stage wins at Giro Donne
Marianne Vos (Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team) is proving to her competitors at the Giro Donne that her recovery from injury is more than on track, her condition is good enough to contest for an Olympic title. Vos has shown it will take more than a broken bone sustained barely six weeks ago to prevent her from capturing her second Giro Donne title.
Vos crashed on a descent with over 60km to go in the Parkhotel Valkenburg Classic. The Dutchwoman managed to scrape herself off the ground, chase back to her breakaway companion before being joined by a number of other riders including eventual winner and teammate Annemiek van Vleuten and then contest the finale to finish in second place. It was a cunning display from Vos as she looks to add Olympic gold to her comprehensive palmares – not before winning the overall Giro Donne title.
With one stage to go and five stage wins, the overall victory looks to be certain for Vos. She holds a two minute and one second gap to Evelyn Stevens with Emma Pooley a further minute and 22 seconds in third. Such has been her dominant display at the Giro Donne, Vos will certainly head into the London Olympic road race as the number one favourite. Reigning Olympic champion from Beijing, Nicole Cooke (Faren Honda Team) has struggled to show the form necessary to top Vos, failing to make an impact in the nine-stage Giro.
- Article published:
- July 7, 2012, 06:45
- Cycling News
Greipel took second in the sprint with injured shoulder
Stage six of the Tour de France was a brutal one, which left numerous teams reeling as they tried to tend to the medical problems of their riders. There were many crashes on the day, but it was a large crash with about 25km to go which did the most damage.
Movistar Team probably considered simply driving its team bus to the hospital after the stage, as all eight remaining riders in the race were involved in crashes. Alejandro Valverde suffered a serous bruise on his thigh, Vladimir Karpets was bruised on his whole left side, Ruben Plaza “had wounds all over his body”, and Rui Costa bruised his back. Ivan Gutierrez was taken to hospital with injuries to his left elbow and right knee, while Imanol Erviti had “serious wounds in his right side” which required hospital treatment.
Only Cobo and Kiryienka were “the fortunate ones, who landed on the grass” in the crash.
Movistar later reported that Erviti would not start stage 7 as he required surgery and a likely 48-hour hospital stay while Gutierrez is also questionable for starting on Saturday.
Lampre-ISD's Davide Vigano was at the heart of the late-stage crash and he was one of four riders unable to finish the stage as he was taken away in an ambulance for treatment of his injuries. Teammate Michele Scarponi crashed in the same incident but managed to finish the stage, albeit 2:09 down in a group that also contained GC hopefuls Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
Lampre's Danilo Hondo accounted for what brought Vigano and Scarponi down. "Viganò was putting [Alessandro] Petacchi's shoe covers in his jersey, when some riders ahead slowed down. Davide had only one hand on the handlebar, so he could not brake properly and he fell in the ditch on the side of the road, then all the rest of the group crashed, Scarponi too."
Lampre-ISD also reported that Matthew Lloyd and Marco Marzano crashed during the stage but didn't sustain any injuries.
Andre Greipel of Lotto Belisol proved himself to be an Ironman, when he finished second in the sprint with a suspected dislocated shoulder. He crashed twice on the stage and had to be talked into sprinting by his teammates, although he later said it was “unbelievably painful.”Two hours in the hospital showed however that he had suffered no serious injuries. With bruises on both shoulders and the right wrist, a cut on his right thumb and scrapes on his left knee, shoulder and elbow, Greipel will be at the start again Saturday.
Euskaltel-Euskadi was also hit hard. Mikel Astarloza had to leave the race with a fractured right elbow. Two riders were taken to hospital after the stage, Amets Txurruka with a suspected fractured collarbone and Gurka Verdugo with a deep gash to his leg.
Garmin-Sharp lost Tom Danielson to undisclosed injuries, whilst Johann Vansummeren went to hospital for further examinations. Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar and Christian Vande Velde were treated on the team bus for various injuries.
A number of Sky riders were caught up by the mass crash, but only Richie Porte, who actually crashed three times on the day, was injured, suffering only bumps and bruises.
Fränk Schleck was one of the biggest names involved in the crash near the end of the stage. The time loss hurt most for the RadioShack-Nissan rider, but there was some physical pain as well. “I don’t think I have anything broken. Just some pain in my shoulder, some pain in my hip and we’ll check my knee. So we’ll see. If there is nothing broken I will be there tomorrow.”
Five members of Argos-Shimano hit the tarmac en route to Metz, Tom Veelers, Albert Timmer, Matthieu Sprick, Johannes Fröhlinger and Koen de Kort, but all finished with 'only' abrasions, according to the team.
Argos-Shimano manager Rudi Kemna had a theory about the occurrence of big crashes in the Tour's first week. "Everyone wanted to be in the front, sprinters and GC riders, and they all wanted to have their teammates with them and that is just not possible," said Kemna. "GC riders don’t belong up front but they're there because they’re afraid to lose time and that is because the jury is very strict. They relentlessly ensure that riders don’t get back in the peloton behind cars. If the jury is more flexible the race would stay a lot calmer and crashes will not happen that often."
- Article published:
- July 7, 2012, 07:44
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Last year’s King of Mountains winner expects greater damage in Alps and Pyrenees
Last year’s King of the Mountains winner Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) says he believes that although one or more of the favourites could lose time in the six-kilometre Planche des Belles Filles climb Saturday when the Tour de France hits the mountains for the first time this year, it will not produce any race-winning moves or major differences.
“Maybe somebody could lose time unexpectedly and get dropped, but it’s not the kind of finale that will cause big gaps,” said Sanchez, sixth overall in 2011 – and winner of the Tour’s first major summit finish at Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees that year -- and a top five finisher in 2010.
“It has an average gradient of 8.5 percent, so it isn’t so hard, unless somebody cracks. For big differences you have to be climbing for at least an hour like in the Alps and Pyrenees, that’s what does the damage. This is much shorter.” “Frankly, though, I don’t think the Tour will be decided this year before the final time trial.”
One of the few overall favourites not to have been affected whatsoever by crashes, Sanchez -- who has been kept close to the front by teammate Egoi Martinez – is currently lying in 20th spot, just 40 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack). As such, he is one of the best placed climbing specialists.
“So far the team has supported me perfectly, and that’s meant I’ve been able to take things calmly, without getting stressed out. I’ve always been close to the front.”
Sanchez was talking before Friday’s stage, where Euskaltel had a disastrous day. Mikel Astarloza abandoned with a broken elbow, Amets Txurruka,with a suspected broken collarbone, was close to following suit and Gorka Verdugo had a huge cut in his lower left leg, so deep that his tibia bone was visible. Both Txurruka and Verdugo finished, fifth and second last, but there are big question marks over whether they will start Saturday.
- Article published:
- July 7, 2012, 08:38
- Cycling News
Spanish medal hopes in further doubt after stage six crash
Oscar Freire (Katusha) will spend the next two to three days in the local Metz hospital after being involved in the high speed crash during the final hour of the Tour de France's stage six. The fall and subsequent time in hospital has put Freire’s Olympic participation in serious doubt.
It’s a double blow for the Spanish squad who are already a man down following Luis León Sánchez’s (Rabobank) wrist injuries. He has been nursing his injuries at the back of the bunch with Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and the extent of his problems will be tested as the race hits the first serious climbs in stage seven,
Freire amazingly finished the stage, albeit over six minutes behind the stage winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas – Cannondale) but will not take to the start of stage seven. A statement released by his Katusha team described Freire’s condition.
“In the fall, the three times World Champion broke the third rib in his right chest, and suffered a wound to his pleura (membrane covering of the lungs). Freire will have to stay at the hospital under observation for three days at least, then the doctors will decide when he will be able to come back home.”
Freire’s had intended to retire at the end of the 2012 season but much of this decision was to be based around his result at the world championships where he hopes to take a fourth title. Without an Olympic road race to contend for, his final season goals will be focused greatly around the world championship race.