- Article published:
- July 21, 2012, 21:30
- Barry Ryan
Sky manager hails Tour de France win
After mounting speculation as to who was the strongest rider in the Sky team, Bradley Wiggins provided his answer by defeating Chris Froome by 1:16 in the penultimate day time trial of the Tour de France from Bonneval to Chartres.
Froome had consistently appeared more at ease than Wiggins in the high mountains of the Tour, and had been forced to slow and wait for the yellow jersey on the summit finishes at La Toussuire and Peyragudes.
As the last major rendezvous of the race got underway on Saturday with the final overall standings already effectively decided, the only question that remained was whether Froome would take some of the lustre of his master's Tour win by bettering him in his fiefdom of the time trial.
While Wiggins would insist after the stage that he and Froome were always in harmony, he will doubtless have been pleased to have reaffirmed his leadership of both the Tour and the Sky team by winning the final 53.5km test.
"It was a nice way for Bradley to demonstrate that he's the strongest rider in the race," Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said as he stood by the finish line in Chartres. "A lot of questions had been asked about whether he was the strongest rider in this race and I think that when you can ride 52k in the time that he's just done, it puts everything to bed as far as I'm concerned. It was a majestic performance to cap off a majestic race by a majestic rider."
Wiggins was already 12 seconds up on Froome after 14 kilometres of racing, and he would go on to outpace his teammate at a rate of over one second per kilometre. Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) was the only other rider to finish within two minutes of Wiggins over the pan-flat course.
"I always thought this last time trial would be the defining ride. This was made for him, wasn't it," Brailsford said. "Nobody was going to beat him here."
Before this year, Wiggins had only once finished in the top 5 of a Tour de France time trial that exceeded 20 kilometres in length, when he finished 4th at Albi in 2007. However, Wiggins completes this Tour having won both of its lengthy time trials by notable margins, with his Sky teammate Froome placing second on each occasion.
Brailsford insisted that from the birth of his team in 2010 he had always believed that his Sky team could deliver on its stated aim to provide a British Tour de France winner within five years.
"I thought we could win it when I first said we could win it in 2010," he said. "As far as I was concerned we were always capable of winning. It was a question of whether we could execute it and deliver a performance."
Wiggins now leads Froome by 3:21 ahead of the final stage to Paris on Sunday, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) a distant third, 6:19 back. No other rider has finished within ten minutes of Wiggins overall. Marginal gains, it seems, have added up to make a considerable difference.
- Article published:
- July 21, 2012, 22:32
- Hedwig Kröner
Tour's youngest rider caps off impressive Grand Tour debut
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), whom many see as this Tour de France's biggest revelation, has been able to save his top ten overall placing during Saturday's time trial in Chartres. Under pressure by AG2R's Nicolas Roche (11th overall at the start, trailing Pinot by 1:08) and especially RadioShack's Andreas Klöden (12th), the 22-year-old Frenchman did well enough not to lose his tenth place on the overall classification.
Pinot, the Tour's youngest rider and winner of stage eight, limited his losses on Klöden, and finished more than one minute in front of Roche, who may have been paying for his breakaway efforts on Friday's stage to Brive-la-Gaillarde. The top ten result was what Pinot had been aiming for going into the time trial, but it exceeded his pre-Tour expectations by far.
"This is a great satisfaction, it's just awesome," Pinot said at the finish. "We're going to Paris with two stage wins and this tenth placing, it's also super for the whole team."
With his teammate Pierrick Fédrigo having scored victory in stage 15, FDJ's outcome at this Tour is indeed more than satisfactory.
"I remained concentrated on my objective to stay in the top ten, and I was able to save my placing," Pinot continued. "It makes me quite proud of myself, as well as of my team - because without a team, you're nothing in cycling. They've protected me for three weeks and without them, this wouldn't have been possible."
Having been so successful, the future Grand Tour contender now hopes to be able to build on this result. His team manager Marc Madiot is convinced that Pinot can become a real champion in the next few years.
"He has the physical capacities and the mental strength for it. But he also has his weak points, and in this sense the Tour has been constructive, too," said Madiot, who has a reputation for growing new talent. "We have the ingredients to make up a beautiful team in the next two or three years. So the objective is to learn how to master everything."
Pinot himself is already eager to repeat his performances, even if he knows that a few talented young pro riders have already failed to do so, including in his native France. "Next year, I'll definitely try to do as well, or better," he added. "But the confirmation of a good result is always difficult. At the same time, Pierre Rolland has shown that it's possible [the Europcar rider, stage winner and best young rider in 2011, repeated his success this year by taking another victory and finishing eighth overall as best Frenchman - ed.].
"I'll continue the work with my coach Fred Grappe and my brother Julien, whom I also have to thank, and hopefully I'll be able to improve further," Pinot concluded.
- Article published:
- July 22, 2012, 00:02
- Mark Robinson
Silver lining after months of storm clouds for Luxembourg outfit
RadioShack-Nissan will take an unassailable lead in the team classification of over six minutes into tomorrow's final stage at the 2012 Tour de France after they consolidated their position at the top of the standings in Saturday's 53.5km time trial from Bonneval to Chartres. With Sunday's final stage set to end in the traditional bunch sprint, there is no realistic chance of the second-placed outfit in the standings, Team Sky, catching them.
Top-20 performances in the stage from Andreas Klöden (19th) and Jens Voigt (20th) meant that the absence of star time trialist Fabian Cancellara wasn't felt as keenly as it might have been. Cancellara, who won the prologue here and held the yellow jersey for seven days, returned home midway through the Tour to be present at the birth of his second child.
Veteran American rider Chris Horner was high on emotion and adrenaline after crossing the finish line here in Chartres and revealed that the team had vowed to put last week's shocking withdrawal of team leader Fränk Schleck behind them and protect their position at the top of the standings through to tomorrow's concluding stage on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Horner, who was a late inclusion in the RadioShack team for this Tour, has belied his 40 years by competing strongly and consistently over the last three weeks. He lies in 13th place in the overall GC with just one day of racing to go and he put everything he had on the line today in the time trial.
"I was just so worried about the team classification that I wanted to go strong," Horner told reporters at the finish. "I didn't want people saying ‘well Horner went easy'. Once I got out there the legs felt good so I just kept on the power.
"I was 95 percent all the way – I was never 100 percent as you can't go 100 percent for 53km. I went as fast as I could and thought ‘I'm not going any faster – that's as fast as I can go'. The sponsors really pushed hard to make this Tour happen for me and to get an American on the team. So to make it to the end for them feels great."
Horner hinted that the problems endured by RadioShack over the last few months resulted in creating a siege mentality amongst those remaining on the Tour until the end.
Performances overall from the team have been sub-standard all year; there have been rumours of unpaid salaries and financial irregularities; last year's Tour runner-up Andy Schleck was forced to withdraw through injury weeks before the race, and just last week the cycling world was shocked by news of irregularities in his brother Fränk's urine sample taken during the Tour on July 14.
"It's been difficult at times, there's no doubt about that," Horner said. "It tough when you have some of the problems we've had going on with the team. Throughout I thought ‘if we can get on the podium in Paris I've earned my cheque'.
"Stages are more important for the individual rider but the team classification means a lot. If you have guys finishing fifth or sixth in the GC in Paris you cross the line, shower and go back to the hotel. If you win the team classification you shower and then you go and stand on the podium on the Champs-Élysées in front of millions of people. So it was a big goal and is very important for this team."
Horner revealed that he has felt better at this Tour than he ever has in the past and stated that he hopes to return next year at the grand old age of 41. He also had some words of encouragement for Fränk Schleck who he has clearly become close to over the last few months.
"I want to come back, absolutely, if I've got the legs," Horner said. "I felt that this was the strongest Tour de France I've had. I felt really good in the mountains and thought that there were only four or five guys that could climb better than me here. I figured that if I got dropped it was more because of the efforts I was putting in to protect the team classification or to help guys on the team.
"I really missed having Fränk here. It was a great experience having him on the team. I sat at the back on the bus with him so it got a little lonely after he left. I have a lot of faith in him and I hope to be back with him at some point. We've had some really great moments and some difficult ones too."
- Article published:
- July 22, 2012, 01:30
- Sam Dansie
Sky rider proud of team achievement
Chris Froome (Sky) conceded almost a minute to his team leader Bradley Wiggins in the final Tour de France time trial, but his performance was still enough to take second on stage 19 and consolidate his runner-up spot on the general classification. Barring a bad crash, Froome is likely to finish the race just under three minutes clear of third placed Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) tomorrow on the Champs-Élysées.
In the crush of fans and media that greeted the 27-year-old at the finish in Chartres, Froom said: "Today was a big test and again still on a day like today anything could have gone wrong for myself or Bradley, so to be in the same standings as we were this morning - that was the objective and I’m chuffed to bits with that."
Froome, who’s only other Tour appearance was in 2008 when he finished 81st, said the magnitude of his achievement was yet to hit home.
"I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet but I’m sure it will in the next week or so. Still, obviously we’ve got to get into Paris tomorrow. I’m just looking forward to finishing it off now. The response we’re getting from everyone and the support we’re getting from the public and the fans is just unbelievable."
When asked if he could have imagined British pre-eminence at the Tour in his lifetime, the Kenyan-born British citizen said: "Maybe within 10 years of starting it [a British team] but not in the third year of Sky being a ProTour [ProTeam] team - that’s quite an achievement," he said.
- Article published:
- July 22, 2012, 02:35
- Mark Robinson
Stricken Australian says BMC's work for next year "starts on Monday"
The punishing final few hundred kilometres of the 2012 Tour de France have been painful to watch for followers of the 2011 champion Cadel Evans. The BMC rider has been struggling with illness over the closing days and has slipped down to seventh in the general classification ahead of tomorrow's final leg to Paris. On the eve of a stage that a year ago acted as a glorious coronation for the Australian, a gap of over fifteen minutes to race leader Bradley Wiggins would have seemed unthinkable a month ago.
Since illness struck ahead of stage 16's brutal Pyrenean mountain stage from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, Evans has had the air of a battered boxer who fights on gamely with only his pride and competitive instincts stopping him from quitting on his stool. At times many who have watched him over the last few days have called for his cornermen to mercifully throw in the towel. There are no hiding places at the Tour.
To his eternal credit Evans hasn't looked for one. He has fought on to the end and it isn't just his team that have looked on in awe. His loyal band of Australian supporters, who have followed him to the other side of the world, were present at the BMC bus to greet him and offer their unconditional support as he returned from today's stage 19 time trial looking utterly spent.
Evans, who has consistently proved over the last decade that time trialling is one of his strengths, had suffered the ignominy of being passed by his young American teammate Tejay van Garderen with well over 20km to go. When Bradley Wiggins, Evans' anointed maillot jaune successor and the last man out today, crossed the line and took the stage win, the sums were quickly calculated. Evans had finished in 52nd position – a colossal six minutes behind Wiggins' winning time. And even more telling was another statistic: Evans is now almost five minutes behind another BMC rider, Van Garderen, in the overall general classification.
"It's support in the bad times that you need," an emotional Evans told reporters when the cheers from his Australian fans had died down.
"It's been an off year. I went into the Tour with high expectations and I've had to adjust to this and adjust to that. I went into today just hoping to preserve my position in the GC. I started the day on empty and I just rode the race within my limits with no regard to what was going on around me. I just want to finish this race and then look to my next objective, which at the moment is the London [Olympic] road race – so we'll see."
Asked by reporters whether he still had the competitive fire in his belly, his answer wasn't completely unequivocal. He also reflected on the contrast between the position he finds himself in now and the heady days of 12 months ago.
"I think in a couple of days it [the fire in his belly] will be there," he said. "It's not there right now. In a time trial when you look at the board and you're so far down it's not exactly a morale boost. I couldn't think of a more enormous contrast [between now and last year's Tour]. Last year was a lifetime dream come true and this year it's been a year's hard work that's not amounted to much, if anything at all."
Pressed on what went wrong for him, Evans stated that his team has plenty of improvements to make over the coming weeks and in the off-season, a process, he said, that has to start immediately. It was a strong indication that, aside from his own illness, all was not completely well in the BMC camp at this Tour.
"We have big improvements to make," he said. "Last year we were trying to anticipate what the other teams were doing, but now we're coming from behind and in some ways that's easier.
"I will go the Olympics but the team will look into things. There are so many aspects we can improve on, and that starts on Monday. Today I felt that everything I did was wrong but that's probably not the case. But I'll keep going and we'll be back next year. Right now I'm just starting off exhausted for whatever reason – and the first task is to find out about that.
"But hopefully I can recover well and come up good for the Olympic team. It's only a few days away but hopefully a couple of days off can do wonders."
- Article published:
- July 22, 2012, 03:35
- Cycling News
Dane toughs it out to maintain position on general classification
Chris Anker Sørensen’s (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) ability to finish the Tour de France was thrown into uncertainty during the 17th stage when a momentary lapse in concentration led him to attempt to remove a newspaper that was caught in his front wheel. This poor decision after 18 days of racing didn’t end well. The Dane got himself caught-up in the process and suffered deep cuts to his hand. He visited the doctor, was bandaged as best as possible and finished the stage – protecting his 14th-place on the general classification.
The prospect of him starting the following day’s stage was uncertain but stage 18 began with Sørensen in the bunch. He rode out the stage and then cemented his top-20 GC spot in the final time trial, holding off the next place rider Denis Menchov (Katusha) in the process.
"It was a tough time trial today that seemed endless out there on the long flat stretches with severe headwind but I managed to get through with a good feeling and without as much pain in my hand as I feared and now, it seems like I can maintain 14th overall," said Sørensen.
It was this kind of resolve that Sørensen’s "super combative" award was finally decided by the race directors. He was up against his own teammate Michael Morkov, polka-dot wearer Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Rabobank’s Luis León Sánchez. All of these riders have shown their faces multiple times at the head of a stage but Sørensen’s unfortunate accident and his ability to continue was perhaps a blessing in disguise.
"Sørensen has been in many breakaways even that was without success, but the choice was difficult," said race director Jean-Francois Pescheux.
Sørensen was obviously pleased to have completed the final time trial and now looks to the final stage of this year's Tour.
"However, there's still a stage tomorrow and a certain final criterium in Paris where we hope to support JJ [Haedo] and get a good result."
- Article published:
- July 22, 2012, 04:32
- Cycling News
Bradley Wiggins in a class of his own in final time trial
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) punched the air as he crossed the finish line into Chartres after another dominating display in the time trial. It was his second TT victory of the Tour de France and while he didn't need to win the stage, he appeared to be on a mission to silence the critics who believed he was possibly not the strongest rider in the race. Wiggins will become the first British rider to win the Tour when the peloton rolls into Paris for stage 20.
Wiggins had the fastest splits through each of the time checks, which had only minutes before been decimated by his determined teammate Chris Froome. Froome was clearly having another great day in the time trial and would go on to finish in the position he’s become accustomed to during this Tour – second place. Wiggins and Froome were again a level above the remainder of the field with Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank) the rider to hold the fastest time for much of the day until the Sky duo rolled down the ramp of the 53.5km course. Sánchez finished in third, 1:50 down on Wiggins.
Sky finished the day with three in the top-ten as Richie Porte put in a great ride for fifth place, 2:25 down on his team leader. It wasn;t enough to topple the RadioShack-Nissan team however, from securing the teams classification ahead of the final stage.
The wearer of the young-rider classification jersey, Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) showed why he could one day win a grand tour by not only passing his team leader Cadel Evans but also capturing seventh on the stage and extending his lead ahead of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat).
- Article published:
- July 22, 2012, 05:39
- Cycling News
Result is a "nice confirmation" ahead of Olympic Games
Luis León Sánchez probably didn’t expect much from his Tour de France after he was involved in a heavy fall during the first road stage of the race. He was seen patrolling the rear of the peloton with Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) as both riders struggled through day after day, nursing their injuries. Sánchez didn’t have any fractures and if anything, this may have allowed his legs to ride into the Tour without too much pressure on a result. As his wrists healed, he began searching for a victory - which he finally captured at the end of stage 14 from Limoux to Foix.
He tried his luck again in finale of stage 18 however, Mark Cavendish (Sky) ensured that the Spaniard would not collect his second Tour victory. If it wasn’t for Cavendish’s amazing turn of speed, Sánchez would have likely walked away from the 2012 edition with two stage wins.
"I did not expect it to go so well. Apparently I had recovered quite well from the difficult stages yesterday and the day before yesterday. Of course I’m really sorry that I just didn’t make it, but Cavendish was no match for anyone today," Sánchez said following stage 18.
His run of strong showings was completed in the final time trial when he held the quickest time for most of the day. Rider after rider fell short of his time until Sky’s Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins were on course. He eventually finished in third place but was happy with his result.
"Regarding the Olympic Games, this is a nice confirmation. This is an excellent result. I also found it important to finish the Tour properly, especially after my wrist injury at the beginning of the competition. After my crash in the first stage, I took it easy for a while in order to recover, and to be able to establish some good results towards the end of the Tour. That worked," said Sánchez.
"His cadence was very good out there. He did not miss a beat. We had confidence from the start. And despite it all, the team was in a winning mood this week. Once things start going well, you can still accomplish stuff with fewer guys. Luis Leon was definitely feeling that way. He’s been our figurehead this week. So you can tell how important it was that he stayed in the race in the first week," said sports director Nico Verhoeven.
Sánchez will now turn his attention to the road race and time trial at the London Olympics where he is aiming for the top spot on the podium.
I’m happy I can go home tomorrow and see my daughter again. Now I’ve got a week to rest and recover my strength for the Olympic Games. I’d like to be champion there," he said.